So what if it doesn’t work.

So what if it doesn’t work.

me, taking in the situation. I’m not sure it’s gonna work. 

Our time at the beach always goes by so quickly, even when we take an extra day. All week, we kept meaning to hit the beach during the golden hour—that last 90 minutes or so before sunset—to take some pictures of the kids.

The week got away from us. It always does.

Our last night of vacation, we always hit a certain restaurant that’s a pretty good hike from our condo. We brought the camera along (the real camera, not the iPhone one) and hoped we’d have time to use it.

We didn’t, really. By the time we left the restaurant, the sun had already dipped below the horizon. It wasn’t dark, by any means, but the golden hour window was just about shut and we had a half-hour drive down the coast to get back to our beach.

Ten minutes into the drive back up the coast, my husband said, “Let’s just stop here.”

“I don know if that’s gonna work,” I said.

(Recovering perfectionist, remember?)

“So what if it doesn’t work,” he said. “Let’s just try.”

We braked too hard and made a quick turn towards where we thought the beach access must be. We found a quick parking spot (miracle) by a crowded restaurant, and spotted a barefoot family, laden down with bags and a cooler, pop out of an opening in the trees, presumably headed home. We reverse-engineered their path, and three minutes later we were on the beach.

We ran down to the water and kicked off our shoes. It was a wonderful evening, warm with a cool breeze, and not totally dark yet, even if the golden hour was gone. (It wasn’t as nearly as dark on the beach as it looks in these photos.

Patrons were spilling out of the bustling restaurant onto the beach, drinks in hand, milling about and waiting for tables. One of them noticed we were hurrying to catch some photos, and jogged over to see if he could take a family shot for us. We took him up on it.


all six of us in one photo = automatic win. all of us smiling and looking in the general direction of the camera = double bonus

The kids weren’t quite sure what to make of being down on the beach, dressed, after dinner. After bedtime, even. They skipped through the sand, started a game of freeze tag, spun each other in circles.

They were sweet and affectionate and silly: perfect picture-taking behavior.


me and my girls


my boys


this perfectly captures Silas’s personality 


We kept clicking the shutter until it rebelled at the lack of light and refused to take another.

These aren’t the greatest photos our family has ever taken. But it was a great night. It would have been a great night even if the light was gone and our photos were black.

But it wasn’t, and we have the photos to remember it by.

Tell us about the times you were surprised because things ACTUALLY WORKED OUT in comments. Or when they didn’t, and it was fun anyway. 

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  1. Steph says:

    Pictures with everyone smiling and looking in the same direction are a huge win! When our daughter was about one we grabbed our camera on the way to a birthday party, stopped at a field on our way home, set the camera up on the stroller on a timer and ended up with the best family pictures we’ve ever taken. I was really skeptical that it would work but she was laughing at her daddy running back and forth – it was great.

  2. Tim says:

    I figure the only time something is guaranteed not to work is when I don’t try in the first place. I’m glad you took a shot at getting down to the beach that evening, because that has got to be one of the best vacation stories you’ll get to tell for the rest of your life.

  3. Jory says:

    This is more of a crafting win but I went to a tie dye and batik party and had never tried batik before. I was late to the party and thus late to put my design on my shirt with the glue. I ended up having to use a hair dryer on my shirt to dry the glue, which was very uncomfortable because I was sitting on the driveway in the summer heat. It was fun, though, because people I didn’t know came up to talk to me and look at my design and reassure me that it would turn out. And it did! I wrote Mr. knightley’s famous line on my shirt in glue and then tie dyed around it and now this is one of my favorite shirts:

  4. Dawn says:

    I really appreciate this post, Anne, because you’re right, so what if it doesn’t work (or isn’t perfect)? I am always struck by the perfect pictures people post of their family trips, weddings, births, etc – and my “snapshot-y” versions of those events always seem so silly and small in comparison. I know I know, comparison is the thief of joy and all that, but still. Thanks for keeping it real. And they are great pics – you have a beautiful family!

  5. Good for you for taking pictures instead of skipping it. Less than ideal pictures are always better than no photos at all!

    A quick tip in case you ever run into this situation again….try bumping up the ISO on your camera and then you should be able to shoot in fairly low light without a flash (the flash is what makes the background appear darker than it really is.). The pictures will be a little grainier with a high ISO, but I usually find that the tradeoff is worth it.

  6. Steph J says:

    I remember one Saturday morning when we had one almost 3 year old child, pregnant with the next, and I suggested that we head to a nearby coffee shop that made amazing croissants and have a coffee date. I wasn’t sure if my almost 3 year old would submit to a relaxing morning out, but we brought him a box of puzzles and it totally worked! We lingered over cafe au lait and chocolate croissants for over an hour while he sat quietly and did his puzzles while other patrons watched in amazement 🙂

  7. Deborah says:

    This is exactly how I felt going into our Kenyan Christmas trip last year. My optimistic husband thought that our two-year-old boy would do great with all kinds of cross-country driving and cross-cultural experiences. I was sure that we were flying too close to the sun. My hubby was right. And that’s why I said yes to Amsterdam, Germany, and Switzerland this month. By train. With two backpacks. And our three-year-old boy!

  8. Faith R says:

    I have two things to say – one: I feel so happy seeing pictures of your family 🙂 and two: this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been struggling with my inner demons and the “what if it doesn’t work out?!” and “what if it fails?” And this is perfect.

  9. Anne says:

    You are so right, Anne! I know exactly what you mean by this, but I can’t think of a related story to save my soul at the moment. 🙂 But…..yeah, I get it! And what lovely pictures and memories.

  10. Esther says:

    We did a similar thing on the beach in Busan, South Korea last month. We only had the iPhone since the good camera had dead batteries. We kept trying to get all of us in the shot, but were struggling. This incredibly nice lady offered to take a picture and we agreed. It has to be the best photo of our trip. Full family photos are so hard to get and we definitely treasure the one that the stranger took of us.

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