The Twin Cities are filled with great parks and places to explore nature, but none can quite compare to the Seminary Hill Natural Area.
Right in downtown Centralia just a few blocks off Tower Avenue, the lush forest on the hill is an oasis away from the bustling, ever-growing Hub City.
Friends of the Seminary Hill Natural Area (FSHNA) is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving perhaps the most unique in-town park around. This fall, FSHNA set out to showcase the location through a photography contest. Entries were used to create a 2022 calendar. The contest had an adult category for entrants ages 13 and over and a youth category for ages 12 and under.
The nonprofit intends to do the contest again in 2022. Its Facebook page is @SeminaryHill.
In the 12 and under bracket, the contest was won by 10-year-old Lena Revel, a fifth grader in Rochester.
Lena is a naturalist who enjoys blending her outdoorsy side with her artistic side. Art projects are where she shines in school. At home, she paints, draws and takes photos.
Asked about her favorite thing to take pictures of, Lena said: “Things that are out of the ordinary to me, like when I see animals or I see bright-colored mushrooms or something that stands out.”
Her prize-winning entry displays as much, as it shows orange mushrooms and bright green moss taking over a dark stump, surrounded by a backdrop of tan, fallen leaves. She took the photo with an iPhone.
Lena’s family enjoys backpacking and hiking, including at Seminary Hill and in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photography, Lena said, allows her to combine several interests in one place.
For her picture, she won a $50 prize and was featured in the calendar.
“I was very, very excited,” she said. “It was really awesome to get recognition.”
In the coming year, Lena said she hopes to experiment with new photography techniques and subjects and diversify her skill-set. Perhaps she’ll put her $50 in a piggy bank toward a digital camera.
“She is so creative. It's just really neat to see her get rewarded for it,” said Lena’s mom, Staci Revel. “We do a lot of outdoorsy stuff, we do some backpacking and things like that. She's natural with animals and plants and everything, she's just a little animal lover.”
In the adult age bracket, 38-year-old Cameron Harper was chosen as the winner among 19 entrants.
After moving to the area in 2001 to be close to family, Harper has been working in retail. Photography and writing are his creative passions, he said, and in the future he hopes they can become something he does more often. As a nature photographer, his favorite things to capture are birds and other wildlife. One of his favorite photos he’s ever taken was of a squirrel, where he was close enough to catch the reflection of the forest in its eye.
“I like looking up. Especially when it's a closed-in trail, there was no real viewpoint, I think a lot of people take pictures just straight on the trail. So, I was looking up, and it just felt really airy. That's what I wanted to get across in the (contest) photo. I just try to take different viewpoints,” he said. “I like to get them as clear as possible, as much detail.”
Borst Park and Seminary Hill have both become sanctuaries for him away from his busy work and have been the sets for most of his pictures.
In fact, his entry was actually taken before he even knew about FSHNA’s photo contest.
“I was at The Station Coffee House and I saw the poster, and I'm like, ‘Sure, why not?’” Harper said, adding later: “I have always been interested in it. When I was young, I thought it would be cool to work for National Geographic, taking pictures. I decided I was making enough money to buy myself a pretty decent camera.”
For his photo, Harper was awarded $100 and was featured in the calendar. A print will also be made of the picture which will be hung up at Boccata for sale.
In the future, Harper hopes to sell some of his photos as prints and to be able to capture more of the unique Lewis County landscape scenes from different locations.