Wisconsin Editorial Photographer and Wisconsin Commercial Photographer Mike Roemer’s blog.
Hi, I'm Mike Roemer, a commercial, corporate, industrial, agriculture and editorial photographer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I've lived the photography business since childhood, first tagging along during my father's long newspaper photography career before ever carrying my own camera gear. My interest grew as I watched the fascinating process of my dad making black and white images appear while shaking trays of chemicals under the red lights of a developing room.
My professional career started with a ten-year stint as a newspaper photographer meeting tight deadlines, adapting to curve balls and making the famous and not-so-famous comfortable in front of my lens.
I returned to Green Bay in the mid-1990s to start my own business, and now regularly travel around the U.S. and internationally for my clients. I enjoy the creative challenge of combining unusual angles, lighting and lens options to produce the perfect commercial image.
I've won first place awards in Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Best of Photojournalism and National Headliners, along with being a three-time winner in the Pro Football Hall of Fame photo contest.
I love the variety of projects I get to work on, from healthcare organization and foundation annual reports, high-energy casino and gaming shoots, industrial projects at locations as diverse as cheese manufacturers and steel plants, to corporate culture assignments and documenting the Green Bay Packers.
Earlier this week, I was finally able to shoot some photos I’ve wanted to shoot for the past few years, but never worked in my schedule. Each year around mid January, large freighters come into Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for winter maintenance. The ships’ arrival usually coincides with the closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway for the winter. The opening and closing dates of the St. Lawrence Seaway vary from year to year due to weather conditions and the demands of commerce. The system’s locks have opened as early as March 20 and as late as March 31. The closing date has ranged from December 24 to December 31. This year it was later since we are having a warmer winter than usual. The seaway is a system of locks, canals and channels in Canada and the United States that allows ocean going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
Last Monday I started watching an app called MarineTraffic and spotted a couple ships with clever names like “Are we there yet” as their destination. I kept an eye on those boats, and as luck would have it, one came into the Sturgeon Bay ship canal at the perfect time, right at dusk. With the sun setting and colors popping on the horizon, the 728 foot self unloading bulk carrier – the Joseph L Block – entered the canal that connects Lake Michigan with the bay of Green Bay. I wasn’t the only photographer who had the idea to shoot this event, and was one of maybe six or seven other photographers, two of whom also were flying a drone. Luckily we all got along fine and kept out of one another’s shots; at least I hope I didn’t get in anyone’s way.
On Tuesday I went back up and was able to capture the 715 foot self-unloading bulk freighter, the American Marine, as it came in off of Lake Michigan on its way to the shipyard to join the rest of the ships in what is called the “winter fleet”. The one disappointment is that some of these shots don’t look like winter photos, but we all should be happy that the mild winter will help the water levels decrease from the record highs we’ve experienced the last couple of years.
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Rams in the divisional round of the NFL football playoff at Lambeau Field to advance to the conference championship. The Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Here are some of my favorite photos telling the story of the day, starting with fans outside before the game, team buses arriving with Covid precautions in place, fans cheering on their teams inside the stadium, the battle on the field and ending with a happy Aaron Rodgers running off the field.
I feel like I got some okay shots, but not great ones. I do like some of the non-action fan shots I got and it was great to see more fans back in the stands with Covid precautions. I must have done okay because I was asked to be part of the team for the Associated Press to cover the NFC Championship, in what could be a snowy Lambeau Field, next Sunday. It should be an epic game with the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers coming in to battle Aaron Rodgers in what is probably an MVP season for him.
Last fall I was asked by St Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin to shoot photos for a story in their magazine. I was asked to not share the photos till the story ran, the edition came out this week. The story was on their student athletes gathering at the football stadium on campus for group workouts, wearing face masks and socially distanced. The students gathered in three different shifts with the first group starting before sunrise. Working out at a high level and trying to suck in air through a face mask isn’t easy, but these athletes made it happen. If a student had contact with a piece of equipment while working out, it was sprayed down with disinfectant before the next athlete would use it. Using my drone to show the spacing of the athletes was also great tool to tell the story.
I’ve delayed my best of 2020 blog way too long so here I go.
If someone would have told me that in 2020, I would have work cancelled because of a global pandemic and that one of my last jobs of the year would be documenting the distribution of the first boxes of vaccine for the pandemic virus, I would have said you’re nuts…but that’s exactly what happened.
