Local 1 Boilermaker snaps eagles in action

Photography is a way for me to clear my head.

Mike Lewandowski, L-1

L-1 member Mike Lewandowski often keeps his camera in focus for an hour to capture a shot of eagles in flight.

FLIP THROUGH MIKE Lewandowski’s new e-book and you’ll find a mix of clear, crisp photos of nature, cemetery iconology and cars, among other snapshots preserving moments in time. On the webpage of his side-business, Lew Shots Photography, the Local 1 (Chicago) member describes himself as “just a guy with a camera and a lot of clicking.” And that shows in the diversity of his art.

Lewandowski, who uses a Canon to capture images, seriously took up photography about 10 years ago but says he’s always enjoyed it. At first, he snapped images of old cars and timeworn cemeteries. But in 2012, he headed out to the Little Calumet River and, to his delight, found a pair of bald eagles.

“At one time, it used to be so polluted eagles were never near the river,” Lewandowski says. “But eight years ago, they started nesting, and I began to photograph their nest year after year.”

Life with the eagles hummed along, with the pair having a total of 12 eaglets since 2012, until this year when the nest collapsed.

“They kept adding branches every year on a dead tree. I thought the weight would get them,” he says.

After several years of watching chicks hatch, it appears there won’t be any eaglets this year. It seems the eagles lost their eggs when the nest fell. Since the collapse in the spring, the eagles have built a new nest but it’s further back in the trees, away from the riverbank.

And with the eagles so far back in the trees, Lewandowski says they’re not as accessible as before. Hence his yearly shots of new chicks and eagles taking off from the nest are, for now, a thing of the past.

He’s still shooting, though. During the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, he began “doing virus stuff—going to old cemeteries and taking a mask and putting it on different statues,” he says.

He’s also still out in nature, capturing animals and birds in action. Over the years, his photographs have been on display in coffee shops and art galleries. And while he’s grateful people want to purchase his photographs, that’s not why he picked up a camera in the first place or why he keeps framing the next shot.

“Photography is a way for me to clear my head,” Lewandowski says. “Even back when people illegally dumped into the river, it was still a way to relax.”

Find out more about Mike Lewandowski’s photographs, where they’re on display and how to purchase his new e-book on his business page, Lew Shots Photography.