By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN A snapshot of life in the Udstrand family is bound to be filled with cameras, wildlife, and scenic landscapes.
Mark and his wife, Melissa, of Delano, often take their three children on photography excursions throughout the state, as well as the country.
“I enjoy capturing fleeting moments of beauty in nature to share with others and to revisit that moment again, myself, in the future,” noted Mark, whose passion for photography has become a family affair.
Mark’s web site, www.NaturesMirror.com, showcases his extraordinary talent. From a stark, eerie winter landscape taken with an infrared lens, to a warm, uplifting photo of trumpeter swans against a blazing sunset, Mark’s photos demand more than just a passing glance.
“The most rewarding part is seeing something awesome in nature, capturing the moment, and then sharing it with someone else,” Mark said.
Mark chose the name Nature’s Mirror Photography because he attempts to mirror nature with his photographs, but the name also has a deeper meaning.
Mark’s identical twin brother, Gary, is also a wildlife photographer.
“If you look at twins, they are genetic copy, or mirror, of each other,” Mark noted. “Therefore, a twin is really nature’s mirror.”
Gary and his wife live in Champlain with their three children, who are about the same ages as Mark and Melissa’s children.
Mark and Melissa’s oldest, Will, is a sixth grader in the Delano School District who enjoys playing golf and football.
Madison is in fourth grade, and participates in tennis and Destination Imagination.
Leyton, who is in kindergarten, loves to play hockey and baseball.
All three children enjoy learning about photography, and they each have their own “point and shoot” cameras.
On weekends, the Udstrand family often drives to various parts of Minnesota to hike and take pictures. Melissa said they have found interesting sites through the Conservation Minnesota Magazine.
“If I had to pick out one place as my favorite, it would have to be the North Shore, along Lake Superior,” Mark noted. “The photographic opportunities are virtually unlimited.”
From sunrise to sunset, Mark patiently searches for picturesque moments.
“I do a lot of wildlife photography, and the most challenging part is trying to get close enough to nature to get a really good shot, but at the same time ensuring that my presence does not affect the shot negatively,” he said.
In one instance, a red fox spotted Mark as he was taking pictures, so Mark waited quietly until the fox became comfortable with his presence and returned to its normal routine. At that point, Mark said he was able to spend the next hour or so photographing the fox, without it paying any attention to him.
For Mark, sharing his photos and the stories behind them is the best part of his hobby.
“When I shoot a spectacular sunset, I can share that experience with others and they can appreciate the moment,” he said. “If it is a picture of two wolves fighting, I can share the drama of nature in its rawest form, and again, the viewer can experience the same awe I felt at the time the photograph was taken.”
Mark’s photos are often encased in his own handmade frames.
“I am an avid woodworker, and live on a lot with numerous large trees, many of which are more than 125 years old,” he noted.
As the trees die, Mark uses the lumber to create custom frames for his photographs. People who are interested in purchasing one of Mark’s photos have the option of custom framing or a print only.
About the Udstrands
During the work week, Mark spends his days as a software consultant. Melissa is a stay-at-home mother who used to work as a provider analyst for Medica.
“I’m pretty fortunate to be able to stay home and focus on the kids,” she said. Melissa often volunteers in her children’s classrooms, and has also been involved with Partners in Education (PIE) and Destination Imagination.
“When there’s an opportunity to do some volunteering up at the school, I try to be available,” she said.
Melissa is originally from St. Louis Park, and Mark grew up in Greenbush, which is about 40 miles north of Thief River Falls.
Melissa and Mark both went to school at the University of Minnesota, and they met while working at Byerly’s in St. Louis Park.