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The Best Advice for Remarkable Vacations and Meaningful Photos

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Each morning we watched the sunrise over the ocean together. We enjoyed amazing food, poolside drinks, hammock swings, and all the laughter and conversation between. It was an amazing vacation, the perfect getaway for rest and relaxation. A much needed vacation during Wisconsin's winter season.

I want to share our photos from our trip on here - I took A LOT. But I want to share a bit of something I'm learning about adventures and photographs, and sharing online. And I hope it can help you too.

The thing is, as much as I love taking photos, it can become a distraction that takes away from the wonder and thrill of experiencing travel - if I'm not intentional to be present. I've talked about this before, motivations and boundaries for sharing our adventures online. And I'm still practicing what this looks like. I love that my experiences and skills in photography can optimize my moments and capture beautiful photographs I'm proud of. But I'm learning to strip it back to something more raw, and more real. I crave the imperfect beauty caught in the spontaneity of photographing our lives. When I disregard the rules and simply capture the lived in moment.

Cause I want to invite less control and more candidness into the photos we take when we travel. I would rather have an imperfect photo, with all the feelings flooding back when I hold it in my hands, a pretty image carrying no sentimental value.

I wanted to practice more presence during this vacation. Immerse myself in more quality time with Karl instead of asking him "Can you take this picture?" or "Just one more, please." - 10 minutes later still making him retake it. Requiring more time, always just short of the perfect shot.

So here's a bit of a template that worked well for us that we'll continue to follow in the future. To help us better capture lived in moments to remember later, not only capture a moment to live later through a screen.

Only At Sunset

Since this was a vacation, and the expectations we made with each other were for rest and quality time, I wanted some boundaries for photo taking. Especially for the more controlled shots envisioned for content. I mean we are in Mexico! While I want to enjoy our experience, I still want to take photos of beautiful things. So each day we set aside about 15-20 minutes as the sun was setting to batch the photos and play. Doing it all at once at sunset gave us the chance to:

  • get the best light for our photos from the golden hour

  • take photos without the crowds

  • enjoy presence and quality time throughout the day without the distractions of getting photos

  • communicate expectations

  • be more efficient cause we pounded out all the content at once within a short window

  • enjoy sunset together each night

I loved that we did this. By having this boundary I was able to practice more presence. Whether it was reading by the pool or taking photos on the beach. I was 100% there. There was more quality to what I was doing in my day and I loved looking forward to when I could create and play later.

Bringing Back Film

We brought a disposable camera with us to Mexico to take candid shots throughout the day. The fact that you can't see an image instantly helped us take a shot then move on. We were also more intentional about what we took cause we only had 27 chances. It made us think a little bit more before we snapped the shutter - "Is this a genuine moment that showcases this vacation well? Does it hold value that I'll cherish in its photograph?"

You get one shot, and it is what it is. That's what I love about film. I also prefer the less risk of a disposable camera. While I would hate to lose the images, the camera itself doesn't hold value compared to bringing my Minolta. I love the anticipation film brings and I can't wait to get our photos back and frame.

Creating More Presence

As much as I love taking photos I didn't want to document our vacation the whole time, but without boundaries, it can be too easy to go down that road. There were times we did bring out our cameras and phones outside our sunset window. But we asked each other first, "Hey, do you mind if I snap a shot of this?" It might sound silly, like we're asking for permission. But we're actually considering the other's feelings first.

I question how acceptable and normal it is these days to allow the presence of our devices to be more than the presence of ourselves. When we continually reach for our phones, check our feeds, reply to a text, or even take a picture while we are in the presence of another, our attention divided, what are we actually communicating?

I want Karl and I to feel valued and respected when we're together. I believe we grow closer together and build our marriage better by creating more presence in our time together. We don't get that when we see each other's devices more than each other's faces. As awesome as it is that we have these amazing cameras within our fingertips, what's the cost of this constant access? What are we paying, if every so slowly.

PS The dresses I wore out each night were from my favorite clothing brand, Elegantees. They are a fair trade and ethical fashion brand employing trafficking survivors in Nepal. I've adored this company for years and their high quality pieces. I love that demonstrating equality and justice can be as simple as the clothes I choose to wear.

Beach views right from the pool

First sunset on the beach, and first sunrise from our room.

Took a shot of the workers cleaning all the seaweed the tides brought in overnight. They spent hours never finishing the task. So much seaweed!

I loved the walk from our room to the pool

They asked us if we were celebrating anything, I told the staff it's Karl's birthday at the end of the week! So they decorated the door and kept bringing him treats throughout the week. So sweet to celebrate him.

A sunrise view while working out

This was an amazing restaurant right on the beach. If you're asking whether I ate these fish tacos every day for lunch, the answer is yes. Yes I did.

Beach. Read. Pool. Repeat.

True story - the crow on the right flew down and stole my sushi!

There was an aqua show one night, and local vendors visited the resort another night. We loved talking with the different makers about their craft and lives, and returned with a few special souvenirs.

Another wonderful sunrise with you

These little guys were so cute!

My favorite person :)

We treated ourselves to the spa. Sauna, steam-room, whirlpool. So relaxing!

This juice bar on the beach made the most delicious juices from fresh fruits.

Of course there's a cat. According to the staff it's name is Smokey.

I love how they decorated with the towels each night

This was before we realized I grabbed the wrong robe and Karl had been wearing the smaller one. LOL!

Oreo pancakes, I basically had a dessert for breakfast.

I can't wait to get our photos fro the disposable camera back!

The vacation of a lifetime

Watching the sunrise from the hot tub never got old

Amazing outside Asian restaurant. It was so cozy under the garden lights.

Fare-well Catalonia, we will be back! Hello Wisconsin.

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