Lake Superior North Shore Photo Tour Report

Peterson Photo Workshops photo of birch forest


A workshop participant photographs Gooseberry Falls

After a fun spring season of classroom and field workshops, one of the highlights of my summer was exploring my favorite stretch of Lake Superior’s North Shore in Minnesota, with a great group of workshop photographers in my North Shore Instructional Photo Tour. Our group met up in Beaver Bay, Minnesota, on a Thursday evening, and we photographed numerous locations through Sunday at noon. I’ve traveled and photographed extensively in this area over the past couple decades, and it was great fun to share some of my favorite and most photographically productive areas with the group.

Peterson Photo Workshop river in fog and rainEarly-summer on the North Shore can see some unpredictable weather, and we experienced a little bit of everything – from warm sun to pouring rain (and even a hailstorm just as heading out of town at the end of the event). Everyone in the group were real troopers, though, and simply donned their rain gear and camera water covers when it rained hard, and kept on shooting.

The group was a mix of Canon and Nikon shooters, with one of the Canon photographers also bringing along a Fuji  mirrorless. We only had one camera fail during the one day it actually rained hard, though that camera revived after drying out overnight. That was our only gear “situation” though I was nervously keeping an eye on the group at one of my favorite area waterfalls where we were hopping from rock to rock mid-river with tripods. Though I’ve had photographers drop cameras off of tripods during workshops (always, it seems, Nikon users – are we Nikon users clumsier than others?) but the gear has always kept right on shooting! And though we shot in more than a couple rivers and waterfalls, as well as along the rough rocky lakeshore on this tour, we kept my workshop record of “no gear losses” intact for another season.

Sunrise at Ellingson Island Split Rock State ParkPhotographically, I was really pleased with the tour. After a fun “Intro to the North Shore” evening shooting at Gooseberry Falls, we met in our lodge parking lot the first morning at 4:15am to shoot sunrise over Split Rock Lighthouse. Yes, you read the time correctly: sunrise on the north shore in mid-summer is at about 5:00am-ish, so the short drive and hike to our shooting location got us there in time to get some lovely silhouettes of the lighthouse in pre-dawn light, and to enjoy some fabulous sunrise photography. As the days progressed, we photographed a number of lakeshore areas ranging from sandy beach to rocky shoreline outcroppings, as well as waterfalls, a birch forest, colorful stone and wildflower closeups, and some classic lakeshore landscapes. We were “skunked” on one sunrise when it was raining (I think the group secretly welcomed the opportunity to sleep in that morning), but enjoyed another great sunrise at one of my favorite Tettegouche State Park sunrise locations, as well.

Our accommodations at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay were Avon Falls near Beaver Bay Minnesota by Mark S Petersonexcellent, and the lodge and its surrounding property helped inspire some of the participants and offered a great variety of instructional opportunities and meeting places. Post-sunrise shoot breakfasts at The Rustic Cafe were exactly the hit I anticipated they’d be, so we ended up there pretty frequently for breakfasts, lunches, and their amazing pie (yes, “breakfast and pie” is a thing).

Thanks to participants who have shared a few of their favorite images from the trip with me to post here on the blog. Check out these great photos:

More participant photos from the trip can be seen in my “Peterson Photo Workshop Participants” Flickr group, along with photos from other of my workshops and photo tours:

(And if you’re an “alum” of one of my workshops and a member of Flickr – and would like to share some of your photos in the group pool – feel free to join and do so!)

Thanks much to the great group of photographers who joined me in Minnesota for this photo tour – I had a great time with you, and I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did. I also hope you learned some things and came home with a portfolio of North Shore photos you’re proud of!

Finally, while my own time on my workshops is dedicated to helping my participants get the best shots possible, I shot a few photos of my own either when my participants were fully engaged shooting away, or when scouting locations a few days before the workshop. Here are some of these photos from this trip:

So the big question for 2017 is whether to return to this location or plan one or more instructional photo tours to other locations. Any thoughts?

2016 Spring Wildflowers & Landscape Photography Workshop Report

Chuck_King_2I’m pleased to finally be able to post a workshop report for my Spring Wildflowers & Landscape Photography Workshop. The sold-out class took place in early May, and was made up of a very solid group of photographers ranging from beginner to very experienced enthusiasts. It was a very fun group with which to work.

