Macro Photos of Monarch Butterfly Emerging from its Chrysalis

posted in: Photography | 0

It seems like forever and a day since I last shared photos of the Monarch caterpillars.  So thank you for your patience!  I am really excited to share these macro photos of the Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.  That week of my life was crazy — we spent hours watching for signs that the butterflies would be emerging soon (also called “eclosing”).  I learned that the top part of the chrysalis gets very bumpy and “slinky like” — rather than being smooth.  Yes, indeed it does.  But that’s still not really an accurate measure of how long you have, because the whole process takes time.

I was blessed to be able to witness four of the Monarch butterflies as they eclosed.  We “missed” another one, and the last one was a sneaky little guy.  Fortunately I’d turned on the video camera before putting my attention elsewhere, so it was caught on film. All together, I photographed three different butterflies eclosing.  The others I watched.  And let me tell you, this miracle didn’t get old or become more mundane.  It’s amazing how the butterfly climbs out, and interesting how small its wings are, and how swollen its abdomen is.  The wings took a lot longer to dry and “grow” to full size than I expected.  And the butterflies didn’t fly away immediately.  We put them outside within hours, but they stayed nearby for hours or even days longer.

My boys are set on doing this again next year.  I think the self-started milkweed plants in my garden bed may have to stay.  We’ll see what spring brings, of course.

Make sure you don’t miss the end of this post, where you can watch a time lapse video of one of the Monarch butterflies emerging from its chrysalis!

monarch caterpillar chrysalises with one monarch butterfly ready to emerge eclose
These Monarch chrysalises are in various stages of development. As they become ready to eclose (emerge), the chrysalis becomes more and more translucent. The middle chrysalis was hours from being uninhabited. The one on the left still had days. And the one on the right was a little further along.
monarch butterfly about to eclose, emerge from chrysalis, macro photography, michigan nature photographer
This is the first in a series of photographs I took while the Monarch butterfly eclosed (emerged) from its chrysalis. You can see right through the chrysalis, even such details as the wing pattern and the butterfly’s eye (at bottom left).
monarch butterfly eclosing from chrysalis, macro nature photography dexter mi photographer
And the process of eclosing begins! It was so exciting to look over and realize the Monarch butterfly had split its chrysalis open! Do you see the slight vertical crack along the left side? So cool!!
monarch butterfly working its way out of chrysalis, macro nature photography, entomology photos
Over the next minute, the Monarch butterfly worked her way out of the chrysalis. This first part seemed the most laborious.
monarch butterfly eclosing from chrysalis, legs almost out of chrysalis. macro butterfly photographer
And just like that, the Monarch’s legs were almost free!
monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis, macro nature butterfly photo, michigan photographer
She wriggled her way to freedom a bit at a time. …getting free from the chrysalis that allowed her transformation to take place.
monarch butterfly almost eclosed from chrysalis, monarch butterfly emerging photo, michigan photographer
The Monarch seemed to hesitate here for a bit, I’m sure there was unseen work going on so she could finish the process of emerging.
monarch butterfly just after eclosing, swollen abdomen and shriveled wings, macro nature photography, butterfly photos
And just like that, she was free from her chrysalis. The chrysalis was empty, the Monarch hanging onto it, though looking very different from what you’d recognize, no? When Monarch butterflies first emerge, their wings are shriveled and their abdomens are swollen. The fluid drains from the abdomen and the wings fill out, and eventually dry.
monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis just after it emerged. macro butterfly photo michigan
From Toby’s butterfly book, I learned that it’s important for butterflies to stay out of direct sunlight while their wings are filing out and drying so that they can “grow” to full size. If the wings dry too soon, the Monarch would have crippled wings and be unable to fly or survive in nature.
monarch butterfly with swollen abdomen after just eclosing from chrysalis, nature photography macro photographer michigan
Here’s another view of the Monarch butterfly’s swollen abdomen.
Monarch butterfly wings drying after emerging from chrysalis, view of monarch eyes and proboscis
I took a few photos from a different angle, so you could see the butterfly’s eyes and proboscis (or, as my kids call it, the butterfly’s “straw tongue”).
monarch butterfly while wings drying after eclosing, macro photo of monarch eyes and head, nature photographer
I thought the symmetry on this photography was really neat. Love all the detail. And you can see how wavy the Monarch’s wings are too.
monarch butterfly hanging from empty chrysalis, waiting for wings to dry, macro butterfly photo
I took several photos of the Monarch while her wings dried and grew bigger. I like this one because you can see her proboscis is unfurled a bit.
monarch butterfly with wrinkled wings waiting for the wings to dry after eclosing, monarch macro photographs michigan
This photo shows the full length of the wings, and it is very apparent that the wings aren’t ready to be used yet (they’re way too wrinkled and wavy).

monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis after eclosing, macro nature photography michigan
The Monarch butterfly hung from its chrysalis for at least half an hour until its wings filled out.
monarch butterfly hanging from chrysalis, wings not quite ready to fly, michigan photographer
Here’s a full length photo of the Monarch as it was waiting for its wings to finish doing their thing.
monarch butterfly macro close up of head, macro nature photography
Here’s a close up macro photo of the Monarch butterfly’s head. I am continually amazed by all the detail in such a small creature.
monarch butterfly eye, macro nature photographer
And here’s a really close up view of the Monarch butterfly’s eye. How incredible is that??
macro detail photograph of monarch butterfly wing, macro nature photographer
Another detail shot, this time of the Monarch’s wing. So incredible!
Monarch butterfly macro photograph of its head, macro nature photograph
And one last close up photograph of the Monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly with wings drying, hanging from chrysalis after eclosing, macro nature photographer
After some time had passed, the Monarch’s wings were finally getting to the point she could use them to fly. She didn’t fly away from several hours after we took her outside, but we wanted to make sure that when she did decide to fly, it wouldn’t be inside!
monarch butterfly with proboscis, hanging from chrysalis, macro nature photo
I love this photo because you can see the Monarch’s proboscis is partially extended. Those green chrysalises in the background weren’t ready on the day I took this photo, but they emerged successfully some days later.
monarch butterfly hanging near other monarch chrysalises, maccro nature photography michigan
And one final photograph of the Monarch butterfly. In this one, you can see all four chrysalises, including the butterfly’s empty one.

Now, you may recall me saying that I borrowed a video camera from my dad in order to film one of the butterflies eclosing.  That’s true.  I managed to film two butterflies eclosing from their chrysalises.  Here’s the video I created.  Portions of the film are time lapsed so that you can experience the entire transformation:

 

Monarch Caterpillars make their chrysalises!

posted in: Notes | 0

The next big step for any Monarch caterpillar is to pupate!  That’s when it turns from a caterpillar into a chrysalis.  I was blessed to be around when one of the caterpillars pupated, but he was sneaky so I only managed to capture a before and after rather than a “during” …maybe next time.  (if you missed my earlier posts, you can see the caterpillars when they were tiny, and the caterpillars when they’d grown bigger).

For purposes of disclosure, I should mention that I rehung most of the chrysalises… they were either on tin foil that I secured to the twig, or tied up there with dental floss.  I did a bit of research beforehand so as to avoid damaging the creatures, don’t worry.  But I wanted to let you know because these photos have been photoshopped — to remove the unsightly dental floss, tin foil, etc.  I did my best to give an accurate rendering and not depart from reality.  Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to try the super glue method!

