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Nature Photography Excites Youngsters


August 6, 2011 by wcobserver

One of the things most grandparents like to do is share activities with their grandchildren because parents often do not have the time, especially during summer when the kids are out of school and when communities and organizations offer a variety of special programs. One of those programs was a free photography class for children offered by the Ozark Folkways Heritage Center in Winslow.

We went to the first class at the end of June which was taught by Todd Whetstine, a self-taught photographer seeking to leave plumbing behind to make photography a fulltime career. I had seen some of his work before and thought it stunning. Todd said, “I liked the process of hunting but not the killing so photography was the natural answer.”

He saw a slide show by renowned Arkansas nature photographer Tim Ernst about six years ago and was hooked. His only formal training has been attending a couple of workshops. Nonetheless he learned quickly and is even teaching night classes this fall at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Center for Learning. He is also a monthly nature writer/photographer for a new publication called @urban. He is currently working on a series of photos with Mitsubishi for possible use in a new corporate building. He currently has photos on exhibition at St. Edwards Hospital in Fort Smith.

The class began with a short session at Folkways where he introduced some basic concepts and showed examples of how to use them. One of the concepts is called the rule of thirds which consists of mentally dividing the photograph into a tic-tac-toe board and placing people in the outside third and looking inward. Another is called the rule of thumb which says that the color quality of the day’s sunset can usually be predicted by covering the sun with your thumb and looking at the surrounding sky. If the sky is white or pale, the sunset will probably be drab; but if it is blue, the sunset will probably be colorful. After the introduction we went to the forest around Lake Fort Smith to try what was explained in class.

That day only two other children besides my granddaughter Kashmir attended the class, which was great for the kids because they received so much individual attention. The two other children were Jackson Brandt from Fayetteville and Alex Loftin from Stigler near Devil’s Den. The kids were eager and happy, and Todd made them feel special by taking the time to help them learn about the specific camera they were using. He also set up his camera and had them look at different kinds of shots. At one point Brandt said, “Oh, that is so cool!”

Though my granddaughter Kashmir Baker is a teenager, I accompanied her to the class and learned as much as she. Timing is everything with kids, and this summer she had already shown an interest in photography taking pictures all around and in our home. I thought some of her pictures were amazing, but I am “the grandma” so objectivity is hard to come by. We were thrilled when Todd looked at some of her previous shots and told her she had an eye for photography, the kind that could not be taught. She is looking forward to returning later this summer and seeing him again, and so am I.

Todd is planning a fall weekend outing starting the evening of October 26 to help people learn more about photography. For more information about some special outing opportunities and for a look at some of his work, go to



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