If you love the freedom and adventure of travel, you're like us, and you suffer from wanderlust! Award-winning Kiwi wedding photographer Katherine Williams can relate, so last year she made a leap of faith, took her daughters Olivia (11) and Arabella (9) out of school and on a year long adventure through North America, Europe, Asia and beyond. While traveling she shared photos on her Instagram feed - Where My Heart Sings. As soon as I saw them I had an intense desire to pack my bags and head off, as well as a yearning for childhood innocence. Now she's home they're in a photo book, which is helping them relive the memories and stave off itchy feet. To find out how their year panned out, and how to capture beautiful family holiday snaps, read on.
I traveled the full decade of my 20s, and after settling back in NZ and having kids, itchy feet set back in. A few years ago and I envisioned taking the girls traveling for an extended period of time while they were young and filled with wonder. The practicalities of taking time off work and having funds meant I just thought about it for a few years but in 2017 I had a major back injury. That was the catalyst to make it happen. We rented out our home, put measures in place to keep our photography business running at a low level (thanks to fabulous friends), and off we went.
Alaska stole my heart years before, Neil and I visited many times and have always loved the landscape, the fresh air, the wildlife and the relaxed feeling. We knew it was a place the girls were unlikely to head to on their own as young adults, so we wanted to experience it together. Being there right on Summer solstice, it was light all the time and we were extremely jet lagged. Eating dinner at midnight and looking for wildlife in Denali National Park the middle of the night while it was light was surreal. We got lucky and spotted grizzly bear, moose, caribou, and the girls favourite ... the snowshoe hare!
Hands down the girls favourite place was the Yucatan, Mexico with its warm gentle ocean and velvet sands, huge cenotes to jump into, underground rivers to explore, salt lakes, and the bonus of having friends to show us the best spots.
We visited 17 countries so its hard to pick favourites but there is one more place I have to mention ... Ikaria, a lesser known Greek Island in the Aegean Sea. Ikaria is known for being one of the blue zones, where people live very long lives. We stayed in a 500 year old stone cottage on an organic vineyard and farm. The hospitality of the owners George and Eleni was the warmest I've ever experienced. The girls learnt how to make filo pastry and Greek cookies, milked goats and picked grapes straight off the vines. Evenings were filled with delectable dinners and free-flowing wine with scintillating conversation.
Schooling wasn’t a concern for me, we just un-enrolled the girls from school and re-enrolled them when we returned. Their principal and teacher were immensely supportive, and I knew the real-world skills would ultimately propel their futures. We took maths and science curriculum books for each for them. Some weeks they'd do heaps and others they none at all. They also journalled (although Arabella wasn’t so keen on it). There was endless learning opportunities along the way; they become Junior Rangers in 5 US National and State Parks, learnt how to navigate themselves around the train system in Japan, and how to say cheers in multiple languages ... amongst many other things.
I would do it all again in a heartbeat as I really miss the adventures. I’ve already started planning the next one!
On the equipment front ... my main camera was a Canon M6 with 4 lenses including an 11-22mm and a fixed 22mm. A lightweight mirrorless meant that I nearly always had the camera with me. We also took a Canon 1DX and some lenses but most of the time that stayed in the bag. And of course my trusty iPhone. I'm a big fan of iPhone photos. If that’s the camera I have with me then why not make a great shot with it!
On the shooting front ... my top tips are:
- Always have a camera, any camera.
- Vary your perspective. Get down really low or up really high. Get close to the action.
- Your family needs to get used to having a camera around so if you don’t photograph them much at the moment best get started before you go!
Storage and keeping your photos safe is so important, you need to put thought into it and establish your storage plan before you leave. We carried two small drives to store images. I kept one in my camera bag, and a back up copy in our room or wherever else suited at the time. I tried backing up to cloud storage but poor wi-fi in many places made it impossible to keep up. When I got back home I also made a photo book and wove in some travel quotes that might expose me as someone who suffers from wanderlust! But a regular flick through the book with the girls helps keep that under control!
Have a look through Katherine's book in the video below (set the quality to HD 1080 for best viewing) and enjoy more photos at Where My Heart Sings by Tandem Photography.