Anyways, enjoy these macro photographs of the Monarch caterpillar and Monarch chrysalises.  They are really amazing to look at close up… and I just today learned that you can tell whether a butterfly is male or female while it’s in its chrysalis.  There is a little seam at near those black dots at the top of the chrysalis.  Very interesting!  Maybe next time around I’ll know to photograph… 🙂  …hindsight is 20/20, huh?

monarch caterpillar pupating, monarch chrysalis chrysalises, nature photography macro photo
Some of the monarch caterpillars had already pupated, but one hadn’t yet.
monarch caterpillar pupating, nature photographer
This monarch caterpillar is in a “J” shape because it’s beginning to pupate. I learned (from my first grader’s book) that they make this “J” shape when they’re beginning to make the first transformation.
caterpillar pupating, monarch caterpillar, monarch chrysalis
Another photo of the caterpillar pupating with the chrysalises.
monarch chrysalises hanging on stick with pupating caterpillar, nature photographer michigan
As you can see, we had a number of chrysalises that formed at the same time.
pupating monarch caterpillar, nature macro photography
I really enjoyed getting to see this phase of the monarch butterfly life cycle. It’s not often that you get to observe the process from start to finish… usually those caterpillars are pretty sneaky and do their transforming when you’re not looking!
monarch caterpillar pupating, macro nature photography
I changed up the lighting a little bit for this one. Look at all the detail…. so amazing!
pupating monarch caterpillar, macro nature photo
Okay, this is the last one of the pupating caterpillar, I promise. We’ll move onto some close ups of the chrysalises next.
newly formed monarch chrysalis, just pupated, macro nature photography
That little guy from the previous photos? Well, I looked away for maybe ten minutes, and he (she?) had pupated. This is a VERY newly formed chrysalis. Once you scroll further down, you’ll see what I mean…
newly formed chrysalis, monarch chrysalis, macro nature photo
Another one of the newly pupated chrysalis. It’s so bumpy and shiny!
newly pupated monarch chrysalis, macro photography
It’s really tough to convey a sense of how shiny these things are, but I was finally able to manipulate my lighting just right to create this photo. Can you see the shape of the wings on the chrysalis? So cool!
monarch butterfly chrysalis, macro nature photo
Okay, now here’s a chrysalis that formed earlier. See how much smoother it is? You can still make out the shape of the butterfly wing, but it’s much more streamlined
monarch chrysalis, translucent
I took this photo because the little metallic flecks on the chrysalis are mesmerizing. Based on the research I did, people aren’t sure what those flecks are for. You can also see the semi-translucent nature of the chrysalis is in this photo as well.
monarch caterpillar pupated, macro nature photography
I thought this monarch chrysalis was very interesting. The caterpillar pupated on a leaf that had been resting on the “ground” of its hotel. I attached it to the stick so it could develop properly. But the reason I found it interesting is how you can still see part of the caterpillar outside the chrysallis. I really don’t know the technical term for this, my apologies.
monarch caterpillar pupated into chrysalis, macro chrysalis photo
Here’s another photo of the same chrysalis, it’s crazy detailed. I really found this to be amazing! If you can explain the science to me, I’d definitely be interested ;).
monarch caterpillar pupated chrysalis, macro chrysalis photo
Yes, one last one of the same chrysalis. I thought it was that interesting.
monarch chrysalis, nature photo macro photograph
Here’s a photo of a different monarch chrysalis from a different angle. You can’t really see the line of metallic flecks on this side. As I discovered later in their life cycle, this is the side of the chrysalis that will split open. Pretty neat.
monarch chrysalis, macro photograph
Another view of those cool metallic dots on the chrysalis. You can also see that part of the chrysalis is darker inside …very interesting.
monarch caterpillars, macro photo
All the chrysalises, lined up in a row. In case you’re wondering, no, nature wasn’t this organized. I transferred all of the chrysalises to this stick — the caterpillars had used their silk to attach to the aluminum foil lid of their hotel, and I cut it up into strips before wrapping it around the stick. For the photos, I did touch it out….
monarch chrysalises hanging on a branch., macro photo
And one final picture of the chrysalises. I thought this one was particularly neat because it really highlights that newly formed chrysalis and how it stands out from the others that have been hanging there for longer.

Monarch Caterpillars – Take Two (They are bigger!!)

posted in: Fine Art | 0

Earlier I shared some macro photos of monarch caterpillars…. and since I promised to show you how much bigger they would get…. here you are!

The monarch caterpillars are definitely bigger.

A lot bigger.

Anyways, enjoy these photos. I did include the same dime in one of the photos so you could get a sense of scale. Because when you take such close up pictures… it’s hard to get a big or small a monarch caterpillar is.  And they’re definitely fatter, I will add — just like in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

monarch caterpillar macro photo taken from side, dexter mi photography
When I opened up the container, one of the caterpillars was hanging onto the tin foil lid. This guy is actually the smallest of all the caterpillars. Kind of makes me wonder if something is wrong with him, because he is definitely half the size of the other guys. Or, maybe he’s just a few days behind, growthwise. Your guess may be better than mine!
monarch caterpillar peeking over milkweed leaf, macro nature photographer dexter michigan
Oh my gosh. I seriously love this little caterpillar portrait… down to the little green thing that’s stuck to the monarch caterpillar’s antenna. So cool!
monarch caterpillar crawling on leaf. macro nature photography michigan
Here’s one of the fatter monarch caterpillars, from the side. I love hose this one shows off all those little legs. Very cool.
three monarch caterpillars on a milkweed leaf. macro photography nature michigan
Here are several of the caterpillars (we had six total in this round). It’s interesting how the stripes aren’t exactly identical. I wonder if they’re completely unique like zebra stripes?
monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaf, macro photography michigan
This monarch caterpillar was very wiggly. As soon as I set him down on the leaf for his photo, he started going places.
monarch caterpillars on milkweed, nature photography in miniature
Another one of the wiggly monarch caterpillar. He was one a mission of some kind!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, mostly eaten. michigan nature photography
This monarch caterpillar had completely eaten the milkweed leaf that he was hanging out on. Seriously, the only thing left was the stem.
monarch caterpillar eating milkweed leaf. macro photograph.
I love this photo of the caterpillar on the edge of the milkweed leaf. So cool to see the eaten part kind of curve around him!
monarch caterpillar profile view, front end
Now, which end of the monarch caterpillar do you think this is?
monarch caterpillar, profile view, back end
Here’s the other end of the caterpillar. Any guesses? It’s amazing how similar they look, right?
monarch caterpillars with us dime for sense of scale, nature photography macro
As promised, here’s a photo of the caterpillars with a dime for size comparison. Haven’t they gotten bigger since I took their photos last week?
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, macro nature photography dexter michigan
One final side view of the monarch caterpillars on their milkweed leaf. Notice how you can see the shadow of a second one on the leaf too?
caterpillars on milkweed leaves, caterpillar poop, macro nature photography dexter michigan
And a final photo of all (or most) of the monarch caterpillars. I took this after piling them all back in their living quarters. If you look closely, you can see caterpillar poop pellets… they look like little green pellets. Kind of interesting how much waste these guys make. Especially for kids, right?

 

I know some of you like videos. so here’s a video slideshow of the photos from both photoshoots.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  I will try to keep an eye on them so that you can see photos of them once they’ve made chrysalises.  My dad, a longtime amateur entomologist, has always dreamed of getting a time lapse video of a monarch caterpillar emerging from its chrysalis. Wouldn’t that be cool?  We’ll see if I can pull something like that off.

Anyways, I’ll leave you with one final fun fact, courtesy of my son’s monarch caterpillar book.  Did you know that monarch caterpillars born late in the season will fly directly south, instead of mating?  The ones born earlier in the summer are the ones that do the mating.  Interesting. Over and out.

