Shawn Malone, owner of Lake Superior Photo, describes the process behind North Country Dreamland as a combination of “luck and persistence.”
Malone is a veteran photographer, who focuses on shooting images of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the Lake Superior Watershed.
This is her first time-lapse compilation. It’s put together with more than 10,000 photo frames and 33 northern Michigan night sky events last year.
These night skyscapes include multiple northern lights scenes, meteor showers, nebulae, planets, constellations, the Milky Way and comets. Many of them were taken over both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
“Looking back on the project, I feel extremely fortunate to have captured what I did,” said Malone. “To compile each scene was very time and labor intensive, in both getting to the scene and then editing it.”
Malone drove and hiked long distances to vantage points that include the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Copper Harbor and a number of beaches near her native Marquette, Mich. She took a plane to photograph Isle Royale.
Each scene required a minimum of three hours of shooting, and many hours beyond that to edit the frames into a refined video sequence, coordinated with music, Malone said.
“In the climax of the video, the very bright aurora scenes, those are all very special,” Malone said. “At our latitude of 46.5 degrees that kind of activity doesn’t occur frequently. I can count them on one hand in the past few years.”
Despite the hard work, Malone is pleased with the result.
“I look back on this compilation with good satisfaction at capturing some extraordinary night sky events,” she said. “The aurora sequences are particularly satisfying, because it was just plain amazing to capture them.”
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us favorite challenging Great Lakes shots and the story behind making them. Mark Schacter sent this photo and story.
My challenge: how to capture in a single photograph a story of environmental ruin and redemption on Lake Erie? The subject was the Cuyahoga River, which rises in the northeast corner of Ohio and follows a 140 km U-shaped path before emptying into Lake Erie at Cleveland. One day in 1969 an oil slick on its surface caught fire in Cleveland. Although this was not the first time the filthy Cuyahoga had burned, Time magazine seized on the 1969 fire as emblematic of the devastating effects of water pollution in the US.
But there was a silver lining. The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire together with outbreaks of smelly algal blooms on Lake Erie spawned a wave of public disgust that thrust environmentalism into the mainstream. Governments felt compelled to act. In January 1970 the National Environmental Protection Act became law. The Clean Water Act followed in 1977. Similar laws were passed in Canada; all this legal and regulatory activity led to encouraging signs of progress regarding toxic and organic pollutants in the Lakes.
So as I travelled around the Great Lakes in 2011 gathering material for my forthcoming book of photographs, Great Lakes Portraits, I was intent on including a shot of the Cuyahoga in Cleveland. I first read about the famous fire as 12-year-old; the memory still resonated. And the Cuyahoga’s significance as a touchstone for the then fledgling environnental movement demanded that I include it in the book.
I drove through the industrial section of Cleveland that surrounds the meanders of the Cuyahoga just south of Lake Erie. I parked, walked halfway across the River Street bridge and pointed my camera downstream. I heard a rhythmic splashing sound approaching from behind and below. A four-person racing shell appeared beneath my feet. Blind luck! In a flash I knew I had a photograph I could never have planned for, but which was also the perfect way to tell the story of the Cuyahoga River. The industrial setting, the cloudy water, the floating debris: all reminders of the once dire state of the river, and of how much work remains to be done to protect the environment of the Great Lakes. On the other hand, the presence of the racing shell – an impossibility on the Cuyahoga of 40 years ago – a startling sign of progress in reducing toxic and organic pollution.
So how did I meet my photographic challenge? Simple answer: I put myself in the right place at the right time!
(Great Lakes Portraits, published by Fifth House, will be released in Canada in October 2012 and in the US in April 2013. Mark Schacter is currently working on his next book of photographs, Houses of Worship, to be published in 2013. He lives in Ottawa, Canada. His work can be seen at www.luxetveritas.net)
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite Great Lakes shots. Peter Scott Eide sent us these photos of Lake Superior.
