Time to give that kid a camera

How do you know when it’s time for your kid to get his own camera? When he starts stealing yours out of your hands.

My stepson Atticus tagged along with me on a quick trip to the Niobrara Valley Preserve this week. It was a last minute decision, but I’m glad he was able to make it. I wrote a couple months ago about an even quicker trip Atticus and I took to our family prairie, and that trip should have prepared me for his camera thievery…

As we were walking around some hills north of the river last night, we came upon a big cicada (I think it’s a bush cicada – Megatibicen dorsatus) that was just pulling the last of itself out of its larval exoskeleton. Fascinated, we stopped to examine it and I got my camera out, even though the light was pretty flat (thick clouds).

This cicada was just finishing its molt when we came upon it. They don’t come any fresher than that. If you look at my last post, you can see how much darker this one will be after it dries out a little.
Atticus was content just to examine the cicada for a few minutes…

I managed to get a couple photos taken before I felt Atticus edging nearer and nearer to me, clearly hinting at something. Before I knew it, he had my camera and tripod and was lining up his own shots – just as the light started to improve. Sure, no problem – help yourself! I gave him a few tips on focusing and some camera settings, but let him do all the framing work on his own. He came up with several really interesting compositions before I wrestled the camera back from him and we moved on.

Here’s the little thief, using MY equipment just as the light started to improve…
Here’s Atticus reaching in to gently nudge a stray grass leaf out of the picture without disturbing the cicada. If he can master that little technique, he’ll be far along toward figuring out insect photography.

I can pretend to be offended, but of course I’m really pleased he’s interested in macro photography. Atticus is clearly a science-oriented kid (reinforced by all the time he spent in Kim’s high school science classroom when he was younger), and I’ll obviously do whatever I can to encourage his interest in nature and insects. After he went to bed, I called Kim and we agreed that it’s probably time to get him some of his own equipment. I have enough old gear laying around to outfit him pretty well, so we can see how serious he is before investing any significant money. My only fear is that he’ll start a competing blog and put me out of business…

This was Atticus’ favorite from among the photos he took. Again, all the composition work was his. I advised a little on focus and had the camera shutter speed and aperture already set when he took over, but the real credit for this image all goes to him and his creativity. Can you see why I’m really proud, but also worried about trying to compete with him?
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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

7 thoughts on “Time to give that kid a camera

  1. You should be proud – not only that your son is as good as he is, already, but that he shares your passion and interests, and that he wants to spend time with you at the prairie! I’m thinking you could have a “double blog” and just do it together!!

  2. Chris. Please do send the link to Atticus’s blog ASAP. Can’t wait to see what insights he might share about living with a conservationist! (Plus I’ll enjoy his pics I know)


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