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Spotlight: Snow, Family and the Joy of Dogsledding

By David Schonauer   Tuesday April 9, 2019


Blake and Jennifer Freking live in Finland.

That’s Finland, Minnesota. 

Their off-the-grid home, nestled in the woods on the north shore of Lake Superior, lies about 30 miles from the Canadian border. It’s a place, notes Blake, where Mother Nature always has you under her thumb. “This particular spot in Minnesota gets more snowfall than the rest of the state, by far,” he says.

It’s the perfect place for the Frekings, who are a musher family. They care for some 60 Siberian huskies and have competed in long-distance dogsled races including the Yukon Quest and the John Beargrease Marathon — a 400-mile race through northern Minnesota that is a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska. The Frekings have competed in that grueling contests as well.

It was during the Beargrease Marathon that Jonathan Chapman, a Minneapolis-based photographer and filmmaker, first met the Frekings. Chapman had been shooting stills for the race and became interested in making a film about mushers as they prepare for a race. The result is his short “Lure of the North.”

Chapman notes at Vimeo that the film “explores the challenges of living and raising a family off-grid in the snowiest region of Minnesota and captures the Frekings’ devotion to the sport, spirit of adventure, and commitment to the well being of their huskies.”

While the short is filled with beautiful shots of frozen landscapes and slow-motion sequences capturing the agility and power of sled dogs, it remains grounded in Frekings’ passion for the north and their way of life. In the film, Blake, who grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, says that as a boy he dreamed of having a sled dog. “I finally did get that dog. Put a belt around myself, tied it onto that dog in the harness that I had made myself, then added another, and another.”

“I started running sled dogs when I was eight years old,” says Jennifer. “My mom had a team before I was born. There’s just nothing quite like mushing. Apparently the first time I ever got up on the runners obviously it must have been what my soul needed.”

The film was shot over a three-day visit to the Frekings’ home in March 2018 and an additional two-day trip to northern Minnesota in January 2019, when Chapman followed Blake and Jennifer as they competed in the Gunflint Mail Run — a dogsled race through Cook County, MN.

“Timing was a challenge during this project, as the distances covered are often long and the chances of capturing a mushing team during a race are slim,” notes Chapman, a PPD reader. Working in waist-deep snow presented challenges as well for Chapman and a crew from the Minneapolis-St. Paul creative community.

Chapman shot the project with two Canon EOS-1D X Mark II cameras, a variety of Canon lenses, a MoVI M5 gimbal stabilizer, a Marantz PMD-661 handheld audio recorder and a Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun mic. He also used a DJI Drone for aerial shots.

 

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