Your family will get lens fatigue if you point your camera at them all day and your kids will start to think you’re a cyclops. Not every event is a photo opportunity. Pick your moment and be very happy if you only come away with one great shot.
This trip to Taipei was a family city break with Ling Li, my eldest daughter, back home for Easter. I had many commitments leaving very little time for photography and virtually none on the first day. Ling Li’s childhood was a global multicultural experience, very different from mine. So every time we go abroad she has to catch up with one of her friends. We arranged to meet up at the famous Taipei 101, a shopping mall not too unlike anything in Shanghai. There was a large artificial colourful flower garden display with some plastic butterfly wings for tourists to pose in front of - the kind of setting I would probably dismiss out of hand for a good photo.
But my youngest, Pandora, (only for a few more months as you can see from the accompanying photo of her with her mother) veers between demanding a snapshot or insisting ‘that’s enough photos daddy!” when I get a bit trigger happy. So I have to be creative in how and when I get the photos I want.
She loved the giant flowers so much that she asked me to play with for ‘a little while’. If you have kids you are aware of how torturously long a little while can last. She wandered into the middle of the display and told me that she was a flower fairy and that I was to be a bumble bee who was surprised to see her. We acted out a fun dialogue - well at least it was the first ten times or so. What’s a dad to do? Of course I had my camera in my hand just in case. And now that she was no longer posing I could catch the kind of picture that I love to take of my daughters being themselves. I only had one lens with me the whole holiday, my 50mm f1.8, which is a wonderful portrait lens, small, light (and cheap) and easy to carry around. I’ll write a full blog entry on the ubiquitous 50mm lens which everyone should have.
While playing with her I was able to wait for the right moment when she was lost in her own thoughts to get the sense of wonder she was feeling. I framed tightly enough to cut out all the distracting shopping mall background, but wide enough to capture a sense of the fantasy world she believed she was playing in - a tiny flower fairy hiding from a hungry bumble bee. So though I didn’t visit anywhere more interesting than the shopping mall that day I could capture one photo that created a wonderful fantasy moment in a mundane location using my daughter’s imagination and waiting for the right moment to get the shot.
So you can get a good photos no matter where your are by stealing the imagination of your children... I‘m sorry, I mean by using your own skill and creativity... even if you are stuck in a shopping mall. Naturally lighting is always the key element that you can’t beat if it’s not right so I say ‘almost’.
I have more photos from a brief second chance I had on that vacation which will be coming soon.