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Pics in the Parks Workshops a Treasure for Boston

Parks and Recreation Department The year 2012 celebrates the 16th anniversary of ParkARTS, a program of the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by Bank of America.  ParkARTS is a special offering of concerts, art workshops, programs, and public events across the city that fall into two basic programs: Participatory Arts and Performing Arts.

The full scope of the Participatory Arts series of programs includes painting, having fun, craft workshops, puppet shows, photography and a focus on youth:
  • Landscape watercolor painting workshops
  • Summer fund at the pond
  • Artists in Residence Craft Workshops
  • Marionette puppet show series
  • Pics in the Parks photography workshops and exhibits
  • Boston's Children's Festival
While maintaining more than 2200 acres of parkland throughout the City of Boston, the Parks and Recreation Department is to be lauded for “inviting” residents to engage in artistic activities within the park land through its many programs.

Pics in the Parks Workshops

One such program, “Pics in the Parks,” consists of a series of six photography workshops and is an opportunity to “learn tricks and techniques of taking a perfect photograph."

If that isn’t motivation enough to attend, how about having some of your photos put on display at City Hall in a 4-week post workshop exhibit?

Each Pics in the Parks workshop is held in a different location (see list below) with a theme that changes with each class.  The instructor, Sarah Berry, begins by welcoming everyone and distributing a “class” overview.  What is the theme?  What are the goals?  What is the challenge?  Also included are tips specific to the setting and theme and general tips to reinforce the practice of photography (not snapshots).  

Sarah helps the group get started since often the “theme” needs to be explained with lots of examples provided.  She continues to be available during the full session to answer questions, provide help and to review photos taken during the session.  Lauren Patrick is the official contact for the Pics in the Parks program at the City.

Note:  Due to rain, the Spectacle Island event has been rescheduled to September 9, 2012.

The Importance of the Theme

Pics in the Parks and photography meetups have some characteristics in common.  Both activities create a group setting (friends) and a venue to encourage taking pictures.  What makes Pics in the Parks “special” (at least for this budding photographer) is the presence of a theme.  Gathering in a setting to take photos, for example, at the seashore, downtown or at the zoo encourages the photographer to look through his / her lens for photogenic versions of standard objects - the baby, the sunset, the new house or car, in other words, an object or setting that is pleasing to the eye – “pretty pictures.”

With a Pics in the Parks theme superimposed on a setting, you, the photographer, are no longer looking for “pretty pictures,” but rather are looking for instances of the theme.  

Typical themes are texture, repetition, color, geometry and light and shadow.  So “photos at the seashore” changes to “color at the seashore” or “how shadows get created at the seashore.”  You may still photograph the water in both cases, but if the theme is color, then you will be looking for the color of the water and will probably achieve a better result.

Three Workshops Reviewed

Workshop #3

Schoolmaster Hill in Franklin Park

Theme: Texture
Schoolmaster Hill is a park setting with a myriad of trees, leaves, rocks, grass and long stretches of golf course. While there is always much to see and photograph in this type of setting, adding the challenge of finding “texture” changes the exercise completely.  

Looking through the lens, do I see texture?  Do I even know what that means?  Some of the more interesting examples of texture discovered by this photographer included grasses, microscopic hairs on plant stems, moss growing on rocks and unusual collections of nature and objects that created a textural contrast in the photo.

Pics in the Parks 2012 Pics in the Parks 2012

View all photos from Schoolmaster Hill - Texture
Workshop #4

George Wright Golf Course

Theme: Repetition
The George Wright Golf Course is a beautiful setting, with an abundance of flowers. Superimposing a theme of “repetition” onto that setting caused this photographer’s eye to view the world differently.  Objects with no apparent photogenic status suddenly took on a special beauty.  

With an eye towards repetition, what can I find that repeats itself?  Framed in the lens, will this create a good photo?  Objects photographed included etched concrete, steps, fallen leaves and repetitive plant structures.

At the same time, the instructor, Sarah, cautioned:  “If you see a really good picture, take it whether it includes repetition or not.”
Pics in the Parks 2012 Pics in the Parks 2012

View all photos from George Wright Golf Course - Repetition
Workshop #5

Allendale Woods – West Roxbury

Theme:  Light and Shadows
Allendale Woods was quite an adventure. After descending the bus at the intersection of Center Street and Route 1, this student found a sign that said Allendale Woods and entered the “woods,” walking at length into more and more densely overgrown but beautiful woods.  Still on what appeared to be a legitimate path, this student was never able to find the Pics in the Parks class and exited close to Centre Street and Allendale Road.

After walking “forever” down Allendale Rd and just having decided to starting photographing whatever was left to catch in the waning sunlight, along came another lost Pics in the Parks student (driving).  

We asked for help and were directed to Allendale Farm.  So with a self-created theme of geometry, we two students held class until the farm closed. After driving around (still looking for class), we drove into a church parking lot and discovered the students just ending their session.  The West Roxbury entrance to Allendale Woods is behind a church.

Returning several days later to attempt the theme of “light and shadows", this author discovered that finding opportunities to shoot "light and shadows" is challenging.  A woods on a sunny day casts enough light to create patterns of light/dark but because of a natural bias to look for light and not shadow.  What a wonderful learning experience!

Pics in the Parks 2012 Pics in the Parks 2012

View photos from "Allendale Farm" - Geometry
View photos from "Allendale Woods" - Light and Shadows

A decade and a half of ParkARTS is definitely the beginning.  This author benefited from the photography workshops and many others can as well.  The challenge is getting the word out about these wonderful opportunities so that the City of Boston enhances its relationship with and understanding of the ARTS.

Posted: August 28, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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