Tamarac Wildlife Refuge’s annual photo contest
When Jim Sinclair jumped out of his vehicle this spring to capture an otter on camera, he missed the otter but captured something much more than he intended.
Sinclair’s photo, “Spring Break,” took various top honors in this year’s Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Photography Contest. He won Grand Prize, Friend’s Choice and People’s Choice. He also won Manager’s Choice with a photo titled “Pine Lake Peace.”
He won several contest categories as well, including Nature’s Abstracts with “Spring Break,” Wildlife with “Autumn Sandhill,” Scenic with “Pine Lake Peace,” second place in Recreation for “First Tamarac Crappie” and an honorable mention in Plant Life with “Fresh Lady Slipper.”
After jumping out of his vehicle for what turned out to be the “Spring Break” shot, Sinclair said he missed the otter but decided to shoot the crack in the ice instead. While standing there shooting the shore, he decided to focus a couple frames on the water as well, getting a perfect reflection of the trees.
“I never would have thought about that,” he said. “It was kind of a lucky shot.”
When he got home and uploaded his pictures to his computer, he was clicking through them when his wife, Deanna, said that was the cool shot.
Turns out, it was the winning photo.
Sinclair got his start in photography a few years ago, after he retired from the Detroit Lakes Fire Department. Though he had taken pictures before, he hadn’t found the time to dig into the hobby much before then. Since his love for photography has grown in the last three years, his other hobbies have taken a backseat to the camera.
He now finds himself picking up a camera to shoot rather than his hunting rifle.
“I get interested and immerse myself,” he said of his hobbies.
With his interest growing, and his skills increasing, Sinclair joined Lee Kensinger, Brian Basham and Brittney Eischens to get the Lakes Area Photo Club off the ground. They hosted a photo show last spring and since then have been holding regular monthly meetings with 20-plus photographers sharing their interests each month. They also started a Facebook page with more than 70 people interested in sharing and viewing photos.
Spending time at Tamarac Refuge was nothing new to Sinclair. He said that growing up, his family would take picnics to the refuge and spend time in the woods. So when he found more time to shoot photos, he started returning to Tamarac more and more.
He even got involved with the Friends of Tamarac, “partially because of the photos” and the opportunities for him to spend time on the refuge.
When he started shooting, he liked to capture larger animals like deer, eagles, swans, etc. But once he spent more time and with varied photographers, he found a knack for mushrooms, flowers and bugs as well.
Though photography is the first hobby he said is artsy in any way, he does feel he has “an eye from years of hunting” for seeing things others may not. And taking photos has shown him an “appreciation for all the other stuff” out in nature.
“Each person sees something different,” he added.
Sinclair said he posts a lot of his work on Facebook, and that’s how he gauges the photo, by how many “likes” he gets on it.
In the Tamarac contest, Sinclair said he’s the most proud of the People’s Choice award. It was determined by public voting during National Wildlife Refuge Week. Nearly 350 people voted.
After three years, Sinclair said he’s almost ready to consider himself an intermediate photographer rather than a beginner. Almost.
Wherever he goes, Sinclair brings his camera. He said it’s a joke around his house that he’s bringing his camera because he might see Sasquatch and he’ll need to get a photo.
“If you don’t have a camera and don’t go out, you’re not going to see it.”
The Tamarac Photo Contest recognizes outstanding amateur photography that showcases the wildlife, plant life and natural beauty of the refuge. The contest provides the refuge an opportunity to increase its photo collection used to promote the refuge and its mission.
The annual photo contest is sponsored by the Friends of Tamarac, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate activities and programs that interpret, protect and restore the natural and cultural resources of the refuge.
Judges this year were Brian Basham, photographer for Detroit Lakes Newspapers; Gale Kaas, publisher of the Frazee Forum; and Joe Allen, professional photographer.
All of the winning photos may be viewed on the Friends of Tamarac website at www.tamaracfriends.org.