THE TEMPERATURE IS BELOW ZERO, but award-winning photographer Molly Pate is undeterred. Before leaving her Berrien Springs home, she checks the St. Joseph webcam and, if the horizon is clear, hops in her car for the 20-minute drive to the St. Joseph pier. Once there, she quickly pulls on her rain gear and ice cleats, then grabs her short tripod and Nikon and Olympus cameras.
Molly, who almost never misses an opportunity to shoot, was at the St. Joseph pier during this past February’s cold snap, snapping her favorite sceneries — sunsets and lighthouses. “It’s just fun,” she says in a chipper, nonchalant manner. “The thrill is trying to get a better picture than the last.”
Her picturesque shots garner hundreds of Likes on her social media pages, eliciting rave reviews from “Beautifully gothic!” to warnings of “Be careful out there.” Molly says that she’s aware of the risks in capturing her picture-perfect shots and only goes where there’s “something solid under me.” Besides, she says, “I have three kids, so I don’t want anything to happen.”
Molly, an occupational therapist for Berrien County’s Regional Education Service Agency, fell into photography by sheer coincidence. An avid runner and hiker, she ventured summer 2015 to hike the 200-mile John Muir trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. For three weeks, she photographed the sunsets and became “addicted.”
A year later, she made the investment in a professional camera and learned to use it by watch-
ing YouTube videos. As she posted her photos to Instagram and Facebook, the response was overwhelm- ing. The photos were shared widely and eventually caught the attention of folks at “Pure Michigan” and “Only in Michigan,” who posted them to their social media pages.
Additional exposure came when her landscape photos were selected for inclusion in the Michigan Power Company Cook Nuclear Plant’s annual preparedness calendar. This year is her third time featured; her photo is displayed for the month of January. Last year, she won a photo contest organized by Michigan House of Representative senator, John Proos, who placed her winning entry of a sailboat framed by a majestic sunset in his Lansing office.
Molly realizes that people are reacting in a very personal way to her photos, with one person commenting, “I know it’s a hobby, but also a cool ministry.” Strangers go as far as to remark that her photographs give them hope beyond the picturesque skies.
So, as the One Place Church member continues to shoot photos with no plans beyond keeping it as a hobby, she acknowledges that, “God is the Author of these masterpieces. He’s the One that paints these great pieces.”