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Monday, July 14, 2014

beach days - some photo tips and real ideas for a great trip!

I grew up lucky.
My grandparents owned a summer cottage business on York Beach.
My dad owned a lobster pound on their property.
So I grew up lucky - across from the ocean, smelling the salt air and hearing the waves from my bedroom window.
Lucky, I tell you.

I'll share a few tips in this blog post for taking great photos at the beach! You can look like a real photographer with just a little camera or even your iPhone with a few ideas. 

Photo Tip #1: Capture the sky. I LOVE the colors and sweetness of a gorgeous summer sky. Make sure you keep it in mind when taking pics of your kiddos.

Photo Tip #2: Capture the beginning! Kids are PSYCHED to reach the beach. Take pictures right off of them running, arms outstretched, kicking off their sandals, wide eyed grins. You'll be busy carrying towels and bags and shovels... but stop for a minute to watch their amazement and excitement at the start of your trip. 

Photo Tip #3: Get down on their level. See the beach from the littles' perspective. Either get down on your knees in the sand to take pictures, or just put your camera down low, without looking through the lens. I always get the coolest photos this way. 

The ocean is my happy place. The beach is sacred to me. It really is. Being able to share that with my kids is the most special thing to me in the summers.

We frequent the beach as much as we can. We go at least once a week all summer long. It's the best playground you could find for a child - water, puddles, rocks, sea creatures, shells for collecting, sand for digging… what more could you possibly need!?

Photo Tip #4: Capture the feelings. See the emotion and excitement in these two pictures? This is what I want to remember forever... how she squealed with delight at tossing sand from her shovel. Keep your camera handy in your pocket for these shots so you can quickly get the picture you want to remember. This is one reason to wear shorts or a cover-up with pockets. 

Photo Tip #5: Mommy in the photo! Get in there, momma! If you're in your bathing suit in the photo, you get extra points! Your kids will want to see these pictures. They don't want to see only themselves. They'll want to know you were a cool mom, playing with them at the beach, so get in there! 

Photo tip #6: Show their size. Show contrast. See how tall he is in the above picture. See how small they are compared to the vast ocean and sky behind them in the bottom photo? Show differences and size. It makes for an interesting photo. 

Photo tip #7: (below) Catch them off guard. Don't pose all the photos, that's my #1 tip to all parents when taking pictures of your kids. Posed photos are sweet, but I am more fond of those that are caught off guard, random moments that you happen to capture, the real side of your kids. I LOVE this picture below of my two, working together, talking about a plan to catch some crabs. That's something I want to remember, more so than if we staged a cute photo op. So catch them doing something fun when they don't know you're looking.

