Finding Photographic Balance in Hawaii

I recently returned home from a family vacation in Hawaii, where I spent nine days with my wife and daughter during spring break.  As time was ticking down to our departure a lot of friends and colleagues asked me what camera I was taking, what I was bringing as a backup, what lenses I would bring, where I would be shooting, what projects I had planned, etc.  A few were surprised when they heard my answer:  I was only taking a Fujifilm X100F, with an extra battery and a couple of extra memory cards.  That’s it.  No backup camera.  No extra lenses.  No defined plans to shoot (other than one which fell through).  I had no plans to bring a laptop either, just an iPad to edit on as needed.

I think there was surprise because my two loves, photographically speaking, are travel and street photography.  It is fair to say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I enjoy more as an artist than discovering new places with a camera in my hand.  It is the foundation of most of my business activities.  It is the basis of my blog, my Instagram posts, my workshops and so many other parts of my business.  I love the work that I do and the life that I lead. 

This wasn’t a work trip though, it was a family vacation, and the last thing I wanted to do was allow photography to dominate my time.  There will always be opportunities to take photographs but our children don’t stay young forever.  These nine days had to be about time with my daughter on the beach, time with my wife by the pool and time as a family enjoying activities.  I think the worst thing that could happen on a trip like this would be that I let my intense drive to make images dominate my focus and attention.  

The key for this trip then, as with most things in life actually, had to be finding the right balance.  I decided to allow myself time for just one photowalk per day, shooting whatever caught my eye during the walk.  All images would be taken in jpeg only and the keepers would be wifi-ed to my iPad where they would receive minimal post processing, if needed at all.  

One friend I spoke to about this plan commented that he could never do that as he would be afraid of missing a shot.  When I asked for examples he couldn’t provide any, other than to say that he felt like he always had to be prepared for any shooting situation.  This of course necessitates him carrying a messenger bag with two bodies and four lenses every time he travels, even to places like Disneyland with his kids.  I think one of the biggest differences between my friend and I is that I am ok with “missing photos”.  Completely ok with it, actually, as long as it isn’t client work.  The truth is that limitation serves to make me more creative so, if anything, traveling light makes me a better photographer.

To be fair, I wasn’t always this mindful.  As a matter of fact, it has only been two years since I wrote this article:

The night photography almost ruined my vacation – A cautionary tale

That night taught me a lot about being mindful and purposeful.  Sure, if I am traveling for professional purposes I will plan my shoots and bring the requisite equipment.  On a family vacation though it is important for me to remember that family comes first and not photography.  Yes, I will still shoot, but only as time allows.  Conversely, the next few months will see me in several European countries, as well as in Toronto, teaching workshops and shooting client work.  You can bet that those trips will be all photography, all the time.  

Balance, for the win.

All of the images in this blog post were captured as jpegs with the Fujifilm X100F, wirelessly transferred to my iPad (usually while sitting on the beach), and processed in Lightroom Mobile as needed.  It worked perfectly and once again I was reminded of how awesome the Fuji X System is.  

With that said, I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into life on the beaches of Hawaii!

Until next time,


13 thoughts on “Finding Photographic Balance in Hawaii

  1. waltathuby says:

    Wonderful photos Ian. Your essay resonated very strongly with me. Last year on a family holiday I did exactly the same and took only a X100T and felt totally satisfied and liberated with just one camera, no lens dilemmas and easy to carry 🙂
    This October we’ll be off again for over a month and I’ll be taking my new X100F and I really do feel confident about ‘finding that balance’.

    • Ian says:

      That’s great Walt, I am so glad to hear you have found your photographic balance!

      The X100F is great, isn’t it?



  2. zkedziora says:

    Fantastic work man!!! Really love all the images.
    Have you shot jpg only? Any particular film simulation?

  3. Rick says:

    Nice article and nice shots but really applies to professional photographers. How do you recommend balancing photography and family for the many of us serious amateurs whose family vacation is the only real opportunity for us to do travel photography?

    • g says:

      Hey Rick!

      I think the same principle applies to be honest, it really is just a matter of having clarity on what the priorities are for your trip. I think of it as a sliding scale: On one end is all family time. One the other end is all photography time. Where you land on that scale really will depend on you and your family.

      I have a friend who gets up early and shoots a sunrise before his family is up and moving. He then spends the day with them as often as they’d like him to, but then he ducks out again after dinner to shoot a sunset or blue hour shot. He and his wife have different interests too, so he often gets in a few hours of shooting here and there while she is in a museum that doesn’t interest him… things like that. For them, that balance works well.



  4. adam de Vries says:

    great photos,,

    was a polorizer needed? or used in any of these photos,

    we have a trip coming up to kauai and curious if i need one,

    im using a fuji x-e2 with a 23 prime,

    hope to hear back,

    • Ian says:

      Hey Adam!

      How are you?

      I actually don’t use Polarizing filters at all. Your X-E2 with a 23mm prime should do you just fine!



  5. adam de Vries says:

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for getting back to me,

    im good, just drawing for work,

    thats great. I really don’t want to buy a polarizer. I mostly shoot alot of portraits, I mostly shoot wide open. but in hawaii the sky might get washed out any tips?

    curious the bottom image the one with the boats, can you let me know what colour simulation was used? im guessing velvia/vivid,I absolutely love that colour.did you do alot of editing in lightroom?. hope to hear back,,

    great photos,

    • Ian says:

      It is Velvia, yes.

      There are a few ways to deal with a washed out sky. Off the top of my head I can think of:

      1) Shoot earlier or later in the day.

      2) Capture the image using the histogram, ensuring that you aren’t crushing blacks or blowing highlights unless that is your intention. You can always pull up the shadows in post, for example, if you underexposed an image slightly to protect the highlights.

      3) Bracket your exposures.



  6. adam de Vries says:

    thanks Ian,

    these are great tips,

    at home I always shoot in aperture priority, and it works, but in hawaii it will will have a harsh sky,

    i’ll try this out,

    I totally agree to shoot early or later on in the day,

    thanks again for your help,

    on another topic, do you think theres a big enough upgrade from fuji x-e2 to x-t2 I may make the jump, still researching if its a big enough difference,


    • Ian says:

      I’ve been to Hawaii many, many times and to be honest I’ve never had a huge problem with the skies there. If you are an Aperture Priority shooter just knock it down with the exposure compensation dial a little if needed. You’ll be fine.

      The X-E2 generation to the X-T2 generation was a huge jump in my opinion. New sensor, new processor, much better AF, etc.



  7. adam de Vries says:

    thats great..

    glad to hear,,,

    i don’t want to change my ways,in shooting,comfort zone,,

    i’ll look into deals since i hear the x-t3 is coming..

    thanks again,


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