How Do You Separate Family And Photography ?

Welcome back to another week for those that have been following along and a special hello to those of you that are new. I promised you video tutorials for the New Year and I am very close to making this happen. In the meantime enjoy this week’s blog. If you would like to share some of your ideas as well as learn new tips every week please sign up to be notified of new changes on this blog.First Hint Of Light

I believe that learning about photography cannot be too serious and sometimes it is fun just to share stories of our adventures in photography. This week I will take a break from the technical stuff and discuss something that affects many photographers. How do you separate your family life from your photography? I have been told by a number of successful nature photographers that to be the very best in this field you cannot have a family! Does this mean I can never be successful? Should I keep my day job? Do I have a viable future in photography? I return again to the question; is it possible to have a family and be a top-notch photographer?

Sunset across the Olympic Peaks

Sunset across the Olympic Peaks

First of all I admit I am new to this whole family life situation and trying to balance my wants and theirs is not always easy. I have a passion to shoot anywhere, anytime, and anyplace; the problem is that my family wants more of me! I feel like I am being torn apart at the seams as I miss my family when I am out on the road shooting but when I am home all I can do is scout the internet for possible places to photograph. Am I alone in this or is there someone out there that feels the same way I do. I am not saying that you cannot have both the family and success in this field; I am just trying to find out what others think on this subject.

So I am going to offer a couple of suggestions that have worked for me. I encourage others to write back and share what has worked for them. At the end of it all I will post some of those stories and we will see if there are some common threads to success.

Whether I am out photographing or at home I try to enjoy every minute and never take things too serious. In this business that can be hard as the arena of photography is flooded with those that want to be the best. It does not matter what photography site you look at there are stunning photos everywhere. Competition gets harder all the time in this business as standards getting tougher and photographers become more dedicated. I really try to bring my family with me as much as possible but my girls are at the age that they do not want to be anywhere around me, let alone a thousand miles from their friends. At times I have had to bring them along, and let me tell you the looks of evil I got from them in the car especially when I kept making stops along the way to photograph. My wife on the other hand loves to be out with me but gets caught between spending time with her daughters and time with me and since the girls want nothing to do with photography this makes for quite the dilemma. How do I get my wife to join me and not feel guilty about not being there for her daughters?

A break in the storm as color illuminates the landscape

A break in the storm as color illuminates the landscape

I know some of you out there are thinking why not go alone and let your wife do her thing. Well the problem is if I am gone for any length of time my wife worries tremendously and begs me not to leave, as I seem to always end up in some predicament. I am one of those people that trouble follows and if something could go wrong let me tell it does. I have already in three years of photography broke my arm, wrist, ankle, all in different accidents. I have had to replace my camera several times due to droppage and even come close twice to drowning all in the name of the game to get a good picture. So I guess I can understand why my wife does not want me to leave the house.

This past trip with my wife to Olympic National Park in Washington State was a very difficult situation. We spent three days immersed in blizzards, waist high snow, and freezing temperatures. Now I am not sure how much of a trooper your partner might be but this situation was tough. I was trying to find a good foreground before the sun rose but when my poor wife was dragging behind. Every time I looked behind I could see her body shaking, nose running, and her eyelids turning to icicles. I would have left her in the car but I was going to be out all morning and leaving her in the car would have been just as bad, besides I did not trust her to be there when I got back. So I decided to move forward despite the problems my wife was having. I had always wanted to visit this place in winter and now my opportunity was here, I just had to make it through the waist deep snow and convince my wife not to stop.

hurricane Lodge In The Distance

Hurricane Lodge Set Against Twilight Colors


Needless to say I was happy with the shot I got but I had let my wife down. Her expression of frustration was there on her face and it is something I won’t forget ever. We returned back home as she shivered away all the way home without speaking a word to me. So all I could think was how could I have handled this differently….

Since then I have made it up to my wife and I have done everything in power to kiss her butt. So what happens the next time I want to go away? What happens when I need to shoot somewhere I know I should not go!

Do not get me wrong; I love my wife more then anything but I do love my photography.

So if you have any suggestions or ideas that have worked for you, please share them and hopefully next time I am out with my wife I will know what to do.

Standing Along Against the Sunset in Olympic National Park

Standing Along Against the Sunset in Olympic National Park

Photography Tip Of The Week

Shooting in winter conditions can be difficult and trying to expose correctly for snow can be the toughest. It is already tough enough to get out of your warm house and shoot in the cold winter conditions. That is why it is necessary to have all the simple guidelines when shooting in the snow.

First of all, when exposing for snow it is important to retain details in the snow and not blow the highlights. Many images had the potential to be stunning but lacked detail in the snow. So when shooting in winter conditions I like to bracket my images and lean toward overexposing as the in-camera meter likes to compensate for the brightness of the snow and turn white snow a dull grey. This is why I like to shoot three to four images beginning with a compensation of minus one and working towards a plus two as every scene varies. There is no simple solution when it comes to exposure and you need to read your histogram to make sure you are retaining the details in the snow but not blowing the highlights.

