The Coast News Group

Summer camp combines photos, nature

RANCHO SANTA FE — Instead of watching the kids play video games inside all summer, there is now an option to let them get outside and engage in the great outdoors through photography and hands-on nature experiences at the Rancho Santa Fe’s Fidero Ranch.
Jennifer Nelson, a resident since 1956, is opening her home and 2-acre yard to children of all ages or even adults if they would like to come to a summer camp where they can learn about photography and the environment.
“Our goal is to introduce children to nature and make them more comfortable in the great outdoors,” she said.
Nelson, a professional photographer, said she has been offering the photography camps for at least 10 years, but had a new idea for this year to include a nature camp as well.
“I thought it would be really nice to incorporate the two together,” she said. “I am passionate about gardening and nature.”
Nelson lives on the Fidero Ranch, which was the original homestead in Rancho Santa Fe in 1885.
“I have owls, frogs, quail, rabbits, roadrunners and occasional deer that come by a little stream that runs down below,” she said.
Her partner in the camps will be Nanz Zekela, a wildlife scientist who has studied endangered species in the wild during a 30-year career at the San Diego Zoo.
Zekela is changing gears to share her knowledge with children.
Nelson said Zekela has studied the mountain gorilla in Rwanda and Giant Pandas in China and will share her experience with the children.
Among the things children will learn at the nature camp will be the life cycle of butterflies and how important butterflies and bees are to crops to keep them growing. She will explain her organic garden, which has a worm box and chickens. She also has an owl box that now has baby owls.
“I will talk to them about the importance of barn owls and hawks which keep down the rodent population,” she said.
During the photography camp students will go out into nature and take photos.
They will also work on portraits.
“Sometimes the kids bring their pets,” she said.
Each day after class, Nelson collects their memory cards and then prints out the photos for a critique the next day.
“At the end of the class, we do a scrapbook of their photographs,” she said.
Children can take one of both parts of the camp that run from $195 for half to $350 for both.
“I think children should be outside enjoying nature more than they do,” she said.
Those interested my begin signing up now, she said.
To learn more, call (858) 756-1830.