Denfeld News

May 2, 2010
Duluth Budgeteer News

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” physical product.

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 married.

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 away.

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 big project?

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 at

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