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4-H clover Ready, steady, shoot!

November 12, 2020

4-H photography challenge gets youth outside exploring the beauty of fall

As leaves begin to cascade on the frosty ground and the air turns crisp, youth tend to spend even more time on screens. Could 4-H Youth Development offer an enticing alternative? The Minnesota 4-H Photography Project Development Committee (PDC) set out to do just that. They issued a challenge for youth from across the state: explore and capture what fall looks like in their neck of the woods. It was the 4-H Fall Photography Challenge.

Cottonwood County 4-H Extension Educator Crystal Reith co-chairs the PDC along with 4-H alum Jillian Bell. They noticed consistent interest in the various photography programs they offered since the pandemic began. A spring photo scavenger hunt drew 348 youth from 79 counties. Their photography composition and elements lessons this summer reached 76 youth from 32 counties. In total they reached 7,108 youth that enrolled in a photography project this past year. 

  • 98% of youth enjoyed having a project that took them away from screens.
  • 98% of youth participants got more interested in photography.

The 4-H Statewide Fall Photography Challenge was an obvious next step. 161 young people of all ages, across 56 counties got outside and captured the beauty that surrounded them between Sep. 25 and Nov. 1. Volunteer judges reviewed the photo collection and offered constructive feedback to each youth photographer.

4-H alum Lonna Smith says her role as  a photography judge is to assess quality and educate 4-H'ers on how to take better photos. “The contests and challenges 4-H is hosting is a great way to get youth doing something, learning along the way and having fun doing it!” 

As more Minnesotans need to learn and work from home, 4-H is innovating ways youth can keep their whole bodies active in learning and exploration. The fall photography challenge included a list of  outdoor things to capture: leaves, pumpkins, apples, etc.  4-H'ers took that list to the next level artistically and physically. They got low to the ground to get the perfect angle of a falling leaf and hiked up hills to get the perfect view of rolling valleys. One youth said, “The list helped me expand my view of what to take photos of. As photographers, we can take anything ordinary and turn it into something beautiful.” 

Emma Rowen from Fillmore County had a blast exploring her part of the state. This 15 year-old previously exhibited photos at her county fair, but hadn’t thought much about how time of day could impact her images. “I wanted to participate in this challenge to have fun taking pictures, learn more about photography and show off what I could do. During this challenge I learned that some outdoor lighting is not really adequate for taking pictures.” 

As photos poured in on the last few days of the challenge, each new entry was more unique than the last. The entries ranged from beautiful burnt-orange foliage to livestock grazing pastures. “Every photo tells a story. It allows people to see the world through different perspectives. It’s important for every generation to document what’s happening in the world so future generations can look back on history,” Reith said. 

In order to keep youth engaged in photography learning, 4-H will host another challenge before the end of the year; this time focused on portrait photography of family and friends.

Follow Minnesota 4-H on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest 4-H news, events and learning opportunities.

Top shots from 4-H photographers

fall leaves on a tree
Emma Rowen, Fillmore County
snow trees reflecting on water
Easton Dooley, Clay County
plant shade
Rachel Minicucci, Chisago County
fall colors and a waterfall
Jenna Stockinger, Anoka County
mushrooms growing on a tree
Cadence Goblirsch, Redwood County
Related topics: YD News 4-H Featured news
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