Earlier this year, I took an online nature photography course with Joy Sussman, the sole photographer at JoyfullyGreen.com. Joy’s 12-day online course, How to Take Better Photos of Nature and the World Around You, is intended for newbies and photogs alike, with less focus on the technical aspects of taking pictures and more on the creative process that allows your pictures to go from “just okay” to “wow!”
I’ve taken photography classes before, even a nature photography class in Yosemite Valley. What makes Joy’s class different is its focus on seeing your work as art, and allowing yourself the chance to see nature from a new perspective. If you’re looking to take better pictures of nature, this class is worth considering.
The good news is that Joy will be offering the class again this month! In trying to figure out best how to encourage all of you to take her class, I invited her to come and chat a little about herself and her thoughts on nature photography. Welcome Joy!
What is your favorite natural subject to photograph?
I’d have to say it’s a tie between flowers and insects, and luckily, the two often go hand in hand. Usually, if I have a macro lens on my camera and I’m shooting flowers up close, I’ll be pleasantly surprised to see a tiny, interesting bug that has been going about its day, unbeknownst to anybody, inside the flower.
Tell us about one of your favorite photographs and why you are especially proud of it.
I love taking photographs of my children in nature, and one of my favorites is a photograph of my daughter climbing up a huge flight of steps at a nearby state park. I loved the way her red tights “pop” against the greenery, how she’s so tiny within the grandness of the forest, and the softness of the trees – the whole scene is magical to me, like a fairy tale. Plus, it reminds me of that particular afternoon, when I picked up the children after school and told them we were going on “a secret adventure.” There’s a cider mill down the road from this park, with homemade donuts, so that was an added treat to the already beautiful forest visit. My son took a little spill in the brook while he was climbing from rock to rock, but the day was still pretty perfect!
How do you think children can connect with nature through photography?
If you’ve ever given a child a magnifying glass, you already know how they love to study worlds smaller than they are. They often notice things that we adults miss because we’re too busy paying attention to “more important things” like checking the headlines or Facebook updates. Plus, they see things from a lower angle, so it’s an interesting perspective on the world. I often let my children take pictures with my iPhone because it’s user-friendly, and it’s easy to delete the blurry ones! Although sometimes the blurry shots are interesting in their own way.
What’s one thing you hope people will learn from your course?
I love it when my students discover that they can be artists with their cameras. Often, people are overwhelmed with all of the technical features of their cameras, or confused by photography tech-speak like f-stops and ISOs. But really, photography is simply about viewing your world in new and creative ways. Rather than being stymied by the math and the science of photography, the students learn to concentrate on the art of it. So, the most important thing for me is teaching my students how to relax into photography and see the world artistically, with their eyes wide open. Everybody has the potential to take beautiful, artful photographs – I really do believe that, and I’ve seen it myself with my students – even beginners who thought they were hopeless. Finding their confidence behind the lens is extremely empowering for them.
What’s your favorite way to spend time outside with your kids?
There are a lot of beautiful parks near us – great opportunities to do some “forest bathing”, or Shinrin Yoku, as the Japanese practice it – immersing yourself in the peace and quiet of a forest. I grew up with an immense forest in my back yard, so I always find it soul-soothing to be in the woods.
Also, we live in an area with a lot of nearby farms, so we often visit the animals, or do seasonal things like picking our own apples and pumpkins during the fall. I love the change of seasons and having four distinct seasons to enjoy in the northeastern U.S.
Joy’s course will run from July 14 through July 25, 2014. You can check out a course overview and find out how to sign up here.
Note: I took Joy’s class earlier this year at my own expense, then invited her to share a little more about herself with all of you. I received no compensation of any kind to publicize her latest e-course with you here.
All photos are © Joyfully Green LLC 2012-present and have a Creative Commons license. Please do not use or reprint any photos without asking Joy Sussman for permission at JoyfullyGreen.firstname.lastname@example.org. The photos in this post have been used with express permission.