It’s the height of summer! And what does that mean? Summer vacations of course. You have planned the perfect vacation —  to the mountains, the beach or even a foreign country.

Your bags are packed, the car is stuffed with kids and toys and you are ready to go.

Wait, do you have your camera?

Aha! The bag is still sitting by the front door.

Make a quick check in the bag to see if you have the following: Camera, batteries, memory cards, camera case, battery chargers, external flash (if available), tripod.

NOW you are ready to go.

(I strongly recommend a circular polarizing filter to use on your camera if the lens has filter threads. It can make the blue in the skies appear to be a deeper blue. It allows you to clearly see objects under the water and under certain conditions makes colors really “pop”.)

It can be a real challenge to make meaningful images while on vacation but if you have been learning to see differently as we talked about before, then your eyes will be looking for the perfect shot.

When contemplating a landscape photograph, composition is easily the most important detail because if it is bad then the whole image should go in the trash bin. Think about the Rule of Thirds we talked about.

Watch where you put your horizon line and the strong elements in your image.

You want the image to be what you saw. Your new awareness of light and composition will allow you to show off the forest AND the trees.

The reflections in the still water of Mono Lake add an extra dimension to this scenic shot. When you have water, look for reflections for your photos. By Lara Hartley

The reflections in the still water of Mono Lake add an extra dimension to this scenic shot. When you have water, look for reflections for your photos. By Lara Hartley


Be sure to move around, bend down, stand on something  — anything to give you a different perspective on the scene so you can analyze if any of those different angles are better than the straight-on eye-level shot. Sometimes that is best, like in the image of Mono Lake left (click to enlarge it). I tried all sorts of angles for that shot, but this one above, shot straight-on, appealed to me the most. But I love images shot from a very low, kneeling angle.


We see horizontally, but don’t be afraid to turn the camera sideways to look at the scene vertically. Because they are so different than our normal view, vertical images can have a very strong impact.

You are at the beach, in the mountains or trekking in Nepal with your family. Don’t forget to include them in your pictures. You don’t want to get back home with tons of scenics and no pics of the family!

Be sure to not cut off Uncle Joe’s head and use the fill-flash mode on your camera to make sure the cousins faces are not all in shadow.

And after you have included the family in your pics (and you too) check out the locals. You never know when you might find a face that speaks volumes about life, the here and now, the before and the after. When I was traveling in Japan a few years ago I visited a reconstruction of an open-air Hida area village complete with artisans doing historic crafts and such. This woman’s beautiful face compelled me to stop and photograph her. She was perfectly illuminated by reflected light from the outside — always being aware of the light allowed me to recognize a good image when I saw it. Notice that her body is in the left third of image following the Rule of Thirds. If I had placed her in the center there would have just been dead space on the left. All the lessons we have talked about up to this point will help you create memorable vacation images no matter where you go.

Read our past Shutterbug 101 columns.

“Digital Cameras Don’t Take Great Pictures… PEOPLE DO “

Robert the Photoman