October 5th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member and printed with permission from the Renville County Register

As you regular readers of Prairie Outdoors know, Jon wants more “Free-Range Kids”.

A Free-Range Kid is an independent, confident, fearless, and well-trained kid. This kid will have spent time in youth groups like 4-H, Scouts or some other group that emphasizes those traits of the Free-Range Kid. The Free-Range Kid isn’t dependent upon cell phones, TV, electronic games, and “texting”. He/she lives instead.

One way to enhance the chances of a Free-Range Kid is to have parents who hunt, fish, camp, hike or like photographing objects in nature.

One of the great ways to get a kid to enjoy nature is through photography. If one would purchase a decent and simple zoom-feature camera with a viewfinder, a young person can simply go into your flower garden for some practice.

A trip down to one of the Renville County parks is a great way to get a young photographer started also. There are wonderful scenic pictures waiting to be discovered. When the camera has gathered large views, the youthful photographer can then switch to the smaller sights that add so much to our enjoyment of nature. Creeks, waterfalls, rock outcrops and wild creatures are waiting to have their picture taken.

When one sees the gently-meandering Minnesota River flowing through rock-lined areas, a photo-opportunity just leaps out at you. Discover the valley of the Minnesota River, and the tributaries flowing into it.

Most of our area residents have been to Ramsey Creek and its wonderful waterfall in Ramsey Park at Redwood Falls. This definitely is one of the most-photographed waterfalls in Southern Minnesota. Most likely you have taken pictures home with you from there. How about your kid or grand kid? Give that kid a chance to make a memory too.

Later on, as your Free-Range Kid learns about photography and starts to “get it”, you may want to help to purchase a nice single lens reflex digital camera with close-up and zoom lenses. Spendy? Yep. But you may be giving a gift of a future career, interest, hobby, or even an urge to write a book with illustrations, to this kid. And, as a side to this endeavor, you will be creating a Free-Range Kid also.

Learning about the simpler camera and its limitations will get the kid off to a good start. There are fall wild flowers just screaming to be seen and photographed, along with the “bugs” that are in attendance on these flowers. The Free-Range Kid can learn about nature from just photographing it. He will obviously want books to help him or her to identify what is seen through the view finder. So, you may want to provide some good nature identification books for this purpose.

One nice thing about digital photography is that one can take gobs of pictures without having to have them developed and the accompanying expenses. If a photo doesn’t measure up, just delete it and go on. Soon a better and more imaginative photographer develops in the young person.

One may just Google for photography tips and even tips for purchase of cameras. The internet really is good for something, not just taking up valuable time addicted to it.

One doesn’t always think of farm country as being very photogenic. But, a clever photographer can take photos of farm fields, farm machinery in action, before, during and after harvest photos of the same field might prove to be interesting. Drainage ditches may have some wild flowers that are worth a look. Abandoned farm sites can provide all kinds of interesting photos.

Another topic for photographers is clouds, storms, sunsets, sunrises, unusual examples of soil conservation, and the special opportunities in CRP or other set-aside programs with good native prairie plantings on them.

Serious nature photographers become serious outdoor lovers. They wear camouflage, use pop-up blinds to hide in and learn how to be stealthy when after wildlife photos. As a beginning outdoor photographer starts to seek new “targets”, he/she will begin to learn about the best poses for these subjects.

Migration time is a good time to get a beginning photographer out in the boondocks, parks, fields and around the lakes and marshes that are present in small numbers in our County. Migration time is now here. Good photos can be taken even in winter after migrations are pretty much over. Snow drifts, frost and storms make good subjects.

The fall leaf color makes one of the most interesting and fun subjects for your youngster’s camera. And, that phenomenon is beginning right now in some areas. Ash trees are yellowing in places. Wahoo bushes have been coloring with orange, yellow and red for a couple of weeks already. What better thing to do than to help create a Free-Range Kid, which gives him/her a lifetime of adventure and fun. Now is the time.

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