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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.

My Street Photography from New Orleans

While taking photos in the French Quarter, I saw people casually living their lives in an comfortably public way. It added to overall fabric of the environment.

During my vacations, I always enjoy the opportunity to spot and photograph interesting imagery while walking about. As you might imagine, New Orleans is a great place to practice street photography.

My family and I recently returned from a fun New Orleans vacation, and we packed in many kid-friendly activities across our five days. Speaking of packing, I’m happy to report that I successfully organized and stashed my camera gear and tripod under the airplane seat in front of me. Here’s how I accomplished that little feat.

While walking around the streets of the French Quarter, I used my Panasonic Lumix GH5 II as much as possible, but my trusty iPhone was also in my pocket to quickly capture a fleeting moment that my bigger Lumix wasn’t ready for.

Here’s some of what I saw.

I found that waiting on line outside of the famous Preservation Hall gave me valuable time to spot these moments.



Of course, Jackson Square is a hub of activity. And it didn’t hurt that we visited during the French Quarter Festival.

We were also in New Orleans during Fleet Week. So we saw sailors about the city.

The festive nature of New Orleans was everywhere.



Even the more mundane day-to-day moments had a nice energy.

We also passed by more sobering realities.



Just like any city, New Orleans offered a wide spectrum of images. Many were festive. Some were sad. Others I could barely look at, let alone take a picture. That was my experience as a tourist walking about without a specific agenda.

Yes, we packed our family vacation with a variety of planned activities. But as we also did plenty of walking from one destination to the next, I really enjoyed that extra time to look about with a photographer’s eye.


Thank you, New Orleans!

How to Pack your Camera and Travel Tripod for your Next Flight

When packing to go on vacation, delicate camera gear can be a particular challenge to carry on board a plane. If you’re trying to travel light, it’s even harder. Here’s how I did it for our flight to New Orleans.

My family vacation to New Orleans was a blast. But flying there in a cost-effective way took some planning. Our goal for each of us was to only bring one carry-on suitcase and a personal item onto the plane which would fit under the seat in front. (Paying for more luggage adds up pretty quickly.)

Our airline tickets were a tad expensive as we flew over spring break after Easter. So, this self-imposed luggage limitation helped to keep our airfare pricing in check.

Traveling light as a family carries a variety of benefits, but I gave myself a particularly difficult packing challenge. That’s because I brought my Panasonic Lumix GH5 II mirrorless camera and 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens (24-70mm – 35mm equivalent) along with my Manfrotto Befree Live carbon-fiber video travel tripod.

A big camera… plus a small tripod? (The Manfrotto is still 16” long when packed up.)
Impossible you say?

Not necessarily. Here’s how I did it.

Think Tank Shoulder Bag
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to safely pack my GH5 II camera and lens. My first thought was to use my Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7M Shoulder Bag as my personal item/camera bag.

But I quickly realized if I then put my travel tripod into my small carry-on suitcase, I really wouldn’t have room for much of anything else.

I really needed a personal item/bag that would fit both my camera/lens and my travel tripod.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack
To accomplish that, I bought a Peak Design V2 30L Everyday Backpack. I wisely purchased the 30L model as opposed to the smaller 20L version. The 30L model just barely fit my Manfrotto tripod within its zippered side flap (with the tripod positioned vertically).

Sure, my Manfrotto could also slip into one of the backpack’s two outside pockets, but remember, my Peak Design was my personal item for our flight.

Technically, the 30L Everyday Backpack is a bit too big to specifically meet airlines’ personal item regulations.

  • Personal item limit:
    17” L x 13” W x 8” H
  • Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack:
    19” L x 13” W x 10” H

It’s close. (Plus, I told myself that I could squish the backpack a little smaller if needed.)

So, I didn’t want to flaunt my slightly oversized personal item by also having a tripod sticking out of the backpack’s side. Plus, that would have made the backpack even wider. (The smaller 20L model would have been a snap to carry on board, but it wouldn’t have fit my tripod within its interior.)

30L Everyday Backpack Works as Personal Item
As it turned out, I successfully brought my 30L Everyday Backpack through the gate and past several sets of official eyes without incident. (We flew JetBlue out and Spirit back.)

And the 30L Everyday Backpack did indeed fit under the seat in front of me. There wasn’t a lot of extra room left, but just enough to be able to extend one foot in. It wasn’t exactly a model for comfort (I’m 6’), but it was fine for the three-hour plane ride.

Of course, the Peak Design backpack could have also been stashed in the overhead, but my carry-on bag was already there. Plus, I wanted to maintain total control of my camera gear. (I didn’t like the thought of someone jamming in another bag next to mine in the overhead and possibly damaging my tech.)

Camera Bag and General Backpack
From a packing perspective, my Peak Design Everyday Backpack wasn’t close to being full after I popped in the camera and tripod. There was ample space left over for clothing that could be tightly rolled up.

So, it served nicely as both a camera bag and backpack while we walked around New Orleans.

Think Tank Too
Remember my Think Tank shoulder bag? As it turned out, I packed that as well.
How?

It went in my carry-on luggage. (I first stuffed it with rolled-up t-shirts, socks and shorts and then put the whole thing into my suitcase.)

And why bring two camera bags? The truth is I wasn’t sure if I wanted to schlep my Everyday Backpack around during our entire vacation. The Think Tank has a much smaller profile, and on the days when I didn’t feel I would need my tripod, I felt my shoulder bag would be more appropriate.

My Experience Walking the Streets of New Orleans
I used my shoulder bag during the first couple of days of our New Orleans vacation. As it turned out, it wasn’t that comfortable.

Once I packed my 24 oz water bottle into the outside pocket, I really felt the increased weight of the water, and it became more awkward to carry the shoulder bag all day with my camera. (I had the bag slung over one side of my back.) All of the weight hit my lower back, and my body didn’t appreciate it. (Yes, I do have some lower back issues.)

But when I eventually switched over to the Everyday Backpack, the weight was well balanced and focused more towards the top of my back, (The water bottle fit into one of the two outside pockets. And I still kept my tripod inside the backpack.)

Even though I was carrying more weight, it felt so much better. Plus, the remaining space in the backpack allowed me to carry extra layers of clothes for my family. And it also had room for a couple of gifts we bought along the way!

If you’re a parent with years of experience as a ‘Sherpa’ for your family, this backpack does really nicely as a day bag.

The 30L Peak Design Everyday Backpack isn’t exactly small, but it doesn’t scream, “Hey, I’m a huge camera bag with a tripod!” I was just another tourist carrying a regular backpack on the streets of the French Quarter.

Next time, I’ll ditch the shoulder bag entirely.

Maximize the Functionality of that Personal Item
New Orleans is a great place for a family vacation. I really enjoyed the opportunity bring along my gear to capture some cool photos and videos along the way.



Using a camera bag in the form of a backpack that can fit a small tripod and doubles as a day bag on vacation was my trick to flying with fewer suitcases.

As long as the backpack can also fit under that seat as a personal item on your flight, you should also be in great shape.

Happy travels!

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