GREEN — Nimisila Reservoir has been a haven for sightseers and photographers for several decades, but a small band of acquaintances from Summit and Stark counties have made the park their own “sunset paradise.”
The group of six has no official name — just a love of watching and photographing spectacular sunsets, the wildlife and people who pass into their lenses during their filming ventures.
They’ve photographed American bald eagles; a rare leucistic eagle, which is one that has lost some pigment and appears pale; and other mammals and birds galore, including a large migration of purple martins that come each summer with estimates as high as 25,000 at the park.
Members of the group have varying histories with the reservoir, which is off Christman Road and occupies 825 acres as the largest of the 13 Portage Lakes, according to Lindsay Smith, brand manager of the Summit Metro Parks.
The six men and women include four retirees and two still working.
Word of mouth brought them to their paradise at the C6 parking lot. They came individually and formed a bond for photography and beauty and communicate often by email and phone. They also have become good friends because so many not only have a love for photography but also have much more in common including golfing, hiking, children, grandchildren and a curiosity of the unknown beyond those dazzling sunsets.
Nobody is in charge. Each simply looks skyward in the afternoon and then flocks to their “paradise” if they feel the anticipated sunset could be among their best photos ever.
The six are Arlene Butcher of Coventry Township, Rosette Doyle of Green, George Frankovich of Green, Christopher Skelley of Canton, Cindy Slater of Springfield Township, Gary Traveny of Coventry and Mary Walchuck of Green.
Hobbyist sharpens her self-professed amateur skills
Butcher has been married 53 years and has two children, two grandsons and three great-grandsons. The homemaker and self-professed amateur photographer said, “I seem to be married to my camera now. I take it most places I go. When I don’t take it, I seem to see things I would [have liked to] photograph.
“I am an amateur photographer, but I have done weddings, prom and graduation photos and family photos. I love doing it all.”
She added, “It’s a beautiful spot for the best sunsets. And I have learned by watching how the sun moves in the months from being up near the north end to now down to the bottom end of the reservoir. Everyone is so encouraging when it comes to photos. We all have different types of cameras [and compare notes on our equipment].”
Wonderful views enhanced by diverse wildlife
Doyle, too was lured by the spot’s exceptionally camera-friendly landscape.
“I’ve been into photography for over 20 years,” she said. “I became more serious around 2014 when I started sharing my work with others. The reservoir has one of the most beautiful sunset locations that Summit County has to offer. You can capture incredible views of the water with the sun going down.
“Sometimes we are lucky enough to see the eagles, a heron, an osprey and even a flock of geese flying over as the sun is setting. Even more extraordinary are the purple martins at sunset in August.”
Married with three adult children, Doyle added, “Our location provides a gorgeous view, and it’s pretty cool to see the colors changing before your eyes.”
Ideal spot seems just a stone’s throw from home
Retired Green resident Frankovich noted, “[Our site] is about seven minutes from my home. I can stand in my driveway and decide if the sky looks promising.”
His photo hobby has been “on and off” since the late 1970s “but with greater dedication since 2015 when I retired.”
Asked why he focuses on Nimisila, the married father of three with one grandchild said, “For me, it’s gathering with the other participants to chat and photograph together. We each view things differently and that makes it fun. Each uses different techniques, resulting in different images of the same event.”
From Canton, with frequency
Skelley, whose home is near Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been into photography since the late ’70s. He found the C6 lot a couple of years ago to shoot sunsets on a regular basis.
“The main reason I chose this site is the geographic locations and features. The C6 lot provides a clear, open spot from which to shoot, and, of course, it is west-facing. It’s free of utility poles and lines and other obstructions, including homes and allows for an expansive view.”
Employed by a medical facility to screen patients prior to check-in, Skelley said photography is his main hobby although he has always been into art and playing the piano. A camera purchased for him as a teen by his aunt triggered his interest in photography.
Where eagles soar
Slater refers to Nimisila Reservoir as her “happy place.”
“I have a long history with this place,” she said. “I used to come fishing and swimming with my brother a lot. The broad, unobstructed vista is the best place locally to get great photos. It’s just heavenly out there.”
“When I learned about the Nimisila eagles, I would stay and watch them until they flew off to their nests for the night. I was sort of addicted to visiting them in all their glory, capturing moments in time.”
Being a tourist of Ohio, the Springfield Township grandmother of six and great-granddaughter of one also loves going to drag strips. She finished second once in the Powder Puff race at the Mopar Nationals. “I had a blast doing that. Racing has been in my family since I was a child.”
‘Wouldn’t call myself a pro’ despite 50 years of photos
Traveny has been into photography for 50 years.
“Retirement has provided me the space to broaden my interest in photography,” he said. “I have been associated with some really fantastic photographers and artists. I derive a lot of inspiration from them, and it certainly helps when someone compliments my work.”
A retired college administrator and school counselor who has been married for 44 years, Traveny also enjoys fishing and golf. He noted, “I wouldn’t call myself a pro, just someone with a good eye.
“Nimisila Reservoir is one of the best locations in the area [because of] the incredible beauty and expansive views over the water. Many have said it has been kissed by God.”
A beginner is wowed by ‘just pure nature’
Walchuck is a latecomer to the group, finding it in 2019 after buying a camera and teaching herself with YouTube videos. She described the view from the C6 lot as “just pure nature.”
A retired hospital microbiologist in the laboratory, the mother of one and two grandchildren, Walchuck said, “I always joke I traded in my microscope for a camera.”
She added, in talking with the members, “we believe it is kind of an addiction to watch the setting sun; to see how it changes as it disappears on the horizon. Each sunset is different and exciting. As a group, we are in awe of the beauty. We just love being together watching it.”
George W. Davis can be reached at: [email protected]