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  • Writer's pictureWendy De la Garza

Nature Photo Literacy

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

When I was a little girl, my favorite lesson at school featured a squirrel. (My second favorite was a song about a cool cat.)

Back then if you wanted to figure out what a prepositional phrase was, all you had to do was create an image in your head of a squirrel going up a tree, around a tree, through a tree, down a tree, inside the hole, across the branch…whatever a squirrel could do in it’s very curious life.

This fun squirrel here at my friend’s enchanted children’s store hangs in front of the tree—and hangs out with raccoons and has tea parties! I have no idea what that has to do with prepositional phrases, but it sure is a fun way to visualize a forest creature habitat!

Images have always been important to me. I need a meaningful way to connect with what I’m learning, even as an adult. As a portrait photographer of my children I constantly move my body, and I change my angle in order to find the right picture for the words that may or may not exist for what I’m seeing. I’d stand upside down if I could! In nature, photographing plants can be grueling, but if you imagine yourself a tiny squirrel, you can have fun remembering to look up and down and around, take a step back for scale, and get up close for details.

When you take photos of people, you know that their face (or scar from bicycling in the third grade or freckle that looks like Cassiopeia) is what identifies them. For plants, more angles and shots are necessary. Get up close and on the ground if you need to.

Literally you can write words on your images. It is helpful to have more than one way to connect to something. This poison Ivy plant even has a song!

Try printing out a few nature shots from your next experience and dialogue with your kids about what it meant to them. Write the words with a sharpie onto the photograph or digitally with your cell phone.

You can find a nature story anywhere!

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