While Minnesota is often thought of as “fly over” country, cornfields and prairie, the 150 mile stretch between the aerial lift bridge in Duluth and the High Falls of the Pigeon River on the Canadian border, is none of that. The North Shore is home to Minnesota’s most scenic and awe inspiring places. There you will find magnificent cascading streams, breathtaking waterfalls, one of the most picturesque lighthouses anywhere and spectacular views of the world’s largest fresh water lake.
Lake Superior can be wild or placid and photo opportunities abound year round. The full moon rises behind Split Rock Lighthouse on a bitter cold night in January and winter ice flows are blown ashore, producing piles of ice shards. November storms like the one that sank the Edmond Fitzgerald, create crashing surf that rivals that of the rocky Atlantic or Pacific coasts. The brilliant color of aspens and birches along the lake and sugar maples in the higher elevations match the beauty of any New England autumn. Stands of lupines and other wild flowers adorn the roadsides in spring and summer.
The North Shore is a land of ancient lava flows where streams have carved their way from highlands to the lake’s shore, creating boulder strewn gorges along the way. The exception is the Brule River which, just a mile from its mouth, splits and falls; half dropping towards Lake Superior and the other half plunging deep into the earth to a destination unknown.
Minnesota’s North Shore is truly a landscape photographer’s dream. Unfortunately, much of the land along the lake is privately owned and off limits to photographers. The good news is that the most scenic places are in state parks, state forests, waysides and pull offs that provide access to stunning sites where a photographer can spend hours upon hours making photographs.
This book will identify what I believe are the most scenic spots along the North Shore and, in most cases, I provide the GPS coordinates of the location. The book will describe the best time to photograph each place. I will also point out when a scene requires a telephoto lens. Otherwise, most photos can be captured using standard lenses with focal lengths between 24mm and 85mm. I’ve included a final chapter that identifies photo locations that are worth considering because they are very near the highway or they are particularly good at certain times of the year.
The book is intended for landscape photographers of all skill levels. Because there are so many waterfalls along the North Shore, I have included a chapter describing techniques for photographing them. The experienced photographer may find limited benefit from this information although I describe some newer techniques related to super fast shutter speeds. I hope that less experienced ones will find the entire section helpful.
Because the full moon rises behind Split Rock Lighthouse in January, the lighthouse makes a great nighttime photo and because the skies above the North Shore are dark and don’t suffer from serious light pollution, I have included a section on photographing at night.
The Split Rock Lighthouse beacon is illuminated once each year and on special occasions so I’ve included information about when it will be lit and how to capture it.
Most of the locations included in the book can be photographed after a short walk. The High Falls of the Baptism River involves a round trip hike of just over two miles as does the hike to the Devil’s Kettle on the Brule River. These hikes are generally regarded as moderately strenuous so I’ve added specific details about what they involve, including the elevation gains. For most photographers, these hikes will not be too demanding even when loaded down with all of their photo gear but photographers who are not in good physical condition should consider whether these hikes are right for them.
North Shore rivers can usually be photographed within a short distance from the parking areas but you can hike a considerable distance