Beyond staying healthy, safe and sane, one of my biggest challenges of 2020 was staying creative as I navigated my business around the limitations of Covid. As I look back on the year, I have to say that my wife Judy and I were incredibly lucky compared to so many others. Judy was able to work successfully from home and while my business got a kick in the groin from Covid, I wasn’t hit nearly as hard as many others.
In early March when things started closing down, I – along with most people – didn’t have any idea it would affect our lives as much as it did and continues to do. On the night of March 5th, I was sitting at a table with a group of fellow journalists having dinner at a sporting venue. I brought up the topic of Covid and if they considered how it might impact sports. Everyone blew it off and said no way would the leagues let that happen because too much money was on the line. Less than a week later, sports for the most part shut down.
The only sporting events I’ve shot in the era of Covid is Packers games at Lambeau Field. We aren’t allowed to shoot from field level, so we roam the mostly fan-less stands looking for creative angles. One advantage is my knees are very happy they aren’t plopped down on the frozen tundra, but I sure miss the excitement that a stadium packed with fans brings. My New Years resolution for 2019 was to get my commercial drone license and to get a professional quality drone. Little did I know how much that skill would help me deal with a Covid. As things shut down and my segment of photography was ruled an unnecessary business, I was basically shut down. My calendar, normally dotted with sporting events, multi day out of state commercial shoots and various other jobs I do ever year, cleared out. I filled my days figuring out how to navigate a life with little face to face contact with the outside world, how to get my parents groceries delivered to their Florida home and how to utilize the support systems set up to help small businesses. I was very fortunate to have other supports in place like an amazing accountant, an awesome banker and a very calming financial advisor to help me get through the days, as well as an amazing wife to help me keep things in perspective as we chatted during our meet-ups in the “company cafeteria”, formerly known as our kitchen.
I found drone photography a great way to stay creative and as I look back upon my images from the year, it’s filled with drone images. I would just grab the drone and head out to find things to shoot. I also visited some of the local farms I had visited in previous years to shoot images; the drone was a great way to shoot and keep that all important physical distance. In years past, my best of collection would be full of Packers images, but not this year. I do a lot of industrial photography and one thing I need to keep in mind while doing those shoots is making sure people are wearing the proper protective equipment, PPE. This year, I needed to add making sure the subjects in my shoots wore face masks appropriately and kept a proper physical distance from co-workers. Trust me – I’m so ready to go back to concentrating on capturing story telling moments and not being the PPE police.
Even though 2020 is behind us, the Covid crisis is still here and will continue to affect my business. These next few months, I plan to learn some new photography and videography skills for winter photo projects I want to work on. Hopefully we as a country can turn the corner on Covid and return to some type of normal.
A photo that jumps out to me as one of my favorite photos is one I took of my wife, Judy, on one of our few getaways in 2020. She and I took a long weekend and headed to Duluth, Minnesota to check out that area along the north shore of Lake Superior. We checked out some cool places like the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls State Park. The favorite photo came on our way back when we stopped at Amnicon Falls just over the border in to Wisconsin. Judy looks great amongst the scenic beauty of the park and it symbolizes the adventure and exploring that we both love and our hope that we can do more of that in 2021 and beyond.
Hopefully I can soon get back to researching Class B RVs while I drink my morning coffee instead of reading about Covid and politics.
I’m getting terrible on getting these blogs out as quickly as I used to. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution, to post blogs like I was on a daily newspaper deadline. The editor I work with at the Associated Press is great at quickly releasing my photos and I’m good at posting photos on my social media channels, but I’ve slipped on posting to this blog.
So this past Sunday I got my wish. The Packers played their last home regular season game in the snow. It wasn’t a crazy snow storm, but it definitely helped Lambeau Field live up to its name of the Frozen Tundra. I had a tad of a battle early on in the game between keeping my glasses from fogging over because of my Covid inspired face mask, clearing the viewfinder of the camera of fog from my breath and dealing with snow pelting the front of my lens, but I persevered and and got some decent action shots and snow features. The snow let up by the second quarter which was kind of disappointing.
The Packers came out ahead 40-14 to maintain their hold on the number one seed in the NFC and they played well in every facet of the game, a game everyone thought would be tight.
So, here are some of my favorite photos. I promise to get my blog post up quicker from hopefully both playoff games the Packers host on their way to playing in the Super Bowl.