The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 20, 2012

Mankato Digital Photography Club: Newly formed and learning based

MANKATO — Taking photos in a junkyard would leave anyone wondering what could possibly be found of beauty in such an unclean location.

 However, it is photographic challenges like this that are both unique and inspiring to Barbara Holmin and Art Sidner of the Mankato Digital Photography Club.

Holmin was one of Sidner’s very first students when she took photography lessons from Sidner at the Nicollet Community Center in 2008. The two stayed in touch throughout the next year and in 2009, the pair decided to start the club as a way of furthering their knowledge and love of photography through education-based meetings.

They formed a club whose main emphasis is learning how to take better photographs with a digital camera through theme-based photography, as well as learning the ins and outs of processing digital images on a computer with image processing software.

“The most unique theme we’ve done was the junkyard theme in which we had to literally go out to a junkyard to find our shots,” Holmin said. “The whole experience was quite the challenge, from getting the best possible shot to asking for permission to even be there.”

Every month, a different theme is chosen. The upcoming theme for September is “Summer Fun.” All members submit two to four of their best photos based on the chosen theme prior to the group’s meeting.

At the meeting, photos are critiqued by the group.

“Having a theme really makes you concentrate on an area you may not be familiar with or areas that you may not have given any particular thought to actually photographing,” Sidner said. “We find it’s a way of broadening one’s photographic experience.”

A second aspect of the club focuses on having guest speakers. Generally, the group looks for individuals whose work and technique they admire.

“What I’ve learned from this club and our guest speakers is that great photography lies in thinking, ‘What can I do different with this shot?’” Holmin said. “It’s not just about snapping a shot or a series of shots and hoping to land a great photo. It’s about walking around the entire scene. The photo has to have an effect on you. It must tell a story.”

Competition is also an aspect of this club. The Mankato Digital Photography Club belongs to two different organizations, The Twin Cities Area Council of Camera Clubs (TCACCC) and the Photographic Society of America. The TCACCC hosts an annual competition as well as an annual Spring Break Seminar, in which they host different photographers who are nationally and internationally known for their work.

By belonging to these groups, it allows club members to have access to many different events. A major motivating factor of Sidner’s drive for photography lies in the illusive idea that “my next image will be the best one I’ve ever taken.”

The final component of this club is completed through service projects within their local communities. For instance, the Mankato Digital Photography Club has often been asked to take photos for Madelia’s annual reenactment of the Younger Brothers Capture of 1876.

Last weekend, members of the Mankato Digital Photography Club traveled to Amboy to judge a youth photography competition for Amboy’s Arts and More Festival. The winner of the competition was Rachel Larson, a local Amboy youth, who won first place in the categories of “still life” and “people.” Larson’s photo in the category of people eanred the grand prize: a brand-new Apple iPad.

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