Michael O'Hara Photography

 About Me

Mangrove Sunrise.jpg

 Michael is a photographer, storyteller, and outdoorsman based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Growing up in Vermont, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota, majoring in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, and taking each and every opportunity to travel has catalyzed his love for nature, culture, and people, all of which Michael seeks to document and share through his photography.

Michael began his photo career in high school while working as staff photographer for the Lincoln Statesman, the student newspaper at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When he entered his first year at Middlebury College, he came onto the staff of the Middlebury Campus newspaper as Photos Editor, a position he held until his graduation in May of 2017. 

Inspired by stewardship to his peers and classmates at Middlebury College and driven by a persistent environmental stewardship, Michael studied emergency medicine and wilderness emergency medicine to become a Wilderness EMT. This has opened up opportunities as a photographer and guide in the outdoors, aiding in his work as a backpacking guide for the Middlebury College Mountain Club and as a freelance travel photographer alike. 

Photojournalism, an environmental ethic, and the support of his friends and family have been the driving forces behind his photography, and have encouraged a variety of photographic inspirations for his own practice. This naturally led to his pursuit of travel and portrait photography while also providing opportunities to hone his expertise in a variety of other photographic endeavors – sports, dance and theatrical performance, fine art, and more.

Since his graduation, he has worked on storytelling projects in Alaska, Ghana, Guatemala, Belize, Canada, and across the United States. He continues to fight for the environment and advocate for justice for those who are affected negatively by the changing environment that is largely a result of the colonialism and globalism that has been forced upon indigenous and underrepresented populations across the globe.

a1.Camel's Hump (B&W) (1 of 1).jpg

About the Mangrove


 A mangrove seed can drift, following ocean currents for years until it finds hold on a sand bar or coral reef. It drops a root, and when it holds firm, it begins to grow, upwards and outwards, sending prop roots down, to the sides, and up again, propagating the root system and building an incredibly resistant and resilient structure. 

Not only can they survive in highly saline and even anaerobic environments, but they stabilize entire island ecosystems, allowing them to withstand hurricanes, protecting those delicate reef islands and seashores from gale force winds and constant waves. The latticework of roots and branches absorbs the impact of storms so the island doesn't have to. 

If the mangrove is cut down, the island disappears, washed away with the current. But some people still clear cut mangrove islands to create resorts and sandy beaches, replacing the mangroves with sea walls, planting coconut palms for shade and aesthetic. 

The palms look (and smell) prettier than the mangroves, and the sea wall protects most of the sand of the island, but by deflecting impacts instead of absorbing. So the energy is not lost, it is merely pushed away in another direction so that it might cause damage elsewhere. 

Moral of the story? Don't build walls. 

Absorb. Adapt. Keep Growing.