Sunset on the Prairie at Riveredge

I went out at work to take a few sunset pictures the other afternoon. Something everyone takes pictures of can be a challenge to shoot in a unique way.

It wasn’t a particularly stunning sunset (no clouds) and I wanted to reinforce the idea of being outdoors, hence the emphasis on footsteps, not just reinforce scrolling through pretty pictures from one’s phone.

I go back and forth with imagery of nature. Does it motivate people to get outside, or might it satisfy that desire from a standpoint of spectating? A visual candy, lacking experiential sustenance.

Pretty pictures are nice, sure, but I’ll trade all the pretty pictures in the world for going outside and experiencing it myself. I’ll continue venturing outside and will continue to take pictures often when I do. 😘

Chronicling the First Year at The Riveredge School

Creating a new school is a little like designing an iceberg. Once it’s open people might notice it looks like a huge undertaking, but most of that work takes place before it appears. This past fall The Riveredge School opened onsite at Riveredge Nature Center. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to document some of the activities of these students at the first nature-based public charter elementary school in the greater Milwaukee region.

This picture above was the first time I went out to grab some snapshots of students out on the trails. They were participating in an exercise to sit down, and write or draw everything they saw and heard in the forest that surrounded them. They sat down and began to take in their surroundings and went to work, overall quietly and contemplative. I’d never seen a group of first graders work so independently and so calmly.

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How do you start a nature-based elementary school when you don’t yet have a school? You figure it out by using the inquiry-based educational philosophy that you work to instill in students! Thanks so much to everyone who has helped out The Riveredge School throughout this entire process, now culminating in our new (nearly complete!) yurt classrooms. We’re so excited to take this next step, in becoming the first nature-based public elementary charter school in the region with The Riveredge School this fall! . . . . . #education #environmentaleducation #nature #volunteers #milwaukee #wisconsin #elementaryeducation #midwest #yurt #optoutside #natureeducation #science #scienceeducation #outdoors

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Here is the completion of the yurt classrooms last summer, two of which are in use at Riveredge. Volunteers are extremely helpful.

Science lessons can take place on the land in conjunction with Riveredge staff and educators. Above, student learned about habitat restoration and creating ways for a less common plant species to flourish.

A snapshot of the inside of the yurt classrooms. I wonder what it’s like to have your first school experience be one in which the majority of your time is spent outdoors and the remainder of the time is inside a cozy round room looking out onto prairies. That idea kind of makes me wish I could be seven years old again and go to school there.

This was one of the first snows of the season and everyone was outdoors having a great time.

Students learned to cross country ski this past week. I bet they’ll be excited to arrive at school this morning with our six inches of new snow yesterday.

Late last summer, when the yurts were completed and awaiting students to begin classes.

Lovely Snow Season at Riveredge

Lucky for me, the quickest way to get around and take pictures is on cross country skis.

Taking photographs of Riveredge School Students

The other day, while out on the trails, I ran into the students (and teachers) of The Riveredge School trekking out for recess at Riveredge Nature Center. These kids seem so happy having daily access to nature. Click the arrow for a few more pictures.

The theoretical timelessness of black and white photography

Light and Clouds Came Out to Play

This was a fun afternoon jaunt at Riveredge. The clouds and light were out in full effect.

Photography and Flowers at Riveredge Nature Center

I’ve been working my way through learning how to make photographs. I took an intro to photography class in my last semester at college and it gave me some insights and some confidence in using the manual settings on a camera.

I’ve been attempting to capture shots of the wildlife and landscapes at Riveredge. This spring I took my first photographs of warblers that I was happy with, something I’d never attempted in the past.

I’m learning that, in general, if you can take bird or flower “portraits” often times F8 is a preferable F stop to use. That way a sufficient amount of background I know this is no great wisdom about photography, but it’s new to me as I learn it and imbibe those conclusions.

Taking photographs of flowers has been interesting, and more than anything else possible, the light is really important. Too much sunshine and most of the color will get blown out. I also learned a lot about ISO settings in photographing these orchids. For some reason, I seem to have overall neglected the ISO, maybe the cameras I’d used had it sent to auto so I hadn’t played with it much.

I took the below series with the ISO setting I’d had for quickly dashing songbirds – quite high something around 5,000 for the ISO. As you an see, much of the yellow coloration is washed out white on the surface of this orchid. This also has to do with how bright the sun was at that moment.

I realized the folly of this and went back later to take the below photograph, which I’m much happier with, once the sunlight subsided due to cloud cover. I’m much happier with the resulting detail and considerably less resulting patchy noise throughout the photo. The ISO was probably in the low hundreds for this shot.

I don’t relay these observations as some sort of especially knowledgeable person about photography, rather more as realizing my own stumbling blocks or evolution, and hopefully some of these realizations might help someone else in their own process.

This opportunity has taught me many lessons about how to capture which subject matter and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to gain these insights. Check out this recent blog of Blooming Spring Flowers at Riveredge.