I barely got in position in time to make my all-time favorite image of the Mackinac Bridge on March 20, 2012. It was the 12th Tuesday of 2012, and Brad and I were out early to photograph the foggy sunrise for our year-long project to showcase the beauty of Michigan all day every Tuesday of the year for our book, Tuesdays with Todd & Brad Reed: A Michigan Tribute.

Brad and the two other members of our Team Reed full-time staff at the time, Sarah Genson and Rachel Gaudette, shot out of my Suburban when we reached our preselected shooting spot in the Straits of Mackinac. They ran like jackrabbits to the shore’s edge and began shooting the fast-changing, gloriously atmospheric scene in front of them. As I was bringing up the rear, I spotted a cloud formation that looked a lot like a bear. The trouble was, my view of the cloud bear was partially obstructed by the south tower of the five-mile-long suspension bridge connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. I know how fast cloud shapes change. I knew if I could get far enough, quickly enough, to the east I might have a shot at lining up the cloud bear right between the towers.

I ran like I was being chased by a bear. I must have run 250 lung-busting yards before the bridge in the middle ground and cloud bear in the background lined up from my perspective. I slammed down the tripod and fired off a quick shot to capture what I saw while it looked almost perfect. Then I took a momentary physical and mental deep breath and began analyzing at warp speed how to improve the image. I quickly shifted my tripod less than two feet to the left to make the rocks in the foreground layer better balance with the middle and background layers. The cloud bear continued to cooperate.

I have taught photographers for years “Clouds are your friends.” They become your very best friends when they are exactly the right shape in exactly the right place. I love clouds, and I love bears. Seeing this view, experiencing the chase and coming away with an even better image than I had envisioned is like winning my personal and private world series of Michigan outdoor photography. This image remains a winner for me. A lot of visitors to our gallery have appreciated it, even before spotting the cloud bear. Children, with their keen, fresh eyes excited about the world they see, tend to be quickest to spot the bear and other imaginary creatures. But once spotted by viewers or pointed out to them, smiles invariably follow. That makes me happy, particularly because I know how much of myself went into making the image.


Mystic Mackinac

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