Since we are old pros at heading to the beach, I thought I'd share a few ideas that work for us when heading to the beach:
  • Pack the night before. This doesn't mean impromptu trips to the beach are off limits, but if you can plan ahead do so! It'll save you time and sanity. I have a beach bag packed at all times in the summer. It's filled with the following:
    • extra bathing suits for each kids (you never know if someone will have an accident or get too wet or something, so having an extra is helpful. It's also nice having a clean one in there at all times so if we are rushing out the door to go to the beach for a last minute visit, it's all ready)
    • extra clean clothes (this is for after the beach visit, we change in the car into some clean clothes)
    • towels
    • swim diapers, regular diapers (pack more diapers than you think you need, at least 3 I'd suggest), and wipes (lots of wipes are needed for the beach)
    • sunglasses for the kids - this is sunscreen for their eyes, don't forget it!
    • sunscreen and SPF chapstick 
    • sun hats 
    • ziplock bag of dry snacks foods
    • cooler with foods to keep cold, water bottles, lunch, etc. 
    • trash bag 
    • camera
  • Bring a plastic grocery bag for trash. Most beaches don't have trash cans. Carry in and out policies are better adhered to with a good place to put the trash in your bag. 
  • Shake off the sand before getting in you car, but accept that sand WILL be in you car. It's inevitable, part of the whole beach experience. I've heard using baby powder on kids helps to get the sand off. I get itchy from baby powder so don't use it, but have heard great things. We pack an extra water bottle for rinsing off sand. 
  • Label you sand toys if going with other families. Use black marker. Or just accept that they will get mixed up and you won't possibly remember what you brought, be OK with that. Or perhaps take a photo ahead of time of the toys you brought to the beach, so you know which are yours when packing up. 
  • Seating arrangements… Let's be honest, if you have kids less than 2 years old, you won't be sitting down the entire time so don't waste your time bringing a chair. I'm serious. You may be able to sit down with kids less than two years old if you go with other adults and their kids, so the kids can distract one another. If you go alone though, no sitting. Just chasing. Above two though, if you bring a chair, make sure it's easy to carry, light, easy to fold up, etc. Otherwise have an extra towel to sit on. 
  • Put on sunscreen either at home ahead of time or at the car before getting to the beach. A HUGE sandbox and water to boot with new shovels and buckets = kids who are NO longer listening to you and who will refuse to sit still for sunscreen applications. Do this ahead of time. Be proactive. A reminder to put your own sunblock on ahead of time also. We moms seem to get so busy caring for the littles that we forget to go back and take care of us after… so do it before leaving the house. 
    • When applying sunscreen, don't forget the ears, neck and tops of feet and hands. These are places kids burn and you oftentimes forget. Also, apply chapstick with SPF in it. 
  • Pack food for an army. Seriously. For some reason, the fresh air, sunshine, tons of energy expended building sandcastles, and overall relaxed, sitting around feel of the beach means kids (and even we adults!) eat more than typical. So pack extra snacks. Remember that sandy hands aren't always easy for holding on to foods… so pack things that are easy to eat. Things like fruit, apple sauce pouches, cheese sticks, crackers, sandwiches, etc. I pack a lunch that they typically eat earlier than normal for some reason, and then tons of snacks. 
  • Stay hydrated. It's easy to forget to drink at the beach because the kids don't want to sit there long enough to finish more than a few sips. They are too busy! So make sure you remember to get out the water and frequently encourage them to drink up. It's easy to get dehydrated in the sun. You, too, momma, drink up! 
  • Shade. If you're going with younger infants, you'll need some shade. Bring an umbrella or some type of canopy. If you don't have those, a stroller with visor will do. Figure this out ahead of time, how to set it up, how to get the umbrella to work, etc. or else it'll annoy you on the beach when you child just wants to play! 
  • Get a good spot to set up camp. Find a spot near a puddle, tide pool, close to the ocean but not too close, a big hole, etc. Finding a good spot for kids on the beach is crucial. It'll keep them busy for hours if there is something there to play with besides just dirt. Tide pools are my favorite.. it's like the kiddie pool, they can go in themselves when you are trying to eat or care for another child or talk to a fellow mom. Then you can all take trips down to the real ocean. 
  • Change in the car. At the end of our beach trip, I change the kids in the back of the car, wiping off sand with towels and water bottles, getting them snuggled up in clean clothes, with their water bottles and inevitably a second lunch or snack. Then I pack the car up and put wet clothes into a wet bag (from cloth diapering days) or just a plastic grocery bag. Having the kids cleaned up settles them in for nap later. 
  • Go early. We get up, eat breakfast, and head out of the house by 8 a.m. for a beach day. Mostly because we want to get back home by noon for nap time (nap is sacred around here, regardless of ocean time, my friends!). But also, the sun is the worst from 12-3 ish, the sun experts say, so it's best to not be out there during those hours. Of course, when my kids get older I'll totally be out there during those hours… but for now, we stay safe and keep our nap routine regular as much as possible. On days we end up staying later at the beach, I have it down to a science, even if they sleep in the car, I get them to their rooms and just pretend it's nap still. Most times they sleep more! Beaches are great for sleeping, they tire everyone out. 
  • When taking pictures BE CAREFUL. I ruined a camera last summer because the second I went to take a picture of my toddler, he splashed water and got it all over me and the camera… ruined! Salt and sand are not friends of cameras, so just be careful. 
  • Wear something comfortable for yourself. Many days I wear a tank top, sports bra and workout shorts to the beach. I only wear my bathing suit sometimes. Honestly, more times than not I've found myself chasing them around, walking to the water but nobody wanting to actually go in, etc. so it's been easier to wear something comfy instead of my bathing suit where I'm always worried I'm falling out of it. Better yet: find a bathing suit that works for a busy, active, mobile mom. I've not found a perfect one yet, so I wear what I'm comfortable in. 
  • Pack up smoothly. I give warnings to the kids, "in 5 minutes we have to get going home for nap, guys." I then start packing up my things, get myself dressed and shoes on ready to go. I then tell the kids it's time to pack up toys. They help me with that process. Sometimes we rinse off in the water to get rid of sand… but really that's silly because two seconds later they are covered in sand again. Packing up should be a swift, quick type of motion. Do it quickly before meltdowns begin! 

Last but not least, HAVE FUN!
Of course. That's what you're there for. It's work to prepare to go to the beach, and it's always slightly annoying how much sand ends up in my car… but honestly, the ocean is a treat, it's spectacular. There is nothing like it. So enjoy it.

Even if we spend 45 minutes at the beach, it's fantastic. The kids have a blast. Fresh air and sunshine are the best parts of summer. The beach makes those two things 10 times better.

Happy beach days to you all!

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