The photo issue submissions never disappoint

Every year, Mankato Magazine puts out a call for reader-submitted photos for its annual photo issue. And every year photos fall like rain on my inbox.

It’s a good problem to have.

As the guy who coordinates most of what you see in Mankato Magazine, all of that photography comes first to me. I gather it all up, and then a team of keen observers look through everything and decides what photos will go where.

We select a cover shot, which this year was shot by Mankato attorney Julia Ketcham Corbett. We choose a photo with a high-enough resolution to cover the “center spread.” Then we go through them all, deciding which photos to put where.

And every year, we sit in awe of just how beautiful southern Minnesota is, and just how good its residents have become at capturing that beauty through photography.

Sarah Denn is one such photographer. She’s a perennial submitter, and one of Mankato Magazine’s best submitters.

Denn’s work epitomizes the theme that emerged this year. Some years it’s Minneopa Falls, some years it’s the bison at Minneopa State Park. This year, however, the theme that emerged was butterflies, bees and birds.

“With butterflies and insects, they’re easier to capture than people,” she said.

I’d confessed to Denn that each year, when we go through all the photos, we often lament the fact that very few of them contain people. Denn said she could relate to that, and said she prefered bugs as models for a very simple reason.

“They’re something that moves that I can work with and not have to tell them what to do,” she joked. “For me, as a photographer, I have a hard time doing people pictures so I tend to look at nature.”

Denn shoots all her photos with an iPhone, which has become the camera of choice for the majority of submitters. But it’s not the camera of choice for Bruce Boyce, who shoots with a Panasonic Lumix digital SLR.

If the name Boyce sounds familiar, it might be because he served as the County Administrator in Waseca for many years prior to his retirement 10 years ago.

Photography isn’t something he picked up as a retirement hobby, though.

“I’ve taken photos for 50 years,” he said. And while his submissions to Mankato Magazine this year were humanless, that’s not always the case for his images. “Over time I’ve gravitated more toward people.”

As for the photo we chose from the handful Boyce submitted, he said he didn’t set out that day to capture a stunning picture of a bee. It just caught his eye.

“The color of the bee against the purple flowers,” he said, “it just really caught my eye, I guess.”

Denn said that noticing beauty in the world has a deeper meaning for her.

“I work for a church, so my closeness with God is kind of how I take my pictures,” she said. “This morning the moon was out, we have this beautiful sky of white, and I just wanted to capture a picture.”

Friends, she says, have encouraged her to take her hobby more seriously and maybe do it professionally. But the barrier to doing that, she says, is a steep one, financially speaking. A professional photographer can’t show up to take someone’s senior portraits with an iPhone, so she’d need to spend some serious coin for a professional setup. She says she’s not ready to do that yet. Some day, perhaps, but not yet.

As for next year, potential submitters take note. We love all your nature photos. Now throw some more people photos in the mix.

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