When I think of my childhood, I think of the outdoors, the river that I played in, the round top barn that we worked in, and the animals that we raised. I spent so much time outdoors; I watched the clouds and listened to the wind and birds. What I wouldn’t give to have images of me as a child riding my horses in the pasture with the gorgeous blue sky above or the golden red sunsets to the west.

How to photograph your life outdoors by April Burns

I strive to capture this environment, the environment that my boys are growing up in, the sky above, the pasture that they run in with their animals, and the amazing beauty of nature that surrounds them.   How lucky are we to have an art show every morning when the sun rises and every evening when the sun sets! Why not capture it!

Capturing the sky above my boys

Oh how I love clouds!!!  I have a major sky obsession! In the evenings, if the sky is amazing, I will step off of the porch and capture the sky from various angles, shooting straight forward with the edge of the tree line at the bottom of the frame.  I capture the sun in the center, left, and right of the frame if it is evening. If it is the middle of the day, I capture the clouds shooting straight forward making sure that the sky fills my frame with the tree line at the bottom.  I do this to make sure that I have captured the beautiful sky and that I have exposed for the sky correctly.  These images are saved to use as my own cloud overlays.

I try to capture the clouds and use them in photographs from the same day. I will send the kiddos out to run and play in the pasture, I spot meter off of their skin most of the time. I try to send them in the direction of the cloud images that I have taken, so that the sun is hitting them in the same direction.  When spot metering for my kiddos, the sky is usually blown in the image, but I have the beautifully captured skies ready to add back in during processing.   One thing to remember when photographing skies for overlays is that if you are focusing on a subject more than likely the sky is not going to be tack sharp in focus, you want it to be somewhat out of focus. When I photograph the sky I will focus on something closer to me and then recompose for the sky, so that the sky is somewhat out of focus. The image with the cow was shot during full sun and the sky was not blown, but there were no clouds that day and I had captured the clouds a couple of days before that were gorgeous, so I used that image as an overlay.

dad and son with a cow picture by April Burns 2

farm life pic by April Burns 3

Shooting in full sun

I shoot in full sun quite often.  On the weekends at my Dad’s farm, we check cattle during the day, not during our beautiful golden hour. The one thing about shooting in full sun is that it is so much easier to capture the skies in frame.  The images below were captured in frame without having to be added back in during processing. When shooting in full sun, I never ask the kiddos to look at me, I just tell them to run this way, or just capture them playing. I do this trying to avoid squinting eyes and harsh shadows. I usually expose for the brightest part of their skin, where the sun is hitting them, trying to avoid blowing out any areas. Then I check to make sure that my sky is still captured, if not I will under expose a notch. Sometimes I even take several shots adjusting the exposure for each shot without taking the camera away from my face.

boy on the farm picture by April Burns 4

boy and girl holding hands photo by April Burns 5

boy sitting in the sun by April Burns 6

kids and cows photo by April Burns

Working with structures (barns, yard ornaments, hubby’s trailer obsession)

We live on a farm and let’s face it, farms have junk. Okay, maybe it’s not junk; some have beautiful barns, sheds, and gorgeous orange vintage trailers!!!  My kiddos love climbing fences, playing in goat feeders, and running on flatbed trailers! Forget the swing set!  I have learned and am still learning how to capture the kiddos in this environment in a beautiful way!

Things that I have learned and for you to try:

  • Watch how the sun hits the edge of structures, squat down, lean this way, move around, and squint your eyes.
  • Find where the sun bursts through holes and around edges and use this to your advantage.
  • Watch for amazing light inside barns, garages, sheds, porches etc.
  • Guide your subject towards that amazing light.

boy hanging on a fence photo by April Burns

boy playing with goats picture by April Burns

boy standing in front of fan photo by April Burns

My boys love running and playing on our flatbed trailers. Since the trailers are elevated, I am able to capture them with the sky behind them which is great for silhouettes.  Because of our tall grass and tree line I have a hard time capturing silhouettes without finding a small hill for them to stand on and a low area for me to lie in.  Remember always – Safety First!  My hubby calls me a helicopter mom because I am always hovering; these little cuties are never left alone at the barn.

boys looking at a tire photograph by April Burns

brothers running photo by April Burns

kid jumping off a trailer photo by April Burns

I have always admired reflection images, images on the beach, and at lakes. Well, we have a stock tank, and two of my favorite images were taken after I noticed the boys’ reflection one evening when they were sticking their heads in the water! I kept this in the back of my head and one evening when the light was perfect I asked them to look at the water and find themselves!  They thought this was so cool! I am still waiting for the moment when I can capture the boys looking in the water as the goats are surrounding them drinking. One day maybe this will happen!

kids drinking water by April Burns

boy drinking water by April Burns

Capturing animals

You will notice that many of my images have animals in them; we raise cattle and goats. I absolutely love capturing the boys and their animals. Sometimes I will have them take a cup of feed and direct them to walk towards the sun during the golden hour or in a different direction if the sky is amazing that way.  In order to capture the goats heads instead of their other end, I will have the boys stand in a certain spot and then walk towards me with the goats following behind them.

boy feeding goats picture by April Burns

I think a lot about the sun, the clouds, the positioning, and the landscape, but sometimes I have to step back and relax. I just capture the kiddos playing without direction. These are some of my favorite images!  And, don’t forget to capture your pets; they are such an amazing part of our lives.

boy giving goats food pic by April Burns

kid playing with goats pic by April Burns

boys and their dog by April Burns

And then there is always the time when the Nubians get out of their pen and end up on the back porch!

goats and kids photo by April Burns

Capturing the whole picture

I challenge you to step back, relax, and look at the whole picture, your environment, the sky, and the sunset.  Look at your yard or your pasture, find your favorite tree or barn and capture it in an image with your kiddos so that someday, they can look back and see that tree that they played under, that barn that they ran through and the fences that they climbed.  When looking back through old photos, I love seeing the houses that my family grew up in. Don’t forget to capture your home, so that one day your grandbabies can look back and see where so many amazing memories were made.