Art in the Outdoors

By: Joshua Tenebaum

This past week I spent a bit of time developing and furthering my blog post project and compiling photographs and field recordings to showcase to the Venture Outdoors community. Liz Fager and Jessica Wiegand both approached me about writing a blog post to be featured on the Venture Outdoors website. I began reading the other posts to determine an appropriate topic and voice for my writing; I decided to write about art and the outdoors. A rather broad topic, I specifically chose to speak about why I make art, my process, and my impressions of nature whenever I venture outdoors. I started collecting brand new field recordings (or audio recordings that are produced outside of a recording studio applicable to natural and human-produced sounds) of soundscapes, chattering wildlife, and human interactions with nature while out on my walks. I use multiple high-powered microphones in addition to a digital sound recorder which captures low-volume, organic frequencies that would otherwise be inaudible or very quiet to the unaided human ear. Camera slung around my neck, I also try to capture simple impressions of the landscape in a way that’s true to both environment and location. Aesthetic of landscape juxtaposed against audio impression leaves room for listener interpretation and imagination to piece together the sum of both audio and visual parts forming a complete dynamic, multi-sensory image in his or her mind. In my blog post, I am including both field recordings and photographs to give the reader a similar experience to what I experience when I’m out on the trail. 

As a kid, I grew up spending much of my time in the outdoors riding bikes, tramping through neighbors’ yards, climbing trees, swimming at the lake, or hiking to the top of Mt. Davis and scrambling around Baughman Rocks. This early love affair with nature shaped my career path and has been a constant reminder of why I love being outside. Nowadays, I spend much of my time outside making art and documenting what I come across in the field both visual and audible – far from the traditional “outdoorsman.” Most of the time, with both camera and sound recorder in tow, documenting and capturing the field is one of my favorite outdoor activities. In this blog post I will discuss the art I enjoy creating while spending time in the outdoors. 

Sunset over the South Park trails; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum 

Insects from the South Park Trails; field recording by Joshua Tenebaum

When I’m on a trail with my field recorder and camera, I feel like I’m just as much a part of the environment as the wildlife and anomalies that I am seeking to capture. The way I walk (or stalk), how my microphones are arranged, my location and duration of stay, and purpose or intent all play a large part into the quality and content of my recordings for that day. There are days when I’ll leave the microphones recording and walk far away for a period of time in order to let the sounds of the natural environment come to life without my interference or even presence. It’s only later when I return to the recording at home that I find what I have captured. 

Pond at Montour Woods Conservation Area; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum 

Amphibians at Montour Woods; field recording by Joshua Tenebaum 

The reason sound and photograph are so interesting to me is that these media retell the story of the environment to people who may otherwise not have the opportunity or physical ability to go outdoors and enjoy everything that nature has to offer. Oftentimes you can hear and see the wonders of nature from your own backyard. The next field recording was taken from my backyard – the sound of motors, wind, and a variety of close and distant birds creates space and dynamics for which the listener can recreate the environment within their heads.  

American Goldfinch in backyard tree; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum

Backyard Bird Calling and Motors; field recording by Joshua Tenebaum

Creating abstract pieces that leave the listener or observer to their own imaginations is far more powerful than trying to reiterate emotion or image through words. 

A favorite field of mine to record at; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum


American Robin; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum

View of the reservoir at the top of Oakland; photograph by Joshua Tenenbaum


Object manipulations; field recordings by Joshua Tenenbaum 


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  • The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!

    March 20, 2018

    By: Josh Doty of Foto-Foraging

    Spring is here. If you have been hiding from the snow and cold temperatures, it is now time to venture outdoors again. There is so much to see, even if you only have a chance to go to your local park or even your own backyard.

    The Nature Treasure Hunt

    The Nature Treasure Hunt is a quest to explore, discover, document, learn and share (Instagram #naturetreasurehunt, #ventureoutdoors) nature with others. It is a year-long activity that will provide exercise, fresh air, strong family/friend bonding moments, opportunities to discover and learn,

     » Read more about: The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!  »

  • Winter Tree ID

    March 13, 2018

    By: Iris Marzolf

    My favorite Venture Outdoors program I’ve attended thus far is the Winter Tree ID hike in January at Frick Park.

    It was an educational hike, so participants got a two-for-one deal—exercising while learning how to identify trees without leaves. Winter tree identification is a lot easier and more engaging than one would think. My opinion of trees in winter is generally negative; they look like dull brown skeletons. They’re all the same. Ugly.

    BUT ACTUALLY trees are like people; certain types look the same, and they all have unique characteristics depending on how they grew up.

     » Read more about: Winter Tree ID  »

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid

    March 6, 2018

    By: Maggie Zangara

    On November 20, 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in an interesting training hosted by Venture Outdoors. The name of the training was Youth Mental Health First Aid, and it took place at Venture Outdoors through the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. A fun fact is that Lady GaGa, who is a first aider herself and an advocate of the program, has set a goal of getting 150,000 people trained this year.

    Youth Mental Health First Aid ActivityThe intent of the training was to teach family members, teachers, school staff, health and human services workers and other caring citizens how to help adolescents who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

     » Read more about: Youth Mental Health First Aid  »

  • Rachel Carson Trails

    February 27, 2018

    By: Amy Nelson, Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, Member and Volunteer 

    In 2015, three friends and I did the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge  for the first time. We were avid road runners, bored with the monotony of pavement.  A 34-mile trek through the woods seemed like a great way to mix things up. Cut to the day of the event. Twenty miles into it, we experienced a torrential downpour which caused mud slides on some of the steepest hills. Mother Nature can be cruel.  By the time the last five miles rolled around our spirits were broken and we prayed for it to be over.

     » Read more about: Rachel Carson Trails  »

  • Leaving No Trace

    February 20, 2018

    By: Sara Cardamone

    At the Annual Volunteer Meeting, I had the opportunity to attend the Leave No Trace breakout session. Led by Joel Johnston, the interactive gathering was focused on educating participants on what Leave No Trace is truly about. Here are some of the things that I learned!

    Leave No Trace was launched when attendance at parks started to increase, so much so that it was taking a toll on the environment. The mission of the organization is to “protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly”. This comes in the form of seven principles that one should keep in mind when enjoying the outdoors.

     » Read more about: Leaving No Trace  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing


About Boating Safely
Saturday, March 24
9 AM – 5 PM

Join Venture Outdoors and members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for About Boating Safely. This course gives participants the knowledge needed to obtain a boat license or safety certification in Pennsylvania.