To be great or even good at photography it takes a lot of time and resources. The same can be said for marriage and parenting. So how do photographers manage to balance their photography efforts with family life? From what I’ve seen, the short answer can perhaps be summed up by, some do and some don’t.
I’ve been married for four years and been a parent for nearly two years so I’ll share my own thoughts on the subject. Certain types of photography are more compatible with family life than others. Nature and travel photography are arguably the most difficult to reconcile with family due to the need for time away from home and odd hours. How I have been handling this is to bring the family along most of the time. Since my wife & I both have other jobs, it’s often a welcome relief to be able to get away as a family. I’ll go out for a cold sunrise while my wife and son sleep in a cozy hotel bed. We recently went to Pacific Grove to celebrate our anniversary so I managed to get in a sunset photoshoot since the sunset was a bit later and the sun was still out when we finished dinner. My wife walked around the shoreline with my son. The next morning I woke up before dawn to shoot a solo sunrise. No objections from my wife since she was still asleep.
Another way that I get some evening photography in is to feed the family then head out to shoot photos while my family goes to bed. We recently traveled to Virginia City & Reno for a family getaway. Most of my time was spent sightseeing with the family. After dinner, I walked down the street by myself to photograph the iconic Reno Arch at night while my wife and son went back to the hotel. I did the same thing last year when we were staying in Monterey. I drove down to Big Sur after dark to photograph the Milky Way while my family went to bed.
Traveling during the winter season also allows me to shoot sunsets and still be able to have dinner at a decent hour. Cranky wife and kids is not a pleasant scenario to deal with and best avoided if possible. By limiting my photography hours to sunrises and occasional sunsets, I’m able to shoot the photos I want to shoot while spending the rest of the day with my family.
Since I work in the travel industry I occasionally get to travel solo such as my trip to hike the Camino de Santiago. I’m fortunate that my wife is understanding so I try to make the most of those opportunities and shoot as much as I can when I’m out there by myself. For example, I’ll be going to a conference in Seattle soon so I plan to shoot a little bit in Olympic National Park while I am in Washington. Would I rather have two weeks to explore Olympic National Park with my camera? Of course but that would be irresponsible for me to do that so I’ll take whatever I can get and make the most of the opportunity. While photography is important to my well-being it is not my main priority in life anymore.