Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



The Northland's best outdoors photos of 2020

From the best photographers in the Northland, these images capture slices of life in our great outdoors.

Jack Montgomery, 7, of Duluth, smiles proudly as he holds up a leopard frog that he caught at Billings Park Thursday, June 18. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The irony is that we had just driven back into town from up Brimson way, News Tribune photographer Clint Austin and I, after visiting a deer hunting camp where the hunters had seen no deer.

As we unloaded gear from my truck in the garage, there stood a magnificent trophy buck in my neighbor’s yard. That in itself isn’t unusual. We have hordes of deer in our Duluth neighborhood, and that week I had seen four other bucks close up. This guy was different, though. He was clearly the King of Kenwood.

Austin could have just as easily lugged his gear down to his SUV and driven home after the assignment. But the sheer magnificence of this big buck — his head held high, his wide-beamed rack shiny, his neck swollen from hormones that were driving him to mate — needed to be photographed. Not for any story we were working on. Just because.

Click. Click. Click. The king was captured in digital pixels forever.

So here it is, the image of that big buck captured on a warm, sunny November day, as just a few leaves still clung to bushes. And here are another 20 or so photographs taken across the Northland in 2020, a year that taught us again how special it is to have our outdoors.


In my humble opinion these images come from the best photographers in the Northland. These folks see things we mere mortals miss. They don’t have the benefit of perfect studio lighting. They don’t get to set things up and wait. They are often rushed, running between assignments, or given only a few hours, or a few minutes, to capture an image for an assignment. They rarely have the option to wait for a better day, better weather, better lighting. The newspaper and website are beasts that must be fed, constantly, no excuses.

And yet Clint Austin, Tyler Schank, Steve Kuchera and Jed Carlson produce stunning outdoor images nearly every week for all of us to enjoy. So here are some of my favorite images from 2020 for you to enjoy.

Happy holidays!

On a warm, late-June evening, for a story on Shawn Perich, North Shore writer and avid trout angler, we went out fishing for brook trout with Perich and his dog, Rainy, who has learned to stay out of the stream so as not to spook the fish. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A 10-point white-tailed buck stands tall in Duluth's Kenwood neighborhood on a warm November afternoon. Bucks were in the rut at this time and chasing does, paying little attention to anything else around them. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)


On a sunny mid-May afternoon, Erik Finstad, left, chats with Bill, a ruffed grouse that hangs out at the Finstad family deer shack near Gordon, Wisconsin. Bill has befriended the family and often shows up during campfire sessions or yard work, occasionally taking a bit of worm for a snack. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

ATV enthusiast Ron Potter drives his Polaris side-by-side on a newly-opened section of ATV trail just outside of Finland on a sunny June morning. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A pair of Canada geese and their newly-hatched goslings swim through reflections of trees off the shore of Billings Park in Superior on a mid-May day. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

With cups of coffee in hand, Duluthians Tonya Paul (left) and Peyton Landowski watch as the sun breaks over the horizon on a mid-November morning at Brighton Beach in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)


Fellow campers watch as Quinn, 11, does a flip into Chester Creek on a warm July day while attending Chester Bowl Summer Camp in Duluth. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

A groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, stands on its hind legs near Central Park in Superior on a September day. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The lead dogs of John Beargrease racer Erin Schouweiler’s team set the pace early in the Beargrease mid-distance race in January. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Tyler Erickson of Morgan Park holds a stringer of walleyes that his group caught on the May morning of the Minnesota fishing opener on the St. Louis River in Duluth's Fond du Lac neighborhood. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)


Sunlight shines through maple leaves along the Chester Creek Trail in Duluth on a late September day. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

A garter snake darts out its forked tongue over a railroad spike on the tracks near Loon’s Foot Landing on Superior's harborfront on a July afternoon. Snakes supplement their senses of taste and smell by collecting chemical information about the environment on their tongues. The tongue relays the information to a region of specialized nerve endings at the roof of the mouth. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

On a late July day Cory Oseland of Duluth navigates one of the large rock gardens on the trail named Orange Crush at Redhead Mountain Bike Park in Chisholm. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A black bear watches hikers from a tree along a trail near Grand Rapids in May. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)


Two hikers check their phones as they sat along the Black River near the Little Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park south of Superior on a pleasant October day. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Three ice skaters use ski poles to glide across a patch of reflected sunlight on Island Lake on a December afternoon. Smooth, new ice and little snow made for great skating across the region earlier this month. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

John Keller of Duluth briefly takes to the air on a windy July day while kiteboarding in Superior Bay near the end of Park Point in Duluth on a windy July day. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)


The Aerial Lift Bridge frames a nearly full moon as it rises over lake Superior on late October evening. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

So how outdoorsy is Duluth? In one photo, taken Dec. 20 on the Duluth harbor just off Park Point (before snow covedred the ice) we see ice skaters, a hockey player, ice anglers and an iceboat sailing in the breeze - with Spirit Mountain downhill ski area in the backdrop. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

The 55-foot-long Horton Covered bridge in June. The bridge spans the Amnicon River near the Lower Falls. Originally, it had no covering and was a highway bridge that crossed the Amnicon River not far from the park. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Meet the best photographers in the Northland

Tyler Schank has been a photographer at the Duluth News Tribune for a little more than two years. "Photographing hockey takes the cake for me. I'm not great at cold weather so I prefer summer outdoor assignments over winter." (News Tribune photo)

Clint Austin has been a News Tribune photogrpaher 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." (News Tribune photo)

Steve Kuchera came to the Duluth News Tribune more than 27 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.

Jed Carlson has been taking photographs for the Superior Telegram, and now also the Duluth News Tribune, for nearly 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 the groundhog. I happened to pull in to park and noticed the creature walking right along the fenceline."

Sign up for the Northland Outdoors newseletter

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