Learn about the Rule of Thirds (a fun snack activity for kids!)

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Learning is fun, but when you combine learning with snacktime, that’s even better!  This week, we’re talking about the Rule of Thirds (another stop on our trip through the alphabet with our Photography ABCs series).  What is the rule of thirds?  It’s a photography concept for creating visually interesting images — we’ll get into that shortly.

Read on to see how we’ll be using crackers to recreate the rule of thirds!

Learn About the Rule of Thirds... your kids will love this fun snack based learning activity! - BPhotoArt.com

The Rule of Thirds

First, let’s talk about the rule of thirds.  Here’s a definition I found at Cambridge in Colour:

The rule of thirds states than an image is most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds — both vertically and horizontally.

Basically, you take an image, and divide it into thirds, both ways.  Where the lines cross, those are the places that you should try to have visual interest.  So, if you took a picture of your dog running at the park, you would want to make sure that it was at one of those spots when you look through the camera.

It’s a little bit easier to see than to explain.  Take a peek at this picture below (used with permission from Pixabay.com).  The image is deliberately composed so that both the bird and the wire are following the rule of thirds.  I’ve included a second image which illustrates this, as the blue lines divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

The wire is running horizontally across the image, placed at the lower third of the image.  You might notice that the bird is slightly to the right of the vertical blue line — but look at its eye.  That eye has been placed at the spot where two blue lines intersect.  Those intersections are points of visual interest.

pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-no-grid
This image has been composed according to the Rule of Thirds. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.
pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-with-grid
With the addition of these blue lines to illustrate the Rule of Thirds, you can see that the points of interest lie along the lines, and at the intersections of the lines. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.

 

Okay, now onto the fun snack activity!  This will help your kids visualize the concept of the Rule of Thirds.  You probably have everything you need in your snack cabinet.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 9 square crackers
  • 9 rectangular crackers
  • 4+ smaller snack items
  • snack tray or cookie sheet

We used saltines, graham crackers (broken into the smaller sections), and goldfish crackers.  But you could use any snack items that are square and rectangular.  The goldfish could be replaced by any similarly sized snack item: raisins, nuts, or bite-sized candies.  And, of course, you’ll need some sort of flat work surface.  My kids love using cookie sheets, but if you have a small serving tray, that could work well too. It just has to be big enough for all the crackers to be spread out flat.

First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
set up the crackers in a 3x3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already...
set up the crackers in a 3×3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already…
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything "perfectly" lined up, but if you're okay with imperfection, it's best to let them run with it!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything “perfectly” lined up, but if you’re okay with imperfection, it’s best to let them run with it!
Here Zack is showing me where he'll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Here Zack is showing me where he’ll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3x3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3×3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!

 

Rule of Thirds Activity Extension (for older kids)

Isn’t that cool?  You can also extend this activity by having older kids draw lines through photos in magazines, creating the rule of thirds grid.  Discuss whether the images adhere to the rule of thirds, if the most visually interesting things are found along either the grid lines or the intersections!

 


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn about Quality of Light (a kid-friendly experiment!)

posted in: Learning | 1

This week we’re talking about quality of light! And I have an easy, kid-friendly, experiment that your kids will have a blast doing. Now first, we’ll have to delve into what the photography definition is for “quality of light.”  And this term is really the essence of photography.  Because photography depends on it.  How you choose to add light ot a scene (or leave it be) will drastically alter the appearance and feel of your final photograph.

Learn about Quality of Light (a kid-friendly experiment!) - part of Betsy's ABC's of Photography series at BPhotoArt.com

Here’s a quote I found on the web, from Gary Black Photography:

 

The quality of light refers to the light source, the direction of the light and its colour [sic]. The light can be hard, as it is in direct sunlight on a cloudless day, or soft and diffused as in an overcast day.

I’m not sure how to provide a simpler explanation of that.  The quality of light is a combination of factors that affect how the finished photograph looks.  You can take pictures of the same thing on a different day, or even the same day, and the quality of light could be very different.

Think of your kitchen table.  Maybe the sunlight streams through the windows in the morning, making it very bright and cheerful.  But if you come back at midday, your kitchen will look different, because the sun is overhead and the light entering your kitchen is softer and less direct.  You might remember we touched on this when we learned about existing light by going on a scavenger hunt around the house, or when we learned about flash with three different activities.

As an aside: If you’ve joined us partway through this Photography ABC’s series, please make sure to check out a few of the past posts where we talked about some of these different qualities of light.  And if you’ve been with us from the beginning, thank you!!

Anyways, the quality of light is something that’s easier to identify when you see it than by me describing it to you.  So, here are some ways to learn about quality of light!

Learn About Quality of Light With Flashlights

Have your kids set up a few toys at your kitchen table (or wherever), and make sure to have the following items at hand:

  • flashlight (or light source)
  • white paper or cardstock

Dim the lights, and then have your kids shine the light directly at the toys.  If your kids are older, have them write down some observations on a piece of paper, otherwise you can just discuss with them…

  1.  Is it easy to see the whole toy?
  2. Can you see a sharp line between light and shadow, or does it gradually change?
  3. Does the light feel hard or soft?
  4. Are there any details in the shadows, or is it so black you can’t really tell?

Next, hold up the paper as a filter between the flashlight and the toys.  Experiment with moving it closer to the toys, or further away from the toys. See how the quality of light changes.  Again, discuss (or write down) what you can see.

  1. Does it become easier to see the entire toy, even the parts in shadow?
  2. Does the light seem to become “softer”?
  3. Which light do you like better and why?

There really are no right and wrong talking points here.  It’s just a matter of observing, and being able to visualize the concept we’re talking about.  Quality of light is something that’s easiest to understand when you see it!


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn about Perspective (hands on camera activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 1

Today in our ABCs of Photography series, we’re going to learn about perspective!  As always, I’ll be using simplified explanations that kids can understand (hooray!).

Learn About Perspective with these kid friendly photo activities! | BPhotoArt.comPerspective is how you look at things.  We see the world in three dimensions, but a photograph captures life and compresses it down into two dimensions.  I like this definition I found on B&H Photo (read more about their explanation of perspective):

Perspective has several different meanings—several applicable in some way to photography. For the photographer, perspective is a summation of the relationship between objects in a photograph.

This definition from School of Digital photography is nice too (what is perspective and how can we use it to improve the composition of our photographs):

Perspective refers to the relationships between objects in a photograph, the relative distance, size and space etc. perspective could be used to define a subject’s shape and form and also to convey to the viewer a sense of volume, space, depth and distance.

Okay, so let’s try and simplify that further.  Because simpler is better, right?

For photographers, perspective is how the different things in a picture appear, where they are in the photo compared to each other. Because you can’t walk into a photo (it’s flat, after all), your perspective is chosen by the photographer — they decide how things will look, where to get you to look, by how they take the picture.

 

Perspective Photo Experiment

Now, here’s an easy way to experiment with perspective!  (This one is really a fun activity, if your kids like taking pictures, like mine do).

Put some objects on your kitchen table, or a surface of any sort, really. Maybe some legos, or some fruit, it doesn’t matter what, so long as they are similar in size.  Try to put an object at each end of the table, and one in the middle too.  Maybe you put an toy truck in the middle, a toy car at one end, and a toy train at the other end.

