Faces of Friends: Photographer Mike DeWitt and boating for beauty

Faces of Friends graphic with Mike DeWitt

May 7, 2024

Mike DeWitt’s boat, the Compromise, is often the first one in and the last one out at the Apostle Islands Marina. His love of the Apostle Islands is captured in his beautiful photography which has graced many brochures and presentations of Friends of the Apostle Islands including the cover of the last three Annual Reports. His work, through his Apostle Islands Photography website has been widely admired and is prominently displayed in many Chequamegon Bay area businesses and now graces the cover of the 2024 Bayfield Chamber of Commerce Travel Guide.

In this interview with Friends Board Member Neil Howk, Mike DeWitt talks about his adventures, his love of photography in the islands, and his support of Friends.

Neil: I was asked to interview you as part of our “Faces of the Friends” project.

Mike: I’m always happy to share my images with the Friends, but I might be one of the most uninteresting people you will interview!

Neil: Well, that’s a great start for an interview. (Laughter). I was wondering, how did you get started in photography?

Mike: You know, it seemed to be a natural extension of being in the islands where you’re out in a landscape that practically begs to be captured. That’s kind of where it started…we (Dr. Andy Matheus and Mike) were spending all this time out there in the islands and had a desire to try to capture some of the beauty we were seeing. It really spiraled from there…

Sunrise at Otter Island - Mike DeWitt photo

Otter Island sunrise – Mike DeWitt photo

Neil: When you describe what you do, what do you tell people about that?

Mike: I guess I would identify as a landscape photographer. I don’t do portraits or people, etc. Outside of the Apostles, I rarely have my camera in hand. That’s the one place that really speaks to me creatively. I’ve taken my camera when I’ve traveled over the years and done some photography… cityscapes and travel photography, but by far the bulk of my portfolio has been made out in the Apostles. Aside from that, I haven’t had a camera in my hand since sometime in October. I’m not a guy that’s out there and just can’t wait to create images wherever I’m at. That’s just not how it works for me. Everyone’s different, you know.

Mike shooting plate ice at Cat Island

Mike shooting plate ice at Cat Island – Andy Matheus photo

Neil: How is it that the Apostle Islands became the focus for your work?

Mike: We both know that it is just an amazingly beautiful area. What I really like about the Apostles is the feeling that when you are out there, you’re far away from everything.  It’s the being away that I enjoy most when I think about it. Whatever little bit of creativity is stuck in my brain, that’s what brings it out.

Neil: What would you say is your favorite way to explore the islands?

Mike: I’m kind of a cheater. I take my power boat out, but I have a kayak on board, and when I get where I want to be, then I paddle. I make the bulk of my images from a kayak. It’s quiet and it’s peaceful…if you’ve paddled out there you know what it’s like. It’s pretty amazing.

Devils Island sea caves - Mike DeWitt

Devils Island sea caves – Mike DeWitt photo

Neil: What kind of a power boat do you have?

Mike: It’s not a big one. It’s a 20-foot Grady White. It’s worthy of Lake Superior…on the right days. You have to pick your days.

Neil: Sure. Looking back, would you say that you’ve had a most memorable trip out into the islands?

Mike: I’ve had some scary ones, but those aren’t the ones that I want to hold onto.

Neil: Can you give me an example?

Mike: I’d have to say I could pick from…it seems like every year I wind up anchoring in what’s left of the tiny harbor on Devils Island and overnighting there. Any one of those trips could be a contender. There’s something special about being alone on that island in the middle of the night. You might have seen I’ve done some astrophotography out there. That’s one of my favorite spots to do it.

Neil: Is it late in the season that you were out there.

Mike: We’ve (Andy) been on Devils once when there was ice (to cross). We’ve done open water trips in December and January when ice was beginning to form on Devils. The late season open water trips were all done with Andy (Matheus). You need a guy as crazy as him to pull something like that off. (laughter)

Mike DeWitt shooting mainland sea caves on floating ice

Mike shooting the mainland sea caves on floating ice – Andy Matheus photo

The Compromise docked at Otter Island - Mike DeWitt

The Compromise docked at Otter Island – Mike DeWitt photo

Neil: I see that you’ve had some interest in the Friends’ “dark sky initiative”.  What interests you about that?

Mike: Like I mentioned, astrophotography is something I really enjoy. The dark skies in the Apostles are as good as anywhere. And then you bundle in the fact that you feel like you are a million miles from anywhere else or any people…dark skies, middle of the night…that’s not to be taken for granted.

Neil: Awesome Mike. You’ve given us plenty to work with. Thanks.

There are many ways to support Friends of the Apostle Islands, including sharing your time and talent, like Mike does. Learn more about creative ways to support Friends of the Apostle Island by visiting the “Support Us” page on our website. And watch for the next Faces of Friends feature in the weeks to come.

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