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Freezing lake yields Celebrate Michigan photo finalist

Four more finalists announced in Detroit News photo contest

The Detroit News
CITY AND COUNTRY WINNER: A blizzard was hitting Lake Michigan in Holland when Chase Gagnon of Madison Heights lay down on the breakwall and put his camera near the icy water to create "Big Red Blizzard." He said, "I had no idea if my composition was good or bad until I brought the camera back up to check. I think I had to do this six or seven times until I had a shot I liked.  After that I went back to my car and turned the heat up as high as it would go."

Chase Gagnon of Madison Heights knows what it takes to shoot a photo of a well-known Michigan lighthouse and turn it into something unique: Just a little suffering.

“My fiancé and I drove out to Lake Michigan in the dead of winter to get some shots of the frozen water, and maybe a lighthouse or two,” he said. “We ended up in Holland, home to one of the most picturesque lights on the Great Lakes. The weather was nasty, but in the most beautiful way.

“I was almost instantly drawn to the layers of ice that covered the water. The only problem was the ice was a good three feet below the breakwall, so I had to lie on the snow-covered ground and reach down as close as I could to the ice with my camera in hand. Because of this, I had no idea if my composition was good or bad until I brought the camera back up to check. I think I had to do this six or seven times until I had a shot I liked. 

“By the time I was done I couldn’t feel my hands.”

His frozen, foreboding shot “Big Red Blizzard” joins the finalists in The Detroit News’ Celebrate Michigan Photo Contest: City and Country.  Entries in this first of three contests this summer are being accepted through June 22, for a chance to win $300 prizes.

Other finalists chosen by judges from The Detroit News this week are:

Drone hobbyist Holly Ryan of Grosse Pointe Park thought the architecture of the Cobo Center rooftop parking would be fun to see from above. "Cobo Parking Ramp"  proves her point.
  • “Cobo Parking Ramp,” by Holly Ryan of Grosse Pointe Park. Drone photography has become a family hobby for Ryan, her husband and two sons. While she liked the architecture of the Cobo parking ramp, her boys love cars. “They thought that angle would be cool to see and they were right!”
  • “Great Lakes Freighter in Winter,” by Dennis Delor of Marysville. Standing at the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse on a foggy day at sunrise, “I could hear the freighter coming upbound for the lake (Huron) and waited,” he said. “The engines were working hard, creating a perfect smoke trail.”
  • “In the Wheat Fields …,” by Bruce Kowalczyk of Mason. Driving down a country road west of Saint Johns, “I spotted this tractor in a wheat field, immediately pulled to the side of the road and started to shoot away at the wonderful scene.“  His black-and-white photo is reminiscent of Depression-era images of rural America. 
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE: Dennis Delor of Marysville took advantage of the fog, sunrise colors and a ship chugging into Lake Huron to create “Great Lakes Freighter in Winter.”

The City and Country contest theme continues through June 22.  Enter your photos at  Four more City and Country finalists will be announced on Wednesdays through June 27, in the newspaper and at Then two winners will be selected from the 16 finalists, one by the Detroit News photo staff, the other a People’s Choice winner selected by public voting June 27-July 1.

 Both winners will receive a $300 Visa gift card as their prize.

Bruce Kowalczyk of Mason was driving down a country road west of St. Johns when he spotted this scene. His black-and-white photo,  which he titled “In the Wheat Fields ...,”  is reminiscent of Depression-era images of rural America.

 The Celebrate Michigan Photo Contest then continues with two more themes: Woods and Wildlife (accepting entries June 22-July 20), and Four-Season Fun (July 20-August 17).   Each follows the same format as City and Country. 

At the close of the final contest theme on Aug. 29, three more photos will be chosen from among all of the finalists to receive Awards of Excellence from the Detroit News photo staff. The prize for these photographers will be $100 VISA cards.

The contest is open to non-professional photographers age 18 and older. All photos must have been shot in Michigan by the person submitting them, with no significant alteration by a software program.

The weekly finalists will be chosen based on overall appeal, artistic merit, technical quality, originality and theme appropriateness.

Study the official rules and follow along all summer at for weekly stories and a running photo gallery of the finalists and winners selected to date.