Macro Portrait :: Monarch Caterpillar

posted in: Fine Art | 0

My kids love nature (woohoo! Excited parenting moment, right?)… and they are always asking if we can keep bugs or insects to “watch them” for a while.  Usually, we send the little critters back out into the wild after a brief observation period, of course.  But when it comes to Monarch caterpillars, I’m willing to make an exception.

You see, we have a friend who’s been raising Monarch caterpillars for years, so I was excited when we finally found some!  Where?  In my front garden bed, surprisingly.  The first round of caterpillars took a field trip to my son’s classroom for the entire class to enjoy watching.  Those five (no, maybe six?) caterpillars were pretty big, almost ready to make their chrysalises.

I made a mental note to check the milkweed plants a couple times later in the week, just in case we missed any.  Why?  Because my preschooler was sad about not getting to see the caterpillars.  Anyways, I happened to find six teeny tiny Monarch caterpillars. These guys would’ve been hidden really well if I didn’t know exactly which plants to search.

So, enjoy these photos.  I’ll try to take some more once they’ve grown bigger so you can get an idea of how much they grow in the caterpillar stage!

monarch caterpillar curled up on milkweed leaf
This was the biggest of the six caterpillars I found …he liked to play dead when I picked up his leaf…
monarch caterpillar next to hole in milkweed leaf
Another monarch caterpillar, next to the hole he had cruched in the milkweed leaf
Monarch caterpillars on milkweed
You can see one caterpillar on the underside of this leaf, and the shadow of another one hiding on the opposite side close by. Cool!
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf
They are so tiny, but so intricate. I loved photographing these Monarch caterpillars!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
They crawled around a little bit during their portrait session, but such is life when photographing critters.
three monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.
You can see three Monarch caterpillars in this shot. The curled up one, another on top of the leaf, and a third caterpillar on the underside of the top leaf (near the top of the photo).
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf with water drops.
I liked how the water drops looked on the milkweed leaves. That’s from my spray bottle, so they had water, by the way.
Monarch caterpillars on opposite sides of a milkweed leaf
Two of the caterpillars, one on each side of the leaf again. Thanks for bearing with all these photos…. the kids were really interested and wanted me to share these!
Monarch caterpillars hiding on milkweed leaf
Yup, another Monarch caterpillar is hiding on the backside of this leaf. That makes two…
Two Monarch caterpillars on milkweed. One larger.
This photo shows how one of the Monarch caterpillars is bigger than most of the ones I found.
monarch caterpillar near edge of milkweed leaf.
I love this photo of the Monarch caterpillar.!!!!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
The big guy decided to uncurl and hang out on a milkweed leaf, so I took a few more photos of him.
macro close up of monarch caterpillar
This is the closest macro photo I could get with my fancy camera gear… at least the stuff I had easily accessible. Not bad, not bad at all. Amazing detail on these guys!
monarch caterpillar near chewed up milkweed leaf.
One more of the biggest-small Monarch caterpillar…just because.
monarch caterpillars next to a dime (american currency) for scale
Here are two of the caterpillars next to a dime for size comparison. Seriously, they’re tiny!!
monarch caterpillar with USA dime for sense of scale
Another one of the caterpillars next to the dime…I’m not sure he would even cover the letters “LIBERTY” …it might be close!
monarch caterpillar near big hole in milkweed leaf
And right when I was starting to put the caterpillars away, one of the caterpillars crawled on the edge of the milkweed leaf, right near this huge hole. I thought it was really neat!
monarch caterpillar from the side
And finally, a profile shot of the Monarch caterpillar. In this one, you can really see how the head and back end of these caterpillars look very similar. The head is to the left of the photo. Did you get mixed up?

Winter Storm

posted in: Photo Essay | 0

I love winter.  …the cold, crisp, air… the snow… the whole thing.  And so I was just about as exited as our boys were to get our first big storm of the season.  We got a lot of snow. The boys begged to go out and build a snowman, and so we bundled up and went out — but the snow was a little too crumbly.  We made a baby snowman, and then moved onto bigger and better things — a snow fort!  Steven shoveled some snow from the yard into piles during a driveway-shoveling-break, and then Toby and I built a knee-high (or waist-high, depending on who you ask) horseshoe fort.  Toby kept kicking holes in it to make space for a refrigerator.  Then, after a brief snowball fight, it was time to go inside — frostbite prevention!

We didn’t get back out in the snow that day, to play, that is.  We did take a drive that evening (as an aside, I’m really thankful we now have a truck).  The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland (okay, it was there the night before too, but give me a break here).  The boys were super excited when they woke up.  But, before they did, I was able to sneak out for a brief walk through our woods on my own (Steven was great, he saw the eager look in my eyes and said “go.”).

So, here are some photographs of my morning excursion.  I love the predawn quiet and stillness.  I got to see a deer, and tracks from several animals who’ve been using the path I made in our woods this summer.

But best of all, I got to see the sun rise and kiss the treetops with warmth and light.

snow on our bradford pear tree -- still with leaves
snow on our bradford pear tree — still with leaves
our house in the moments before the sun rose
our house in the moments before the sun rose
a quiet entrance into our woods
a quiet entrance into our woods
I wasn't the first one to use the path through our woods...
I wasn’t the first one to use the path through our woods…
waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon, I looked back at the way I had come through the woods.
waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon, I looked back at the way I had come through the woods.
Our playground collected a "modest" amount of snow...
Our playground collected a “modest” amount of snow…
I love how the monkey bars held onto snow!
I love how the monkey bars held onto snow!
My recently-hung windchime collected some snow too.
My recently-hung windchime collected some snow too.
The sun starting to rise and cast light on the trees in our woods.
The sun starting to rise and cast light on the trees in our woods.
As the sun rose higher the woods became awash with warmth
As the sun rose higher the woods became awash with warmth
I always love to look at how the snow coats one side of a tree during winter storms
I always love to look at how the snow coats one side of a tree during winter storms
Loving the warm rays on our snow-laden trees.
Loving the warm rays on our snow-laden trees.
A juxtaposition of near and far, shadow and sun.
A juxtaposition of near and far, shadow and sun.
I can't get enough of this tree. Loved looking up it!
I can’t get enough of this tree. Loved looking up it!
As the sun finished rising over the horizon, I enjoyed watching the steam rise across the lake (barely visible in this shot)
As the sun finished rising over the horizon, I enjoyed watching the steam rise across the lake (barely visible in this shot)
Another crooked tree that piqued my interest.
Another crooked tree that piqued my interest.
Another one of the path through the woods, now that the sun had risen.
Another one of the path through the woods, now that the sun had risen.
I love trekking through snow. This snowfall wasn't quite deep enough for me to pull out snowshoes.
I love trekking through snow. This snowfall wasn’t quite deep enough for me to pull out snowshoes.
An abstract shot of the sunrise through my tracks in the snow.
An abstract shot of the sunrise through my tracks in the snow.
As I headed back to the garage to go inside, I enjoyed one last peek at the sunrise, our woods, our house, and the horseshoe fort we'd made the day before. I love winter.
As I headed back to the garage to go inside, I enjoyed one last peek at the sunrise, our woods, our house, and the horseshoe fort we’d made the day before. I love winter.

