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Don Sala photography exhibit opens January 2 at Plum Creek Nature Center

Photo for: Don Sala photography exhibit opens January 2 at Plum Creek Nature Center

Photo courtesy of Don Sala

Photos taken by award-winning photographer Don Sala of Beecher will be on display from Tuesday, January 2, through Wednesday, February 28, at Plum Creek Nature Center.

The exhibit will feature 16 photos taken in eastern Will County by Sala, who has been a photographer for almost 50 years. Photos will be available for sale during the exhibit, and 20 percent of the proceeds will be donated to The Nature Foundation of Will County. The foundation raises funds in support of the Forest Preserve's education, recreation and conservation efforts.

In addition to the exhibit, Sala will participate in a “Winter Nature Photography Hike” on Saturday, January 27, at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve. Attendees should bring their cameras (smartphones through digital SLR). The free program is for ages 16 or older. Registration is required by Thursday, January 25, at or by calling 708.946.2216.

Sala's exhibit at Plum Creek will include nature photos and barn shots.

“I like shooting barns in my hometown of Beecher,” Sala said. “These barns are a vision of the past. And each year, time and weather take a toll on the barns. In 10 years, most of these barns will be gone, with just a trace of their memories.”

Sala was bitten by the photo bug in high school.

“I wasn't in the band or in drama or on the year book staff,” he said. “I was a shy guy and photography gave me a voice. I would photograph objects in bright sunlight, and process my own black-and-white film. I felt like I was in control.”

He’s been snapping pictures ever since, including a stint in the Army as a military police photographer in the Panama Canal Zone in 1969 and later as a commercial photographer. On one military assignment, he took photos through open cargo doors of a military helicopter.

“Another time I took a photo of three Army guys holding a boa constrictor that wandered on some Army major’s property,” he said. “The snake had to be 10 feet long.”

And he recalls a time when a catalog shoot of models in swimsuits on a beach in Los Angeles went awry when someone moved a giant reflector near the lens and all but one shot, the test shot, were overexposed. Fortunately, the test shot was good enough to make it into the Sears catalog.

One of the most interesting photo shoots he experienced was for Kroch’s and Brentano’s bookstore.

“One day Mr. (Carl) Kroch wanted to see me in his office,” Sala recalled. “He wanted to create Christmas cards for his friends that included a photo of a hand-carved netsuke (Japanese button-like sculpture). After I shot the first one, I was sleeping and I heard my dog chewing on a hard object. All I could think about was that netsuke was in the dog’s mouth. It turned out the dog was really chewing on a bone, not the netsuke. It became an annual photo for Mr. Kroch, and his collection of netsukes has been donated to the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Sala has won first place awards for some of his photos, which have been exhibited in galleries in Illinois and Indiana. Now that he is retired, he said he enjoys walking outside and searching for interesting objects to photograph. His work includes everything from a farm cultivator with a bright blue sky in the background to milkweed seed pods, which he later distributed along a highway to help the monarch butterflies that need milkweed plants to reproduce.

“I love bright colors and different shapes and angles,” he said of his outdoor photography excursions. “And it’s a little more relaxing. You can walk outside and look for different perspectives.”

And he’s hoping his perspective on photography comes through during the Plum Creek exhibit.

“I think the show at the nature center is a great collection of area barns and interesting subjects that I have photographed in the past couple of years,” he said. “I knew that I had to create great composition and sharp details and, of course, great lighting. When you look at the images, I hope it makes you feel like you are standing in my shoes.”


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