You’re out on vacation and want that fantastic photo at the ocean or with the Grand Canyon in the background so out comes the I-phone and it is “selfie” time, but wait. Let’s say no to “selfies” for just a second and maybe yes to timers. We can flex our photography muscle and see what transpires.

There are some options you might not have considered and they are worth investigating so go ahead and photograph yourself, you’re worth it. Years down the road, you will look back over the photos and truly love the ones that have you and your loved ones against the backdrops of your travels. And after having shot professionally for a number of years, I implore you to shoot like a pro, in other words take way too many photos. Next move on to photog tip number two, delete like  a maniac and only share the ones that survive the cut. The photo below was the winner out of 3 tries. The camera was placed on a rock, stabilized with a sweatshirt, and the timer set.

Grand Cyn

And as for the landscape shots, the ones you see on this site often occurred at sunrise or sunset. I personally have the weirdest sleep schedule ever so I don’t mind sunup but for those of you still sleeping off the previous night’s vino, sunset (like the one below) can be downright stellar and also a great time for a glass of vino.

Sunset Navy Beach
Sunset Navy Beach

For those that can brave it, the reason to sign up for a sunrise is this, almost every single morning, barring heavy cloud cover; the rising sun puts on a 15-45 min. show that is truly stunning. Mountains light pink and orange as the sun moves from their tips downward and lakes go absolutely still as if waiting for the new day with bated breath. Generally the trail and places of interest are deserted in the early morning and you will be the lone member of the audience. High profile destinations such as the Grand Canyon are the exception and draw large early crowds. If you can, make the morning rise more pleasurable with hot coffee, a cozy blanket, and gloves with hand warmers, the experience will be all the more joyful and if you are still groggy after the show ends, crawl back to bed and snooze in. Your dreams just may be heavenly.

The photo of Heart Lake at Rock Creek (CA) below was taken between 6:10 – 6:25am in September.


Now for the quick pointers on capturing the beauty and, in a desire to keep this as simple as possible, I’m going to list only a few easy tips and some teeny, tiny secrets.

1) When shooting people, stand a little higher than they are or above them and shoot down. This is a flattering angle for anyone.

2) I-Phone? Yes and rock on BUT shoot multiples from different angles and, friends, I am talking 10 shots or more.  For an example of I-Phone photography at its finest as well as an amazing article on how to get gorgeous I-Phone shots, check out the Rowdy Kittens website and peruse it for photographer, Tammy Strobel’s lovely photos as well as the “how to” write up..

3) Timer. Get your darned manual out and I say this as someone who HATES to read a manual. Look up “timer” and learn how to use it! You can get some truly fantastic pics using the timer.

Photo below taken by placing the camera on the ground. Note that Half Dome is left of center while the group is right of center. This allows both to be focal points. See more on framing in the Rowdy Kittens I-Phone article mentioned above.

View of Half Dome
View of Half Dome

4) Tripod? Nope, not a necessity Rock? Sure, why not? You can often use what is available to set your camera on for timed shots. I’ve used the car roof, rocks and the ground but I always stabilize my camera with my bag or an article of clothing. If you are using a small camera or a phone, check out the Joby Gorilla tripod as it is compact and under $25. The style for DSLR is higher.

I’m including a rock shot (main large photo at the top of this article, in front of the pier at Gaviota State Beach) as well as a ground shot (below on the trail in Big Basin State Park) to give you an idea. Yes, the ground shot below cancels out the previous advice to not shoot up at people but that’s what I do, contradict myself. Shoot from the ground if you are at a distance and/or downhill a little in other words, place the camera a bit uphill from your body.

This angle proved wonderful for capturing the height of the redwoods. Also note the camera was positioned vertically.

On the hike back
On the hike back

5) Now for the best landscape photos. Sunrise and/or sunset. Early morning and/or late afternoon as these are the best times for light. Bright sun overhead is not so great and hazy conditions are nothing to celebrate, however, if you come across huge puffy white clouds against a blue sky, well go ahead and shout for joy and start shooting.

The photos below illustrate what an outrageous difference 30 minutes can make when you are talking sunrise or sunset. These photos were taken at sunset at what first began as a gray ending to the day and then evolved toward pure magic. The two versions also attest to the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder as every moment of light change was unique unto itself. And, friends, I kid you not, the shades of pink are represented spot on and looked that way standing there in the moment.

Morro sunset #1

Morro sunset #2

6) Post trip advice, use the trash on your computer, it is there for a reason. Most usually I take anywhere from 200-1000 shots on a trip and maybe 50-100 survive. Try to avoid plugging your camera in to your Facebook and loading everything. First load to an easy program in your computer like I-Photo and then go through and DELETE. When you are finished, make another pass and DELETE AGAIN. If you are a pack rat, you need two more rounds.

7) Highlight the amazing. In other words, share only your best shots. If you can, add captions as friends enjoy knowing that you were on a nude beach only because it is Cannes after all and note that this is not the time for bad angle, “selfies”.

The photo below was taken by placing the camera on top of the car and setting the timer. Took less than 5 minutes.

Road Trip

Finally, photography can be so very enriching. We all spend a significant amount of time looking at our own photos and that is not only ok, it is healthy to the soul. It is the visual that will help lock the memory into your heart and allow you to return to your adventure over and over again, forever. And if you have a memory that you are fanning and it ignites the desire for more adventure then I say, if the timer proves too complicated, “SELFIE AWAY!”

Life Is In Session