Thanks for indulging me.  I know some of you aren’t fond of winter (*gasp!*).  But I really love all four seasons — except that constant state of flux where it freezes then thaws, freezes then thaws, etc.   Snow is gorgeous.  As Toby observed, it is “all sparkly.”  The snow shimmers, reflects light, casts a whole new wonder about the world. It makes the ordinary and the mundane seem surreal and magical.  It makes us take a pause from our daily routine to admire the wonders of creation around us.

At least at the start of winter, right? 🙂

First Snow – Grayling, MI

posted in: Notes | 0

It’s amazing how transient things are, how quickly the seasons change.  We went up north last weekend as part of our continued “working on the cabin” saga.  And yes, that’s why things have been a little quiet around here on the blog.  Real life obligations always come first — in this case, it was an amalgam of things for clients as well as the addition we are adding to the cabin.

Anyways, last weekend we were expecting cold weather, but certainly not snow.  We unpacked the truck in between snow flurries and frozen rain showers.  And in the morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Well, snow wasn’t completely covering the ground, but there was certainly enough for the boys to stomp about, shovel off the deck, and make snowballs.

Here’s a view off the back deck of the cabin, at sunrise.

bphotoart-DSC_8313-Pano-grayling-mi

Yes, it was still snowing that morning.  The grayish white specks all over these images (faintly resembling sensor dust) are really large snowflakes coming down.  Zack was enthralled and wanted nothing but to be carried outside so he could try to grab snowflakes.  Toby tried his hand at catching snowflakes on his tongue, before moving onto bigger ventures — shoveling the deck.bphotoart-DSC_8305-grayling-mi

There’s something to be said for the warmth of the early morning sun coming up over a snowy scene.  These pictures simply don’t do it justice.

bphotoart-DSC_8301-grayling-mi

The air was a bit hazy with all that moisture as the sun came up, giving off an ethereal glow…

bphotoart-DSC_8297-grayling-mi

And here’s the best “it’s snowing” picture I took before heading back inside to make breakfast.  So many snowflakes in the air.  It was gorgeous.  Cold.  But gorgeous.

bphotoart-DSC_8294-grayling-mi

Thanks for letting me share.  I’ll be working more blog posts back into the schedule this fall and winter, so don’t be surprised to see things get “back to normal” around here.  As always, I’d love to chat with you about planning a portrait session… so get in touch!

Nature Photography For Kids

posted in: Learning | 4

Nature Photography... for Kids!Getting kids excited about nature doesn’t have to take a lot of planning or prep work.  It’s as simple as heading outdoors.  Or, if the weather isn’t conducive to being outside, as simple as finding a window to observe nature!

Toby and I have had a lot of fun observing nature, and talking about the intricacies of the world in which we live.  I enjoy these moments, and the unplanned nature (haha, unintentional pun!) of our nature activities leaves the discussions open-ended and interest driven.

While Toby’s photography skills leave a “little” room for improvement (hey, come on, he’s still in preschool), I decided to share a sampling of the world from a child’s eyes.  The tiled series of images are all created by my son, without any direction or assistance from me.

Yes, I hand him a camera and tell him to have fun.

Are the pictures always in focus?

No.  Nope.  But does that matter?  He’s excited about photography.  He’s excited about nature.  He loves looking at the pictures he took.

And he’s finding nature everywhere — indoors, outdoors, …places we adults have forgotten to look for it.

This camera may be beaten and manhandled in the process, but it’s honestly really fun to scroll through the pictures on Toby’s memory card.

Just one note to the wise – you’ll save disk space if you reduce the image file size …kids take A LOT of pictures, as you might remember from my post where Toby took a plethora of selfies on my phone camera.

Trust me, these are just a sampling of the photos.  He took many selfies on his camera too.  Lots of pictures of our house, and his baby brother.  Some candid photos of the cats… need I continue?

But there are gems in there.  Reminders of what it’s like to experience life as a kid.  So I challenge you to let go, give up a little control, and see the world from your child’s perspective.  Giving them a camera is an opportunity to do this.

Here are the nature shots I found.  Some blurred abstractions, many focusing on the clouds.  Some from a civil war reenactment (his grandparents are reenactors).  Nature as seen from the car. Nature as seen from the house.

Nature photography doesn’t have to be created “off the beaten path.”  You can find nature wherever you are.

bphotoart-toddler-camera-captures

While these Instagram photos aren’t taken by Toby, I wanted to share some views of nature as we get to enjoy it on a regular basis.  This first one is the view from our family room — we get to see a glorious sunrise every morning.

One morning, Toby ran to wake me up, exclaiming, “look at the beautiful sunrise!”  What a precious moment.

#sunlight #sunrise #snow

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And my toddler is fascinated with videos. He regularly asks me to take videos on my phone.  This one was of the snow falling.  There’s something gorgeous about snowflakes floating towards the ground — something we adults often miss in the hurry to be off to work and down the driveway.

Snow falling…. A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And who can forget the joy of a snow day in their childhood?  I know Toby will enjoy his memories of getting outdoors, out in the snow.  Maybe he’ll remember the time he had me stomp through the 15″ deep snow drifts in my snowshoes to make giant hearts for Valentine’s Day (during which I lost my phone).  Or maybe he’ll cherish the independence of being allowed to “shovel” the driveway for me (before taking a break to climb snow mounds).

I’d love to hear ideas on how you help your kids learn to appreciate nature! Please share in the comments below!

outdoor-play-challenge

Finding Ways for Kids to Discover Nature

posted in: Learning | 6
Finding Ways for Kids to Discover Nature
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Nature is a wonderful thing.  It’s beautiful.  Sometimes pristine, usually affected by suburbia.  Regardless of whether you can find “unspoiled” natural areas near you, there are still plenty of opportunities to discover nature.  Even if you live in the city.  Originally, I’d planned to talk about symmetry in nature, and how we can find patterns and repetition in naturally occurring objects around us, but due to the cold weather keeping us indoors for the past few days, I’ll leave that as a suggestion for a future activity. And instead, I’ll share seven different posts that will help inspire you as you work on finding ways for kids to discover nature.

  • How to Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids: This is a great way for kids to enhance their natural curiousity and hone their observation skills.  We tend to gravitate towards low key activities, so you’ll be happy to know that this post of mine was all about keeping things simple.   What did we do?  We took a camera and headed outdoors — Toby pointed things out and we took pictures of them with our cameras.  It might be fun, next time we do this photo scavenger hunt, to make a photo memory game from some of the images.
  • Learning About Bugs – observe critters or insects: you can catch real live insects if you like, or go with the preserved variety, as we did in this post.  We used bugs to learn about nature, to practice counting, tracing, and more.  Next time we learn about critters, I might make an “I Spy” game for Toby, so that he can work on observing similarities and differences between different objects found in nature.
  • Unstructured Outdoor Play: Last winter, I blogged numerous times about how Toby enjoyed playing in the snow — out on our deck.  There was no lesson plan, no objective.  Nothing for him to learn.  But despite the unstructured nature of his time outdoors, I still observed Toby learning.  He heard the sound of the wind, felt the coldness of the snow, watched it change from snow and melt into water.  The act of playing “without purpose” can be a very useful thing indeed.
  • Nature Art: An Exercise in Process Art: This activity was one of my favorites.  Toby helped me collect different items from our yard, and then he spent time arranging, ordering, and sorting them in a bin.  The activity required no setup on my part, and he learned a lot. We discussed seed pods, seeds, and all sorts of nature-related things.  And even though it’s been a few seasons since we made nature art like this, Toby still talks about his experience with process art using nature as a medium.
  • Bird Watching – Up Close!: Last summer we installed a window bird feeder in the playroom.  It was a great idea, and Toby was very excited to watch for birds. I’m not sure who has enjoyed this observation station more — my toddler, or the cats.  Nevertheless, It’s been great to have a way to hone our observation skills up close, and watch how birds come in for a snack.
  • Sundog Rainbow Sunrise: Another neat aspect of nature, sundogs are “rainbows” that form when it’s not raining.  Check out this post for more information.  Toby loved learning about sundogs, and I learned quite a big myself as we researched the phenomenon one cold winter morning.
  • Backyard Wildlife: In our semi-rural setting, we have many opportunities for observing wildlife.  Last year there was a herd of 30 deer we could watch out back.  Turkeys walked through our yard, we could hear coyotes chattering to one another in the early morning, and a mother fox had babies in the neighborhood.  One year, I even watched a fawn being birthed in the tall grass behind us.  Toby loves looking for wildlife, and maybe it’s because of our location… but even if we were in an urban area, I would do what I could to make sure we could enjoy the local wildlife.  One of Toby’s favorite tools for wildlife watching? Kid binoculars, of course.  Read the post for more.

