Michael Donahue Photography

New Image!!!

Storm Over Dolly Sods

There was a lot of excitment getting this image! It started at four in the morning, after a long night of sleeping in the truck and it storming very heavily. I woke up and imediately jumped into the drivers seat. I thought about just skipping the trip up the mountain due to the weather, but decided I might as well check it out. When I arrived it was about twenty minutes before sunrise and the sky was clear. I have photographed this area several times, so I was aware that the weather was unpredictable at best. Ten minutes before sunrise the horizon started showing signs of a storm. I decided to head out and find a composition that I liked and see what the morning would bring. On the walk out to the cliffs edge the storm started moving fast and started coming my way. It grew darker and darker and lightning started to crack all around me. I quickly set up my tripod, grabbed the first composition I could find and fired away. I was literally only able to fire off maybe five shots before having to grab my tripod and run for the truck. This is the first time I have actually felt in danger of the weather while I was taking photos. I don't suggest getting yourself in this kind of situation, but feeling the power behind this storm in this wonderful place was something truly amazing! 

Head on over to the Landscapes and Nature Gallery to see the full size image


The Making of an image - Sun-kissed "Bodie Island Lighthouse"

 Friday afternoon while working in the office I received a message from good friend and photographer Bernard Chen. He asked what I was doing for the weekend and if I wanted to head to The Outer Banks to shoot Bodie Island Lighthouse. I have been wanting to photograph here for some time now so I jumped at the chance to go. After agreeing to the six hour trip Bernard messaged me saying to make sure and bring boots because we would be getting in the marsh. I wasn't sure exactly what he had planned for this shoot but I trusted it would be good.  

 When I arrived at Bernards house in the morning he asked if I would help him load up the Kayak. Now I am sure this will be good!




 After getting to Bodie Island at around 3pm we unloaded the kayak and prepared to set up our shot. Getting the kayak into position meant us carrying it about three hundred yards down the boardwalk to the edge of the marsh. Then came the fun part! Donned in our knee high boots we entered the grassy marsh with the kayak. We dragged the boat through the sometimes neck high grass and struggled wading through the sometimes knee deep muck. And the smell, lets not talk about the smell! After placing the prop where we needed it we waded back to shore to retrieve our camera gear and wait for sunset.  Unfortunately sunset did not provide the light we had hoped for so we decided to get a hotel room and come back for sunrise.

 When returning for sunrise the lack of clouds in the sky was a little disappointing, but we were here to get the shot and hoped the rising of the sun would light up the scene and make it as magical as we had dreamed up. 

 With our tripods set deeply in the muck we eagerly anticipated the sun coming up over the horizon and when it did we were not let down. The sun kissed the lighthouse with its golden glow and moved its way down to the grass and lit up the scene perfectly. All you could hear at that moment was the sound of birds and our shutters opening and closing almost rhythmically. This is it, this is the moment we strive for but this moment only last for a few seconds and then its gone. They key is to be there when it happens and capture it so you can keep it forever and share it with the world.  

Sun-Kissed "Bodie Island Lighthouse" by Michael Donahue

The making of an image - Serenity

 To start with I have heard on a lot of occasions and I am sure many a photographer has heard this line as well (Wow thats a nice picture, you must have a pretty nice camera huh). The answer to this famously annoying question is yes, I do in fact have a very nice camera, however that is not all it takes to make a good image. It takes so much more than most people would ever realize and this is the story behind just one of them.

 It all started with a Spring break trip with my Wife and my six year old Son to Charleston, South Carolina. Incidentally this trip just happened to be at what I would consider to be the right time to be photographing in that area. With that thought in mind we loaded up the truck with all the necessities includeing my camera gear and headed out for the eight hour drive it would take to get there. I drove through the night and let the other two sleep so I would be able to be at the location I wanted for sunrise. Unfortunately after a very tiring drive we arrived at the location only to find the road was washed out and impassible. I was very disappointed as this was a shot that I have been wanting to get for a very long time. So off to the hotel we went to regroup and come up with a plan. 

