For 25 years, Mary Sigel has shot breathtaking scenes of Mill Creek MetroPark.
Those locations include the park's most well-known landmarks such as the Lanterman's Mill, the Suspension Bridge, the Covered Bridge, Lake Glacier Boathouse and the oldest building in Mill Creek MetroParks, the Old Log Cabin.
"We don't have anything else like Mill Creek MetroParks in our area," Sigel, 79, of Youngstown said. "People can go there anytime to see new scenery and new flowers in bloom. Everything at the park is different during the seasons. There are places such as the lily pond and Lake Newport that look beautiful during the seasons. There is always something different every time."
Sigel's art journey began in 1950 when she was graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in Youngstown. Her art teacher, Helena Hastings, wanted her to pursue an art career. Sigel was working at Dixon's Art Studio on Market Street in Youngstown, immediately after graduating high school.
"My art teacher, Helena Hastings, got me a job at Dixon's Art Studio," Sigel said. "I worked there for 20 years, painting neckties and designing scarves, skirts, blouses and dresses for the display windows for the Youngs-town retail stores, Livingston's Department Store, Strouss Department Store and Abraham's."
While working at Dixon's Art Studio, Sigel attended Youngstown State University for one year. She was going to school to be an English teacher, but she said that she was getting too busy at Dixon's.
Back at Woodrow Wilson, Hastings wanted Sigel to go away to school to further her art career, even offering to pay her tuition.
"I did not want to go away to school," Sigel said. "My dad was alone because my mother passed away when I was 3 years old. I did not want to leave my dad alone at home after he has been so kind and good in raising my sister and me."
Instead, Sigel focused on her art locally. Before photography, Sigel's passion was oil and watercolor paintings.
She said she has done art shows at area art museums such as the Butler Institute of American Art and Stan Hywet Hall in Akron.
"The Stan Hywet Hall art show was a big time show that screened artists," Sigel said. "Artists had to be really good to get in that show. At the time, a lot of shows weren't that particular."
Sigel also has won awards at the Canfield Fair for her paintings.
"I did an oil painting of a white horse running through the water titled 'White Horse Running' and won a first-place Canfield Fair Fine Art Most Popular Award in 1973. A woman from Hubbard bought this painting. I was so sorry after I sold this painting because I won first place," Sigel said.
Sigel turned to photography when she had to take pictures of her work for art shows.
"I got this expensive camera and I asked myself, 'What do I do with it now?' So I decided to go out to Mill Creek Park to take some photos of the nice scenery," Sigel said.
Sigel recalls many fond moments spending time with her father at Mill Creek.
"I've been going to Mill Creek Park since I was 3 years old," she said. "My father used to take me fishing, boat riding and ice skating. I love fishing because my father was a fisherman. I used to paint fish flies for fishing poles for my dad. I was the only artist in my family."
Today, Sigel's images of Mill Creek can be found on refrigerator magnets, postcards, notecards and numerous prints, available for purchase at the Mill Creek MetroParks operations: Lanterman's Mill, the Shop in the Gardens at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center at Fellow's Riverside Gardens and the Ford Nature Center.
"It's a compelling local subject," said Ray Novotny, outdoor education manager at Mill Creek MetroParks. Novotny is based at Mill Creek MetroPark's Ford Nature Center. "We are a highly esteemed part of the Valley, and it's nice to have local artwork. I think it's wonderful that someone devotes their time and energy into photography."
Novotny coordinates a nature photography show each year at the parks, where some of Sigel's work has been displayed.
Sigel said she stopped doing art shows three years ago. She is still bound to her passion of photography, though she sticks with more traditional methods.
"I use 35 mm film, old-style photography," she said. "I do not do digital photography."
"She shoots a lot of photos, but she mostly shoots scenes and landmarks of the park such as the Covered Bridge, Silver Bridge and the Old Log Cabin," Gary Meiter, guide at Lanterman's Mill, said. "These photos sell very well. People love souvenirs of the park."
Meiter believes Sigel's work is of excellent quality.
"She seems to have a view of an artist when it comes to composing photographs," Meiter said.
"I want to continue doing what I am doing," Sigel said. "When people love what they are doing, it doesn't feel like real hard work. It's a little bonus when I get paid. I enjoy what I do and it keeps me busy."