Sustainability Through Photography

My name is Sydney, I am a second year in Environment, Resources, and Sustainability student who will take any opportunity to go outside and take photos.

Photography is an art form and a hobby I have been practicing since I was around 13. My teacher at the time (also a Waterloo ENV alum) started a nature photography club and club and for some reason, I felt compelled to join. I am so glad I did. In the beginning, I was worried I would not be able to succeed since I had no technical training in photography, I did not understand the interworking's of a camera and how all the settings worked. Full disclosure, I still don’t.

I shoot the way I learned 7 years ago. I was never taught about white balance and aperture, but I was taught what to look for in nature, what tools or processes nature can do that you can use to make art.

I took that and ran with it.

With the considerably basic techniques I was taught, I started to develop a sense of style in my artistry. When I was younger, some of my favourite things to shoot were trees. Specifically shooting up the side of a tree to capture the bark in focus with the canopy in the background. That angle never fails me and is different with every tree, especially with the changing seasons. I was also a huge fan of sunsets for the same reasons, they were so unique and different every time.

Currently, my favourite subject to shoot is birds. Songbirds, hawks, waterfowls, all my feathery friends are super fun to shoot, however, it requires a lot of patience to get a good shot. Birds are more challenging than trees and sunsets that don’t move much, so you need an extreme amount of patience and take dozens of photos before you get a semi-decent one. That said, the moment you get a good shot, the best feeling in the world.

In terms of shooting locations, waterloo has a lot of wildlife to offer. I have had a lot of luck on campus shooting. Yes, there are plenty of geese to practice with, but there are also plenty of aquatic birds near the creek typically, along with the plants near the edge of the water. My best photo to date might be the red-tailed hawk I managed to capture on campus. It was sitting on a light post for close-to 10 minutes and I had hit the jackpot with those photos.

Off campus there is plenty to work with in the region’s conservation areas. Laurel creek is a great option because it is very close to campus. Plenty of birds and wildlife to shoot year-round. If you're willing to travel a bit more, there is Elora gorge that has very scenic landscapes if you venture down to the gorge itself. Bechtel Park is another fantastic location so-I've-been-told, but I have not made the trip out there yet to confirm. Chances are, if you're in a park near water, i.e., Laurel creek, you have a good chance of spotting some wildlife.

I have always been super passionate about the environment and capturing nature through photography is my way of exposing people to the beauty of wildlife. I have been practicing this art for several years at this point and I felt the need to share this art collaboration between myself and Earth with others.

It is an important part of environmental conservation and sustainability to show others just how amazing this planet is and how we cannot take it for granted. No other planet can make systems and species like this one can, and I think that is the coolest concept ever and need to share that with everyone I come across. I am hoping as I move through university, I get the chance to go out and explore even more ecosystems, to cover as much ground (or water) as I can because there is so much you and I have not seen yet.

I see myself as a translator; when walking around outside you might see the odd songbird scattered through some trees and think nothing of it, I see one of the many works of art that this planet produces. Through my photography, the goal is to show people how gorgeous the wildlife in their backyards and around their neighbourhoods truly are, and to inform them that they are not apart from nature, they just aren't looking hard enough.

I am by no means a professional photographer, but I do have an eye for the art of nature photography. You see a single tree; I see an ecosystem and a museum waiting to get its photo taken. I cannot tell you how I did it, but I know why I want to do it.

You should try it sometime.

If you would like to continue following my work, you can follow me on Instagram @s.daniels_photography, as well as my blog at I highly encourage you to get out and take some photos will you are outside, and to be mindful of the environment around you.

Happy shooting!

Photographed by: Sydney Daniels

A pine tree from below view