<< All News Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - 02:38 pm

Gov. Doug Burgum along with North Dakota Commerce Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman and North Dakota Council on the Arts Executive Director Kim Konikow today presented the winning submissions from the 18th annual North Dakota Governor’s Photo Contest at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum.  

Launched in 2004, the Governor’s Photo Contest encourages North Dakota amateur photographers to submit photos that capture the unique things to see and do in North Dakota.

“We are deeply grateful for these talented photographers who captured the spirit of what makes North Dakota a great place to visit, live, work and raise a family,” Burgum said. “They do a fantastic job of highlighting the wide-open spaces, outdoor adventure and diverse opportunities available in our communities.” 

Photographers submitted photos to one or more of the following categories: Recreation, Road Trips, Badlands Scenery, Beyond the Badlands Scenery and Wildlife. Winning submissions will be published in North Dakota Tourism’s promotional materials.  

“The Governor’s Photo contest categories continue to provide stunning imagery that inspire travel and community experiences,” Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman said. “Road trips have been a large part of our marketing efforts and we look forward to using these unique photos to inspire trips both near and far.”

This year the contest had a total of 543 submissions, with a limit of 10 entries per photographer.   Among the 15 photographers selected, 12 were first-time Governor’s Photo Contest award winners. Since 2004, the annual contest has received more than 17,100 photos. 

Two guest judges participated this year, photographer Tim Lamey representing the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly representing the Governor's Office.

Prints of the winning images will be on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum through mid-November. The images will then for the first time ever, take part in a traveling exhibit through the North Dakota Art Gallery Association (NDAGA). Exhibitions will be at the Cando Arts Council Dec. 1, 2021, the James Memorial Arts Center in Williston May 2, 2022, and at The Arts Center in Jamestown June 9, 2022. 

“We are excited to showcase these images throughout the state as a traveling exhibit,” North Dakota Council on the Arts Executive Director Kim Konikow said. “This is a great way to experience some of the art destinations in our rural communities.”

AAA has been a proud sponsor of the Governor’s Photo contest for the past 13 years providing prizes and exposure for winning photographers.

“This is a unique opportunity to support our North Dakota Amateur photographers while showcasing their photos in our AAA publication and communications efforts,” Director of Public Affairs Gene LaDoucer said.

2021 Governor’s Photo Contest for Travel and Tourism 


Category Winner: “Setting Decoys on a Frozen North Dakota Wetland” by Craig Bihrle from Bismarck.    

This image illustrates the calm before the excitement of the hunt. Sunrise preparation for waterfowl hunting, a man places decoys in partially frozen water as the sun begins to light up the sky. 

Honorable Mentions:

“Ice fishing for North Dakota’s State Fish” by Craig Bihrle from Bismarck.  

A nicely composed shot of an angler pulling the state fish out of the ice, with the sun glint off the fish’s scales and the movement in the tail, truly capturing the moment.  

“Still on The Water” by Kim Black from Minot Airforce Base. 

The peaceful glow of the last light of sunset frames a paddle board in the calm waters of Lake Sakakawea.

Road Trips: 

Category Winner: “The Vast Lane” by Wendy Wood, from Grand Forks.

A spring storm begins to clear, revealing a full rainbow in the rural Red River Valley in southeastern North Dakota. The rainbow frames a wide-open road flanked by fields leading into the community of Christine, North Dakota. 

Honorable Mentions:

“Geese In Flight Thru Aurora” by Nate Reynolds from Glen Ullin.
Stars and northern lights beautifully frame the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, the gateway to the Enchanted Highway, “Geese in Flight.” The auroras add a mysterious glow around this iconic site.

“Buffalo Halo” by Troy Gunderson from Jamestown. 

Another iconic statue on Interstate 94, the World’s Largest Buffalo, is framed by sundogs that creates an inviting phenomenon.

Badlands Scenery: 

Category Winner: “Stormy Sunset” Nels Kilpela from Dickinson. 

This panoramic badlands shot showcases the ruggedness of the Little Missouri National Grasslands under summer storm clouds. A small rainbow emerges at the edge of the falling rain off in the distance. 

Honorable Mentions:

“The Western Edge Untamed” by Suanne Kallis from Carrington. 

The milky way glows above a majestic butte, on the southern end of Medora. The lines of the stars and the butte draw a viewer’s eye deeper and deeper into the details of the image.  

“Storm on Display” by Nels Kilpela from Dickinson. 

Lightning bolts strike the badlands from a much-needed summer storm cloud. The storm casts a warm and inviting reddish glow over the broken landscape of the badlands.

Beyond the Badlands Scenery: 

Category Winner: “Storm forming over sunflowers” by Roxanne Westman from Mapleton. 

This fantastic image combines blue skies, a storm brewing off in the distance and a sunny sunflower field in full bloom. The contrasting vibrant colors are very eye-catching, and the angle of the shot makes it appear that the field goes on forever. 

Honorable Mentions:

“Neowise” by Erick Garza from Bismarck.

The calmness of the night leads the stars and the comet being perfectly reflected in the still waters of this rural Morton County lake. So much rarer than once in a lifetime, it will be nearly 7,000 years before this comet is near Earth again. 

“Harvest” by Steve Silseth from Minot. 

Combining a common autumn North Dakota scene with modern technology, this image showcases an aerial view of wheat harvesting. 


Category Winner: “Prairie Dog Embrace” by Tim Samuelson from Fargo. 

The sentiment portrayed in the moment captured by this image really struck the judging committee. One prairie dog wraps his arms around a second prairie dog that looks like he really needed that hug.  

Honorable Mentions: 

“Pheasant. Location” by Greg Kolden from Bismarck.

Taken at one of our many wildlife refuges, this pheasant is in flight, but the clarity of the patterns and colors of the bird are exceptional.   

“Mr. Porcupine” by Cindy Nagel from Fargo. 

Not really one of our most common animals in the state, this guy peeks at us from high in a tree with quite an expression.  

“Prairie Rattlesnake” by Chuck Miner from Mandan. 

One thing that elevates a photograph is capturing a moment in time. The image captures a moment with the snake in the position of facing the camera.

“Northern Saw-Whet Owl” by Annie Goldade from Fargo. 

The northern saw-whet owl is a very reclusive bird, but this image captures the detail of the bird with the great use of depth of field.


Best in Show: “Prairie Dog Embrace” by Tim Samuelson from Fargo. 

This image stood out among the rest by capturing a moment and evoking a warm feeling. The warmth of the colors matched the feeling, and the depth of field keeps the focus of the viewer in the moment.  

Find descriptions of all winners and honorable mentions along with the complete gallery at  https://belegendary.link/2021PhotoContestWinners.

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