Flash Point: Shawn Malone’s favorite, toughest Great Lakes shots

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We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite and toughest Great Lakes shot. Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photography sent us this photo.

Northern Lights

The big reason this photo was so difficult to photograph is normally our northern lights displays are well to the north and low to the horizon. This allows for one to pre-plan compositions for this night sky photography. It’s very necessary to do this during the day since you can’t see much at night!

Well, this aurora arrived with an unexpected raging intensity, like someone flicked on a light switch, and within a few seconds the aurora went directly overhead and proceeded to the south behind where my camera was facing. I had to quickly change location, recompose and try to pick out anything, like trees or something to add perspective. At the same time I was adjusting exposure to compensate for the level of brightness not normally seen at these latitudes — changing up ISO and exposure all the time. The brightness would vary widely with the aurora, so required constant adjustment.

All the while my adrenaline is rushing because it’s an unbelievable display of very strong northern lights, aurora going every direction, that basically made me brain dead for a while. I had plenty of instances that I asked later, “why’d I do that?” like moving too quickly or forgetting something out of haste. The big bonus was capturing something nobody can preplan for: an element almost larger than life, and that was an apparition of an angel in the lights. The complete sequence from this photo shows the appearance of an angel rising. Very special.


Apolo Anton Ohno

Speedskating overall is a very difficult sport to photograph beacuse it is a very fast sport. If the venue doesn’t have good lighting, it’s even more difficult. In this particular photo of Apolo Ohno, it was the last turn of the race in which skaters were going their fastest, just a few feet away from the finish line. The crowd was screaming and venue rocking.

This photo is uncropped, out of a 300mm prime. After the fact, I probably would have gone to a smaller mm lens to make it easier on myself as you only have a split second to get your subject in focus, harder to do the closer you get to the subject or bigger mm lens you work with. I was there all day shooting, this was one of the last races, and a beam of the setting sun came through a window in the venue and cast an odd light on the ice. This lighting intensified the contrast between the ice and the racers, something I could not have planned for, as it only stuck around for a couple laps. The lighting also brought out the racer’s gloves bringing up beads of water as they round the curve at breakneck speed.


Mouth of Lake Superior

This is an image of a simple creek at the mouth of Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This image is one of my favorites because it’s newer, and I really like the different textures of the designs the receding water left in the sand vs. the beach pebbles, water and sky. I also like the framing of the composition and the vast depth of field from the foreground sand to the passing clouds, a picture I don’t get easily tired of looking at, yet.

-Shawn Malone


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5 thoughts on “Flash Point: Shawn Malone’s favorite, toughest Great Lakes shots

  1. wow look at that Ohno pic. Skate blade sharp- I’ve seen speedskating, it’s really fast! That’s a great shot

  2. See this photographer’s northern lights photos frequently on Nat Geo’s site. They are amazing

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