Focusing on Duluth

New photo book captures some lesser-known gems

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Lightning above Canal Park and Bayfront Park from the book "Picture Duluth," by Dennis O’Hara

Photo: Dennis O’Hara,

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With more than 200 photographs, "Picture Duluth" by Dennis O'Hara does more than show off Zenith City's icons. Certainly the famous Lift Bridge and Enger Memorial Tower make appearances, but the book unveils some lesser-known gems. The images -- arranged as a tour of the city from east to west, complete with maps -- include unique views of a sleeping tiger at the zoo, grave markers carved out of tree stumps and driftwood tucked among dune grasses. We spoke to the photographer after the book was released earlier this month to find out why his hometown is so special.

Q Why a photo book about Duluth?

A I had been taking pictures of Duluth for the past 20 years. The combination of pictures with explanations I thought would be interesting, not only because of the pictures that represent the famous houses and the harbor, but also to give a closer look at the streams and green spaces that are such a big part of the city.

Q Why include maps?

A We [the publisher and I] thought the sun comes up in the east, and we'll just go from east to west since it is a 25-mile stretch of city. Having an outline of where we were going, we thought, would help a lot in terms of the direction and flow of the pictures.

Q It could help visitors to Duluth, too.

A As it turns out, it makes it real handy as far as dividing it up into sections of Duluth and having a simple map to reference.

Q What do you love in Duluth that a weekend tourist might miss?

A Throughout Duluth, there are 16 designated trout streams, and each of those is usually surrounded by a park with walking trails. There are several hidden waterfalls and ponds; almost every section of the city has at least one dramatic drop in elevation that is outlined by just a beautiful, green-embedded waterfall that you can generally get to by walking. I think it is really unique to the city, and one thing I appreciate is the fact that the wealthy millionaires who made their fortunes here in the 1800s preserved those areas for future generations by buying and donating the land for preservation.

One that comes to mind is Burt Enger, who was a furniture store operator. He donated Enger Park, one of the most prominent parks in the city, with a tower on the hillside. Currently, it is surrounded by gardens and a golf course and hiking trails. Of course, when winds pick up off Superior, you're golfing in 30-degree weather in July. If you want to see Duluth from a high vantage point, that's the place.

Q When does summer come to Duluth?

A Usually you could define it as Memorial Day. That is about the time that everything is greened up.

Q But it can still get chilly.

A Yep, but that's part of Duluth.

Q As a native, what do you like best about the city?

A It is the combination of land, sea and sky. You have everything mixed together: the multiple streams, the 600-foot cliff, the weather that the lake creates, the fog. Duluth itself has such a large amount of green space, and it was planned that way. The harbor and the oceangoing ships, the bridges, lighthouses, nautical history. It isn't so much one thing, but it's everything. I don't think there's any city like it that has all of those features.

Q What's the best season for a visit?

A That depends upon who you are talking to. From a photographer's point of view, I love winter: the combination of snow and ice and fog rising off the lake, the changing light conditions, the dramatic display of climate and its beauty.

Q Can you give us a tip for taking good travel photos?

A I would say to go out within an hour of sunrise and sunset to get the best color. That's by far where you can capture the best pictures. There's usually something going on: The hues in the sky are changing; the clouds are building; the winds are calm.

Kerri Westenberg • 612-673-4282

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  • BOOK EVENT

    Dennis O'Hara will sign books at the Barnes & Noble HarMar Mall in Roseville on June 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (2100 N. Snelling Av.; 651-639-9256). "Picture Duluth," by Duluth-based publisher X-comm, costs $20 for a soft cover, $35 for a limited-edition hardcover.

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