Photographer Profile Series
Adam Bjornberg - Bjornberg Photography
Creating Plenty of Buzz with his Captivating Local Images
Photographer Adam Bjornberg – owner of Bjornberg Photography – has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. And a recent accolade provided an extra-special surprise.
Bjornberg was a first-time entrant in the 2023 Minnesota State Fair’s Minnesota Fine Arts exhibition. To his great surprise, he won! His impressive photo of the ship Arthur M Anderson earned Bjornberg the Anne & Litton Field Excellence in Photography Award - one of the exhibit’s top awards.
Despite being relatively new to photography, Bjornberg’s captivating images – including maritime and shipping activity, along with outdoor landscapes - are creating a lot of buzz. In addition to the special recognition at the State Fair, Bjornberg has won other awards, enjoyed a month-long exhibition at a Minnesota state park, and had several photos selected for publication.
“It’s been a wild couple of years,” he noted. “And, it all fell into place once I moved to Duluth. That really sparked my passion for photography.”
Bjornberg grew up in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, and graduated from White Bear Lake High School in 2011. The eldest of four siblings, he enjoyed ice hockey, baseball, and golf in his youth. The family spent plenty of time together in Duluth during Bjornberg’s ice hockey tournaments.
He first became interested in photography in his youth. “I took a couple of photography classes in high school, and got to work with film in the dark room,” he explained. “But at that time, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in photography.”
Thankfully, Bjornberg later learned that taking successful photos is more about having talent and a good eye than owning expensive equipment.
Bjornberg attended the University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography with an emphasis in geographic information systems (GIS). Bjornberg also met his fiancée, Kennedy Fenster, while the two were students at UND.
Moving to Duluth
In February 2019, Bjornberg was hired at SkySkopes, a Geospatial service provider. As a remote sensing project lead, he plans flights and receives and processes data captured by drone and helicopter pilots.
Both Bjornberg and Fenster have always loved Duluth and had long considered moving here. She is originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, but, like Bjornberg, she also made childhood trips here. And during college, the couple enjoyed several short getaways to Duluth.
Fortunately, Bjornberg works remotely and was able to make the leap. And, Fenster soon landed a job at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, as an Office Administrator. The couple moved here in December 2019.
“We’re both really outdoorsy people,” he noted. “We’ve taken five-day backcountry trips in Montana, and Duluth was like a stepping point – it feels like a small-scale mountain town. I’ve always had an interest in being by the water, and love the nautical, lake feel.”
Getting back into photography was initially a way for Bjornberg to make new friends. “It was hard to meet people here,” he said. “We moved here during COVID, and I work remotely.”
He began by taking some basic images, using basic equipment. “It all started with my iPhone, taking pictures and videos and posting them on my personal Facebook page. I was fascinated with the shipping industry and joined the Lake Superior Ports and Shipping Facebook group.
“I continued sharing my work and people commented, saying they liked my eye for photography,” he added. “That led me to buy my first camera and lens – a Canon 6D camera, and a 70-200mm lens.
“Eventually, I found people who tagged Duluth on social media,” he noted. “I asked them to join in for photo shoots and now I have friends who are photographers of all age groups.”
Interestingly, despite only having a couple of years of experience, Bjornberg has already found much success. His photos have over 2 million views on Destination Duluth’s Facebook page. He sells his photos on SmugMug. His 2023 Ships on Lake Superior can be purchased here. A local business – Harbor Rail Pub, Loft & Events, in Two Harbors – has several of his images on display.
Bjornberg was invited to display his images for a month-long exhibition at Split Rock Lighthouse in August 2022, and his photos were also available for purchase at the gift shop. Four of his photos were selected for publication in the 2023 calendar for the Interlake Steamship Company. And he took 1st and 3rd place in a photo contest for the 2021 Great Lakes Seaway Partnership.
He's also had the opportunity to be a part of some really fun gigs, thanks to the connections he’s made from photography. “Last year I was asked to join ice-breaking operations around the harbor on board the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Hollyhock,” he explained. “I also got to be a part of welcoming Resko, the first saltie (ocean-going) vessel of the year. This entailed going onboard, meeting some of the crew, and seeing the loading operations of grain. I was privileged to document the USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul commissioning ceremony.
“With this, I was involved in media day, and got to tour the brand-new Navy warship as well as attend the ceremony as a photographer,” he added. “Lastly, I was asked if I wanted to capture the first cruise ship arrival in 13 years this summer, from the aerial lift bridge [with the bridge operator]. All of these experiences have been from my photography, and ones that I will surely not forget!”
Beginning in June 2023, Bjornberg began a collaboration with Duluth-based Zenith Adventure. Through this partnership, Zenith will sell a selection of Bjornberg’s prints in their store.
As noted, another amazing recognition was earned at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Here, Bjornberg submitted his photo of the Arthur M Anderson for consideration at the Minnesota Fine Arts exhibition. Simply being accepted was an achievement in and of itself. But he was pleased to learn he won the Anne & Litton Field Excellence in Photography Award; one of the exhibit’s top awards.
Adam's photo of the Michipicoten, shot while riding the Aerial Lift Bridge, was featured on the front cover of the 2023 summer issue of North Star Port.
Not too shabby for less than two years of experience, and being mainly self-taught.
Bjornberg insists it’s more about having a good eye than having the fanciest tools. “I want other photographers to know that you don’t have to go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment,” he shared. “I bought two refurbished pieces of equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be a good photographer.”
Bjornberg has already established several of his favorite local hotspots for taking photos. “My niche is the maritime industry and ships, and I really like the arrivals, departures, and what’s happening behind the scenes,” he said. “There are a couple of public locations throughout the harbor that have public access, but I will also cross the harbor for a shot, or take a photo from up above on the hillside.”
Regarding his outdoor images, Bjornberg prefers the Gunflint Trail for wildlife and Palisade Head and Boulder Lake for capturing the aurora borealis. Most of his favorite spots, however, are in Duluth, Superior, and Two Harbors.
Bjornberg and Fenster welcomed their first child, a daughter, Reagan, in February 2023. They also have two Golden Retrievers, Ollie and Calvin. The couple are eagerly making plans for their wedding and dream of purchasing a home of their own someday.
Bjornberg also enjoys hockey (a life-long interest), skiing, and mountain biking. Together, the couple enjoys doing beach and spring cleanups. “I will often just pick up trash by the beach and water. I try my best to make it a better place,” he noted.
Reflections on Duluth
Looking ahead, Bjornberg loves his job and wants to continue growing within his current company. He also wants to focus on his photography. The couple plan to make Duluth their permanent home.
Reflecting on life as a “transplant,” he said, “Duluth does an extremely good job of hosting events at any time throughout the year. There wasn’t a whole lot to do outside of the college-hosted events in Grand Forks. We enjoy Bentleyville, the ice festival in Superior, the DECC’s winter village, and of course, there are plenty of trails for hiking and biking. There is almost too much to choose from.”