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Winning Photos by Category

Category: Seasonal Changes

First Place

Upper Sioux Agency State Park by Jussi Lehti

Story Behind the Photo

Living a short distance from the park, amateur photographer Jussi Lehti is a frequent visitor to Upper Sioux Agency State Park–sometimes up to a couple times a week. As such, it’s one of his favorites. And he has plenty to compare it to, having visited nearly all the state parks in Minnesota. The day this photo was taken was a particularly dreary day in late November, Lehti says. “Those are some of the best for taking photos,” because the lighting cooperates with the camera better on those days. This shot required going a short distance off the beaten path, down a bluff to the Yellow Medicine River. Lehti says that he takes photos because it forces him to look more closely at his surroundings and really analyze what he’s seeing. And while he always has his camera with him, there’s plenty of times he doesn’t take a photo the whole time he’s out. He wants to make sure there’s a good shot to be had. Clearly this shot was a good one.

Second Place

Jay Cooke State Park by Mick Rollins

Third Place

Jay Cooke State Park by Mick Rollins

Honorable Mentions


Category: Outdoor Recreation and Appreciation

First Place

Frontenac State Park by Manda Baldwin

Story Behind the Photo

The photo is of my daughter while we were hiking Sand Point Trail at Frontenac State Park. The trail winds through the woods and emerges along the shore of Lake Pepin where one can walk along the water (or on the ice, in winter!) to Sand Point, where this image was taken. The water is very shallow here, only inches deep, and in summer, one can walk out quite distance out onto the sand bar. In winter, it’s just as gorgeous with the ever changing ice heaves and movement of the shallow water.

Second Place

Interstate State Park by Mike Chrun

Third Place

William O’Brien State Park by Mike Chrun

Honorable Mentions


Category: Flora & Fauna

First Place

Judge C. R. Magney State Park by Jimmy Rollins

Story behind the photo

Jimmy Rollins: This was taken at Judge C.R. Magney State Park, only a few feet from the trail that leads to Devil’s Kettle. A little ways up the trail there is a bench that overlooks the valley, where we were taking a short break. Suddenly a small family of mink was running all over, almost underneath the feet of hikers! This one just happened to pause on a log just long enough for a photo.

Jimmy Rollins: This was my first time at Judge C.R. Magney. My brother and I were taking a short trip up the North Shore, and spent only one night at this park. But we had a few hours for a hike, and went to see the Devil’s Kettle. The scenery was great, but the unexpected wildlife made the experience truly memorable.

Jimmy Rollins: It was early July, and it was hot! Though this is pretty far north, it was a warm, sunny day, and the hike had me sweating! I took a moment to rest at the top of a hill near an overlook. It was a shady spot, with a wonderfully cool breeze that blew over the bluff. I might’ve stayed in that spot forever, till the mink came running along, then I was scrambling for the camera again!

Jimmy Rollins: It’s hard, I think, to capture a specific mood when shooting wildlife. I can only hope that the photo conveys the mood I felt at the time. Watching this young mink scurry about was a very playful, yet mysterious, experience. I didn’t know where it had come from, or where it was going, only that it decided to scamper around right near me, and pause just long enough to glance at me, before disappearing again. I think if a photo can make a viewer feel that same sense of playful wonderment that I felt, that is what makes it a great photo.

Jimmy Rollins: Most of my wildlife photos are very “in-the-moment”. You can’t really plan for the wildlife to be at a certain place, or look a certain way. The trick is to put yourself where a photo opportunity might arise, and just be ready to capture whatever happens. Sometimes it’s nothing, and sometimes in can be really magical.

Jimmy Rollins: Take photos of what you think is beautiful! Every leaf, ladybug, or stick in the mud can be a moment worth capturing. If you love what you’re photographing, that will translate through to the viewer. And always bring a tripod! You’ll wish you had one!

Jimmy Rollins: My very first time at a State Park was when I was around 13 years old. My mom brought us out to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, to try a little camping trip. I’ve been hooked ever since. To this day, I still make time at least once a year to get out to a park, for camping, hiking, photography, just to be out in the natural world. I think we’re very lucky in Minnesota. We have an incredible park system, with lots of diverse and interesting parks all over the state. The people in our state have a real sense of pride in our parks, and our natural attractions. I’m very happy that I live in a state that loves nature as much as I do.

Second Place

Savanna Portage State Park by Will Stenberg

Third Place

Bear Head Lake State Park by Jimmy Rollins

Honorable Mentions