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Sean Solheim, 18, of Avoca, who was recently awarded grand champion in digital photography during the Murray County Fair, is building his own photography business. Solheim is a member of Badger Lake 4-H.

MCC grad focusing on photography

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SLAYTON -- A picture may be worth a thousand words to some people, but Sean Solheim is hoping it will be better than that. He's planning his career on pictures.

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A 2010 graduate of Murray County Central, Solheim is already making a name for himself with his photography. He has worked for the Murray County News as a photographer since he was 16, has shot several weddings and does family and senior portraits.

Recently, one of his photos was awarded grand champion status at the Murray County Fair.

A member of Badger Lake 4-H, Solheim became interested in photography when he took a digital photography class as a freshman.

"I didn't request the class, they just put me in it," he laughed. "And I liked it."

During a careers class in his sophomore year, he was required to job shadow someone in a field in which he was interested. He ended up spending an afternoon with Daily Globe photographer Brian Korthals and was hooked.

With nothing but a point and shoot-type digital camera, Solheim started experimenting and became fascinated with nature photography.

"I just kept pursuing it," he admitted. "And my mom really liked the pictures I was taking. She has a good eye for it."

Solheim moved to Avoca with his mother and step-father, Linda and Tom Nelson, in 2000, along with his younger brother and sister. He took a part-time at a convenience store in Slayton after he turned 16, and his boss later recommended him for the photography job at the Murray County News. He saved enough money to eventually purchase a much better camera, and shortly before his senior year in high school, he was asked to take photos at a family reunion.

"I was kind of slow at first," he admitted, "but the family really liked the photos. To this day they tell me when people come in their house and see what I did, they say, 'Wow! Great pictures!'"

Shortly afterward, he was hired to shoot a wedding.

"I just had a basic zoom lens and not enough money to afford more," he remembered, smiling.

For his second wedding gig, he ended up borrowing duct tape from a neighbor to stick his backdrops to a wall. He had a little help purchasing a better lens, then received studio portrait lights as a graduation gift.

By then, his love for nature photography had taken a back seat to his enjoyment in taking portraits.

"That's what I really want to pursue as a career," he admitted.

For fun, he said, he takes pictures at sporting events, always looking for action photos.

"The big catch, the grand slam, or even the rollover," he explained. "I love capturing those action shots in the middle, which can be hard to do."

His other photography favorite is what he refers to as "extreme nature." He loves storm shots and has captured several lightning shots this summer.

"I'll admit, this has been a great summer for storms," he laughed. "My goal is to catch a tornado on the ground."

He rode along with storm spotters this summer to see if he could catch a few hints on predicting storms.

Solheim readily admits that his mother has been a great help as he learns about photography. Not that she is an expert about the rules or F-stops -- she sits down with her son after photo shoots and offers opinions about what she likes. They discuss the little things that make one photo stand out from the rest.

Solheim recently came up with a name for his budding business -- Shots by Sean -- and hopes shoots keep coming his way. He doesn't have a studio, he admitted, but enjoys doing shots on location. Senior photos, he said, are trending that way.

He will start college at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, in a few weeks, but plans to do photo shoots on weekends and weeknights as long as he can find customers. He said he charges for his time -- there are no sitting fees or outfit change costs -- then later sits down with his customers when possible to show off the shots. They pick which ones they like, and he delivers finished photos.

When it comes to offering advice for any budding photographer, whether they are serious about pictures or just want to capture moments, Solheim thinks the key is self-confidence.

"Photography is based on the eye and the mind, not on a manual," he stated. "Believe in yourself. Believe in what you can do and what you like. No rules or camera settings or even the type of camera can replace that."

Anyone interested in Shots by Sean can reach him at (507) 329-1213.

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