“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.
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!