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Tag: family vacation

How to Take 10 Minutes on Vacation to Create a Brilliant Timelapse

I captured a timelapse video of Barred Island in Maine while the tide lowered, revealing a narrow strip of sand and an entry point.

Look, I knew I wasn’t fooling my family. Not when we went on vacation to Maine, experienced an incredible hike in Acadia National Park, and took a break for lunch. Because then, I unzipped my backpack and didn’t take out my sandwich. That sight is an easy tell by now.

Instead, I pulled out a compact tripod and my DJI Osmo Pocket camera which I’ve been using to create timelapse videos for the better part of the past year.

My wife and ten-year-old son have come to expect that I’m going to try to quickly capture a timelapse shot in moments like this.

Ten Minutes on Top of your World
Lunch on the top of a hiking summit a thousand feet up usually happens pretty fast. There isn’t time to capture hours of a changing landscape. Not when I’m primarily there to enjoy it with my family.

But carving out ten minutes? Yes, my family can handle that.

Capturing a video frame at two-second intervals for ten minutes creates a nifty ten-second timelapse.

It’s enough.

Enough to allow me to feed my creative spirit, but not too much to be disruptive to the larger goals of our day.

Chasing Nature’s Relationship with Time
Snapping a photo isn’t a problem. We’re all used to pausing for someone who needs to take a few seconds to get a quick picture.

But timelapse shots are a different game, and those ten minutes can feel like an hour when it’s really time to resume a hiking trek. I actually take closer to fifteen minutes, because I also need to set up and break down my little tripod. (It’s a Manfrotto Element Small Aluminum Traveler Tripod. $93.84 on Amazon.)

I really appreciate my family’s flexibility as I’ve explored my little hobby capturing nature timelapses.

My Timelapse Videos from Maine
Last week, I shared my favorite photos from our Maine hiking trip.

And now, here are my timelapse clips from our fun adventure in Maine.

Thank you, DJI Osmo Pocket, Manfrotto tripod and my family for helping me to capture these beautiful moments.

4 Revelations from my Family Vacation to Niagara Falls

If you’re doing a little research about vacationing to Niagara Falls, I’ve got a few tips to share that should improve your experience…

My family and I have just returned from a great vacation to Niagara Falls. Yes, we stayed on the Canadian side, as it was clearly nicer. That said, we did spend one day on the U.S. side, and it was well worth it… The state park surrounding the American Falls is absolutely beautiful, and the “Cave of the Winds” experience where you walk right up to the base of a section of the Bridal Veil Falls was my favorite from the whole trip.

Warning: you will get soaked if you attempt to walk into the section of the wooden walkway called the “Hurricane Deck”… so dress accordingly. (It’s a big clue when they give everyone souvenir sandals and a plastic rain poncho to wear.)

If you’re planning your own trip, here are four other learnings from my experience…

Canadian Money
The way I understand it, the going wisdom when you use your American credit card is to try to pay in U.S. dollars as opposed Canadian dollars. That’s supposed to end up costing you less in conversion fees. But I found that most of the mobile credit card terminals I came across slapped a 5% tax on top of my purchase if I selected the U.S. dollars option. So I ended up just charging in Canadian dollars.

Tourism Tax
Speaking of taxes, did you know that businesses in Niagara Falls, Ontario have the choice to add an optional “Tourism Tax” to your purchase? And I don’t mean optional as in some businesses do it and others don’t (which is true).

I mean… you as the consumer have the option to pay it… or not. That’s right, you don’t have to pay the Tourism Tax. You just have to politely say you’d like to decline paying it. And then they take it off your bill.
(We got this tip from a waitress at a restaurant. Thank you!)

It’s actually an optional tourism fee that’s generally 3% of your bill, although it can be much more, and it looks like just another tax.

It’s not a tax. So, buyer beware.

Taking Photos with All that Water
You might expect I took a ‘few’ pictures along the way. And let me tell you, it wasn’t difficult to take a magnificent photo by just pointing my camera in the right direction. That said, it was sometimes hard to capture exactly what I wanted.


In three words… all that water.

If you’re going to ride on the Maid of the Mist or the Canadian Hornblower boat, it’s about all that water… up close and spraying in your face and onto your camera.

Most of our best Niagara Falls moments were connected to the visceral experience of the power of Niagara Falls and the spray from all that water.

If you want to capture those moments with a photo, you’re going to need a waterproof camera. Using a newer iPhone? No problem. They’re waterproof.

But let me tell you, the touch screen doesn’t work so well when it’s dripping wet. And you really need to keep water droplets off the lens. Otherwise, your photos will look like your phone was covered in Vaseline. But quickly wiping off a tiny smartphone lens is hard to do when your fingers are all wet.