So, there you have it. seven ideas to help make discovering nature easy! I hope you can implement some of these ideas into your daily routine; I know we’ve enjoyed honing our observation skills and marveling at the beauty of nature around us — no matter where we are!


A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

 

Making a Popcorn Garland – 5 eco-friendly tree trimming ideas

posted in: Notes | 0

Making a Popcorn Garland: 5 eco-friendly tree trimming ideasWhen it comes to decorating our Christmas tree, I’m all for making it simple and easy these days. I grew up with a show-stopping, light laden tree, trimmed to all get out. Sometimes it would take my dad a week to put all the lights on — when finished, every single branch would be individually wrapped in strands of Christmas tree lights. And the ornaments would follow suit. Sometimes the tree was almost blinding! Very pretty, but a lot of work.

So for our own tree, we’ve gravitated towards simplicity. Each year, we’ve done fewer and fewer strands of lights, until this year we found the perfect number – two. Two strands of lights… no double digits. No hours spent working with lights. Just a simple spiral around the interior of the tree’s branches. Add a home-strung popcorn garland, and then it was time for the ornaments. We went simple on the ornaments, putting up less than one of our two boxes. Toby was so excited to help hang ornaments this year; I had a box of non-breakable ornaments for him to work from while we hung the breakable ones higher up. He was thrilled. Our tree may be a little unevenly laden with decorations, but that’s part of its charm.

I’ll talk about my five eco-friendly tree trimming tips in a minute, but first let me share our popcorn garland experience. As we did when making popcorn bars, we used the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper #afflink — but didn’t add any butter, of course. No one wants a greasy popcorn garland.  The popcorn was made, then spread on cookie sheets to cool.  We then got out some lengths of thread and needles… and started stringing popcorn.

Initially, I’d planned to do the traditional cranberry popcorn garland for outdoors, but then I thought, why not string the popcorn only, and put it on the Christmas tree?  We’ll still put the garland outdoors, after Christmas day has come and gone… when the tree goes outside.  So the birds will still be getting a feast.  But this way we can enjoy the results of our hard work too.

Toby was very diligent about doing this project, even though it was probably a little “old” for him.  He poked his finger with the needle a few times, but not enough to draw blood.  He threaded most of a 3 foot strand himself, while I made a 15 foot strand with Steven’s help.  Note to the wise — you can make a few shorter strands, line them up on the tree, and it will look like one continuous popcorn garland.  No need to make extra work by dealing with an extra-long tangled thread.

Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

Now that you’ve seen our project… I’ll share the finished tree pictures with you.  But first, those 5 eco-friendly tree trimming tips.

  1. Make a popcorn garland to trim the tree.
  2. Reuse old ornaments.
  3. Cut down on the number of light strands.
  4. Get an on/off switch for your tree lights so you can save energy more easily. They even have switches that look like ornaments #afflink
  5. Let your tree do double duty by putting it out in the backyard for the wildlife after Christmas

I know these aren’t mind blowing tips, but they are pretty simple — and easy to do.  And the easier something is, the more likely you can incorporate it into your routine.

And now for a sampling of our Christmas decorations. Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

 

What about you?  How do you trim your tree?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Memories of Montana – Camping With Family

posted in: Notes | 0

I have many fond memories of Montana.  Growing up, we would take trips almost every summer to visit my aunt and cousin.  My mom, brother, and I were the frequent travelers; my dad would often stay behind due to work obligations.  We would spend several days at my aunt’s house, enjoying the outdoor hot tub and getting the RV ready.

Then, we would load up. Pack everything into the RV: food, clothes, toys, games… you name it.  We were ready for our adventure.  Buckled into the bench seats at the table, we would play cards, color, or often people watch out the rear window.  We would stop when we needed, or if stopping wasn’t an option, there was always the choice to use the facilities enroute. Food was always a few steps away, in the kitchen; although opening the refrigerator door while rattling down the road was a little hairy.

Campgrounds were our destination, sometimes KOAs, sometimes pristine wilderness areas.  Once, we parked in a campground during the pitch black of night.  We’d been on the road all night, and didn’t even hook up when we pulled in for the night. That morning, when we woke, we found ourselves in the charred remains of a forest.  My mother has vivid memories of driving the RV around hairpin curves, steep drop-offs.

55 mph was our speed limit (if that).  But didn’t matter. We loved every minute of our travels.  We visited the “must-see” places, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the like.  We stopped at indiscriminate sites too.  Colored pencils let us document our trip in drawing pads, or stones from one of the rivers that we gathered to paint.

We rafted down rivers, once being dropped off by the adults, to meet at the pick-up point a mile or two down the river.  We had campfires, watched wildlife, and enjoyed late nights whispering under the covers in the “loft” bed above the cab.  Self-sufficiency was ours, we could go wherever, whenever.  As long as we monitored the gray and black water tanks.

We stayed in bear country. We saw bears. Black bear cubs climbing over fences, many yards away.  Grizzly bears, brown bears.  Bears that came up to our RV while we were on the road — my cousin’s bicycle handle had the teeth marks to prove it.

We always came back from Montana with many fond memories, eager to return again.  We would always bemoan the fact our families lived so far apart.

But even today, we still have the memories.

Family Trip to Montana

5 Tips for Capturing the Colors of Fall in Your Outdoor Portraits

posted in: Photography | 2

This year the signs are pointing to an early — and hard — winter. We had autumn leaves on our deck today, we’ve seen deer with antlers earlier than usual, and my friend reported that up north the trees are already sporting fall colors. This winter may come early and with a vengeance.

That being said, let’s talk fall colors. Outdoor portraits look fantastic when you have the vibrant fall colors on display. I love doing family portraits, senior portraits, and the like outdoors in fall.

So, if you’d like to plan for a portrait session outdoors this fall, make sure to contact me well ahead of time so we can plan and accommodate for the autumn leaves that will likely come — and fall — earlier than usual.

5 Tips for Fall Portraits

1. Earlier is better.

If you’re worried about the leaves falling quickly, it’s better to get your outdoor portrait taken when the fall colors are just starting to fill in.  If you wait too long, you’ll get the tail end of fall, and your setting may not have many leaves on the trees still.

2. Scout out your location.

Even within a five mile radius, the onset of autumn can vary, depending on how well the trees are sheltered or how much they are exposed to the elements.  Plus, the type of tree matters — different kinds of trees will change colors and lose their leaves at different rates.