Then, try walking around the table, looking at it from different angles.  When you take a picture from one side, the toy car will look bigger than the toy train.  When you walk around to the other end, the photo will show the toy train as being bigger.  When you take a picture from above, all three vehicles will look equally large.

Talk about these differences in perspective with your child, maybe prompting them to experiment with different angles of view as needed.  You can discuss the change in perspective during the photo taking part of the activity, or if you’d rather wait until it’s time to look at the pictures, that’s ok too.

Smartphone Panorama Perspective Experiment

Another way to see the the concept of perspective is to create a panorama with your phone — and have your kids run from one spot in the image to another while you are panning your camera phone across the room.

Yours might turn out a little mashed together, like my first attempt at this did, but your kids will undoubtedly have fun running back and forth across the room multiple times while you figure things out!

bphotoart-smartphone-pano-experiment

Your kids will be able to see how they look bigger or smaller, depending on how close to the camera they were!

Talking Points

You can make something look really really big by getting up close and below it when you take the picture.

You can make something look very small by taking the picture from above, or from far away.

Now, some people think photography isn’t an art.

But it is… photography is all about finding the right perspective, choosing the way to have the image look the way you want.  Obviously perspective is a much more complex topic than this, but you get the idea.

And by trying this exercise on perspective, I bet you’ll see it too.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn about Overexposure (activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 3

It’s time to start back up our Photography ABCs as we learn about overexposure!  I know some of you have been very excited for this… as am I!  Thanks for your patience while we got my oldest used to the routine of full day school… he actually adjusted very well aside from being really tired.  Which we’re still working on.  Okay, so anyways, this week we’ll be talking about overexposure.

Simply put, overexposure is when there is too much light.  It’s kind of like when you walk outside into the bright sunlight after having been inside all day.  Your eyes take a few moments to adjust, and until that occurs, you can’t really see much around you — it’s just too bright.  That’s because your eyes haven’t closed down yet — the irises are still very much dilated and all of a sudden, a ton of light hits your retina.

That’s why doctors shine a bright light in your eyes at well visits. They want to make sure your eyes are working properly (check out our learn about aperture activity, which is the camera’s way to close out light).  And if you’ve bump your head really hard, one sign of a concussion is that your eyes don’t adjust like they’re supposed to.

Okay, well hopefully you’ve got the general idea!

Learn About Overexposure, including activities you can try on your camera phone! (Image used with permission from Pixabay.com)

Now, this is a really easy camera phone experiment that will help your kids understand the concept of overexposure.  You can do this one of several ways.

Learn about overexposure by recording a video.  

Make sure to start recording your video in a dimmer area, and then move the camera to point at a brightly lit lamp, the sky, or something else much brighter.  Depending on your camera phone’s capabilities, it will do one of two things.  Your camera might adjust the exposure in a moment, thus being only briefly overexposed, or it will stay overexposed for the duration of the video. Either way, you’ll definitely be able to see how the camera was exposing the video for the darker area, and got overexposed when you switched to the brighter spot.

Learn about overexposure by taking a picture.

With your camera phone, you might be able to tap and hold on a spot to “lock” the exposure.  If so, lock the exposure for a darker (shadowed) area, and then move the camera phone to point at something bright.  It should be very white and overexposed.

For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.
For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.

 

Learn about overexposure by using the over/under exposure adjustment in your camera.

Whether you’re using your camera phone or your digital camera, there is probably a setting that will allow you to manually overexpose or underexpose your image.  On my camera, I have to tap the three little dots button in the corner of the camera screen, which expands a bunch of options.  One of those options is “EV” – this is the exposure value.  It should be at +0 or something like that, meaning your image is properly exposed.  To experience overexposure, change it to +2.  That will make it two stops brighter than the camera wants to make it.

On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.
On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.

Did you notice how the image changed in that last screenshot, by the way?  My black keyboard looks light gray, the keys are even completely blown out (meaning, they have no tonal detail, it is just pure white (to learn about the tonal ranges, check out my learn about grayscale activity, complete with printable coloring page).  But to make a long story short, the lighter the tone, the quicker it will “disappear” when something gets overexposed.  So, a yellow smiley face would “disappear” into white before a dark brown horse.

Pretty cool, huh?

I bet you can come up with some other ways to learn about overexposure.  Let me know your creative ideas in the comments below!  You might also be interested in my post where we learned about exposure (both over and underexposure). Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about negatives.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Engineering Fun!

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Engineering Fun!We somehow ended up with a few extra PVC frame laundry hampers in our home.  So, as is usually the case, my creative toddler discovered a way to repurpose it.  Toby asked me about taking it apart.  I thought, “sure, why not?”

So, for the next hour, our kitchen became an engineering construction site.  Toby gleefully pulled apart the PVC pipes and connector pieces, reconfigured them in various arrangements.

The hamper became a car, a boat, among other things.  We rebuilt it into its original form, and then draped our play fort fabrics over it (see how we made our own fabric play fort kit from old sheets).

I ended up keeping the hamper, as it inspired so much creative play.

A few days later, I noticed Toby’s little brother using the hamper for a different purpose — Zack was pushing it around the floor happily.  The hamper was also a DIY baby walker!  It definitely came in handy during those few transition weeks as my not-quite-a-baby-anymore learned to walk on his own.

Take a peek at some of the pictures below…

bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2251
Toby disassembling and reassembling the PVC parts.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2248
Some of the parts were trickier than others to connect and pull apart.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2247
Toby would have taken the whole assembly apart multiple times if there had been time before bed.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2244
And then it was time to put things back together…
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2252
Toby was able to manage most of the connections himself.

So, overall, I’d say this activity was a success.  Toby got to use some problem-solving skills and have fun constructing.  We didn’t spend a time, and in the end I still had my PVC hamper available for use (although I have to say, it’s been officially repurposed as a kid toy by now).

Cultivating Water Kefir

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bphotoart-water-kefir-experiment-Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to cultivate different fermented foods — sauerkraut, sourdough starter (for bread), kombucha, milk kefir, and now water kefir.  My toddler, Toby, has enjoyed helping with these processes.

I’ve found milk kefir to be the easiest of the fermented beverages to maintain, followed by kombucha.  Water kefir, thought, I found more tricky.  I think the original water kefir grains (not really grains, but that’s what the lumpy starter is called) weren’t hardy enough — but as is usually the case, the third time proved to be the charm.

After “killing” two sets of water kefir grains, I gave my water kefir making attempts a break.  Then my mom went off dairy and mentioned to me she would miss having milk kefir every morning.  So, for Christmas last year, I acquired a third set of water kefir grains.  Since they came a bit early, I ended up cultivating them myself, and giving her a whole starter of her own (plus some water kefir ready to drink!).

And that’s where this activity comes into play.

I had a learning curve with water kefir, because it was different than milk kefir.  With milk kefir grains, you just dump them in fresh milk, let the concoction sit for about 24 hours, and then strain out the grains from the milk-turned-kefir, and start again.

But with water kefir, you need to use sugar water.  The water kefir grains digest the sugar and turn it into probiotic goodness (similar to what the milk kefir grains do with the lactose in milk).  But the trick is this.  Water kefir grains like minerals too (which is the opposite of my kombucha starter — it dislikes minerals).  So, through trial and error, I discovered that my water kefir grains thrived in brown sugar water more than in white sugar water.

And I was curious how much of a difference it made.

So Toby and I performed an experiment.

