Hi everyone! My name is Colin Willemsen, I am a 17-year-old landscape photographer who specializes in capturing the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior, from along its shore and in it with my Mirrorless Cameras, including the Nikon Z7, Z50, and a series of lenses, including the 10-20mm f/3.5, Z 24-70mm f/4S, the Z 14-30mm f/4 S, 17-50mm f/2.8, and my Outex underwater housing system! One of the core aspects of my photographic approach is finding and photographing unique locations on the North Shore. There's no better way than by slipping into a wetsuit and grabbing my camera and slipping into the lake!
For those that are unfamiliar with Lake Superior and its North Shore, here's some information on what makes it so special. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world at 32,000 square miles. In the mind of many, it’s a sea. With that much water, the lake stays cold. On average the lake hardly passes the 55ºF mark. Those who choose to brave the lake in the winter face temps in the 38ºF to 30ºF range. But the risk is worth the reward as the conditions that are found in and on the ice-covered caves, coves, and cliffs present mesmerizing compositions. To be able to sustain comfort in these temperatures I wear a 5/4 millimeter wetsuit.
The whole experience of being in the lake and experiencing its ineffable majesty is unique and humbling, something that is hard to put into words. The predawn hours of calmness seem to float by, the smell of the sea caves, the varying textures of the rocky shoreline. Writing that just now brings me back to past experiences, which all seem to blend in a shared sense of awe.
While I’ve had many memorable experiences while in Lake Superior and taking photos, my favorite has to be when I swam into an ice cave before sunrise in February. It was a perfectly still, winter morning and I had no intentions of finding a cave but I looked around and noticed some incredible icicles hanging from a cliff. As I got up close, I noticed a long narrow opening beneath the icicles. I swam under and discovered another world on the other side. Icicles were everywhere, and hanging like a curtain in front of the cave mouth. Then the light broke over the horizon and the icicles illuminated in shades of pink and golden orange. I found a gap between a couple of the icicles framing a cliff face. This shot is one of my favorites I’ve captured and to do it in the conditions I did makes it even more special to me.
While photographing in the water there are three types of shots I focus on, reflection shots where I angle my Outex housing towards the water surface, wave photos, and my favorite over-under split shots. These involve capturing above and below the water level in one photograph. Lake Superior is unbelievably beautiful both above and below the surface, these shots tell the full story of a location. Making sure the port is clear of water droplets or ice, balancing the split shot, and staying steady during the whole process are just some of the challenges needed to overcome to produce a photo in the water. One tip that I’ve found works great to keep the front port clear of water droplets is to lick the glass every so often. The saliva beads off the water droplets surprisingly well. No doubt it’s a slightly weird practice but if it helps me capture more landscape water photos I don’t mind! I’ve also utilized my Outex housing to shelter my camera from rain and wave spray during large storms on Lake Superior.
These conditions make for beautiful photos but getting the shot is the trickiest part, luckily the small size of the Outex has allowed me to continue my regular landscape photography workflow while shooting on land as well.
I appreciate being able to share my story with everyone here! See more of my work at
|colinwillemsen.com or @Colin.Willensen|