Behind the Lens: Aaron Peterson

Michigan photographer nails storm kayaking image for the May 2013 cover

This month on “Behind the Lens,” Michigan photographer Aaron Peterson explains how local knowledge of storms on Lake Superior and the ability to find the right perspective produced an awesome shot of sea kayaker Conor Mihell.

Rough water storm paddling on Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada. Photo: Aaron Peterson

The Shot:

    Nikon D3s and Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 at 400mm
    1/500 sec. at f/4 – ISO 100
    Aquatech Raincover and monopod



Canoe & Kayak magazine: What was the concept behind this shoot?
Aaron Peterson: My buddy Conor Mihell invited me up to the Canadian North Shore of Lake Superior in October 2012. The forecast was for a storm of snow, sleet and rain with good sustained south and southwest winds—the perfect set up across a long fetch to produce monster waves on the Canadian side of Lake Superior.

Describe your approach to getting the shot.
Conor has guided in the region since he was kid and knows it like his own name. He took us to Katherine Cove, a picturesque crescent of pocket beach bounded on either side by rocky headlands. The waves were stacked and rolling in nicely—but importantly for me, not washing over the bedrock point. I set up on the point, hunkered down low and began shooting across the cove at nearly water level.

What challenges did you face?
The key is anticipating moments—to see form and composition of a scene before it happens and increase the odds of good shots in a situation that offers no second chances. The waves had a pattern, and Conor had a system of approaching them, making several runs in his P&H Delphin. The shape of the cove gave me access to some nice angles and perspectives, so I was able to make it all play pretty together. The weather was a big factor, but my location allowed me to shoot sideways to the wind. Fortunately, the timing worked out with a break in the clouds that really makes Lake Superior’s incredibly beautiful water stand out … It’s also pretty spectacular to be out when the big lake kicks up her heels.

We chose this shot as the May 2013 cover for its exciting action and good use of negative space. Did you think this image had cover potential when you sent it in?

I really liked the colors and action and the low angle in the surfing shots but wasn’t really thinking about covers—glad you guys were!

Aaron Peterson is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. He covers active travel and outdoor lifestyle in the Lake Superior region.

To view his work visit www.aaronpeterson.net

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