The Full Moon Shot behind the Grand Marais Lighthouse is in Jeopardy

 In Picture

In August, the full moon rises directly behind the Grand Marais lighthouse if you stand near the boat ramp in the campground and recreation park. It’s a popular shot to get and photographers come to Grand Marais specifically to get this shot. I’ve been in the location shooting the moon rising with up to 40+ other photographers, so it’s a very popular shot. Currently, the shot shown here is a hard get. Just off the scene to the right is the current breakwater that protects the boat ramp from waves (see the picture below). You can barely get the shot now and the shot is in jeopardy.

grand marais lighthouse and full moon

This is the classic August full moon shot. Arguably, the most beautiful full moon shot behind the Grand Marais harbor, because of the way the moon lines up with the breakwater. Want to get this shot? Hurry before it’s too late or write now!

Grand Marais is in the process of renovating the area and has released its plan and is looking for comments about the Proposed Parkside Public Access Project. The plans call for an extension of the current breakwater in a way that blocks this shot. This is the proposal for the new breakwater is shown in red below. This extension completely blocks the shot.

Proposed new breakwater.

Proposed new breakwater.

This is the lineup to get the shot. The pin is where you stand and the light blue line shows where the moon will rise. The lines shown come from The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a program that photographers use to know where the sun and moon will rise and set on any given day. In my experience it’s 100% accurate.

The light blue line shows the moon rise and the pin is where you stand. This information comes from The Photographer's Ephemeris.

The light blue line shows the moon rise and the pin is where you stand. This information comes from The Photographer’s Ephemeris.

The new breakwater is needed to protect the boat ramp from waves. The funding for this project is coming from the Minnesota DNR and they require that a maximum of 1/2-foot waves hit the boat ramp. The current breakwater doesn’t allow this. The problem is that if the breakwater is extended it will block the view. Before I show you how on the The Photographer’s Ephemeris overlay, I want you to see the current breakwater in a picture.

Breakwater shown in the current location. Standing a bit further inland than the location needed in August to get the moonrise.

Breakwater shown in the current location. Standing a bit further inland than the location needed in August to get the moonrise.

Now, I’m going to overlay a square onto the above shot to show how tight it is already to get the full moon shot.

Full moon shot overlayed onto the lighthouse.

Full moon shot overlayed onto the lighthouse.

Here is the The Photographer’s Ephemeris with the proposed breakwater overlayed.

The proposed breakwater extension blocks the shot.

The proposed breakwater extension blocks the shot.

As you can see, the breakwater extension at the boat ramp will adversely affect the potential of full moon rise photos taken from the shore. This will primarily affect the full moon rise in August (but also April’s and September’s) which is our biggest tourism month and the proposed extension will block the view from where photographers need to stand to get that shot. It will also affect the September full moon, which is also a popular month to get this shot.

I’m a big fan of figuring out how to accommodate multiple user groups in public projects such as this one, especially when there is a user conflict such as this one. This one has a simple solution that will keep the waves 1/2 foot or less for the boats and accommodate photographers who specifically come to Grand Marais to get this shot. It’ll be slightly more expensive, but the final outcome will be worth it.

The solution is:

The solution is to build a wider breakwater extension and put a handicap accessible walkway on its top. The walkway will allow photographers to get out on the breakwater safely (more of a concern for elderly and photographers with mobility issues). It will also reduce waves to the DNR’s suggested level.

Here are what I think the key points are for the walkway:

  • The DNR’s 1/2-foot standard met
  • Handicap accessible walkway provides access for photographers to get the August shot, a popular activity in the busiest tourism month. As many as 40 photographers have been there shooting August’s full moon. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, cultural tourists, such as photographers, spend more than the average tourist, take longer trips, shop more and more often stay in hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts versus camping.
  • Handicap accessible walkway allows safe access for the elderly and photographers with mobility issues.
  • Safer access, because without it some photographers will venture out onto the uneven surface of the new breakwater as they do with the current breakwater.
  • Allows for shore fishing into deeper water, 3 to 3.75 meters.
  • Breakwaters with walkways are popular with tourists and provides one more way that visitors can interact with the harbor.
  • A handicap accessible walkway would allow fishing access for handicap people. Grand Marais currently doesn’t offer handicap accessible fishing areas in the harbor.

Take Action Now

The Grand Marais park board is seeking public comments about this plan and if you could write them and express your concern about the extended breakwater blocking the full moon shot in August while expressing that a walkway on the breakwater would be a good solution, it would be helpful for all photographers that want to get this shot in August. If we don’t act, this goes away. Email comments to

Park Board Meeting in Grand Marais: April 1st at 4:45 PM
More info:

Unfortunately, I’m going to be out of town on the 1st, but if you’re interested in going to that meeting, I can provide you with the photos to print off and present to the park board. Thank you for your help with this.

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