 We had planned to spend just four days in Charleston and then move on to stay at some friends house in Georgia for the rest of our vacation. With trying to balance seeing the sights with family and photography I was only left with one more chance to try and get the shot I was after. So the morning of the day we had planned to leave I woke up at 4am to make the hour drive from the hotel to the location on Edisto Island. I was crossing my fingers the whole way hoping that the water had subsided and I could make it down the previously impassable road. Just as I arrived I saw another vehicle drive through what was still a very muddy semi washed out road and made the decision to follow. When I caught up to what ended up being two vehicles a Jeep and another SUV they were stopped at a gate. Turns out the gate is opened by a ranger and the only way to the location on the beach we were all hoping to get to. After pondering what to do I decided I wanted to catch what light was left and photograph the trees on the road that we had came in on. Bad mistake on my part! On the way back through the what now is a very obvious mud hole I should not be driving through I got stuck. Not just a little stuck. The kind of stuck that is in the middle of nowhere on an island with the closest tow truck an hour away. Oh yeah and with that I managed to completely block the road to the other vehicles that were now behind me. Not my proudest of moments!

 Thankfully the workshop of people that Keith and Tiffany Briley of Charleston Photography Tours were understanding and very patient while I waited for a tow truck that would actually come out to this remote location. After getting out I decided to cut my losses and just move on. This photo was apparently not meant to happen.

 Jump ahead two weeks and I received a message from a group of photographer friends that informed me that they were planning on going down to this exact location for a few days and asked if I would like to join them. Of course I couldn't pass it up! So back in the truck for another eight plus hours of driving overnight to reach this location by sunrise. This time with much better luck! The road was dried up and the gate opened up right on time at 6am. Now from the gate to the place to park is probably a mile drive then a half mile walk to the beach and you have to find your shot and get set up all before the sun comes up at 6:30am. 

 When I first set my eyes on this magnificent place I thought I might have been cast as an extra in the show Lost or maybe that Leonardo Decaprio movie The Beach! It was perfectly untouched with large conch shells everywhere and trees rising up from the oceans edge. I didn't know how I could possibly find just one thing I wanted to photograph.

 After taking in the scene for a moment I decided to focus on this lonely tree that managed to survive a little farther out in the surf than most. Looking at the conditions and noticing there wasn't going to be a lot of color in the sunrise I considered a longer exposure to show the movement in the clouds and water. As the waves came in I set up my tripod in the sand and chose my lens. I used a 14-24 2.8 lens at 14mm to capture as much of the scene as I could. My settings were ISO 100 F22 @ 30sec with no filters. 

 I felt extremely relieved to finally have this shot that I had dreamed up in my head for a long time now. I felt at one with this tree and the ocean at the time and now I feel very happy to share my experience with you.


Serenity - Botany Bay Plantation by Michael Donahue

Cherry Blossom time in Washington D.C.

Every spring in Washington D.C. you start to hear two words seemingly more frequent than any others. Cherry Blossoms! When are they expected to bloom? Whats the weather look like? Can we get a hotel? How many people do you think there will be this year? When is peak bloom? For those living in the D.C. area it can be taxing. But when the nearly 1,700 Cherry Blossom trees that are around the Tidal Basin hit peak bloom its all worth it! Seeing the trees burst into color is truly something to admire, especialy considering they are so delicate and only last a few days. This is my collection of photos from this years display.

Cherry Blossoms at Twilight by Michael Donahue

Lady Of The Blossoms by Michael Donahue

Jefferson Memorial Through Blossoms by Michael Donahue

Twisted Blossom Tree by Michael Donahue

Cherry Blossom Glow by Michael Donahue

Geese At Sunrise by Michael Donahue

Blossom Reflection At Twilight by Michael Donahue