Mike Mezeul II captures jaw-dropping scenes from nature. From super storms to the crimson moon, he shares his best and most exciting moments.
A distant thunderstorm sends down bolts of lightning atop San Andres Peak while moon beams shine from behind the storm and the Milky Way glows above, all illuminating the beautiful dunes of White Sands National Monument. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/2.8, 30s, ISO 800
Multiple lightning bolts strike down simultaneously near Throckmorton, Texas from a summertime thunderstorm. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, F/10, 13s, ISO 200
Making his name in extreme weather photography, Mike Mezeul’s story begins with a competitive streak turned into a passion project. Now a story chaser as well as a storm chaser, he explores the realm of astrophotography, professional sports, aviation and weddings, keeping his lens aimed at the limitless forms the world has to offer.
The Milky Way glows above the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park as a car passes by. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/2.8, 30s, ISO 5000
A cloud-to-ground lightning bolt strikes down from a thunderstorm as mammatus clouds stretch across the skies above. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 250
Initially, Mike had no interest in photography, even when presented with a camera during his 15th birthday. It was not until his father said that he had no idea how to properly work a camera that Mike’s competitive nature drove him to master the device. Without a car, he was forced to shoot what was in his immediate area, and this meant spending a lot of time in his parents’ front yard photographing flowers, ladybugs and his dogs.
Clouds streak above the lowest point in North America at sunset, Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/22, 87s, ISO 31
Crashing waves drain back out to the ocean at sunset on the coast of Kona, Hawaii. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, F/22, 0.25s, ISO 100
A "mothership" supercell glows a beautiful orange as the sunsets behind it as it wreaks havoc over Booker, Texas. Look closely and you can see softball sized hailstones falling through the sky. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/3.5, 1/250s, ISO 250
“Not knowing really what I was doing, I wrote down my settings for every frame, as well as the conditions I was shooting in. I would then save my allowance and have my mom take me to the drugstore close to our house to have the film developed. Once I received the prints, I compared them to my notes and figured out what I could do to better my work. As time went by, I upgraded for my 16th birthday to a Nikon N70 and have shot with Nikon since,” It was during this time that Mike also got his driver’s license and car, which gave him the freedom to roam.
No matter the subject, Mike’s style gives every image a crisp and vibrant feel. From capturing a hockey game to chasing a tornado churning across the plains, it is the story that unfolds before the viewer that counts. With landscapes, astro and severe weather, it is likely that many people will never get to experience these works of art in real life, and for Mike this is a driving factor.
A lightning bolt scorches the ground as it strikes down from a supercell thunderstorm near Burkburnett, Texas. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/22, 3s, ISO 31
Double lightning bolts strike down on the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona during a monsoon thunderstorm. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, F/10, 1/3s, ISO 31
“It is pretty amazing when you receive compliments and praise on your work from people all over the world and they share with you how your work inspired them. Some people are nearing the end of their lives, or do not have the financial income to travel…everyone’s story is different, but their compliments and stories are what keep me motivated every day to go out and do my best to capture the best image I can.”
Mike’s blood moon composite recently went viral. Having done this two times before, his most recent upload reached 620,000 shares on Facebook alone. He was used to seeing tightly cropped images of the lunar eclipse, and so for his first attempt at capturing the blood moon he wanted to find a way to shoot the night with a Texas flavour to it. With the bluebonnets in bloom, he turned to social media for recommendations of a good field. Ennis, Texas was the place to be, so he set off at around 10pm, spending eight hours sitting in the field photographing the entire transition.
“I initially used my AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens to capture a three-minute long exposure of the entire field lit by the full moon. Then, I used my AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens to photograph the moon every 15 minutes or so. After that, it was a matter of compositing the transition onto the foreground and giving it a creative touch.”
For his second and third attempt at capturing the blood moon, it took many more days’ worth of scouting for a location that would be appealing and unique. The second eclipse, Mike sought after a barn with a Texas flag painted on it. The same effort came with the third image, but Mike knew that he also wanted a view of the Dallas skyline, something others would not have. “All in all, it was a fun time creating those composites, and totally worth the effort.”
