Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is closed as part of Penn State’s efforts to maintain public health and safety in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. For questions about cancellations, program changes, or virtual delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic, please contact us at ShaversCreek@psu.edu. For the latest updates and information, visit: virusinfo.psu.edu.

Photo-a-Day: A Retrospective

“Equinox, do you want to take the camera and snap some photos?” 

A Friday evening at Summer Camp, 2019. Families were gathering around for ice cream and I, a first-time Naturalist having just graduated from Penn State (with a Journalism degree, which is beside the point), didn’t have anything in particular to do until campfire preparations were to be underway. 

Having been offered the opportunity by Acorn, who was and very much still is a better photographer than I am, I picked up a professional still-photo camera for the first time and spent some time capturing the excitement inherent to over 100 kids and their adults getting frozen, sugary goodness after a long week of discovery. 

Little did I know that one of those photos would be the first in what is now a decent portfolio of “—photo by Tommy Butler” bylines on Shaver’s Creek’s Photo-a-day series on the Center’s Facebook page

Image of a smiling camper holding ice cream
Photo-a-day, August 9, 2019 | The best thing about summer camp Fridays is… the campfires! No … the nightwalks! … No… Whipple Dam! … Okay, okay, maybe it’s the ice cream. What’s your favorite part? —photo by Tommy Butler

I began to officially take on the responsibility of the Photo-a-day series a little over a year ago when I was still an Environmental Education Intern, and it has become a big part of my current role as Social Media Assistant. 

I had followed the Photo-a-day series since Justin Raymond started it when I was only associated with Shaver’s Creek through volunteering as a Leader-in-Training during Summer Camp, so having the opportunity to run it was really exciting.

Now, taking a photo and uploading it every day is difficult, and it can often be really hard to think of something to say even when you have a photo, but it has helped me learn so much about the natural world and the processes that go on over the course of a year.

Image displaying seasonal progression at Shaver's Creek
Photo-a-day, December 21, 2020 | It’s the Winter Solstice! That means it’s time for an update on the Equinox Project, photos of Shaver’s Creek at the beginning of each new season to see how nature progresses around the Center. The first photo was started on the Fall Equinox (September 22, 2020). Take a look at the difference only three months makes! —photo by Tommy Butler

I love to go on hikes to seek out photo-worthy moments. When one leads me to a new discovery, which is quite often, I make sure to record them in iNaturalist — a favorite citizen science app of mine! Uploading my photos to iNaturalist not only helps me to identify what it is I have found so that I can share that discovery with Shaver’s Creek’s audience, but helps log the sightings of these plants and animals for scientists to use to learn more about how and where they are living and at what times of year they can be found!

Image of a saddleback caterpillar
Photo-a-day, September 20, 2020 | Saddleback Caterpillars are very pretty and easily identified by the saddle-like coloration on their backs. Make sure to not touch however! The urticating hairs on its body are a defense mechanism that secretes venom! —photo by Tommy Butler

Walking slowly along the trails at Shaver’s Creek in the summer has proven to me just how much happens under (and over) our very noses. When you take the time to really immerse yourself in nature, the number of exciting moments and interesting creatures you’ll stumble across will never cease to amaze you.

From finding something as big as this Marbled Orbweaver that you can’t believe you’ve never recognized one before…

Image of a Marbled Orbweaver
Photo-a-day, October 7, 2020 | This Marbled Orbweaver was spotted building her web! These spiders are sometimes known as Pumpkin Spiders — which fits the season, too! —photo by Alison Kelly

to finding something so small that you never would have seen it if you weren’t stopping to turn over nearly every leaf along your way!

Image of a Cucumber Spider
Photo-a-day, October 8, 2020 | Compared to yesterday’s spider, this Cucumber Spider is minuscule! —photo by Tommy Butler

Meanwhile, every moment is an enjoyable one — meaning you don’t even realize that they’re also learning experiences. When I started posting a photo every day, rainy days could be frustrating as I knew I wouldn’t be able to find as many insects and I’d need to worry about keeping the camera dry. That was because I hadn’t yet opened my eyes to the beauty in each and every rain drop.

Image of water dripping from branches
Photo-a-day, December 9, 2019 | It’s a rainy day at the Creek! Is there anything more soothing than listening to the water drip from the tree branches? —photos by Tommy Butler

Taking the time to slow down while you’re in nature allows you to see all that’s around you more clearly than you can hope to otherwise. I’ve learned that it grants you a whole new perspective on what’s out there and just how vast our connections are with each little sprout and the insect that you might find nibbling on it.

Image looking up at a tree trunk
Photo-a-day, January 15, 2021 | Spending time in nature can help you gain a whole new perspective! —photo by Tommy Butler

Looking back on the last year-plus of running the Photo-a-day series, I’ve grown much more comfortable with my photography skills. Yes, I still take crooked, blurry photos all the time. And yes, I still don’t have the faintest clue what the majority of the buttons and switches on the Center’s camera do. What has changed is that I’ve realized as long as I’m taking photos of things that I find interesting, others will appreciate them too. I’ve got a long road ahead of me before I will call myself a “good photographer,” but it’s nice to acknowledge how far I’ve come since that first day with the camera. 

Image of human tracks
Photo-a-day, January 31, 2020 | These familiar-looking tracks were left winding down the Bluebird Trail even after the rest of the snow melted away! —photos by Tommy Butler

My hope is that my photos educate those that decide to read the captions or inspire the curiosity, in even one person, that they need to take their time and truly see what wonders can be found in their back yard (and maybe even take a photo to share with others or with iNaturalist)! Maybe that person will be you. If so, I wish you good luck and that you Never Stop Discovering!

Image of Shaver's Creek's gate
Photo-a-day, February 12, 2021 | This view looks great any time of year! —photo by Tommy Butler

3 thoughts on “Photo-a-Day: A Retrospective

  1. Gee, Equinox, I think you are a pretty good photographer already! I can’t wait to see what your “good photographer” skills bring us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *