Pro helps novice take better photos It could've been warmer this morning at Highbanks Metro Park, but the sky was beautiful and the woodland colors astounding. Mike Williams, a longtime staff photographer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources came by to help me take better nature photos. I can't always take the perennially trusty Will Shilling along on assignments for Venture; instead, I've been forced to take along an office camera when I go kayaking, canoeing, hiking and trekking elsewhere in the outdoors. As you've likely noticed, some photos are better than others.

Mike helped me with a few simple tips that I plan to publish in a how-to guide sometime when we've got a slow week in nature. (Not sure when that will be.) For now, here are some things to remember when taking shots in the great outdoors.

Get close: Sometimes birds and other animals can get spooked near humans, but try focusing on a subject and gradually take shots as you inch your way forward. Teleophoto lenses help, but you should be as close as possible to your subject.

Fill the frame: Your subject is interesting to you, and if you want to get others excited about it, the bird or flower or tree should fill as much of the frame as possible. This is linked to getting close, but it's also a question of properly choosing appropriate zoom and depth of field.

Don't bulls-eye your subject: The biggest mistake amatuers make is putting the subject in the center of the frame. Instead, try to offset something interesting, allowing the environment to lead the eye to your subject and beyond.

Many, many thanks go out to Mike, whose work has appeared often in our paper -- like when my shots looked a little iffy. We're planning to get together and head up to McGee Marsh in Northern Ohio, one of the best birding locations in the world, sometime in April to watch the spring migration. Here are some of my birding shots from this morning.

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These male cardinals were amazing, flying back and forth between a feeder and nearby trees. They were definitely a little twitchy, but that's normal. I set up my tripod by the feeder and waited for one to land. Mike said that winter can be a good time to photograph birds because their spring plumage -- which comes in for maximum mating appeal -- is nice and fresh.

View larger image

View larger image

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I couldn't believe how close this hawk let me get to it. I spotted him perched in a lone tree in the middle of this grassy field. I started shooting him froma afar, gradually working my way closer to the tree. He was enormous and -- like all Ohio hawks -- gorgeous. Eventually, he took off, showing an impressive wingspan and graceful flying skills. I'm pretty sure this was a red-tailed hawk, though we saw at least one Cooper's hawk at the park.

Pro helps novice take better photos It could've been warmer this morning at Highbanks Metro Park, but the sky was beautiful and the woodland colors astounding. Mike Williams, a longtime staff photographer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources came by to help me take better nature photos. I can't always take the perennially trusty Will Shilling along on assignments for Venture; instead, I've been forced to take along an office camera when I go kayaking, canoeing, hiking and trekking elsewhere in the outdoors. As you've likely noticed, some photos are better than others.

Mike helped me with a few simple tips that I plan to publish in a how-to guide sometime when we've got a slow week in nature. (Not sure when that will be.) For now, here are some things to remember when taking shots in the great outdoors.

Get close: Sometimes birds and other animals can get spooked near humans, but try focusing on a subject and gradually take shots as you inch your way forward. Teleophoto lenses help, but you should be as close as possible to your subject.

Fill the frame: Your subject is interesting to you, and if you want to get others excited about it, the bird or flower or tree should fill as much of the frame as possible. This is linked to getting close, but it's also a question of properly choosing appropriate zoom and depth of field.

Don't bulls-eye your subject: The biggest mistake amatuers make is putting the subject in the center of the frame. Instead, try to offset something interesting, allowing the environment to lead the eye to your subject and beyond.

Many, many thanks go out to Mike, whose work has appeared often in our paper -- like when my shots looked a little iffy. We're planning to get together and head up to McGee Marsh in Northern Ohio, one of the best birding locations in the world, sometime in April to watch the spring migration. Here are some of my birding shots from this morning.

View larger image

View larger image

These male cardinals were amazing, flying back and forth between a feeder and nearby trees. They were definitely a little twitchy, but that's normal. I set up my tripod by the feeder and waited for one to land. Mike said that winter can be a good time to photograph birds because their spring plumage -- which comes in for maximum mating appeal -- is nice and fresh.

View larger image

View larger image

View larger image

I couldn't believe how close this hawk let me get to it. I spotted him perched in a lone tree in the middle of this grassy field. I started shooting him froma afar, gradually working my way closer to the tree. He was enormous and -- like all Ohio hawks -- gorgeous. Eventually, he took off, showing an impressive wingspan and graceful flying skills. I'm pretty sure this was a red-tailed hawk, though we saw at least one Cooper's hawk at the park.

Author honored for encouraging kids to venture into woods News from the new Grange Insurance Audubon Center, located south of Downtown on the Whittier Peninsula:

"The National Audubon Society yesterday named author Richard Louv as the 50th recipient of the prestigious Audubon Medal for sounding the alarm about the health and societal costs of children's isolation from the natural world -- and for sparking a growing movement to remedy the problem.

A former columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune and author of seven books, Louv gained wide attention through his acclaimed book, Last Child in the Woods. The book reveals a direct connection between the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired youth and its negative health and societal impacts, a phenomenon Louv terms 'Nature-Deficit Disorder.

To learn about local efforts to address Nature Deficit Disorder at Audubon, please visit www.audubon.org."

Another Good Idea: Adult Scouts I've been thinking a lot about the Boy Scouts of America. Though I spent countless hours outside, I never got to be a scout when I was young. It's still one of the best organizations encouraging yound boys to play and grow in and with nature. Nature-definiency disorder is a pressing problem for children, but it's also one for adults. I was thinking of how to remedy this problem.

I think it would be awesome to start a national group of Adult Scouts, which would encourage older people to get out into nature. We could have updated merit badges and monthly gatherings canoeing, hiking, camping or birding. This would be totally sweet. Currently, I'm starting an old-school whiskey and cigar private club. Adult Scouts will be my next project.

Adult forts in Schiller park -- sweet! Send ideas.