May 2, 2010
5Q :: Dennis
O’Hara invites you to ‘Picture Duluth’
By Matthew R. Perrine
If you were to sum up Dennis O’Hara’s
relationship with photography in one word, it would definitely be
dedication. The Northern Images purveyor, a Denfeld alumnus, literally
devotes his life to his craft (not to mention primo sleeping hours).
“The early morning and evening are the best
light, so I kind of work things around that,” he told the
Budgeteer last April. “In July it’s 5 o’clock
in the morning.”
Now, with the release of Picture Duluth,
all of the world can see what O’Hara sees in the Northland.
It’s not as if the photographer has been keeping his prints
secret — he’s released a number of free eBooks over
the years, and authors have often leaned on him for spectacular
imagery — but Picture Duluth is his first “official”
To celebrate its release, we sent a few questions
to the photographer:
Budgeteer: In the book’s
preface you say Picture Duluth has more or less been in
the works for 20 years. Is it actually your first “official”
book of photography?
O’Hara: All of the previous
books have been short eBooks covering single events or subjects
and were free to download. I have also had my pictures published
in other people’s books about the area, including (Tony Dierckins’)
Crossing the Canal.
By “20 years in the making,” I refer
to the 20 years that I have been active in nature photography. When
I started 20 years ago, the Aerial Lift Bridge and other parts of
Duluth were my main “subjects.”
Though I am frequently asked if I have books or
told I should publish a book, my picture taking has never been with
that goal in mind — but rather to share the scenery of this
wonderful area that I feel blessed to live in.
Most of the images in the book were taken in recent
years — or should I say retaken: I go back to the same places
year after year and sometimes day after day, because there is always
something else to capture. The light and weather is never the same
and I never get tired of it.
However, there are a few images in the book that
were taken 10 to 15 years ago.
Budgeteer: I thought it was interesting
that your wife, Debby, has accompanied you on many of your shooting
expeditions. Is she also a photographer — or does she just
have the patience of a saint?
O'Hara: Debby isn’t a photographer,
except [during] last year’s Tall Ships event, when I set up
a camera for her because I couldn’t be in two places at once!
As to patience, neither of us are saints, but
we’ve grown in that area in the 36 years we’ve been
Debby’s gotten used to me suddenly pulling
off the road because I spotted a good photo op, or “rainbow
chasing” to Enger Tower when I know a rainbow is likely. We
have fun on our journeys, whether trekking around town or many miles
While she enjoys the parks and shoreline, and
especially the trips up the shore, there is a distinct lack of interest
for 5 a.m. sunrises and 20-below-zero temps!
Budgeteer: I appreciated that
you included some of Duluth’s historic residences in your
book. Have you been shooting them for awhile, or was it a conscious
choice to move beyond natural beauty?
O'Hara: I have always been intrigued
by the historic lighthouses and bridges, but, when you start looking
into the history of the area, the historic buildings and their stories
make photographing them even more interesting. I have built up a
portfolio of most of the historic buildings in town, but the historic
homes have been a recent endeavor to add a rich part of Duluth’s
heritage to the Picture Duluth book.
Budgeteer: You captured an amazing
array of seasons and moods in Picture Duluth— is
there a certain time of the day or year you prefer shooting?
OHara: Each season has a life
of its own; however, I work my photography more around weather and
lighting conditions than anything else.
I do spend a fair amount of time during the twilight
hours of morning and evening to capture the sun and moon rise and
set. I really do enjoy winter though. I quite often make the comment
“Who would ever want to leave this winter wonderland?”
… and I mean it!
Budgeteer: Finally, now that
you’ve figuratively “written” the book on Duluth,
do you think you’ll move beyond the Twin Ports for your next
O'Hara: Since I am a native Duluthian,
this book holds a special meaning, and I don’t have any big
projects planned at the moment. If someone called me up to do a
book about another area, I would be open to the prospect. Still,
I love Duluth and the Lake Superior area and, if I can keep on photographing
and sharing the natural beauty that God has placed here at the Head
of the Lakes, I’ll be more than satisfied.
News to Use
Dennis O’Hara will celebrate the release
of Picture Duluth from 7 to 9 p.m. May 14 at the Lake Superior
Maritime Visitor Center in Canal Park. There will be an author presentation,
book signing and refreshments. Traditional signings will follow
at Barnes & Noble (May 15), the Bookstore at Fitger’s
(June 5), Northern Lights Books & Gifts (June 12) and again
at the maritime museum on June 26. Full details on these events