Prairie Dog Embrace

2021 North Dakota Governors Photo Contest Winners

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. Location: Burleigh County. Photographer: Craig Bihrle from Bismarck

Honorable Mentions 

  • Ice fishing for North Dakota’s State Fish. Location: Kidder County. Photographer: Craig Bihrle from Bismarck
  • Still on The Water. Location: Government Bay, Lake Sakakawea. Photographer: Kim Black from Minot AFB


Category Winner: The Vast Lane. Location: 58th St SE Christine. Photographer: Wendy Wood from Grand Forks

Honorable Mentions 

  • Buffalo Halo. Location: Jamestown. Photographer: Troy Gunderson from Jamestown
  • Geese In Flight Thru Aurora. Location: Enchanted Highway. Photographer: Nate Reynolds from Glen Ullin


Category Winner  

  • Stormy Sunset. Location: Little Missouri National Grasslands. Photographer: Nels Kilpela from Dickinson  

Honorable Mentions 

  • The Western Edge Untamed. Location: Medora. Photographer: Suanne Kallis from Carrington
  • Storm on Display. Location: Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Photographer: Nels Kilpela from Dickinson


Category Winner: Storm forming over sunflowers. Location: Davenport. Photographer: Roxanne Westman from Mapleton

Honorable Mentions 

  • Harvest. Location: near Kramer, ND. Photographer: Steve Silseth from Minot 
  • Neowise. Location: Fish Creek Lake. Photographer: Erick Garza from Bismarck


Category Winner (and Best in Show): Prairie Dog Embrace. Location: Medora. Photographer: Tim Samuelson from Fargo  

Honorable Mentions  

  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Location: Fargo. Photographer: Annie Goldade from Fargo
  • Pheasant. Location: Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photographer: Greg Kolden from Bismarck
  • Mr. Porcupine. Location: Marmarth. Photographer: Cindy Nagle from Fargo
  • Prairie Rattlesnake. Location: Fort Yates. Photographer: Chuck Miner from Mandan