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Cameras in camp: helping campers understand principles of photography.

Camp photographs provide souvenir of special times in the life of a camper. Young campers, often with new cameras, are eager to capture images of staff, friends, and camp experiences. Sometimes the results of their efforts aren't exactly what they expected, however, when developed pictures contain blurred images, missing heads, or a subject so reduced in size it's hard to locate in the picture.

Last summer, Pat Smith, the director of the Flint, Michigan Girl Scout Council's Camp O'Fair Winds, decided to offer a special session for girls 10 to 12 years of age interested in learning more about photography. A program named Windows on Wildlife' was the result. The program's structure and outcomes are reviewed here.

Nine girls, two counselors, the nature director, and a photography consultant took part in the program's one-week session. Girls were instructed to bring to camp their camera, their camera's instruction book, extra batteries, and a minimum of two rolls of 24-exposure film with an ASA of 200 or 400. These two rolls were developed during the week. Most girls brought one or two extra rolls of film and either took the cost of developing out of their trading post account or had them developed when they returned home. A local "one-hour" developing service at a photography studio 12 miles away cooperated with the camp to get the film developed quickly. Parents were asked to ensure that the girls knew how to load and unload their cameras.

Staff asked the girls as they arrived to put their cameras away for the first few days of camp, which were devoted to informal discussions about what they "could" photograph. The nature director served as a resource on Monday and Tuesday and explored several interesting areas of the camp with the girls. Staff pointed out the potential for pictures of tents, cookouts, friends, and camp activities. The goal during these first few days was to develop an eye for potential photographs.

A photography consultant was at camp all day on Wednesday, and began the morning session with a discussion of what the girls liked to photograph. Friends, family members, pets, animals, flowers, and landscapes were all equally popular. Most girls had already identified several things they wanted to take pictures of while at camp. Also covered the following topics:


* types * special lenses * flashes (built-in or attached) * special use (disposable,

panoramic, underwater)


* ASA/speed * types and brands * number of shots on a roll * expiration date * developing as soon as after exposure as possible * loading in a shaded area * importance of carrying a spare roll


* change at least once a year * importance of carrying a spare set

Girls were then taught a memory technique called "stacking," which involves making up a mental picture for each thing you want to remember, and then stacking the pictures on top of each other, joining them together when possible, in order to remember an entire fist of things. This visual imagery was easy for the girls to learn and turned into a game. They found that they could remember the items backwards or forwards and could also identify items before or after one selected at random.

From bottom to top, the stack included: a cameral manual, a bar of soap with soap suds running down onto a corner of the camera manual, a block of ice melting onto the soap, a basketball in a little depression on top of the block of ice, a person standing at attention on top of the basketball with a big red slash across his body, a magnifying glass with a red handle caught behind the person's ear, a giant green question mark with a large check in front of it on the handle of the magnifying glass, a big red sun creating a red glow on the top of the question mark, an archery target with a red slash across it caught in the sun's rays, an arrow sticking out the top of the target, a green plus sign balanced on the center of the shaft of the arrow, and a huge black rock on top of the plus sign.

After learning the stack, each girl selected one item and drew it on a large sheet of white paper using magic markers. Curiosity soon got the better of most of the girls, and they finally asked what all this had to do with photography. Each picture, of course, stood for a basic principle of photography. As each was discussed, the girls who drew that picture stood and showed her artwork. Points covered included:

Camera manual: refer to your manual when you have questions about how your camera works, how to change film and batteries, what all the buttons are for, how close you can get to your subject, etc. Carry your manual with you, along with an extra roll of film and extra set of batteries.

Bar of soap: keep you camera clean by using lens tissue and a camera brush and blower. Don't get finger prints on the lens or let your camera get wet or dusty. Don't drop your camera, and carry it in a case, fanny pack, or zip lock bag to protect it when you're not using it.

Ice cube: keep your camera and film cool. Don't leave either in the sun or in a hot car. Freeze unopened film in doubled zip lock bags if you're not going to use it for a month or more.