3. Make a backup plan.

While you can prepare for most scenarios, it is always good to have a backup plan.  Be flexible, just in case you need to make on-the-fly changes.  I’ve changed locations at the last minute, and even changed appointment dates to work around the weather (or in this case, the leaves).

4. Dress appropriately, and bring a sweater.

The weather can change so quickly during autumn.  Sometimes we have been ok in short sleeves, other times a light sweater is not enough.  So, be prepared — and remember that the wind can make it seem much colder than you might anticipate.

5. There’s always next year.

Life happens, and sometimes capturing that moment you had envisioned ….well, it just doesn’t work out exactly as you wanted.  But that’s ok.  We do the best we can to ensure success, and then go with the flow.  Seasons come and go incessantly.  There will be more fall colors next year — if you miss out this year you can always try again come next fall.

Some Inspiration…

Now, for some past client portraits, taken during the fall.  I figure this will help get those creative gears turning, get you inspired and excited for fall to come (even though you might not be ready for it yet).

Family portraits like this one below are always gorgeous, but even more so in the fall.  There’s just something transient and ethereal about fall colors, don’t you think?

portrait family photographer dexter michigan - fall

And of course, senior portraits have just a little added warmth when taken in fall.  This scene would have been gorgeous with full greenery in the foliage, but by waiting for the leaves to turn golden, it has a little more interest.  There are leaves already falling, they rest on the steps, on the path, and you can enjoy the full range of greens to golden oranges in the setting.  We actually planned this senior portrait specifically to capture the autumn leaves at this location.  Our timing was impeccable.

bphotoart-portrait-420 - fall

And another senior portrait taken during the fall, after the leaves had started to turn colors.  This one was taken at my client’s home, so the setting was important and meaningful.  The fact that autumn is a transitional season, that it doesn’t last very long, also adds another layer of meaning into senior portraits, don’t you think?  Senior year is a time of transition, towards independence and adulthood — becoming your own person.

bphotoart-portrait-246 - fall

And one final senior portrait.  We spent a good twenty minutes searching for fall colors that would photograph well — sometimes scheduling constraints keep us from planning the “perfect” fall portrait session.  But, imperfect is normal…. it’s a part of life.  And we were able to find this stand of trees that had already started to turn.

bphotoart-20290-098-Edit - fall

I’ll reiterate myself now — plan ahead.  Fall comes quickly, and if you’re not careful, you might miss those gorgeous autumn hues that really make an outdoor portrait pop.

Case in point?

This week we noticed the leaves in our yard are already starting to turn.  The leaves are falling.  And it’s only August.

3 Tips for a Successful Outdoor Portrait Session

posted in: Photography | 3

When planning a portrait session for someplace outside, you have to do a little more planning.  There are more variables to consider, more possibilities, more potential problems.  A little later on, I’ll share 3 tips to make sure you have a successful outdoor portrait session.  But first, let me share some images from one of the portrait sessions I’ve done this summer since my son’s birth.

Debbie and Holly are both flutists in the Ann Arbor area; they came to me looking for an updated Flute Fusion group portrait.  This time around, they wanted something more casual, contemporary, and natural.

Something outdoors.

So, planning for the portrait session to take place outdoors was a natural choice.  They knew they wanted something green, maybe with some trees — something kind of “edgy” but not too much so.

Here is one of my favorite photographs from their session.  Sometimes it’s ok to not be looking at the camera 🙂

bphotoart-portrait-flute-outdoors-20315-096

Now, let’s get to those tips for a successful outdoor portrait session.  When planning for an outdoors portrait session,

1. Make Backup Plans

We all know how often the weatherman is wrong, no?  While checking the forecast is a good idea, it’s a better idea to have a backup plan.  Maybe an alternate (indoor) location in case of rain, or plans to reschedule for another day.

Debbie and Holly wanted their photos outdoors in nature, so we had scheduled their session with wiggle room — enough time to do the portraits another day if the weather failed to cooperate.

2. Wear The Right Shoes

If you’re going outdoors, chances are good that you’ll be traipsing through mud, dirt, loose gravel — you name it.  Sometimes I’ll recommend my clients wear a pair of walking shoes and then change into their dress shoes once we have walked to our location.  Stiletto heels, in particular, can be difficult to wear while walking through a field or grassy area.  Those heels poke right into the ground.

For the portraits in the field of Queen Anne’s lace, Holly wore her dress shoes, as they had a low heel and kept the hem of her pants from dusting the ground.  Debbie changed out of her heels into walking sandals, as her other shoes would’ve been difficult for walking in the field.

3. Coordinate Your Attire Based on the Location

You don’t have to go with boring clothing, but when you’re outdoors, there is already a lot going on.  Simpler clothing can help draw the focus to the main subject when the setting is more complex.

Imagine if Debbie and Holly had worn patterned blouses.  For the images with the railing, where they are separated from the background by a good distance, it probably would have worked.  But in the field with the Queen Anne’s lace?  It would have made my eyes hurt!

That’s All…For Now!

So, there you have them.  My 3 tips to help make sure your next outdoor portrait session will be a success.  I’m sure that, given time, I could add to this list (my mind is already brainstorming things like: bring a brush, include your puppy). But that’s something to be tackled another day.  Hopefully seeing how these three tips applied to Debbie and Holly’s portrait session was helpful for you!

Do you have any ideas for ensuring a success next time you have your photographs taken outdoors?

Some more images from Debbie and Holly’s session are below.  Enjoy!  Click on any image to open in gallery view mode.

Plein Air Paintings – Paint Dexter 2014

posted in: Fine Art | 6

This past week was pretty busy!  I enjoyed participating in the second annual Paint Dexter Plein Air festival (see my paintings from last year).  This time I didn’t paint solo though — I had a entourage with me (both boys, and grandma).  My newborn slept, my toddler painted for a bit with grandma, then both enjoyed the outdoors while I kept working.  Due to the weather, we didn’t go out to paint the first two days (while I wouldn’t have minded painting in the rain, I didn’t want to bring the kiddos along to get soaked).

So, I had two days to complete my two plein air paintings for the festival.  Plus a third painting that was part of the “Quick Draw” event — but, honestly, they all felt like quick draws to me!  I enjoyed painting so spontaneously, not really worrying about minute details, and rather going for an artistic representation.  Although, I will say, these pieces were a little more realistic than the abstract style I’d briefly entertained using.

Day One – Painting a Caterpillar En Plein Air

We went to one of the Dexter metroparks and while I was deciding what scenery to paint, I found a curious little caterpillar.  He had crawled onto my painting supply bag.  I gently helped him onto a branch, and proceeded to paint him as the subject for the first day.  I really had fun with this piece.  The green background did start out as abstract circles, but then I melded the colors together.  I felt like a kid for a bit while I was flicking drops of paint onto the paper — so freeing to make a mess outdoors (no cleanup!).  And finally, the fuzzy white hairs of the caterpillar — sticking out every which way — were enjoyable to create too.  Can you tell I had fun on this day?

"Caterpillar" - 9"x12" watercolor - $350
“Caterpillar” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

Day Two – Plein Air Painting at Night

The evening after painting the caterpillar, I saw a most fantastic view out my son’s bedroom window.  The moon was gorgeous, surrounded by ever changing clouds.  I decided it would be fun to paint a night scene — and so I did!  It was fun to use so much black in a painting (as an aside, my son would agree – his favorite color to paint with is currently black).  The dark colors were a bit challenging too, as watercolors aren’t usually so low-key in nature.  I ended up adding in our grass in the foreground, taking a low vantage point rather than including the lake and the trees on the horizon, which were all but silhouettes against the city glow of Ann Arbor in the distance.  I enjoyed seeing my painted clouds shape themselves and change as I added layers of paint, ever shifting just as the real clouds do.

