DeBoer images on display in A.L.

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As a small child, Dustin DeBoer always tried to capture what he was seeing on family vacations on film.

The family — which included DeBoer, his sister and parents — saw 43 states in their pop-up camper. Dustin has also seen parts of Mexico and Canada.

“I got exposed to nature early on,” the Austin native said.

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After graduating from high school in 1993, he did his undergraduate work in youth ministry and Bible in Pennsylvania. In college, he was able to do some mission work in Alaska.

“One of the things I realized is that with my camera, I could make a connection with God through nature,” DeBoer said.

After leadership training in Canada, he traveled to New York, Colorado and Illinois. He ended up in Mt. Rainier National Park doing Christian ministry for the National Parks Administration.

DeBoer enjoyed the opportunity to conduct campground Bible studies, he said.

“There’s nothing like preaching in the great outdoors,” he said. “You never know what will happen or what you’ll see — cougars and bear cubs.”

The more he did it, the more he realized he needed to be taking groups out to nature so they could experience, as he had, that nature is a place to “reflect, relax and rejuvenate.”

At that point, DeBoer decided to study for his master’s degree in recreation and resource management, but a shortage of tuition money sent him instead to an internship in the Badlands of South Dakota. After that, he put his educational plans on the shelf and moved to the Twin Cities, where he first worked for a telecommunications training company, and then for Children’s Hospital as an insurance registrar.

“It fit me for what I needed at the time,” he said.

It wasn’t long after that he found out he had colorectal cancer and eventually had three surgeries.

The support and encouragement of his church family eventually put him back on the road to earning his master’s degree in outdoor education from the University of Minnesota. While doing that, he worked on an interpretive plan for northern Minnesota and became acquainted with the North Country National Scenic Trail.

It was during this time that he started his own business, Solid Rock Photography, which combines his love of nature with photography.

He said his work with capturing places on film has not been the point; rather, it has been to experience what the world truly needs of people: becoming a person who is alive.

“I hope to encourage others to find their passion for living so that the world can be a better place to live and be all that humanity was created for,” he said.

The past year, he did some substitute teaching and worked on marketing his photography. “To me a teacher is someone who encourages students to process their lives to grow and become productive members of society,” he said.

DeBoer has also been working on his book, “Relax, Reflect and Rejuvenate: The Story of Solid Rock Photography.” It’s about 100 pages and includes about 100 images.

“This isn’t about me,” DeBoer said of his book. “It’s asking people what their lives are saying. It’s encouraging them to seek a purpose-filled life.

“Why settle for an ordinary existence?”

DeBoer is exhibiting at the Albert Lea Art Center this month. His show runs July 8-26 with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday. New summer gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

His book is debuting this month.