Summer is the time of the year when kids are off from school, the sun is shining and outdoor activities abound. It is the perfect time to stimulate a child’s interest in photography as an aside to their already active schedules. Additionally, it is the perfect time to capture images of your children out and having fun in the warm weather.
For a physical activity that still meets the requirements of photography, sun printing is a unique way to create beautiful, deep blue cyanotypes in a very simple manner. Blue Sunprints makes a line of pre-treated printing papers that only require open sunlight to expose and water to develop. With a variety of paper sizes and media to print on, you can pick whichever combination you like to best suit the objects of which you’re interested in making images. Cyanotype printing is a contact form of printing, meaning you lay whichever objects on top of the paper, expose in the sun and once developed in a water bath, the blocked areas of the print will remain white while the exposed areas turn a vibrant blue.
Another alternative process that is perfect for the summertime is an Anthotype. This printing process uses colorful flowers, berries, or vegetables that you can pick from your own garden in order to create a photo-sensitive emulsion for contact printing. You will have to do a bit of experimentation, but you can choose many types of organic materials to mash up into a paste; perfect examples include black currants, lilacs, tulips, or beets. Once you’ve created your emulsion, you will have to coat a sheet of fine art paper, such as Crane’s No. 90 Cover Paper, and allow drying. After your paper is ready you can choose almost any object or positive transparency to place onto the paper and simply place it in the sun for exposure and development. Depending on the type of plant you use, exposure times can vary from hours to even days of fully sunlit exposure. More detailed information on Anthotypes and other printing processes you can do in the sun can be found in Christopher James’ The Book of Alternative Processes.
The ideal camera for a kid is something that is simple and intuitive to use, something not too technically advanced, and something that is not too expensive or fragile to worry about. Toy cameras fit this bill almost perfectly, and aside from that, their resulting images have a unique, youthful aesthetic.
The Lomography Diana Mini 35mm Camera is a smaller version of the famed Diana F+ that accepts a more convenient 35mm-sized film and allows you to make up to 72 half-frame exposures per roll. This camera, as well as many other toy cameras, is best known for its characteristic light leaks, vignetting or soft focus that give images an ethereal quality. Operation is incredibly straightforward and only involves choosing between three shutter speeds (sunny, cloudy, or bulb exposure) and an approximate subject distance. This no-frills setup allows you to focus more on enjoying yourself rather than worrying about camera settings; perfect for a summer day. Other Lomography cameras that kids will certainly enjoy for a summer day include the ActionSampler, a 4-lens camera giving you an image composed of 4 smaller, but similar images; the Pop 9, which gives you 9 similar images within the same frame; or the La Sardina line of cameras, which appropriate the shape of an old sardine can and mix with maritime-inspired graphics.
For a more hands-on approach, and for the person who loves to build things, there is Lomo’s 35mm Paper Pinhole Camera. This small-form camera comes flat-packed and ready for you to assemble yourself, resulting in a fully-functioning cardboard pinhole camera with a working shutter. Aside from creating a unique camera yourself, building one from scratch will help develop a working knowledge of the essential mechanics of photography.
For summer trips to the pool or the beach, a waterproof camera is essential for not limiting your photographing time while cooling off in the water. These cameras are compact and easy to use, and in addition to being waterproof they tend to be a bit more durable than your average digital camera due to their water-tight sealing. They are ideal for kids to carry with them during their days of summer without having to worry about being in the water or on land.
The Vivitar Vivicam 8400 digital camera is an affordable 8 megapixel point-and-shoot camera that is waterproof to 33 feet below the waves. In addition to recording still images, it can also record videos in standard VGA and QVGA formats. Playback and review of images and movies is possible on the 2.4-inch TFT-LCD and the camera is conveniently powered by 2x AA batteries.
Offering slightly greater image resolution, the Nikon Coolpix S30 (available in Blue, Pink or White) is another compact option that provides waterproofing to 9.8' and shock protection from drops up to 2.6'. This 10.1MP camera features a NIKKOR glass lens with 3x optical zoom and the ability to record high definition 720p movies. Playback is available on the 2.7-inch TFT-LCD and there is a variety of animated effects and tools you can apply directly to your photos for a more fun experience.
For the more serious young photographer, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 (available in black, blue, orange and silver) suits their active lifestyle while maintaining superb image quality. The TS4 features a 4.6x optical zoom Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens and has a 12.1 megapixel CCD sensor. Apart from being waterproof to almost 40' deep, this camera is also shock proof to 6.5', dust proof, and for transitioning into the winter season, freeze proof to 14°F. This camera also features a built-in GPS module for plotting where your images were taken, helping you to remember your journey.
For the times when your children are in front of the lens, you might need a little encouragement to direct their focus toward the lens itself. For younger children, this can be as simple as a stuffed animal or small animation near the lens. Camera Creatures and Shutter Huggers are creatively designed stuffed animals or characters with a hole in the middle, allowing them to fit around your lens. This clever design conceals the camera and makes it seem as if it’s only a friendly looking animal in front of them.
Another option for getting your child’s attention when photographing them is the Samsung DVF300F Digital Camera. The most notable feature on this compact point and shoot is the dual LCD screens. The front-facing screen is capable of displaying a pre-programmed animation in order to capture young people’s attention while you photograph them. Additionally, this 16-megapixel camera also has an array of options, such as Magic Frame and Funny Face, to add humorous effects to your images, perfectly suitable for photos of children.
Integrating photography into your summer rituals can be both an immersive experience, such as the case with alternative, sun printing methods, or merely a way to record the fun times you are having. Whichever case, images can serve to evoke these warm memories well after summer has gone and the cold winter has come.