You may know him as Michigan Nut Photography but the man behind the lens for all those beautiful photos that you've enjoyed over the years actually goes by John McCormick. He was kind enough to share some thoughts(and of course some of his gorgeous photos) with The Fine Michigan Photography Blog for the latest 'Photographer Profile'. So read on and find out a little more about one of Michigan's finest landscape photographers!
Many people know you not as John McCormick but as “Michigan Nut Photography”. Is there a story behind how you came up with the name? And what was the inspiration behind your great logo? Not really much of a story behind how I chose the name, just that I am "Nuts about Michigan". In regards to my logo, I asked my son Mike if he would make me one and design it the way he wanted. Mike knows that I love to shoot Michigan lighthouses and that it's a large part of my portfolio, so he made me a cool silhouetted lighthouse logo with a sunset behind it.
How long have you been photographing Michigan? I started getting interested in photography when I was pretty young, my father had a German made 35mm camera that he brought home from overseas that I was fascinated with. It was around 1982 when I purchased my first single-lens reflex camera and started shooting Michigan landscapes as a hobby.
Where is your favorite place in Michigan to shoot? There's beauty in all of Michigan, but I find myself drawn to the Upper Peninsula. I especially like shooting at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This area has everything a nature photographer could ask for; spectacular sunsets, 300 foot sand dunes, pristine rivers and streams, beautiful waterfalls, stunning rock formations and sandstone cliffs. Then I would say that lighthouses have been a big part of what I like to photograph. I really enjoy shooting them in late autumn when the storms are blowing in off of the lakes, and in winter when freezing spray encases them with a beautiful coating of ice.
What is your favorite season to shoot? -- Autumn is my favorite time of the year to shoot, for obvious reasons, but winter is very close second. Winter is magical, I absolutely love snow and when the storms move out, it reveals a "winter wonderland” I’m then in my element of silence and solitude.
Having been a photographer for so long you certainly started out with a film camera, is there anything you miss about shooting with film? I respect photographers who still enjoy traditional film based photography, but for me personally there's really no aspect of it that I miss, with the exception of how solidly built the 35mm SLR camera bodies were. They really felt nice in your hands; the controls were smooth and precise. Today’s pro cameras are built well too though, just a different feel.
Why do you love photographing Michigan? OK, I'm going to borrow from my website’s “about page” to answer this question -- Some Nature photographers say Michigan has a lack of scenery. What they’re missing is a wilderness that stretches along miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Nowhere in the United States will you find an area that more reflects the dramatic seasonal changes, beautiful winters, colorful autumns and springs. It's a landscape continually changing. Michigan is beautifully diversified with forests and rivers, large wetlands, rocky ridges and sand dune shorelines. Topping all of that with over 100 lighthouses makes Michigan more than any photographer could ask for. It takes years to see the majority of what Michigan has to offer.
What is the most dangerous situation you've been in while creating images? The most dangerous situation I was in was while shooting the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse in winter. I had just opened my tripod, getting ready for the shot, when the ice broke plunging me into Lake Superior. My wife started running towards me and I yelled "stay back". The ice broke two more times as I tried to climb out but the third try I was able to crawl to shore. Shelly wanted to call 911 but I convinced her that my insulated underwear, and the fact that it was a sunny day, were enough to keep me warm for the trek back across Munising Bay.
You have the largest archive of quality Michigan photos that I’ve ever seen! Do you have any personal favorites and what draws you to them? First off, thank you very much! I have lots of favorites but a few that I especially like are: Bond Falls in autumn, Point Betsie Lighthouse taken during a gale, and a sunset photo that I shot at the (Mary Jarecki shipwreck), Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Bond Falls shot my wife was holding the umbrella above me and the camera on a foggy/rainy day. The Point Betise photo, I had to walk backwards up the shoreline because of the strong winds and sand that was pelting my face, and the sunrise was lighting the underside of the clouds racing by. The Lake Superior shot I had perfect conditions for a long exposure, beautiful soft light and it was taken the year that the lake was really low so the Mary Jarecki shipwreck was mostly above water.
