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Sauk Rapids photographer shares North Shore photos in first book

Apr 27, 2019 06:02AM ● By Editor
Photographer David Barthel looks through the viewfinder of his camera Wednesday, April 24, in St. Cloud. Barthel is releasing a book of landscape photography focused on Duluth and the North Shore. Photo: Dave Schwarz, [email protected]

By Jenny Berg of the St. Cloud Times - April 27, 2019

David Barthel started taking photos nearly 20 years ago. 

But he didn't turn his art into a career until he got a little nudge from the Great Recession: Barthel was laid off from his electrical engineering job in 2008. 

The 36-year-old Sauk Rapids resident didn't stay idle very long. 

"That's when I started transitioning into photography because up until that point, photography had been primarily a hobby," he said. 

Now it's how Barthel makes his living — selling photographs at art fairs across the Upper Midwest under his brand, North Shore Images Photography. 

It's also how he became a published author. His first book — "North Shore-Duluth: A Photo Tour of Northeastern Minnesota" — will be released in June. 

More than a guidebook 

The book, published by AdventureKEEN, is a photo-based guidebook featuring 96 sites in Duluth and along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The book includes photos — most of which were taken by Barthel last fall —  along with information about each site written by Barthel. 

It's meant to be an upgrade to the typical guidebook because it features interesting tidbits about each site, as well as contact information for getting to each place. It also features what Barthel has earned a reputation for — breathtaking photos of Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior. 

"I had no plans on doing a book," he said. "As a photographer, the whole idea of doing a coffee table-style book crosses your mind, but it's always a back burner-type thing."

But showing off his art to new audiences interested Barthel, who often spends hours at one site to capture the image he sees in his mind. 

David Barthels Superior Awakening captures a remote harbor near Hovland It is one of the fine art landscape photographs Barthel a Sauk Rapids resident sells at art fairs It is also included in Barthels book being released in June

David Barthel's "Superior Awakening" captures a remote harbor near Hovland. It is one of the fine art landscape photographs Barthel, a Sauk Rapids resident, sells at art fairs. It is also included in Barthel's book being released in June. Photo: David Barthel

"I might just sit and watch the light change for an hour or two in the morning," he said. "Having done this for so many years, I've developed a style for what I'm looking for. Over the years, you build awareness of what's possible and what makes a picture dynamic and pleasing.

"Those are the pictures that are meaningful to me because it takes a little bit of imagination to think of what the result is going to be," he added. "Where I could go to Split Rock Lighthouse and take a picture that's been done 100 times — to me those are less rewarding."

But when Barthel does photograph common tourist spots, his photos reveal his unique vision.

A photo of Split Rock Lighthouse in the book captures the iconic lighthouse with a ship in the background. Barthel said he took the photo on Nov. 10 — the anniversary of when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank. 

David Barthels photo Guardian of Superior captures Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors and a ship

David Barthel's photo "Guardian of Superior" captures Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors and a ship. (Photo: David Barthel)

Why Duluth? 

Barthel was born in Sauk Rapids and lives there now. He visits Duluth and the North Shore about a half dozen times a year. 

"It's kind of funny because I probably photograph a lot less than hobbyists do," he said. 

But while Barthel is drawn to the North Shore for inspiration, his base in Central Minnesota helps his business. 

"I think the main thing is I've got family here and a lot of the art fairs I do are in the Twin Cities, so I'm closer to those venues." he said. "Duluth is a beautiful area — don't get me wrong — but I can get the best of both worlds."

While he has photographed other regions of the United States, Barthel's passion is northeastern Minnesota. 

"I think it somewhat stems from taking family trips up to Duluth as a kid," he said. "It was a highlight of the summer." 

To read the original article and see related reporting, follow this link to the St. Cloud Times website.
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