Over the course of a week or two, we fed several different types of sugars to water kefir grains, and observed how quickly the water kefir grains multiplied (that’s one of the benefits of this, once you have your own starter, you’ll have plenty of new to share with your friends and family!).

We weighed out equal amounts of water kefir grains, and put them into four different mason jars (pint size).

Our control group was given nothing but plain filtered water from our fridge.  The remaining three groups each got white sugar, brown sugar, or unrefined turbinado sugar — dissolved in the same amount of filtered water as our control received.

After four days, we checked on the water kefir grains.

We did taste test the different water kefirs (though not the control group).  The molasses flavor was most pronounced in the turbinado, followed by the brown sugar.  We also strained out and weighed the water kefir grains from each of our mason jars.  It was interesting to see which had grown the most.  Those that we fed turbinado sugar grew the most, followed by brown sugar, then white sugar.  And our control group in water?  Those grains actually withered and shrunk (aka “died”).

We repeated the process for another four days, but unfortunately my kitchen elf must have run off with the sticky note containing the final weights of each set of kefir grains.  So I can’t share the number with you — but I can tell you that the trend continued.

So, based on our experiment, I can tell you that our water kefir grains were happiest with the most unrefined sugar.  Water killed them.  They survived with white sugar, and even multiplied, but to really boost their numbers I’d definitely use brown sugar or unrefined sugar.

Here are some pictures from our experiment…

Here's what water kefir grains look like.  Kind of like cottage cheese clumps...
Here’s what water kefir grains look like. Kind of like cottage cheese clumps…
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping...
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping…
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
bphotoart-water-kefir-experiment-2125
Finished water kefir, ready to drink!
Here are the visual results of the first four days' fermentation.
Here are the visual results of the first four days’ fermentation.
We weighed the water kefir grains...
We weighed the water kefir grains…
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings...
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings…

I’m sure we could have been a little more efficient in our experiment, but the whole point of this was to get my toddler thinking about what might happen.  He enjoyed checking on our experiment, and was excited to help weigh the water kefir grains.

Rooting + Dividing African Violets

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Rooting + Dividing African VioletsAround here, we love finding ways to bring nature indoors.  And one of those ways is to have houseplants.  For the longest time, my mother has had African Violets basking in the Northern windows of her home.

So, several years back I mentioned to her that I wanted to have some African Violets of my own for our house.  My mom made me a generous offer…

Her African Violets were ready to divide, so if I was willing to split them I could have some African Violets of my own to take home within the week!

I did a little research online about how to best divide African Violets, because all I’d ever done up to that point was root African Violet leaves.

It turns out either method is pretty simple.

Well, rooting the leaves is simplest. So let’s start with that.

Rooting African Violets

You get a few African Violet clippings from a friend with a healthy African Violet plant.

Take those clippings, and stick them in fresh water.

Leave them on your windowsill until the clippings start to grow roots.

I found it best to change the water out every couple days, so that things didn’t get slimy or gross.

Once you have roots, simply put into dirt and enjoy! I have always used “African Violet Potting Mix” — because that’s what my mom uses, but if you want to try general potting soil, that’s your prerogative!

Okay, now onto the trickier project… dividing African Violets.

Dividing African Violets

There are a lot of detailed tutorials, and even YouTube videos, about dividing African Violets.  So I’ll spare you that.  Take a quick search and you’ll find something that explains it in minute detail.

The basic premise of dividing African Violets?

The plant’s leaves usually all originate from one central location. So, when you see a plant that has two central points where leaves are stemming from, that means you can split the plant into two.

To do this, I gently eased the African Violet (and dirt) from the pot.  Then, I loosened the dirt from the roots so I could see the structure.  After trying to find which roots go with which portion of the plant, I used a sharp knife to gently slice through those intertwined roots.

We then put the plants into fresh soil, in new pots.   Well, actually, the plants soaked in water jars for a few days while I got around to locating my stash of ceramic self-watering African Violet pots.

But that’s it!  One key thing to remember?  As my mother told me — don’t get water on top of the leaves.  It’s not good for the plants.

bphotoart-african-violets-2269
Two African Violets, ready to be potted, and three African Violet leaves, ready to root!
bphotoart-african-violets-2262
Toby had fun digging in the potting soil to get the plants’ new homes ready.
bphotoart-african-violets-2260
We filled the pots carefully with new potting soil for the African Violets (before Mommy put in the plants).

Learn About Overexposure (and Underexposure)

posted in: Learning | 5

Today we’re talking about exposure — overexposure (and underexposure)  As relates to cameras.  I’ll be simplifying it for kids, as has been the norm with my Photography ABCs series.  Make sure to read through to the end, because I’m sharing three activity ideas to help kids learn about overexposure and underexposure.  So, let’s get started.  What’s exposure?  Or, more specifically, what are overexposure and underexposure?

Learn About Overexposure ...and Underexposure (includes 3 activities for kids!)

Underexposed, as defined by Dictionary.com:

1. inadequate exposure, as of photographic film.

2. a photographic negative or print that is imperfect because of insufficient exposure.

Dictionary.com defines overexposure as follows:

1. excessive exposure, especially of photographic film or a sensitized plate to light rays.

2. the condition of having been seen, heard, or advertised so frequently or for so long that freshness or appeal is diminished.

You’d probably recognize overexposed images if you saw them.  They tend to be overly bright, with loss of detail.  Want a simplified definition of overexposure?  Too much light.  You know how you can’t see anything when you first go outside into the bright sunlight?  You’re blinded.  Blinded because your eyes are adjusted to the dim indoor light, and when the brighter light from the sun reaches your eyes they are overwhelmed — it takes a few moments for them to adjust and compensate.  Remember the lesson on aperture, and the one where we made a camera obscura?  These are related to the concept of exposure. And overexposure.

Light enters the camera.

The right amount of light, and you can create a stunning image.

Too much light, and you end up with an overexposed image — if taken to the extreme, it would be a white rectangle.  Too little light, and you get an underexposed image — taken to the extreme, it would be an unexposed black rectangle.  But we’ll get to that later.

To simplify this concept — If you take a picture of your yard during nighttime, it will likely be very dim and dark. Possibly underexposed, if you use your camera’s auto settings (and no flash).  The camera tells the flash to fire so that it will be the correct exposure, so that it will have enough light in the picture.  If you take a picture of your yard during the daytime, the camera usually tells the flash not to fire — because then it would have more light than it needs, and the image could be overexposed.

Cameras aren’t all that smart, though.  If you take a picture of a person with the sunset behind them, it might underexpose the scene (and render the person a silhouette) in order to properly expose for the sunset.  If it exposes the image for the person, the sunset portion of the image would be overexposed.  That’s where the flash comes in (yet again) — it adds more light to the person, so they will not be underexposed.  Of course, the flash has no effect on the sunset, because that is WAY too far away.

Over/Under Exposure Camera Activity

For today’s activity, you’re going to need a camera.

Turn off the on-camera flash, and try taking pictures of different things around the house.  Notice how when you take a picture of your sofa next to the window, that the camera tries to expose for one of two things — the sofa (dimmer inside light) or the yard (brighter outside light).  Take a couple pictures, and see how the camera either overexposes the outside or underexposes the inside, depending on the image.

Now, turn on the flash and see if it makes a difference.

Exposure Coloring

This activity is really simplified.  Have your kids draw a picture of a tree at night, or their bedroom with the lights off.

