Cultivating the Eye of a Photographer

A favorite break from my desk at Welty is a walk around Big Hill Prairie.  It’s one mile, all the way around following the mowed path, but it feels like light years away from work.  And even if I’m trying to avoid the computer, I always take my phone…not so I can text or check email, but so I can photograph.

(Left:Gaillardia pulchella–Indian blanket/Firewheel; Right: Eastern Grey Tree Frog)

Back in the day–3 decades ago–I took a lot of college photography classes, learning the ways of exposures, focal lengths, darkroom chemistry, and loading film into a camera body. Skills that are now filed away in my brain with “how to make a mixtape cassette” and “heating leftovers in a pan.” But, what still remains is the urge to look at the landscape with the eye of a photographer. And, thanks to the wonderful camera on my cell phone, I can automatically record what I see as a picture.  Some photos are fantastic, some immediately get sent to the trash, but it makes me really look at and engage in my environment…which is a form of mindfulness and very calming.

(Above: ice-encased leaf in color, with b/w filter)

Nature photography is instructive

Nature photography is also instructive, because it results in a concrete observation you can study to identify species, record conditions, examine relationships. One app that helps with all of this is inaturalist, and we have even set up a project and place for you to enter observations from Big Hill Park or other locations in the Stateline area. You can learn as you look.

…You can learn as you look.

I’ve included some of my favorite Big Hill photos in today’s post…all taken with my phone (Samsung Galaxy S9), without filters or modification (except for the b/w leaf).  I hope they inspire you to keep a record of your adventures…I love to scroll through mine.  If there’s a photo you’d particularly like to share, feel free to email it to and we can post it on our social media accounts. 

Get walking and recording, Shutterbugs!

(Big Hill July afternoon clouds and trees)

Brenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC