Nick Stenstrup – Harbor Photographer

IN FOCUS: Nick Stenstrup

The following article was first published by the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in the North Star Port Magazine.

This is the fifth in a series of profiles about the gifted photographers whose images bring the Port’s working waterfront to life. 

Nick Stenstrup is 18 years old, but he has several years of photography under his belt already. Currently enrolled at the College of Saint Scholastica, Stenstrup is studying communications and English. He hopes to combine his education and love of photography in a career that involves Great Lakes vessels. Submitting photos to North Star Port magazine is a good start.

How did you get into photography, specifically the shipping scene?

When I was 12 years old, I saw the Mesabi Miner arrive at Two Harbors in the evening. My family was having a picnic on the shore. The size of that boat amazed me, and I was hooked.

What draws you to the Great Lakes and the working waterfront?

I love the history behind the ships. Not only do I get to see an interesting boat, I can document it, as well. Duluth’s maritime history goes back a long time, and it is amazing that many of the elevators and docks are still here. 

Do you have a personal connection with Lake Superior and the Port of Duluth-Superior?

Absolutely. We have no relatives that sailed on lakes, but Duluth is like a second home to my family. We would come to Duluth for vacations to see the Lake whenever we could. Dad and I would camp at Jay Cooke or Gooseberry for a night or two, then enjoy the North Shore. 

How would you describe your approach to photography?

I take pride in getting a good shot. I don’t want to go down to Canal Park, see a boat and not put in the effort to get a good shot. I recently acquired my first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, so I’m trying all the different features and settings. I take it seriously. 

Is there a time of day or season when you get your best shots? Why?

Sunrise is my favorite time of day. Not only is it beautiful to see the sun come up over Lake Superior, but, many times, I’m the only one out there. It’s a surreal feeling being the only one around to watch an amazing event. 

 Are most of your shots planned or spontaneous?

 It depends on the weather or lighting. If there is a storm and a boat is arriving, I am at Enger Tower trying to get the clouds and a strike of lightning in the background. If it is a sunny day, I am on the South Pier shooting a boat because the lighting is best there. However, if I am driving somewhere, and I see a boat, I capture my surrounding and 

as much of the ship as I can for a spontaneous shot.

What makes a great shipping or harbor shot? Do you know immediately when you get one?

 It’s tough to define a great shipping or harbor shot because each photographer has a different eye. Shots that appeal to me include more than just a ship, like having a lighthouse or the hill in the background. When I smile after taking a series of pictures, I know I got a good shot.

Visit Nick on his Facebook Page