Taking pictures and making nature videos are fun family activities

Squirrels make wonderful nature photo subjects.
Story by Eric Sharp
Detroit Free Press
October 28, 2011
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DETROIT — If you want to have fun with kids, set up a bird feeder squirrels can’t reach easily, maybe forcing them to climb a thin pole or hang from an overhead support to get at the food.

Then set up a digital camera that makes high-definition video. If you use a tripod you’ll get better results, but there are times when hand-holding the camera produces interesting angles.

The movie makes a great offering for show-and-tell days at school, and if you combine it with a still-picture slide show of other animals that visit you’ll have a mini-epic nature drama that you can even set to music.

And if you want a project that will really impress teachers and friends, make video on the same day of each month from now until school lets out and title it something like “A Season in our Backyard.”

When we think of wildlife we often picture the big animals of the African plains, or western grizzly bears and buffalo, or Michigan deer and black bears. Yet we overlook a lot of smaller animals that are common in our own backyards and that we can see and photograph on fall walks.

Fall is a great time for animal photography, especially because we can buy for a couple hundred dollars digital cameras with lenses that are the equivalent of 600- to 1,000-millimeter lenses on pro cameras that cost $1,500 on up.

Chipmunks make great camera subjects, and once you start to photograph them you can find yourself so engrossed in the subject that you’ll spend days trying to get the right angle or activity.

I’ve spent the last two weeks, off and on, trying to get a picture of one of our two resident chipmunks with its cheeks bulging with stored food. So far, every picture I’ve made has either been badly exposed in low light or badly focused because the little bugger moved and I was using a slow shutter speed.

The squirrels that abound in your backyard make wonderful nature photo subjects, especially if you watch their antics trying to get at the goodies in a bird feeder.

City squirrels tend to be a lot tamer than the squirrels that visit our yard in Grayling, probably because we have a lot of predators, including Cooper’s hawks and coyotes, around.

Eric Sharp


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The Ogden Nature Center is located at 966 W. 12th St. in Ogden. For more information, visit www.ogdennaturecenter.org or call 801-621-7595.