What photographers have influenced you the most? This is a really tough question. I'd have to say the photographers that have influenced me the most are the ones that back in the early 80's had published photography books or had written for photography magazines. One of the first ones that comes to mind, which I still have and still browse through from time to time, is "The National Geographic Photographers Field Guide" published in 1981 and authored by Albert Moldvay. The book jacket had a "gray card" that you could use for metering off of to help you overcome tricky exposure problems. Also, since digital photography emerged, and the numerous social networks on the internet, we now all get to view and be inspired by the work of an infinite number of talented photographers; photographers here in Michigan or anywhere in the world. I would also like to mention that my wife, our three sons and our daughter in-law Chrissy have been super supportive and have influenced my life in the most positive way!
Do you like the effect social media has had on photography? (Does it make photography better or worse?) -- In my opinion social media and the internet in general have mostly been a boon for photography and photographers. Your work can now be seen around the world with a few clicks of a mouse. I've been posting images to the popular photo hosting site "Flickr" for a few years now, and those images as of today have been viewed by just under 4 million people, can't argue with that. In the past if you didn't have good connections or contacts, the chances for getting that kind of exposure were pretty slim. Without social media I believe my photography business would not be as successful as it is; not just for monetary reasons, but also the personal satisfaction I get from communicating with the fans of my work. I get messages almost daily from displaced Michiganders that are missing their home state, or others that just love it here and want to drop me a line.
I personally know that you’ve been supportive and encouraging to the “new class” of photographers. Do you like what you’re seeing from the younger guys(not that you’re old by any means) and is there a piece of advice you might give someone just starting with photography? I do like what I see from the younger photographers. My advice for them would be to shoot and make your images in a style that pleases "yourself"-- photography is an art of expression. There's nothing wrong with being open to constructive criticism, but I have always felt that your "own" satisfaction from your work should come first. I use my own self-criticism as a guide for improving my skills.
You’ve received quite a bit of recognition for you talents as a photographer. Does any one accolade stand out as a particular honor for you? It's exciting to see your image up on a billboard or published in a magazine, but it's quite an honor to have folks from around the country choosing to display my work on their walls.
Speaking of recognition, where has your work been published? I have actually had my work published in a number of magazines and mediums - Lake Superior Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, N-Photo Magazine, Barefoot Magazine, Lens Magazine, Michigan Blue Magazine, Michigan's Bay LIFE Magazine, Traverse Magazine, Photography Week Magazine, AAA Living Magazine, Farm & Living Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Boys Life Magazine, Detroit Free Press, Lansing State Journal, National Geographic Education Dept., CNN Travel, USA Today, North Country Trail Association, Michigan's Travel & Recreation Association, Pure Michigan billboards, Michigan Lottery Charity Gaming Division, Michigan Naval Architecture & Marine, Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) and the Huffington Post.
And finally the question that everyone wants to know - what's in your bag?
Nikon D700 Nikon D800E
Nikon 16-35mm F/4 Nikon 70-200mm F/4
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 Nikon 50mm f/1.8,
Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5
FEISOL Elite CT-3372 Rapid Carbon Fiber
Manfrotto MT190CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW Lowepro SlingShot 302 AW
Lowepro SlingShot 202 AW
Singh-Ray 4x6 Graduated ND filers in 2stop, 3stop, and a 3stop reverse.
B+W 77mm screw on solid ND filters, 3stop and 6stop.
Various other goodies- releases, polarizing filters, rocket blower, micro-fiber clothes etc..
And that wraps up the latest Photographer Profile! A big thanks to John McCormick for taking the time to participate in this project and an even bigger thanks to you guys for taking the time to read this post! Be sure to fill out the form below to stay up to date with The Fine Michigan Photography Blog!