Why do people take pictures? There are, of course, many answers to that question. Indeed, each individual may have more than one answer, depending on the project or the situation. You might be trying to capture a memory or document that something is so. Perhaps you want to illustrate a concept in an article you are writing or in a presentation you are giving. You could be trying to make art.
When I got my first digital camera, my main purpose was to learn. I'm not willing to carry every field guide I own on a hike and I don't necessarily want to take the time in the field to identify every little thing, but I do want to know what every little thing is. My first pictures were attempts to capture enough information about a tree or flower or bug or bird so that I could identify it later when I had more time.
This led to the start of my blog, winterwoman.net. Once I learned what something was, I figured, "Why not share it with others who are learning, too?" And so, pictures taken for learning became pictures used for teaching. Over time, I went back to the plants and animals I already knew to try to get a better shot, or a more artistic shot.
For me, photography is also a contemplative practice.
I can lose myself for hours on end while in the fields and woods capturing images, and hours more processing those images at my computer, or looking through field guides to learn what plants and animals I have captured. Even more time is spent learning the folklore and interesting facts attached to the new-to-me species.
To be a better nature photographer, be a better naturalist. That advice from photographer and author John Shaw is the basis of a series of four classes I intend to teach at Audubon on Tuesdays in this month, starting July 10.
The cost per session is $10 for Friends of the Nature Center and $12 for non-members. There is a discount for signing up and pre-paying for the series: $32/$40.
I say I will "teach" the classes. But really, I will provide the forum for all of us to learn from each other, for I am sure I will learn as much or more from you all as you learn from me.
Both nature and photography offer endless opportunities to learn. The format of each two-hour class will be to spend 20-40 minutes learning about some topic - dragonflies, summer flowers, or wetland wildlife for example, and then we'll spend the rest of the time out shooting.
The classes are scheduled from 6-8 p.m., when the sun will be lower in the sky, hopefully providing that golden glow and interesting shadows. The nature topic for the evening will be somewhat weather-dependent.
If it's cool and drizzly, wildflowers might be a better subject than dragonflies, who prefer warmth and sun.
The classes are designed for people who consider themselves beginners with digital SLR cameras and have their own equipment. Bring what you have, including accessories if you have them, such as tripods, extra lenses and so on.
Be prepared for the outdoors. The sanctuary is a wetland; bring your favorite bug spray.
The Audubon Center and Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. For more information, visit jamestownaudubon.org or call 569-2345.