The Lake and the Lens

The winners of our third annual photo contest

Grand Prize

Nickelplate Beach • Huron, Ohio
By Todd Sechel of Amherst, Ohio

It’s his favorite thing to do in the world. Sechel wakes up before the sun rises, heads north until he hits the lake and then decides where he will take pictures that day. “I go east or west depending on what the sky looks like,” he explains.

On the day he took this picture, Sept. 29 of last year, he went west — to Nickelplate Beach. It was chilly out, but the water was still warm, creating fog on the shoreline. “The quality of light that day was very interesting,” he says. “You could barely make out the horizon line.” He took the photo with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Unfortunately, such days have been few and far between since his wife made a two-year commitment to working in central India, which Sechel points out is landlocked. He took this shot while back home on vacation.

There have, however, been plenty of opportunities to take photos. While overseas, Sechel has traveled to Dubai, Cambodia, Thailand and within India to the Taj Mahal, Goa and Varanasi. He has trips planned to Malaysia and Vietnam.

Still, those places are not Lake Erie. Sechel, his wife and their 2-year-old son, shown on his first boat ride in the photo above, are coming back home this August. “The opportunity to travel has been wonderful,” he says, “but the three of us are looking forward to heading home to be closer to friends and family and getting back to enjoying our summers on Lake Erie.”

Both his parents and his in-laws own boats. “It is pretty much understood,” he says, “that if the weather and the water are good on a weekend, we are all going boating.”

Then there’s his passion. “There’s nothing quite like those early morning hours spent on the shores of Lake Erie.”

First Place Winners


The Grand River • Caledonia, Ontario
By Annette Koolsbergen of Hamilton, Ontario

Around here, we think of Annette as our designated blue heron photographer. Her image of the mighty bird took third place this year and first place two years ago.

With this image, we saw her talents in a new light. Nature photography requires patience, but this shot of her husband, Fred, took great technical ability. “The skier cuts the water twice as fast as the boat’s 34 mph speed while water is being sprayed into a rooster’s tail,” she says.

The human eye can’t see that kind of detail. Not unless you set the shutter speed on your Canon EOS 40D to 1/1600, your focal length to 100 mm and your ISO to 320. “It’s the magic of photography that stops a moment in time to capture the beauty of the sport,” Annette says.

We also like the intensity shown on Fred’s face. He’s been skiing on the Grand for 30 years, and on that day, as his wife says, “Fred was playing hard.”


Lake Erie Metropark in Rockwood, Mich.
By James Phelps of Southgate, Mich.

Phelps has taken many photos of this tree, where a pair of bald eagles can often be found, but this time was different. There was “the stunning early-morning colors and stillness of a later-winter morning,” he says.

Phelps has been taking photos most of his life. He went digital in 2003 and is now armed with a Canon EOS 5D. For this shot, he used a tripod and a cable release. It was in the mid-20s, so he had on his usual garb for such outings — Under Armour, boots, warm hat and a coat. He wears a thin pair of gloves, with a warmer pair over them till he’s ready to shoot.

His advice for other photographers? “Get out before the sun comes up.” And scout out your locations ahead of time. “The morning sun moves fast,” he says. “So you need to be ready.”


Huntington Beach • Bay Village, Ohio
By Nick Allen of Medina, Ohio

In 2001, Allen bought a cheap point-and-shoot to take on a vacation to Europe.

Now, 10 years later, he’s the kind of guy who wakes up early in the middle of winter to take pictures at the beach with his Sony a900 DSLR. On the day he snapped this shot, it was worth it — both the expensive camera and the getting up early.

The bright morning sun hit the lake in such a way that it created a bluish haze on the horizon. “I found myself just staring,” he says.

He set up his shot with the break wall in the bottom center of the frame, “so that it would draw the viewer’s eyes to the horizon, where the mesmerizing haze was giving it kind of an infinity feel.”

Allen shoots year round, but prefers spring for nature and wildlife because “everything is coming back to life from the winter freeze.” Late fall is his favorite season for architecture because “gloomy weather and leafless trees add a touch of drama to the photograph and lets me put a different spin on something that has probably been photographed the same way many times.”

Second Place Winners


Bay Point Beach Club • Marblehead, Ohio
By Susan Wilson of Brunswick, Ohio

For Wilson, this was just a typical day at the beach.

Her favorite subjects are landscapes and people, so when she saw this scene combing both, it was a natural shot for her. In it, her brother and sister-in-law, who were in town for a visit, are looking out toward the water.

Wilson intentionally focused on the foreground reeds, which further added to the relaxing vibe created in the picture, which was taken with her Sony Cyber-shot.


Erie Yacht Club • Erie, Pa.
By Carrie Huggler of Erie, Pa.

Huggler found someone to take her out on the lake to snap cityscape shots, but it was the ride back to land that resulted in the best photo of the day.

Huggler’s favorite subjects include landscapes, babies and food. This shot surprised her. “It gives such a serene feeling,” she says. “And I love the reflections of the masts in the water.” It was taken with her Canon Rebel T2i.


The Grand River • Caledonia, Ontario
By Annette Koolsbergen of Hamilton, Ontario

“I’ve been photographing this very heron for the past four years,” Koolsbergen says. “He would not fish if he were not comfortable with my presence.” Unfortunately, the bird’s future is uncertain. Koolsbergen recently noticed it has a foot injury that isn’t healing. She has tried to seek help through local wildlife agents, but they reported that federal bird migratin laws prevent them from capturing and treating the heron.

This image was taken with a Canon EOS 50D.

Third Place Winners


Dobbins Landing • Erie, Pa.
By Guilynn Distefano of Erie, Pa.

The day Distefano took this shot with her Kodak EasyShare was “one of those magical moments,” she says. “The colors of the sunset were so unique I couldn’t have created them and the sailboat passing by could not have been better timing.”

The only challenge? Seagulls, the birds without fear of people. “It’s hard to get away from them,” she says.

Distefano moved to Erie, Pa., eight years ago and “fell in love with the history and the charm.” She likes to shoot beaches and historic landmarks. Dobbins Landing is named after the U.S. Navy Captain who was captured by the British in the War of 1812, then escaped and went on to supervise the construction of warships used by the namesake of another Erie monument that Distefano likes to shoot — the Perry Monument.


Presque Isle • Erie, Pa.
By Heather Kosinski of McKean, Pa.

Heather grew up spending summers on Lake Erie in Monroe, Mich. “The water has always been special to me,” she says. “I have always been near the lake.”

Kosinski had spent the day on Presque Isle. As she was about to leave, she turned around to get one more photo of the sunset with her Nikon D60 and saw that people had wandered into her shot. She crouched down a bit to capture the grasses and took the picture. “There was not much planning,” she says. “It was just right off the camera on this one.”

She likes the photo for the mood it sets. “I love the glorious color of the sunset, the grasses and the family frolicking in the silhouette.”


Sims Park • Euclid, Ohio
By Joseph Miheli of Euclid

Miheli was walking along the beach with his friend and her daughter. “I just stood back and observed, letting the scene naturally unfold before me,” he says.

When the sun began to set, he knew the time was right. Being careful to keep the horizon straight, he took the shot with his Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707. “I feel that the photo conveys a sense of warmth, peace and love,” he says. “It was a perfect ending to the day.”

Miheli has been taking pictures since 1972.