As always at my field workshops, we started early in the day at 6:30am in order to photograph during the peak morning light. And we were not disappointed! Meeting once again at Berry Woods south of Des Moines, Iowa (Berry Woods was The Nature Conservancy’s first official parcel of land in Iowa, and today remains pristine forest). It’s a somewhat hard to find location, but once located it treats the visiting photographer to fantastic natural history subjects, and is a lovely outdoor photography classroom.

Typical for springtime in Iowa, we experienced periods of sun and a few showers throughout the day. It rained hard for a short while (perhaps an hour) around noon – the only time we had to take shelter in our cars during the entire day. The rest of the day was cool and beautiful, though we did break out the camera rain covers a couple of times during sprinkles. But the showers led to great saturated colors and plenty of macro opportunities for dripping leaves, water droplet photography, and wildflower petals capturing moisture.

Participants were treated to several varieties of wildflowers including Sweet William, several phlox and anemone varieties, wild geraniums and wild roses, and a group favorite HUGE (and I mean REALLY HUGE) Jack in the Pulpits. We didn’t encounter tree frogs at this location as we have a time or two in the past, but the wildflower photography in the morning was excellent.

After lunch we switched into landscape mode and the group elected to remain at Berry Woods to photograph natural history landscapes. Working through several concepts and practicing landscape photography techniques, we enjoyed a great afternoon and I was impressed with the back-of-camera previews I was seeing.

Below are a few sample images submitted by workshop participants Chuck King and David Miller. Thanks Chuck and David for sharing, and congrats on some fine images!

A few more images have been shared over at my Peterson Photo Workshops group page on Flickr. You can find it here.

And in case you are tempted to ask, no I don’t have photos that *I* took at this event – at my one-day field workshops, I spend 100% of my time helping participants create images, and do not take my own photos.

I enjoyed working with this fine group of photographers. While I have several other workshops coming up in 2016 (full schedule here), my next nature photography workshop is my Midwest Autumn Color workshop on October 15. I’m already looking forward to it!

2016 Winter Landscape Workshop Follow-up

It’s been a crazy couple of months here at MSPP, and while the world  is thinking “spring” I feel like I’m still trying to wrap up winter! Is it March yet? (I know, I know, we’re halfway through April).

Regardless, I’ve wanted to share some info and some of the awesome photos created by participants in my February “The Midwest Winter Landscape” workshop. We had a fabulous winter season from mid-January through mid-February and I was thrilled that just a couple days prior to this workshop, the ground was covered with 8-10″ of snow and rivers and streams were frozen – with a few open areas, perfect for water feature photography. Scouting locations at Ledges State Park, the location for this workshop, 48 hours before the workshop, I was thrilled with the conditions. In fact, while scouting spots where I wanted to cover specific teaching material, the scene looked like the below gallery (note, these are just handheld snaps made with my favorite little fixed-lens mirrorless camera, largely to create references for location and possible compositional recommendations):

And then, the unthinkable happened: a mid-February HEAT WAVE! 24 hours after shooting the above photos, it was 50+ degrees fahrenheit, and the forecast was for the temps to remain that warm through the weekend! Ugh! For once in their life I had 10 participants praying for cold and snow, but instead we got two days of May in February.

The lovely snow pictured above melted. Nearly all of it. By the next morning the little meandering stream pictured above, which was crossable in places by walking across 8″ or so of ice cover, had become raging river of snow-melt. It was completely uncrossable on foot – too deep and moving too swiftly. Really, raging.

This led to a somewhat last-minute re-plan of the workshop itinerary. We did have a fantastic sunrise, and found some excellent ice crystals and frosty landscapes early in the morning. And I knew of one area within the Ledges that is shaded all day – there is never direct sun in the winter months. I suspected that there would still be a (small) snow field here, and perhaps some frozen stream water segments. But it required a bit of a hike over a muddy, somewhat slippery (due to overnight-refrozen melt from the day prior) ridge. Luckily, my awesome participants were game for the hike, and I had my fingers crossed that I was right on the snow field call. Turned out, I was! We descended the ridge trail and found a lovely section of snowy woodland. Though there was only a very small amount of ice remaining in the nearby stream. But plenty of subjects to photograph, nonetheless.

After a lunch-hour trip into town for some warm food and a bit of classroom-style discussion (it was so warm out we could have just picnicked!), we returned to the field to photograph at some scenic overlooks, and found some more snow in another section of the forest.

