Shooting a Photo Story

Today we head to the creek to look for a little motivation for shooting a photo story.

It can be hard to find the desire to get out and shoot on a gray winter day. However, if as a creative, I need to create, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.

In this post, I’ll walk through the steps that led to the final product. In other words, you have to get to the bottom of the post to see the finished piece.

Go Shoot

First, we had to get out and explore. When the weather is bland, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing interesting to see, but really there is. We just have to go look for it.

Friday Photo Tips

If you’ve seen any of my social media channels, you’ll know I post a tip each Friday with some friendly advice.

The week I shot this story, my post was about getting out and shooting a story. You can view that photo tip below.

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube to see future Friday Photo Tips. You can learn how to improve your photography no matter what your level of experience is.

The Final Photo Story

Now for the finished piece! Watch the video below to see how I applied the advice from the Friday Photo Tip to the images and video clips I shot.


Hey, my YouTube channel is one of the places we post our Friday Photo Tips and photo stories. Subscribe to see our latest videos as soon as they’re posted.

ALSO, I have a secondary, more vanity-driven motive for asking you to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Currently, my channel has the following name in the URL: UCDm1S5mxu4ZSFEstNy6civA.

I do not like that. When I hit 100 subscribers I can change it to something nice like ZachDobsonPhoto.


Related Posts

Here are some other personal stories I created about just going out and doing things.

I hope this inspires you to do things, too! And then create some art! Yeah!

Kids. Just being.

I had a co-op day recently at my kids’ preschool and thought I’d take a few photos.  It’s a kind and loving environment where kids can explore their own interests in their own ways.  They spend time outside every day, including in the rain and snow.

Scroll through the gallery below to see what it’s like on a typical fall day with a group of three and four-year-olds.  You’ll see them playing with some kindergarteners on the playground, too.

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15 Hours of Mountain Biking


When a client needs enough photos for a two-day shoot, but day 1 gets rained out completely, it means a 15-hour, sunrise to sunset shoot.  Add to that carrying 20 pounds of gear over miles of trails, up and down hills and rocky terrain, and you have one hard-core day of shooting.

I was up for the challenge, and the resulting images shot for the Brown County CVB’s mountain biking guide were well received.  In the “thank you” section of the guide the CVB’s agency and producer of the shoot, Three Sixty Group wrote…

“Thanks to our skilled photographer Zach Dobson (who managed to capture amazing shots of the trails and the mountain bikers while perching on precarious rocks, lying in the mud and risking poison ivy).”

In the end, there was no poison ivy.  Just a bruised ego from a fall in the mud and a set of images I could truly feel proud of.

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Personal Legend Project: Malkah Bird, Indianapolis Cooperative Kindergarten Teacher

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten


Malkah Bird, Cooperative kindergarten teacher

Entering this project, I knew that Malkah would have to be a part of it.  Malkah Bird teaches in a Cooperative Kindergarten in Indianapolis. Her progressive approach to education earns her much respect and adoration around the city.  She subscribes to an emergent curriculum philosophy and it produces some pretty amazing results. It seems like everyone I meet who is involved in elementary education in Indy knows her.

One especially exciting aspect of Malkah’s cooperative kindergarten class is the outdoor classroom. Once a week, Malkah and her students head into the woods for forest kindergarten; a half day spent outdoors rain, snow, or shine.  Even in the winter, kids are excited to go outside, bundling up and having hot chocolate or warm bread they just baked to help stave off the cold.

The day I followed Malkah, I did my best to keep up with the kids as they scampered through the woods in search of clues on a scavenger hunt.  It was fun and more challenging than I expected!  Click here to learn more about Meridian Hills Coop. (Full disclosure: our kids attend MH. It’s an AMAZING SCHOOL.)

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I have been a teacher for almost 13 years. I love so many things about teaching, but have recently realized that the aspect that brings me the most joy is having the opportunity to make connections and build relationships with young children and their families. I am incredibly fortunate to get to teach at a school that values child-directed play, wonder, curiosity, creativity, and the natural world above all else. I get to spend my days alongside children as they discover what inspires them, where their passions lie and all of the ways that they want to be in the world and interact with their friends and communities.

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

I have always loved spending time with and playing alongside young children. This year, though, for the first time, we are using the outdoors and the forest as an extension of our classroom and as a centerpiece of our curriculum. Our Forest Kindergarten time has been transformative for me as a teacher and a learner. Personally, I have always loved being outside in nature, but it has been so eye opening to realize that this can be a powerful aspect of a school and a dynamic and inspiring facet of my teaching.  

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

The school days fly by for me. When the kids are deep into their play, we lose all track of time. Everyday we have at least one uninterrupted hour of free play, often more. Some days this happens indoors and many days it happens in the forest.  During this free play time, the kids are deeply engaged and the ‘magic’ that is the childhood imagination takes over.  I could observe this for endless stretches of time.  I love watching as problems are created, discussed, solved, unsolved, and resolved right up until the next problem arises and the cycle begins again.

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

Although I have no doubt that this approach to school and learning is right, these days, it is not necessarily the mainstream belief about early childhood education. It is not always easy to turn away from what is popular to do what feels right. Even when it feels really, really right.  

I do think that the winds are shifting and parents, educators and researchers are starting to embrace play as a critical aspect of any early childhood program, but we still have a long road ahead as we learn to trust our kids as our guides to how and what they need to be learning during these earliest years.

As much as I love what I am doing and see profound benefits for my students, I am always aware of the many, many kids who, for a variety of reasons, do not get to have these rich, nature-filled childhood experiences. I would love to find ways to take what we are doing and bring it to a much, much larger population.

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

I have taught in so many different schools and settings to a wide variety of kids. At every step of the way, I have been able to find joy by connecting with my kids, their families and the school communities. There is no end game here. For me teaching is a journey, an introspective process of observing, growing and learning alongside my students. The real prize for me is in being a present and active participant in that process.

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

A personal legend doesn’t have to be a grand sweeping thing. There is so much joy and meaning in small moments and connections.

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten

Malkah Bird, Forest kindergarten, Indianapolis cooperative kindergarten


(This post was originally published in April 2016 & was updated in May 2018.) 

Are you following your Personal Legend? Please share your journey in the comments below!

For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.