Friends of Seminary Hill Organize Photo Contest to Bring Hikers Together in Time of Social Distancing


The Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area group had to cancel many of their annual events this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic so they created an event where individuals could social distance while encouraging citizens to get out on the hill — the Seminary Hill Photo Contest.

Centralia citizen Mario Arellano frequently takes his son, Santiago, on hikes at Seminary Hill Natural Area and stumbled across the photography contest on Facebook. He decided to submit some of the photos he had taken and his photo came out on top. 

He captured the entrance to the trail with the sun shining through the trees. He used his cellphone, a Samsung S10E, set up on a tripod to capture the winning photo. He played around with the photo

afterward — editing the contrast and brightness to get it looking just right before submitting it to the judges.

“What inspired it was my three-year-old son. We like to come out here and walk. It’s very beautiful here and I saw the sun just shining right through — I just had to take a picture and it turned out amazing,” Arellano said. “It doesn’t even look like I took it, it looks professional.” 

Arellano’s first-place photo won him $100 and he already knows what he’s going to do with the prize money. 

“It’s going to go toward my son for Christmas,” he said.

Jessica Gray’s photo of a cluster of red mushrooms took second place and she won a mug, a Seminary Hill t-shirt and a Rufus Kiser book. 

The only rules for the contest were that the photo had to be taken at Seminary Hill and the photographer had to allow the Friends of Seminary Hill to use their photo on greeting cards and promotional material.

The greeting cards with photos of Seminary Hill scenery are sold at local shops including HUBBUB in downtown Centralia, the Lewis County Historical Museum and Book & Brush in Chehalis.

“The goal with all of our events is just to get people outside and enjoying this wonderful area we have right in town,” Megan Berry with Friends of Seminary Hill said. 

There were three photography contest judges — Judy Bell, Marlene Hodge and Anne Lagattuta. Eight photographers submitted up to three photos by the Oct. 31 deadline. Berry said that she’s glad she wasn’t a judge because she wouldn’t have been able to choose just one winner.

Other contest participants included Manuela Tucker, Alex Brown, Tom Johnson, Jared Kuykendall, Casey Risley and Carissa Reynolds.

Although this is the first year Friends of Seminary Hill has held the photography contest, Barlow said she hopes to make it an annual event since it’s a great way to capture some of the beauty of the area while encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors. 

“It’s amazing that we’ve got (Seminary Hill) so close to downtown. A lot of people don’t realize that we have it but I grew up around here and I spent a lot of time playing here as a child,” Wanda Barlow, Friends of Seminary Hill’s historian, said.

Friends of Seminary Hill is a group that has been around since the 80s. The group hosts work parties to clear out ivy and other invasive plants and keep the trail walkable and free of litter.

The group usually hosts several events a year on the hill including a “mushroom walk” and geology walks along the Seminary Hill trails where local plant experts identify native plants.

“Each time I come it never takes the same amount of time to walk the trails. It always takes longer because you’re just admiring everything around you. It really is beautiful,” Arellano said.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Friends of Seminary Hill can email or message the Friends of Seminary Hill Facebook page.


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