The only option I had was to find the driest piece of clothing I was wearing and then rub off the lens on the precious cotton fibers.

The Limitations of your Smartphone
Ultimately, I think you should prepare for the need to take more action photos vs. scenic pictures. It’s easy to take a shot of Niagara Falls. It’s much harder to get the shot of your family experiencing Niagara Falls.

That said, I also had my GoPro with me, and that was a great choice. I don’t know about you, but as ‘bulletproof’ and waterproof as smartphones have become, they can still break if you drop them (even with a protective case).

And the risk of being so up-and-close to Niagara Falls is there’s no net… for either you or your smartphone. I wonder how many smartphones have been dropped by careless tourists and taken the infamous plunge.

I’ve happily used my GoPro with the expectation that one day, it could get swept away in one of our family adventures. As sad a moment as that will be, I’ll take solace that it wasn’t my iPhone.

Don’t Give Up
This all leads to my conclusion that to capture your experience as opposed to a few simple family selfies with Niagara Falls in the background… you’ll need to take lots of shots. Many will fall short… and if you’re lucky, you’ll capture a few gems.

That’s what I did, and I wasn’t entirely disappointed…

Keep it Real
It was ironic that all of the tourist activities include an almost mandatory green screen “say-cheese!” photo opportunity while you wait on line. And when you’re done, they’ve magically got your family digitally keyed into a beautiful shot of Niagara Falls… that you can buy.

While you might consider this option and not have to worry about risking your own gear to get a similar shot, you need to know that it’s not at all the same!

Smiling in front of a green wall does not at all approximate your truly disheveled, drenched and delighted look when experiencing the real moment.

Hold on tight to your camera, bring a dry cloth for the lens and go capture your moment!

Enjoy your adventure to Niagara Falls!

Offbeat Photo Moments from our London Vacation

If you’re expecting iconic London photography, there’s nothing more to see here. If you’re hoping for something a little different, well then… I might have something for you. Unique or throwaway? You decide!

My family and I have recently returned from a week’s vacation in London, and yes, I snapped more than a few pictures along the way. As part of my little photographic exercise, I also attempted something a little different…

In addition to finding iconic shots as well as any number of family selfies, I tried to also observe our London experience using a different eye. So, I took a few photos that represented the story of our trip from an alternate perspective… imagery that you might easily miss (as well as a few that were entirely impossible to ignore).

These offbeat moments were right in front of us. I just had to open my eyes a bit wider or turn my head in a different direction to spot them…

Sunrise at Heathrow Airport
When you’re walking off the jetway at 6am after your seven-hour flight, you’re probably not taking the time look out the window towards the airport. Well, you should… a sunrise is beautiful just about anywhere!

Kensington Gardens
As I experienced a little jet lag on our first morning, I stumbled through Kensington Gardens on a cloudy day. Then, suddenly this moment presented itself. My vacation had officially begun!

The Elphin Oak
I found this delightful sculpture filled with fairies, elves and animals at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.

British MuseumDon’t forget to look up! This skylight ceiling bathed visitors with blue-cast sunlight seemingly from an alternate reality.

The London EyeWhile everyone else was looking up and over London, this reverse view down was really cool.

Cutty Sark
For me, viewing the hull of this restored 19th century clipper ship from this angle was the true highlight.

Tower of London
Sure, everyone races to see the Crown Jewels. But the Tower of London tour also houses many other treasures, including the opportunity for my third grader to get close to chainmail armor.

Hungry Raven
My son spotted this peculiar moment as this hungry Tower of London guardian tried to figure out how to get inside an already-open Pringles can.

Tower Bridge
I got the complete view by looking up to look down.

Lock Hatters
My father visited this iconic hat store on St. James’s Street 60 years ago and recommended I stop by and ask if they remembered him. While I stopped short of asking the very proper salesman to check their records, I did FaceTime my dad while we were walking through Lock Hatters and facilitated a reunion of sorts.

The View on St. James’s Street
This view had a timeless feel. So I quickly pulled out my iPhone XS Max to capture the image.

Ceiling at King’s Cross Station
The grafting of this ceiling extension using such a modern design onto this old structure is both radical and brilliant.

Chilly Night by the Thames
A hot chocolate street vendor provided some additional heat to help this pop-up café also serve as a warming station.

Silent Disobedience
This doesn’t appear to be much of an accident…

The Tube
Riding the Underground was our total transportation solution. It felt more cushy than NYC’s subway cars, but the space was also a bit tighter and rounder. Mind your head!

Red Telephone Box
A phonebooth? Still? How quaint.

Sunset over London
Both a sunrise and a sunset during a London trip?! That’s definitely worth calling out. And a nice way to end our little photographic journey across the pond!

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