Methane gas from the lake bed forms frozen bubbles as it is trapped in the ice of the frozen Bow Lake in Banff National in Alberta, Canada - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/20, 0.6s, ISO 100
A fiery winter sunrise over Fairview Mountain and fresh snowfall at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, f/16, 8s, ISO 30
The nature of Mike’s work often brings him face to face with dangerous climates, but one of the ‘close calls’ he experienced has now become a favourite for both its beauty and the excitement. “One image that I definitely enjoy having printed and hung is from Bow Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It was an image that I wanted to capture for quite a few years, and when I finally did, I unfortunately ended up in a pretty near-death experience. It was a bitterly cold morning, -17 degrees Fahrenheit, and two days prior, the lake was mostly open water. When we arrived at the lake, we noticed the entire thing was frozen over and crystal clear. I knew that this was a prime opportunity to search for the infamous trapped methane bubbles that I heard about happening up in this region, but being from Texas, I was skeptical of even stepping foot on the ice. After walking a few feet out on the ice, I was able to see a few deep cracks and noticed that the ice was about 4” thick where I was standing. Not knowing if this was safe, I slowly cautiously walked around looked to see if it was a consistent 4” or if it were just that one spot.”
“It was then when I noticed another photographer kneeling way out on the middle of the lake and shooting. This quickly gave me confidence that the lake was safe, so I began treading around in search of these trapped bubbles. A distance away from the shore, I found a nice patch that lined right up with the mountains. The other photographer wasn’t too far away from me, so I introduced myself and asked him if it were safe to be out there. He was local and told me that he felt it was safe, but to keep an eye on any areas that appeared only a couple inches thick and to avoid those. As I knelt down to set up my composition, I noticed about 3 inches away from me, the ice quickly thinned. Getting a bit nervous, I quickly rattled off a few frames and stood up. It was then when the ice completely cracked beneath my feet and I immediately realized how much danger I was in. I yelled to my friend on the shore about what was going on, and quickly started panicking,”
“I tried to take a step away from the thin area of the ice, but the whole sheet then spider-webbed beneath me and water starting seeping up. The other photographer who I met earlier, realized the situation and came about ten feet from me and said, “Listen to what I tell you, and do as I tell you.” I quickly agreed and he told me to kneel down, remove my backpack, and slide it to him. Then he told me to slide my tripod and camera over. Of course, now in my mind I’m thinking, “Great, I just got robbed and now I’m stuck on a frozen lake in Canada!” The gentleman then told me to crawl slowly where he pointed. I did so, and got close enough to him to where he could grab my jacket and literally hurl me to the shore. It was a pretty terrifying moment, and it could have been avoided, but…the shot I got is to this day one of my favorites.”
A tornado warned supercell thunderstorm approaches the town of Jolly, Texas bringing softball sized hail and 90mph winds to the area. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, F/8, 1/320s/ ISO 200
Clouds take over the skies of west Texas as severe thunderstorms rampage the area. - Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, F/8, 1/80s, ISO 400
A tornadic supercell churns above an empty field in Floydada, Texas at sunset. - Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/22, 1.3s, ISO 31
A storm chaser stands in a field awaiting the arrival of a tornadic supercell thunderstorm near Cheyenne, Wyoming. - Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, F/22, 0.6s, ISO 50
So what is in the bag of this thrill-seeking photographer? Mike has been a Nikon lover since the age of 16 and now never leaves without his Nikon D810, specially chosen for its dynamic range, high resolution and ISO capabilities - which is also why he owns a few of them. With the amount of landscape and sky photography he does, he also gets a lot of use out of his AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens.
“I’ve learned though that with photography, you are learning the “P” word, and it is not photography…it is perseverance. Never give up. If you want an image to come to fruition bad enough, keep trying and be patient. It’ll happen.” Whether it is his perserverance, the adrenaline rush or just being able to make it home safely seeing what you’ve seen, we can be glad Mike is forever drawn to the cinematic nature of our planet and the untold stories it houses.
Mike Mezeul II is a professional photographer based out of Frisco, Texas. He has been shooting professionally now for six years, but picked up his first camera at the age of 15. He currently shoots all matters of subjects from commercial work to landscape photography to extreme weather, astrophotography, professional sports, aviation, and weddings. Not one to stick to a single subject, he loves being able to express his vision throughout a variety of subjects, ultimately becoming “that guy” who people try and guess what he will be working on the next day.
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