Photographer shares secrets for taking spectacular sunset photos

If you have scrolled Facebook, you might have caught one of Steve Damstra’s spectacular Grand Haven sunset images, which are often shared by his fans. The Lakeshore asked the Grand Haven resident and artist to reveal a little about himself and his secret for taking breathtaking photos of the pier as the sun goes down over Lake Michigan, leaving an elaborate tapestry of vibrant color in its wake.

The Lakeshore: Tell us about yourself and your path to photography.

Steve Damstra
Steve Damstra: I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. I attended Ottawa Hills High School and Kent Skills Center in Commercial Art, and went on to attend Kendall College of Art & Design. I started taking photos around 12 years ago, I returned to Kendall for some night classes in photography and Photoshop while I was laid off from my job at the time. I found that landscape and wildlife photography was what I was drawn to. I've lived in Grand Haven for about six years now. Along with photography, I am also a professional musician and I work in sales for a stone countertop company.

TL: You are known for your spectacular Grand Haven photos. How many photos do you think you have taken over the years — or in a single day?

SD: I have well over 100,000 photos saved on external hard drives. I've probably taken up to 400 to 500 photos in a single day.

TL: What makes a great photo for you?

SD: I like my photos to tell a story. I like to have people look at them for a long time and be able to find several things of interest in them.

TL: What’s the best compliment you’ve received about one of your photos — and can people purchase them?

SD: Probably the best compliment I've gotten is when people tell me they look forward to my photos each day and that there is something in the photos that gives them peace. At the moment what I do, as far as sales go, is: I will email a high-resolution copy to anyone for $25. That way, they can have them printed and/or framed wherever they would like. That's likely to change soon as I go into retirement. I will most likely start working on Etsy and/or build a website or both.

TL: What’s your advice for the rest of us who take photos with our cellphones to remember why we love living along the Lakeshore?

SD: I don't really have a formula for a great photo. I have to assess what the sky is doing or what it looks like it might do, that will also determine which lens I use. As far as taking photos with a cellphone, I would just say, look for something interesting in the foreground or in the sky, something besides just taking a picture of the water and the sun. Try and add something interesting. Also, sometimes when the sun is already down is when it can be the most beautiful!

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.