How YOU can help change the world

As you may know, from following the posts on my blog, I’ve been completely ensconced in a crowd funding campaign for the past 5 weeks. I’m raising funds to help defer the cost of an arctic expedition this July. Vacation? Nope.  Education.

As a biologist, the environment is really important to me. I don’t have kids and so I could say, “who cares, I don’t have kids, I don’t have to worry about what the next generation will have to deal with”, but that’s just not me. I don’t roll that way. I think everyone has a certain responsibility to the next generation, and the generation after that, and… Let’s face it, it’s my generation, my parents generation, my grandparents generation and to an extent, my great-grandparents generation that has screwed up the environment so badly. Don’t you think we owe it to the next generation to mop up some of the mess we created?

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The past 5 weeks has been revealing for me. I knew it would be a hard, hard slog raising the funds. My campaign is in the education section of the Indiegogo crowd funding website. Strike number one. I know this sounds pathetic, but the vast majority of people who would even consider donating to a crowd funding project don’t give a rats furry bottom about projects in the education or environment section. I’m not trying to be rude. That’s just the way it is. If you have a cool electronic gizmo to develop and sell, you’re golden. Tons of donations come in if you have a half decent campaign. But education and environment have typically been poorly supported. But why? I’m an optimist and a realist, but my experience with crowd funding has allowed a shade of pessimism to creep in. The sad truth is that not many people truly care about the environment or about education. They say they do, but when it comes right down to it, most people would much sooner have a way-cool, cutting age piece of electronics in their pocket, rather than build a school in Africa or support something that helps the environment. And to me, that is really sad.

Yes, there are people out there who think education and the environment are important – thank goodness. And I am SO grateful for those people, regardless of whether they supported my funding campaign with a donation or someone else’s funding campaign. The fact that people care, matters to me a lot. But I still can’t get that bad taste out of my mouth about the lack of support or caring from the general public, about the environment or education. That just has to change if we’re to have future generations that don’t live in a cesspool.

Species like polar bears will go extinct unless we reverse global climate change to a large extent.

Species like polar bears will go extinct unless we reverse global climate change to a large extent.

As a scientists, I do believe that the earth has not yet reached her tipping point. I do believe that we can reverse a lot of the nasty things that we have done to the environment. And I do believe that it is possible for humans to live sustainably. But that means change. And let’s face it, most people hate change! I personally, thrive on it, but I know I’m a rarity. Most people despise change. They like things just the way they are. And so asking people to give something up, to change some aspect of their lifestyle to better the planet, is frankly, asking too much, it seems. At least for my generation. Frankly, I put my money on the next generation. They are the ones with their whole lives ahead. They are the ones that may have to live in the cesspool we leave for them. So they have to care. If they don’t, their lives will be a whole lot less pleasant than mine, or my parent’s, or my grandparent’s for that matter. And I hate that thought. It’s just downright wrong! But how do we get people to care?

I think I have a solution, well, actually, a small step toward a solution. And that’s why I’m fundraising. And it’s why I’m putting $8,000 of my own money (I hear retirement’s way over-rated anyway….) into paying my own way on an arctic expedition. Why? Some people think I’m nuts doing this. After all, I’m not getting paid to run my Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program on an arctic expedition. It’s purely volunteer. And I have to use my precious 2 weeks of annual vacation leave from work for it. But I choose to. Why? Because I care. Because I think each and every one of us, in some way or another, has to do something to reverse the damage our lifestyles have done to the planet.

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I’m a biologist, I’m passionate about nature, the environment. And photography. And so I created the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program.  This is the program I’ll launch on the arctic expedition. It’s unique. I’ll be teaching 90 high school kids how to take photos and videos of the environment. The goal is for them to document the things they are seeing, the human impacts on it, and then share their thoughts, their concerns, and their hopes for the future, through their own images and videos. The goal is, at the end of the expedition, to have a video containing the student’s images and video and environmental messages. I’m also hoping to organize an exhibition of the student’s images. And I hope to publish some articles about the program and the students as well as an e-book. I want this program and experience to connect students with nature, to combat the ‘nature deficit disorder’ that Louv so adeptly describes. To encourage students to care about their planet and to inspire them to do something about it. That’s my hope. Whether it works or not remains to be seen. But I’m sure going to try.

