Nature Photography Certificate
Use light, composition, and an array of specialized techniques to capture the natural world with your camera. Work with nature photography experts to hone your artistic skill and technique to create nature photographs worthy of framing.
During classroom study and field experience, you will:
- Develop and expand your potential as a photographer.
- Master a range of photographic skills and techniques.
- Gain knowledge of photography as a tool for biological and environmental documentation and awareness.
- Share experiences with people of similar interests.
- Meet professional photographers from a variety of disciplines.
- Expand your appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
The Nature Photography Certificate has three core photography courses, three core natural history courses, forty-five contact hours of electives, and a juried nature photography projects.
Introduction to Nature Photography
Through nature photography you may express your delight in a particular season, the beauty of a flower or insect, or document an item for scientific purposes. In this class you will learn the full range of uses for nature photography, and be introduced to equipment basics, field notes, exposure, light, and compositional strategies. Class will include hands-on practice in the field and classroom reviews. The recommended text is Nature Photography Field Guide by John Shaw.
P001. 17 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Light and Exposure
Photographs are stories of a subject painted with light. The dramatic impact of the story is greatly influenced by the photographer's use of light and exposure. Discuss the various qualities of light that photographers encounter in shooting the natural landscape, and examine the quantity, color, and quality of light found during the course of the day and the seasons. Through practice in the field and classroom reviews, learn how to use different natural lighting creatively and effectively, what filters to use, and how to get correct exposures in each light quality.
Prerequisite: Introduction to Nature Photography
P100. 15 hours. Spring, Fall
Composition in Nature
How do you capture the "physicality" of a scene – its shapes, textures, and forms? Composition is a fundamental cornerstone of photography. Learn photographic techniques for composing and capturing natural scenes in photographs by combining the physical elements and colors you observe in nature. Through practice in the field and classroom reviews, translate design principles, subjects, and prevailing light into appealing, expressive photographs.
Prerequisite: Introduction to Nature Photography
P110. 15 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Three of the following courses are required to complete the Nature Photography Certificate
Introduction to Botany
Study the structure of plants, including their flowers, leaves, roots, and stems, and learn how plant structure is related to plant function. Class includes both lectures and lab sessions.
N234. 18 hours. Fall, Winter
Local Flora: Spring, Summer, or Fall
Learn to identify native and introduced plants in our forests, prairies, and wetlands by both common and scientific names. Only one class in this series is required.
N315, N316, N317. 15 hours. Spring, Summer, Fall
Tree Identification and Ecology
Learn to recognize plants of the Chicago region and their preferred plant community, including both native and commonly planted woody plants. You will examine 70 – 80 trees, develop the skills to identify them, and discuss relevant aspects of tree biology and ecology.
N242. 16 hours. Summer, Fall
Field Ecology: Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall
Study the ecology of Illinois as it unfolds throughout the four seasons. You will practice data-gathering methods used by professional biologists while you explore the relationships between plants, animals, and their environment.
N011, N012, N013, N014. 12 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Elective courses change from season to season, expanding the certificate with new information and responding to student evaluations and requests. Elective courses may include courses, such as:
- History of Nature Photography
- Black and White Photography
- Photographing Water
- Nighttime Photography
- Photographing Trees
- Plants in the Landscape
- Plants in Close Up
- Abstracts in Nature
- Wildlife Photography
- Adobe Photoshop and other courses in the digital processing and manipulation of photographs
To obtain maximum benefit, participants should have, at a minimum, a basic 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR or DSLR) camera with adjustable aperture and shutter speeds. Elective courses may recommend or require other specialized equipment.
Frequently asked questions about nature photography courses.
Morton Arboretum Photographic Society
The Morton Arboretum Photographic Society (MAPS) is a photography society whose focus is nature as inspired by the mission of The Morton Arboretum.
Meetings are held year-round on the second Monday of each month (excepting holidays) in the Morton Arboretum’s Thornhill Education Center – The Arbor Room. Meetings start at 7:00 p.m., and guests are always welcome.
For the latest information and events, please visit the MAPS Blog. (Offsite link)