Tell them to use their imagination and draw something that is not shown clearly because there is not enough light (underexposed). Suggest they use dark colors if they need prompting.  A candle in a bedroom, for example, might be a paper colored completely black, with just a little orange glow.  You can’t see the bed, or more than a shadow of it, but you know it’s there.

On the flip side, have them draw something that is so bright it can’t be seen clearly (overexposed).  Ideas you could prompt them with include a car with its headlights on, a polar bear in the snow (e.g. three dots, a nose and two eyes).

It will be interesting to see how your kids interpret this, and will vary depending on their ages.

Exposure Experience

You don’t need anything except your eyes for this activity.  Take your kids from a brightly lit room into a dark room.  Tell them to pay attention to how their eyes adapt, how nothingness becomes dark shadows, which in turn becomes identifiable objects.

Then, return to a bright area.  The opposite happens.

If you wanted to, I guess you could let them shine a flashlight into their eyes for this portion too.  Not condoning that, but it definitely would illustrate the concept of overexposure.  Way too much light to see what anything is.

Have more ideas?

I’d love to hear your ideas, if you have any more thoughts on activities for overexposure and underexposure, in the comments below.  Or, if you try these activities I’ve mentioned, I definitely want to know how things go for you!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about negative.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn About Negative (+Coloring Page Printable)

posted in: Learning | 3

bphotoart-learn-about-negativeWorking my way through the Photography ABCs has been fun!  We’re at letter N this week, so I thought we’d talk about negative.  There are a number of different meanings for the word negative as relates to photography.  It can be the actual film negative, or a description of how the image is negative rather than positive (dark tones are light, light tones are dark), or can even refer to negative space (a design term referring to empty space in an image).

Dictionary.com didn’t really reference the photographic and design terms at all, despite having more than 30 entries about “negative” — here are two:

adj. expressing or containing negation or denial;

noun. a negative statement, answer, word, gesture, etc.

So I turned to the online version of my favorite childhood book set – The Britannica Encyclopedia.  Here’s the definition I found there:

Negative,  photographic image that reproduces the bright portions of the photographed subject as dark and the dark parts as light areas. Negatives are usually formed on a transparent material, such as plastic or glass. Exposure of sensitized paper through the negative, done either by placing the negative and paper in close contact or by projecting the negative image onto the paper, reverses these tones and produces a positive photographic print.

Much more helpful!

Now, to put that in layman’s terms.  Negative is a “backwards” image, with the dark tones being light and the light tones being dark.  Everything is reversed.  You may also be familiar with the term “inverted” — all the tones are inverted, or inverse from real life.  Before digital, the film we put into cameras, once exposed, was developed and called “negatives” — because the tiny images on the film were “backwards” or opposite of how they look in real life. Here’s what a negative might look like (see below).  Can you tell what these images are?

film-negative
Images used with permission, from Pixabay.com

And the same strip of developed film, if it were printed in positive.

film-positive
Images used with permission, from Pixabay.com

Pretty cool, huh?  Would you have guessed that the inverse of yellow is blue, or the inverse of magenta is cyan?  This is bringing me back to the days of color theory in college.  …Don’t worry, I won’t get all technical here.

I have two ideas for activities related to today’s term, negative:

  1. negative matching / color guess game
  2. negative coloring activity

Okay, let’s get on with the activities.  You can modify them based on the age and ability of your child, as usual. Or, if you come up with another idea, go for it! Just make sure to share in the comments so others can benefit from your genius!

Negative Matching / Color Guess game

This one is pretty simple.  I’m going to share some images here… that have already been paired — positive and negative versions of the same image.  The goal for younger children?  Matching the two versions.  Their job is to pair the positive photo of a daisy with the negative rendition.

Want something more complex?  Look at any of these images, and try to guess what the colors would be in the inverse image.  Would the white daisy be black?  You can check your answers by looking at the negative version of the image.

Here are the positive versions (all used with permission, courtesy of Pixabay.com):

And here are the negative versions (again, all used with permission, courtesy of Pixabay.com):

Pretty neat, huh?

Negative Coloring Activity

Take a coloring page,and instead of coloring it according to real life, try coloring it as you might see a negative.  I’ve converted a few of the images above into coloring sheets for you, so you have something with a guide image.  If you have older children, it might be fun to have them try drawing freehand and then coloring in their own creations.

You can download a PDF file with all four coloring pages here: Negative Coloring Pages PDF

Digital “Negative” – Inverse Image Experiment

You can turn a picture into a negative with different software already on your computer (for more details, read this article: How do I make a negative of a picture?).  Basically, you can open the image in a program and invert the colors, like I’ll do below with Microsoft Paint.

Open the image.  Press crtl-A to select all, and then right-click and select “Invert color,” like I’ve shown below.  This will let you show your kids any image in “negative” form!

photo-filmstrip-invert-color

I’ve also done the work for you, with this lovely series of images on a filmstrip by Gerd Altmann (Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission).  You can click on either image below to view it in a larger format.

Well, that about covers it for this week’s activities.  Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter O. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about macro.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Piano (or whatever instrument you play)

posted in: Learning | 1
Why You shouldn't Give Up Piano (or whatever instrument you play)
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

I’m that kid.  The one who begged her mother for piano lessons at the young age of …um… maybe five?  My grandmother, an organist and pianist, was my first teacher.  From there on, I loved it.  We found a sweet lady down the street from us as my next teacher; I remember getting on my bike and pedaling over to her house, two streets away.  My brother took lessons from her too.  In high school, I (well, we both) started lessons with another teacher, this time across town — my mom had to drive us.  I continued those lessons until I graduated.  But that wasn’t the whole of it.  In fifth grade, when everyone got to pick an instrument, I’d already talked my mom (a professional flutist) into giving me flute lessons.  Sweet child I was… but obstinate — so a few years later I switched to oboe.  Those lessons also continued through my high school years.

In college, I no longer took lessons, but I still enjoyed playing.  I was able to improvise chords on the piano, I kept my fingers lithe and was able to retain mastery of some of the more difficult pieces I’d learned.  Oboe was tougher to keep going — the reeds were finicky, not tolerant of an owner who wasn’t playing as regularly as one should.  In case you’re not familiar with reed instruments, you have to break the reed in, and over time it becomes softer and worn out, eventually needing to be replaced.  In my high school days, I would have on hand at least 5-8 reeds in various stages of their life.  I even knew how to make my own reeds (under the tutelage of my oboe teacher).  I bet I could still wrap an oboe reed today — though my knife skills might be a little lackluster now, so it wouldn’t be the most refined reed I’ve produced.

Having kids put my musical endeavors on hold.  My oldest son, as a baby, screamed at the sound of the oboe, which dissuaded me from bringing it out.  I lost my embouchure… the muscle tone in the lips required to produce a refined sound.  I could still play, but to do so for any length of time I’d have to practice and work up to it.

Music will remain a part of my life though, now, and in the future.  I sing, I whistle, I hum.  my boys have heard the same songs since they were born, and even in utero.  It’s funny, actually.  The other day my mom was telling me she learned all the verses of “How Great Thou Art” while singing me to sleep.  That is one of my go-to songs for the boys.  Music runs deep.  Another favorite song of mine is the alphorn melody my dad plays (usually on the French horn, sometimes on the alphorn).  I have that tune memorized, without ever having practiced it.  And that melody is one of the little ditties I hum to my boys.

