A club for shutterbugs

by Bruce Strand

Arts editor

Photography buff Jay Grammond was bothered back in 2009 by the fact that he wasn’t shooting as much as he’d like.

Sandhill Photography Club members Steve and Zoma Olson, Jim Boyle and Jay Grammond on a photo trip to Pioneer Village in Hastings.

“With work and family and other obligations, I just wasn’t getting out much,” said Grammond, a program specialist for Elk River Community Education.

He pondered joining a photo club, but found that the nearest one was in St. Cloud, a long commute from Princeton, where he lives.

So Grammond decided to start his own club. One day while watching a baseball game where his son was bat-boy, he took out a notebook.

“I jotted down my ideas of what our mission would be, and what our goals would be, on that one page,” he said.

Once he knew what he wanted, Grammond approached some like-minded friends and soon got things clicking.

The club’s namesake, a sandhill crane, by Jay Grammond.

Sandhill Photography Club, whose main ventures are small-group expeditions to various picturesque sites, celebrated its second anniversary last weekend with a visit to Pioneer Village in Hastings.

“I like going out in groups of people who know what they are doing,” said Zoma Olson, who was a novice when she joined with her husband, Steve. “You can always get advice. Everyone is helpful.”

It’s not a big club, not yet anyway. Monthly meetings  usually have around a half-dozen people, although many more keep in touch on the mailing list.

The club, named for the large, lanky cranes frequently spotted in the Princeton/Zimmerman area, is always looking for new people, Grammond said.

Old cars, by Jay Grammond

And there are no application forms or dues.

“If you show up at a meeting, you’re in.”

The group includes two professional photographers and several well-versed amateurs, along with near-novices who can learn from the experienced shooters, he said.

Blue building, by Katie Raivala

Grammond and Jim Boyle, the Star News editor, were the first two members.

The club’s photo-shoot locations have included Sherburne Wildlife Refuge, area cemeteries (around Veterans Day),  Elk River Public Library, Christmas lights tours, snocross races in Elk River, downtown Minneapolis, James J. Hill house, the Mississippi  shore in Elk River, Nowthen Threshing Show, a Como Zoo Conservatory flower show, Cheyenne River Valley in North Dakota, Swenson farm barns in Otsego, farmers markets, and once, the wedding of a club member’s friend.

Jay Grammond in the wild, captured by Andrea Bernhardt

Their photographs can be viewed on Facebook under  Sandhill Photography Club. The site includes tributes to famous and admired photographers, interesting articles from publications, and a weekly theme challenge for club members such as sunsets, kitchens, and peace in recent weeks.

“It’s easy to get busy and never set aside time for the things you really want to do,” Boyle said. “Being part of the club helps members fit something they are passionate about into their lives, so its not overlooked at the end of the day, week or year.”

Tulips by Andrea Bernhardt

Grammond started taking photos in high school, buying his first camera, a Cannon AE-1, and 50 mm lens and zoom lens, after saving up from his Saturday job at a grocery store. He used his skills during a stint as sports editor of the Sauk Centre Herald and an outdoor magazine owned by the same publisher.

Steve and Zoma Olson of Elk River enjoy the excursions to the various sites, the feedback and advice from fellow members, and the camaraderie of the club.

“Steve was more into photography than I was. All I had was a point-and-shoot that I kept in my purse,” said Zoma. “I went along to have something we can do together, since we are empty-nesters. And I’ve got a better camera now.”

chair photo from Elk RIver Public Library by Zoma Olson.

Steve, plant engineer at a plastics firm in Becker, said that photography is a casual hobby for him, and the club enriches the experience.

“What we enjoy is getting together for group photo shoots and doing things like slide shows at members’ houses,” he said. “A big part of it is the social aspect with people of similar interests. And we shoot at places with the group that we would not normally go to.”

Local grave marker photo by Steve Olson