Library of Inspiration

Thrill Seeking

Mike Mezeul II captures jaw-dropping scenes from nature. From super storms to the crimson moon, he shares his best and most exciting moments.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.”

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.”

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.

About Mike

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.

About the gear

Redefine the possibilities of high-megapixel video and still photography with the full-frame performance of the new and improved Nikon D810. The exceptional FX-format image sensor ensures Full HD 1080/60p video with remarkably reduced moiré and noise. With an incomparable image resolution of 36.3-megapixels, D810 will meet your exacting standards like never before. An ISO sensitivity range of 64 to 12800 ensures that your shots retain high resolution and rich tonality in any lighting condition. Achieve stunning results that are true to every detail with the unparalleled power of the D810.

Capture impeccably sharp, high quality images with the award-winning AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED. The lens combines the latest innovations with the rich heritage of NIKKOR advanced glass technology to deliver astounding photos and HD videos, making it the obvious choice for photographers who demand the best from their lens. With a host of cutting-edge optics and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, this ultra-wide zoom lens turns all your panoramas, landscapes and wide-angle photos into magnificent works of art.

With its ability to deliver beautiful bokeh and exceptional sharpness even at maximum aperture, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED has become a favourite amongst photographers. You’ll capture photos and HD videos with a level of quality superior to that of many other zoom lenses. With its fixed f/2.8 aperture, it delivers fast focusing, enhanced low-light performance and superior resolution at any distance.