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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Filed under conservation, Conservation & Environment, Digital Photography, Dreams, nature photography, photography

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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Photos for a good cause

In one of my posts last year, I explained how I, and several other local photographers, volunteer with a local animal shelter to photograph the cats and dogs that need new homes. The hope is that by having nice photos, we can generate some of that “Awww factor” – you know, that tug on the heart strings. And that by doing that, the kitties and dogs will get the attention they need from prospective families. And then we hope for a happy ending – that the cat or dog gets a wonderful new home.

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The organization I volunteer with – Lanark Animal Welfare Society – or LAWS, is a no-kill shelter. So that means no animal is euthanized unless it has a severe health issues that can’t be resolved or unless the animal has such extreme behavioural issues that the it is just not safe to be around people. But my understanding is that this almost never happens, which is great. But it does mean that some of them end up staying in the shelter for a long time. Sometimes, a year! In those cases, the shelter tries to find a temporary foster home.

This year, we did a Paws for LAWS fund raising calendar. First time for it. I designed and produced it and five of us contributed photos to it. They sell for $10; you can order through the LAWS website. It’s been a real success and I think calendars are nearly sold out. Yay! 🙂

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On my last shoot, many of the cats that I photographed had been in the shelter for a long time. So the goal was to get some nice images and use them for promotional things – print ads, ads at local pet stores, etc.

Here are a few images from my last shoot. At the end of every shoot, I end up wanting to fill my car with cats to take home with me, to give these beautiful animals the loving homes they deserve. But Maggie, my 17+ year old cat would not appreciate that. 🙂 So instead, I photograph these cats and hope that maybe, just maybe, the work we do as volunteer photographers, helps these animals find new homes.

This is Ava. What a sweetie.

This is Ava. What a sweetie.

Brynne. Gotta love that half moustache. :)

Brynne. Gotta love that half moustache. 🙂

Marou, who at first seemed a bit grumpy...

Marou, who at first seemed a bit grumpy…

but after 5 minutes of playing and snuggles, these are the kinds of photos you get.

but after 5 minutes of playing and snuggles, these are the kinds of photos you get.

Donner. An old cat who has been in the shelter for a long time. But an absolute heart-stealer, he's just SO sweet!

Donner. An old cat who has been in the shelter for a long time. But an absolute heart-stealer, he’s just SO sweet!

And Myra...

And Myrla…

Mufasa - oozing with character.

Mufasa – oozing with character.

Mina. She's been at the shelter a long time as well. I'd take her home in a heartbeat if I didn't already have an elderly cat at home.

Mina. She’s been at the shelter a long time as well, if I remember correctly. I’d take her home in a heartbeat if I didn’t already have an elderly cat at home.

Mina - she knows how to work the camera. ;o)

Mina – she knows how to work the camera. ;o)

Mina - how can you not want to take her home with you. She just craves attention and human contact.

Mina – how can you not want to take her home with you. She just craves attention and human contact.

And Fiona. Photographing her really tugged on my heart strings...

And Fiona. Photographing her really tugged on my heart strings…

I think one of the toughest things is looking at the kitties through the bars of their cages. Especially when they look you right in the eye. “Tink!” [that was the sound of my heart strings being plucked. Again].

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Wanting Winter

Here in Ontario, we’ve gone from the deep freeze of minus 40 Celsius to plus 5 Celsius. All in about a week. This is actually the second deep freeze & thaw we’ve been through in about a month. Yuck. Please, please, please…. give me winter back!

I love winter. I love snow. I love cold. I don’t mind if it’s minus 40 Celsius. As long as my car starts when I leave work at the end of the day. And well, if it doesn’t. I’ll manage. It’s just an inconvenience.

We’re supposed to have temperatures in the positives for the next few days. Yuck again. I’m cheering for minus something. Actually, another great flash-freeze would be fantastic for our pond! My hubby groomed it into a fantastic outdoor skating complex. 🙂 Now it looks like a really shallow swimming pool. 😦 A good flash-freeze would freeze all that water and produce a fabulous ice surface. Here’s hoping.

Here’s what our pond looks like when the temperatures cross into the pluses in winter. It looks kinda pretty here. But believe me, it’s a pile of slush right now.

Snow is pretty. I want pretty. Again. I know the cold weather will come back. I just hope it lasts until March, like it’s supposed to.

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