Kyle Muilenburg, a 14 year-old from Morris, started taking pictures on a whim with his mom’s digital camera while on a family vacation in Minnesota last June.
“I decided to go out and take some pictures because I was bored and didn’t know what else to do," Muilenburg said. "We took them to a cousin who is a professional photographer - she was impressed and encouraged me to keep on doing it.”
Last summer, Muilenburg entered 10 of his photos in the Grundy County Fair Photo Contest and received 10 ribbons, (three of which were first place), placing him in the top three for the Amateur Division.
"I like walking by myself, relaxing and seeing something really interesting and taking a picture of it; and then sharing it with my friends and family,” Muilenburg said.
This year, he made 11 photo entries into the fair’s competition, for which he received nine ribbons, (three First Place, three Second Place and three Third Place, in various categories). One of these entries was a photo of the controversial Aux Sable Flame, which he took from his backyard in Morris. This sci-fi spectacle won Second Place in the Most Unusual category of the Junior Division.
“The reason I took a picture of the Aux Sable flame was because I really thought it was a UFO,” Muilenberg said. "I’m sure a lot of people thought that before they knew what it was."
Muilenburg has also made entries into photo competitions at the McHenry County Fair, Bureau County Fair, Goose Lake Photo Contest and Corn Fest.
Earlier this year Muilenburg created a Face book page called A Different View Photography, in order to develop and share his photographic talents with the world.
"I don’t have too many photos up yet, but I am working on it – It’s a work in progress right now," he said.
What is perhaps most inspiring about Kyle’s story is that he became completely blind in his right eye as the result of a tragic accident in 2009. However, his visual impairment has not stopped him from doing any of the things he loves.
“I had zero depth perception and I had to learn how to catch a ball again. It took me about a year to get back to where I could figure out my accuracy,” he said.
Muilenburg does not see his visual impairment as a challenge anymore.
“I have adapted. I am right-hand dominant but learned to do certain things with my left hand and the left side of my body," he said. "Sometimes people scare me when they come up on my right side and I don’t see them, but I can hear them though – because my hearing has increased greatly.”
Muilenburg manages to balance his passion for photography with his other favorite thing: football.
“I started out playing soccer, but that didn’t really work out for me because I was the biggest kid and I got in trouble for pushing and shoving, so my mom thought it would be a good idea to put me in football,” Muilenburg said.
Muilenberg looks forward to playing for his 8th year with the Redskins this fall at Morris Community High School.
“I want to get stronger better and faster; football is a great way to do that and to get anger and aggression out, it’s a great stress reliever,” Muilenburg said.
With regard to academics his favorite subject is Science
“Chemistry it the thing I enjoy the most because the periodic table intrigues me so much. I like being able to learn and explore things, like the earth and space,” said Muilenburg, who routinely takes apart and reassembles old computers and i-Pods to get them to work again.
Muilenburg, who describes himself as a “huge computer geek” aspires to work for Microsoft or a similar company where he can put his aptitude for technology to work in a scientific field.
Kyle Muilenburg lives in Morris with his mom, dad, older brother and 3 dogs. He is a recent graduate of Saratoga Elementary School and will be attending Morris Community High School in the fall, where he will continue to take photographs and play football.