Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Enter this vintage photo contest October 21, 2011

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. As part of the prize package, Nina is offering a $25 gift certificate to Camp Honeybelle.

TODAY WE’RE GOING to talk photos.

First, I’d like you to dig out your old photo albums or shoeboxes full of vintage black-and-white images. I am looking for a candid photo (not a formal portrait) that portrays love.

Easy, right? Perhaps you have an old snapshot of your parents or grandparents together. How about a mother-daughter picture? Cousins? Siblings? A person with a favorite pet?

Anything that depicts love will do as long as the photo is vintage, black-and-white and candid.

OK, once you’ve found that single image, I want you to enter it in the Minnesota Moments magazine “Snapshots of Love” contest. You’ll find complete information about this competition by clicking onto the website, minnesotamoments.com, here.

You’ll need to do a teeny, tiny bit of writing to complete your entry. Simply state in a paragraph of 75 words or less what your photo tells you about love. Easy.

If your entry is selected as the winner—and, yes, I’m one of the judges—you will win a prize package valued at $150.

Here’s the prize list:

You do not need to subscribe to this magazine to enter the contest, although we’d certainly love to have you as a subscriber.

The first contestant sent a sweet image of her and her sister riding their shared tricycle on their Otter Tail County farm in 1948. I’m not sharing her story with you, but suffice to say her words moved me to tears.

Entries must be received by November 15.

OK, NOW THAT I have convinced you to enter “Snapshots of Love,” I want to assure you that, yes, indeed, it is possible to win a contest.

Here’s proof. Last year I entered an image in the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans 2011 calendar photo contest. My photo of the cross-topped cemetery fence at Urland Lutheran Church near Cannon Falls was selected from among more than 300 entries to grace the October page of the calendar. Judges were seeking “unique and inspiring images,” according to a letter I received from Thrivent.

My winning image of the Urland church cemetery fence.

The really interesting thing here is that when I took this photo, I didn’t know about the contest. I shot the image when my husband and I stopped at the country church and cemetery while on a Sunday afternoon drive. Months later, when I learned of the “Connecting with the Cross” themed calendar photo competition, I knew I had the perfect entry.

Urland Lutheran Church, rural Cannon Falls

So if you have one of those Thrivent calendars hanging on your wall, that’s my photo you’re looking at during October. You can click here to learn more about the image.

This is not the first time I’ve won a calendar photo contest. My close-up of autumn leaves in the woods made the November page of River Bend Nature Center’s 2007 “Sights and Seasons” calendar.

Prior to that, I won first place, and $100, in a national photo contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit for a close-up image of a butterfly in my daisy patch.

So there, enter. You could win, too.

TELL ME, RIGHT NOW, in a comment to this blog post, that you will enter the “Snapshots of Love” contest. That would make me happy. If you have questions, ask away. Be sure also to check out the sponsor websites. That would make me happy, too.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Boosting my photography confidence December 9, 2010

WE ALL LIKE to win.

My husband once won a trip to the Bahamas.

A few years ago I won a bag of groceries.

I’ve also placed in several photo contests during the past decade—a few times at the local nature center and once in a nation-wide competition sponsored by a life insurance company. That first place national win earned me $100.

Every time one of my photos wins an honor, my confidence soars. While I feel quite confident as a writer, I’ve always had some insecurities about my photography skills. I’m a writer first and the photography simply evolved as a sideline necessity.

Today, after years of practice, I can unequivocally state that I enjoy photography. Yet, the doubt still lingers. Are my photos good enough and does anyone like them?

Apparently the folks at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans liked the photo I submitted for a 2011 wall calendar competition. My image of an old cross-topped fence surrounding the Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery in rural Cannon Falls now graces the October page of the Thrivent “Connecting with the Cross” calendar.


My winning image of the church cemetery fence. The calendar photo has been slightly cropped and darkened.

“We looked for unique and inspiring images, and yours was one of them,” Tim Schwan, vice president of Church and Community Engagement wrote in a congratulatory form letter I received. “We received more than 300 submissions. Among many high-quality contenders, yours stood out.”

Now if those words aren’t validating, I don’t know what would be. While I may not be as technically savvy as some/many photographers, I do possess an eye for detail that allows me to find and compose good pictures.

Interestingly enough, I did not shoot my winning fence image specifically to enter this contest. In fact, I was unaware of the Thrivent photo calendar competition when I took the picture in late March while on a Sunday afternoon drive with my husband in the Sogn Valley area of southeastern Minnesota. We both love old country churches. So when we came upon Urland Lutheran, we stopped, walked the church grounds and I started clicking.


Urland Lutheran Church, rural Cannon Falls

Country churches offer so many photo ops along with lots of beauty and history.

Urland Lutheran Church dates back to 1871 and is named after Urland in the Sognefjord area of Norway, home to many of the families that formed the rural Cannon Falls congregation. Names like Ole and Ragna on church cemetery tombstones point to the strong Norwegian heritage.


Ole is a common name on markers in the Urland cemetery.

Another Ole tombstone at the Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery points to the congregation's Norwegian heritage.

Behind every photo lies a story. And that’s the story behind my winning calendar image.


A close-up side view of Urland Lutheran. Unfortunately the church was locked when we were there.

I DON’T KNOW the stories behind the other 11 calendar page photos. But all portray a cross, as required by contest guidelines. Among the more unusual photos—crossed icicles, a cross-shaped thorn, and children holding quilts and standing in a cross formation inside a church sanctuary.

I’m hopeful that Thrivent will publish the winning images and information about each photo on the company’s website.

The other photo contest winners are Cindy Carlson of Northfield, MN; Jyll Malotky of Prior Lake, MN; Fred Von Ruden of Owatonna, MN; Roy Christell of Lake Saint Louis, MO; Martin Lohrmann of Philadelphia, PA; Walt Timm of Jefferson City, MO; Lynn Radtke of Blaine, MN; Chris Denning of Helena, MT; Carla Gauthier of Saginaw, MI; Susan Ryan of Chicago, IL; and Anitra Frazier of Dolton, IL.

Now, if you’re wondering how you can get one of these calendars, well, you must be a Thrivent member.


AS A SIDE NOTE, many years ago my daughter Miranda placed in a Thrivent Kids’ Club calendar contest. She drew a picture of alligators flying kites on the beach. I think she won for the very same reason I did. Her creation stood out as unique.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling