Teaching Older Kids Photography to Keep Their Interest in the Outdoors

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 a bit of guidance, your teenager can create something quite stunning.

This not only teaches them a new skill, 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 could try something similar.

Waterfalls, and a little photo trick

Waterfall on the Long Mynd - before

Waterfall on the Long Mynd – before

 

Have a look for some interesting landscape features in your local area to photograph.  Even better if there’s a little hike involved to get there.

For us, there were a couple of waterfalls, and we used a little photography trick to make this a little bit different.

The waterfalls are not that impressive in Summer, but with the recent snow melt, they had some flow to them.

Long Exposure on Waterfalls

Long Mynd waterfall with long exposure time

Long Mynd waterfall with long exposure time

The photo on the left was taken by Lucy, and I’m very proud of what she’s taken (click on the photo for a larger image).

To get the water to appear like mist flowing over the rocks you need to lengthen the exposure time so that you get motion blur.

For this you need:

  • 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 camera shake it will not only be the water that blurs but everything else as well.
  • 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 a ‘neutral density’ grey filter along with a blue filter.
    I loaded different filters so that Lucy could experiment with how they changed the picture.

After a hike further up the Mynd (mynd means mountain in Welsh), is Light Spout waterfall.  Below are the normal and long exposure version of the falls.

Light Spout waterfall on the Long Mynd

Light Spout waterfall on the Long Mynd

Long Mynd Light Spout waterfall with long exposure

Long Mynd Light Spout waterfall with long exposure

 

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.

Lonely Tree in the middle of the frame

Lonely Tree in the middle of the frame

Lonely Tree - mainly landscape in the frame

Lonely Tree – mainly landscape in the frame

 

Lonely Tree - with sky filling most of the frame

Lonely Tree – with sky filling most of 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.

The Lonely Tree

The Lonely Tree

Points of Interest

Ancient Iron Age hill fort on the Long Mynd

Ancient Iron Age hill fort on the Long Mynd

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

Close Up of Heather

Close Up of Heather

 

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

Frozen pool on the Shropshire Way

Frozen pool on the Shropshire Way

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.

Stone on water

Stone on water

 

Stone on frozen pond

Stone on a frozen pond

 

Wildlife

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!)

Wild Ponies on the Long Mynd

Wild Ponies on the Long Mynd

 

Wild Ponies on Wild Moor, Long Mynd, Shropshire

Wild Ponies on Wild Moor, Long Mynd, Shropshire

Conclusion

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 😉

Want to Learn More?

You may or may not have a camera and the know how.

A book I recommend to get started with is The Landscape Photography Workshop.

This covers equipment, techniques, and plenty of good illustrative examples.

The cost of Digital SLRs keeps coming down.  Our camera is second hand from e-bay.

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.

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Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

1 Comment
  1. You’ve caught my favourite images of waterfalls, just love them. Some great photos.

    Also thanks for popping over to our UK Bloggers Linkup, now following you x

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