Photographer Profile Series
Landscape Photographer John Keefover
Dazzling Northern Lights, crashing Lake Superior waves, tranquil waterfalls, dramatic lighting over a lonely lighthouse, ethereal winter sea smoke, and a veritable panorama of the best of the North Shore in all its splendor . . . Landscape photographer, ultralight backpacker, guide, teacher, and wilderness advocate, John Keefover (Keef) has taken awe-inspiring photos of all these vistas and more.
“I feel that Duluth and the surrounding area are the perfect locations for landscape photography, where I can combine my passion for photography and backpacking,” John said.
Growing up in a military family, they lived in North Carolina and Spain before moving to Hibbing. Keefover has loved taking pictures from the time he was in middle school, through his education at Hibbing High School, and with classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. After moving to Duluth in 2015, Keef started his small photography business in May of 2019.
He most loves doing landscape photography, explaining, “No matter how many times you go to a location, it is always different. With all kinds of lighting to see—sunrise, sunset, cloud cover, rainbows, lightning, each photographer will view landscapes and take photos different from any other.”
Besides taking gorgeous photos, he loves writing trip reports and journal entries and even filming vlogs. He says that his blog writing really helps to capture those moments in time out on the trail to enhance people’s understanding of his experiences.
Through his social media, people can view his itineraries and follow along with him on extended trips or shorter adventures, including trips to the Porcupine Mountains, Isle Royale, and the BWCA
Keef is most known for his Night Sky Milky Way photographs and his waterfall photography, “I love shooting long exposures, especially at night. When I am out camping, my camera gear is more than a third of the weight of my bag, which is usually around 20 pounds,” he explained.
His biggest expedition was in June when he hiked all 310 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) from the Wisconsin border, through Duluth, and up the North Shore to the Canadian border.
This trip also helped to raise funds for the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and their “Superior View Hike,” bringing 2,400 kids out on the SHT every year, teaching them stewardship, ecology, and outdoor education.
A once-in-6800-year photo
Describing one of his all-time favorite photos, he said one evening, he was at a friend’s cabin sitting around the campfire. “The photo is of the Comet NEOWISE inside of the Northern Lights and reflected in the waters of Lake Vermillion,” he said.
He blogged, “It didn’t last very long, but it was such a cool experience and a once-in-a-lifetime shot with the comet that comes around every 6,800 years! It’s also a shot that I didn’t plan at all; it was pure luck.”
Keef also does brand photography content for a variety of businesses, including Bent Paddle, Ursa Minor, Wild State Cider, Duluth Cider, and a variety of other products. He notes how important it is to have content and branding photographs that stand out in the rapidly growing online marketplaces,
Doing concert photos of musicians, bands, and venues is another genre of photography that captures John’s imagination. He also works for the Great Lakes Gear Exchange, selling used outdoor gear at a consignment shop. He joked that he gets a chance to scope out the equipment he might want to buy before it goes on sale at the shop.
He has had his work published in the Lake Superior Magazine, The Lake and Company, Northern Wilds and on the Destination Duluth Facebook and Instagram social media. He noted, “Destination Duluth is a great resource for photographers and artists, and gives me another way to interact with the community. I have also enjoyed the Destination Duluth photographers’ get-togethers.” Jerry Thoreson, Managing Director for Destination Duluth said, "John has quickly become one of our top five contributing photographers. Since 2020, his photos have been viewed a verified 2.8 million times on our Facebook page," Thoreson added, "plus probably a million more impressions on our Instagram channel."
Another big venture for John is Arrowhead Expeditions, which he founded with his friend Justin Ridlon. They offer photography expeditions in the Arrowhead Region of Northern Minnesota. The trips are for all levels of photographers, including beginners looking for a fun experience and hoping to learn more about their cameras to experienced photographers looking to shoot new locations along the North Shore. Some of the locations will require a several-mile hike, and others are more easily accessible near a parking lot. The Arrowhead Expeditions website includes opportunities to subscribe to a newsletter for information about future expeditions.