Chris is always ready with her camera

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By Sandy Bond

Chris Wahl and daughter Madison.

At day’s end, a draft horse is silhouetted in solitude on a Dakota prairie; icy blue clouds roll in over the “Mighty Mo” in anticipation of a Midwestern thunderstorm. Preserving stories in “Kodachrome” is Chris Wahl’s mission.
“My friends and family knew that I’d be the one to take pictures of family holidays, get-togethers and other memorable events,” she said. “I was always ready!”
She can’t remember which make or model or if Santa brought her first camera. It may have been a basic Sony without all the bells and whistles, she said. As technology evolved, she has had numerous cameras. Her current is a Sony a100.
Photography in Greek is “written with light, and with softness and light.” Chris paints her subjects almost exclusively with the natural rays of the sun.
Although Chris has embraced the digital age with her Sony, she distains the artificiality of the flashbulb.
“There is a place for indoor shoots,” she said, “particularly when doing photos of babies because they are so fragile.”
And, although natural sunlight is free in this land of infinite variety, it is also unpredictable. Over the years, Chris has learned to manipulate hard light or full sunlight and soft light or shade to her advantage.
The daughter of Carol and Robert Schmit, Chris was born in Indiana where her dad worked for the Gambles retail store. She and her two older brothers and younger brother grew up in Mandan, N.D. She graduated from Mandan High School in 1991. She envisioned becoming a professional photographer and seeing the world through the lens of her camera.
But like many dreams, hers was put on hiatus when she and Torrey were married and started a family. Tyler now lives in Bismarck, and Madison, 14, is an eighth grader at Mobridge-Pollock Middle School. But the children were also the impetus for a renewed interest in photography. Purchasing the requisite equipment including backlights and backdrops,  “The first ‘professional’ shots I took were at my brother’s wedding in 2005,” she said.
Word of mouth was all the advertising she needed to get started, and assignments started queuing up.
In 2010, the family moved to Mobridge when Torrey began working as a water treatment plant operator for WEB Water. Madison is following in her mom’s footsteps, she said proudly. She even has earned a position in the family business as a paid photographer’s assistant, helping to set up, take down, position everyone, deal with any last minute calamities, and reminding everyone to smile!
Portraits of adults, she concedes, are probably the easiest. Babies and toddlers are more challenging, but they are some of her favorites. The little prince or princess in your life is as important to Chris as the queen of the rodeo.
“A new baby is like the beginning of all things. Wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities,” she said.
Her heart extends to all God’s creatures, but photographing animals may be the most challenging of all. Horses don’t respond to sit, and stay!
“Pets are part of the family, and a wonderful addition to any family photograph,” she said.
Open to endless possibilities, Chris has a few refreshing options of her own: Trash the Dress is not for everyone.
“Beautiful, fun, weird, different, amazing, and sometimes wet and messy,” she said. “For example, best friends jump into a pool in their prom dresses!”
Your dress won’t necessarily get trashed, she said, but she won’t hesitate in asking you to sit down on a dirt road, lay on the grass or sand, or have a snowball fight in your finest, all in the spirit of artistic expression.
Making every photo as unique as that individual, never cookie cutter, is her aim, she said.
Those who succumb to the challenge of leaping into a swimming pool in their finest duds are likely to recall, “well, that was fun!”

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