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Best of ASMP 2009

After an editorial assignment in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands for Cruising World magazine, Marianne Lee got the affirmation she needed to pursue her dream as a travel photographer. She got her editor up every morning at dawn to catch the right light and worked hard to make the landscape appealing to viewers who had never experienced it. While she only received a page rate for image use, when the issue hit the racks Lee had the cover, table of contents, a full page spread and additional feature shots.

Marianne Lee


Project: A “breakthrough” assignment, sailing and photographing through Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands, for Cruising World magazine.

© Marianne Lee
All images in this article © Marianne Lee

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

ML: I have been freelancing for about 2 and a half to 3 years and worked as an assistant to Billy Black for 4 years before going out on my own.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

ML: Maybe 5 years? I will be going into my second year on the New England chapter board this year.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

ML: I do well with landscapes, although I find them really challenging. I also do well with subjects that are in or around water.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?

ML: It’s a process, so every bit counts. It sometimes stinks to carry it all, but it’s always worse if you don’t have what you need.

ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

ML: I like to get every angle and aspect of a story. Everything from the detail shots to the wide shots that tell the story, it all needs to be included to tell a good story.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.

ML: I wanted to really tell the story of what was happening through out the week. I also wanted to show the landscape to someone who had never experienced it and make it look like someplace interesting to visit. I really worked hard to make the unique aspects of the area stick out. Particularly the sea caves. I wanted to emphasize the remoteness and the gorgeousness of this place that is in a state that makes everyone think of cheese.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Tell us about your working relationship with Cruising World magazine. Had you done previous sailing photography prior to this assignment?

ML: Yes. I have done similar work for Sailing magazine. Also, I used to work as an assistant to one of the top marine photographers, Billy Black, and I learned a lot about boats and photographing them from him.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Describe the unique features of the Apostle Islands area and the scope of your assignment for the magazine.

ML: The Apostle Islands are a small group of islands that have been designated national park land, at the northern tip of Wisconsin. The outer islands take a lot of abuse from Lake Superior especially in the winter with the ice, wind, storms and so on. Slowly over the time the sandstone has worn away carving out the caves. The islands used to be populated and there was some logging going on. Over the years it has depopulated and the only way to get out to the islands is by boat or kayak. For more info about the sea caves see

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: You and your editor were based aboard a sailboat for this assignment. Tell us about the boat and its owner, your editor and your fellow shipmates.

ML: The boat was a Jeanneau 36 called Twilight, and it can be chartered from Superior Charters in Bayfield, WI.

Editor Mark Pillsbury does lots of traveling for his job and he is now the editor of the magazine. He lives on his boat in Wickford, RI, and commutes home on the weekends to Nahant, MA. Sue Pillsbury, Mark’s wife, lives and works near Nahant, MA. Paula Devereaux, a real estate lawyer, lives in Nahant and works in Boston. She is a great friend of Mark and Sue. Mike Lee (aka my husband) works for Harken Yacht Equipment, a company that makes deck hardware for sailboats, winches, blocks and so on. He is probably my biggest cheerleader. He is also a talented writer and we always enjoy doing stories together when we can.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Had you worked with the editor or did you have a prior relationship with him before going on this assignment?

ML: Yes.

ASMP: How many days were you on board, and how many miles did you cruise?

ML: 5 days. I’m not sure about the mileage, but we wound our way around all the islands, saw both sets of caves and all the lighthouses.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: How did you decide on the subjects or locations you would be shooting? Did you or your editor do prior research on the islands’ photogenic highlights?

ML: We had done some research ahead of time and I knew that I really wanted to see all the sea caves. Everybody shoots all the lighthouses up there, which are beautiful, but I really wanted to get in those caves. I also knew since they were low to the water, we’d have to be there at the right time to for the camera to see the details inside.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Did you take any special precautions to protect your equipment while photographing on the water?

ML: Being extra careful about where you put your gear is important. When going up the mast, I usually clip the camera to my harness. For the most part the camera gear was pretty safe. And keeping the gear out of the bottom of the dinghy is a help, too. Sometimes people use coolers or waterproof bags. Thankfully it was a fresh water environment, which is much easier on the gear than salt.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: What aspect of this assignment was the most challenging?

ML: It’s hard to say; the assignment worked out really well in a lot of ways and I really couldn’t ask for more. It would have been great to get above the islands somehow — even going up the mast didn’t get me high enough to see the separation between the islands. Getting the processing of all the images completed was a tough job, too.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: Did you use model or property releases for your subjects?

ML: Not yet.

ASMP: What usage terms does the magazine have for this work? Do you own the copyright and have rights to license the images? If so, do you have existing relationships to facilitate future licensing?

ML: I own the copyright to all the images taken. I’m hoping to find more ways to license these images in the future.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: In general terms, how was your fee structured for this assignment? Were you paid a flat rate or a space rate? Were your expenses for travel, lodging or a per-diem covered by the magazine?

ML: My husband and I had to get ourselves there. Everything else was covered. The pay was just a page rate for the images used. Thankfully, the art director was happy with the images and used a lot of them, so the grand total was very nice.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: You describe this job as a “dream assignment.” What elements in particular made this a dream project? Is there anything that what could have been arranged to make the assignment even better?

ML: It was a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path kind of place. You can’t beat traveling by water. It gets you places you can’t get to by car. Exploring a new place, with the flexibility to shoot when I needed to and to be able to get to a great place at a great time of day. Traveling with fun people who were all of these things contribute to the “Dream Assignment.” It’s definitely the kind of assignment I’d love to get more of.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: In addition to the April, 2009 cover image, what other images from this assignment were published in Cruising World?

ML: The TOC features one of the images and a full feature was illustrated with several images.

© Marianne Lee

ASPM: Have you landed any new jobs or clients based on the Apostle Island assignment?

ML: Not yet!, but many of the images will be shown in promotional things that I’m working on right now. I do hope this assignment shows that I can work in a flexible (and floating) environment and still come away with some great images.

© Marianne Lee

ASMP: What would you like to shoot for your next dream assignment?

ML: That is a long, long list. But at the top is: a trip to the Canadian Rockies, New Zealand’s south island, and a tour of the U.S. National Parks. One of my motivations for shooting great things in the U.S. is to show off the positive things we have going for us in the midst of all the negatives that we seem to be inundated with daily.

© Marianne Lee