By Joe Hadsall
JOPLIN, Mo. —
If you gave smartphones or other cameras as presents for Christmas last year, the warmer weather gives you a chance to put them to use. With more warmer-than-usual temperatures projected through the winter, outdoor hikes are more realistic.
Whether it’s a trek on a trail or a shopping sojourn at a flea market, making your trip a photography adventure will give a new definition to sightseeing.
It might sound boring at first, but kids are wired for technology, and they will love getting to look at the world around them through a lens. And parents will love getting wired children, tweens and teens away from stationary screens and out into the real world.
All that’s needed are cameras — whether everyone shares one camera or uses the cameras on their smartphones — MP3 players, tablet computers or other electronic picture-taking devices. Then it’s time to pick a good destination, and that can be anywhere, from a nature trail to flea market:
• Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center features a good combination of photogenic subjects inside and outside, including a learning center and more than three miles of hiking trails.
• The area around the center also features great places for photos, including the Grand Falls waterfall on Shoal Creek.
• Joplin’s parks feature colorful playground equipment and interesting monuments, from the tornado memorial at Cunningham Park to the Spiva bench statue at Spiva Park. There are 25 parks in Joplin, some of which are hidden gems and worthy of discovery.
• The downtown areas in cities also offer great shots, from the storefronts and decorative lights and benches of Joplin’s downtown to the gorgeous courthouse shots at the squares in Carthage and Neosho.
• Shopping centers, such as the Joplin Flea Market and Northpark Mall, can also offer interesting sites. Vendors may have issues with photos of merchandise, but the common areas where people mingle offer plenty of alternatives.
• The nearest lake to Joplin is Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, just a half-hour drive from Joplin along I-44. The city of Grove, Okla., is a great portal into the lakeside scenery.
Photographing people is a mixed bag. If people are in a public place, they are fair game for photos. But for the purposes of a family outing, it’s recommended to ask permission — a great side lesson for teaching kids manners.
The best subjects for people pictures may be members of your own family.
Everyone will have cameras and will be active, so the entire family is fair game for candid moments. And the results could become cherished keepsakes.
One of the secrets to taking good pictures is easy to teach kids and teens, and it’s as simple as tic-tack-toe.
Professional photographers use a technique called “the rule of thirds” to compose a shot. Though most cameras have a crosshatch in the sight squarely in the center, professionals avoid it — they mentally divide the entire viewfinder into thirds horizontally and vertically, then move their subject into one of the four intersections created by those divisions.
It may sound complicated, but all it takes is envisioning a tic-tack-toe grid over your viewfinder. Once that is visualized, all a photographer needs to do is move the subject to one of the four corners of the center square. Most cameras feature autofocus, making composition even easier.
Other tips for kids
A benefit of digital cameras is that the format allows plenty of room for exposure. Kids can take hundreds of pictures — encourage them to do so. Darren Rowse, of Digital Photography School, also offers some tips to get kids snapping:
• Shoot from different perspectives, including high and low. Have them get in close, then move around to see how subjects look.
• Take pictures of a variety of subjects, from landscapes to portraits. Encourage kids to find people, places and things to shoot.
• Look for focal points — interesting things that catch the eye. Once they’ve identified a point of interest, have them use the rule of thirds to get it captured.
After the adventure
The fun isn’t done once you’re home. Download your pictures on a big display, such as the family computer, and let everyone look to their heart’s content.
As you review the images, point out ways kids can improve their photography, whether it’s watching for backgrounds or getting better focus.
Photos can also be uploaded to social-media websites, such as Instagram or Tumblr, and shared with the world.