Art Feature: Going Up, Going Big with Dan Eggert
Photographer Dan Eggert led a nomad’s life for 23 years, shifting between Door County in the summer and Lake Tahoe in the winter. The uncertainty of the pandemic put winter projects on hold, however, and it forced him to stay put on the peninsula last winter for the first time.
He found an apartment in Egg Harbor, braced for the isolation and focused on new work, such as his large-scale art photography, in which he creates massive prints to display on light boxes, bringing images of Door County scenes to life.
Eggert got his start as the man on the scene in the county during the late 1990s, capturing silent sports, packed dance floors at local bars and concerts at Fishstock for the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living. His work has since evolved into drone photos and interior work for real estate and property management firms, in addition to his artistic work.
I caught up with the original photographer for the Peninsula Pulse in the fall, as Eggert was settling in for the long haul, energized by the chance to get his first winter photos of Door County after 23 years in its summer sun.
Tom Groenfeldt (TG): How did you get started in Door County photography?
Dan Eggert (DE): I started shooting for the Pulse when it was just getting started. They’d give me three rolls of film for each issue, and I’d get the recognition for cover photographs and the photographs with the stories. I had five different covers the first year. For the first eight years, I also had restaurant jobs because the Pulse published just twice a month. Later I also shot for Door County Living, and I also played bass in a few bands. It was a creative life.
TG: How did you start alternating between Door County and Lake Tahoe?
DE: Back then, the paper shut down during the winter, so when some buddies of mine suggested we go out to Lake Tahoe, I agreed and got a job as a bellman at a condo resort and a pass for snowboarding, and that’s what I have been doing ever since: summers in Door County and winters around the mountains of Tahoe.
TG: How did you move from photojournalism to real estate?
DE: I got into it because I was one of the few photographers doing drone photography, and for real estate, that is the best way to get a view of the entire property.
Then four summers ago, I started doing more interiors. It takes me about two hours to do a house. I do ambience shots that use a layer of available light for the luminosity mode, and then I do a shot with flash and blend them together so I get true color and the shading of the room instead of blasting the room with bright flash.
I can also balance the light inside with the light outdoors so you can see the interior of the room and the yard or water outside. What I really actually love about this is that it is like working on a piece of art because you’re blending the ambient shot with all the flash shots.
TG: How has your experience with the Peninsula Pulse influenced your art?
DE: One of the things I think that made me who I am is the Pulse, obviously. That’s the style where I went and captured whatever the event was. When I was doing artist profiles or musicians performing, I wasn’t trying to set up a shot, I was going to capture it. When it comes to weddings, I’m there to capture the day. I don’t arrange and pose people, but instead I capture the event. I only do four or five of those a year, and last year, because of COVID, I didn’t do any.
TG: Did COVID-19 change the way you’ve photographed this year?
DE: Yes. In years past, I’ve spent a lot of time driving around looking for photographs to take, but not so much this year. Honestly, this year I’ve been pretty discouraged about taking photographs, and I’m hoping that it is just the year. Every time I do go out to do photographs and I go to these spots that usually have always been my spots, there’s tons of cars. The whole reason why I have a camera is that I just love going for a hike and being outside. But now there are cars and people everywhere, and it’s overwhelming.
TG: Can you still find new things to photograph?
DE: Many times over the years, I’ve hit that point where I felt like I had photographed everything in Door County numerous times, especially when I was with the Pulse. I went to Fyr Bal every year; I went to Pumpkin Patch. My last year with the Pulse was 2011. After 14 years of working with the Pulse, I just needed something different.
TG: What do you like about Tahoe?
DE: My life has some contradictions. I hate the winter, but I love snowboarding.
TG: What’s your favorite thing to shoot?
DE: I like shooting landscapes and seascapes, but my favorite thing is shooting the night sky. However, the problem is I don’t really like staying up real late anymore. Part of the reason why I don’t do a lot of night-sky photography anymore is because I don’t like sitting on a beach all by myself for hours. If I do a star trail, the camera is just clicking away for an hour and a half, and I’m just sitting there watching.
See Dan Eggert’s work at daneggertphotography.com.