Information provided by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
A longtime photography hobbyist who snaps pictures for “total stress relief,” Al Whitacker didn’t think his photo submission for National Public Gardens Day on May 11 could stack-up in a national contest.
“I was pretty surprised when I was contacted by the American Public Gardens (APGA) folks,” he said. “I debated as to whether or not I should submit the photo figuring I wouldn’t have a chance.”
After Whitacker’s wife, Virginia, reminded him that nobody wins anything if they don’t at least try, the shutterbug from Shorewood buckled down and sent his best.
The photo, a vista of lush greens, rolling marsh and stout arborvitae taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, gives more credit to his craft than he does.
Whitacker’s shot of the Arboretum’s Iris Pond was selected by judges including Better Homes and Gardens, the American Public Gardens Association, Rain Bird and Paul James, the National Public Gardens Day spokesman and nationally recognized “Garden Guy.” It best encapsulated their judging criteria for beauty, creativity and overall essence of public gardens
“I was with a photographer friend chasing geese all over the parking lot trying to get a shot of a goose at take-off,” Whitacker explained. “As I chased one towards (my friend), he gave me a look, so I quit chasing the geese, saw the lighting on the Iris Pond marsh and took the shot.”
Regardless of how it was taken, the photo was selected among more than 1,000 entries across the country.
“It’s affirmation that sometimes I get it right!” he said of the award.
Whitacker, a member of the Arboretum’s Photography Society, collected first prize and its $500 winnings, a membership to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and a year’s subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
For now, Whitacker won’t let the win go to his head, but will use his Arboretum membership to continue his passion for photography at a public garden he describes as “an undiscovered jewel.”
“I’m hopeful the photograph will help bring more visibility to our own Arboretum,” he said of the grounds that remain his favorite shooting site. “It’s a very special place and I cherish every minute I’m able to spend there.”
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest, and part of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences.