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Camp brings flash of adventure





There's a list of certain "must-dos" when Lilly Niernberger returns to her native Hays to visit her grandparents each summer.

Go to Hays Aquatic Park. Eat at Taco Grande and Dairy Queen. Play dolls with Grandma.

Lilly, now 12 years old, has outgrown the doll thing. But Gail Pratt-Hollern found a fun, challenging activity that just might go near the top of Lilly's list -- a photography camp.

Lilly and her best friend from Norman, Okla., Tori Thompson, joined more than two dozen youth from the area at Tuesday's Hays Recreation Commission's Photo Adventures Day Camp in Hays.

"We don't play dolls anymore, and as they get older, it gets a little harder to find interesting things to keep them busy," Pratt-Hollern said of her visiting grandchildren.

"A friend told me about the (HRC) website. I went online to look at their activities, and it was like Christmas."

Lilly and Tori agreed wholeheartedly.

"This is cool," said 11-year-old Tori, who wants to be a photographer when she grows up.

"My dad loves photography, and he's always taking pictures," Lilly said of Tyler Niernberger, Pratt-Hollern's son who grew up in Hays. "I think pictures are really cool, and my mom always says they tell a story."

The camp has become a popular activity in the HRC summer program in just its second year.

Junior leaders from the Ellis County 4-H program helped plan the day-long event, with the assistance of 4-H and youth Extension agent Susan Schlichting.

Participants gathered in the morning at Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center south of town, eager and ready with cameras in hand.

"This is such a great place for this," Schlichting said as she walked along one of the roads at the research center. "Beautiful flowers and landscaping. Historical buildings. Animals."

Lilly got some shots of all of those -- and more. Flipping through digital images she caught on her camera, one of Lilly's favorites was a photo of a rock road. Another was an interesting shot she caught of some cattle.

"We don't have rock roads in Norman," she said of her city of 100,000-plus. "Cows, either."

A scavenger hunt also challenged the participants to search for shots of leaves and trees, fences, mechanical objects, seeds, and statues and monuments.

While looking for those particular objects, the youngsters got the chance to shoot at various angles.

"This is what it's all about, right here," Schlichting said while watching a group of budding photographers on the ground shooting upward at a building.

" ... Kids getting out and getting down and experiencing photography like this."

One of the final activities for the campers was choosing their favorite shot of the day, which junior leaders took into town to get printed, then helped the campers mount.