Ewen LeRest, 16, of Quilcene, has received statewide recognition for his photography, which celebrates school activities as well as the natural world. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

Ewen LeRest, 16, of Quilcene, has received statewide recognition for his photography, which celebrates school activities as well as the natural world. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

A special eye: Young ‘environmental photojournalist’ wins award

Photographs advance to state competition

On Instagram, he describes himself as “somewhat of a photographer.”

Yet if you ask his art teacher Jake Reichner, Ewen LeRest, 16, is “extremely professional,” a journalist skilled beyond his years in reporting and photography.

Reichner — a Sequim native and former Sequim High teacher who now teaches art and is the yearbook teacher at Quilcene School — said he was delighted this month to see three of LeRest’s images, “Rainforest Silk,” “Steamed Pine” and “Starry Angel,” selected for the Olympic Regional High School Art Show organized by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

LeRest’s work recently advanced to the state-level competition; its winner will be announced later this spring and set on permanent display at the state Capitol in Olympia.

“Ewen certainly deserves recognition for his outstanding winning entries,” said Sarah Freitas, Instructional Resources Program Manager for the Olympic Educational Services District.

Ewen LeRest, 16, of Quilcene, has received statewide recognition for his photography, which celebrates school activities as well as the natural world. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

Ewen LeRest, 16, of Quilcene, has received statewide recognition for his photography, which celebrates school activities as well as the natural world. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

Works in the show can be seen at oesd114.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=1298, along with art by students selected to receive $2,000 scholarships from Central Washington University.

LeRest is among them, winning that award for “Steamed Pine.”

Amid all this praise, LeRest is quick to credit the person who first put a camera in his hands. His grandmother, Sam Prescott of Quilcene, was the one, back when LeRest was living in Olympia. He’d go on road trips with his grandparents, Sam and Andy Prescott, while in elementary school.

By the time he was a freshman at Sequim High School, LeRest was growing more serious about photography. When he and his mother, Shannon Prescott, moved up to Yellowstone National Park for her job there in summer 2019, inspiration surrounded him.

While at Yellowstone, LeRest attended high school online and, as an on-site bonus, devoured the science programs offered by the park visitor center.

As the snows of October arrived, LeRest and his mom set out for southern Utah. They traveled through the red rock country, to Canyonlands and Arches National Park.

Then came the pandemic, and a return to Quilcene.

“We decided to stay with my grandparents as one family,” LeRest said. The rest is history, as he’s joined the Quilcene School yearbook staff, photographed school events when they do happen — and begun to explore the Olympic Peninsula again.

“Rainforest Silk,” an image from Murhut Falls west of Brinnon, is among the photographs gaining statewide recognition for Ewen LeRest of Quilcene. Photo by Ewen LeRest

“Rainforest Silk,” an image from Murhut Falls west of Brinnon, is among the photographs gaining statewide recognition for Ewen LeRest of Quilcene. Photo by Ewen LeRest

But this is a weird year, both LeRest and Reichner said. Quilcene School does have extracurricular activities: pottery club, theater lab, Ranger band and drumline. There are some sports. To attend, LeRest must be “on the ticket,” as it’s known, to ensure there aren’t too many people at an event.

“It can be a little stressful, since everything is so undetermined,” and dependent on phases and protocols. LeRest finds being a pandemic photojournalist is a whole new ballgame.

A highlight of the year came in December when the elementary school students staged a concert, replete with separately recorded singers, magicians, comedians and dancers in LED-lighted capes. LeRest captured the swirling visual effects those capes created in his “Starry Angel” photograph.

Also during the event, he worked as an intern with the video production crew. The result is “Cozy: A Virtual Winter Concert,” which can be viewed on the Quilcene School District website, www.QSD48.org.

Yellowstone also makes an appearance in his winning photography. “Steamed Pine” was taken one morning in Midway Geyser Basin, at the moment when the sun sent a ray through the fog, lighting the evergreens.

“Steamed Pine” is Ewen LeRest’s image from a morning in Yellowstone National Park’s Midway Geyser Basin. Photo by Ewen LeRest

“Steamed Pine” is Ewen LeRest’s image from a morning in Yellowstone National Park’s Midway Geyser Basin. Photo by Ewen LeRest

“That one’s more minimalistic than I’m used to doing,” LeRest said of the shot.

His “Rainforest Silk” photo, meanwhile, is an ode to Murhut Falls, deep in the lush forest west of Brinnon. LeRest drinks in the natural harmony of places such as this.

“Ultimately, my dream would be to be an environmental photojournalist,” he said. But wait. There’s another wing to that dream: working with a nonprofit organization, in habitat restoration and wildlife conservation.

If he could live anywhere, where would it be?

Probably in “the back of a truck with a canopy over it,” LeRest said, “just traveling.”

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