Visual Interpretation: Photographing the Modern Seashore

November 15th, 2010 by Bruce

This October I was pleased to meet Kristin Foringer of the Chesapeake Research Consortium, one of the creative

managers of this website. She attended my roundtable discussion at the 39th

Annual Conference of the North American Association of Environmental Education. We gathered around the idea of how we can describe human-ecological relationships through photography. I realized we both share a great affinity for coastal environments. While the images I featured at NAAEE drew from my work in Amazonian Ecuador, everyone there was interested in capturing the “essence” of their favorite places and getting their students involved in creating those photo essays. The idea for this blog entry was forming.

A focus of my editorial photographyhas been making images that harness some type of human story. We interpretive types are constantly seeking out visuals to illustrate concepts, stimulate reflection and make connections. Whether we speak about the field of biomimicry (where the physical and behavioral adaptations of plant and wildlife inform engineers and product designers), the historical relationships of man and nature or how we use art to escape our technocentric lives, photography is a medium we go to.

While stationed as an interpretive park ranger at Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, California, I was fortunate to produce and lead interpretive programs for visitors from around the world. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 and stands on the windiest place in North America, and the second foggiest. There’s a great history of shipwrecks and stories of survival here.

The Point Reyes lighthouse keepers log of 1888 shows man had difficulty adapting here.

Bruce Farnsworth Photography

But this blog entry is not a story about lighthouses per se. Yet, much like the lead character in a wilderness story, lighthouses are given living attributes. Metaphors like “sentinel” and “guardian” come to mind. Point Reyes and Chesapeake Bay share a common history. According to the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, some 30 lighthouses, lights and beacons remain of the original 74 that once lined Chesapeake Bay.

Good photography is largely a matter of patience, intense observation and reduction.

Before I make any photograph, I ask myself  “What attracts me to this scene?” The most effective images are often the simplest, but that ability to visually summarize a scene may be the product of a long relationship, an intimate understanding of place. Photographers know that meaningful photographs are often the celebration of a long journey.

I had pre-visualized this image of the lighthouse. The essence of Point Reyes would include the unification of rock, fog and lighthouse beacon in equal roles. From this perspective, the wind-sculpted sandstone conglomerate jutted directly onto the lighthouse. The jagged contour evokes the same rock on which many ship ran aground. During a demonstration lighting one day, the steel-plate lighthouse and its lens of 3,000 crystal elements were reduced to a shaft of light poking through the fog. Surrounded by open space, the lighthouse is small against the forces of nature and the fog appears to swirl about the lighthouse. That sense of motion, and a glimmer of hope perhaps, is provided by the patch of blue sea above.

Sometimes a single image takes on more meaning when contrasted with another. I think the diminutive Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), a federally endangered shorebird that scurries along beaches not far from the lighthouse, provides a wonderful counterpoint. Here it is shown in an image I contributed to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore Association. In Maryland, the federally endangered Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is found on Assateague Island.

If you enjoy photographing in the Chesapeake Bay, consider incorporating perspective and elements of geology and weather in your photographs. I was surprised to find few images of the famous Thomas Point Shoals lighthouse that really captured the totality of the environment. Drawing from a sense of history and the composition strategies of photography, landscapes can be made to touch on our emotional ties to place. These are among the exercises I expand upon in my summer tours for educators in Amazonian Ecuador with Raw Rainforest Photography & Educational Tours where teachers and biologists create singular images and photo-essays that become powerful tools within their own curricula.

Protect the Chesapeake Bay region!

Bruce Farnsworth Photography - www.brucefarnsworth.com Raw Rainforest Photography Tours - www.rawrainforest.com

Going “Guerilla” for Environmental Ed

October 18th, 2010 by Kristin

Presenting about the Chesapeake Bay and Bay Backpack at the NAAEE conference in Buffalo. Photo source: Kristin Foringer

I had the amazing opportunity a few weeks ago to take Bay Backpack to Buffalo, N.Y., for the North American Association for Environmental Educators (NAAEE) conference. I was so excited to be going to spread the word about the Chesapeake Bay and Bay Backpack that I began planning months in advance. I made about 70 fliers and bookmarks and brought sticky notes, pencils and Black-eyed Susan seeds, all with the Bay Backpack logo on them, to pass out to teachers and environmental educators.