This image was taken using Kodak black-and-white film. It was shot in the early spring when the water levels tend to be at their lowest. This particular spring they were at historically low levels, and sections of shoreline became exposed that normally lay buried beneath the sand and water. It was late in the day and a thunderstorm with heavy rains that had been present throughout the day was just beginning to clear. The clouds released a beautiful late daylight that cut across the sky just beneath the clouds and shined like a spotlight on the shoreline. The waters were rough with waves and the sky was textured with the remaining storm clouds. There was a feather that lay on the sandstone, left behind after the storm pointing towards the adjacent shore. Using these elements, I composed the image, metered, timed the waves to allow the sandstone surface to clear the waves long enough for the shallow waters to reflect the clouds and shoreline, and took the shot.
This image was taken using Fuji Velvia film. It was shot last fall in mid-October at sunset. I was shooting with a conscious effort toward compositional simplicity and visualized this moment in terms of layers. I wanted to maintain an equal balance within the sky, water, rock shelf, and sand. I chose a section of shoreline that gave me the foreground detail I wanted: both in the rock shelf patterns and within the sand, finding two exposed stones, which I used as an added focal point. I then waited for the lighting, composed the image, and selected the length of exposure that would best represent the visual interpretation I wanted, and took the shot.
This image was taken with Rollei black-and-white infrared film. It was shot on a spring morning along the Ontario, Canada shoreline. I carry infrared film for its inherent ability to heighten the dynamics of an image/scene. It has to be used selectively, but when you get comfortable understanding its effects it becomes another great creative photographic tool to be used. The waters were painted tan out to the horizon line from evening storms that had stirred up sand from below and left it suspended in the waters. The sky held the texture from the clearing storm, and a distant set of islands were visible on the horizon. I felt that infrared film would work wonderfully for these conditions, enhancing the thin blue horizon line which was visible where the tan, sand filled waters abruptly ended and fell off into the deeper blue waters. There was also a dislodged tree from the storm floating in the water, it had been stripped clean of all its branches during the storm and added the final linear element for my composition. I waited for the tree to float into position within the composition – did all of the necessary camera and lens adjustments needed when shooting infrared film, selected exposure, metered and created this photograph which I titled “Lines.” Just a little extra fun information – there was a cow moose with her calf about a half mile down this remote shoreline to my left when I shot this image.
-Peter Scott Eide
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite Great Lakes shots. Bryan Hansel of Bryan Hansel Photography sent us these photos.
I was on a 45-day, 800-mile kayaking expedition from Port Huron, MI to Grand Marais, MN when I heard about an upcoming storm that was predicted to blow gales for days. I was on a deadline and needed to get to Houghton to jump a ferry to Isle Royale before the storm hit, so I was paddling 30+ mile days. Before I got this photo, I had paddled about 33 miles and got to camp just as the sunset started. The sunset was shaping up to be the best of the trip, so I raced to set up camp and my camera. I got this shot and a horizontal. The horizontal ran on the cover of a magazine and this one ran as a full page image for a magazine article I wrote about the trip.
It was below zero when I made this shot. I bushwhacked from Highway 61 to a beach on Lake Superior and made my way to this island which I scouted out previously. To get into position, I needed to jump across some water onto icy rocks, and then wait for sunrise as the waves washed over the rock I was standing on. They coated my boots in ice. When I saw the pink streaks lighting up the clouds, I knew it was worth it. I’ve never seen a sunrise light up clouds like that before and probably will never see it again.
I discovered these sea stacks by kayak a few years prior to taking this photo, but I had no idea how to find them from shore. In March of this year, I kayaked back to this location and figured out exactly how to reach it from the road. The approach was grim; I had to down-climb a crumbly cliff to get to the beach. To top it off, I needed to get there about 45 minutes before sunrise to get the lighting that I wanted, so I had to down-climb in the dark with just a headlamp to light my way. Climbing off the beach was worse, because I could actually see how dangerous it was.
