|Photo by Leonard Beeghley|
I was on my belly in one of the Terrace Gardens paths, hoping I wouldn't get in the way of other visitors. My camera in front of me, I placed the lens as close as I could to a patch of delicate blue and purple pansies bordering the trail and reaching just a few inches above the ground. Sure, I could have taken the photo standing up, but I had just learned about the importance of different photography perspectives in "Learning to See in Nature," and I was already impressed with how interesting my image looked as I got down to the plant's level.
The photography courses at Duke Gardens have opened up a whole new world for me, changing the way I see the natural environment when I am photographing. I am pursuing the Nature Photography Certificate, which requires four core photography classes, 30 class hours of electives, and three Home Horticulture Certificate required courses. I am nearing the completion of my certificate, and the difference in the technical quality of my photographs as well as composition is obvious.
|Beautiful redbud blossoms|
|Monocot cells under the microscope in Basic Botany.|
The largest surprise in my certificate journey has been how much I have enjoyed the Home Horticulture Certificate courses. Though I am an environmental student, I actually know quite little about gardening basics or plant identification, and it was a true joy to recognize plants in the Gardens after taking a tour with Education Director Jan Little in "Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens;" to look through the microscope with Duke professor Alec Motten, who taught the Gardens' "Basic Botany" class, as we differentiated a monocot from a dicot; to pull apart an onion plant as my first propagation practice in "Gardening 101." As an ecologist, I'm usually focused on the big picture - a forest, a landscape, a park - and it was really great to focus on individual plants, or even individual cells!
|Learning tree identification in "Landscape Plants" class.|
As I near the end of my Nature Photography Certificate, I find myself recommending the courses to new and experienced photographers alike. There is always something new to learn, and I pick up helpful tips from both the skilled instructors as well as my fellow students!
Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.