Awarding-winning photographer shares his favorite images of the Lakeshore

Outdoor photographer Todd Reed is celebrating his lifelong love of the Mitten State with his new book, Todd Reed: 50 Years of Seeing Michigan Through a Lens. Over the years, the award-winning photographer has taken many photos of the Lakeshore, from lighthouses to tulips to Coast Guard vessels. 

During his 33 years in the Coast Guard Reserves, Reed was stationed three years — 2000-02 — at the Holland Coast Guard Station, including during 9/11. During that tenure, he discovered his favorite places to shoot in Ottawa, Allegan, and Muskegon counties.

The Lakeshore checked in with the Ludington-based photographer and photography teacher to learn more about his passion for capturing Michigan outdoors, his favorite spots to photograph in our region, what inspires his passion, and tips for capturing compelling images. 

A tulip's view of the DeZwaan Windmill on Holland's Windmill Island. (Todd Reed)

The Lakeshore: You have been taking photos of the Lakeshore and Michigan for nearly your entire life. What’s the allure of the region vs. exploring other parts of the world?

Todd Reed: I have lived most of my life along the Lakeshore in West Michigan. I know it intimately and I love it passionately, from the power and beauty of Lake Michigan and the shoreline to the wooded trails of our parks and wilderness areas, and the wilds of our rivers. These are all pristine places of boundless beauty. No matter what direction you look or go, it is easy to find rugged, unspoiled, picturesque views in Michigan and along the Lakeshore. I don’t need to go anywhere else to find so much natural beauty around me.

A summer day at Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area. (Todd Reed)

TL: While you were stationed in Holland with the Coast Guard, what were some of your favorite places to photograph?

TR: In Holland, I absolutely loved photographing the tulips and still do. I loved seeing the Holland lighthouse, “Big Red,” and getting a shot of it when I was off duty. I also continue to be drawn to the Grand Haven pier and lighthouses, especially to photograph them during storms. In Saugatuck, my favorite place to shoot is Saugatuck Dunes along Lake Michigan.

A storm slams the Muskegon Lighthouse. (Todd Reed)

TL: People are taking more pictures than ever now that they carry phones with them all the time. Do you have tips for people using their phones to take shots?

TR: If you are passionate about photography, invest in one of the best-quality phone cameras you can afford. Fill the viewfinder with everything you want and nothing you don’t. And don’t forget to enjoy outdoor photography safely; no photograph is worth your life.

The sun sets on the Grand Haven Catwalk. (Todd Reed)

TL: You’ve been teaching people for years how to take photos. What’s the best piece of advice you share with them?

TR: Shoot, then move a lot closer and shoot again. Photograph what you think you want to include in your shot, then shoot part of that scene, then shoot part of that part. Your photography will instantly improve. Also, follow your heart with your camera. Ask yourself, “What is exciting me enough to take this picture?” Answer that question and then emphasize it with your camera position and technique.

Todd Reed works his magic behind the camera. (Brad Reed)

TL: Why do you think your passion for photography has only grown over the years?

TR: I am a visual person. I have always loved seeing the world around me. My passion for the past 50 years has been seeing the world in pictures, whether I have a camera up to my eye or not. I continue to strive to see better; I know I look forward to doing so until I die.

A snow owl lifts off in Saugatuck. (Todd Reed)

TL: What for you is the greatest allure of the Lakeshore? 

TR: The power and beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline attract me like nothing else. Trying to capture a magic moment with my camera in the teeth of towering Lake Michigan waves and hurricane-force winds is my favorite adrenaline-rush experience.


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.