Kids, Photography and a Roadtrip

Kids, Photography and a Roadtrip

Xavier, 5, using the Fuji Wide Instax instant camera.

Kids and Photography… (hang in there, the roadtrip part is toward the end of this post). With the advent of digital photography being in the hands of just about everyone via smart phones, tablets and digital cameras, the world of photography is in the hands of many kids starting at an early age. I personally have been photographing most of my nieces and nephews since the day they were born, even more so for their kids and their kids kids. As a result the youngest ones, my great-greats, started reaching for my camera or smart phone from a very early age. 

About a year ago I started a project with my oldest little ones and photography. I decided that, once they turned four years old, I was going to get a camera that they could use and start taking them on photography adventures where I’d go with them in a one-on-one situation. It’s been a wonderful trip with the three oldest among my great-great nieces and nephews that live in my area.  Going out shooting with them and seeing the world from their viewpoint has been a blast.

Jayden with the Fuji Instax

I started the three of them out sharing a Fuji Wide Instax, a Polaroid type instant camera. I wanted to have them use something that would give them a tangible print that they could hold in their hand and watch develop, much like many of us older folk did when we were kids. I feel that has helped them enjoy shooting photos more. I also got each of them a photo album to keep their pictures in so they can share them with family and friends. All three of the boys, Xavier, Jayden, and Damion have moved on to shooting a digital camera lately.

Now, the instant camera is in reserve for our next young photographer, Elaina, who turns four in July. Damion, her brother, still wants to shoot with the instant camera sometimes, but at $1 per photo I’ve  decided to move him and the others more into the digital realm. This way they can zoom and take as many photos as they want. I just make sure and get 4×6 prints of the best of the photos they shoot by the next day and give them to them for their photo books. I really can’t stress too much how important I feel this is. For the young photographer to have an album to thumb through, to relive and to share his or her adventures in taking the photos is very important. If the image sits on the camera, which they need to have adult supervision when using, or on a laptop that they can’t use without an adult, it’s hard for them to go back and look at their pictures whenever they want to. I feel having easy access is a very important part of their growth in this visual world!

Damion shooting with a Fuji FinePix S4250

Now, they are 4-5 years old and, with this in mind, I didn’t want to start them out on a expensive digital point and shoot camera. I’ve worked with them on handling the camera carefully and to keep the camera strap around their neck when they use it and they all three do a good job, but still, they are kids!

I shopped around our local pawn shops and found a lightweight Fuji camera, with a viewfinder and LCD screen, they could use that wasn’t real expensive. I wanted the viewfinder as that’s what they were used to with the Instax camera. I paid $50 for a Fuji FinePix S4250 which is a 14mp camera with a 24x optical zoom. It only weighs a pound and is just the right fit for small hands! They’ve been using it for about six months now and it’s still working great, with limited drops! I just looked yesterday at a local pawn shop and they had one just like it for $30. I think if you shop around you can find something in the same price range.

I’ve been showing the kids copies of the pictures I shoot of them, pretty much their whole lives, so they’ve been exposed to what I consider photos with good composition for sometime. On the shooting and direction aspect of kids shooting photos at a young age, I’ve not tried to guide them a whole lot when it comes to composing their photos. Occasionally I might recommend they move in a little closer or perhaps stand in a different spot but, for the most part, I don’t look over their shoulder, point the camera for them and tell them when to press the shutter. I feel if I do that, it’s not really their picture they’re shooting. Do they always come back with what I think might have been the best photo? No, of course not, none of us do when we first start out in photography and many of us still don’t even after doing it for 40+ years, like myself! 

As their photo editor (haven’t started the post production with them yet) I do occasionally crop their photos (digital) and make other minor corrections in editing, but for the most part the photos they shoot are theirs, the way they saw them. 

Damion and uncle Jimmy at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park. – Photo by April Pearson

And, now, the Roadtrip…. Recently my sister, April, and I took Damion with us to the Spring Photography Weekend at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Dawson Springs, Ky, for his first photography competition in the children’s division. We all three had a blast! We’re planning to take Jayden to the Fall weekend there and then Xavier next Spring for their first “competition.” Getting the kids out shooting where other kids are involved I think is just another step in their adventure with photography.