Help to inspire kids to be the Generation of Positive Change - only they are the ones who can clean up the environmental mess we and the previous generations have created.

Help to inspire kids to be the Generation of Positive Change – only they are the ones who can clean up the environmental mess we and the previous generations have created.

Will I change the entire world with my program? Nope. But change happens one student at a time. Real change happens slowly. And my goal is simply to open up some eyes and some minds, make the students think, and then hand the reins over to them to let them decide what they will and won’t do to make the planet a better place. After all, if I’m lucky, I’ve got 30 or so good years of life left. But the next generation will have to live with the mess a whole lot longer. I wish they didn’t have a mess to clean up. But I’m happy to do my part to try to help and to make amends for my impacts on the environment. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not up on a soapbox. I drive a car. I burn wood in my fireplace. I use Propane to heat my house. My life does have an impact on the environment. I do what I can to lessen it. But society as a whole, has to change. And if I can convince part of society to think about changing the way they live and help them to convince others to do the same, then that will be worth everything that I’m putting into this program.

If you believe that we can and should make the world a better place and you have a few bucks to spare, I would love it if you could make a donation to our Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program. There are only 3 days left in our funding campaign. I’ve revised our goal, from $25,000 (for both me and my co-teacher to go on the expedition) to just me going and me contributing $8,000 of my own retirement money. If you can help get us to our revised goal of $4,500 (we’re less than $1,000 away from it), I would be immensely grateful to you. Donate by clicking on the link below.

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A NEW AGE FOR WILDLIFE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Hey Folks,

I’ve posted on my Biosphere Blog, about using high-tech, innovative ways to do photography. We’re going to be using some of these tools when we launch our Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program in the arctic this summer.

We’ll be testing out our remote controlled quadcopter and rock crawlers, along with a GoPro camera, to capture some great images and videos on the expedition. We’ll get the kids doing this. Hopefully we’ll inspire some of these kids to share their stories about the beauty of the arctic, their concerns about the human impacts on it, and what society needs to do to change this.

Click on the image to visit the Biosphere Blog and watch Bigger Than Ice

Click on the image to visit the Biosphere Blog and watch Bigger Than Ice

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Using photography to teach environmental education

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I haven’t had a chance to post on here in a while, but there’s a great reason why. I’ve been really busy working on a BIG project. One that involves photography, but in a different way.

I recently opened up my own environmental education organization Biosphere Environmental Education. And within it, I’ve created a unique environmental education program. It’s called the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program or the YEAP.

What does the YEAP do?

Well, we’re just starting out, but our program will take kids on expeditions around the world, to experience nature first hand, to see its beauty, understand how it works and how valuable they are. They’ll learn about the human impacts on it and what their generation can do to reduce those impacts.

Our program is different than other environmental education programs out there. It uses photography and videography to teach environmental ed. We’ll be teaching high school students how to shoot and edit photos and videos with impact. They’ll be documenting the environments that we’ll be experiencing, what’s unique about them, what’s beautiful about them, what’s valuable about them and what the human impacts are on them. And then we’ll teach them how to use those stills and video to put together stunning visual presentations that they’ll give to their schools, their clubs, their communities and most of all, their peers. So, we’ll be teaching them how to become environmental ambassadors, sharing their own messages about the environment and how we need to make changes to lessen the human impacts on it.

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Our mission…. is to mentor a new generation of leaders, innovators, and world citizens who believe that the long term health of earth’s environments is at least as important as profits and development, and who will guide their generation toward a sustainable way of living.

We’ve been given a golden opportunity. We’re collaborating with a fantastic organization called Students On Ice. They’re an award-winning organization that runs youth expeditions to the arctic and antarctic. They’ve been doing this for 14 years and have taken over 2,000 kids on these expeditions.

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Students On Ice has provided us with the opportunity to launch our Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program on their July 2014 expedition to the arctic. We’re so excited about this! But the expedition is expensive. It’ll cost over $10,000 each, for me an my co-teacher to be on that expedition, delivering our program. And so we’ve created an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise the money we need to be on that expedition.

We would love your support! Click HERE to visit our funding campaign. Watch the video that tells you what we are doing. And then click on one of the ‘perks’ to donate. We have funding levels from $20 all the way up to $2500. Each and every dollar matters!

