Ronan 10-year-old's art makes splash against the pros
Dalen Siech wears many hats. In the course of a week he is an artist, a philanthropist, a photographer, and a middle school student.
Though he is just 10 years old, Siech’s photography has started getting the attention of judges and professionals alike. This spring Siech entered three of his pieces in a fine art photography contest in Hot Springs along with notable professionals from the area. All three of his works won ribbons, and his photo of aspens from the Grand Canyon was a finalist in the competition.
Humble and timid, Siech’s whole demeanor changes when he talks about taking photos. A smile spreads across his face when he recalls the trials and tribulations of getting the perfect shot of birds in flight or lying on his stomach to capture a sunflower in bloom.
Siech began taking pictures two years ago for his 4-H Club. His mother and grandmother said his talent was clear from the start.
“About as quick as he was taking pictures, it was there,” Olivia Olsen, Dalen’s grandmother and owner of The Red Poppy art center in Ronan, said. “Dalen seems to have a natural gift for good composition in a photograph.”
One of the first images Dalen captured is a black and white photo of the gears beneath a ski lift during the off-season. His mother said when they were out shooting that day she was frustrated because Dalen wasn’t taking pictures of anything she suggested and she didn’t think any of the photos were going to turn out. His mother was in for a surprise.
“When we finally got back home and were looking through his camera, it was like ‘well dang, that’s pretty darn good’,” Patty Sheumaker, Dalen’s mother, said.
Siech’s photographs are pretty darn good, and not just good for a 10-year-old. Siech said he never uses the editing program Photoshop. While his raw images of landscapes are stunning, it is his photos of everyday items that are astounding. Olsen said Siech has a way of blocking out the tedium and to capture images of old trucks, concentric drainage pipes, and gears.
“He sees the world differently,” she said.
Siech began selling his photos as cards in his grandmother’s art center two years ago. Since then he has added matted prints and several framed prints to his collection. Though his profits vary from month to month, Siech has been able to pull in nearly $40 a month from his $3 cards.
The first item he bought with his earnings was a new camera, his Nikon Coolpix that he shoots with now. He said he already has his eye on a bigger, better camera and plans to make the jump from a point-and-shoot camera to a digital SLR (single-lens reflex) model, which will allow him to manipulate his pictures by adjusting shutter speed and exposure to light.
He’s not only in it for the money. Siech has also donated his work to local groups for auctions, such as the Ninepipes Arts Group, the Starving Artists show, and SAFE Harbor shelter in Ronan.
Siech’s work will be featured in the Sandpiper Gallery’s Art in the Park show August 10 on the county courthouse lawn in Polson. Artists must fill out an application and submit samples of their work to be considered for the festival. Siech also plans to enter his work in the fair and to attend local bazaars.
He plans to make a career out of his photography and hopes to spend time in Washington state to capture its striking landscapes. For now though, he’s enjoying the learning process.