Two participants in the workshop shared some of their images with me directly, and generously have allowed me to include them in the gallery below. So please enjoy the below gallery of photos created by participants Chuck King of Des Moines, IA, and Frances Kuelz of Minnetonka, MN:

Thanks for allowing me to share these, Chuck and Frances!

Additionally, some other participants have shared some images in my Peterson Photo Workshops Participants flickr group. You can find these here.

Thanks to all the participants for a very fun day – we cursed the warm temps in the morning, but had fun, hopefully learned some solid landscape photography techniques, and created some great landscape and nature photographs. Congrats on the excellent work!

I’m looking forward to my next nature photography field workshop, Spring Wildflowers and Landscapes, where we’ll study professional macro and close-up field techniques while photographing Midwest varieties of woodland wildflowers, and explore the Iowa forest landscape in spring. I do still have just a couple spots left in that workshop, coming up May 7.

Blog revived!

As anyone can see from viewing my posting history here on this blog, I’m an infrequent blogger. I admit it. I really very much enjoy the process of blogging my many projects and travels, but I generally find myself to be juggling one or two too many projects at any given time. And though I nearly daily think of blog posts related to photos I’m creating or projects I’m shooting, when it gets to the end of the day there’s simply not much leftover time. So weeks or sometimes a couple months go by between posts.

In mid-2015, I somehow broke the database on my blog host’s server, and this blog was inaccessible for a stretch of months. Though I attempted to fix the issue myself (my inner nerd takes a pretty DIY approach to my website creation, maintenance, and resolution of tech issues), I could not find a fix. For months! Finally, a search of my web host’s tech-help website for relevant search phrases resulted in 393 hits for articles related to the issue. 393!!??  No way I could surf all of thoes to discern which was my issue.

So last week I gave up and phoned tech help, and after my many weeks of seeking a solution, the tech on the other end of the phone line took all of about 25 seconds to correct the issue. I literally barely finished describing the issue, and he responded, “there, I got it for you.” Wow. OK. Thank you!

So I’m excited to have the blog back in operation, and one of my 2016 goals is to post more frequently.

I’m also in the process of updating my primary website,, and consolidating several of my web assets (including this blog) that are scattered across 7-8 domains into a smaller number of sites. It will be very visually clear when I’ve done this (i.e., these changes involve an all-new format and drastically updated portfolios!). But I’ll promote it when that’s been accomplished, as well, rather than waiting for you to just stumble by again. That’s right, what I mean is, I’ll blog about it.

So please stop back again soon. I have some fun stuff in the works, including some past projects that were never shared that I think a lot of visitors to my sites will enjoy. I’m looking forward to sharing it.

Hope to see you soon – thanks for stopping by!

“Natural Exposure” event appearance added to calendar ~ June 6


bannerI’ve been invited to teach a couple of landscape photography sessions at Story County (Iowa) Conservation’s second-annual “Natural Exposure” event coming up June 6 at McFarland County Park in Ames, Iowa. McFarland Park is a beautiful, large county park that I frequent regularly for excellent Midwest nature photography subjects.

The event is an all-day nature photography educational day. I taught a couple of classes at this event last year and it was a lot of fun! This time around, the Story Conservation team has added several additional sessions (with some great instructors who are friends and colleagues of mine – it’s going to be a great group of class facilitators) as well as online registration. This should be a very fun day and educational day!

My classes will both be brief one-hour landscape photography sessions:

First, I’ll host an outdoor hands-on field session that will cover the basics of successful landscape photography. Equipment, technique, and artistry of creating great landscape photographs.

After lunch, I’ll host a one-hour presentation in the McFarland Park Conservation Center amphitheater on panoramic photography. I’ll cover techniques for creating panoramics in-camera, as well as for creating stitched pano’s using multiple images and software.

Info, the complete schedule for the day, and online registration can be on the Story Conservation website, here. Advanced registration is required, and includes lunch. This will be a very fun event that Iowa nature photographers won’t want to miss. See you there!

Winter Workshop Follow-up


We ended up with a beautiful, sunny day for my annual Midwest Winter Landscape workshop this month, and now that participants have had a chance to edit and post some photos created during the event, I’m thrilled to post this blog follow-up.

