But scroll just long enough and look!, a fascinating photo of hummingbirds in action. And, wow!, close-ups of elusive hawks. Videos of fearless and intelligent foxes. Intimate scenes of bees bustling among the flowers.
Nextdoor sites across the country have become private showcases for stunning nature photography, as amateur photographers give the platform the change of vibe it desperately needs. The power of flowers – and nature in general – became more prevalent during the pandemic, when mental health walks and socially distanced outings led to an increase in nature photography on site, says Jennie Sager, Global Head of Brand Marketing and Managing Director of Nextdoor.
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Nextdoor created its first #LoveYourNeighborhood competition in Australia in 2021, amid one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. The competition, which invites users to share photos of their neighborhood, went global in 2022.
“Rates of depression and loneliness have soared globally during Covid lockdowns, and we wanted to give people a reason to share the joy of their local community and remember the good things that exist in their own backyard,” Sager wrote in an email.
The photos seem to resonate with users: Love Your Neighborhood posts received, on average, nearly three times as many reactions as non-Love Your Neighborhood posts during the 2023 photography competition, according to Nextdoor.
Enough studies to fill a forest have shown that exposure to nature has mental and physical benefits, acting as a palate cleanser for our busy brains and a shock to sedentary bodies.
Spending time in nature may protect against dementia risk
Scientists are studying whether looking at photos of nature can bring similar rewards. In a small study of 46 students in the Netherlands, researchers found that after a stressful event, looking at images of green spaces for just five minutes (compared to photos of urban settings) reduced heart rate. and had other benefits on participants’ stress. answers. Other studies have been less conclusive.
Anecdotally, however, neighbors sharing photos of local nature in my Northern Virginia Nextdoor community always make me feel better about our digital and physical surroundings.
They post often, sharing photography tips (“Avoid shooting in the middle of the day – the worst light on earth!” says Paul Derby in Falls Church); nature lessons (crows can signal a hiding fox!); and sincere responses to almost all comments. I recently spoke with four nature photographers from my local Nextdoor explaining how they brighten up their little corner of the internet.
Bob Kovacs, Annandale, Virginia.
· Food flavor: Videos of foxes, birds, sunsets and the occasional ‘spotted on the sidewalk’.
· Equipment: Three trail cameras, two Victures, a Meidase P90 and four Panasonic Lumix cameras, including his favorite camera, the GH6.
Bob Kovacs, who was a contract video producer for the National Science Foundation until his retirement in 2022, is a “principal,” or quasi-moderator, on Nextdoor, reviewing posts flagged as offensive and voting on what action to take ( deletion, etc.). But Kovacs said he doesn’t want to be just a glorified online room monitor.
“Online, the word “lead” is next to my name. So I started thinking: I don’t want to just react, because he’s not really a leader. Why don’t I actually try to lead? Kovacs said. “I decided to post photos and videos about the world around me. It turns out people really like it, you know, they respond to it. And this answer keeps me going. It appeals to my ego so much that I’m like, “Oh, I need to do more of this!” »
His quirky sense of humor, visible recently in a photo of him lounging on a couch thrown onto the sidewalk, is complemented by his wife Mary Ellen Dawley’s Photoshop skills, which she uses to liven up (i.e. say, memorize) the publications. . For example, a serene photo of a bird in a birdbath was given a dose of whimsy when Dawley added a surfboard and white caps.
Suddenly Nextdoor is full of nice neighbors. But also new types of shame.
Paul Derby, Falls Church, Virginia.
· Food flavor: Hawks, close-ups of flowers, dogs and the sky.
· Equipment: iPhone, Nikon D5.
Derby fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a photojournalist in college when he captured a soldier kissing his young wife and child upon his return to the United States after the Vietnam War for the Daily Oklahoman.
He has not practiced this profession, but considers himself a “photography enthusiast”.
Derby says things can get dicey on Nextdoor, with the politics and negativity. He views his posts as a necessary antidote to bickering – and encourages his neighbors to take a similar view. “Some of my posts will say, ‘If you’re tired of hearing complaints, look at this, what this animal did and/or how this flower bloomed,'” he says. “I tried to make people feel good instead of just complaining about all the negativity out there.”
Although Derby has sophisticated equipment, he takes most of the photos with his phone. “My favorite camera is the one I have with me! ” he says. “Photo opportunities present themselves at all times. All cameras work now – it’s hard to find a bad one.
It’s not difficult to take a bad photo, however. Derby has some advice: If you plan to take photos of flowers in the middle of the day, find them under shady trees. As long as there is no sky in the photo, you can get very saturated colors if you reduce the contrast. And if you’re standing near a fence or light pole, place your phone or camera against it to eliminate instability.
· Food flavor: Foxes and more foxes, hummingbirds and occasional coyotes
· Equipment: Canon R5 and Canon 100-500 millimeter lens.
The pandemic’s stay-at-home order left Robert Kirk searching for an escape. He found it in his backyard and near Kent Gardens. He had recently retired and his travel plans were on indefinite hold. So Kirk decided to hone his budding digital photography skills and become more familiar with his neighborhood.
He found that nature was also becoming more familiar with him. Foxes, in particular, boldly ventured into his yard and made their dens under his neighbors’ houses. The birds were clamoring for his feeder like so many tourists in front of Georgetown Cupcake.
“It was like they knew my house was a little nature studio, like an outdoor Olan Mills for animals,” he says, noting that 90 percent of his photographs are taken from his deck. When he tries to hide in the garage or attempt any stealthy angle to catch sneaking subjects, he rarely succeeds. “Hidden in my garage, waiting for this fox, I breathe and he turns towards me! »
Since he began filming and publishing, Kirk has set out to learn more about the natural world around him. His wife often acts as an observer on road trips to Delaware, finding blue herons, egrets and the like so they can stop.
“Back when I worked, I thought all the birds here were sparrows of different sizes! ” he says. He now studies migration patterns, the feeding habits of dragonflies and how several cawing crows can signal the presence of a fox in the area. “The other day I heard the crows making noise, I grabbed my phone and went outside. It was a cat,” he said. “They can’t all be from National Geographic.”
Thanh Huong Truong, Fairfax, Virginia.
· Food flavor: Hummingbirds, bumblebees and butterflies.
· Equipment: Nikon Z7, 100-200 lens.
In 2018, a friend asked Thanh Huong Truong to bring a camera on a trip to Europe. “After that, it sat in my Nikon bag for a few years because I was lazy and just took photos with my iPhone,” she says. “I had a day off and was sitting on my patio and saw a few bumblebees and butterflies flying over my flowers, trying to get nectar. They looked attractive to me so I thought, “That’s lucky”… I took a few pictures, and they turned out [to be] good photos!”
She switched from bees to birds, because they are more abundant in her studio (i.e., her garden). Troung takes most of his bird photos early in the morning, before work, when they are most active.
Recently, she pointed her lens beyond the backyard, exploring the C&O Canal to capture blue herons and egrets dining in the Potomac.
She doesn’t track opinions or reactions, or choose topics accordingly, but she responds to comments often. “Of course, more spectators motivate me to work hard on photography and enjoy it more, but the number of spectators is not necessarily large. What I like isn’t always what people like. she says. Her motivation is not so much to please the crowd, but to give herself something to hold on to when she wants to remember a fleeting and beautiful moment.
“After all, we take photos to keep memories, so we can go back in time to see them again,” says Truong.
Amanda Long is a writer and massage therapist living in Falls Church, Virginia.