"Moon at Night" - 9"x12" watercolor - $350
“Moon at Night” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

Day Three – Quick Draw Painting

The final day of painting was the actual Quick Draw event.  I had three hours to complete this final piece — not too stressful, as the other two pieces were completed in that timeframe.  Such is the life of an artist who happens to be a mother.  Especially to little ones — time is precious, and all too fleeting!  After going downtown Dexter to register, I returned home to set up shop.  Grandma played with my toddler in our yard so he could be near mommy (someone likes to watch me paint).  I sat out on our deck, accompanied by a sleeping baby, painting the lovely view of our trees.

I have to admit, working under a three hour time constraint turned out to be a little stressful.  Some of my experimentation while painting did NOT turn out as planned, and I had to backtrack a couple times.  I think it turned out for the better, in the end, of course.  But I definitely could have worked longer on this piece, as I was originally envisioning much more detail in the final painting.

"Trees" - 9"x12" watercolor - $500
“Trees” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

So, there you have it.  My three plein air paintings from this year’s Paint Dexter event.  I enjoyed participating.  It will be interesting to see the other paintings that were created this week — all are on display in Monument Park until Saturday afternoon — for sale by silent auction (or “buy it now” price).

Thoughts on Painting and Creativity

I wish I painted more often.  Every time I paint, I tell myself that.  But then life happens.

This time, I am going to try and make sure I get my hands on a paintbrush again soon.  Painting is so soothing, relaxing, inspiring.  Especially when I allow myself the freedom to experiment and play, rather than trying to adhere to “what should be.”

Because, let’s face it, part of art is breaking the rules.

Of course, you have to learn and master the rules before you break them.  Or so they say.

 

Peony Garden Family Portraits

posted in: Photography | 2

Nichols Arboretum, or the Arb, as it is affectionately known by Ann Arborites, is a wonderful park to visit. It’s one of my favorite places to do family portraits (or any kind of portrait photos, for that matter). And if you’re so lucky as to visit when the peonies are in bloom? Well, then you’re in for a treat.

This family portrait session was planned not only in the Arb, but in the peony garden. And if you know anything about plants, some are limited in how long the blooms are vibrant and fresh. So we planned this family portrait session carefully, based on advice from the peony garden’s website. The peak bloom time is usually late May to early June — but depends on the weather.

Fortunately, the peak bloom time coincided with this family portrait session, and we even had a wonderfully sunny day. During the summer months, I try to plan portraits like this during the earlier morning hours so it hasn’t had a chance to get muggy or sticky out. And the weather on this particular day was great. I love how everything turned out, and that the entire family coordinated to wear University of Michigan attire.  Since, as you know, Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan.

All of these images were also compiled into a custom-designed coffeetable photo album. I think albums are a great way to tell a story, to include more images than you could feasibly display on your wall. And, it’s a great place to include those silly outtakes that I always think have such personality.

 

Working in the Garden with Kids

posted in: Parenting | 8

Today I’m blogging about Gardening With A Toddler over at In All You Do.  As you know, when kids are in the picture, chores and tasks just take longer. Now that we’re not restricted to indoor gardening (i.e. growing romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps), it’s been great to get outdoors and really work with the plants.

Our son loves working in the garden — but maybe that’s because he has lots of cool kid-sized garden tools, and even a neat digger that our neighbors gave us.

Working in the Garden With Kids - BPhotoArt.com

The weather took a while to get warmer, so we had to delay planting some of our seedlings. But my son was thrilled to help care for them as we set them outside each day, then took them in for the night. We even had to take in the hanging plants I got for Mother’s Day several times as it dropped to almost freezing several nights in a row.

Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Working in the garden with kids can be such a great learning experience though. When we were at a friend’s house to get seedlings, I learned a lot about heirloom tomato varieties and hybrides. Interestingly, this same friend who gave us our tomato seedlings was able to give us a black cherry tomato variety when Toby choose black as the color tomato he wanted (over pink or orange). We’ll see how things grow!

Plaints Waiting to be put into the ground - Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Here are some photos of our spring gardening; click on any thumbnail to enter gallery view:

Gardening Tips + Resources

If you’re looking for gardening tips and resources, here are some of my favorites.  I’ve listed specifically links for working in the garden with kids, but make sure to check out my Pinterest board too — I’m always pinning neat ideas about gardening there when I find tips online.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Greenery + Gardening on Pinterest.

Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Do You Have Tips for Working in the Garden with Kids?

Do you have any go-to ideas for getting kids to work well in the garden with you? What about suggestions of things to NOT do? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments section!

How to Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 8

What better way to get outdoors than to plan an outdoor photo scavenger hunt for the kids? Scavenger hunts can be a lot of fun, and if you opt to do a photo scavenger hunt it lines up with the wildlife preservation philosophy: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”

Whether we’re in our backyard or in our local park, I’ve tried to explain this concept to our son. The idea of leaving a place nicer than you found it can be explained a number of ways to toddlers. My frequent comment is something along the lines of: “if everyone took a rock, there wouldn’t be any left for anyone to enjoy!”

Ok, so onto our outdoor photo scavenger hunt for kids!

Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

When planning a photo scavenger hunt for kids, you can keep it really simple, or go all out with fancy printables and photo checklists. When doing this activity with my toddler, we opted for the simpler, more impromptu, method. But if you have an older child, make sure to check out some of the resources at the end of this post, as I found a lot of neat checklists and printables for photo scavenger hunts for kids.

Our Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt

Since our son is three, and can’t read yet, we didn’t make any printed lists (I’ll share a list of ideas later on though). We just went outside in the backyard with a camera! We walked around, I pointed out nature items and our son spotted and/or identified them.

Toby wasn’t too interested in taking the pictures himself (wow, that’s a once in a lifetime occurrence!), so I took pictures of either the objects themselves, or him with the item of interest.  The key is being flexible so it’s fun for your kid!

Later, I got the pictures off the camera and onto the computer, where we enjoyed looking through the pictures and talking about what we found in our backyard!  If you’re trying to limit screen time, I could see printing out the photos and putting them in an album for a future “find it from the photo” scavenger hunt.

Spring Backyard Photo Scavenger Hunt – Photos

Here are some of the things we found on our scavenger hunt!  A little further on, I’ll give you a list of things we were looking for, but as you’ll see from the images I’m sharing, my son was focused on spring flowers and other greenery during this outing.  Just so you know, we took more pictures, but I’m just sharing a sampling of the photos from our scavenger hunt to give you an idea of what we found (click on any thumbnail to open the large view gallery).

Photo Scavenger Hunt Checklist

If you’re looking for a list of ideas, here are some things you could put on the photo scavenger hunt list!

  • Flowers/Plants: daffodil, black-eyed Susan, daisy, marigold, peony, rose, strawberry bush, tomato plant, garlic, chives, oregano, mint, dandelion, ragweed, milkweed
  • Trees/Saplings: maple, oak, pine, apple, pear, cherry, dogwood, willow, blue spruce, birch, poplar
  • Seeds/Nuts: acorn, walnut, mushroom
  • Insects/little things: bumblebee, mayfly, dragonfly, housefly, ladybug, aphid, ant, pillbug/rolypoly, millipede, centipede, earthworm, praying mantis, walking stick
  • Birds: red-winged blackbird, robin, chickadee, oriole, blue bird, mourning dove, Canadian goose, swan, great blue heron, turkey vulture, sparrow, barn swallow
  • Animals: deer, squirrel, rabbit, fox, coyote, chipmunk, garter snake, field mouse, groundhog, skunk (hope not!)

