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North Hills Monthly

Local Photographers Showcase Beauty of North Park

May 31, 2019 01:02PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Photo by Noah Davidson

North Park is the jewel of the North Hills, with its 3,000-plus acres of woodlands, walking trails, playgrounds, an ice rink, pool, lake, an abundance of wildlife, and much more. It’s little wonder that local photographers, amateur and professional, find endless photo ops within the park and graciously share them on the Friends of North Park Facebook page.

Mary Pegher, a professional photographer who has taken numerous photos from atop many downtown Pittsburgh rooftops, spends many mornings traversing North Park with her camera. She was at the forefront of the North Park photography trend several years ago, posting photos of little-known areas of the park.

“If the weather is good, I go every morning at sunrise; I’m not a sunset shooter but prefer the sunrise,” said the Franklin Park resident.

Her favorite spot for early morning photos is the Gold Star Grove. “As the sun starts to rise, it gets a burst coming through the trees. That is the best place for the sun, so I usually start there, and then I go wherever things lead me,” she said. “I will start up the road, and if something is going on with the geese, I stop there.”

“At this point, I know every piece of the park,” she laughed, adding that she still finds something new all the time. “One of the reasons I go every day is that the light changes everything. Every day the light is different and that’s what I’m looking for—how is it different, and where is it going to be different?”

Photography is for the birds—at least that’s John Martinec’s motivation for driving to North Park from Beaver County each Monday on his day off, hoping to catch sight of the park’s resident eagles. Specifically, Martinec visits the North Dakota pavilion off Pearce Mill Road to see the eagles; when they are out scavenging for food, he walks along the wetlands trail to discover even more birds.

“Early in the year, I saw an eastern bluebird; I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before, and I got some nice pictures,” he said, adding that he’s also spotted a red-tailed hawk.

His dream photo is to capture an eagle swooping down to grab a fish out of the lake. “It will take luck and perfect timing to grab it, but maybe someday I might get it,” he said. Martinec added that photographing wildlife takes a lot of patience. “You have to be in the right place at the right time.”

Noah Davidson, a Gibsonia native and photojournalism major at Slippery Rock, has a different spin on the photographs he likes to take at North Park: he’s drawn to the buildings and structures, particularly those that are abandoned. “Since I was a freshman, I’ve been taking pictures at the Fountain of Youth,” he said. He also likes to take pictures at the ruins on Irwin Road, which attract him because of their history.

He’s also taken many photos of the abandoned water treatment plant near the ice rink. “It’s really interesting; there are a lot of old switches in there and old paperwork from when they used to treat the lake,” he said.

While he likes to take photos of nature, “Objects have more of an influence on me because I’m a history geek,” he explained. He advises other photographers to go out to the park with an open mind rather than a preconceived idea of the shots that they want to get.

Susan Voland has 40 years of fond memories related to North Park. A professional photographer who specializes in shooting photos of infants and children, Voland said that her heart is in nature photography. She drives weekly from Economy Borough to North Park, camera in hand.

Like Pegher, Voland regularly frequents the Gold Star grove, though she likes it for the pine trees, even in the wintertime.

“There is something about that area that I love,” she said. “In the winter, I saw all of these hammocks tied in between the trees, bright colors among all this gray and white; it was so cool.”

Somewhere on a back hill above the lake, Voland took a photograph that generates more compliments than any others: a solitary pine tree on a hillside in the snow.

For others who want to take North Park pictures, Voland’s advice is to practice, practice and practice, and in this age of digital cameras, it’s easy to do just that.

“One of my teachers taught me that no matter what you’re looking at, turn around and look behind you,” she advised. “You might miss something really interesting if you’re focused on one thing at a time.”