Sunrise showcases the Olympic Peaks in Olympic National Park

Sunrise showcases the Olympic Peaks in Olympic National Park

I encourage everyone that is serious about winter photography to learn to shoot in RAW. Shooting in RAW gives you flexibility that is needed to correct exposure without damage to the image. Unfortunately, shooting in JPEG, the camera makes the decision to expose for you based on the in camera meter. The problem as we discussed earlier is that in-camera meter compensates for the brightness turning snow to grey. RAW images allow you a greater range of flexibility to retrieve lost data in Camera Raw that would be lost permanently in a JPEG format. It is worth taking the time to learn the process of capturing RAW if your camera has this format. I had to learn the hard way as I was too stubborn to learn to shoot in RAW and it took me several experiences of losing images from photography trips to change my mind. Today I am happy to admit this might be one of the most important things I have ever done to improve my photography.

Snowshoeing through the storm on Hurricane Ridge

Snowshoeing through the storm on Hurricane Ridge

If you have any questions about this tip do not hesitate to write me and let me know what you are thinking.

Until next time I encourage everyone to really enjoy the journey and not the destination.

Sun rises above the mountain peaks in the Olympics

Sun rises above the mountain peaks in the Olympics

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~ by kevinmcneal on January 12, 2009.

13 Responses to “How Do You Separate Family And Photography ?”

  1. My wife and I have been married for almost 36 years, your feelings will never change so best to come up with a plan to deal with the two passions you must balance.
    Time apart for us is made a little easier by a recent gps device called a SPOT. This thing will allow you to send messages to pre-programed address, it will also allow someone to keep track of you. When you send the message it shows on a google map your location, if you need to get help there are two functions to get basic help or 911 help. I have used mine for over a year now on motorcycle and hiking trips with much success. My wife still misses me but she has some comfort in knowing if I need help I can get it.
    I don’t work for the company and don’t sell them, just a suggestion to ease the seperation while you are following one of your passions.

  2. The suggestion by Micael to use the GPS spot is a great one. We don’t leave home without ours whether we are together or alone.

    My husband is a wonderful sport about my passion in photography. Fortunately we both share a love of the mountains and backroads so he is always willing to go with me on any trip. His solution to not necessarily wanting to wade through the snow, stand in the mosquitoes, or wait endless hours watching a moose is to take reading material along. He has food, water, and lots to read in the Jeep and just sits back and enjoys the quiet of nature while he pursues one of his other passions … reading. So maybe there is a way for your wife to take along something she enjoys doing.

    Another thought … buy her a camera. Lots of folks who never DREAMED they would enjoy photography learned to love it because of their first camera.

    I enjoy your photography and your blog, suggestions, and honesty. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent.

    THANKS!

  3. It is hard dude, I have two boys and a girl and the boys love to go with me but my wife is a little jealos of the time away from her. I usually just go and then make it up to her when I get back, but I’m not ever gone overnight so that helps. She is the greatest woman in the world so she puts up with alot that some would not.

  4. I think bringing your family with you when go on a photoshoot trip is not a very good idea, if they’re not into photography. It’s boring for them and sometimes even painful, as your example showed.

    I’m not an experienced photographer, not even close, but this doesn’t apply to only photography. It’s an issue on how to balance your time to give your best to both family and hobbies.

    In my opinion it’s good and rewarding to focus on your family when you spend time with them, give 100% percent to them at that time, without thinking about where to shoot next or subjects or anything else related to photography and then schedule trips only for you, or with some photo buddy, possibly taking into account Michael’s suggestion above and using a device to inform your wife you’re safe.

  5. I’ve got the opposite problem. My husband keeps needling me to take pictures & sucks the joy out of it. Well, maybe not opposite.
    Gorgeous photos btw.

  6. Kevin,
    I have no good answers to your family vs. photography dilemna. I like the previous comment about carrying a GPS device. Beyond that, what about putting a good camera in your wfe’s hands and teaching her some of the basics of digital photography? Having you, as a professional photographer, teaching her and critiquing her efforts could go a long way to her understanding your passion for your work/art. Who knows she might even like it and grow into a fellow photographer with whom you can share your photographic passions! And by the way, these are the most astounding and beautiful winter images I have seen anywhere! That trek thru the snow absolutely paid off!

  7. Have you ever tried giving your girls their own digital cameras? I have a seven year old daughter that often joins me on my weekend hikes, often when I stop to photograph, she does her own photographing, sometimes of the same things, but not always. This keeps her busy while I take my time trying to get the perfect shot. (and yes, sometimes we do get in each others way) Then when we get back home we share and compare our pictures!

  8. Hi Kevin,
    Just ran across your blog and really enjoy it. I think the video blogging journey is really a cool idea and I along with others I’m sure are looking forward to it.