Once I arrived in Buffalo, I realized that it may be a little more difficult to pass out these favors than I thought, since I had no table or booth. Did I let that stop me? Oh, no. I took to what my travel companion called “Guerilla Marketing.”

Wherever you went, you saw a Bay Backpack flier. They were in bathrooms, taped to trash cans, and doors, you couldn’t get away from it. If someone was thinking about picking up a brochure about places to eat in Buffalo, they wouldn’t miss my display of bookmarks and pencils laying out for the taking. I was determined to get the word out about Bay Backpack because I truly believe it is a great resource for teachers in and outside of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The best part of this type of approach was that I actually was able to meet people and network. What better way to start a conversation with someone than asking, “Did you see that Bay Backpack flier on the bathroom mirror?”

In all seriousness, I have been to five different conferences since I started at the Chesapeake Bay Program, and this conference was by far the most useful and educational for me. Everyone came from different backgrounds and incorporated environmental education into their professional lives in different ways. Teachers and educators were able to learn about new techniques and ideas to adapt for their own educational purposes. In just three different sessions, I found three guest bloggers to write for Bay Backpack, met new contacts, and came back with a few new lesson plans to share with you (check out some simple ones below)!

I would encourage all Bay Backpack readers to attend an NAAEE conference, or other environmental education conference in your area. You can find great resources and learn new techniques for incorporating environmental ed into your classroom.

Next year’s NAAEE conference is in Raleigh, N.C. Something similar, but more regional, is the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) conference in Hyattsville, Md. in February. Hopefully we will see you there!!

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Lesson Plans From: Nature Explore (Early Education and Elementary School)

An example of a shoe flower pot. Photo source: Instructables

Shoe Pot
What You Will Need:
Ask each student to bring in an old shoe that doesn’t fit anymore into school.
What To Do:
Have each student plant a small plant in this shoe and sit them all along the window.
What Will this Lesson Do:
This instills a sense of responsibility and pride in each student since they are responsible for taking care of their own plant or “shoe”.

Environmental Photography
What You Will Need:
A different picture of a leaf or plant for each student, that resembles a distinct shape (hearts and stars are pretty common).
What To Do:
Ask the students to look at their picture they are given and make the shape that they see in the picture with their body. Everyone’s pose should be a little different. You may want to ask a few students to come up and share their picture and show how they made the shape. Ask questions like, “How many leaves can you see in the picture?” “What colors are in the picture?”
What Will this Lesson Do
: Allow the students to appreciate the details of nature.

Creating Art With Nature
What You Will Need:
Pizza box, quick dry cement, plastic wrap, and pieces of nature to use as imprints.
What To Do
: Take the pizza boxes and line them with plastic wrap. Pour in enough cement to reach the top and flatten it out. Quickly, have the students press leaves, sticks, rocks…etc into the cement and pull them out, leaving only their imprints behind.
What Will this Lesson Do:
Create a fun and easy way to incorporate the environment into art classes.

Kristin Foringer is the Communications and Development Associate at the Chesapeake Bay Trust. She can be reached at 410-974-2941, ext. 113 or at kforinger@cbtrust.org. Kristin is also a former Environmental Management Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Shoot and Share your Outdoor Moments

July 19th, 2010 by Cathy

One of the images added to a group of Interns kayaking along the coastline.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is encouraging everyone to get out into nature and see some wildlife this summer with their Let’s Go Outside Campaign.  You can find nature in your backyard, at a local park or on a nearby national wildlife refuge.

Getting outside is a great way to create memories to last a lifetime.  More likely than not you will shoot pictures of these moments, so now you can share them online through Fish & Wildlife’s new Flickr group, Let’s Go Outside.  All you have to do is upload images of yourself or your students outside in nature.

You can even use Flickr’s Map function to identify where your photos were taken.  Along with adding your photos, you can also tell their stories by blogging about your experience with nature or chat on the discussion board about your favorite places to go.

Lets see how many we can get added in the Chesapeake region! Get out there and shoot and share!

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Cathy Rezabeck the Regional Outreach Coordinator for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.