The latest 'Photographer Profile' on the Fine Michigan Photography blog features a great photographer and one of the nicest guys I know, Walter E. Elliott. Walter is from my neck of the woods(Grand Haven) and it's always a pleasure seeing him in the field and seeing the images he creates! Read on to see some of his great photos and learn a little more about the man behind the camera!
Why do you love photographing Michigan? Michigan has so much to offer! The Great Lakes, rivers and streams, waterfalls, dark skies, beautiful landmarks and historical cities, farms and fields, cultural festivals, Native American heritage, and the list continues. An added bonus: the opportunities become fourfold with the addition of the seasons. A lifetime is not enough to experience the wonders of our great state!
How long have you been photographing Michigan? Although my first experience in photography was in the 1980’s, after a long hiatus I started photographing Michigan in June of 2014.
After the hiatus, what lit the fire for you? A few friends were very encouraging to me, saying that I had an eye for composition. After asking if any of my friends had a camera I could borrow, one agreed to lend me his Canon T2i on a trip to the U.P., and that brought back the joy of photography. Even though we didn’t have the extra money at the time, my wife encouraged me to buy my own DSLR, and it has been an incredibly fun journey ever since then!
Social Media has definitely changed photography, do you like the effect social media has had on photography? I primarily like what social media offers photography. The ability to share my work and see other photographer’s work from around the world is amazing. Anyone can travel without leaving home. It doesn’t replace physically being there, but it opens doors to places people would otherwise never know - and that’s inspiring! Even though the blatant theft of images has become a problem, I believe the good outweighs the bad when it comes to social media.
What is the most dangerous situation you've been in while creating images? Probably the most dangerous situation was during a storm in August of last year. The lightning was incredible, but probably too close for comfort. While I enjoy shooting as a storm travels across the lake, when it is close to land I usually pack up the gear and go home. However, it was hard to leave on this particular night, and I found myself saying, “One more.” When one cloud to cloud lightning strike occurred, it felt as if my hair should have been standing up. That’s when I realized it was definitely time to leave!
How did you first end up behind the camera? My sister-in-law gave me a Canon AE-1 in the mid 80’s. One of my High School teachers offered a photography class in the evening, so I decide to give it a shot (pun intended). After a few years of trial and error (mostly error), and a lot money spent on film and development, I decided it was time to try another hobby. My passion for art and composition never faded, however. I’ve enjoyed the work of other photographers over the years, so a few years ago I once again pursued the joy that photography offers.
What photographers have influenced or inspired you the most? I am influenced by any soul brave enough to photograph a moment. Everyone is an artist, and everyone has a story to tell. I don’t care about the technicality of a shot as much as the intent of the artist. I learn so much from what other people have to say through their visions.
When I was young my uncle had a big influence on me. He worked for the government in Connecticut and was also a part-time photographer. When he visited he would show slides of the East Coast at family gatherings.
Another influence was John Hendrickson from California. Two of his images in particular - a Golden Eagle in a snowstorm and a hawk silhouetted during a lightning strike - left me speechless when I first saw them. I literally said, “I want to be able to create images like these!”
Where is your favorite place in Michigan to shoot? I have two favorite places to shoot in Michigan: The Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. I live minutes away from Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, so many of my images contain local lighthouses and sunsets - Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Whitehall/Montague to name a few. When I have the opportunity to travel, I usually like to go as far as I can. Grand Marais, Munising, and Copper Harbor are a few of my favorite stops in the U.P. I’ve been visiting at least once a year for the last twenty years, and I continue to find something new and incredibly beautiful every time! It’s very difficult to name one or two places as my favorites, especially since I have so many more places to discover.
If you had to shoot somewhere in the U.S. other than Michigan(or the Great Lakes Region) where would it be? California. I lived in San Francisco for two years while I was finishing my Masters degree and was able to discover the beauty of the Pacific Coast. Some places were obvious, like Monterey, the Redwood forests, and the Golden Gate Bridge. However, I was also able to find some of the hidden gems such as Alamere Falls, a waterfall that flows into the ocean. California offers a variety of climates and terrain, from foggy and damp to dry and barren, mountains, valleys, rivers, and an ocean, and everything in between. There is so much to see and I would like to spend a few weeks there with my camera!
Do you have a personal favorite image and what draws you to it? My favorite is any image with lightning. To record a moment of sheer power and energy and be able to relive it by looking at it humbles me. It gives me the perspective that there are things in our lives that are beyond our control, and in a strange way that is consoling.
What is your favorite season to shoot? My favorite season(s) to shoot are spring and summer. The primary reason - thunderstorms! If I had to choose one situation to shoot, without a doubt it would be storms. The raw energy and power coupled with the unique beauty leaves me in awe. The warm weather is also a factor. Winter is beautiful as well, but the pain of thawing fingers and toes is a hefty price to pay. I value the solitude of a winter evening/night, but enjoy the warmth of a summer breeze under the stars much more.
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