“Just a guy, a camera and a lot of clicking,” Michael Lewandowski says on his Lew Shots Facebook page.
Lewandowski’s photography has recently garnered local attention at exhibits at Hammond’s Paul Henry Gallery, Pier 74 in Cedar Lake and the Blue Room Café in Hammond.
Lewandowski, 50, has worked as a boilermaker for twenty five years and out of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local Lodge 1 in Chicago since 2000. His responsibilities include field construction work at power houses, refineries and steel mills.
About three years ago, Lewandowski, who always enjoyed photography, bought a “decent camera.”
“I like shooting wildlife, old cemeteries and cars,” Lewandowski says. “I’m not a people photographer. My wife showed me an article about Lora Mercado and her photography and I loved her cemetery shots.”
Mercado became Lewandowski’s mentor.
“She got me started, showing my photography in a local show at Pier 74 in Cedar Lake,” Lewandowski says. “I joined a local art group which is now called South Lake Arts Co-Op. They had an anniversary show at Paul Henry's Art Gallery in Hammond and one of my pieces was a shot from the inside of St. Joseph’s church in down town Hammond. That led to me having a solo show put on by David Mueller of Paul Henry Gallery at the Blue Room Café featuring my St. Joseph’s photos.”
An interesting connection which would lead to Lewandowski’s photographing some of what are becoming his best known and most satisfying shots of a group of bald eagles. Lewandowski introduced himself to Mike Echterling of WJOB radio at The Friends of the Little Calumet River clean up in March 2013.
Echterling took Lewandowski under his wing, so to speak, showing him the bald eagles’ nest.
“I was working nights and would go out before work and shoot the nest,” Lewandowski says. “I was there one day when I heard both adults screeching and looking skyward. Then one adult took off to scare away a hawk. Photographing the eagles was one of the greatest things I have done. It took four months.”
Lewandowski says he would like to have his eagle photographs used for education locally.
“I have been working on that,” Lewandowski says. “I made a DVD montage of my shots that I am very proud of.”
The Indiana Welcome Center is giving Lewandowski a few places to try.
“I dropped off my video montage of my eagle shots and it is supposed to be played on a monitor there,” Lewandowski says.
The biggest challenge in photographing the eagles, Lewandowski says, was trying to get the takeoff shot.
“I had kept them in focus for over an hour waiting for them to fly off a branch,” Lewandowski says. “Sometimes I had to switch hands because of cramping and shaking. I really like that shot and have had some good luck with it.”
In his video montage, Lewandowski has photographs of one adult eagle which was in a tree about one hundred yards from the nest. It broke off a branch and flew it to the nest. The other eagle then took the branch and placed it in the nest.
“These are two of my better take off shots,” Lewandowski says. “The first is called ‘9-11’ because I shot it on September 11 and it is also my first take off shot ever. The second is ‘Double Take Off’ which has a blackbird tagging along.
What Lewandowsk finds most satisfying about photography is “knowing when you are out shooting that you have shot something really special; something that is a keeper.”
“That's the great thing about digital; you can shoot a bunch of shots and might only keep a few money shots,” Lewandowski says. “You can also correct things as you go.”
For the future, Lewandowski plans to continue taking photos and getting into art shows.
He currently has framed photos for sale on display at Paul Henry's Art Gallery in Hammond and at both The Comfy Couch and Hoosier Highlander stores in downtown Highland.
“It is a great honor that someone thinks enough of my work to buy it and hang it in their homes,” Lewandowski says.
More of Lewandowski’s photography can be seen on his Facebook page Lew Shots Photography.