Youth photography workshop connects students with pro-photographer, naturalist

Claire and Emma Weber are regulars. So are Douglas and Greg Rigdon.

All four San Antonio youngsters, who range in age from 9 to 15, are hooked on the Picture Your World youth photography project, run by Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas.

The project includes a series of four-hour weekend photography workshops for youth ages 8-18, who, with cameras supplied by Green Spaces Alliance, visit local natural areas accompanied by a professional photographer and a master naturalist.

Green Spaces Alliance, whose mission is to “sustain the natural environment and enhance urban spaces through land conservation, community engagement and education,” hosts the monthly workshops from September through April.

Now in its 11th year, the weekend workshops are sponsored by CPS Energy. Valero sponsors a similar program for elementary school students.

Picture Your World supports CPS Energy’s mission of increasing environmental awareness and conservation, community engagement and education, said Lori Johnson, director of corporate responsibility.

See a slideshow of recent winners here.

“It’s such a unique approach,” Johnson said, “allowing students to see the environment around them in a new way and, at the same time, spur their creativity.”

Regulars like Claire and Emma, or Douglas and Greg, are pretty common, says Sherry Christensen, program manager for Picture Your World.

“A lot of kids, once they attend one workshop, they want to come back,” she said.

Claire, who has been attending for going on four years now, says she still learns new technical skills from the photographers she works with.

“I don’t think you can ever stop learning,” said the 15-year-old, “or run out of things to take pictures of.”

The kids, often accompanied by their parents, visit local gems like Government Canyon, Warbler Woods and the Botanical Gardens. They learn about the flora and fauna of an area and the importance of conservation from the naturalist, while the photographer offers composition and other technical lessons.

Working with a professional is one of Douglas’s favorite parts of the workshop.

“I know how to frame a photo now,” he said. “I like to take close-ups, colorful pictures of wildlife.”

The kids have a chance to show off their work each spring, submitting up to three of their best photos for a nature photography contest that awards cash prizes. Last year, Douglas took first place for one of his photos; he bought his own camera with the prize money.

His mom, Gwen Rigdon, is also a fan of the program.

“I love how hands-on it is,” she said. “Most of the instruction comes while we’re walking and moving. I’ve learned so much, tagging along.”

John Koepke, a peace officer and interpreter for Government Canyon State Natural Area loves seeing how when the kids are out, “looking for subjects, angles and objects they are ENGAGED. Curious, excited, attentive: they are actually hunting for stuff EVERYwhere  they go. They drive the adventure.”

The next Picture Your World workshop will be held Sun., Jan. 27 and still has spaces available. The students will meet from 12:45 pm-4:30 p.m. Each workshop costs $10 for Green Spaces Alliance members’ children and $20 for the children of non-members, but this fee may be waived for students demonstrating financial need.

To register, go to and scroll down to Picture Your World.

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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