BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Dan Dalstra has spent his professional life chronicling lives and capturing moments. Now he’s capturing those moments in Fort Madison.
Dalstra and his wife Leslie moved to Fort Madison last summer after Leslie was offered the senior pastor position at First Christian Church on 10th Street.
Dalstra packed up his gear and left El Paso, where they were living at the time, to move the Midwest, where he tells people in a video on his Facebook page ‘Dan Dalstra’, it’s “really cold”, as he walks down on the riverfront.
Dalstra is a photojournalist who’s transitioned to studio work for the most part. But still dabbles here and there with the journalism side of things.
With his Sony and Nikon gear, Dalstra offers wedding packages from basic ceremony services, to full-on day services complete with albums, prints, and online galleries. And he travels just about anywhere.
The two brought their children Eva, who graduated from Fort Madison High School this year and is on her way to Iowa State University, and their son Harry, who just completed eighth grade.
The move to the Midwest is a story heard often… to get closer to family. Leslie grew up in St. Louis, so the move puts her three hours from her mother’s front door. Dalstra said he flies frequently out of St. Louis back to Texas for work in the fall.
“She had several interviews in different parts around the country. And every time she would hang up the phone with the people at First Christian, she had a big smile on her face,” he said. “She would turn and say those people are so nice, and here we are.”
Fall is the in-season for photographers covering weddings in Texas. Dalstra said he was gone just about every weekend last year with bookings, and will be traveling again this year when the fall rolls around.
Smaller towns have opened up some marketing opportunities for Dalstra. He said he’s done some free things early to get his name out there, but also attended a bridal show in Burlington.
“I never had done a bridal show before.. never. But I picked up three bookings from those,” he said. “I know this is a smaller community, but things are starting to pick up. And there are a lot of other photographers here that do a good job.”
After graduating from the University of Missouri with his degree in photojournalism, Dalstra went to work for newspapers including the Hannibal. Mo paper. He’s also worked outside of Houston for a paper called “The Facts”. There he didn’t have to deal with the larger city element, but he did get to shoot the Houston Astros and Houston Texans games.
“I loved it… I absolutely loved it. But slowly people started asking me if I would shoot there weddings and I said ‘No.. hell, no.” I said you have to be bleeding or scoring a point for me to take your picture,” Dalstra said.
“After a while I gave in and decided, OK let’s do it, and I had the best time.”
He said being a professional photographer covering weddings and doing studio work pays better than the news field, but he’s enjoying the work just as much. So much so, that’s he just passed a decade in the field, and he said the work really isn’t that much different.
“I realized that all sorts of the same elements that I learned in photojournalism applied to weddings – capturing moments and telling stories,” he said. “In the photojournalism world you can’t move anything, it’s raw and true, so as the bride’s getting ready I would think, ‘I can’t clean up the room’ .. and it took me a couple years to break that cycle.”
Dalstra said business is slowly picking up as people realize he’s open, and as they get to know the town more.
In the meantime, he’s drumming up business at his studio on the back side of the Old Lee County Bank building at 615 8th Avenue. He can be reached for bookings by calling 915-342-3574 or by email at www.dandalstra.com.
His work can be found on Facebook by searching Dan Dalstra Photos or on Instagram at dan_dalstra_photography.