Flash Point: Bryan Hansel’s toughest Great Lakes photos

We asked Great Lakes photographers to send us their favorite Great Lakes shots. Bryan Hansel of Bryan Hansel Photography sent us these photos.

I was on a 45-day, 800-mile kayaking expedition from Port Huron, MI to Grand Marais, MN when I heard about an upcoming storm that was predicted to blow gales for days. I was on a deadline and needed to get to Houghton to jump a ferry to Isle Royale before the storm hit, so I was paddling 30+ mile days. Before I got this photo, I had paddled about 33 miles and got to camp just as the sunset started. The sunset was shaping up to be the best of the trip, so I raced to set up camp and my camera. I got this shot and a horizontal. The horizontal ran on the cover of a magazine and this one ran as a full page image for a magazine article I wrote about the trip.


It was below zero when I made this shot. I bushwhacked from Highway 61 to a beach on Lake Superior and made my way to this island which I scouted out previously. To get into position, I needed to jump across some water onto icy rocks, and then wait for sunrise as the waves washed over the rock I was standing on. They coated my boots in ice. When I saw the pink streaks lighting up the clouds, I knew it was worth it. I’ve never seen a sunrise light up clouds like that before and probably will never see it again.


I discovered these sea stacks by kayak a few years prior to taking this photo, but I had no idea how to find them from shore. In March of this year, I kayaked back to this location and figured out exactly how to reach it from the road. The approach was grim; I had to down-climb a crumbly cliff to get to the beach. To top it off, I needed to get there about 45 minutes before sunrise to get the lighting that I wanted, so I had to down-climb in the dark with just a headlamp to light my way. Climbing off the beach was worse, because I could actually see how dangerous it was.

-Bryan Hansel

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4 thoughts on “Flash Point: Bryan Hansel’s toughest Great Lakes photos

  1. Lake Superior will always be my fav place on the planet. Thanks for sharing.

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