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Becker County Fair photographers shoot for top honors

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Breann Hogie of Lake Park is entering a photo taken while on vacation in Medora, N.D., in the 4-H photography competition5 / 5

When you think of 4-H, what comes to mind? Farm animals? Sewing projects? What about photography?

According to Becker County 4-H Program Coordinator Mickey Okeson, photography is the No. 1 project in 4-H aside from raising livestock.

"It's a very popular project area and, of course, now with the digital part of it, that also gives the kids more opportunities," she said. "They like showing something at the fair and it is something that's achievable."

Entrants are limited to two entries in each of the three classes of photography -- digital, conventional (film) and digital enhancement. This year, Okeson said she expects to have about 60 entries.

But there are downfalls to the ease of entering a 4-H photo exhibit, too. Since the program is so popular, more entries mean more competition.

Gaining a grand champion ribbon and moving on to the state level is dependent on the total number of exhibitors and the judge's "State Fair lineup," Okeson said.

"My guess with the numbers as they are, we will probably have about five photography trips (to the state fair)," she said.

To advance on to the state fair, an entrant also has to at least be in sixth grade.

Okeson said that kids who are successful enough to advance to the state fair in several areas of 4-H can only choose one division to exhibit.

"A photography trip (to the state fair) might not be their first choice if they had a different project area that they felt they could be more successful at the state fair because of that fierce competition," Okeson said.

The 4-H program sometimes puts on photography workshops and has a project leader who helps the photographers out. Okeson said she also encourages 4-Hers to participate in programs offered outside of the 4-H club to further their learning.

"Tamarac puts on that excellent nature photography workshop in the fall, and I did encourage 4-Hers to attend that, and we did have a couple that actually were featured when they had the photography exhibit in the mall," she said.

For 17 year-old Dannon Yliniemi, photography has become his hobby.

"It's fun and I live in the country and it's something that I can do all the time," he said.

Breann Hogie of Lake Park says she never was very good at photography, but took an award last year for a picture she took of buildings in downtown Chicago.

"I guess the judge liked the angle it was taken at," she said. "It worked out. I thought it looked cool looking up at the buildings, but there was also a tree that came in at an interesting angle."

Living in town, Hogie said she doesn't raise any farm animals, so photography is an easy way to still participate in 4-H. She also has been in the pet show and has done child development, home environment and food and nutrition projects in 4-H.

Hogie found that an art class she took last year has helped her photography.

"That kind of helped me discover different ways of movement and how to capture texture and different angles and taking things from different perspectives," she said.

Anthony Lage, 12, of Audubon has always liked taking pictures. He won a grand champion and blue ribbon at the Becker County Fair when he was just 10 years old, but couldn't take his photo to the state fair because of his age.

Lage, a member of the Busy Bees 4-H Club, said he likes taking wildlife and nature photos, and is trying to improve his technique when he can.

"I recently went to Tamarac Wildlife Refuge and got a bunch of tips on how to take pictures of nature. I had a lot of fun, and I learned a bunch about photography," he said.

He said he looks for bright colors and patterns to photograph. One of his entries this year will be a turtle he photographed.

"I found a turtle, and what I thought was really cool about it was it had a really cool pattern," he said.

Living next to a wildlife refuge, Yliniemi, a member of the Northern Lights 4-H Club, takes a lot of wildlife, flower and nature photos. But he said he enjoys the computer end of photography more than taking the actual photo.

"I enjoy taking pictures, but I enjoy more changing them and altering them and looking at them," he said.

His 14-year-old sister, Bailey, started taking photos when she was very young. Her mother started her out on the old family camera and it took off from there.

Bailey enjoys taking wildlife and flower pictures, but has now started photographing people, which she finds a bit more challenging.

"Little kids start to move," she said.

The 4-H exhibit building opens for public viewing Wednesday at 7 p.m., following exhibit judging.