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Photographer Donald Miralle’s work really clicks

Posted on Dec. 12, 2016

Ask novice photographers to name a favorite portfolio shot and they’ll likely offer several from the past. Most of us who’ve tried to capture that “perfect image” know how elusive it can be and feel a natural pride for those moments of success. Ask the same question to Leucadia-based professional photographer Donald Miralle, and the answer is very different: “Probably the last picture I took.” He explains, “My mentor early on said, ‘You’re only as good as your last photo,’ and it’s true. For any artist, whether it’s music or visual art, you have to keep on pushing yourself and the medium, and that’s what I try to do.”

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Miralle captured this stunning photo of the moon at dawn from his Leucadia balcony

That “last photo,” which Miralle shot as the official photographer at October’s Ironman competition in Hawaii, created a sensation. The photo captured competitors as they launched into the swimming event, but it was photobombed by an unwitting sea turtle. The resulting image was reposted by Instagram to a mind-boggling 194 million people. He humbly says, “It kind of went a little viral.”

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“I knew right after the shutter went off I had captured a special moment”

Fit and athletic-looking, with the telltale tan of a regular surfer (he’s in the water nearly every day), it’s not a surprise that Miralle has created a reputation largely for sports photography. He’s the official photographer for baseball’s Washington Nationals and the Washington Capitals hockey team, and he’s shot the last nine Olympic games. With a special talent for underwater photography, Miralle says he’s shot every one of Michael Phelps’ gold medal swims.

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“One of the highlights of my photographic career has been being able to cover the swimming career of Michael Phelps from start to finish”

The founder of the local, membership-based artistic community Leucadia Photoworks, Miralle is a self-proclaimed “purist.” Although he prefers digital photography to film for its cost- and time-saving benefits and superior quality, he admits digital is not without a downside. The trend toward “hyper-real” photography in the mid-2000s, where digital images are extremely altered in post-production, “changed photography a little bit because you’d always look at a picture and second guess — ‘is that real or fake?’ As a photographer who comes from a more classic film foundation, that’s not what you want to hear.” (Even his spontaneous Ironman turtle photo received accusations of digital manipulation.)

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2012 Olympic beach volleyball in front of the Horse Guards Parade Building in London

Over the past 20 years, Miralle has visited every continent except Antarctica, shooting editorial, wire service, sports, and commercial photography. But there’s one thing that he’d still like to add to his body of work. “I think every photographer wants to shoot the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” he laughs, “but personally, I don’t feel like I need to climb a Mt. Everest of photography. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done, and I’m always trying to look for something new within myself to do.” donaldmiralle.com   Deanna Murphy

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Donald Miralle

Photo of Donald Miralle by Scattisportivi Photography     All other Photography by Donald Miralle




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