The Grand Marais Photographer Newsletter April 2012

 In Newsletter, North Shore, Picture

What a month March was in the northland. It got hot, the snow melted, it got cold, it snowed. The waterfalls are running, kayakers are kayaking and skiers are still skiing. It was an unusual March in Grand Marais. Usually, during March we photograph frozen shorelines and the breaking up ice pack, but this month the lake was clear of ice and many inland lakes experienced an early ice out. As a photographer, I like to get into a mindset and try to stick with it for awhile. March is usually one of the months that I spend lots of time on the shore, but with the waterfalls running a month early, I had to kick my mind in gear to start shooting waterfalls. I’ve been running myself ragged trying to shoot everything, but, hey, it just makes life that much more interesting, doesn’t it?


sunrise near grand marais, cook countyWhat Settings Did You Use?

I get asked “What settings did you use?” pretty often, and I don’t mind letting the cat out of the bag, but telling someone the settings for a particular picture doesn’t do that much good without a background in the fundamentals of photography. If you know just a little, you should be able to guess the settings. Here’s the secret to guessing what settings I used on a photo:

Quick-and-Dirty Rules for Aperture

Note that most of the time, but not always these q&d rules work.

Ask yourself this question: Is everything in focus from the foreground near where the photographer was standing to the background near the horizon?

  • If yes, then that photo has a deep depth of field (DOF), which means that it was shot with a f/stop of 11 or above.
  • If no, then that photo has a shallow DOF, which means that it was shot with a f/stop of 5.6 or below.
  • If maybe, then that photo might have been shot with an f/stop of 5.6 to 8 or was focused somewhere that created fuzziness.

Quick-and-Dirty Rules for Shutter Speed

Ask yourself this question: Is the action stopped or blurred?

  • If stopped, then it was a fast shutter speed probably above 1/125th of a second.
  • If blurred, then it was a slow shutter speed probably under 1/15th of a second.
  • If it’s really blurred, such as with many of my Lake Superior pictures, then it was a super slow shutter speed probably around 30 seconds.


A sunset near grand maraisThe Answer Key

Aperture controls DOF, which is how much appears to be in focus in the picture. Apertures of f/11 and above make lots of the frame in focus. Apertures below f/5.6 often blur the background. For landscapes, you use f/11 and above most of the time, and for portraits you use f/5.6 and below to blur out the background and separate the subject from the background.

Shutter speed controls action. To stop it, you use a shutter speed above 1/125. To blur it, you use something below 1/15. Once you get out into 1.5 seconds or longer is when water starts to get that blurred silky look.

Shameless Self Promotion

We filled my waterfall workshop at Lutsen Resort, so I’ve started a waiting list. If I can get four people on the waiting list, I’ll run a second waterfall workshop on April 13 to April 15 in Grand Marais. Email me at for more information. That leaves only three more workshops that I’m teaching this year:

The June workshop started filling up months ago, so if you want to get on it, you’ll need to act quickly. The Fall Color Photography workshop also is starting to fill up. Right now, I haven’t partnered with a local hotel on it, but I’m working on a package, and I’ll announce it if it happens. People that signed up already will be able to get into the package if it happens. It’s pretty far out to think about Gales, but that one always fills up. I also teach one-on-one and small group workshops if you can’t make it to one of my main workshops.

A Shameless Dilemma

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page that I needed 35 people to buy a $100 print so that I could buy a new camera. One person who follows my photos on Facebook mentioned that I should try to get 100 people to buy a $35 print instead. I think that’s a really good idea. For those of you that are thinking, doesn’t this guy save for capital investments like a new camera system; I do, but here’s the issue: I got surprised. I have money set aside to buy a camera, but I wasn’t expecting Nikon to come out with a 36mp camera at the price they did ($3000). This new extremely high MP camera is going to require that I buy a new computer system just so I can process the images, and I’m going to need to buy one new lens because one of my lenses just won’t be up to par on this camera (computer + lens = $3000).

I need a new camera, because my primary camera is from 2005. That’s ancient history in the digital world. It makes great images, but when I see what the new cameras can do, I’m amazed. Plus, I feel like I’m running up against the limitations of this camera, especially during night shots.

The benefit to you is that if you follow my daily photos on Facebook, you’ll see them get better! Plus, I’d make a new ebook called A Photographer’s Guide to Minnesota’s North Shore. I’d even give away my favorite spots and some hidden gems that just don’t ever get photographed.

So, I’m considering starting a Kickstarter project to raise money. I’d have several reward levels, such as:

$10 – A copy of the ebook.

$35 – A 8×12 print signed by me.

$120 – A 16×20 print signed by me.

$200 – A one-on-one photography lesson

$500 – A full-day photography lesson for you and three of your friends.

etc… Probably a couple of other levels, too.

If I could get 100 people to back that project, I’d be able to afford the camera and new computer system. I’d love to hear your thought.

Pretty Pictures from March


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Showing 7 comments
  • Jon Bergeron

    I appreciate your facebook and website postings. I have a hard time expressing the art side of myself in writing but I seem to have an eye for photography. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about it and when you publish hints like the ones above I’m forever thankful. Your photography is amazing. To me you are the Ken Rockwell of the North. I would absolutely encourage and would personally support a kickstarter campaign for you new purchase. I work in k12 in technology and know the importance of keeping up with technology. Hopefully in the next year or two I can make it to one of your photography sessions. Until then please keep posting the awe that is Minnesota.

    Jon Bergeron

  • Jim Ericson


    Another great newsletter–thanks for the reminders about analyzing a photo to self-assess settings. The rules may be quick and dirty but they’re good reminders for people just starting out in photography. I’d like to take part in your kickstarter project–sign me up for a signed 8×12 print. Do I get to choose which one? I may have to order the ebook too–or am I limited to just ONE reward level? :-)

    Thanks for sharing your work!

    Jim E.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Jim! All reward levels $10 and above would include the ebook, so if you did the print you’d also get the ebook.

  • jjeske

    where was “Waterfall” taken?

    • Bryan

      I’m very open with locations, but due to some issues I can’t release the location of that waterfall. Sorry.

  • Jackie White

    I can’t wait to invest in your project! Seriously, a full day photography lesson?!!?? Woo hoo!

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