The day started pre-dawn near the entrance to the Iowa Arboretum. The forecast was for a clear, warm day, and there are some lovely century-old burr oak and sapling locust trees on the edge of a prairie on the Arboretum’s native area, that have captured my attention for a sunrise shot for some time. After shooting the sunrise, we captured textures in the prairie’s freshly fallen snow; the beautiful soft directional morning light really emphasized the swirls, ridges, and crystals of the beautiful fresh prairie snow.

_MSP8055 We moved on to photograph some compositions using specific tree specimens in the Arboretum itself, and then drove to a nearby Des Moines River Canoe Access area that is actually on the southern-most tip of Ledges State Park. Here, we used the leading lines of some snow drifts to emphasize dramatic features along the riverfront, worked with some intriguing fallen trees, and captured reflections and textures in open water areas of the river.

After a couple hours of classroom and Q&A time in a nearby town, we returned to a prairie area in another area of Ledges State Park and photographed tree patterns, grasses and snow, and some fabulous landscapes involving the S-curves of the river and reflections of the far-shore landscape in semi-melted open areas.

_MSP8056The photographers that came together for the event made a really fun group, and I had a great time working with them. It included some very hard-working landscape photographers, who continued to shoot right up until sunset. I’ve been really impressed with the images shared with me by the participants so far, and I know more work from the workshop will be appearing as they have more time to edit.

As of today, the most recent 45-50 or so images posted to my Peterson Photo Workshops Participant Flickr Group archive illustrate some of the fine work by this group. Please check it out and enjoy their work! And to the photographers in the workshop – I hope you had a fun day, learned some new skills, and created some work you’re excited about!

First Workshop of 2015: The Midwest Winter Landscape



I’m really looking forward to kicking off the workshop season with what turned out to be one of my favorite workshops last year: The Midwest Winter Landscape. It’s coming up soon, on February 7!

I’ve selected some outstanding locations for Midwest winter photography for this session, all of which are within a 45 minute drive of Des Moines, Iowa. Where we start and how we structure the day will depend on the local snow conditions at the time: some locations are better for morning photography, some better for afternoon, some only interesting with lots of snow, some best with little snow. Participants will be informed exactly where to meet a few days prior to the workshop.

20140215-photo 2Last year’s event was really exciting, and featured a subtle pastel sunrise, a mid-morning blizzard that led to some great images, and a warm-and-sunny afternoon with lovely golden light. Here’s a link back to my blog post from that event, featuring a gallery that includes some excellent photos created by workshop participants Penny Adam and Tanmay Roy.

The workshop will start early at 6:30am on Saturday, Feb 7. The early meeting time allows us just enough time to acquaint the group and get set up to photograph the sunrise. We’ll plan to end by 4:00pm or so.

Full details of the workshop are available here. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions!

2015 Workshop Series Announced!


All-new workshops, studio seminars, and instructional photo tours!

Updated Workshops
Happy New Year! I’m happy to announce my new 2015 workshop offerings. Full details can be found over on my workshop website, Peterson Photo Workshops. For this upcoming yera, I have dramatically updated the format and content of each workshop.

I’m frequently humbled when photographers register for what is their 7th, 8th, or 9th workshop with me, and I thank each of you who have joined me for even half-a-day one time! This year’s workshops should be better than ever!

One-day Studio Seminars
I’m also bringing back two studio photography workshops that I haven’t offered in a few years: a full-day Portrait Lighting workshop, and a full-day Tabletop Studio workshop. These are both skill-sets I use weekly in my magazine, corporate, and portrait photography, and both promise to be exciting hands-on learning and portfolio-building events.

Instructional Photo Tours
Finally, I have made a significant schedule addition this year: I’ll be offering two Instructional Photo Tours to extremely photogenic locations in the Central US! I have extensive knowledge and experience at both of these locations and will get participants to spots for outstanding photography. These will be Thursday-through-Sunday events, and while I’m not quite ready to announce the dates and locations, info will be available soon. If you’re potentially interested, please keep an eye here as well as on my social media and of course on the workshop website.

Based on conversations I’ve had with field workshop alumni who have asked for such trips, I expect these photo tours to attract groups of interesting, highly talented photographers. I am also very confident that these trips will result in a very strong portfolio of nature, landscape, and cultural photographs for the participants.

Overall, I’m anticipating a very fun year of photography education, and I invite you to be part of it. The list of workshop offerings is below with links to individual workshop info. I hope to see you soon!


