How often do you slow down to appreciate nature’s little details? Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) recognizes the need to engage with nature in this way and also recognizes that photography can help young people express themselves and share their perspectives on the world as they’re experiencing it. That’s why we created some new nature photography programs to help youth and their families connect with each other, with nature, and with their own artistic sides.
We didn’t have to leave the Denver Metro Area to capture stunning images. In August, participants in ELK’s Learning Environmental Activities for Families (LEAF) program explored Bluff Lake Nature Center (BLNC) with cameras borrowed from our friends at Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership (SCRGP). Families walked at their own pace, and when they weren’t snapping photos of a soaring red-tailed hawk or bright yellow sunflower, they took breaks to enjoy BLNC’s nature play areas.
In October, ELK’s Youth in Natural Resources (YNR) students embarked on their own nature photography hike at Bear Creek Lake Park, where they walked two miles next to a babbling brook and trees covered in luminous, golden leaves. Students used their own cell phones and experimented with mirrors and prompts that encouraged them to reflect on their relationships with nature. At the end of the day, there was a photo contest, and the winner took home a gift card to Cane’s. Click this link to watch our video about the program.
3 Nature Photography Tips
If you want to practice nature photography on your own, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Just check out the tips below. Soon, you’ll be able to take better pictures wherever you are with just a cell phone.
- Pay attention to lighting.
You want to capture your subject in the best light possible. Harsh midday light can create shadows and light that may distract the viewer. If you are shooting in the middle of the day, seek out soft, diffused light instead. Diffused light spreads light evenly across your subject without creating harsh shadows. In nature, you can find this in bright shady spots or on cloudy days. This type of light will help you really capture nature’s colors and details.
Also, take advantage of the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset. These are what photographers call the “golden hour.” The sun is low in the sky during these times, and the angle of the light can create more interesting shadows and highlights, adding depth and dimension to a photo. The warm, golden light also makes for a pretty picture.
2. Get on your subject’s level.
For more impactful photos in nature, try to get on “eye level” with your subject. For example, you can crouch down or even lie down on the ground to get a more interesting perspective of a squirrel or a flower. This can help create a more immersive photo that captures the beauty and detail of the natural world.
3. Use the rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is a composition technique that can help make your photos more visually appealing. The basic idea is to imagine your photo divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically, and then place your subject at one of the points where the lines intersect. This can help create a more balanced and visually interesting photo.
BONUS: These “rules” are meant to be broken. If you want to play around with dark shadows, place your subject in the middle of the frame, or take a picture from directly above or below your subject, go for it! Nature photography can be an awesome way to express your creativity. The best photos are the ones you enjoy taking.
About Environmental Learning for Kids: Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) is a local nonprofit that creates a sense of belonging, self-discovery, and adventure in the outdoors for underrepresented young people of color and their families, transforming youth into environmental stewards and trailblazers that promote equitable outdoor access, sustainable practices, and community uplift. Learn more at elkkkids.org.
About the Author: Lauren Keller is ELK’s Events & Marketing Coordinator. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida but has done meaningful work in Colorado since graduating from Colorado College with a BA in Environmental Studies in 2021. Lauren is passionate about harnessing visual media to share the wonder of the natural world with everyone. She is currently pursuing an MA in Biology with a focus on conservation communications. In her free time, you can find Lauren reading, playing games, cooking new foods, or searching for wild animals to photograph.