How to Have Healthy Boundaries With Your Vacation Photography | For Photographers | Coos Bay Coastal Oregon Vacation

I've frequently been on vacation and felt like the hired hand on someone else's trip, being asked time and time again to grab that shot that just had to be photographed. Not only that, but I more often expected that of myself. I'd end up over-shooting my vacation and missing out on the best parts of traveling and seeing new places. Since those times, I have tried to be intentional about setting boundaries and being present, despite feelings that suggest otherwise.

The last thing you want to do is spend your vacation, which is supposed to be your rest time, like you're shooting a wedding. A seven day wedding. Attempting to be camera ready at any given moment. Sounds more exhausting than re-energizing to me. So here are some tips I've gathered to help you enjoy your vacation without feeling like a slave to your camera. As well as some encouragement! Hooray!

The pictures in this post are from my trip to Oregon back in August of 2014. It was glorious and also a time of victory for me in terms of shooting for myself.


Can I just say, being a Kansas girl, seeing cars parked on the beach seemed so taboo. Part of me thought they were going to sink right in. To the sand.

And disappear.

Document Your Experiences. Even If Your Shots Aren't Perfect.

Sometimes things are worth photographing even if they're not visually stunning (like those cars on the beach above). Or maybe a sight is mostly pretty, but there are telephone poles and buildings in the way. While you might not be taking a gallery-worthy shot, whatever it is that you're hesitating to photograph doesn't come along everyday.

That sunset? It will never happen again. Ever. And when's the next time you're going to be out on a beach at sunrise celebrating the break of day with fellow earlybirds (if you're landlocked like me, anyway!)? In that moment, you're making sure you remember a time when your heart was stirred. Vacations, unlike commissioned work, are about documenting your experiences, not contriving them. 

We checked out 7 Devils Brewing Company in Coos Bay and also saw some of the historical parts of this old fishing community. 

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone.

Speaking of the fishing community, I came up on this moment while in Charleston, Oregon. I felt like a National Geographic photographer! Who these people were, I have no idea, and normally I'm not so bold as to photograph strangers, but it was life unfolding. But I'm so glad I did! These are probably some of my favorite shots from the whole trip.

Having healthy boundaries sometimes means getting your butt out there and trying something new! Those shots above never would have happened had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone. A friend once told me (and *disclaimer* I only adopt this when I know what I'm doing isn't illegal, and I'm feeling especially timid), "Act like you're supposed to be there, and then keep going until someone kicks you out."

*aside* My favorite spot in the Coos Bay area is Cape Arago. It's a magical little peninsula with a lot of history. Sunset Bay (pictured above) fills with mist every evening, significantly reducing visibility and making for this striking effect. It makes me think deep thoughts and dream dreams and want to get lost and never get found again. You know what I mean? *aside*

While that philosophy has gotten me into some pretty funny situations, and I have at times been asked to leave, I typically get the shots I want---shots I never would've had otherwise! While getting the perfect shot isn't the point, sometimes getting fun shots is part of your experience! My camera is my "life pass" to take me into uncharted territory, meet new people, and embrace unique situations around me.

Above I did that very thing! Early one morning I photographed a crabber in Bandon, Oregon. Because I crossed paths with him, he informed me of how easy it was to go crabbing as a tourist. I ended up spending a good portion of the day sitting on a pier, checking my nets, and being a good ole fisherwoman. AND I held live crabs!! Had I not gotten out there that morning and let myself be a little fearless, I never would've done any of those things!

Pictured above is our delicious bounty. Which incidentally was a gift from the more experienced crabber next to us (not pictured). I tried all day and got not a single legal crab for consumption. So our sweet new friend took pity on us and gave us his last two. ;)

Now, let me just say, Bandon, Oregon is breathtaking. They have these incredibly rock formations right on the beach and again mystical, magical mist. Oh man. Had there not been a risk of drowning, I totally would've climbed out there, curled up, and stayed there as long as my parents would've let me. But alas, life and its fragility. ;)

We returned to the glorious Cape Arago the next day. This was at Shore Acres, which might be my favorite part! It was an old estate where the house no longer stood, but you can find remnants of previous lives like tennis courts, a private cove, and (my favorite!) restored botanical gardens. I just had a hey day there! I could go there year after year and likely never get tired of it. Below you'll see my favorite photos I got from the rose garden. I couldn't help myself. 

Know When to Say No.

The most energizing part about being on vacation is that no one is expecting anything of me. I can just have my camera, experiment, go outside of my comfort zone, and photograph exactly what I want. It can be a huge time of growth for me----or a huge time of rest. Like I said---no expectations. It's fantastic!

