Gulls cried overhead on another perfect day as David and Gus Schauer met the News Tribune at the Duluth Ship Canal on Wednesday. The meeting came two days after the father-son duo posted to social media one of the rarest ship photos in memory.
On Memorial Day, David and Gus launched their drone from Rice's Point under the Blatnik Bridge and captured a pair of 1,000-foot lake freighters side by side at the port's coal dock.
"We saw it happening on marinetraffic.com and were, like, 'Oh, they're next to each other. That would be cool to get a picture of that,'" said Gus, who at 14 years old is likely the youngest of the port's two dozen or more serious ship photographers. "So we sent our drone up, flew out to them and got a picture of them tied together."
Gus flew the drone and snapped the photos while David, 56, spotted as they photographed two Interlake Steamship Co. ore boats, the James R. Barker and Mesabi Miner. Interlake had profiled young Gus earlier this year on its website, and were among the folks who began commenting about the unique nature of the photo.
"We love this shot of our 1,004-foot fleetmates and sister ships," Interlake Steamship Co. tweeted after the photo was posted to social media Monday.
"Some of the others on Facebook who have been watching longer than I have said they have never seen that in 44 years or more," said David, a self-employed marketing and advertising consultant. "They'd never seen two 1,000-footers lashed together at the dock."
The ore boats were kissing close while located at the Midwest Energy Resources Co. dock.
"This is very rare," Interlake spokesperson Chrissy Kadleck said. "It just happened to work out with the timing."
She explained why the ships were side-by-side, confirming Interlake did a small crew changeover from the Mesabi Miner to the James R. Barker. Because of the economic downturn from COVID-19, the Barker had been at Midwest Energy in a short-term layup.
"The Miner was taking a delay to wait for a boat to depart the CN Dock, so she came alongside the Barker to make the changeover," Kadleck said.
The Barker's layup ended, and it was under way again Wednesday, loading with ore at the Canadian National Dock — movements the Schauers also photographed.
Gus goes to school at Stella Maris Academy's St. James campus in West Duluth, and the family of five, including twin older sisters, lives in the Smithville neighborhood.
Gus started photographing boats in 2013.
"I like the ship's salute," Gus said. "That's what brought me to the canal to start taking pictures."
He enjoys the foreign ships best for their colorful paint jobs and elaborate self-unloading mechanisms. He's already had a cover shot for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority's North Star Port magazine, and shares his images regularly on the Lake Superior Ports & Shipping Facebook page.
"It's nice to have a son who chooses to follow in his dad's footsteps," David said, describing how he started photographing the port in the late-1970s. The Two Harbors-based tugboat Edna G was his first subject.
Gus enjoys what he called "the golden light" of summer. Provided good lighting and attractive boats, the duo can be found photographing every day in summer.
"We probably prefer winter shooting, because of how the ice floes play off the boats, and the dynamics on Lake Superior," David said.
Their drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, allows them to safely fly out over open water and get close to ships, showing views of hatches and decks that were harder to get before. In the past, David would drive over the Blatnik Bridge while Gus took photographs out the open back window of their van.
Of capturing the two ships side-by-side, Gus said, "I was pretty excited to see it, knowing that's never happened before to our knowledge. It was an exciting picture to get."