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Fresh eyes on Farmington

This photo by Lindsey Cornelius is featured in Farmington's 2010 calendar.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, there are some pretty chatty folks in Farmington.

For the past three years the city of Farmington has featured the work of local photographers in the annual community calendar. The calendars include lots of information - city council and other city meeting times and locations; recycling tips; information on the farmer's market and curbside cleanup days. Just about any basic question a resident might have can be answered in this calendar.

But it's the pictures of the community that draw the most attention. Those pictures of parks and ponds, trees and cornfields, snow and sunrises and lots more are, in a way, how residents "see" the community where they live.

Talk to a few of them, and you'll find lots of similarities. And there are quite a few surprises, too.

Take a look at the pictures printed for the past few years, and it might look like Farmington is brimming with professional photographers who have spent lots of time learning a craft, and lots of money to perfect it. Really, though, it's more of a hobby that they all started at an early age.

For some, that means they've grown up with a camera in their hands and spent decades taking pictures and fine-tuning the way they see everyday things. There are also a few who are currently growing up with that camera in hand.

A family hobby

Three of the photographers featured in the 2010 Community Calendar haven't even reached their teenage years yet.

Zach Dianchrist just kind of followed in his mother's footsteps. He doesn't have a big, fancy camera like his mom but he finds a way to put his little Olympus digital to good use. Zach tends to focus in on little details. He likes taking nature photos, but is picky in the shots he takes.

"I take about two pictures and she (his mother, Jodi) takes about 200," Zach said.

Jodi Dianchrist has also had photos featured in the calendar for a few years. Her brother was a photographer when she was younger. Jodi thought it was pretty neat, and with his help, she learned to find the unusual in the usual.

"Now it's fun for me to capture God's creations," she said. "To see the little things people don't usually stop to look at."

They often bring their cameras along on bike rides and nature hikes. Once in a while, Zach will ask to use his mom's Nikon, but he often uses his own with great results.

The Dianchrists are not the only mother-son team featured in the calendar. Carmen Fox and her son, Mitchell, 11, have also had a few pictures published these past few years.

They live near Farmington's Vermillion Grove Park, and there's no shortage of wildlife pictures to take. Without even leaving her yard, Carmen has snapped pictures of pigeons, deer and even a wolf (that was quite some time ago, she adds). But she likes to bring her camera to her kids' sporting events and on family outings, as well. Over time, she's shared her love for photography with Mitchell, who seems to have a knack for it.

Mitchell has the photo for January in this year's calendar. Carmen has quite a few in there, too, but was just as thrilled for her son as she was for herself when the pictures were printed.

Tracy Tonsager, 12, does some pretty good work, too - and most of it is because she just sees things she wants to take pictures of, and asks her mother to stop the car.

Tracy was 10 years old the first time she submitted a picture to the calendar contest. One of her photos was selected last year, a few more were chosen this year. She only carries a little Nikon Coolpix when she's out and about.

She's had no formal training, and her mom, Cindy, claims to have no photography skills of her own. A lot of times, Tracy will be out on walks with her parents when she comes across something she likes, and will simply take out the camera and start shooting.

"I'll be like, 'Oh, that's really pretty,' and I just take the picture," Tracy said.

New to town

In a way, photography is helping a few new residents get to know their way around town. Both Jason Jensen and Lindsey Cornelius moved to Farmington within the past five years. Coming into a new town, it takes a while to start knowing your way around. But with a camera in hand, both have gone exploring - and gotten to know Farmington in their own ways.

"I try to think, 'what's unique to this town?' I try to see things people don't always see, try to pick out the key points of living here in Farmington," Cornelius said.

Jensen had only been in Farmington a short while when he saw an advertisement asking local photographers for pictures for the first community calendar. He picked up his camera and literally went to town. He's had pictures in every one of the community calendars so far.

Many reasons

The photographers have lots of reasons for doing what they do. Jensen is not alone when he says he likes to hear the positive feedback he gets from his family or friends when they look at some of his work. Carmen Fox enjoys putting her pictures together with video and making longer videos for her kid's friends and teammates.

To hear them talk, it would almost sound like a broken record. The advent of digital photography has filled each of their computers and camera cards with hundreds of shots. They often take dozens of pictures of the same thing to get it "just right."

They each submitted photos for different reasons, but none of them knew theirs had been chosen until they received the calendars.

And will they continue to submit pictures in the future? Absolutely.

For information on submitting a photo for the 2011 photo go to

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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