Damion loved exploring and capturing photos along the way during the weekend. He told us that he hoped he’d win a trophy and he did!! First place in the landscape category and a third place in the water category! Not sure who was prouder, him or us! What he referred to as “Secret Caves,” were among his favorite spots, along with the waterfall, and his “Secret Steps” which is the photo that won him his first place trophy. I love the fresh viewpoint that the young kids have with their photography.

Where do I hope the kids go with this photography thing? Well, my hope mostly is that they have a love for photography and the world it opens for them.  So, when to start your young photographer out? I personally picked 4 years old, but you can start them whenever you feel they are old enough so that you can communicate with them, when they can understand and follow simple directions.  So that you can converse with them and they can understand you and you them!

Below are Damions two winning images from his first photo competition.

First Place Children’s Division – Landscape – Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park.
Third Place Children’s Division – Water – Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park.

If you’d like to follow the Shutterbug Kids, they have their own Website, Facebook and Instagram pages all maintained by me, their uncle Jimmy. Below are links to each of them. The boys aren’t directly involved with the social media aspect yet, although they do ask if I’m going to put their picture on Facebook sometimes, so they are aware.  That lesson will have to wait a few years, but they really enjoy seeing their pictures online.


Facebook, Instagram, Website


Facebook, Instagram, Website


Facebook, Instagram, Website

In closing, get out with your little ones, make memories and capture them together! You’ll be happy you did and they will as well!

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A Final Roadtrip

A Final Roadtrip

Davie and I on a cruise to the Bahamas with family.

Losing a family member to sudden death is probably one of the hardest things that one will experience in life. While my sister April and Davie’s twin brother Dannye, have seen our dad, mom, and another brother make this trip before, it’s a little easier for us, but still hard. For all his nieces and nephews, great and great-great nieces and nephews, it’s been a lot harder as he’s been like a second father to all of them.

A little over a week ago we laid Davie to rest, or to many of his kids, Uncle Davie, next to his mom, dad and brother who made this trip before him.

Davie loved life, there’s no doubt about that at all. He was also probably one of the most christian men I’ve ever known in my life. A role model I’ve tried to follow over the years. No, he didn’t attend church on a regular basis and I honestly can’t ever recall him saying a prayer out loud, but instead he lived his faith in love and service to his family, friends and in some cases those he didn’t even know that well. That was my brother Davie.

As with any loss of a family member we all have had our “what ifs” that we must deal with, but I know my brother and he’d be the first to say, don’t even think of going there! When it’s time, it’s time and only the Lord knows. The saving grace in all this is that he didn’t suffer as his dad, mom, and brother did for several years before they passed. I personally think that would have been much harder.

All the family made it to Davie’s Celebration of Life service, even his nephew Brad and family, who are currently serving in the Air Force and stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, were able to take part thanks to today’s modern technology by using Facebook’s video chat feature and our nephew Kenneth who kept the camera rolling through some difficult moments for himself.

Davie’s service was just what the name implied, a celebration of his life and I know he was there in spirit enjoying every minute of it. All the little ones running around, yes running around, and playing, along with family and friends telling funny stories about him and celebrating the life he led. I can see Davie through the lives of his nieces and nephews. I know from the bottom of my heart that he loved us all and is proud of all of them!

Davie, like his dad, older brother, and myself, served his country and the military service and honors given him at the graveside were moving to say the least. I’m sure he’s humbled at it all, because again, I know my brother.

I’ll miss him here on earth, but I rejoice in knowing that we’ll be together someday down the road! Till I take that trip myself, I’ll try to carry on the love that he had for his family and friends.




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A different kind of (rail) Road Trip to Fort Branch, Indiana!

A different kind of (rail) Road Trip to Fort Branch, Indiana!

Me working on shooting CSX railroad changing out a bridge at Ft. Branch, In. – Photo by Dave Kunkel

Earlier this week I set out on a day-long road trip to southern Indiana to shoot what’s called a time-lapse video of CSX Railroad changing out a bridge just outside Ft. Branch, Indiana.

Time-lapse photography is a technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that used to view the sequence. When played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, then played back at 30 frames per second; the result is an apparent 30 times speed increase. Time-lapse photography can be considered the opposite of high speed photography or slow motion.

Processes that would normally appear subtle to the human eye, e.g. the motion of the sun and stars in the sky, become very pronounced. Time-lapse is the extreme version of the cinematography technique of undercranking, and can be confused with stop motion animation.