Ah, but time to stop reminiscing. What all this leads me to is this.

Music has been a part of my life from the get-go.  I haven’t always been happy about having to practice or go to lessons, but I’m always grateful that I was “forced” to stick with it.  Music has taught me so much.

Music is calming, relaxing.

Music is food for the soul.

And that brings me back on track.  If you’re thinking of giving up music, of letting your instrument gather dust — don’t do it.  If you’re looking to pick it back up — by all means!

I get such enjoyment out of making music.  I wish I could play more often.  Sure, I may not sound as great as I did “at my prime” …but that doesn’t matter.

 

Want to Start Your Kid in Music Lessons?

The big question is often this:

when is my child ready to start music lessons?

And I’d say the answer depends on the child.  Dyan at And Next Comes L has put together a post addressing that very question.  Read her thoughts: When is a child ready for piano lessons?

And parents, if you’re thinking about the whole logistics thing of balancing music with sports and other extracurricular activities — here are a few articles I found recently — they discuss the importance music can play in our lives.

First, there’s a study that found correllation between music lessons and child development (Music lessons spur emotional and behavioral growth in children):

“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” said James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”

And then another article about the same study notes the fact that 75% of students in American high schools “rarely or never” get extracurricular art or music lessons (Science Just Discovered Something Amazing About What Childhood Piano Lessons Did to You).  The piece also notes:

Prior research proves that learning music can help children develop spatiotemporal faculties, which then aid their ability to solve complex math. It can also help children improve their reading comprehension and verbal abilities, especially for those who speak English as a second language.

So yeah.  Music is good for your brain.

Learn About Macro

posted in: Learning | 3

Learn About MacroAnd it’s time for one of my favorite terms in the ABCs of Photography series – M is for Macro! I have enjoyed macro photography for a long time.  Plants, bugs, and other small items can be really neat to see larger than life.  Or, if you’re a kid at heart, legos.

That’s why I picked this stock image for today’s post — I have always loved building with legos, and thought it was neat that they made a camera lego piece for the lego people (saving you the trouble of looking — find it on Amazon.com as black camera #3 lego piece #afflink).  While I was sidetracked getting that link for you, I also remembered that someone made a (working) 8MB Lego Camera #afflink — it actually will take about 80 pictures. Somewhat impractical, but fun for any Lego geeks to contemplate getting for their kids.

Macro can be used as a noun (type of lens) and an adjective (style of photography).  Dictionary.com defines each as follows:

n. a lens used to bring into focus objects very close to the camera.

adj. very large in scale, scope, or capability.

The British dictionary is even more specific, stating that the macro lens is used for photographing things 2–10 cm away.  Interesting tidbit of knowledge, there.

Basically, you use the term macro when referring to something small that has been made much larger than life.  The photographs taken with a macro lens are often abstract in nature, because they are so close up you can’t tell what they are.  

On the flip side, macro lenses can also enlarge tiny objects so we can actually see all the detail — like the multi-faceted eyes on a bug. Here’s a macro image I created of a katydid (see more macro bug pictures, including a praying mantis)

Close Up Bug Photography (12)

If you have a point and shoot camera, you’ll probably recognize the macro setting as the little flower that vaguely resembles the Super Mario fire flower.  Turn on that setting, and your camera will try to focus on things that are really close up to create macro pictures.

Macro photographs don’t have to be identifiable, either.  You can make them as abstract as you like. Here’s one I created a while back (find out what I photographed).

black and white abstraction - fine art photography

Okay, now that the term macro has been explained, let’s move onto how to incorporate macro into an activity.  The concept of Macro can be taught to kids in several ways.  Since my four year old prefers hands-on activities, I’m not providing any printables or such.  Instead, consider these two options:

  1. Macro Scavenger Hunt
  2. Macro Matching Game

Macro Scavenger Hunt

Depending on the age of your kids, you can either hand them a camera and turn them loose to find things.  This is basically a more specialized version of my photo scavenger hunt — you’ll be looking for anything that you can photograph up close and personal.  Bugs, plants, rocks …might be subjects for an outdoor macro scavenger hunt, whereas colanders,, seat cushions, staplers, and bobby pins could be photographed indoors.

Take this a step further by playing a game afterwards with the abstract pictures.  Try to guess what each is; you’d be surprised how difficult some things are (check of these fine art abstractions).

Macro Matching Game

Again, you’ll want the camera handy.  Or some existing pictures.  Photograph a number of objects both normally and macro.  Then, print them out, and try to pair the macro images with their proper pictures.  Or, you could just print out the macro pictures, and have the items you photographed laid out on the counter — let the kids play detective and try to figure out which picture goes with which object.

The possibilities are endless.

Do you have any ideas for helping kids learn about macro?  I’d love to hear them in the comments below.  Also, Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter N. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about how lenses work.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan’s Official Wildflower (A Craft!)

posted in: Learning | 5

Iris Lacustris - Michigan's State Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris - CraftLately I’ve become interested in adding native plants to our gardens and wooded area.  Sure, non-native flowers can be gorgeous, but there are so many native options to choose from that are better suited for the environment (and therefore easier to grow).

So today we’re going to learn about Michigan’s official wildflower.  And a brief summary of how it came to be the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Long story short, the popular vote was for Trillium (another native wildflower) to be named Michigan’s state wildflower.  Politicians decided to proceed with the second place wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, due to its threatened status.  Maybe they thought the additional awareness about the unique and threatened habitat of the Dwarf Lake Iris could help preserve the species.

I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person.  But thanks to the internet, I was able to find a number of blog posts and photos featuring the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Here’s one that was taken by Joshua Mayer in Wisconsin (see below).  The Dwarf Lake Iris may look familiar, but that’s because it’s part of the Iris family.  This particular flower is miniature — about 1.5″ flowers, with 2″ stems and 6″ leaves.

The Dwarf Lake Iris is unique to the Great Lakes; its scientific name, Iris Lacustris, means “rainbow of the lakes.”

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
Photo by Joshua Mayer

Online Learning

Here are some resources I found if you want to learn more about the Dwarf Lake Iris:

  • Iris Lacustris – Center For Plant Conservation – I learned that 95% of the existing Dwarf Lake Iris plants exist in Michigan, and that its primary threats include loss of habitat, increasing human disturbance, and Iris Lacustris is very similar to the related (and more common) Iris Cristata.
  • Iris Lacustris – Michigan DNR – this has a nice map depicting where the Dwarf Lake Iris is distributed in Michigan.  There are some interesting tidbits, including that “of the lakes” meaning I mentioned earlier.
  • Iris Lacustris – Flora of Wisconsin – here’s a brief summary of the plant and how to identify it (including pictures).
  • Iris Lacustris – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris and pictures of the flowers, including a rare white blossom.
  • Michigan State Wildflower – Netstate – If you’re interested in how the Michigan Wildflower Association sponsored an informal public poll for the state wildflower, and how the runner up was nominated in 1997 by House Representative Liz Brater (supported by the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium)…. this site has the political aspect covered.
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan Sea Grant – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris’ habitat, characteristics, the fact that its scientific name means “rainbow of the lakes” …plus more pictures
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Endangered Species – facts about the Dwarf Lake Iris (including printable fact sheet), why it is listed as a threatened species, what is being done to protect it, and how to hopefully prevent its extinction.

