St. Olaf College | News

A passion for photography and the environment leads to work in national forest

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Evan Pak ’19 came to St. Olaf College with a love for the outdoors and a camera in his hand.

Even before classes started, Pak landed a job in the Office of Marketing and Communications as a student photographer. Once on campus, he enrolled in the Environmental Conversations program, and he later joined the outdoors club, Oles Under the Sun (OUTS).

Pak even started a physics major, something he enjoyed in high school. However, he gradually realized it wasn’t a perfect fit. “I enjoy physics, but it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to dedicate that much time to,” he remembers.

So, in his sophomore year, Pak did a vocational 180. He declared an environmental studies major. He grabbed his camera, and shifted his focus from photons to photos.

Today, Pak’s photographs are featured regularly on the college’s website, and were recently used in the local magazine, Northfield NOW. “I provided them with quite a few photos. Some of them were scattered in the magazine, but a bunch were used in an article about my experience with photography,” he says.

Many of Pak’s photos are natural landscapes, and he hopes to one day blend his environmental studies major with his passion for photography.

This summer, he’s doing just that. Pak has secured an AmeriCorps position with the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa in Superior National Forest. Living in Ely, Minnesota, he now has daily opportunities to take stunning photos of the Boundary Waters and other national and state lands as he works alongside the U.S. National Forest Service.

Evan Pak took this photo of an airplane at the U.S. Forest Service Seaplane Base, where his team was conducting canoe training as part of his work this summer with the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa.

“I believe that photography is incredibly important for environmental matters. I can’t think of a better way to share my appreciation for all of the natural beauty which we’re surrounded by,” Pak says.

This summer, he’ll gain an understanding of how the U.S. Forest Service operates by working on a crew that will handle everything from trail service to controlled burns to helping out in the visitor center. In his first few weeks on the job, Pak has completed all of the requirements to be federally certified as a wilderness firefighter and is working on his U.S. Forest Service sawyer certification.

“At times, the work has been utterly exhausting, but I haven’t once regretted my decision to come here. Nothing is as rewarding as knowing that you’re making a difference for what you care about,” Pak says. “There are times where I feel like I’m dreaming. I’m living in a gorgeous area, spending tons of time outside, learning all sorts of new things, and getting paid for all of it.”