Work was supposed to being sometime around noon, but I wanted to make sure that I was there in case they started early, so I was up at 5am!! Yes, I said 5am!! Any of you know that as a rule my climb out of bed time is 8am, so yes, this was a bit of challenge. 

The drive up was smooth, this early in the morning on a Monday, so I guess that’s one thing that was good about getting up this early.

Weather was wonderful! Only thing I wish was there were a bit more clouds in the sky! I love clouds in my photographs and in a time-lapse they really add to the movement of the overall scene. However, it was mostly clear for the duration of my 6 hours of standing around the site where the work was being done. Yes, I said six hours! 

I had to park a good distance from the location where the work was going on, so at least I got a good bit of my daily 10,000 steps in by walking back and forth to the car for things like water, fresh batteries for the camera and so forth. I packed for the day long shoot with snacks, water, things to read and plenty of batteries for the camera. Only thing I forgot and didn’t think of until I was about 4 hours into the shoot, was suntan lotion! By the time, I remember it was a bit too late so for a few days after I was red faced! I did at least wear a hat and long sleeves! Next time I won’t forget! My face is still peeling!

The crews got clearance to start their work at about 9:50am and by that time I had figured out how I wanted to position my camera and the rate that I would shoot pictures for the final video. In case you’re interested, the camera was set to take a picture every second for the six hours! That’s a total of about 21,600 individual photographs! Once they were combined into individual movie clips I had a total of 23 video clips of the operation with about 15 minutes of video that I edited down to the final clip of just over 7 minutes that you see below.

I really enjoy doing time-lapse videos, but they are time consuming and take a bit of planning. Plus, there as to be plenty of movement that takes place to provide interesting visuals! While it’s not something I think, I could do on many of the longer road trips that my sister and I take, I plan on trying to do some more often for everyone’s enjoyment and pleasure!

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Off to see the rabbit!

Off to see the rabbit!

On Maundy Thursday afternoon we loaded up two vehicles, my sister’s “camper van” (as the kids call it) and my SUV, with my great-niece Tracy and her kids, Jeremiah, Jordan, Journey and Jayden along with her sister Ashley’s kids, Elaina and Damion, and took off to Owensboro, Ky in search of the Easter Rabbit!

Every year their grandmother, Jeanne, has us bring them all down to visit the Easter bunny at her work. They have Mr. and Mrs. Bunny there to pass out gifts to the kids and they always enjoy it. Plus we take them to the Owensboro Riverfront afterwards so they can have some play time on the wonderful playground there.

Damion and Jayden rode with me and it never ceases to amaze me how they entertain each other from the back seat!

On the ride down they both brought their tablets and had a great time battling each other. Even though neither one had the same games, it didn’t stop them! They both still had a ball!

One of Damion’s remarks cracked me up when he said, “Jesus, help me level up!” Afterwards, he said, “it’s not something you really should ask Jesus for though.” How did they get so smart at 4-5 years old? With that being said, a short time later he shouts out “alright, I’m at level 4!” So, was it an answered prayer from an innocent 4-year-old? 

The visit to see the Easter Rabbits at Jeanne’s went very well and everyone had a good time. Jordan wouldn’t approach them closer than a few feet this year, so he’s not in the group shot! Funny thing is that last year I seem to recall it was his older brother, Jayden, that had the issues, or maybe it was one of the other kids.

After we finished at Jeanne’s office we headed off to the riverfront. Sis and Tracy took the van with the smaller kids, while Jeanne and I took the four older ones and walked the three or so blocks to the playground, which made it a little bit more of an adventure. Plus, Jeanne and I both needed to get our step-count up for our family FitBit weekly challenge!

The playground at the riverfront park is really a great place to take kids! Sis took over care of our youngest, Jeremiah, while Jeanne, Tracy, and myself attempted to keep up with the five older kids on the playground. Talk about a job!!! I don’t know how my mom and dad kept up with the 5 of us when we went on outings. It’s a full time job! They all took off in several directions at once, running, climbing, jumping and having a great time! Even Jordan, who is wearing some braces these days, to fix a issue with his left leg, had a great time and didn’t let the braces slow him down at all. Mom Tracy, of course, stuck close by him to help, but he didn’t miss a beat with the having fun part! There’s a gallery at the end of this post of the kids from today’s adventure.