Books + Activities

I found some additional craft and activity resources for learning about state flowers and native plants, which you might enjoy (Amazon #afflinks used below):

Dwarf Lake Iris Craft

orchidNow for a fun craft to help facilitate discussion about Michigan’s official wildflower.  I kept this pretty simple, as I wanted to go with an artistic abstraction that would encourage my son, Toby, to think and visualize pictures of the Dwarf Lake Iris in terms of simplified shapes.

For this activity, we used some origami paper that I received for review purposes (Orchid Origami Paper – 500 sheet pack #afflink).  I have to say, the paper totally lives up to my standards so far as origami paper goes.  The surface of the paper is smooth, they are easy to fold and get sharply creased, and the colors are really bright.

And before you say anything, yes, I know… cutting is kind of a no-no when forming origami creations.  But, I couldn’t help but be drawn to all the bright colors when I was trying to decide on a craft to go along with our discussion of Michigan’s official wildflower.

I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes - petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes – petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
Here's my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris - some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.
Here’s my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris – some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.

 

Next I added the color contrast on the leaves -- yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).
Next I added the color contrast on the leaves — yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).

 

And here's the final craft.
And here’s the final craft.

 

Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess.  We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.
Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess. We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.

So that’s all there is to it!  This could be more of a sensory experience, if you let the paper pieces be loose and transient like we did, or you could use a glue stick to permanently adhere the abstracted pieces to the paper.  Your call. I went with simpler and more experimental.  Because that’s what works for us!


tour-the-world-by-flowerTour the World By Flower

This post is part of the Tour the World By Flower blog hop.   Every state and country (and as we’ve discovered, province, county or territory) has an official flower. A number of bloggers have collaborated to Tour the World by Flower with crafts to learn about various official flowers!  Make sure to check out Suzy Homeschooler’s Michigan Apple Blossom craft, which is the official state flower for Michigan.

Disclaimer: I received one or more products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation — the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

How Lenses Work – Kid Friendly Activities!

posted in: Learning | 4

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!This week we’re learning about lenses for my ABCs of Photography series.  And in case you’re wondering, this is really about the concept of lenses, so we’ll be spending time exploring how they work rather than what kind of lens you should get.  We’ll even project an image onto the wall using a magnifying glass!

But first, let’s cover the Dictionary.com definition of a lens:

n. a piece of transparent substance, usually glass, having two opposite surfaces either both curved or one curved and one plane, used in an optical device in changing the convergence of light rays, as for magnification, or in correcting defects of vision.

Your glasses have lenses, your eyes have what’s called “crystalline lenses” …and they all focus light.  As we explored when learning about cameras , you don’t need much to focus light. Even a pinhole can become a lens of sorts.  While not as simple as a pinhole, another simple lens is a magnifying glass.  And that’s what we’re going to use for these activities.

In fact, I originally brainstormed these ideas when we were making our camera obscura, but decided to split the activities into two posts since each set could really stand on their own.  So, don’t mind the fact that these images portray snow on the ground — it really is warmer than that here.  It’s just that this post has been patiently waiting for you!

Now for the fun part.  Activities!

You can do either activity first, or just choose one.  Both will help teach the same concepts, it’s just a matter of which one your kids may find more interesting.

Use a Lens to Make a Picture on Paper

All you need for this activity is a piece of paper, a magnifying glass, and a shaded area next to a window.  Although I suppose you could do it outside too.  Anyways, we put the paper in shade (this is important — your image won’t show up if the paper is in the sun), and then put the magnifying glass between the window and the paper.  As you move the magnifying glass closer to and further away from the paper, the blob of light reflected onto the paper will come in and out of focus.  If your child has enough coordination, you’ll be able to see a somewhat crisp (or fuzzy!) upside down version of what’s outside.

Here’s what it looks like when the paper is in the sun.  You will see the blob of light through the magnifying glass, but not much else, no matter how well you focus it.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Toby had fun trying to find the focus point of th magnifying glass — you’ll see he was somewhat successful here.  Note the faint pattern of light on the paper.  That’s the view out onto our deck.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

And here’s mommy’s rendition.  See how I was able to get it a little more crisply focused?  It’s all a matter of patience.  Move the magnifying glass slowly back and forth; you’ll find it.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Want to know what the view actually looked like?  Here’s a snapshot out onto our deck.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

And for those of you who like videos, here’s a video of the whole activity.  Well, a brief shot of the paper, panning to the outside view.  Maybe of interest for your kids, if they like videos as much as mine do. Seriously, we had to search for tornado videos on youtube to learn about how tornados work.  And astronaut videos to learn about rockets. Incidentally, Toby doesn’t want to be an astronaut now that he knows they “have” to wear diapers when in the spacesuits.

But I digress. Here’s the video (under 30 seconds in length):

How cool is that?  Yeah, we were psyched too.

Okay, now for part two.

Use a Lens to Project a Movie onto the Wall

For this activity, you’ll need your magnifying glass, and a smartphone.  We originally projected a picture onto the wall from my smartphone gallery, but a video proved more interesting.  Specifically, a video of our duplo train setup.

In order for this to work, we had to be in complete darkness.  So, we went into our bathroom, closed the door, and played the video.  Toby had fun trying to “find” the picture for a short while, but ultimately he wanted me to hold the magnifying glass so he could watch the “silly” video.  Silly because it projects upside down.  Here’s what it looked like.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Sorry about the noise in the image.  I had to use my small camera since I was multitasking …it would’ve been crazy to try holding the magnifying glass and my DSLR that could capture this scene more adequately.  Sometimes you have to accept imperfection and go with the flow.  While I don’t settle for less with my clients — when doing activities with my boys, their experience is most important. So the documentary pictures took a place on backburner. Priorities, right?

So, to make up for that, here’s a diagram of this activity.  How you can set up your rudimentary image projection system in under two minutes… or however long it takes you to find your phone and a magnifying glass.

Rudimentary Image Projection simple activity with a Smartphone in a Dark Room!

And since I have them, here are some more pictures of the smartphone image projection activity.

Okay, there you have it!  I love how simple this activity is, and it really is great for helping kids learn about lenses.  The concept of focusing as you move the lens closer to the wall, farther from the wall, etc …all the interaction is fantastic for helping to reinforce what’s being learned.

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter M. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about high key and low key (for the letter K).


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn About Key (High Key + Low Key)

posted in: Learning | 1

Learn About Key - High Key + Low KeyToday we’re going to learn about key. Specifically, high key and low key, as they relate to photography (since this is part of my ABCs of Photography series). And yes, I couldn’t resist the play on words with a few of these photos, so I included some high key and low key photos of keys. It’s fallout from having grown up with a family that enjoyed puns.

Anyways, back to key. High key and low key are lighting ratios in photography (don’t worry, we’re not going to get technical here), and they have two very different looks. Dictionary.com defines the two terms as follows…

High Key:

(of a photograph) having chiefly light tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from low-key).

Low Key:

1. of reduced intensity; restrained; understated. 

2. (of a photograph) having chiefly dark tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from high-key).

To simplify things to the max, high key images are very light, whereas low key images are very dark. A slightly more technical definition would go into the specific ranges of tonal values (remember our learning about grayscale activity?) and how the high key image is made up of mostly light tones, whereas the low key image is made up of mostly dark tones.

