Photographing Summer at the Playground | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Even though my son isn't in school (and doesn't have a summer break) and my husband's and my work schedules haven't changed, there's still something magical about summer.  Maybe it's carryover from my own childhood - a sense that when the weather is hot and the days are long, life is just different.  A little more carefree and spontaneous.  A little less scheduled and serious.

Summer brings an abundance of life.  In Northern Virginia, we're graced with green and growth everywhere. Towering trees, vibrant wildflowers.  Even the thunderstorms that roll through are welcome, bringing restorative rain and a bit of respite from the heat.  Summer just seems to ooze childhood and fun and evoke calls for dripping watermelon and melting ice cream. Sprinklers in the backyard and walks to the playground.

The playground is one of my favorite places to document family life.  Play is such a vital part of childhood and the playground is a perfect place for imagination, social interaction, and physical exertion.  From new games to new friends, it's been fun to track my son's growth as he masters more complex equipment like going down the "big" slide for the first time or graduating to successfully climbing up the big slide using well-practiced muscles and sheer will after weeks of trying.  These are things I want to look back and remember.  Things I want my son to look back on and be able to see glimpses of himself at such a young age.

This summer I've made an effort to document more time at the playground.  Here are a few of my favorites so far with some tips I've found useful for making images that unique to your family.  In each case, it's all about perspective and choosing an angle that best frames the story you want to tell.

1. Get far.  Often the neighborhood playground is a special place for families.  In our case, it's within walking distance from our house and a place where we can make impromptu visits and catch up with neighbors and friends.  Showing that context can be a powerful way to tell the story of your family's playground.  

In this image, we were visiting family who've lived next to this playground since their teenage kids were very small.  The playground is on the school property where they've attended all their lives.  So I knew I wanted to capture part of the environment as a reminder that this wasn't just any playground, but their playground.  

 Capturing Summer | Family Photographer

It can be a challenge to incorporate all the equipment and activity in a way that isn't cluttered and chaotic.  Using lines to frame your subjects or draw the eye into the image can be a good way to minimize the distractions.

2. Get low.  With the variety of platforms and places to climb, it can be fun to play with perspectives at the playground.  One easy way to do this is to get low to the ground and shoot up.  This can minimize distractions like playground equipment or random people in the frame.  

Summer sun can be bright, especially mid-day, but it can also be fun to play with sun flare at this angle.  To combat the harsh light and shadow during the middle of the day, I exposed for the sky here and brought up the shadows in post processing.

 Photographing Summer | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

3. Get high.  Similar to getting low, climbing up to look down is an easy way to show a unique perspective and minimize distractions.  With all the angles and lines at a playground, it can be fun to use them to frame your subject.

 Documenting Summer | Northern Virginia Family Photographer
 Family Fun Playground | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

What are your tips for capturing summer?

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