Capturing the outdoors

Learning to better capture the beauty of nature is the focus of an outdoor photography class currently being hosted at the Legacy Learning Center at Briggs Woods Park.

The three-day course is hosted by Larry Stone, who brings 40 years of photography experience with him to teach the handful of program attendees. On the first day of the class, students talked about their backgrounds in photography and the equipment they brought with them.

The group then spent several hours walking through Briggs Woods Park to get photos. Stone said the experience gives him and the students a chance to not only get those opportunistic photos one can find in nature, but also shows how each photographer’s thought process is different.

“The realization, the more and more we do this, is that everybody sees each feature a little bit differently and sees a different take on what sort of photo they want to try and make of it,” Stone said.

That process of looking around a subject and making the image that tells the story the photographer wants to tell is an important lesson to learn, Stone said.

“I say make a photo, not take a photo,” Stone said. “A photo is not just a click. Everybody might have a different story to tell with each photo.”

The skill levels of the photographers range greatly among the students, Stone said. While getting to know the technical aspects of a camera is important, Stone said exercising your imagination while out on a shoot is what helps photographers get good photos. Looking at nature from a curious perspective and noticing the small details is the mindset that outdoor photographers should have.

“Look at nature like a child,” Stone said. “I have grandkids that are just always amazed at what they find whether it be a tiny, little insect or they see a flower that we’ve walked by a hundred times. Build awareness of what’s out there.”

Finding those small details, and finding those unique photos is what drives Stone’s decades-long love of outdoor photography. He enjoys those interesting photos of natural scenes, but also sees the worth in photos that show an interface between nature and man. Whether it be his grandson catching a fish, a birdwatcher looking for rare birds or a cyclist going down a forest path, Stone said those photos are interesting and help others relate to the photo.

“Someone who might not be an avid canoer might see a photo of a person in a canoe going down a pretty stream and take note of it,” Stone said.

In the following days of the class, Stone said he plans to take the class down to Brushy Creek, which has several trails, native prairie plants and areas and more. He hopes to continue to find those unique details in nature that can often only be found by chance. However, he also plans to take the class to other outdoors areas including a cemetery, historic buildings in Webster City and agricultural areas.

The class also includes a critique portion where students will show their photos on a projector and discuss their thought processes to their peers. The critique not only gives students a chance to get tips on their own skills, but also informs the other students of how each person thinks through their individual shots. Much of the way the class is held could not be done without digital photography.

“It’s amazing what there is now. One way to be a better photographer is to just take a lot of pictures, experiment and use your imagination. With digital, you can do that,” Stone said.