It was late on a February afternoon, 2004. Brad Reed '01 was with a friend, an EMT, assisting at a car accident in Ludington , Mich. As his friend finished his duties and they prepared to go home, Brad saw the light in the sky turning pink; he recognized what he calls "the magic light." He told his friend to turn on his emergency vehicle's siren and drive as fast as he could to the Lake Michigan shore.
"It's the light that makes ordinary objects extraordinary," Reed said, "and it's always changing."
He sprinted across the ice, planted his tripod and snapped his camera's shutter, catching a particle ray - a shaft of sunlight refracted through ice crystals in the air - that enveloped the lighthouse at the end of Ludington's pier in an orange-pink halo.
"That was a defining moment in my life," Reed writes in the caption that accompanies the photograph in Lake Michigan Point to Point, a book of 110 images he and his father, Todd Reed, took in and around Ludington. "I was struck with an overwhelming sense of calm. I knew I had found my calling as a photographer."
Brad Reed began taking pictures in 1999 when his father started work on an earlier book of Ludington photographs. Todd Reed bought Brad and cousin Ryan Reed professional equipment and invited them to shoot alongside him; then he critiqued their finished photographs. "It was very intensive," Brad recalled. "I loved it."
"But," he continued, "I figured I couldn't support myself on photography. My dad hadn't been able to."
So after Calvin, Brad returned to Ludington to teach sixth grade and coach soccer. He found himself "feeling empty, kind of lost." He tried a graduate degree in social work.
All the while he was seeing pictures. "My dad trained Ryan and me to compose pictures and get emotionally involved in our surroundings whether we have a camera with us or not," Reed said.
He was lucky enough to have a camera with him that February afternoon of the magic light. In fact, it was a whole day of phenomenal light and photographic surprises. Three of the photos that appear in the book were shot on that day.
Shortly after Lake Michigan Point to Point was released, the Nikon camera company named Reed one of the winners in its international photography contest. Of the 31,000 images submitted, only 53 were selected for awards. In 1998, Todd Reed was named a winner in the same contest. Both award-winning images are in the Reeds' new book.
All Reed photographs are taken with only available light - no filters, no polarizers, no darkroom manipulation. "If you're taking what God presented, you don't need to use those tools," Brad said.
Though God presents it, he admits, most people don't see it. "We see our most phenomenal color 30 to 40 minutes after the sun is below the horizon. By then most people are home on the couch or at the ice cream store."
Seeing this way, though, is more than being on the scene. It's a matter of concentration and passionate involvement in that scene. The Reeds inscribe each of their books, "See with your heart, feel with your eyes."
"If you do those two things," Brad said, "you're going to get great photographs."
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