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We really need your support. If you can donate to our campaign, we’d be extremely grateful. And we’d also love it if you could share the link to our campaign with your friends – either by clicking on one of the social media buttons on our campaign website. Or sharing this post. Or emailing your friends directly.

Our campaign will be running for another 38 days. We’d love your support. Visit our campaign website and let us know what you think.

As many of you are fellow photographers, I hope you can see how using photography and videography to teach environmental education, can provide a new way to interest and motivate youth to learn about our environment and to take action to be the generation that does something big about the human impacts on it.

Thanks so much for your support!

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Beautiful arctic images at Winterlude

If you’re in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for Winterlude, our winter carnival and to skate on the longest skating rink in the world, make sure you head downtown to Confederation Park. There’s a nice little display of images from Students On ice arctic expeditions.

Click HERE to read more about it on my Biosphere Environmental Education blog.

 

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An iPhonography Epiphany

Recently, I’ve been learning how to produce, direct, shoot and edit video through an initiative I’m involved with at work. It’s been a fabulous learning experience. A LOT to learn. And a bit of a mind-shift from shooting stills.

Our instructor, who is a professional cinematographer, was showing us some short videos she had put together – personal projects that she described as experimental. They were really creative. She then told us that she shot the entire thing on her iPhone. Hunh? On her iPhone? Apparently. She showed us what she had used to make the short creative videos she showed us. Wow…

She has an iPhone 5 and had bought several apps to try. Most for shooting video, but also some for shooting stills. Oooh, I thought. “Must try these.” I love new toys – gadgets, apps, software… It appeals to my adventurous side, seeing something new and thinking “Hey, I’ve gotta try that!”.

My instant glut of app purchases once I started to see what was available for photo and video on the iPhone. Still learning to use all of these, but most are pretty straightforward but also really neat!

My instant glut of app purchases once I started to see what was available for photo and video on the iPhone. Still learning to use all of these, but most are pretty straightforward but also really neat!

When I heard that you could actually shoot decent videos on your iPhone, I knew this would be my new addiction. And yup, that’s exactly how it’s turned out! I have twenty new images and videos of my cat just from one weekend. ;)

A study in cat. Artsy close up of my cat. I resized (decreased) this in Photoshop, but that's it.

A study in cat. Artsy close up of my cat. I resized (decreased) this in Photoshop, but that’s it.

But seriously, I was so impressed by what some of these video and camera apps could do. I spent some time searching the Apple app store. Flagged ones my instructor had recommended or that looked promising. Bought a $20 App Store card and got busy. I downloaded about 8 new apps (I decided to pace myself….however, since that initial purchase spree, I have bought more. My bad…). I’m still learning the details of each one and some I’ve used more than others. But I certainly have a sense of how these things work and what they can do. And the bottom line is that I’m really impressed! In fact, I’m hooked!

This was a colour shot that I then converted to monochrome but then colourized just the flag. This one was made it Photo Editor.

This was a colour shot that I then converted to monochrome but then colourized just the flag. This one was made it iSplash Filter.

This one I did tweak in Photoshop, but not much. Tiny tweak of vibrance and brightness and a tiny bit of sharpening, but that's it.

This one I did tweak in Photoshop, but not much. Tiny tweak of vibrance and brightness and a tiny bit of sharpening, but that’s it. Being able to spot-meter made the exposure work for this image.

All of the images shown here were shot on high quality jpeg, but not maximum quality or tiff. I figured I’d stick with high quality since I only have a 16GB iPhone. But I can easily switch to max quality or tiff for images I know I’ll want to do something with.

Shell’s Top 3 iPhone Camera/Video Apps

I thought I’d share a really brief overview of my three favourite apps (to date). This won’t be a detailed instructional post. It’s just a highlight of my current top 3 and the features I most like about them. Have a read and decide if it’s an app you might use and if so, give it a whirl. If you already have the app, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you think of it and what your favourite features are.

