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13-year-old wins Tamarac photography contest

Worlds of color inside this single drop of sap drew the eye of the professional photographers who judge the Tamarac Photo Contest. Anna Donner/Special to the Record1 / 2
Anna Donner is shown with her winning photograph and the ribbons she won in the Tamarac Photo Contest. Judges chose the Ogema teen's photo out of more than 150 entries. Submitted Photo2 / 2

While Anna Donner, 13, was walking through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge with her class, she took a picture of sap dripping down a tree, but had no idea how it would turn out.

Turns out it earned her first place in Tamarac's annual photo contest.

"I was very surprised," she said of being notified that she had won with her photo "All in a Drop."

"We were walking through the woods. I was looking for spider webs. I was looking around and put my hand up against a tree and noticed sap by my hand," the Ogema teen said.

She took the picture and it turned out to impress the judges so much they awarded her first out of 153 entries.

"It was a different picture from a different perspective," photo judge Brian Basham said. "It's almost like a gazing ball where you have to look deep into the droplet to see the whole picture. It just made us want to look at it more."

"Her photograph was eye-catching and unusual," judge Gale Kaas agreed. "It kept pulling the eye into the sap reflection and made me look at it several times."

Joe Allen also served as a judge for the contest.

Besides grand prize, Donner also took home a first place ribbon in the Nature's Abstracts category and first in the 13-17 year old Youth Category for the same photo.

"I'm pretty psyched about it," she said.

She entered the contest last year. Both years were as a part of the five-day Nature of Technology summer day camp, which is sponsored by the White Earth Tribal and Community College Extension and is funded through a grant awarded by the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in partnership with 4-H.

The camp gives students an opportunity to learn GPS technology, nature photography, and how to use an Apple iPad, along with online editing and photo design programs. Students not only spent time on foot, but also kayaked Tamarac's waters to gain a different perspective.

"The camp is a great way to get kids outside to discover and capture nature" said Joe Courneya, University of Minnesota extension educator.

Students like Donner then process their work and prepare for a show at the end of the week as well as submitting photos to Tamarac's contest.

Donner used a simple point-and-shoot camera to capture the winning image.

There were five categories for the contest including Plant Life, Scenic, Nature's Abstracts, Recreation and Wildlife. There were also two youth categories.

There were 45 participants in the contest.

Photos from the contest will be used in various publications and promotional materials for the refuge, and will be on display at various events as well.

Donner said she enjoys taking pictures around the house and isn't sure that photography will ever be more than just a hobby.

"It's a hobby but it's something I really love doing," the eighth-grader said. "It's very fun. I was so surprised I won. I saw the other photos and they were so good."

"To find out it was taken by a young photographer with a simple camera shows that great photography can come from anywhere," Basham said. "You don't need the greatest equipment or a degree, you just need to look for it."

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.