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The Northland's best outdoor photos of 2021

A look back at some of the best outdoor photos of the year from News Tribune photographers.

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A cow moose and her calf feed along Hidden Lake on Isle Royale National Park in August. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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A cow moose, her calf nearby, feeds along a lake. A bee, covered in pollen, rests deep inside the pedals of a flower, enveloped in color. A red-winged blackbird takes flight from a reed against the backdrop of a calm lake.

Sometimes I forget just how blessed we are to live in the Northland. Whether you live in Greaney or on Grand Avenue, it seems there’s always something going on outdoors — flora or fauna or fun — virtually every day of every season.

And the photographers who work for the Duluth News Tribune and Superior Telegram are absolute experts at capturing those outdoor moments that the rest of us sometimes miss.

The expressions on rafters' faces as they hit rapids. The expression on a fisherman’s face when he lands a big one. A family of bears all in one tree.

Whether they are out specifically to capture nature in pixels as their assignment, or they happen by a bear or a bee or a buck on their way to a football game or a protest or a parade, these three guys are uncanny good at delivering spectacular outdoor photos.

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A bee is covered in pollen as it crawls out of a daylily in the garden near the SS Meteor on Barker’s Island in Superior in August. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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Erin Letzring’s lead dogs set the pace early in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

Like a single drop of pure maple sap oozing from a tree in spring. Or the happy, tired expressions on the faces of sled dogs on the Beargrease trail. Or ice crystals frozen on a forgotten holiday ornament hanging on an outside tree in January.

So here you go, in case you missed them as they were sprinkled in the newspaper and online over the entire year, a potpourri of outdoor images from 2021. Consider this a little holiday present from our photographers, a little happiness to carry us into the New Year, and a reminder of how special the Northland outdoors is.

Merry Christmas!

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A red-winged blackbird takes flight among the reeds of Wolf Lake at Savanna Portage State Park north of McGregor in June. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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A red fox licks its nose while hunting on Park Point in January. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

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Rime ice forms on a holiday decoration hung on a tree outside Northern Lights Elementary in Superior in January. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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Maple sap drips from a spile in March at the Northrup family sugarbush camp on Fond du Lac Band tribal land near Sawyer. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Mike Winter, of St. Paul, throws up a rooster tail as he skips over a wave while kitesurfing off of Park Point in May. Northeast winds at the time were gusting to more than 30 mph. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

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A hummingbird closes in for a quick drink of sugar water along the shore of Whitefish Lake near Gordon in May. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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A dock extends out into a glass-calm Lake Shumway in Savanna Portage State Park north of McGregor in June. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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A common eastern bumblebee collects pollen from a sneezeweed near Bayfield in September. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

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A mother bear, or sow, upper left, looks out as her four cubs play in a tree in Superior in March. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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People fill the Lester River where it flows into Lake Superior in Duluth as they dip nets to capture smelt in April, an annual rite of spring in the Northland. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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A pair of swans rest in a patch of open water on Embarrass Lake near Biwabik in March. Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

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A fox follows the tracks of another critter on the ice of Superior Bay off Barker’s Island in January. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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Whitewater rafters hit a set of rapids along the St. Louis River in Carlton during a period of very low water in August caused by the drought. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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A bald eagle looks over the open water near the Superior Entry above Wisconsin Point in January. Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Superior Telegram

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The Rev. Ben Hadrich looks at the 21-inch walleye he caught using a motorized fishing reel during the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Northland fishing contest in June on Fish Lake Reservoir north of Duluth. While looking at the fish, Hadrich, a Catholic priest who has suffered strokes, remarked: "God is great!" Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Steve Kuchera came to the Duluth News Tribune more than 28 years ago after working four years as the photographer at the Hibbing Daily Tribune. "I enjoy the variety of things I get to photograph at the DNT, but being an outdoorsman I especially enjoy it when my assignments take me outdoors,'' Kuchera said. File / Duluth News Tribune

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Jed Carlson has been taking photographs for the Superior Telegram, and now also the Duluth News Tribune, for 20 years. "One of the great things about shooting in our area is that we don't have to go very far to get good nature shots. It's a quick drive to Wisconsin Point, Amnicon Falls, Pattison Park or the Brule River. But sometimes you can get photos in your own backyard, like I did with a groundhog. I happened to pull in to park and noticed the creature walking right along the fenceline." File / Superior Telegram

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Clint Austin has been a News Tribune photographer since 2003. "I enjoy photographing anything to do with the outdoors, political events, sports and Minnesota Duluth college hockey. When I am not working, I enjoy riding bikes whenever I can." File / Duluth News Tribune

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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