Keefography: “Spirit Little Cedar Tree” Astro Photography Series and History – Lake Superior, MN

Apr 18, 2021 | art/design

“Spirited away at the Spirit Tree. Blessed to witness the Northern Lights at this special place. You must be accompanied by an Ojibwe tribal member when visiting this location. Not only does that help protect the sacred ground, but it provides a good opportunity to educate about the historical and spiritual meaning to the native people.”


On sacred Ojibwe land is the Spirit Little Cedar Tree, known as “Manido Gizhigans.” For hundreds of years this cedar has impossibly and symbolically grown in solitude on the exposed rocks of Lake Superior while withstanding all of the harsh elements. The first written history of the tree was by a French Canadian fur trader in 1731, but it was known to Ojibwe people long before as a spiritual place of prayer. Tobacco offerings were left for the Great Spirit to give thanks and pray for safe passage across the expansive, and often times treacherous waters of Lake Superior. The tradition still continues to this day. To visit this tree you must be accompanied by a local tribal member. It’s one of those special places that you can feel and can only imagine the history and stories of others who once cast their eyes upon it.  Again, to respect the land and community when visiting this sacred land, you must be accompanied by a tribal member.


Photo by John Keefover📍Duluth Minnesota in Minnesota with @universetoday, @photopills, @tree_captures, @sky_brilliance, @tree_brilliance, @nightphotography, @canonusa, @tree_magic, @lumecube, @night.sh00terz, @nightphotography_exclusive, @roycebairphoto, @isleroyalenps, @milkywaychasers, @starlitlandscapes, @milkywayshooters,, @nights_dreamworld, @bestdarkphoto, and @astrovoyagers. May be an image of sky, nature and tree.

The Spirit Tree was living up to its name this night. Behind us were the Northern Lights while the Galactic Core of the Milky Way was rising over Lake Superior.

It was quiet all around us until we let out audible gasps after a fireball raced across the sky! I somehow miraculously captured it in the same exposure I was lightpainting the tree using a @lumecube. In the image the meteor appears to be heading directly towards the Rock of Ages Lighthouse at @isleroyalenps around 18 miles off of shore.

Part of the Ojibwe tradition of visiting this sacred tree is leaving tobacco offerings for safe passage across the often treacherous waters. I’ll take this experience as a good sign as I prepare for my first upcoming backpacking trip on the Isle. Though instead of crossing Lake Superior in a boat we’ll be taking the seaplane over.

Single exposure
@Canonusa EOS R & EF 16-35 f/2.8 III
f/2.8 | 20” | ISO 6400


This is the last photo of my recent Spirit Tree Astro series. Decided to get pretty weird with this one. The Northern Lights were slowly starting to fade out at this point of the night. I honestly don’t even really know what time this was taken because it was on the night of Daylight Savings Time, and in this spot you only get the Canadian Cell Phone Service which is based in another time zone, so it was confusing keeping track! What even is time?

Anyway this is a light painted 5 shot focus stack, but I don’t know what happened to the mid ground shot behind what looks like a certain someone’s “hair” piece. The miss focus sort of adds to the surrealness of the scene somehow though.

I hope you enjoyed this series at this special place. It is considered sacred to the local Ojibwe people. Due to vandalism in the past and hopes of keeping this wonder in the future, access to the Spirit Tree is restricted to tribal members only. Hiking down to the tree without the accompaniment of a tribal member is prohibited. Having a guide is also a fantastic way of learning more about the land, culture and history.

keefography's profile picture

Keefography is owned and operated by John Keefover. Most people just call me Keef as it stands out more, and that’s what I try to achieve with my photos! I am based out of and capturing all things Duluth, Minnesota. I want to show you what makes the North Shore of Lake Superior so unique. It’s the beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and local businesses that make this area great. I’m all about spreading positivity and creating a community over competition!

I got into photography 20 years ago. I was just having fun taking photos of my friends biking, skateboarding, and goofing off. What I was really doing was making memories. I learned how to develop my own film in the dark room and bring those memories to life! I still use some of those same techniques in my digital editing workflow today, but I’m also constantly researching new ways to progress as an artist. It’s only recently in these past few years that I really got back into photography again and started to pursue it as more than just a hobby.

It’s been a year since I launched this photography business now. I want to thank everyone for the continued support, and those of you reading this. Thank you. Let’s grow together!



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