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Pine Knot photographers get a show

The latest exhibit at The Knot gallery - located within the Pine Knot News office - focuses on the art of the newspaper, in particular, the photography and page design that make the paper something pleasing to the eye, as well as informative.

"Newspapers tell the stories of our times with both prose and imagery, which tend to make each other stronger," said editor Jana Peterson. "But the art of newspaper lies not only in the obvious photographs and graphics, but also in the way those elements come together on the page, in the design of the newspaper."

Stop in to see examples of the award winning work by Pine Knot photographers and designer Mike Creger and meet some of our talent during the West End Flourish celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Pine Knot office at 122 Ave. C in Cloquet.

Three Pine Knot freelance photographers made a clean sweep of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest's weekly newspaper photographer portfolio - the top award for photographer - in January, with Dave Harwig taking first, Dan Saletel second, and former PKN freelancer Amy Arntson taking third.

"I am amazed by the incredible photographers we have in Carlton County, and so grateful they work with us," Peterson said. "But it was really nice to have judges reward that talent too."

The lineup of freelance photographers willing to share their talents with the Pine Knot extends beyond the three mentioned above, including but not limited to Amber Nichols, Matthew Moses and Tom Urbanski, and numerous talented nature photographers, parent photographers and even aerial photographers.

Like the pages of the Pine Knot, its photographers all have their own unique stories to tell. We share two of those for now.

Still life to sports

Perhaps Dan Saletel had the most unusual route to photography: he got his start in the crime scene unit of the Duluth Police Department.

It was 2002, so the police officer started with film cameras, then switched to digital. Saletel said he took a couple of photography classes and learned a lot about cameras. They take a lot of photos in the police department.

"A big part of doing crime scene work is documenting the scenes and the evidence we bring back," he said. "Blood stains, blood patterns, bullet holes, latent prints."

Latent prints, or fingerprints, are a huge part of the job, said Saletel, who is one of only about 25 certified latent print examiners in the state. That means his department doesn't have to wait for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to process fingerprint evidence, which means much quicker turnaround time.

Saletel said he happened to take some baseball photos of then Sgt. Kerry Kolodge's son playing baseball, and soon found himself shooting more.

"Kerry showed the photos to Wendy Johnson, the publisher of the Pine Journal at the time, and she suggested I do some sports photos for her.

"I wasn't very good then, and I'm still learning," Saletel said. "But it's fun doing action shots. It's a different type of technique - you learn more about the camera and its capabilities."

When the Pine Journal closed its local office and the Pine Knot News began in late 2018, Saletel followed editor Jana Peterson to the new locally owned paper.

"It was an easy decision," he said, estimating he took about three minutes to think about it. "I was already working with Jana, so I knew what I was getting into. I'm glad I did."

Although he's been called to a crime scene unexpectedly once or twice over the past five years, Saletel has been a trooper for the Pine Knot, willing to travel far and wide, to large schools and small, and even a few state tournaments.

Not surprisingly, he's one of the best at getting photos that help "set the scene" at a sporting event, grabbing photos of excited fans, even an award winner that featured a dinosaur mascot peering at two football referees.

"It all depends on what comes up and what I can get to," Saletel said. "I remember shooting parades, a brass quartet, all kinds of weird stuff. I like the variety, and really enjoy the sports. Plus, I get to see a lot of different parts of the county and go to different areas I wouldn't normally get to. It's a pretty county."

Saletel and his wife, Jenn, have two children, Lydia and Ben, and live here in Carlton County.

Saletel will be at The Knot gallery 1-4 p.m. Saturday, except when he's checking out all the vendors and musicians at the West End celebration.

Career move

Dave Harwig said his photography career basically started entirely by accident. At least the career part, anyway.

"I bought a digital camera so I could bring it fishing, and never used it for that," Harwig said with a chuckle. Instead, he happened to go to a Fond du Lac college football game in 2008 with his point-and-shoot.

"Bruce Carlson asked me to take a picture on the sideline. I didn't like the picture, so I ended up buying better equipment," he said. "I started bringing camera gear to Cloquet stuff, then it just ballooned to everything."

Before that he had a blog - that's where his View Through My Lens business name came from. The Cloquet 1993 grad scrolls back through the blog site during the interview, through photos of fish and clouds, looking for the first batch of sports photos to confirm the dates.

That same year he made a website by the same name (viewthroughmylens.net), now very popular Facebook page.

"I had been selling consignments on eBay, but then someone pawned something I was selling and I just hung it up at that point," he said. "Then I had time, so I started taking more pictures. I don't know when it became an actual job."

Harwig does a brisk business selling "career packages" to parents of young athletes.

"They get every digital picture I get of their kid, forever," he said. "And some of them start in youth sports."

That means terrific organizational skills and lots of computer memory. "I pay for two terabytes of storage on Google Drive," he admitted. Harwig also sells individual photos on a smugmug page and, of course, works for the Pine Knot News.

Although his photography career grew out of a chance request, Harwig said he's been a sports fan for decades, and figures he learned composition skills collecting sports cards since 1986.

"I mostly like covering sports, being part of the game rather than just watching it," he said. "I like covering it online, although I'm not exactly a writer."

Harwig calculated he covers nearly 20 high schools from Two Harbors to East Central and lots of University of Minnesota Duluth sports. In the summer, he hits lots of horse shows and fairs as well as summer softball and baseball games.

His new mirrorless Canon camera can shoot 30 frames per second: he shot 3,600 photos of a horse show in July when he was first testing out the camera.

He is planning to stop by the exhibit and reception Saturday around 11 a.m., before heading to a UMD football game.

"I don't take a day off, except for when I get sick," he said.

The Knot Gallery photography and design show will be available for public viewing through October during regular office hours.

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