With older kids, you can print out the list, hand it to them, and have them venture off with a camera to photograph all the different things they can find.  I chose to keep the list on the shorter side by grouping all flowers into one item.  Multiple photos could be taken for bonus points!

Younger kids, such as my toddler, will need the photo scavenger hunt to be adapted based on their current temperament and interest.

Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids – Resources

Here are some other posts I found, some of which include printables, that should provide inspiration for your photo scavenger hunt! I’ve also included some more scavenger hunt goodies from Pinterest! (Links will open in a new window for your convenience)

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Scavenger Hunt (for kids) on Pinterest.

Have Ideas for a Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids?

I’d love to hear your ideas of things to look for, what activities worked for you, and thoughts on how activities like this can be tweaked for different age groups.

And, if you do try this photo scavenger hunt idea, make sure to report back as to how your kids liked the activity!

Backyard Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids - Flowers - BPhotoArt.com

The Backyard Games Series - Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt - BPhotoArt.comThis post is part of a series celebrating Backyard Games week (May 19-26).

Thirteen bloggers, including myself, are sharing some great backyard game ideas to help get you outdoors!

Visiting Mill Creek Park in Dexter

posted in: Local | 16

One of the perks about our nice weather? Being able to spend time outdoors without bundling up! I love being able to get outdoors, but especially if the sun is shining and it’s not too warm or too cold.  We did a combination walk/bike excursion at the park, which worked …except my son is pretty quick on his balance bike.  Next time, I may consider bringing along my bike so I can do a better job of keeping up!

Mill Creek Park Boardwalk - Dexter Outdoors 5565

All the photographs in this post were taken at the Mill Creek Park in Dexter, Michigan.  It’s been fun to see the improvements and changes that have taken place over the past several years.  The park has also undergone a name change — it used to be Warrior Creek Park. The dam was removed to allow for a return to more natural creek conditions, and a pedestrian bridge was created to connect the park, via about 5 miles of trail, to Hudson Mills park.  A stairway (with bike ramp!) now allows visitors to get from the park up to Alpine street (where the Library and Farmer’s Market are located).  There are also boat launches for kayaks/canoes.

Mill Creek Park - Dexter Outdoors 5579

We haven’t gone the full length of the trail yet, maybe halfway — but it really has been nice to use the wide trails and boardwalks for getting outdoors.  Here are some photographs of our park excursion.  On this particular day, we also ventured to “downtown” Dexter as my toddler wanted to go up the ramp/pathway when we were on our way up to the library for storytime.

Mill Creek Park - Dexter Outdoors

Fortunately I had allotted enough time for the scenic detour (usually we use the stairs right next to the libary).  In the images below, you’ll also find we stopped at the playground — long enough to go down the slide, have mama give an “underdog” or two on the swing, and find a prize pine cone that later accompanied us home.

Pine cone at Mill Creek Park - Dexter Outdoors

In case I haven’t made it obvious, I really love being outdoors.  It was so fun to identify birds, their songs, look for fish and frogs, and read some of the new informational signs that were placed in the park when it was updated.  So, anyways, make sure to check out the images a little further on (click on any image to open in gallery mode).

Portraits at Mill Creek Park in Dexter

Dexter’s Mill Creek Park is also great for portraits!  I have enjoyed creating family photos, high school senior pictures, and portraits of toddlers all in various areas of this park.  Here are some favorites from a few sessions to give you an idea of what we’ve done in the past.  Make sure to check out one senior portrait in particular; it will show you what the park looked like prior to the construction of the pedestrian bridge!

Mill Creek Park Scenes and Snapshots

And back to our park excursion photographs… here are more images of Mill Creek Park, the boardwalk, and our fun in the sun on a wonderful spring day!

By the way, my son loves his fireman balance bike (afflink). The balance bike is adjustable in height and has allowed him to really get the hang of balancing, gliding, and steering — all while zooming. It’s amazing to see the difference when we bring out a tricycle or other “vehicle” with pedals. Those pedals have been a source of frustration, whereas the balance bike is natural and freeing. Based on what success my friends have had with their kids and balance bikes, I anticipate an eventual smooth transition to a 2 wheel bike (with pedals) down the road, skipping training wheels completely!

Articles About Mill Creek Park

Here are some articles about Mill Creek Park — detailing the different stages of contruction, and the official Dexter Parks page. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

What About You?

Do you have any favorite activities when you go to the park? It seems like we always visit the playground, and we usually have at least the balance bike with us. On one trip to Mill Creek Park, we were blessed with an unexpected friendship when we met another mama! What’s your favorite part of being outdoors? Is it the wildlife? The scenery? The people you’re with? Do you have a favorite memory at a particular park?

Signs of Spring

posted in: Parenting | 25

Signs of spring have finally arrived! The weather is getting warmer, the last of our snow melted this weekend, and we’ve been able to venture outdoors in shorts (loving the balmy 60 degree weather!). My toddler has been asking to go outside multiple times a day, which I have unabashedly indulged. I am tired of being cooped up inside too. We’ve gone on walks, bike rides, and explored our yard… and I’m not sure who is having more fun!

signs of spring - toddler tricycle riding

P.S. Read to the end for some spring activity + gardening resources 🙂

Signs of Spring

Spring comes slowly,
but steadily.
The forgotten warmth
finally graces the ground.
Rains fall,
new life
springs forth
from the ground.
Her patience
reaps abundant
reward.
What was hidden
or hibernating
now springs forth.
Life is ready…
…waiting.
The sun shines,
divine warmth
wraps the earth.
Just another
season of life.
But one awaited
with much anticipation.
Thought it may have come
slowly…
the signs of spring
have finally arrived.

signs of spring - first flower

signs of spring - feverfew starting to grow

Since spring is finally here, we’ll be starting work on our garden soon. Our four 4×8 raised beds are in need of some well-deserved TLC, as the grass infiltrated them (from underneath). Lesson learned… next time put down a barrier for the grass in addition to putting down chicken wire to keep out critters. My son is excited to transplant our kitchen scrap romaine lettuce and celery… we’ve acquired quite a collection over the past weeks. Sadly, we were not on top of our seed germination this year, so we do not have a plethora of seedlings to put in the ground (last spring, we had 200+ seedlings that we grew inside). Oh well, experimenting with different techniques is good, right?

Here’s my Pinterest board on Greenery and Gardening in case you too are looking to enhance your green thumb this growing season. I will tell you that we tried several experiments last year — one we won’t be doing again is the mythical potato tower. While we did get some lovely potatoes from our towers, it was just too much of a hassle to water and keep the towers of dirt moist. The final complication was harvesting the potatoes — I had a hard time figuring out where to put all that dirt! It ended up going into the nearest raised vegetable bed, I do admit. On the other hand, I did enjoy the string trellises that we made, and will be doing more of them I think. Give and take. It’s all a learning experience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Greenery + Gardening on Pinterest.

We found an old bird nest under our deck, and my toddler enjoyed asking questions about it, how it was made, why there were no eggs in it now, and the like. I love how the minds of children work!

signs of spring - old bird nest

Spring + Gardening Resources

Here are some gardening and spring resources I wanted to share with you. Links will open in a new window for your convenience (check out the Pinterest board a little further on in this post too).

What About You?

What have you looked forward to most as an authentic sign spring is finally here? Are there any spring activities that you enjoy doing — either as an adult, or with your kids? What will you miss about winter, if anything?

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