1. Pure Shot (by Michael Hardaker https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/pureshot/id591785487?mt=8)

Love this camera app! Here are some of the thing I like about it:

  • set and lock your exposure and focus & lock white balance
  • built in timer & a night shot mode
  • alter your image quality, ranging from high quality jpeg, max quality jpeg or dRAW tiff
  • tap to focus to set your focus point
  • see the RGB histogram
  • 3 shot bracketing
  • multi-zone or spot metering
  • GPS location info
  • you can also change the image ratio (4:3, 3:2, 1:1)

These are just some of the features of this app. You can also customize your shooting mode. There are other things I see as less useful such as adding copyright or licensing information. If I were going to need these I’d already be playing with my image in Photoshop. But it’s pretty cool what this thing can do and I would highly recommend this app.

Note: one thing I have found is that the images made with this app are save with the extension in capital letters. So when I try to open the image in Photoshop, it can’t recognize it. If I rename the image and use the .jpg extension (lower case), Photoshop can read the file just fine.

Here’s a screenshot of what the viewfinder looks like in Pure Shot. Gives you an idea of some of the controls.

screenshot of the controls on the Pure Shot app. Gives you an idea of the controls and things you can manipulate.

screenshot of the controls on the Pure Shot app. Gives you an idea of the controls and things you can manipulate.

2. Movie Pro (Video Recorder with Pause, Zoom, Secret Mode, and Multiple Recording Options with Fastest Performance by Mirage Labs Private Limited
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/moviepro-video-recorder-pause/id547101144?mt=8)

This is the first real video recorder app I’ve used and I really  like it! I’m still learning about this one, but here are a few of the things I like about it:

  • can select frame rate, resolution, aspect ratio, video quality and compressed or uncompressed audio
  • lock focus, exposure and auto-white balance
  • zoom in/out buttons on the screen
  • can be configured for auto-trigger recording
  • can capture still frames during video recording
  • can upload clips directly to Facebook, Youtube, Dropbox
  • audio metering and video stabilization
  • trim photos within the app

Here’s a screenshot of the app in use. Forgot to hold to focus properly, but you get the idea.

Screenshot of the Movie Pro app in action.

Screenshot of the Movie Pro app in action.

3. Perfect Video (Video Editor and Slideshow builder (Lite) by yinfeng tang  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/perfect-video-video-editor/id633335631?mt=8)

This app, in my mind, is just plain FUN. It enables you to make a video/slideshow with text and music, just using your iPhone and any video clips or images you have on your phone. It’s basically a mini video editor and so if you want to quickly generate a fun video to share with friends, this app will do it.

Some of the things you can play with are:

  • choose transition type and duration
  • fade in and out from black
  • use your fingertip to move video clips around if you want to change the order of them
  • type in text for title slides

It’s a simple app but also a lot of fun.

If you’re looking for photo or video apps, give these a try. If you are already using them, post a comment and let me know what you like or don’t like about it or any cool features you really like. Or if there are other apps you think are fantastic for photo or video, feel free to post a comment about them. I’d love to hear from you.

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Pileated Woodpecker

Last weekend I was coming in from filling up the bird feeders when I noticed a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker on a tree in the woods beside our house. It was madly ‘drilling’ holes in the tree, in search of juicy insects to eat. I didn’t think I’d get back into the house without disturbing him so instead I just enjoyed watching it for a few minutes and soaking up the beautiful sight. I went inside and was amazed that it was still there, busily excavating the tree trunk. So I grabbed my camera, my 600 mm lens and crept out the door. I was sure it would fly away before I could get my camera set up. Nope. So I took a few shots and then moved closer. It still seemed oblivious to me. So I took a few steps closer. Still ok. At one point the bird looked at me, but it certainly didn’t seem very concerned. It just went back to busily excavating in search of dinner.

Here’s one of the images that I made that day. I’m thankful for such a tolerant woodpecker. :)

Pileated Woodpecker excavating for insects

Pileated Woodpecker excavating for insects

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BIOSPHERE Environmental Education

One of the reasons I’ve been so busy lately and have slacked off a bit with my postings here, is that I’ve been busy creating a new business.

I’m passionate about environmental education and awareness and so have started a new business called BIOSPHERE Environmental Education.

The program we offer is called the Youth Environmental Ambassador Program and at its core, are photography and videography. Instead of me telling you about it here, instead, Have a look for yourself. Click HERE to visit the BIOSPHERE Environmental Education website.

Have a look and let me know what you think.

And I’d be really grateful if you’d share my new BIOSPHERE website with your friends and colleagues.

Thanks!

:)

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