However, all good things had to come to an end and we loaded the little ones back up into the van while I headed back to Jeanne’s work with Damion and Jayden on foot while Jeanne to the two girls by a different route. On the way down they were, of course, full of energy and excited, but as always, when it’s time to head back they were less enthused to say the least! To help make the return trip easier I allowed them to be a little more adventurous. The fountains along the riverfront were, as always, a big hit and, while on the way down, we had told them to stay off the ledge that surrounds them. On the way back, however, under a watchful eye, since they were no longer spraying water, I allowed them to walk on the wide ledges! They seemed to me to be built for that purpose and I’ve seen plenty of other kids doing likewise with their parents help, so I let the boys be boys! 

When we got within less than a block of Jeanne’s office, where we had parked, Damion was pretty much tuckered out and ready for me to carry him. Instead I let him and Jayden take a laying down break on the nice spring grass in front of the Owensboro Convention Center, till they were rested enough to prod them along to the parking lot and meet up with Jeanne, Elaina and Journey. 

After a quick stop at the convenience store to pickup something to drink for everyone, we hit the road back home. The kids, at this point, all tore into the bag of goodies that they got from Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny. 

Jayden and Damion finished up the last 45 minutes or so of our trip home by each one telling the other stories, ranging from zombie tales to stories about ninjas and other superheros! One thing for sure, all of our littles have great imaginations! 

Above is about a 4-minute audio file of the boys and their stories. There’s a lot of road noise, but I think if you play with your volume you’ll get the idea. All in all everyone enjoyed the trip and sis and I made it back to town in time for the Maundy Thursday service at church!

A gallery of photos from our trip to see the Easter Bunny


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Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Off we go.

My oldest daughter, Chrystal, lives in Chicago.  She tries to make it home once a month or so to see her only grandson, Xavier, who lives here.  All her other little ones are girls.  Two of them live in Texas and the other two are currently in Germany.  She is Damion and Elaina’s favorite aunt as well.  The timing of her trips depends on what’s happening here and at work.  Things came together this past weekend and we spent the whole time entertaining toddlers.

On Saturday, there was an Easter Egg Hunt and a trip to the movies.  Sunday morning we all went to church, but the real gig was on Friday when we took the three of them to the Land Between the Lakes Nature Center.   

Now, these three are roadtrip veterans.  Xavier, the oldest, has gone with his grandmother to visit his Dad in Texas several times.  We’ve taken all of them to the Kentucky Railway Museum a couple of times, most recently to see Thomas the Train.  We have a Pearson Family Reunion in Ohio every year and, usually, take them along there too.  We all love zoos and we’ve been to St. Louis, where they have a cousin, as well as Nashville and Louisville.  Other family members also travel with them occasionally.  So, they understand that, when we tell them it’s a long trip and pack movies, snacks, and books, it’s going to take quite a while.

Of course, they spent the first twenty minutes of the trip devouring most of their snacks. Then they got restless.  In spite of the fact that they’ve been to the Nature Center before and kind of remembered it, they started asking, “Do they have giraffes?  Will there be elephants?” Then, as proof that they were just playing around, “Do they have sharks and octopuses?”  Their imaginations are ten times the size of their bodies and they were in full charge the rest of the hour long drive.  

Even the movies they had chosen to bring didn’t really occupy them for long.  It was like being trapped with the a pack of howling puppies.  They weren’t being bad, not arguing, not whining.  They were having fun, laughing, talking (all at once), asking questions, even singing.  Strapped into their seats, they couldn’t wrestle or climb around the car physically, so they made up for it verbally.  

They enjoyed the Nature Center and were just as amazed and fascinated by it all as ever.  They loved the inside displays.  They hung on every fence and searched for each animal as though they’d never seen one before, even though there weren’t as many as usual and most of them were hiding in their dens.  They especially loved the raptors, but the polliwogs they found along the edge of the garden pond were a big hit too.  They made friends with a dog out front and had to stop to pet him on the way out.

Since it was past lunch time and the grown ups were hungry even if the toddlers were still full of snacks, we drove back to Grand Rivers and stopped at the grocery store for supplies to have a car picnic.   The adults had sandwiches and the kids got lunchables.  

We had planned to take them to see an eagles nest that Jim knew about, but the birds weren’t really flying.  Plus, there was a crowd of serious photographers toting three foot lenses on tripods.  It didn’t seem like a place to release the Wild Bunch, so Jim took a few shots while we waited in the car.  The trip back was just as rambunctious as ever.  The hour or so spent running around hadn’t burned up their energy at all.  We really do love traveling with toddlers.


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