At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: family vacation

My Timelapse Videos from National Parks in Arizona and Utah

My goal was to capture sunrise and sunset timelapses from our Southwest vacation to three amazing national parks. Here’s what I saw.

I’m not proud to admit that I carried four cameras throughout our Southwest vacation to be prepared for whatever wonders awaited us. I packed my Panasonic Lumix GH5 II, my smaller Panasonic Lumix LX10, my tiny GoPro and my little DJI Osmo Pocket gimbal. Plus I had my iPhone. So that actually makes five cameras.

Good Things do Come in Small Packages
The good news is with the exception of my larger Micro Four Thirds GH5 II, the rest had small profiles and were easy to pack or throw in a pocket. I’m also happy to report that I did find moments to put all of my gear to good use.

That said, besides my iPhone which was always there for me in my front right pocket, my most useful camera proved to be my tiny but mighty Osmo Pocket with its magical timelapse creation abilities… perfect for sunrises and sunsets.

I popped it on top of my Manfrotto Befree Live travel tripod, set up the timelapse for 20 or 40 minutes and let it run while I took photos with my other cameras.

My Osmo Pocket captured some really satisfying timelapse videos.
Timelapse from 3 Southwest National Parks
This edited timelapse video contains my shots from Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon… all amazing places. (Here’s our itinerary.)

Deconstructing my Shots
I took the first Grand Canyon sunset timelapse at the overlook near the Yavapai Geology Museum at the South Rim. This is not the most popular place to go for sunsets, which meant there were fewer people packed into the good spots and more room for me to spread out with my gear.

I positioned the second Grand Canyon sunset timelapse steps away from our room at the Bright Angel Lodge. It was already too dark to start the timelapse and really see inside the canyon, but the cloud movement was magnificent.

I think the second Bryce Canyon timelapse really works because you can see tiny, ant-like hikers moving around in the bottom left corner. It give the perspective the shot needs.

Plan your Timelapse Shoots into your Family’s Vacation Schedule
When you’re traveling with your family, plopping yourself in a space for 30 minutes to capture your next timelapse can be disruptive.

A word of advice: Don’t be spontaneous. Plan ahead and announce your intentions. And don’t do too many across a vacation.

It’s all about balancing your family’s vacation time so that everyone gets an opportunity to do what’s special to them!

3 Rules I Learned while Taking Photos at Grand Canyon

If your pictures aren’t capturing the majesty of this incredible space, you’re not alone. Here are a few tricks that will help while shooting at Grand Canyon.

Sure, my family’s bucket-list trip to Grand Canyon was a fantastic vacation I’ll never forget. But parts of our adventures in the Southwest also kicked my butt.

First off, I overpacked my camera gear and still felt underprepared to capture the photos I really wanted in the three glorious national parks we visited.

As I’ve previously mentioned, in addition to Grand Canyon, we also hiked in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Now, how hard can it be to snap a good photo among such natural beauty? As it turned out, pretty hard. Zion and Bryce Canyons were easier, but Grand Canyon was simply ridiculous. (We visited the South Rim.)

Why? These places are just too big. Too awesome.
Grand Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Zion Canyon

How the Massiveness of Grand Canyon Flattens its Depth
I must admit, when you look out over Grand Canyon and see sections of its 227-mile length… it seems almost surreal. The huge space actually feels flat… almost 2-D, like a painting. The massive rocks’ muted colors flatten the imagery even more. (If you’re into conspiracy theories, you might even feel inclined to suggest that Grand Canyon is a giant green-screen set.)

Trying to capture a ‘representative’ photo to match your ocular perception is really difficult, because it’s almost impossible to capture the scale in a 4×3 or 3×2 frame. Even wide angle or pano shots seem only to miniaturize the massiveness.

So, the enormity of this place upended so many of my sensory norms. And my camera gear felt woefully inadequate to capture the canyon’s stunning beauty. (I eventually acknowledged my gear was just fine.) I just had to step up my game and figure out how to visually adapt.

My Equipment List
Yes, I brought along all of my gear:

  • My beefy Panasonic LUMIX GH5II Micro Four Thirds camera (primarily for landscape videos)
  • My older but more compact Panasonic Lumix LX10 (especially good over the neck during our rim mule ride)
  • My trusty GoPro for wider angle views
  • My tiny DJI Osmo Pocket camera with its nifty timelapse-capture skills
  • And of course, my iPhone’s camera

I brought it all with me and schlepped it in my Peak Design V2 30L Everyday Backpack throughout our hours of hiking, because I knew I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Now, that concept may seem clever, but it’s also an excuse that’s not going to win me any photography awards.

The irony is some of my family’s most successful shots were captured by my 12-year-old son using my wife’s iPhone 13 in pano mode.
Impressive. Most impressive.

Barrett’s 3 Camera Rules when Shooting Massive Canyons
Still… I did succeed in capturing a number of solid shots and some fun timelapses.