We won’t get more technical than that, but know that there are actually specific ratios, or proportions, that are supposed to be used when setting up lights.  But we’re keeping things simple.

So, let’s look at some high key and low key images.  I actually made a printable of these pictures too, so you can have something to print out and discuss with your kids.  The printable also has a few game ideas that you could use as an extension activity!  So, read on for now, and remember to get the printable when you get to the end of the post.

Learn About High Key

High key images are bright, white, and comprised of mostly light tones.  There will likely be some darker areas in the image, but the majority of the picture will be whites and lighter grays.  High key images can be black and white or color — it’s not so much about the hues in the image (remember when we learned about hue?), so much as how light or dark the colors are (remember we simplified this to black and white when we learned about grayscale).

Take a peek at the images below (used with permission from Pixabay.com).  I selected images that were obviously high key, very white, very not contrasty, not much in the way of dark tones.  Some of these have correlating low key images in the next section, you might find it interesting to compare the two! Click on any image to enlarge.

Learn About Low Key

Low key images, on the other hand, are mostly dark tones.  They may have some lighter accents or highlights, but overall things will be not very bright.  Again, images can be black and white or color, it’s not the hue so much as the darkness of the image.  AsI mentioned earlier, I gathered these images with the intent to compare and contrast them.  So we’ll do that in a minute.  Click on any image to enlarge.

High Key vs. Low Key

I won’t go through every image pair, but we might as well do one set, right?  So here are two images of laptop keyboards.  Keyboards are all pretty similar, right?  Nothing special about most… except sometimes you have your choice of color.  This first one is a white keyboard.  Which gives us which kind of image?

That’s right.  High key.

See how the image is mostly light tones – light grays and whites?  There isn’t much in the way of dark, save for the lettering on the keys.

Now for the next image.  It’s another laptop, but this time with black keys.  Which do you suppose this image is?

Yup, low key.

The tones in this photo are mostly dark.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that the lettering on the keys isn’t even white – they are grayish toned.  So there aren’t really any bright white tones in this image, even though we “know” that the lettering on these keys is “white.”

Okay, I’ll leave the rest of the compare and contrast activity to you.  You can use the images here on the post, or download the free printable that has all twelve of these images compiled onto two pages.  I’ve even included three game ideas (hint, they’re really easy, …remember my DIY photo memory game?).

Learn About Key Printable

Now the part you’ve (hopefully) been waiting for, right?  Here’s the printable.  It’s actually three pages long – one introduction page with the game ideas, and two pages of photos.  There are twelve images in total, and I did make sure to include equal numbers of high key and low key photos.

bphotoart-high-key-low-key-printable

Download Learn About Key Printable (PDF)

Do you have any other fun ideas that we could use as extension activities for learning about high key and low key?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  Also, make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter L. You might also enjoy revisiting our last activity where we learned about jaggies.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Growing a Garden – “The Gardener”

posted in: Learning | 29

Growing a Garden - Read + Play: starting seeds indoors for Earth Day!We’ve enjoyed having a vegetable garden the past few summers.  In fact, when the librarian read “Growing a Rainbow” the other day, I overheard my son arguing with another child. She said, “You can’t grow a rainbow!”

“Yes you can!” Toby exclaimed vehemently, “My mom and I grew a rainbow in our garden!”

That’s my boy.  So cute.

Anyways, that day, we checked out Sarah Stewart’s “The Gardener” (#afflink) …which is a Caldecott Honor Award book.  I loved the story, which was really brought to life with lovely illustrations by David Small.

If you want a synopsis, here you go:  Lydia Grace Finch goes to the city to stay with her uncle (presumably during the Depression, her dad lost his job). In her suitcase, she brings along seeds from her grandmother’s garden.  As the weeks progress, Lydia learns to bake bread in her uncle’s bakery, and grows plants everywhere — including a secret garden on the rooftop to surprise her uncle.  Ultimately, her dad gets a job and she goes back home, but not before becoming known as “the Gardener” by the city folk.

Here’s the cover of the book.  Again, I love the illustrations:
"The Gardener" by Sarah Stewart

So, when it came time to start our seeds for the vegetable garden, I knew this would be a fun post for the Earth Day Read and Play blog hop.  You can read about my plans for the garden this summer, which are quite ambitious.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

For this activity, we needed a few bags of seed starting dirt, some seed starting trays, a trowel, newspaper strips, and a seed pot maker #afflink.

Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
He was very careful not to spill...
He was very careful not to spill…
I couldn't help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
I couldn’t help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
He worked hard for quite some time.
He worked hard for quite some time.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Here's the newspaper pot maker. It's awesome!
Here’s the newspaper pot maker. It’s awesome!

In case you’re wondering how the newspaper pots were formed, here’s a little photo tutorial (it uses the DIY seed pot maker #afflink).  Toby was able to make some of these on his own, but preferred to help me make them.  I will say that it was a great hands-on experience for him, even though he ultimately decided to have me make the pots so he could fill them with dirt.  The concept is really simple, so take a peek to see how the newspaper seed starting pots are formed!

You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5" overhang.
You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5″ overhang.
Here's the newspaper wrapped up.
Here’s the newspaper wrapped up.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!

And our next steps?

We’ll be watching the seeds sprout in our greenhouse over the next few days and weeks… and then the seedlings will get transplanted into our raised garden beds.  It really is a great extension activity that gets my toddler into the dirt and loving the nature around him.  Plus, it’s more fun to eat vegetables that you grow yourself!

Are you growing anything this year?  What’s your favorite plant to grow?  What summer vegetables would your dream garden have?  The only thing ours is missing is asparagus, because we don’t want to dedicate the space for a crop that takes 2+ years for a harvest.


earth-day-read-playEarth Day Read and Play Blog Hop

This post is part of a blog hop celebrating Earth Day!  Please check out the other posts below for some more fun book-based activities!  Book titles are in parentheses, linked to Amazon for your convenience (#afflinks used).

Learn about Grayscale (printable coloring page!)

posted in: Learning | 4

Learn About Grayscale - Activitiy Ideas + a free printable coloring page!For this week’s ABCs of Photography, we’re going to learn about grayscale.  Depending on who you ask, it’s also spelled gray-scale, or gray scale. But let’s not get into that, eh?

In a grayscale image, there are no color tones, so things that have color look black, white, or various shades of gray.  Dictionary.com defines grayscale as follows:

a scale of achromatic colors having several, usually ten, equal gradations ranging from white to black, used in television and photography.

Photographers often talk about grayscale in terms of the Zone System, which was an exposure/development tool to help translate tones of things in real life into tones that the film and paper could capture and display.  Here’s Dictionary.com’s definition of the Zone System:

a system for envisioning the values to appear in a black-and-white print and for determining exposure and development, based on a scale of shades ranging from 0 (black) to IX (white).

I won’t go into detailed explanation since you could take whole classes on the subject, but to sum things up, the Zone System is often used to make sure that the important parts of an image are properly exposed and developed so that they have the right amount of light/dark.

Grayscale Coloring Page

If you want to get a little more involved with learning about grayscale, I’ve created a grayscale coloring page that older kids (or parents?) may enjoy coloring.  It features a continuous gradient (black to white with every shade of gray between) as well as the Zone System’s eleven step tonal range from black to white.

