May–June 2021

Catching Waves

Christian Dalbec’s Lake Superior wave photographs capture the power and personality of the big lake.

Nearly every day, in every season, photographer Christian Dalbec immerses himself in the waters of Lake Superior and searches for new ways of seeing the big lake. He always succeeds.

“The light’s different every day, and the water’s never the same, so nothing’s ever the same,” says the Two Harbors– based photographer, whose work captures dramatic wave forms on the shifting surface of Superior. Frozen in time and rendered with hyperrealistic clarity, the shapes and textures of the water take on heightened drama and intensity.

Dalbec was initially inspired by a friend who tipped him to the images of Australian ocean photographer Ray Collins and suggested he could do similar work on sea-like Superior. To get his loon’s-eye views of waves, Dalbec typically accesses the lake from a North Shore state park; Split Rock is a favorite. He dons dive fins, an insulated wetsuit, and a full-face snorkel mask that integrates with his distinctive red helmet. With a digital camera in a waterproof housing leashed to his wrist, he then kicks and bobs around in the surf, looking for water that’s about to do something interesting and shooting it at shutter speeds as high as 1/4000th of a second.

“When I’m shooting waves I’ve got to think ahead and watch the water or I’ll miss it,” he says. “Almost every day my purpose is to get in and get that shot.”