Tips for Travel Photography While on Vacation | Leighton DaCosta Photographer

The best camera to have on vacation is the one that is with you! Don’t get so caught up in getting the picture that you miss the experience.
— LD
 The little touches add to the experience. Remember vacation is about relaxation, not work! 

The little touches add to the experience. Remember vacation is about relaxation, not work! 

I often get asked one of two questions:

  1. What kind of camera should I buy/bring while on vacation?
  2. How do I take great shots while I'm on vacation?

1.  What camera should you buy/bring. 

Well here's the truth. The best camera for vacation is the camera that you have with you. Honestly, that could be your iPhone, a point and shoot, or even a high end DSLR. The actual camera doesn't matter as much as the experience that you are enjoying while you are on your vacation.

For ME that breaks down into two categories. Quality and Functionality. When it comes to quality, MOST digital cameras on the market today will give you GREAT images. So really, I look for functional differences. 

These are the things that I would look for.

  1. Easy for me to carry around (accessible)
  2. Can fit in a pocket or a small bag (size)
  3. Can get banged around and wet (durability)
  4. If lost/stolen, it's not the end of the world (affordability)

For point and shoot cameras, my two recommendations are the Nikon AW130 and the Fuji Finepix XP90 which are both under $500 and will give great images. They can even go underwater. For those that want a little more control, and willing to invest a little more, look at that Nikon AW1 Series. These are just my suggestions based on what is on the market at the time of this post. 

2. How to take better photos. 

The above images (unedited) were taken in Dubai with a SONY NEX-6, now replaced with the PHENOMENAL SONY a6300. These photos are pretty much the same photos I took, straight out of camera. Most are done with a 16mm f/2.8 or the 50mm f/1.8 E-Mount Lens. When it comes to to travel photos on vacation, here are some tips. 

  1. EXPERIENCE FIRST, PHOTOS SECOND. Remember it's best to have an experience to remember and then a photo to bring you back to THAT memory.
  2. Pay attention to your lighting. Some times of day are far better than others. Morning skies in most places of the world, have more clouds than evening sky. The clouds can provide a dynamic contrast to your subject(s). When photographing food, I prefer for my lighting to be coming slightly from behind so that I can see shadows to the front and give the food a more appealing texture. 
  3. Go to extremes. I prefer very wide, or very tight. so usually I am photographing with a wide lens like a 16mm or something that has a tighter perspective or can give a macro effect. 

    #BONUS when possible, with outdoor shots, consider using a Circular Polarizer Filter on your lenses to reduce glare and reflections.

One last thing. Remember HAVE FUN! You're on vacation...not work!



6 hours with International Wedding Photographer Mike Colon at WPPI 2016 | Leighton DaCosta. Miami Wedding Photographer.

On the closing days of the Wedding Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) Trade Show, I was fortunate enough to attend a 6 hour Master Class with international wedding photographer Mike Colon. Mike is a photographer based out of Newport Beach California, who's work has graced many international magazines, clientele ranges from Usher to Mel Gibson, and extracurricular activities include Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With a list of accolades that would tower taller than his 6' 2" frame, he is probably one of the most humble photographers I have met.  I was really looking forward to his class. I won't go too much into the details of what was taught, but I will highlight a few things. 

International Wedding Photographer Mike Colon doing what he does best, creating beautiful images. 

Sponsored by Sony, the class was about being able to dial in your mirrorless camera for weddings. I am currently a Nikon shooter, but I have always had interest in mirrorless cameras, because of the minimal footprint of gear compared to the regular DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.

Going into the class, I already had reservations about mirrorless systems mainly because of the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) lag and the huge battery drain. I felt that Mike would offer a unique perspective, because while now a Sony Artisan, he was once a Nikon shooter as well. I can understand now, why he made "the switch."

The first couple of hours of the class were classroom lecture to go over the menus and custom buttons on the Sony A7 series, which is Sony's professional line of mirrorless cameras. A camera that is feature rich, but button sparse.

I HATE MENUS, and the Sony has LOTS of them. I did enjoy the layout of the menus though. Mike walked us through each menu, and showed us what he did on wedding day to make it easier for him. Those who have photographed weddings, know that there is so much going on the day of the wedding, that if you are wasting time looking at menus, you might miss something important. After the lecture portion it was time to move on to the practical part of the class. 

Mike Colon holds a speedlight that has been modified, while another participant captures the image. 

We went to the Sony PRO lounge where, we were provided with kits containing the new Sony A7RII Mirrorless camera. I was fortunate to have a 90mm f/2.8 G lens in my kit as well. (All images on this post are shot with the A7RII and are only adjusted for crop and color balance.) the other lens in the kit was the 55mm. 

The practical portion reminded me of being in school where as soon as you went into the lab you forgot everything in the lecture. I was ready to throw the A7RII in the MGM Grand pool, but a few moments more the camera started to actually make sense. One of the cool things that Mike showed us was the focus tracking that the A7RII provides. I will say it blew my mind. While there were some missteps, it is a pretty reliable feature, able to track the models' movements with ease.

We had two beautiful models, although, I wish that we would have had a model "couple" to simulate more along the moments of a wedding. Nonetheless it was great to have such beautiful models. Thank you to 24 Seven Productions who provided the models and to Sony. 

I see mirrorless in my future, and this class helped me move closer to that point. I loved the knowledge and hands on training that I got from the class. I learned a lot and would recommend to any photographer out there who attends WPPI in the future to take advantage of booking at least one Master Class or Plus Class. You wont regret it. 

