Artist Fellowship | Features

How to Capture Your Getaway: Tips from Photographer and Artist Fellow, Carla Peña

Documenting your stay can take shape in many different forms. Perhaps you write poems or are someone who draws or paints. I don’t want to tell you how to document but instead, encourage you to do so. As a visual storyteller, I’m going to be going over a few tips to hopefully make photographing your stay a little less daunting.


“The best camera is the one you have with you.” -Chase Jarvis

Most people love the idea of having a nice big expensive camera but this quote confirms what I’ve heard time and time again. Cameras and gear are nothing but tools – YOU are the artist and creator of your story. Most of us already carry excellent gear in our pockets – our smartphones. Don’t get so hung up on the equipment you wish you had that you don’t take any photos at all. 

Know your camera well! And by that I mean you should use it often, practice makes progress. I also encourage you to take a beat when you notice an image you like, and study it. Think about coloring, where it was taken, how it makes you feel, and what drew you in. Taking a closer look at what you like may help inform your own style or interests. 


“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.” – John Berger

When taking photos I look for things that are interesting and beautiful, but I especially look for things that are well-lit. Once I began to better understand light, I felt I saw the world in a totally different way. Regardless of what I’m photographing, my end goal is to evoke a feeling – whether it’s joy, serenity or wonder. Lighting is always a big part of this!

Now, let me specify that I don’t mean you should haul around your own lighting equipment – I’d say 95% of my work is done with natural or available light. What I mean is knowing where to position yourself and your subject so that you are getting the best possible lighting for any given situation. Try shooting during golden hour – this is the last hour before sundown or the first hour after sunrise when the light is warm and magical. It’s the perfect time to take a walk outside and see what you find!


“Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” 

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Composition is simply the way things are arranged in an image. I like starting with what’s important – what would I want to remember? What stands out? No moment will ever repeat itself exactly the same way – what’s special about this one? Maybe it’s the way the morning light hits your pillow or that first s’more by the fire. 

When stumped on where to begin – start small and work your way back. Photograph the s’more close-up, then step back and capture the person roasting the marshmallow, then step back one more time and capture the whole scene, including the cabin and surrounding greenery. Anything you see in between may also be worth capturing – simply follow your curiosity and have fun with it! 


I recently read the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and there’s a lot of advice in there about living a creative life. I wish I had read her words when I was younger. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience”. I love to think people find joy in looking through my photographs but if that wasn’t the case or someday I no longer shared them, the joy of capturing the images will always remain with me. I do it for myself and for the way it forces me to slow down and connect with the world around me.