How Northland Photographers Share Their Art in the Digital Age
Special Report: Top Photographers, Part Two
EVELETH, Minn. – With just a gentle breeze blowing through newly-budding trees, we are walking a trail around Fayal Pond near the town of Eveleth.
There are turtles mating on logs near the edge of the pond.
We’re walking toward a bridge that Paul Pluskwik has taken photos near many times.
This is just one of the places in northern Minnesota that Pluskwik seems to know like the back of his hand.
“Between here and Orr and Ely and Crane Lake and the Boundary Waters, we’ve already been kayaking a few times in the Boundary Waters,” Pluskwik shares, eager to tell us that he’s been everywhere up here.
Born and raised in Virginia, Minnesota, in the heart of the Iron Range, Pluskwik has dedicated most of his life to his passion for photography.
“I like a picture to convey an emotion or create a feeling,” he says, with his eye already in the viewfinder of his camera. “To feel the senses of where you were is – I think – a really important thing.”
And even though Fayal Pond is a spot he’s often visited, Pluskwik still finds inspiration in the changing seasons.
“Even the transition now, with all the turtles and frogs out, the blossoms and the blooms,” Pluskwik muses. “All four seasons are really exciting and fun to take pictures of.”
Paul got his first camera from his mother, when he was much younger.
“I have stacks and stacks and stacks of photo albums!” he exclaims, explaining that in those days, of course, he had to shoot on film.
But now, decades later, his hobby has changed drastically.
His gear is all digital now; gone are the years and years of film photography.
Pluskwik says it wasn’t an easy transition.
“I think when people learn computers or cell phones – if you’re born into it, you kind of learn it,” he explains.
Closer to Duluth, right at the harbor where ships enter and exit daily, Paul Scinocca explains a similar scenario in his past.
“I found out film photography and digital photography are completely different,” he remembers. “It was a whole new learning curve.”
Scinocca remembers when digital photography was first coming into style.
“In the old film days you used to have to take a picture – a 36 exposure roll – get it developed, wait a week, maybe a day,” he recalls. “With digital you can take a picture, and look at the back on the screen and see right away – ‘Ooh this is way off!’”
Now Scinocca is armed with a bag full of digital gear – digital camera, lenses, even a waterproof camera that he uses for time lapse videos.
And he posts his photos to Facebook, the social media site that has revolutionized the way we share photos and videos.
“You can distribute photos so readily now,” Scinocca says. “Probably in the very beginning when it first started out, you might have 20-30 people look at a photo. Now, with things like Destination Duluth, thousands of people are looking at a photo!”
Even photographers that have less experience that Pluskwik and Scinocca have realized what the internet and social media have done to transform the medium.
Christian Dalbec has been taking photos of the North Shore since around 2012.
“Everything goes to Facebook and Instagram, because I try everything out there and people get to see what they like there,” Dalbec explains. “And if it gets a lot of response I’ll put it to the website. If someone wants it, I’ll print it for them, put it on metal canvass paper, whatever they want.”
Dalbec’s photos are shared all over the world, and he’s turned his newfound hobby into a full time job.
“It feels like I don’t have a job and I’m doing just what I love to do,” he says. “There ain’t nothin’ better than that!”
Pluskwik, who tells us that he’s not afraid to drive all day just for one good photo, takes his camera gear out every single day.
He’s always on the hunt for the perfect sunrise or sunset or just the perfect landscape of his beloved Iron Range.
But staying connected – not just to people who love his photos – but to other photographers – has also been crucial to him in the last few years.
“Everybody seems to really share a common respect for each other,” Pluskwik says. “To share what they do, share settings. For me, Facebook is a way for me to share with other photographers, communicate with other photographers.”
Pluskwik is less interested in taking pictures as a job.
But like any other artist, he knows he can always get better.
“It’s something deep inside – that just kind of ‘Go for it!’” he says, excitedly. “‘Go that extra mile!’ ‘Do that extra thing!’ If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”
Paul Scinocca knows that feeling first-hand.
The self-described “boat nerd” says that he’s gained some newfound local fame and notoriety primarily from his following on social media.
“That’s what gets you out – if you like a photo, it goes on and on and on. People start seeing your name. You get people following you,” Scinocca explains.
He has seen not only people enjoying his photos – and sharing them – but it’s also connected him to other boat lovers and shipping photographers as well.
“There’s a select handful of us in Duluth that are committed photographers getting boat photos, but there are so many people who love the boats, so they get to live vicariously through us, I suppose,” Scinocca says.
Which is why Paul Pluskwik, humble by nature says he doesn’t always know the real value of his art.
But he does know that he likes to share his skills, his equipment, and his passion, with anyone who can appreciate it.
“If I can give back in any way, I feel that’s something that’s really important,” Pluskwik says, with a huge grin.
All the photographers in this story are active on social media, both on their own personal pages and in groups.
Paul Scinocca is part of the Great Lakes Shipping Channel Facebook Group, a group he helped start with fellow shipping photographer Terry White.
Paul Pluskwik has some of his sample photos up on his webpage.
And Christian Dalbec has his own website as well.