Most mornings, Rebecca Nieminen rises before dawn. In fact, it’s essential that she beats the sunrise.
Grabbing her Canon Mark IV digital camera, she’s out the door and on the road, usually with just minutes to get to her destination, which changes daily but is always a vantage spot for her view of her chosen subject.
The first fingers of light creep over the horizon, and Nieminen’s camera responds, catching whatever Nature’s offering that day: stabbing rays of sunlight, floating puffs of clouds, snowflakes drifting over still-dark churchyards, gale-driven rain slashing the surface of Lake Erie. The results will be images sought by admiring collectors.
Faith, Love and Resilience: Give Kids The World Alumni Wish Family The Heinrichs Pay It Forward After Mother, Son Overcome Critical Illnesses
Almost no subject is uninteresting for this writer-cum-photographer who’s based in Kinsman, Ohio. She loves cold and violent weather, and that’s evident in her landscapes of barns in winter and storms on the lake, but no season, and no subject, escapes her attention. Her summertime depictions of country roads, portraits of children in nostalgic settings, graduation portraits and even animals in motion all convey something beyond “just a picture.” Many of them have brought her recognition in the form of awards.
Nieminen, 51, is a classic example of a woman whose independence was forged in circumstance. Raised in nearby Andover, she spent her childhood dreaming about and drawing horses. From an early age, she knew she could write, and so took a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and editing at Youngstown State University, with a minor in photography. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English and put it to work on a full-time job at the Vindicator for three years, until she was expecting her first child. Dropping back into free-lance status, she continued working for the newspaper until it closed, more than three years ago.
In that time, a second child was born. But her marriage was ending, and Nieminen knew she had to find a path to permanent employment. Up until that time, photography had been a hobby. Now, she got serious. So, armed with her writing skills on one hand and her photography interest on the other, she got busy.
First, she wrote a book. Inspired by the well-known real-life murder of a young woman in the early days of Gustavus Township, she wrote a 600-page story that told not only of lechery, lies, and murder but also addressed the historic hardship of life for women. The book became a finalist for a national first -time book award. But it didn’t win, and Nieminen had no time for almost-winners, so she set it aside and turned to her camera instead.
Busily earning recognition in her new field, she had set aside thoughts of the book until her son was approaching his 17th birthday. For his gift, he said, he wanted her to publish her book.
So she separated the manuscript into two sections, did a little editing and sent it off to Amazon in August of 2022. A few days later, she was a published author. Some publicity on her Facebook page sent her off on the path of book signings and book club meetings, and soon The Dance of the White Deer gained warm reviews and climbing sales. It was so well-received that she plans to publish the last half of the manuscript as a sequel.
Also on her publishing agenda is a series of photography books, separated by subject, that will display those photos that she collects as she chases the sun – and the rain, and the snow, and the wind – on her early morning jaunts.
And there is the upcoming graduation of her daughter, Samantha Sloan, from YSU this year. A busy schedule indeed, and there’s absolutely no doubt she’ll get it all done.