    Ok bud, about some help with the family concerns. I understand where your coming from, you explained things well. I try to keep a simple honest approach to most things in life. First, your wife must be a real trooper to go out with you on such shoots in such weather! That is wonderful, and she should always know how wonderful you think that is. I in no way Kevin meen to be personal I am only speaking on behalf of what I believe.
    Your family must always always know just how much you love them, and that they are without any question the most important thing in your life, period. I know easier said than done. But I think its the bottom line. With that being part of you, one can only hope that the love is reciprocated back to you in the freedom of enjoying life the way you would like, by being out actively practicing and engaging in your photography as much as possible.
    I shouldn’t keep on with such personal suggestions but it’s how I try to live, and it is absolutely necessary in the freedom I have with my wife to go as much as I do, which is basically anytime I have off from my day job.
    Hopefully the world will continue to work this way. The more love you give, the more you receive.

    Take Care Kevin, keep up the great work!

  9. […] Kevin McNeal Photography Where to get the latest info on landscape photography « How Do You Separate Family And Photography ? […]

  10. I feel your situation Kevin. I have a wife, 2 kids, and 3 dogs…needless to say it would be absolute bedlham if we all went out shooting…and productivity would all but cease.

    Here’s what I’ve found to work for me…some of its just the situation, other is planned.

    1) I’m blessed to have a wife who hates cold…being as it is usually below 50 degrees at SOME point while I’m out…she’s good to just NOT go….and realizes that it’s ‘my thing’ and let’s me go. She worries, but I’m pretty good about checking in when I’m out, and not going alone…and dont’ have the track record you have. haha. (sorry)

    2) I’m raising both my boys early to love the outdoors and hopefully photography…planning on the long run. As an educator I have 3 months of NOTHING to do but shoot…right now, I have an 8 and 5 year old…both of whom enjoy hiking, but are unabl;e to do anything too strenuous….BUT when they are teenagers they’ll hopefully dig the outdoors and then I’ll be able to escape to some other remote locations for extended periods of time because then it will be a ‘family trip’ not just me screwing around.

    3) I plan as far ahead of time as i can….while destinations change I plan weekends when I’ll be gone so my wife has time to adjust and plan for me not being there.

    4) I’ve trained the dogs to be good hiking companions…if I can’t take the kids…I’ll take a dog or two…lessens the home clutter.

    5) I work HARD at the photography to make it viable for our family. If I were just half-assing it…there would be no reason for my wife to let me go shoot…it would be wasting time I could spend at home. BUT by working as hard as I can…she can see it is important and has started to pay for itself…so she supports it more.

    6) lots of day trips…not so many over night ventures.

    7) Supporting my wife’s side ventures…if she has things to focus on too…then I’m as supportive as I can be so that she will return the gesture.

    8) sacrifice. There are a LOT of times I can’t go…and miss out. It’s just the way it is. I dream about retirement, and summers when the kids are older so I can get to more remote places…

    Good stuff Kevin!

  11. Hi Kevin, I’m glad you put together such a wonderful blog. I have really enjoyed it. When I saw the header “How to Separate Family and Photography”, I had to read every single word. I’m having a similar situation here in Minnesota. My thoughts were not how to separate, but how to integrate. My wife is not a photographer and she gets cold easily, but she does like to get out and hike. After each outdoor photo/hiking adventure, I ask her what I can do to make it more enjoyable. I listen and I make adjustment to make the next one even more enjoyable for her.
    So my suggestion is by continually making small adjustments, you will eventually reach a solution that works for everyone.
    There are some great suggestions in this blog from others. Piecing together a plan that works for everyone and then making adjustments as needed is how I do it.

  12. Kevin

    Your blog is top notch. You really have done a great job here. As a married father of two young boys I have also struggled with how to balance my responsibilities to family and my desire to get out and shoot. One of the things that has helped in the past few years was getting my own photography business profitable. Once my wife saw that my business was bringing money into the household finances it was easier for her to let me go out and shoot. My main source of income is from selling at various art shows and printing other photographers work. I do about 25 art shows a year. Needless to say I am gone a lot of weekends throughout the year. Since I am gone so much my wife and I bought a large calendar that shows the months of the year. This way we can write with a erasable marker when I am gone to a show, on a photo trip, etc… This way we know what each other is doing and we can manage family time around our schedules. Anyway I have rambled on enough. I am looking forward to meeting you on the trip down to the Sierra’s.

    Take Care,

    David Forster
    Light Capture Photography

  13. Just a question, Kevin, what is RAW? I am probably at the bottom of amateur photographers, and I have my first digital camera, a Canon Power Shot A2000 IS and usually takes good pictures, has a 6X Zoom and 10.0 Mega Pixels (whatever that all means) and so far I have learned to point and shoot. Most times in the sun, I cannot even see what I’m looking at because of the glare, so I just shoot and hope for the best. Does this camera have the ability of RAW and how do I get it and what do I do with it when I take pictures? Or, is this way above my head? Hope you can answer this question somewhat. Thanks for all your tips! Before I die, I hope to at least get some pictures that will please me. Regards, Katherine

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