Family outing

Last weekend we took a trip up the coast.  On days like these I want to concentrate on my family, but the photographer in me finds it frustrating not to be able to take advantage of visiting places that I don’t normally get to.  As I’ve been finding out, there are ways you can build some photographic experience without totally alienating everyone you’re with!  Some examples after the link…

Recently, I’ve been making sure I take my camera on family outings and trying to do something more than just take snapshots, such as:

  • Practicing available light portraits: both posed and candid.
  • Finding alternatives: often the lighting isn’t what I’d choose for a broad landscape shot, so I pick out details which interest me or take test shots to find locations for a future visit when the lighting’s more suitable.
  • Working under time pressure: even if I don’t think I’ve got enough time to get the shot I want, I make myself have a go at each opportunity as it comes up.  This has helped me to know my camera controls and how to access them quickly.  It has also helped me learn to anticipate the opportunities better and give me more time to prepare!

St Mary’s Island

We started at St Mary’s Lighthouse, North Tyneside.  The weather was mostly bright with high cloud, with the sun breaking through occasionally. 

After a quick look around the island, we climbed the lighthouse tower.  This isn’t an experience you’ll enjoy if you don’t have a head for heights; despite my love of climbing mountains, I struggled with this!  As well as taking in the views, we spent a couple of minutes shooting some portraits at the top.  I don’t use family photos on my site, so you’ll have to use your imagination for this.

Back on the ground again, we explored the rock pools. We had great fun looking for creatures and I saw hermit crabs for the first time outside an aquarium, though not in a setting where I could photograph them.  Nearby, we came across some unusual rock formations – I’m no geologist, so perhaps someone could explain how these are formed:

Rock formations, St Mary's Island
Interesting ridges around sections of rock

This was a case of quickly finding a composition I liked and taking the shot, with no chance to try different settings or review what I’d had taken.  I was rather pleased with the result.

On the way back to the car, I spotted a location and angle that I would like to explore some more of the lighthouse and island.  This isn’t a final shot, but will be a reminder for me for next time I am in the area and able to spend some more time on it.

Saint Marys Lighthouse
St Mary’s Lighthouse

A bit of culture

After our visit to the lighthouse, we headed a few miles north to a country house for some lunch and a look around.  Most of the interiors were derelict, which offered some really interesting visual material to work with.  My favourites were of the stables (not so derelict) and the cliche of shooting up the spiral stairs from the cellar.



Spiral stairs
Spiral from dark to light

Each of these were quick grabs – set, compose, shoot, check, adjust, reshoot, move on.  I would make a number of changes if shooting these subjects again  – use a tripod, set a lower ISO and use a smaller aperture – but I had to take them handheld this time.  Thank Canon for Image Stabilisation!  So even though I may not have a picture that I would expect to stand up to close scrutiny, I’ve learnt how I would approach these subjects in future and what I will need to look out for.


There isn’t anything wrong with sticking to taking snapshots on a family outing but, with some understanding and support from the people you’re with, it’s possible to build some experience and skills in more situations that you might think.