5 Keys to Beautiful North Shore Photography

By Odyssey Resorts

The North Shore is a place like no other, with massive seaside cliffs, abundant wildlife and dark starry nights. Naturally, it’s a sought-after destination for aspiring and expert photographers alike, seeking to experience and capture these moments. In January, Odyssey Resorts hosted four expert photographers: John Keefover, Vincent Ledvina, Martin Ramirez and Ryan Rumpca. The group got behind the camera lens to explore the best nearby spots and share perspective on what makes the North Shore unique. Here are their top five tips.

1. Use the technology you have.

New equipment and advanced camera technology are certainly nice, but they’re not always necessary. Today’s phones have better camera capabilities than ever, and sometimes that’s all you need to capture great photos on the North Shore. “It’s like the old saying, the best camera is the one you have on you,” says Keefover.

Plus, many newer phones have night modes that make it easy to shoot the sky when it’s dark —a rare opportunity for city residents when visiting the North Shore. “Now, everyone can take photos and alert each other as to what’s going on,” says Ledvina. Just a few years ago, only photographers were able to take images of the dark sky.

“Someone in our group started photography recently and shot for a year or two just on his phone,” adds Rumpca. “He ended up with great images.”

Night sky at the North Shore
Winter Northern Lights @keefography

2. Start with state parks.

Minnesota is home to countless state parks to discover and explore, and the North Shore has some of the most beautiful. From Tettegouche State Park to Pebble Beach, photographers who are new to the area or looking for vantage points can find plenty of accessible options between Duluth and Grand Marais, with Odyssey Resorts locations conveniently near them all. 

“For people who haven’t visited the North Shore or this might be their first time, the state parks are an amazing place to start,” says Rumpca. “We have some amazing state parks up here that are extremely accessible to someone who might not have been up the Shore.”

Martin Ramirez @martinjrmn

3. Take advantage of environmental conditions.

No matter what time of year you visit, you’re sure to find surreal beauty in many different forms. “The North Shore is probably the best place in Minnesota, in my opinion, because it’s photogenic through all seasons,” says Ramirez.

To make the most of your photographs, pay close attention to the natural landscapes, elements and phenomena that are visible or changing in unexpected ways. Even days with imperfect weather can create one-of-a-kind conditions for incredible imagery.

“Spring is the best for waterfall photography,” notes Keefover. “When you have the snow melting, the rivers are just raging. And when you have a 25-foot wave hitting the cliff, you can feel it shaking the earth below with 60 mile-per-hour winds. There are so many different types of photography you can do ­on the North Shore — milky way, northern lights, scenic overlooks, and more.”

4. Come for the wildlife.

The North Shore’s abundant natural landscape means there’s plenty of wildlife to observe, some of which can be hard to find elsewhere in Minnesota. If you’re interested in moose, fox, birds and other wildlife, you have a great chance of capturing these fauna here.

“Up in the North Shore area, there’s so many different species that aren’t found many places, and not in the volume that they are here,” explains Ramirez. “This includes moose — there’s not too many places in Minnesota that have them, or snowy owls in wintertime and great grey owls coming down from Canada. Observing wildlife is really about taking in the moment.”

Great Gray Owl
Great Gray Owl @keefography

5. Make Odyssey Resorts your home base. 

Plan the perfect photography getaway with lodging that’s located right in the middle of it all. Odyssey Resorts has six waterfront options to choose from along the North Shore, with guided experiences and amenities that make your trip complete. Let one of our guides show you the best spots in the area, then savor a good meal, warm up with a sauna and get a restful night of sleep.

Choosing a comfortable stay close to your North Shore photography destinations will give you a home base to recharge and store gear when you’re not venturing out to capture photos. “Odyssey Resorts is a good basecamp!” says Keefover. “I can hang out here for a day or two — or three.” 

At the end of the day, photographing the North Shore is about the unexpected moments and adventures, and getting to experience scenery you’ll only find right here. “Photos are secondary to the nature part of it,” says Ledvina. “We all love nature, we all love the North Shore. That’s what unites us all.”

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