Joe Burns mug

Joe Burns

This summer reminds me of the first time I retired many years ago. After a satisfying 32 years of teaching, I was looking forward to new opportunities. Like most retirees, I had a long list of things I was going to "get around to” after I retired. A good share of those things are still on that list. 

One thing led to another. I was taking some advanced photo classes at Metropolitan Community College when I saw a help wanted advertisement for a reporter/photographer at the Enterprise. Soon after starting working at the paper, I also began teaching photojournalism as well. A friend and fellow instructor commented that my wealth of photo opportunities as news photographer was “an embarrassment of riches.” I had never heard that phrase before, but it fit my situation perfectly.  

My career at the Enterprise has been rich with experiences and friendships as well as photo opportunities. As you may have noticed, my photos are still showing up in the newspaper. The beauty of my new arrangement is that my photo assignments are pretty much by invitation.  

On the last day of June, the Fort Calhoun staff asked me to come down to photograph a teacher parade to honor retiring Supt. Don Johnson. I, of course, gladly accepted the invitation. One of my first beats as a reporter was covering Fort Calhoun Community Schools and Johnson was middle school and high school principal at that time. In my opinion, Don was always the epitome of what a good leader should be. I could give a dozen examples, but what always impressed me was that no matter the time of place, if there was a significant project underway Don was there leading the charge.

The last day of June also commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the closing of Dana College. Preparing my column gave me an opportunity to look through my time capsule of Dana images from 2010 to the present. While Argo and Elkhorn residence halls were demolished and others need to be renovated or removed, it is still a lovely campus. After so many false starts, it is good to see that the Durham Center and Trinity Chapel have been renovated and occupied, and athletes are once again playing baseball on the ball diamonds.    

While so many events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arlington, Blair and Herman still were able to hold their annual fireworks displays. For me, setting up to photograph a fireworks show is kind of like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. When I press the button for a long exposure, I never know for sure what I’m going to get.

I was particularly happy with the results from the Herman show. My intent was to capture the spirit of that small town community celebration and I think the photo on the front page of the paper communicated that pretty well.

Another summer event that I regularly attend is the Wolfe Country Quilt Show and Garden Walk.  On the third Saturday of July for eight of the last nine years, the Wolfe family has hosted this beautiful show as a free gift to quilt lovers and gardening enthusiasts.  I’m not much of a gardener and know nothing about quilting, but strolling through the farm yard gives me an opportunity to make images that capture the mix of people, flowers and fabric. Thank you, Wolfe family.

I don’t know about “embarrassment,” but I do know that I am thankful over the years to have had a wealth of opportunities make images in Washington County.

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