The last week that I helped out at a local nature center, I actually got to help with something I know a little bit about--photography. For nature photography camp, we had just shy of 20 kids all with digital cameras. We talked about picture composition, lighting, framing, close ups, whatever. Every day we went on nature hikes to find interesting objects and lighting. We put a toad in the freezer for a few minutes to slow down his heart rate so he'd be still enough for a posed picture. (Hey, he gets alot colder for alot longer in January in Minnesota, I promise) We looked at picture books and gave out special challenges and assignments.
Often, more pictures of friends sticking out their tongues would be taken than actual nature shots. Buy hey, they're 10, and it's camp.
We couldn't have paid for a better experience than what happened one day at Purgatory Creek. After a night of rain, the creek had high water. We walked through the prairie and planned on making a short jaunt into the woods before heading back to the nature center.
Then, one kid spotted something swimming. Maybe a muskrat? Nope... Otter--a family of otter, two parents and two babies, swimming around a storm drain. One sat on a rock and ate a fish. The others took turns sliding down a bank and swimming around, just watching 20 10-year-olds who were being surprisingly quiet snapping pictures.
The critters put on a 10 minute show before running off through the weeds on the opposite bank. The naturalist who led the class has never seen otter out here before. It's rare to see them in the wild, much less in the middle of the city. In my time in the outdoors, I've never seen one alive, except in Alaska.
The kids kept inching closer and closer to the bank, and I caught one under the arms before he went right into the water. (you know, the one that never listens?) It was tough lighting for a picture--shooting into the sun and trying to balance out the shadows of the creek. But here are a few of the best pictures from the kids that day.
The experience turned a mediocre morning into a monumental one... and we went back everyday to see if we could spot the otter family. The water went down, and the otter stayed away.... but I know the kids have already checked out that spot in the trail a few times to just see if the otter came out to play once again.