Basketball: choose subjects to photograph that are at least as large as a basketball.

Person standing at attention with red slash: don't take pictures of people standing stiffly, looking at the camera. Pictures of people doing something are more interesting.

Magnifying glass: get as close to your subject as your camera will allow (usually three to six feet) to fill your picture with the subject. (But know your camera's minimum distance so that you don't get too close and end up with an out-of-focus picture.)

Question mark with check: ask yourself what you're photographing, and whether you're standing in the best place. Try getting your camera eye level with your subject. Look through the view finder. Take your time.

Sun: try to photograph with the sun at your right or left, unless you're taking a picture of a sunrise or sunset. Subjects looking into the sun usually squint. When possible, place your subject in the shade rather than bright sun for more even lighting. Pictures taken on overcast days are usually more pleasing than those taken on sunny days.

Archery target with red slash: don't always put your subject in the center of the picture. Photos with subjects slightly off-center are more interesting.

Arrow: keep your horizon "straight as an arrow." Just before you squeeze the shutter, check your horizon line.

Plus sign: try both vertical and horizontal shots of the same subject whenever possible. The resulting pictures will be quite different.

Rock: try to make your body as solid as a rock when taking a picture. Spread your feet, keep your elbows in, be sure there's no fingers or hair in front of the camera's lens, hold your breath, and squeeze the shutter button slowly.

Photos were taken of each girl individually with her camera, the entire group with their cameras, and everyone holding a piece of the "stack." Pictures of items in the stack were put up in the unit house to refer to during the remainder of the week.

Girls began taking pictures during a lunch cookout, and continued during an afternoon walk around camp. Each girl finished a roll of film in the afternoon and turned it in for developing before a late afternoon swim. Film was developed and ready for analysis after dinner.

Girls were eager to see their pictures, and each selected what she felt were her two best, and then tried to figure out one photography principle she needed to concentrate on during the rest of the week. Girls met individually for a "friendly" critique session with the photography consultant, who also gave each girl a photograph of herself with her camera.

Girls spent part of Thursday and Friday with the nature director, and exposed another roll of film that was developed for them on Friday afternoon. Suggestions for additional photos were discussed and given to each girl; however, they were not limited to those ideas. The suggestions for pictures included:

* take a close up of a friend or a flower

* take a picture of something in a frame

* take two pictures of one thing from different angles

* take a vertical and a horizontal picture of the same subject

* take a picture of something and its shadow

* take a picture of a reflection of something in the water

* take a picture of a sunrise or sunset

* take a picture of a pattern or texture in nature

* take a flash picture of someone while in your tent

* take three or four pictures that tell a story (such as building a fire, lighting the fire, cooking over the fire, and eating the food)

* take a picture of a scene with someone looking at it

* take a picture of a camp sign

As a final project, girls selected two or three of their best pictures from the week, mounted them on colored paper, and glued them onto a large sheet of poster board. They put the picture of themselves with their camera at the bottom of their poster, and included their name as photographer. Posters were placed on display in the dining hall on Saturday, the last day of camp, along with the drawings the girls had made to illustrate the photography principles they'd learned. The quality of the pictures on display attested to the fact that each participant had incorporated many of the principles discussed. In addition, girls were proud of their accomplishments and enjoyed the attention and praise they received from other campers and staff.

Evaluations of this experimental session led to plans for offering the program again this summer. It should be noted that while girls who participated at Camp O'Fair Winds represented the oldest age group, a similar session would also appeal to campers in junior or even senior high school. No one is ever too old to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with learning photography.

Diane Pick, Re.D., is an associate professor and coordinator of the Recreation and Park Services Program at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She is past president of the ACA Michigan Section, and a former camp director. An avid photographer, she served as the photography consultant in the Camp O'Fair Winds program.
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Title Annotation:1993 J. Wendell Howe Golden Quill Awards
Author:Pick, Diane
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:May 1, 1993
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