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite Great Lakes shot. Craig Blacklock of Blacklock Photography sent us this photo, also the cover image from his book Apostle Islands — From Land and Sea.
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their toughest Great Lakes shots. Ken Scott of Ken Scott Photography sent us this photo.
Lit by a full moon, this is a stack of 350, 30-second exposures.
The hard part was getting the timing to work out so I could travel out to the island when there would be a full enough moon to light the landscape and no clouds to interfere with the shoot. It was a crap shoot and took a few trips out to get the timing the way I wanted it.
The easy part was hanging out on the beach under a full moon!
The interesting part (for me) is how technology has changed and with it, so have techniques. I used to do long exposures on film to get star trails, but if there was any man-made lighting, like street lamps, it would over-expose that part of the image and many times make the whole image unusable. Now with digital, you can take shorter exposures keeping lights better exposed and stack many photos to get the star trail effect without blowing out highlights. The time lapse of all the images to make this photo are here.
This photo was shot during the week-long wind storms of October 2010 in Grand Haven, Mich. The gusts were as high as 70 mph, with very large violent waves.
Lake Michigan Severe Storm
I took this photo in 2006 and even though it’s older I still wanted to share it. In my opinion it captures an excellent look at a severe storm system over Lake Michigan at Pere Marquette Park, Muskegon, Mich.
This photo was shot October 2006 from the shores of Claybanks township in Montague, Mich. This photo represents how calm Lake Michigan can be, just like the silhouette of my mom and dad.
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.
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.
Check out our other Flash Point contributors:
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite and toughest Great Lakes shot. Scott Thomas of Scott Thomas photography sent us this photo.
Star Burst Sunset
A favorite daily ritual of people who live or vacation along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is coming down to the beach each evening to watch the sunset from spring to fall. Most nights the show is spectacular with deep colors that paint any clouds in the sky the lower the Sun gets on the horizon. I have witnessed many nights Nature was given a standing ovation for her efforts.
This day was not one of them. Most people had given up on the sunset and left the beach on this chilly evening. I set up my tripod at the edge of the pebble beach not far from Port Ontario. While not a tough shot to photograph, it required me to have some foresight as to what would occur. I noticed the sun track through the cloud bank and the opening near the horizon it would pass through as it set. I knew when the sun did appear it would be between the clouds and the lake. This would create a small, bright light source like a large lamp versus a large golden ball normally seen as the sun sets. I guessed correctly and it even created a beautiful star effect with the lens on my camera.
The tough part was working with the photo afterward in the computer to bring out all the detail in the lake and clouds around the bright star burst. I learned a lot from this sunset and it has become my favorite from Lake Ontario.
We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite and toughest Great Lakes shot. Tim Trombley of Great Lakes Photography sent us these pictures of his toughest shots.
This cave was only accessible by kayak. I had to land way down the shoreline and got wet feet making my way inside. Once there, the shot required me to crouch and back into the sandstone recesses allowing sand to drop down my collar. Scrunched with wet knees, I panned the camera for three shots that were later merged into this panorama. The clarity of Lake Superior and the reflection of the blue sky give this image a “tropical” look.
In April when the ice shelf that has formed along the Lake Superior shoreline has begun to break apart, massive pieces float out to sea. These calving icebergs will come and go with the winds. If a high pressure system moves in at the right time, images like this can be found. This particular year, I had two mornings like this from the seat of my kayak. I have not been able to find these similar conditions more than three or four times over the past dozen years.
The most difficult portion of my landscape shooting is finding that dynamic composition together with dramatic lighting and subject matter in front of me. The next difficulty lies in the printing of that image to visually express what I photographed. I find the two events critically linked and essential in making images.
Many of what I consider my best shots are happy accidents or being in the right place at the right time. They are not found always under ideal conditions but their success erases all memory of the difficulty of the moment.