Photographer Brett Lee out to capture the beauty of Mentor’s night sky, beaches – News-Herald.com

While the majority of people are sound asleep in their beds at 3 a.m., local photographer Brett Lee can often be found in the driveway of his home near the Mentor Headlands, pointing his camera up toward the stars.
Lee, who grew up in the Headlands area, returned to Ohio in June after living in California for several years. He began pursuing a lifelong dream by purchasing his very first camera last summer.
Since moving back, the completely self-taught photographer has gained quite a few fans of his art through posting images on a Mentor community Facebook page. Lee often focuses his lens on the natural beauty of Lake Erie sunsets, phases of the moon, and even various planets when they’re in view.
“The moon has always intrigued me,” Lee said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I always told myself I’m going to get a picture of that moon one day. So when I got my camera, I was taking pictures of the moon — finally, after like 40 years of my life I got a picture of the moon. But then I started pointing it at the planets.”
After some varied success using his camera’s 300-millimeter lens, Lee decided to invest in a telescope to truly begin to capture the details of our solar system neighbors from hundreds of millions of miles away. He explained that he is usually outside anywhere from 11:30 p.m. to sometimes 5:30 a.m. taking hundreds of photos of the planets with his telescopic-camera setup.
“I have Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8 telescope, and from the viewfinder on the scope, I actually have a five-times focal extender,” Lee explained. “Then my camera is a Canon Rebel T7, and what attaches to my camera is a 2X Barlow (lens). So all that is seven times the magnification of what my telescope is and puts me at 14,000-millimeters. So I’m really right up on these planets, that’s why the pictures look so good.”
Through hours of work and plenty of investment in his setup, Lee has managed to capture pictures of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and the respective moons that orbit them — essentially from his own backyard.
Of course, Lee said he also enjoys getting shots of the scenery in Northeast Ohio just as much.
“I grew up in the Headlands, so I’ve been around nature a lot — nature is everywhere around here,” he said. “We’ve got Mentor Marsh (State Nature Preserve) here, I’ve got Lake Erie at the end of my street, and we’ve got Zimmerman Trail over here. I’ve been around it my whole life.”
Lee said he is eager to continue growing his business, Astro-Land-Nature Photography, as fulfilment of a goal he’s had from a young age. However,  Lee said he had to overcome plenty of challenges to get here as he struggled with drug usage before his time spent out-of-state.
This summer, he celebrated his four-year anniversary of getting clean from drugs.
“There was one time in my life where I was hopeless, and I turned it around,” Lee said. “I want people out there to know that you can always be what you want to be. You can always turn your life around.
“I want to inspire people with this.”
Lee said his favorite subject matter is the moon, and loves getting shots of it shining through the nighttime clouds — which is one of the photo ideas he’s had since childhood. He explained that for all his photography work, he always begins with an idea in his head of the shot he wants, and gets a thrill out of bringing his ideas to fruition.
“I have these visions in my head, and then when I grab my camera, they become real,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing about it. I get like a little rush off of it.”
Lee plans on continuing to build up his portfolio of Ohio photos, both of the Earth and sky, and hopes to begin selling prints of his work in the near future. Even sooner, he has a surprise project planned when the next full moon is visible that he thinks followers of his work will really enjoy.
To keep up with Lee’s photography, visit Astro-Land-Nature Photography on Facebook.

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