You need to encourage kids to get outside, but you also need to give older kids new challenges to make it interesting. Here we use photography to do just that.
As kids grow up, other distractions come into their life, such as hanging out with friends. In this article, we look at how photography can be used to make getting outside more interesting for teenagers as well as teaching them some useful skills.
Kids these days have ready access to cameras on their phones, and many younger kids also have cameras (our youngest loves his LeapPad for example). But these are only used for snapshots, and if you have a teenager, taking snapshots is not going to be any more interesting than normal. 'Boring!'
With digital technology, it is easy to create some amazing pictures
Instead, help them take some 'real' photos.
With digital technology, it is easy to create some amazing pictures, and with guidance, your teenager can create something stunning.
This not only teaches them a new skill, but it also provides them with confidence in something they've not done before and a new way of looking (and getting) outside.
So, on a sunny but cold and windy Winter's day, Lucy (our eldest) and I set off with the camera over our local hills (the Long Mynd).
Here's what we took and some suggestions so you can try something similar.
Waterfalls, and a little photo trick
Look for some interesting landscape features in your local area to photograph, even better if there's a little hike involved to get there.
There were a couple of waterfalls, and we used a little photography trick to make this slightly different.
The waterfalls are not that impressive in Summer, but with the recent snow melt, they had some flow.
Long Exposure on Waterfalls
Lucy took the photo on the left, and I'm very proud of what she's taken.
To get the water to appear like mist flowing over the rocks, you need to lengthen the exposure time to get motion blur.
For this, you need the following:
A digital SLR camera where you can lengthen exposure time and change the aperture (don't worry if that sounds complicated - more details below).
A tripod, as you don't want the camera to shake. If you have the camera shake, it will be the water blurring and everything else.
A filter. This is optional but useful for this shot. Increasing the exposure time means the camera's shutter is open longer. This lets in more light, which can make your photo too bright. By putting a filter over the lens, you can make the scene darker, and therefore it neutralises the brightness from a long exposure.
We used 'neutral density' grey and blue filters.
I loaded different filters so Lucy could experiment with how they changed the picture.
After a hike further up the Mynd is Light Spout waterfall. Below are the normal and long-exposure versions of the falls.
Experiment with Landscapes
Keep your eyes open for landscape items that could make interesting photos.
Here Lucy took a picture of a solitary tree. I then got her to take the same picture again: once with the sky filling most of the frame, and one with mainly the hill in the frame.
Here are Lucy's thoughts:
'I like the photo where the tree is at the top [middle photo above] as it makes the tree look lonelier'
There's no right or wrong answer. Just let them have a go and look out for interesting items in the landscape, then get them to see the landscape from different perspectives.
Here's another solitary tree picture we took. A bit of cropping and making it black and white gives the picture a very different feel.
Points of Interest
Where we live is full of archaeology.
Here we took a picture of the remains of an ancient Iron Age Hill Fort, known as Bodbury Ring. It is the green hill in the middle of the frame.
This fort would of had a wooden wall around it originally. You can just see the ring of ramparts around the top of the hill.
If you have any interesting history in your area, try and take some photos.
Inside the fort would have likely contained some Iron Age round houses and some animal enclosures.
It is just one of many hill forts in the area, and you can imagine smoke risking from the tops of the hills from cooking fires back in ancient times.
If you have any interesting history in your area, try and take some photos. It will help point out the history to your child, and hopefully, spark another interest.
Close Up Photography
Another good thing about Digital SLR cameras is the macro mode for close up photography.
The moorland was covered in dead heather growth. As soon as the sun came out, I got Lucy to try some close-up photography.
Getting in close can make the ordinary appear extra-ordinary.
You could easily imagine this photo appearing on a greeting card or desktop wallpaper, yet hundreds of people will have walked past this bush with no thought, and nothing to distinguish it from the millions of heather bushes around it.
Experiment with things that are out of place
At the summit of one of the hills was a frozen pool.
Ice can make interesting photographs, but getting too close to a frozen pool is not that safe.
Instead, Lucy slid a stone out onto it. A stone floating on water is a bit out of place, and it enabled us to take a few interesting photographs.
For wildlife photography, you ideally need a telephoto lens so that you can zoom right in without scaring the wildlife off.
Unfortunately, that's a lens we don't have, but luckily we came across some wild ponies that our camera could zoom in close enough without disturbing them. (We also think we found where Donkey from Shrek had been hiding!)
The day's photography took us on a few detours and added many hours to a long hike. Despite setting out in the morning, the sun was setting when getting back to the car.
Taking photos added a different activity to just 'going for a hike', and an opportunity to teach older kids a few new tricks.
In our case, it's also a good activity that Dad's can do with their teenage daughters, which fortunately for me, doesn't involve shopping 😉
I already had an aluminium tripod that folds up small and fits on the back pack, and other bits and pieces can be easily picked up.
After taking your photo's, you may need to tweak them (getting the exposure right for example) on your computer. We don't have expensive Photoshop, but just use the 'free' tools on the computer.