Being on Isle Royale is an incredible Michigan outdoors experience. Just getting to Michigan’s only national park is an adventure involving a seaplane ride or a potentially rocky boat ride on Lake Superior. But look at what awaited me during my first trip to America’s least visited national park in September 2014.

Brad and I were exhausted from hiking and photographing Isle Royale for 18 hours straight, but we were not about to pass up the chance to view the Aurora Borealis from a spot without lights anywhere in sight. When we emerged from the wooded trail to unlit Tobin Lake, we could already clearly see yellow-green and purple hues in the sky. We separately and quietly found shooting spots that fit our own ideas for building images. I decided to include a seaplane moored along the shore that I could not see at that time but had clearly seen earlier that day. As my eyes continued to adjust to the darkness, I could just see a faint glimmer of light from the Northern Lights reflected off the leading edge of the wing. I made a test shot of four minutes and determined I loved the composition. However, my histogram proved my exposure was still well short of ideal. I made another two shots to fine-tune the exposure. Unfortunately, upon checking to make certain the focus was perfect, I discovered that neither of the shots was sharp. I had only about 10 minutes left before midnight, time for only one more seven-minute exposure before it would be past midnight and any image I made after that would not be eligible for inclusion in our upcoming book, Todd and Brad Reed’s Michigan: Wednesdays in the Mitten.

This was no time to chance failure. Our ethics would not allow any bending of the truth or cheating of the clock. I made a smart decision. I woke up Brad, who was napping on the end of the dock after, as usual, finishing making a strong image before me. Brad ran to my assistance, quickly and decisively fine-tuning my near-sighted, near-focus, and returned to nap time while I made my one-and-only, all-important good shot. When we chose the resulting image for the back cover of the book, Brad resisted my attempt to give him half the credit for the image because it had been a team effort. Over the years, Brad and I have been eager to logistically help each other turn each other’s visions into good art. Teamwork is a big reason for the individual and collective success of Brad and me and all our other staff members past and present. I love being part of a great team—Team Reed. 

Royale Experience

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