Here’s what the coloring page looks like (see below).

bphotoart-grayscale-coloring-page-web

Download Grayscale Coloring Page PDF / JPG

Notice I’ve included the complete tonal range of a continuous grayscale from black to white, as well as the simplified eleven step tonal range of the Zone System.

Grayscale Activity for Younger Kids

If your kids are a little young for the coloring activity, you could just print it out, talk about different tones of gray, and maybe have them color with a pencil pressing down hard to create dark gray and then pressing down lightly to create light gray.  Or, give them some crayons in varying shades of, say, green and help them arrange the tones from light to dark.

More Grayscale Activities

Once you’ve completed your grayscale drawings, you can call it quits, or continue on to real-world applications:

  • Go on a grayscale scavenger hunt.  Can you and your kids find images around your home that use only grayscale tones?
  • Examine a grayscale picture alongside your Zone System chart from the printable.  Which tones can you find in the image?
  • Print out a color photo using the grayscale feature on your printer.  Compare the two (color and grayscale), noting which colors come across lighter or darker.

I’m sure there are some more activities you could come up with to further learn about grayscale.  If you decide to do so, please report back with your findings!  I’m always interested to hear about fun new takes on a topic.

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter H (histogram, hue?). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about flash.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn about Flash with 3 fun activities!

posted in: Learning | 4
Learn about  Flash with 3 fun activities!              Camera Flash Activity Find-The-Differences Game Flashlight Find-It Fun
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

This week for our ABCs of Photography series, we’re learning about flash.  Yes, like the flash on your camera.  Since we learned about existing light for the letter “E” …it only seemed fitting to learn about an artificial light source like flash for letter “F” …right?

Anyway, Dictionary.com defines flash photography like this:

photography using a momentary flash of artificial light as a source of illumination.

I’m not sure I can really simplify that definition any further, but here goes.  Flash is a burst of light that you add to the scene when you take a picture.  You’ll likely be most familiar with the on-camera flash built into your camera (there are off-camera flashes too).

I have three activity ideas for today.

Camera Flash Activity

You can adapt this exercise for older or younger kids as needed.  The simplest version of the activity?  Go around the house and take pictures of things with the flash on and off.  See when your camera automatically turns on the flash, and talk about why that happens.

Why does that happen?  Your camera determines that there is not enough existing light to adequately expose the image (take the picture).

Your older child may enjoy overriding the flash mode and seeing how the images change.  Have them pull up the images on the computer, side by side, and see how the quality of the light changes.

You could also print them out.  Which leads me into the next activity…

Find-The-Differences Game

Print out two images of the same scene — one taken with flash, one taken with existing light.  It could be a set of images taken by the same person, or one image taken by each person from different angles…go with the flow!

Give everyone a piece of paper and pencil.  Set a timer and have everyone spend 2-5 minutes jotting down all the differences they see between the two images.

Then, when time is up, go through your lists one at a time.  As each person shares, cross off any items that someone else noticed. The winner is whoever ends up with the most items left!

Flashlight Find-It Fun

While a flashlight is most definitely NOT a momentary burst of light, you can use it to illustrate the concept of flash for younger kids.  Hand each kid a flashlight and then turn off the lights in a dimly lit room.  Talk about how the shadowy forms are revealed by the light of the flashlight, making it so that our eyes can “properly expose” the image and see things “the way” a camera uses flash to see things in a picture.

You can leave the activity at that, or if your kids have the attention span, play a game of “Find-It” or “I Spy” with the flashlights.  Ask them to find something:

  • specific color (e.g. what can you find that’s red?)
  • particular shape (e.g. are there any rectangular objects you can find?)
  • certain texture (e.g. what do you see that looks fuzzy?)
  • motion (e.g. do you see anything that is moving? like a ceiling fan)

As an extension activity, you could even experiment with different objects that cast light to see how they make items appear different.  Toby enjoyed doing this with glowsticks in the dark.  His pictures, by the way, had the auto flash on, so we did have a nice compare/contrast conversation starter.

bphotoart-light-play-glow-stick-bracelet-1966
Toby taking pictures (in the dark) of glow sticks

 

Any more ideas?

Hopefully these three activities will give you and your kids several fun options for exploring camera flash and learning about how light is used to expose an image.  I’d love to hear of any activity extensions you come up with to learn about flash!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter G (learn about gray scale). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about existing light (with a free scavenger hunt printable).


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Things In Our House Board Game

posted in: Learning | 12

Things in Our House Board Game (a book-based activity with free printable!)Toby loves reading. And Dr. Seuss books are no exception. So in honor of Read Across America day, we put together a board game based on the Dr. Seuss classic, “In a People House” (#afflink).  And, to help you join in the fun, I’ve created a free printable board game template for you to print out and design your own custom board game too!

We actually made our board game on a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, but you could print the printable out on cardstock or something nicer if you wanted.  Or, just print it out on plain paper and glue it to a piece of cardboard from your recycle bin.  Whatever works.

Personalize Your Game

Once you have the board game layout ready, it’s time to have some fun!  Toby and I filled in the squares with things you’d find in our house (many of which were also in the text of “In a People House” #afflink too).

Some of my toddler’s favorite things?

  • popcorn
  • buttons
  • ball
  • teapot
  • piano

You might notice that the printable doesn’t look exactly like the board game we designed — and you’re correct.  I did refine a couple things and rename it since you’ll probably want to add things to the board game that are in your house (and might not be in the book).  If your child is learning to read, you can write the words for the objects in the squares too.

Older kids will be able to fill in the squares with their own drawings, but you may want to help younger children.  This game was the perfect length for my toddler, and a great introduction to the world of board games!

Other things you’ll need:

  • dice (1 or 2, depending on how high you want to count and how well your kids share)
  • multi-colored buttons or other play markers

You don’t have to fill in every square with objects from your house; we left about a third of them blank and just colored those spaces a solid color.

Game Rules

Once you have decorated your game, it’s time to play! Here are the rules we used, but feel free to adapt and change things to fit your own game play needs.

  • Youngest player goes first (or whoever lost, if playing a second time).
  • If you land on a space with “thing” from your house, you talk about that object (the sound it makes, how to spell it, etc, depending on the age of your child).
  • Optional for quicker game: If you land on a solid colored space, you can roll again.
  • Whoever gets to the house first wins!

I’d love to hear your variations on game play if you end up changing the rules; it’s always fun to see how other people adapt things!
And because I can’t help but share some pictures of how our board game turned out (the rough draft, beta version, or what have you)… here you go! I’ll admit that I had lots of fun coloring in the squares and drawing the pictures for each of the items Toby chose. Feel free to make your board design simpler. Or, you could identify the items using words to help a beginning reader… ooh, the possibilities are endless!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Make Your Own!

Ok, I bet you’re dying to get started.  Here’s the printable.  I’ve made PDF and JPG versions — use the links below to download and print out your very own board.  And, in case you don’t already have a copy of the book, here’s a link to “In a People House” on Amazon (#afflink).

Things in Our House Game (Free Printable)

Download Things in Our House Board Game Printable PDF / JPG

Make sure to report back with how your board game turned out, either here in the comments section or via social media.  I’d love to hear from you!


Read Across America – Read & Play Blog Hop

This post is part of a read and play blog hop.  If you want more Dr. Seuss book-based activities, make sure to check out the links below!  Book titles are linked to Amazon (#afflinks) for your convenience!

dr-seuss-stories

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