Asia Lee is willing to sit in a pond of mud to bring you a thing of beauty.
That's what she did early on a May morning on Waterside Road, not far from Crab Meadow Beach in Northport, one of her favorite spots to catch what she describes as "the beauty all around us" on Long Island. It was sunrise, a time of day that figures prominently in Lee's serene and stunning landscape photographs, many of which are taken with an iPhone.
She had enjoyed the sunrise and was driving away when, she says, a beautiful golden reflection caught her eye. She turned around, got out of the car and stepped into the marsh. Right away it pulled her in, and mud rose up to her knees and spilled over into her rain boots. She got the shot -- the marsh bathed in a perfect glow, framed by a border of trees and grasses and reflecting off the water's surface as if held up to a mirror -- in no time, but then she needed to take a weight off. So she sat down -- in the marsh.
When she got back to the car the mud came with her. Where others would have headed for a place to clean up, Lee left and went down Asharoken Avenue to take more photographs.
"The sky was calling me," she said.
Nature has that effect on her. Whether capturing what appears to be a fist-size dandelion at Robert Moses State Park with the Olloclip 4-in-1's fisheye lens (which she says she was just testing out), a trio of birds preparing to feast at sunrise at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, or a double rainbow at Colonial Springs Golf Club in Farmingdale, Lee makes images meant to remind Long Islanders to slow down and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings.
"People should take time to not rush but to take a look," she said.
What they'll see is a stand of trees leading to a set of stairs that wind their way down a bluff to the beach below. It looks like a view captured in Hawaii or on a remote Pacific Island, but it's in Baiting Hollow, on Oakleigh Avenue.
Lee -- who has photographed Madonna, Michael Jackson and Joe Torre, among others -- has exhibited her photographs at local museums, and five of her images are on display in the corridor leading to the main offices and restrooms at the revamped Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station.
The beauty lies not just in Lee's photographs, which have also graced calendars and which she has been taking for more than 20 years, but in her fellow Long Islanders' access to the scenes she has captured. No plane ticket, passport or trip off Long Island is required, though an open, calm-seeking mind can seem to transport you elsewhere.
"It's really difficult to capture the spirit, the essence, the energy in a two-dimensional image," Lee said. "That's the chase -- to get the photos and capture them so that people can feel the magic."
CORRECTION: A photo of a flower taken in June at Robert Moses State Park was misidentified. It is seed head of the Goat's-Beard wildflower, not a dandelion.