Photographer Laura Heerema Finds Inspiration in Thunder Bay Landscapes

Story by Bonnie Schiedel, Photos by Laura Heerema

“My friends called me ‘Snow White,’” says Laura Heerema, laughing as she refers to the animals that meandered through the yard of her former home near Rosslyn. Whether it was birds visiting her garden’s water feature, owls nesting in a nearby tree, a deer munching on a stray apple, or a lynx simply strolling through, she was often able to take striking wildlife images just steps from her own door.

King of Cooper Road

Heerema started snapping pictures with a point-and-shoot camera when they moved to Rosslyn about 20 years ago, capturing moments with her young family, as well as the landscape and wildlife in and around Thunder Bay. “I love everything about nature,” she says. “There’s something in all of creation that just brings me such peace and awe of the Creator.”

Breaking Through

Wanting to start a small sideline business selling photo greeting cards, she visited a local camera shop and started chatting with photographer John Ongaro. “He was intrigued by the photos I was capturing,” she says. Ongaro introduced her to a couple local photography groups, which is where Heerema met some peers and started learning the ins and outs of composition, light, gear, and more. “We all have a different way of capturing things and we all learn from each other. I’m so inspired by the different views that people share,” she says. 

Intricate Beauty

Just over two years ago, Heerema was in a serious car accident that nearly tore off her left thumb and resulted in permanent disability in her hand. “That has caused a lot of challenges with the camera gear that I use. Before, I would be able to go for a whole day and go shooting, and now it’s very limited because my hand gets cold very quickly,” says Heerema. “There’s a lot of nerve damage and I’ve lost the use of my thumb.” The weight of camera gear and tasks like switching lenses are difficult, so she is changing her approach by using a tripod, saving up to purchase lighter lenses, and enlisting her husband Mark as an assistant. “I don’t have the energy that I used to […] but I do have a great group of friends that will say, ‘Okay, look at this,’ or ‘look at that,’ so my focus, pardon the pun, is just to keep on enjoying what we have on offer and when I can get [a shot], great. You know, I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be, at getting that perfect shot. But there’s always something to see and to share with everybody else,” says Heerema. “I’m not giving up on that, because I truly believe it’s the gift that I’ve been given to share with everybody.”

Hello, October

To see more of Heerema’s work, visit