But not before I figured out these three key rules to follow while shooting at Grand Canyon.

Include Context in the Imagery
I tried to capture closer objects in my photos to provide some context against the impossibly large landscape. Nearby trees or people can work nicely for this. That little trick really helped to fight the Grand Canyon’s visual flatness and create a more 3-D perspective.

Use The Sun’s Shadows for Contrast
I looked to include any shadows I could find on the canyon’s walls. These darker regions instantly created more contrast in my shots. So, early and late-day sunlight provided prime-time opportunities. Lunchtime was mostly a washout.

Don’t Shoot on a Cloudless Day
It quickly became clear that partly-cloudy days were the best times to take pictures. Those wonderful billowy white clouds or even incoming storm clouds were much more interesting than a bland blue sky. Total cloud cover was no good either, but partial cover added critical texture to the flatness I was fighting against.

Take in the Total Experience
By following these framing techniques, you should be able to include enough visual variety in your Grand Canyon shots to allow the scope of the canyon to really stand out.

But I must admit, there’s probably not a photo that can capture the almost incomprehensible nature of Grand Canyon. To truly experience it, you’ve got to go there and just open your eyes.

It’s simply amazing.

But don’t only focus on the destination.

Next time, I’ll share how we maximized our journey

Why I Woke Up at 4:30am on Vacation to Shoot these 6 Sunrise Timelapses

If you’re on vacation and happen to have a front-row seat to the sunrise, you might want to consider working that into your schedule. Here are the results of my creative effort.

I’ve just returned from a restorative family vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. We stayed at a magical house on the water with two other families. The house is in Cape Porpoise right on an ocean inlet that transforms into an otherworldly span of mudflats at low tide.

The birds woke me up on our first morning at 4:45am. I peered out our bedroom window onto the flats and took in a pre-sunrise sky ablaze in purple and pink-colored clouds. I saw one of the other dads already out there with camera in hand. There was no need for words. I gestured that I would join his sunrise photo shoot.

Half asleep, I grabbed my tripod and DJI Osmo Pocket camera to record a timelapse of the sunrise over the mudflats. I stumbled down the stairs and onto the edge of the flats to join my friend.

Sunday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Sunday sunrise timelapse

The Set Up
The sun was due in 10 minutes, and I was running out of time. I hurriedly set up my timelapse to run for 20 minutes, snapping a frame at 2-second increments. This gimbal also let me add a little motion in the shot, which is really nice. And then I let nature take over. I watched the sunrise and simultaneously created this 20-second sunrise timelapse video.

The result wasn’t terrible, but the length felt short to me. And there weren’t many clouds in my shot. Plus, my settings didn’t allow enough time for the clouds to really move through my frame. (Clearly, it’s all about the clouds.)

Monday Cape Porpoise, Maine Sunrise Timelapse

Monday sunrise timelapse

I immediately wanted to try again. So the next morning, I did exactly that. I adjusted the timelapse settings to record for an hour at 3-second frame increments. That would capture more of the sunrise and also help the clouds to move faster. Here’s the 40-second result.

The scattered cloud cover instantly made this sunrise more interesting, and the longer timelapse felt like the perfect length.

In Search of More
I sat down on the lawn with my coffee and felt both relaxed and incredibly satisfied. I had fed my creative self, and it wasn’t even 6am yet.

So I decided to repeat the exercise for the rest of the week. 4:30am… every morning.

Waking up earlier that I normally do ran completely counter to my vacation goals of sleeping in. But I adjusted with adding afternoon vacation naps to my schedule.

All sunrises are unique. Even though the sun is a constant, the different cloud formations create limitless timelapse opportunities.

That said, I think some of my videos were more interesting than others based on cloud position and movement. But that’s just one opinion. Here are the rest of my vacation timelapses. (I’ve sped up these Gifs a bit to capture the full 40-seconds of each video.)

Tuesday Cape Porpoise Maine Sunrise Timelapse

Tuesday sunrise timelapse

Wednesday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Wednesday sunrise timelapse

Thursday Cape Porpoise Timelapse

Thursday sunrise timelapse

Friday Cape Porpoise Sunrise Timelapse

Friday sunrise timelapse

Not to play favorites (every sunrise is perfect), but I think Wednesday was the winner.
(Any other thoughts?)

The Value of Greeting the Day
On the last morning of our vacation, a storm was predicted, but I woke up early anyway and walked outside to greet the day and feel the breezes. Yes, it started to rain, but it was light.

There was no sunrise. But of course the dawn did arrive. I sat down on an Adirondack chair with my cup of joe to just… be.

I took in the dark clouds overhead. I didn’t have a camera in my hand, but I still relished in the conclusion of my week-long morning exercise.

And then I understood that it’s not always about being able to capture a sunrise. Sometimes, just being there is more than enough.

My vacation was complete.

%d bloggers like this: