There's nothing like a sky full of bright stars to remind you of the vastness of the universe and the breathtaking beauty of Mother Nature.
Photo of Tahquamenon Falls by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
The scene in the photo above isn't an otherworldly vision; it's a common sight in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Residents and tourists are drawn to the region because of its variety of natural wonders visible during the day -- and night: Light pollution barely touches the unending skies that stretch over stately forests, meadows humming with fireflies, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches on the three Great Lakes that surround the quiet "North Country."
Peaceful nights are one of the best reasons to go to the UP, and when you see photos captured by Shawn Stockman-Malone, it's clear why.
Photo of the Au Sable Lighthouse at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Milky Way by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Stockman-Malone runs photography gallery LakeSuperiorPhoto in Marquette, Michigan, a bustling college and former mining town on the Lake Superior coast. From there, she makes short trips all over the peninsula, capturing nighttime (and daytime) scenes in spots like the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Whitefish Point and Brockway Mountain Drive. She captures views -- including clear skies, falling stars, impressive storms and the swirling colors of the aurora borealis -- that sometimes look too beautiful to be real.
Photo of a lightning storm on Lake Superior by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
But they are. When Stockman-Malone shoots the Northern Lights, she uses long exposures to capture an image that isn't too dark, and the "accumulation of light makes the scene brighter and more vivid than what your eye actually sees." But the intense colors the camera picks up are actually happening, and she said she keeps her post-shooting manipulation to a minimum.
While Stockman-Malone does monitor sun weather to try to catch views of the Northern Lights, much of her work is guided by chance -- and by being ready to photograph at any time. Once, her dog was scared and woke her up when lightning struck, and she caught a shot of the Northern Lights over the storm.
"You never know what Mother Nature has up her sleeve, and just hope you catch it," Stockman-Malone said about her night photography practice in an email to The Huffington Post. "The Milky Way moves across the sky and can be found rising and setting in different directions throughout the year, so there will always be new perspectives in new locations. Same thing goes for moonrises and moonsets. Then there's meteor showers, conjunction of planets, appearance of comets, etc. so there's always something new happening."
Photo of the aurora borealis off of M-28 in the Upper Peninsula by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
"Seeing the color of the water of Lake Superior crashing into the [breakwater] in Grand Marais, Michigan, during a gale in the mid-90s got me hooked on Lake Superior, the most beautiful color of aquamarine blue/green you can imagine," she said. "The beauty of this area is when my interest in photography became an obsession. ... I moved to the Upper Peninsula a year or two later, with no job lined up, to an area where good jobs are hard to find."
Photo of a sunset on Lake Superior by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Since then, Stockman-Malone turned her obsession into a business where she gets to explore, marvel at and photograph the beauty that she seeks out on a daily basis. She shares her work on her gallery's Facebook page, hoping to inspire others the way Lake Superior -- large and powerful like an ocean, clean and undeveloped like a small lake and changing constantly without warning -- has inspired her.
"Those that go out of their way to live near Lake Superior really appreciate daily the impact the big lake has on many aspects of their lives," she said.
Below, see more of Stockman-Malone's incredible nighttime photography at Lake Superior and elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula. If the spots that inspire her also inspire you to plan a trip, check out more reasons why the Upper Peninsula is worth a visit as well as a travel guide for seeing the aurora borealis in the UP.
Photo of the aurora borealis off M-28 by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the moonrise with the Mackinac Bridge between Michigan's peninsulas, where Lake Huron and Michigan meet, by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the aurora borealis at Little Presque Isle in Marquette by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the Marquette lighthouse by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the Milky Way and forest road by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the Whitefish Point lighthouse by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the Grand Island ice curtains by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of Upper Peninsula night sky by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of Eagle Harbor lighthouse and meteor shower by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of aurora borealis and the Miners Castle rock at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.
Photo of the Milky Way at Isle Royale by Shawn Stockman-Malone for LakeSuperiorPhoto.