Photographer Profile: Briana Paige

Northern Way Of Life. The name just about says it all and the beautiful photographs say the rest. The person behind the name and the photographs - Briana Paige - joins us for the latest 'Photographer Profile' here on The Fine Michigan Photography Blog.

How long have you been photographing Michigan and the Leelanau Peninsula?                Not long, actually! I bought my first DSLR just 4 years ago.

Where is your favorite place to shoot in the Leelanau Peninsula?
This is like asking me to choose my favorite kind of chocolate! ;) If picking a true favorite, it would have to be Sleeping Bear Point just south of Glen Arbor. The dunes and lakeshore there change constantly, and it’s always a treat to see what they look like each time I explore the area. I love standing at the top of the dune and looking out over the glittering blue water of Lake Michigan across to the Manitou islands. It’s just a magical place, and its almost as if you can feel the hum of nature out there.

I’m also a big fan of the legend of the Sleeping Bear! (read about that here)

What is it about the Leelanau Peninsula that draws you to it?

It’s home sweet home! I have lived on the Leelanau Peninsula for the last 10 years. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to live. It offers 100 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, quaint villages, rolling hills, orchards, and even a lighthouse. I can be doing mundane tasks like driving to the grocery store and see a dozen beautiful scenes along the way. I feel lucky every day!

Each day, each season, each shift of the weather brings new life to the landscapes surrounding me here in northern Michigan. I can go to the same location over and over again, and it looks and feels different every time. The water can switch from dark, angry and churning, to calm, placid and blue. The rolling countryside evolves from snow covered starkness, to blooming fields and fruit laden orchards, then blaze with fiery reds, oranges and yellows before returning to winter once again.

Do you have a favorite season in which to shoot?
I love late autumn, specifically November. October is a tempting first choice with its flashy colors and sometimes late season warm temperatures. But quiet November brings fresh, crisp air and often foggy, moody landscapes—which are my favorite. With the arrival of November, the brilliant colors become muted and with the exodus of most tourists, the peninsula becomes very quiet....almost as if a hush has fallen over the land.

What first inspired you to pick up a camera?
I remember always enjoying the chance to use the family camera when I was growing up, and as I got older, I would try and take landscape photos—first with disposable cameras (Gasp! Don’t judge—it was the 90s!) and then with various point and shoots. I was always left frustrated though, as the end results were never what I had in mind.

The real turning point occurred 4 years ago after a disastrous photo shoot of my children. I just knew deep down that I could teach myself to take the type of portrait shots I admired, and decided to invest in a quality camera so I could take nice photos of my kiddos anytime I wanted. Along the way I rediscovered my love of landscapes, and the rest is history!

The rolling countryside evolves from snow covered starkness, to blooming fields and fruit laden orchards, then blaze with fiery reds, oranges and yellows before returning to winter once again.
— Briana Paige

Social Media has given everyone a platform to share their work and it seems that Instagram is “your” platform. How do you feel Instagram has been beneficial for your style and images? And do you feel it’s better for your work than the other networks?           Instagram became my launching point quite by accident 2 years ago. It was February, -20 degrees, and I had a bad case of cabin fever! I had a collection of landscapes I’d taken over the years with point and shoots and a handful from my DSLR and decided to start sharing them. I could hardly believe the positive response, and still can’t believe it to this day.

I like Instagram because it features photos and videos only, and your work can speak for itself. I also like how easy it is to connect with other photographers and local businesses. With most commercial jobs I’ve landed, they say they’ve found me on Instagram!

Speaking of Instagram, you and fellow photographer Heather Higham have recently started a new Instagram feed - @GrandTraverseLiving - what was the drive and goal of creating this feed?

There are a number of Instagram accounts that feature Michigan images, but none that solely focused on sharing photos from the greater Grand Traverse area—one of our state’s most popular areas! We felt that was an untapped market. So we started Grand Traverse Living to feature images taken by both hobbyist and professional photographers of this beautiful area that both Heather and I are lucky enough to call home.

We have lots of future plans for this account, so stay tuned!

Being a landscape photographer ,we can sometimes make poor decisions in the field that put us in precarious positions... Have you ever found yourself in a dangerous spot while shooting?                                                                                                                                   This is a boring answer, but I have yet to find myself in a truly scary spot as I am a rather cautious person! You will never find me out on the frozen lakes or exploring ice caves. And if I can’t find a buddy to accompany me for night shots, I shoot from the relative safety of my car. Maybe I end up missing some stellar images, but I have little ones to get home to every day and no photo is worth injury or losing my life over.

Probably the most daring thing I do is some mild storm chasing. Here in northern Michigan we don’t usually get anything too overly severe, but every now and then we get a doozy like the August 2015 storm that destroyed Glen Arbor. Shelf clouds are by far my favorite—they’re so dramatic! The first shelf cloud I encountered, I didn’t know what it was or what was happening. I definitely underestimated how fast these storms move, and I waited a little too long to get back to my car....a mistake I have not repeated since!

Is there anywhere in Michigan that you haven’t been and would like to shoot?
As a lifelong Michigander, I am always a bit embarrassed to admit I have never been to Pictured Rocks! I have explored nearly every other corner of this state, even all the way up to Copper Harbor, but have somehow always bypassed this gem. It’s definitely on the list of places I need to see.

It’s just a magical place, and its almost as if you can feel the hum of nature out there.
— Briana Paige on Sleeping Bear Dunes

Do you have a personal favorite image and what draws you to that image?
This one is easy! In the early morning hours of Mother’s Day 2016, I saw the bright green glow of the Northern Lights from my bedroom window. I tiptoed in and asked my oldest if he would like to “see the lights” for the very first time. We bundled up and trekked out to the end of the driveway, where we had a clear view of the colorful pillars dancing in the sky. As if the night couldn’t get any better, we also had the good fortune of spotting the milky way, as well as 3 planets! (I use the SkySafari app to ID planets and stars!)

If you could shoot anywhere in the U.S. (that isn’t Michigan) where would that be?               I am a sucker for New England! I can’t get enough of its ancient cemeteries and coastal villages. I visited the area as a child, and my husband and I honeymooned there as well. All of these trips took place before I got serious about photography, so I’d love to go back to some of my favorite places and capture them properly!

Where are your images available for purchase?
They are available on my website, and Northern Way of Life clothing and accessories can be found in my Etsy shop,

And of course the readers will want to know what you have in the gear bag!

Currently in my camera bag I have:

Canon 6D with battery grip


Canon 16-35/2.8L II

Canon 100-400/4.5-5.6L II

Canon 100/2.8L macro

Canon 85/1.8

Canon 40/2.8 pancake

Koolehaoda Tripod
Various ND and Polarizing filters Speedlite
Gary Fong Lightsphere
2 soft box lights

Alright! That wraps up the latest 'Photographer Profile' and I would like to thank Briana Paige for participating and sharing her great work! Please take a moment and follow her on Instagram - here - and on Facebook - here. I would also like to thank you guys for taking the time to read this post! If you'd like to get future updates please subscribe below!

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