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Connecting to Nature Photography Event with Sean Beckett 

By: Colleen Ward

On the lovely evening of Saturday June 17, participants who signed up in advance, showed up to Ethan Allen Park and were enthusiastic to learn more about connecting to nature through photography, which was led by Sean Beckett. Sean is a recent graduate student from the University of Vermont, completing his studies in the Field Naturalist Program. Beckett is very well known around the city of Burlington for leading other events such as the Burlington Geographic series, and teaches events for the Master Naturalist program. By combining his love and understanding for the Burlington environment, and his excellent photography skills, he finds enjoyment in teaching others about photography in a natural setting.

After all participants showed up with a variety of different types of cameras ready to be tested out, Sean began by leading the group around Ethan Allen Park. Sean explained to the group about how a camera can be a barrier to our experience if we’re not careful. But if we use photography as an artistic process, it can help us engage in the natural world with rich, new eyes. This is what Sean called the “Psychology of Photography”. The group was sent out on several missions to practice some of the new skills that Sean was teaching.

One of the topics that Sean talked about was the rule of thirds. He drew a grid with three cross intersections in the dirt showing the group that the subject of focus should always be positioned within the first and last grid lines, but never directly in the middle. Sean explained the reasoning for using the rule of thirds which allows our eyes to travel throughout the photograph and creates a deeper understanding of the image taken, whereas if the subject of focus was in the middle, there would be no need for our eyes to fully explore the picture. The group was sent on their first 15 minute mission with the task of capturing images in the natural environment using the rule of thirds. During this time, participants could ask Sean any question pertaining to their camera or photographs.

The group moved to another part of the Ethan Allen Park where Sean talked about how the distance a photographer is from their subject of focus can lead to different interpretations of the landscape.  Depending on how close or far away to the subject of focus can really make all the difference in perspective. Sean went on to describe that there are elements in a particular shot that can either support the subject in the photograph, or distract the viewers eye from the subject. These elements can be played around with by moving closer in the subject or even creating as much distance as possible from the subject. The group seemed to be very understanding of the topics that Sean talked about. Then Sean allowed to group to another 15 minute chance to practice their new photography skills.

The night ended as Sean led everyone up to the Ethan Allen tower, timed perfectly so that we arrived at the top when the sun started to set. The group was in amazement of the beautiful sunset over Lake Champlain and immediately started taking photos of the view. The sunset was the perfect subject to practice all these new photography skills on.

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