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Miles Mudderman practices his digital photography skills at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge.

Tamarac Refuge focuses on youth and digital photography

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There is a common misconception that technology and nature need to be enjoyed within two separate environments.

To obtain the best experience from the great outdoors one needs to put away the laptop and pick up a walking stick. Especially with an upcoming generation dependant on wires and gadgets for entertainment, it may be difficult to convince a child to leave the electronics at the door to go outside and play.

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This is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations dedicated to connecting children with the environment are encouraging children to use digital photography to awaken their sense of wonder towards the natural world.

"We are tapping into their interest of technology so kids will spend time in nature," Kelly Blackledge, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services manager, said.

Tamarac holds several digital photography workshops every year to teach children about photography basics and techniques used to take successful pictures of wildlife. Blackledge said she personally witnessed an increased interest in the outdoors from students in a workshop at Tamarac this spring.

"The students were looking more closely at nature, said Blackledge. "A normal 15 minute hike took 45 minutes."

Denis Mudderman, a volunteer photographer at the refuge, said that workshops help new upcoming wildlife photographers bond with nature because they force the photographer to study their subjects.

"You need to develop an understanding of animals, their environments and behavior to get a good picture," said Mudderman.

He also commented that nature photography pushes individuals to go outside because it gives them an initial mission when stepping out the door.

"So much of nature photography is taking the opportunity to get out and take pictures," said Mudderman.

Nature photography also pushes the artist to wander and discover, not keeping him/her confined within the walls of a studio. Miles Mudderman, Denis's 10-year-old nephew and a winner of the annual Tamarac photo contest, said that he likes taking pictures of nature because he can explore. And studies have found that exploring and unstructured playtime outside is essential in a child's development.

The next opportunity to attend a nature photography workshop at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge will be on Saturday, June 27 at 10 a.m. at the visitor center. This event is designed for the whole family.

First there will be a presentation revealing some photography secrets, showing examples and covering photography basics including shutter speed, aperture and composition. Then the group will explore the refuge to capture Mother Nature through the lens. The workshop will conclude at the visitor center with a picture review.

Please bring your own camera and a sack lunch for this four-hour class. All ages and anyone looking for some time to focus on nature are encouraged to attend. For more information contact the refuge staff at 218-847-2641.

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