However, at some point someone is inevitably going to request you take their picture or that you take a picture of something they think is pretty. Personally, I find this to be one of the most draining parts of being a photographer on vacation. While I'm not the best at expressing this boundary, if this is something you struggle with, I suggest having a talk with whoever you're on vacation with prior to leaving. Let me them know this is a time of rest for you, as photography is your job! You wouldn't expect them to be answering e-mails, making business calls, and doing computer work---and they shouldn't expect you to be on-call for all of their photo needs.

Have grace for them though! It's pretty cool to have a skilled photograph go on vacation with you, and they're probably excited about that! So look for moments when they might be especially enjoying something (or appearing extra touristy) and happily grab a couple snapshots. Just be sure to set expectations of what you're comfortable with beforehand! Everyone will probably be a little more at ease because of it.

Mom and I enjoyed a little picnic at the private cove on the Shore Acres Estate. Goodness gracious, I loved it there!

One morning we set out just to explore! This was one day in the vacation that I specifically let myself go photo-hunting in the morning. In hindsight, I wish I would have let "exploration" not "super-fantastic photos" be the end goal. I probably would have enjoyed the whole thing a bit more and been a little bit less all-over-the-place the whole drive. Regardless, we saw some unique sides of the greater Coos Bay area!

This wall stood out to me the very first time I went to Coos Bay back in 2009, and at the time I never grabbed a shot of it. My last morning in Coos Bay that August, I specifically made a trip to this wall, because I wanted to remember it! Sure---the gravel isn't the prettiest nor is the shed behind the wall, but it's so cool to me! And that totally makes it worth it.

We headed out to to the Tillamook (yay cheese!) area and took Highway 101 most of the way. The coastline, bridges, and mist are just something else in this part of the country!

We took a healthy break in Newport, Oregon to see none other than the famous Rogue Brewery. It was so much fun! They make a whole adventure out of it (you even get on a little off-track train), give you all sorts of fun tastings, and instill in you a serious loyalty to the brewery. Fun fact--the brewery is as old as me!

I was looking forward to trying the coveted Rogue Spirits, and I was pleasantly surprised! They know what they're doing! Also--I've never seen so much beer in my life. Wowza. Those big silver looking vats are strictly dedicated to Dead Guy Ale (if you're a Rogue fan that's pretty crazy!). Needless to say, I was impressed! And I found out I really like tours. Lolz. 

Oh yeah! And watch out for the Rogue root beer floats if you ever go. They serve them on a plate because they explode! For reals though. My mom and I looked like total goofballs, because it came as a huge surprise. I'm sure everyone behind the bar laughed to themselves at the little show we made. ;)

We left Rogue and saw some gorgeous beachiness along the Oregon Coast. It's one of my absolute favorite sights to see---ocean + cliff-faces. At this time in our journey I was feeling a little weary from being away from home, and I was sort of ready to never photograph anything again. Which brings me to my last point.

Breathe. Rest. And Put Down Your Camera.

Not every moment can be photographed. Nor should they. Some moments are just meant to be enjoyed rather than documented, being recorded only in your memory. Our last evening was in in Netarts, Oregon, and I'd be leaving the next morning to return to Fairbanks. The trip had gone so quickly that I many times forgot to take this very advice. That night, it was clear the sunset was going to be amazing, and I wanted to remember every second and take a few moments to pray before I went home.

So while my parents went out to eat, I slipped down to the beach and watched one of the most incredible sunsets of my life. The picture above is several minutes before that moment came, as my camera stayed home that evening. That allowed me to be fully present, to feel Jesus right beside me, and to be reassured of the constant hope and companion He is. Had I decided to take my camera, I might have been so distracted I would've missed the whole point. Thankfully, it wasn't the case that evening, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

On our last morning before I flew out, we explored the Cape Meares Lighthouse area which was surrounded by this incredible fog-embedded forest. Did I mention how magical the fog was, yet? ;) 

And lastly, we of course had to see Multnomah Falls. It's a beautiful sight--right off the interstate in fact! At only 30 minutes outside of Portland, it is 100% worth the trip! There are lots of people there, though. I'd suggest going early!

So let's review!

  1. Document Your Experiences
  2. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
  3. Know When to Say No
  4. Put Down Your Camera

So I hope you've enjoyed this glance at my Oregon vacation---and hopefully learned from some of my mistakes! With most of these, I had to learn the hard way. My hope is that you can take what you want or leave what you want! But ultimately that you can be a stronger photography (and maybe even vacationer ;)) because of the things I shared.

Thanks for reading Wheaties!

Emma Wheatley

TOPEKA, KS, 66606