One private lesson from an accomplished instructor is worth at least 10 group lessons.
— Mike Colon (Top 10 things I've learned from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)

7 Ways to Make Your Studio More Mobile NOW | Miami Photographer, Leighton DaCosta

7 Ways to Make Your Studio More Mobile NOW | Miami Photographer, Leighton DaCosta

The reality is, to have a mobile setup doesn't have to be overly technical, or even overly expensive, IF you have a little forethought going into it.


A Treasured Sunset

 Sunset in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Sunset in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

On a recent trip to Jamaica, I captured this beautiful sunset. There is something calming about a sunset. I have always felt that sunrises equal hope, and sunsets equal peace. I have always loved the peacefulness that comes with sunsets that not only take your breath way, but make you pause, and enjoy. 




Celebrating Good Times: Jacksonville Downtown Cigar Lounge

 Welcome to the Downtown Cigar Lounge 11 Ocean St Jacksonville, FL

Welcome to the Downtown Cigar Lounge
11 Ocean St
Jacksonville, FL

For those in Jacksonville who haven't been to Downtown Jacksonville in a while, and love a great cigar, then you may not know of the Downtown Cigar Lounge (DCL), located at 11 Ocean St; around the corner from the Florida Theater, right off Bay St.

On Saturday, February 21st, the DCL had a dual celebration. Celebrating the one year anniversary is a very important feat in any business, but especially one in Downtown Jacksonville, as the Urban Core strives to recreate itself to a new future. 

I discovered the DCL around November when I was staying at the Hyatt Riverfront in Jacksonville. I asked a friend of mine, about a good lounge in Jax, and she mentioned about a new lounge nearby. I was instantly impressed. The look and feel, the intimacy, the "grown up" feeling of the establishment, instantly swept me away. 

There is a good mixture, of laughs, conversation, smoke, music, art, and dancing that fills the place, even on the slowest nights. Bringing back the feelings of a neighborhood watering hole, mixed with a 1930's feel. This ambiance provided a great backdrop for Saturday night's theme, 'Gatsby and Gangsters'

This themed also worked with the second celebration going on that night, Simone's 40th Birthday party. The celebration went well in the night with great food and laughs in the member's area. 

For more images from the evening's event, visit




Photographing a Piece of the Milky Way

 The Milky Way Captured with a Sony NEX-6 16mm f/2.8 at f/4 ISO 3200 25s

The Milky Way
Captured with a Sony NEX-6
16mm f/2.8 at f/4
ISO 3200

I just wanted to share my very FIRST Milky Way shot. I have always wanted to get this shot, but have always lived in the big city. I watched Melissa Wu's course on KelbyONE training. To assist, I used an app called "Star Walk" to help find when and where the Milky way would be. Using a wide, fast lens, along with an 'UltraPod' mini tripod, my first attempt was much easier than I thought it would be. 

Things to consider:

  • Light Pollution. This will probably be the number one thing that will stop you from getting a great shot. The spill from the lights that you see are about 8 miles way.
  • Focus points. The hard thing about focusing on stars, are getting them to a point that makes them in focus. What I did, was find one of those lights on the hill and focused on it. 
  • Air temperature. NO, the temperature wont really affect your shooting, but if its too cold, you may be really uncomfortable. 
  • Time and location of the Milky Way. Be aware of the Milky way is and at what time of night the Milky way will be rising and setting. 
  • The Moon. The more full the moon is, the less stars you will see. 

Do you have a great shot of the stars? Post in the comments, I would love to see!



The Awesome Hyatt Regency Dubai!

  The Hyatt Regency Dubai surprised us with a honeymoon/anniversary card, and my wife surprised me with a set of monogrammed cuff links. 

The Hyatt Regency Dubai surprised us with a honeymoon/anniversary card, and my wife surprised me with a set of monogrammed cuff links. 

For those who travel for a living, it can be really rewarding seeing different places and meeting new people. Sometimes though, duty requires you to be away from home during some of the most important times of your life. This year for me, I had to miss my anniversary and Christmas, which is always the risk, because they are only 3 days apart. My Christmas present though, was finding out that week that I would have to go to Dubai on business over the New Year's holiday. 

This is one of the busiest times of the year in Dubai, and because of the travel arrangements, I would find myself being there for about 3 or 4 nights. So I surprised my wife with a ticket to come join me for New Years as a "late" anniversary gift. Having been together for almost 10 years, we had yet to do a REAL NYE party. Only some house parties or time at home, but doing a roof top party was always on the bucket list. As a matter of fact, we really wanted to be celebrating NYE in San Diego atop the Andaz' rooftop. As luck would have it, we still ended up being on top of a roof watching the world record for fireworks being broken. But I digress...

Here is the focus of this blog. When we travel together, EVERY trip is a honeymoon for us. We enjoy celebrating our time together and I always want it to be special. So usually, hotel brands like Hyatt, have a box that you can check on your reservations that says "Honeymoon Couple." (I do wish they had an anniversary block though.) Often the hotels may give you a nicer room, like at the corner, or higher, or even a suite upgrade as a congratulatory token of appreciation. Well The Hyatt Regency Dubai went above and beyond this time. 

After spending all day out and about, we came back to the hotel and went to the Regency lounge for some refreshment. When we arrived back in our room, on the table was a BEAUTIFUL cake with a sign made of white chocolate! We were absolutely floored. The cake was so good, and as you see, my wife presented me with a set of cuff links with the initials "LDP" on them representing "LDPhotography." That woman spoils me. She also presented me with a case for my cuff links, inscribed: My Friend, My Lover, My Knight. 

My Friend
My Lover
My Knight
— Tiffany DaCosta

I love dealing with brands that go the extra mile to make you feel appreciated. What is something great a company has done for you unexpectedly?