Residents share U.P. beauty with the world on Instagram

Social media allows individuals and businesses in rural communities, such as the Upper Peninsula, to connect with the world. For photo-sharing sites like Instagram, using smartphones, U.P. photographers are able to share the beauty of their environment in a creative and simple way. People from Mackinac Island to the Keweenaw Peninsula are engaging with followers across the world about the magic and beauty of the U.P.

Sonnet Quinn, who lives on Mackinac Island year-round with her husband and two daughters, has more than 1,400 followers and averages about 50 likes per picture on Instagram. Quinn loves to watch sunrises and sunsets, and says she takes pictures on Instagram because she has a smartphone, which makes sharing pictures of the beautiful area she's in fun and easy.

"Biking everywhere makes it easier to notice nature. I take a lot of pictures from my Schwinn," Quinn says.

Quinn also acts as the social media coordinator for Mission Point Resort, which, though it doesn't have an Instagram account, regularly posts pictures on Facebook. These pictures help show what the island and the resort look like, helping familiarize and engage followers, which many businesses have found to be the benefit of photo-sharing sites.

Roam, Inc. is an adventure brand based in the U.P. that, similarly, doesn't have an active Instagram account. Instead, Roam, Inc. encourages people familiar with the business to post pictures with the hashtags, #roamwherever, #roam, or #roamauto. That way, people who post pictures with those hashtags and have similar adventure interests can connect with each other.

Roam, Inc. is the product of three people from Munising who each have their own accounts. Married couple TJ and Amy Lassila and Thomas Dolaskie each post pictures of their individual interests, and many of those include pictures of their environments in Munising. They say they like to post pictures to highlight all of the things they're exploring between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

"(We like) to share (pictures) with people online that don't get to see what we have up here," Dolaskie says. "The open spaces of the U.P. are addicting."

Sometimes, it's not even native U.P. residents who are sharing these pictures. University students like Robert Hazen at Michigan Tech and Mike Kvackay at Northern have a wide follower base and many of their pictures are of the local environment. Kvackay has received national fame for his timelapse video of fall colors, but he brings these pictures to social media on Instagram.

He's originally from a northern suburb of Chicago, and spends his time at Marquette Mountain or hiking the trails with his camera.

"I am from a pretty suburban area, so I grew up not often seeing nature quite like it is in the U.P. I love being able to depict nature as my eye sees it and let everyone else enjoy what I see on a daily basis," Kvackay says.  

For both Kvackay and Hazen, the reason why they share so much of the environment they're in is because of the possibility and draw of exploring. For Hazen, who's originally from Bruce Crossing, he enjoys exploring the mine shafts, bridges and buildings in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Often he posts pictures of these old mining structures.

"I'm very interested in the history of mining in the U.P. These historic places tell a story and by taking photos of these places, I am trying to recapture that story," he says.

Find these people on Instagram:
Sonnet Quinn
TJ Lassila
Thomas Dolaskie
Robert Hazen
Mike Kvackay

Lucy Hough is in the English master's program at Northern Michigan University and helps write a blog about NMU history called The Northern Tradition. She also writes about the Upper Peninsula for The Awesome Mitten and Things To Do in the U.P. She can be found on Instagram here.
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