August 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Celebrate Michigan

Aurora borealis lights up photo contest finals

Some people chase tornadoes. Dale Niesen chases aurorae borealis.

The South Rockford resident was reading reports of increased solar activity late one afternoon.

“I decided to take a chance on there being some aurora that night and a clear sky,” he said. “I left Monroe County and headed toward Mackinaw City to try my luck getting a shot of the aurora over the Mackinac Bridge.

“I could see the aurora dancing in the sky above I-75 for nearly two hours. When I arrived at the bridge, the north half’s lights were out due to a power outage. To say the least I was disappointed. However, I made the best of it and captured a number of shots of the northern lights over the straits and the Old Mackinac Point Light.”

One of those shots snagged one of the last spots in the finals of The Detroit News’ eighth annual Celebrate Michigan Photo Contest, which seeks photos that capture the best of Michigan and its inhabitants, events, scenery and activities.

Other finalists named this week are Steve Nowakowski of Lambertville, for “Sunrise @ Bete Grise Lighthouse”; Cathy Rudd of Roseville, for “Nature’s Sauna,” an unsual winter shot of geese in a steaming creek; and Jordan Smith of Bancroft, for “Follow the Light,” featuring a bridge at Owosso’s Hopkins Lake.

The contest is now closed. You can browse a photo gallery of all of the finalists at detroitnews.com/finalists.

On Sept. 3, the grand prize winners of the summerlong contest will be announced, probably after heated deliberation by the Detroit News judges. Our thanks go to all who entered the contest or took the time to browse through the many wonderful photos submitted.

Contest prizes include:

■First place: A two-night stay at the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island.

■Second place: $300.

■Third place: A large, matted and framed print of the photographer’s image.

The northern lights provide a striking backdrop for the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City in 'Dancing Aurora,' by Dale Niesen. / Dale Niesen