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  • Photographer Interview Series: Thia Xiong

Waterfall at Normandale Lake.

Around 1/3 of Bloomington is made up of parks and nature areas, making it a popular shooting location for local photographers. We reached out to some of our favorite nature photographers to get their viewpoint on everything from the state of amateur photography to Bloomington’s hidden gems.

Thia Xiong has a unique perspective on Bloomington’s natural beauty. Since September 2019, she has worked at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge as the Community Outreach Apprentice. The Wildlife Refuge, which makes up the eastern and southern borders of Bloomington, is a favorite for nature photographers like Thia. She often shares photos of its Education and Visitor Center, Bass Ponds, and Old Cedar Avenue Bridge.

Central Park Thia XiongA creek in Bloomington's Central Park.

Thia has been interested in photography since high school, when disposable and film cameras were popular. “I did freelance people photography for several years, but have switched my focus since, finding passion in photographing nature and landscapes in the places I visit. In the present, I consider myself more of a hobbyist,” said Thia.

“Recently, I've been shooting quite often in the Bloomington area, trying to discover what is in my work community. I made a list of local parks (city, county/regional, state, non-Refuge), recreational areas, historic sites, and nature centers that are in the city, and have slowly been visiting each one with my camera. Thanks to the great weather we've been having, I've been able to visit a different location every day to explore and practice my photography,” said Thia.

Deer Thia XiongA deer at Fort Snelling State Park.

Thia has several suggestions for amateur photographers: “Get to know your camera settings, play with manual - lighting and focus can do so much for a photograph. Try out different lenses to test out focal lengths. Observe your surroundings and don't be afraid to use what's around you as your subject or as your subject's background. Get on the ground, get your hair stuck on tree branches, and mud on your shoes while shooting. Try shooting from many angles.” And most importantly, “Photos don't have to be perfect - find your style of photography and don't worry about how your art compares to others.”

Wildlife Refuge Thia XiongMinnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

“The city of Bloomington has so much to offer. Working at the refuge doing community outreach has allowed me to meet and work alongside so many people who care and are passionate about this city and its people. I want to encourage residents and neighbors to explore and discover the local places we share, and please, visit us at the refuge while doing so! Minnesota has so many hidden, natural gems. This state is a photographer's haven. I hope we can help one another care for our places so all of us can continue experiencing them for a long time to come,” said Thia.

A big thanks to Thia for sharing her thoughts and beautiful photos with us! View more of her photography on Instagram at @mni.sota_bythia. Share your Bloomington photos on social media with #BloomingtonMN and follow us on Instagram at @BloomingtonMN.