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North Shore photographer captures natural wonders in his backyard

After a December storm hit the North Shore, spray from waves in the Grand Marais harbor coated the rope railings that run along the Grand Marais Lakewalk. Sundberg captured the scene at sunset. Paul Sundberg photo1 / 9
123117.O.DNT.SundbergC09 --- Paul Sundberg of Grand Marais. Paul Sundberg photo2 / 9
During a December storm, Sundberg took this photo of a Lake Superior wave engulfing the Grand Marais lighthouse. Paul Sundberg photo3 / 9
Paul Sundberg photographed these male wood ducks in spring plumage at a pond in Superior National Forest. Paul Sundberg photo4 / 9
Paul Sundberg made this photo of red fox kits at a den just north of Grand Marais, Minn. He had to wait two hours before the kits appeared outside the den. Paul Sundberg photo5 / 9
An adult saw-whet owl peers out from a hole in a tree that had been previously used as a flicker's nest, Paul Sundberg said. The opening was just 3 inches wide. The adult female had four chicks inside, which Sundberg and his granddaughter later watched fledge. Paul Sundberg photo6 / 9
Paul Sundberg made this photo from Mount Sophie on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. He climbed halfway up a fire tower to make the image. Paul Sundberg photo7 / 9
Paul Sundberg had spent six days photographing a pair of loons feeding their newly-hatched chicks just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness when he saw this loon surface with a tiny panfish. The adult must have realized the panfish was too big for a chick because it released the panfish, Sundberg said. Paul Sundberg photo8 / 9
A couple stands on the deck at the Split Rock Lighthouse to watch the "supermoon" rise in early December. He was set up to shoot the moon rising over the lighthouse when the couple walked out onto the deck. Paul Sundberg photo9 / 9

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. — Paul Sundberg knows what kind of photos his followers appreciate most. He shoots excellent photos of loons feeding their chicks, moonrises over Split Rock Lighthouse, ore boats lit up on summer nights and wolf pups at a rendezvous site.

But the Grand Marais photographer says it's another kind of photo that tops all the rest.

"My best sellers are the Lake Superior storms," said Sundberg, 68.

Remember the Oct. 27 storm with northeast winds that pounded the North Shore? Sundberg was out there that day, shooting from a vantage point overlooking Crystal Bay in Tettegouche State Park. He captured some stunning images of waves pounding the cliffs there. He put them up on his website,

"Normally, I have about 4,000 photo viewings a day," he said. "When that storm hit, I had 93,000 views the first day. The next day, I had 104,000. I think it's just the power of Lake Superior — that an inland lake can produce those kinds of waves."

Understand, Sundberg is happy to sell photos through his website, but he also shares them for free each week through his "Photo of the Week" email. (You can sign up at his website to receive it.)

Sundberg grew up on a farm near McGregor, Minn., went into the Army and settled on the North Shore. He was park manager at Gooseberry Falls State Park for 28 years of his 40-year career with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Sundberg began taking photos as soon as he made his home on the North Shore. He keeps regular appointments with wildlife at places he knows about — or that friends share with him: foxes, loons, owls, pine marten, wood ducks, pileated woodpeckers, moose and others.

He is keenly attuned to the natural world and knows when he's likely to find hoarfrost, ice-encrusted trees, big waves, rivers running high, full moons rising and more. He gets up early or stays late, whatever the situation demands.

"A lot of the joy is just spending time outdoors," he said. "You really, really have to slow down and pay attention."

He's waited three or four hours for fox kits to emerge from a den. He's made loons so comfortable with his presence they fish right beneath his kayak. He spends hours in a floating blind each spring near wood ducks that never know he's there. He knows how to call in a moose during mating season.

While his photography requires patience, it's rarely dangerous. But he remembers a day on the North Shore when he was photographing ice-coated spruce trees. The ground was ice-coated, too, so he wore spikes to ensure good footing. That wasn't the problem.

He made several photos of a heavily encrusted spruce, then took his camera and tripod and moved a few steps away.

"The top half of the tree broke off, and about 1,000 pounds of ice came down and hit right where I'd been standing," Sundberg said. "If I'd have been under it, there's no way I'd have survived. That's the most scared I've ever been."


To see more of Paul Sundberg's photography, go to