Amber Nichols Considers Herself an “All-Around Photographer”

DD SATURDAY EVENING POST - PHOTOGRAPHER PROFILE - Amber Nichols, owner of Amber's Impressions Photography.

When it comes to photography, Esko resident Amber Nichols can just about do it all. “I like to say that I’m an ‘all-around photographer,’” she noted. “While I love to shoot wildlife, landscapes, and night photography, I have done everything from event photography to portraits and more.”

Today, she is probably most well-known for her images of Grandma’s Marathon and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon; several of which have won some pretty cool awards.

Impressively, other than a few community education courses, she is mostly self-taught.

She is also familiar to the Destination Duluth audience. In 2023, she was recognized with one of DD’s Top Photographer awards, after attracting over a million views. “It was one of my images of the northern lights that put me over a million,” she shared.

March 23, 2023 Aurora Borialis showed up in a spectacular way. This was taken facing south at the Veterns Overlook outside of Duluth. Photo by Amber Nichols.

Unique Upbringing

Nichols and her siblings were raised in a rural setting between Palisade and Aitkin, Minnesota. Her childhood domicile was rustic, to say the least.

“We had no electricity, and no running water,” she explained. “We used a wood stove to heat the house, and we had an outhouse. It was a very unique childhood.”

After her parents’ divorce, Nichols moved with her mom to Danbury, Wisconsin, and she  graduated from Webster High School. As a teen, she worked as a cashier at a gas station, had an office job at the Burnett County Sentinel, and also served on the Danbury, Wisconsin volunteer fire department, alongside her stepfather.

She was two weeks away from entering college (where she planned to pursue equine science), when she learned she was pregnant. “I was supposed to go to college, but I got pregnant, so life took a drastic turn,” she explained. But everything ultimately worked out for the best.

When she was offered a temp job through Kelly Services at Nels Nelson & Sons, she and her two young daughters, Serena (now 26) and Marcy (23), moved to Cloquet. Nichols later had a 3rd child, a son, Chase (20).

Amber with her daughters Serena and Marcy and son Chase. Photo submitted.

To make ends meet, she worked a few temporary jobs - through places like Kelly Services and Manpower - before landing a full-time job as the office manager at High-Mark Construction. While at High-Mark, she returned to college full-time, where she earned an associate’s degree in business management and an associate’s degree in fine art, from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC), and two bachelor’s degrees – in accounting and business management – from Bemidji State University. She is currently the general manager at Lake Superior Art Glass.

As a single mother to three kids, Nichols has had to work incredibly hard to achieve her professional and educational dreams. “I have always taken on more than I probably should,” she said with a grin. “But that’s how I was raised.”


Nichols became interested in photography at an early age, when she wanted to capture memories from family vacations. She bought her first camera, a basic Kodak, as a teen - with money earned from her cashiering job.

“I have been interested in photography since I was a teenager,” she said. “Over the years, it has become a passion. I had always wanted to turn into a business, but wasn't sure how or when to do it.

“About ten years ago, I became a member of Frozen Photographers, a group on Facebook. It has changed my whole perspective on photography. What was just a hobby has now become my new career.  It turns out that I was just waiting for the right moment.” She has now shifted her focus to photographing events, races, and photojournalism.

Winter in Duluth with sunrise and sea smoke rising from the bay. Taken behind the DECC on a cold winter morning. Photo by Amber Nichols.

“In the beginning, I was mainly focused on landscape/wildlife photography,” Nichols noted. “I love being out in nature and surrounded by the beauty that it provides. After I joined the Facebook group, I found a new aspect of photography called Light Painting.  I fell in love with it instantly!  People can check out my night photography for examples.”

Equipment and Locations

Nichols has come a long way from that early Kodak. Today, she uses a Canon EOS R6, a mirrorless camera that is good for fast action and low light, but is also a good overall camera. For lenses, she has several Sigmas, a Canon, and a Tamron.

Her favorite place to shoot wildlife is the Sax-Zim Bog. In fact, she offers guided photography tours where she brings clients to the Bog. She also has several favorite locations in Duluth, Superior, and Cloquet.

Great Grey Owl taken at Sax Zim Bog. He was content to sit there and have his photo taken for about 20 minutes before he left his perch. Photo by Amber Nichols

Nichols loves everything Duluth and the surrounding area have to offer. “Duluth has a big city feel with a small-town atmosphere,” she noted. “And I just love the amount of nature that is right here at our fingertips.”


Nichols’ photos have been published in many places, including the Burnett County Sentinel newspaper, and the Pine Knot newspaper in Cloquet, where she also maintains a freelance gig alongside her full-time job.

2023 Snow storm photojournalism. This is at River Ranch Farm in Esko, and won 1st place from the Minnesota Newspaper Association 2023 Feature Photo. Photo by Amber Nichols

Her photos have been used for the cover of the Duluth Community Education catalog, and have been published in Lake Superior Magazine. Her images have been displayed inside the Great Lakes Aquarium, Whole Foods Co-op, VIP Pizza, and she has been the featured photographer at Split Rock Lighthouse.

She is now one of the official photographers for Grandma’s Marathon, and also shoots for Marathon Photo. She’s taken snaps for the NorthShore Inline Marathon, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, and Catalyst Content Festival.

2023 John Beargrease Dog Sled Marathon Start. The photo won 1st Place from the Minnesota Newspaper Association 2023 Sports Photo. Photo by Amber Nichols

Additionally, as noted, Nichols has won several awards for her images, including:

  • 2023- Minnesota Newspaper Association - 1st place sports photo and 1st place featured photo
  • 2023 - Destination Duluth Top Photographer - 1.02 million views
  • 2020 - Minnesota Newspaper Association - 2nd place sports photo
  • 2020 - PSA - Best of the day
  • 2020 - N4C - 3rd place best of the best

She also maintains a variety of photography-related affiliations. She is the current treasurer (and former vice-president and president) of the Duluth-Superior Camera Club. She has served on a non-profit board for The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Foundation, and since 2015, she has been the administrator for the Frozen Photographers Facebook page.


In her spare time, Nichols enjoys spending time with her three kids and her mixed-breed dog, Winchester, who is quite the charmer. “He’s the unofficial greeting dog for the cruise ships when they dock in Duluth,” she said with a chuckle. “Everyone loves him. Even the captain came off the ship to say hi to him.”

Amber and her dog Winchester enjoy the holiday season. Photo submitted.

She also enjoys reading and traveling. Two of her bucket list locations (to visit and take photos) are Ireland and Iceland.

Although she does make some income through her photography, eventually, she’d like to make it her main, full-time gig. “I’d love to take photos as my main source of income,” she said. “It would be great to have the freedom to travel and take photos and do what I want, when I want.”


As a talented photographer who has come a very long way, Nichols graciously offered some helpful advice for new shutterbugs. “Whether it’s as a hobby or a business, there’s always something new to learn about photography,” she noted.

“Don’t get discouraged. I would recommend doing stuff you love; it can really feed your soul. And, have fun with it. Art is meant to be shared and enjoyed.”

To learn more, or to purchase one of Amber’s photos, please visit


Andrea Busche is a Duluth + regional freelance writer and small business owner. She is credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications, and has been a frequent contributor to Destination Duluth since 2017.




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