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Photograph Stoney Point Beach on Lake Superior

Duluth, Minnesota


Added by Spike Gralewski

The Draw. Picturesque Beach on Lake Superior. Rock shelf with cracks and crevasses. Perfect location to shoot sunrise. Surfing location when winds are high. One of the few locations near Duluth, MN you can perform a giant stride entry off natural formations while SCUBA diving.

The Adventure

The work is done. According to The Photographer’s Ephemeris (app.photoephemeris.com) the sun will rise at 7:11 AM. You grab your gear, a hot beverage, and set out for the open road. Scenic 61 follows the shore of Lake Superior all the way from Duluth to Two Harbors, MN. The drive up offers multiple stunning views of the world’s largest freshwater lake. As you drive you notice that nautical twilight is turning to civil and the sky is starting to lighten. Good thing you’re almost there.

You pull off to the side of the road and park. As you exit, the only thing you can hear is sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. One last run through: camera, check; battery, check; tripod, check; filters, check.

It’s dark, but not so dark that you need your headlamp. By now your eyes have adjusted to the low levels of light being produced on the horizon. You look up. It’s overcast. Almost too overcast. But you’re here and this is why you came. The rock shelf where you plan to get your shot is just 100 feet from where you left the car. As you scramble over large rocks and deep cracks you notice that the waves have gotten most of the shelf pretty wet. All you can think is, “Don’t slip,” and the search begins.

It’s time to craft your image. A sunrise is one of life’s most picturesque moments, but a sunrise all alone is well… a sunrise. You want your composition to pull your viewer into the image. You want them to feel like they were sitting there with you as you pressed the shutter. To accomplish this you look for interesting foreground elements; a rock that looks slightly out of place, or cracks that lead the viewer’s eye through the image. And that’s when you see it.

Years of waves crashing and ice digging has created a beautiful texture in the rock shelf in front of you. The shelf is split, multiple times, leading your eye down to the lake. The waves are low but persistent. You compose, and fire a test shot. It’s good, but it can be better. The water is distracting; it’s too, sharp. It competes with the other elements in the photo. Using a neutral density filter, the light hitting the sensor can be reduced, effectively increasing the time the shutter needs to be open. This will make the water have a softer, dreamy consistency so that it won't overpower the sun or the cracks in the rocks. You fire one more test shot, and you’re ready. Now, it’s time to wait.

This isn’t your first rodeo, so you know that, when the conditions are right, the light feels absolutely magical about 5-15 minutes before the sun even rises. It’s that time when the sun is still below the horizon from where you sit, but due to the curvature of the earth, it paints the clouds within view. That’s what you’re looking for. And then it begins. 7:04 AM. Right on time. You notice the clouds start to look pink, but you know this is just the beginning. As you sit there, watching this event unfold, it's hard not to be grateful. The pinks are getting brighter; stretching like arms to grab as much of the sky as possible. They’re bright enough to cast their color onto the water and the rocks in front of you. At 7:07 AM the pinks are vibrant and have reached far from where they've started. You can feel it. The time is now. click


  • Parking Coordinates: 46.927243, -91.814361
  • There are a few large crevasses in the rock ledges. Be careful when scrambling around on top of them looking for your composition.
  • During the winter months, the waves and freezing temperatures cause a thick layer of ice to form over the rocks. Extra traction is highly recommended.
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