“I try to surprise people from time to time. Maybe look at something from a different angle or perspective than what they normally would see.” – Mark Weber, Arboretum Photographers Society member
On a snowy afternoon in 2012, Craig Isaacson and a fellow photographer trudged along the slippery paths of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. While discussing photography tips, they spotted a cross country skier paused with a blissful face gathering snowflakes on the tip of her tongue. Isaacson departed the Arboretum that day with photographs of wildlife and trees, but missed that single moment in time. “It’s those moments I say, ‘live outside of the camera,’” he says.
But Isaacson, a member of the Arboretum Photographers Society (APS) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and his fellow photographers spend much of their time at the arboretum living through their cameras. The APS is the only photographers’ society nationwide that collaborates with an arboretum to share photographs and seminars. Nancy Westby and Michael DeSmitt founded the APS in 2005 after discovering a love for photography, and today the group’s roster includes more than 60 members. Members trek through 1,200 acres to showcase the arboretum’s beauty, and a selection of their work is on display as a part of a juried exhibit at the arboretum through April 14.
The 2014 exhibition features aspects of the arboretum from differing points of view, as photographers seek to capture whatever they find personally interesting.
Isaacson, who works as a building contractor, spends hours walking Arboretum paths. Todd Mulvihill explores the Japanese Garden each season. Dianne Jandt notes dragonflies as friends, not foes. The arboretum’s grounds wind through wooded trails, showcase gardens, house Minnesotan wildlife and host numerous activities, thus giving each photographer a niche and favored subject.
Armed with her first digital camera purchase, Jandt visited the Arboretum in 2004, and was inspired to attend an APS meeting in 2009. “I think it’s being out in nature and being with other people that are enjoying nature…,” Jandt says, explaining what attracted her to the society. “(I enjoy) the beauty of the arboretum and the beauty of nature.”
The Society welcomes photographers of all skill levels. A portion of the group’s mission focuses on education. Isaacson recognizes photography as the most accessible art form and the APS allows those interested to delve as deeply as they wish.
From high school classes and photographing family vacations, most APS members discovered their love for photography at a young age. Mulvihill’s father owned a wedding photography business. As a young kid, Mulvihill, who is now an architect, spent weekends carrying heavy equipment. It paid off, his father gave him a camera “and I have been shooting ever since,” Mulvihill says. He joined the APS in 2008.
Collectively, APS donated more than 1,500 volunteer hours to the arboretum in 2013. From photographing events to contributing photos for marketing materials, the arboretum turns to the photographers for any and all photograph needs.
The photographers seek to capture everything that makes the arboretum special, including the people who inhabit it. Mark Weber, who has been a member of the society for 5 years, enjoys taking interesting shots at arboretum events. “I like that you are capturing something real,” Weber says. “I try to surprise people from time to time. Maybe look at something from a different angle or perspective than what they normally would see.”
The society takes approximately 90 percent of the Arboretum’s photographs. Isaacson, Mulvihill, Jandt and Weber joined the society for the volunteerism aspect, and agree it is the most valuable part of their experience. “What impressed me most was the focus on volunteering for the arboretum,” Weber says.
For budding photographers, young and old, society members offer informal, drop–in workshops during the juried exhibition. They also offer this advice: Jandt says not to be afraid to take a bad picture, and Mulvihill adds that practice makes perfect. And, of course, remember—every so often—to adhere to Isaacson’s advice and live outside the camera.
“Through the Lens” showcases original photographs from Arboretum Photographers Society members in a juried exhibit. Visit the arboretum now through April 14 to view the Society’s most treasured photographs from 2013.
The Arboretum Photographers Society meets on the third Thursday each month in the Learning Center.
All are welcome to attend. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chanhassen; 952.443.1400; arboretum.umn.edu