The Great American Camping Trip

When we finally arrive at our destination (we try to arrive when we still have plenty of daylight), it’s time to set up camp. Although in "work mode," the process of creating a home away from home can be a fun one to capture. Unpacking, setting up the tent or the kitchen, loading the bear box and unfurling the sleeping bags are all important parts of the process and can also round out the photographic story of the trip. Taking the first stroll around the grounds immediately follows unpacking and is an important part of stretching the legs and settling in after many hours in the car.

Getting familiar with the sights and sounds of the campground, as well as identifying the necessary utilities (bathroom, campground host site and ranger station, if they have one), I keep my camera in tow because this first stroll usually coincides with the glow of late-afternoon light. If there’s anytime when you want your camera when enjoying the great outdoors especially, it’s exactly that time of day. There’s no telling what may be discovered down the dirt road and around the next bend. A meadow, a mountain, a lake or the ocean at very first glance often can be so impressive, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have your camera with you. With camping (much like with many other experiences), by the time you run back to get your camera, the moment is gone. I speak from experience.

Once we get familiar with our surroundings, we start thinking about the evening meal, of course. All that fresh air and setting up camp can make anyone hungry! As my husband and I start the process (and, like with everything camping related, it’s certainly a process), our girls play in the tent or start on a game. I did mention our girls are now teen and tween age, yes, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about camping with them, it’s that somehow the clock magically slows down, in more ways than one. In the case of our kids, it actually turns back the clock. Playing, exploring, discovering, swimming, splashing, running, climbing, laughing and dancing are how they spend camping days, which makes my mama-heart happy, not to mention the photo ops it affords! It’s like the best possible scenario for the family documentarian, like myself.

The beauty of camping is that it far removes us from our usual distractions, and that alone can help coax out the kid in anyone. I find myself more open and even eager to participate in games like Uno® or Scrabble® while sitting around the picnic table. And the nightly campfires are a given. Nothing brings out your inner child like roasting marshmallows. All of these quintessential camping experiences can be seen and captured through our lens.

And with all of this begins the refreshing routine of the act of camping. For us, it’s early mornings (is it just us, or does everyone tend to wake with the sun while camping?), long, lazy days filled with nothing more than enjoying the wonders of nature, campfires and, of course, photography. It’s amazing how a simple change of scenery can bring so much inspiration on so many levels. No wonder we’re compelled to pack up and take it on the open road to anywhere the wind might take us, cameras in hand.


Once you’ve settled at your destination, there are some creative ways you can record your experience.

Linger With The Light. Nature’s light is at its best in the early mornings and late afternoons. Use those times to your photographic advantage by planning to spend some time either wandering with your camera or focusing on what you’re most interested in shooting (a particular landscape, for example).

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