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Unity: SD-Based Photographer Snaps Photo With Worldwide Impact in Push for Equality

"I saw the word “Unity” spelled out with surfboards on the beach and everyone gathered around it.  It was a pretty obvious shot, you’re like, this is going to look great from the air"

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North County San Diego resident Donald Miralle is an accomplished sport and adventure photographer.

“I’ve shot everyone from Usain Bolt to Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, pretty much any well-known sports figure in the last 25 years and I’ve shot them,” Miralle told NBC 7.

Super Bowls, The Masters, surfing at Mavericks, Ironman Triathlons, nine different Olympic Games, PGA Tour events, branded campaign shoots, Donald Miralle says his photography skills have taken him all around the world.

“I’ve been to every continent, except for Antarctica,” Miralle said.

But all those exotic location shoots, athletes and sporting events that Miralle was set to cover the rest of this year came to a sudden halt with the COVID-19 outbreak.  A sports and adventure photographer, who travels for a living, can’t really work if there are no sporting events and world-wide travel restrictions.

“Since COVID came, it has really affected my ability to travel and work," Miralle said. "My entire schedule for the year, which was booked out, just disappeared within a week.”

So, with no sporting events to travel to, Miralle decided to attend an event at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas on June 3. The event called “Paddle Out for Unity in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” honored the life of George Floyd and pushed for racial equality. The event was put on by local non-profits Textured Waves, Changing Tides Foundation and Kind Humans, and hosted by sports commentator and Encinitas resident Sal Masekela.

When Miralle arrived at Moonlight Beach, he “was blown away.” The paddle out had attracted an estimated 3,000 people.

“I haven’t seen that many people (at Moonlight) since Bro-Am.”

Now, here’s where the story takes a little twist.  Miralle, with paddleboard in tow, came to participate in the paddle out, he didn’t bring his best, highly technical camera gear but he did have his iPhone and a drone.

So, like most of us, Miralle just started taking pictures with his phone. Then something caught his eye.

“I saw the word “Unity” spelled out with surfboards on the beach and everyone gathered around it.  It was a pretty obvious shot, you’re like, this is going to look great from the air.”

Miralle fired up his drone and captured this photo.

Miralle got the shot of the surfboards spelling “Unity” from above and soon after posting the photo, it went viral.  Miralle estimates “millions of people” have seen the photo.

Miralle’s “Unity” photo was on personal social media feeds, surfing websites, picked up by adventure lifestyle companies -- it was seemingly everywhere.

“That photo just touched a lot of people with what’s going on in our country and a lot of people just connected with it.”

 Miralle also thinks one reason the photo is so impactful is because the North County San Diego surf community is mostly white, it’s not a group of people usually associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think everyone’s voice needs to be heard.  It’s just as important for white voices to be heard about their feelings on the subject as it for black voices because (white) voices hit different places. I think everyone will see that we are unified in our belief that this is wrong, we need change, and it’s time for change.  The picture just spells it out, we’re all in this together, we’re all going to be affected by good and bad, we’re all the same, regardless of color of your skin and how you look on the outside, we are the same species, we are all human beings and we are all in this together.”

Miralle is doing his part to help too! Prints of his “Unity” photo are for sale here. All sale proceeds during the month of June will be donated to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

With the viral success of the “Unity” photo, it turns out that, while Donald Miralle is the San Diego based photographer who makes a living traveling the world, he made a world of difference by staying home.

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