Saturday, February 7 ~ The Midwest Winter Landscape – Des Moines area, IA. All-day. $119

Saturday, February 28 ~ Intro to Digital SLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, March 7 ~ Advanced DSLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, April 18 ~ Introduction to Lightroom – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, April 25 ~ Advanced Lightroom – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, May 2 ~ Spring Wildflowers and Landscapes – Central IA. All-day. $119.

Sunday, June 28 ~ The Midwest Summer Prairie – Rural Marshall County, IA. All-day. $119.

Saturday, August 29 ~ Studio and Location Portrait Lighting – Des Moines, IA. All-day. $189.

Saturday, September 12 ~ Tabletop Studio Photography – Des Moines, IA. All-day. $189.

Saturday, September 19 ~ 9th Annual Living History Farms Photography Day – Living History Farms, Urbandale, IA (see LHF website). While this is not my workshop, I look forward to offering instructional sessions at this always-fun annual event – one of the largest outdoor educational photography events in the world!

Saturday, October 17 ~ Midwest Autumn Color – Ledges State Park near Boone, IA. All-day. $119.

Saturday, November 7 ~ Intro to Digital SLR Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, November 14 ~ Advanced DSLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

2014 Autumn Color Workshop


© 2014 Diane Lowry
© 2014 Diane Lowry

Just a few weeks ago, my 2014 field workshop series came to a fabulous finale. An outstanding group of photographers joined me at Iowa’s gorgeous Ledges State Park for my annual Autumn Color Photography workshop. I’ve been holding this workshop here for several years, and have found both the location to be tremendously popular with the participants and the Iowa DNR organization excellent to work with.

While some years in the past have brought rain, frigid temps, or in one year even really high temps, this year it was a lovely day. The morning was cool and damp (for just a few minutes around sunrise, some donned their camera rain covers, but many didn’t even bother), it was overcast much of the day (perfect for autumn macro and “nature portraits”), then cleared off and became a little breezy in the afternoon (not ideal but we were having too much fun by then to even notice).

© 2014 Sarah Becker
© 2014 Sarah Becker

The group ranged from novices who were just starting out, to a semi-pro or two, as is often the case with my workshops. It’s always fun to have a range of experience in the group, as we work together throughout the day and learn from each other. For the first time, I conducted my demos not with an SLR as in years past, but with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 mirrorless camera. Also for the first time, there was another mirrorless camera user in the group. Not that the DSLR vs. mirrorless issue means much – or anything at all – for the photographic content of the workshop. I’m just always interested in cameras and it’s interesting to see the mirrorless cameras taking hold in the US. (For that matter, for those of you who may like to keep track, the workshop was dominated with Canon shooters, with only two or three Nikon users in the mix; usually it’s fairly balanced between those two brands, but not this time. And unlike most of my field workshops, there were no Sony or Pentax users present; generally we see a couple of these). Regardless, we had no major malfunctions and no one knocked over their tripod in the stream, so equipment-wise it was also a fantastic day.

Several of the participants forwarded images from the day for me to share here. Please take a few minutes and view the photos. The group created an excellent body of work that day, and we had a fun time doing so. I hope the participants learned some things along the way, as well.

BUT! If you’d like to see more, please also check out my Peterson Photo Workshops flickr group, where quite a number of additional participants have posted work from the day. And wow, there are also some outstanding images shared there as well!

To all the participants in this workshop, thanks for participating and for sharing your photos! I look forward to working with you again sometime next year!

Group portrait fun, revisited

So as usual, it’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog. What a frantically busy season! While I logged in today to post on another subject, I immediately noticed my last post below, in which I posted some photos of my oldest daughter’s high-school homecoming group of friends from last autumn. This reminded me that I had just recently photographed my next-oldest daughter in a similar situation, with two of her “besties” prior to this fall’s homecoming dance. It’s her sophomore year of high-school, and she and a big group of friends gathered for dinner and to attend the Homecoming Dance as a large entourage.

So here she is with a couple of her closest buddies. We had a great time taking these photos, as I think you might be able to see when you view the gallery. I tend not to post many client galleries, but I am happy to post these (I’m the client I guess?) – I hope you like them.

And for the photographers reading, my gear has changed a bit since the last similar session I photographed a year ago. This time around, all of the photos were created in natural light, with a Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera and Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4R lens. All at f/1.4, auto-ISO, in the Fuji RAF raw format, and processed in Lightroom 5.