2020 North Dakota Governor's Photo Contest Winners

Gov. Doug Burgum, North Dakota Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman, North Dakota Council on the Arts Executive Director Kim Konikow and AAA of North Dakota Director Gene LaDoucer presented the winning submissions from the 17th annual North Dakota Governor’s Photo Contest by live virtual event Oct. 23 due to coronavirus social distancing protocols.

“Today we recognize talented photographers who captured the essence of what makes North Dakota a great place to visit, live, work and raise a family,” Burgum said. “They showcase our wide-open spaces, outdoor adventure and willingness to work together for the health and well-being of our neighbors and communities.”

Prints of the winning images will be on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Photographers submitted photos to one or more of the following categories: Road Trips, #InThisTogetherND, Wildlife, Badlands Scenery, Beyond Badlands Scenery and Main Street ND. Winning submissions and honorable mentions will be displayed at the North Dakota Heritage Center and the photographs will be published in North Dakota Tourism’s promotional materials and on its website, ndtourism.com.

“The contest’s popularity continues to grow,” Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman said. “A total of 2,074 photos from 157 photographers were entered, bringing the total submissions over the lifetime of the contest to more than 16,500. This year’s total was the most entries ever received and nearly double last year’s submissions.”

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. Seven of the following photographers to be recognized have never been recognized in this contest previously. 

Click here to view the 2020 Governor's Virtual Photo Contest.


2020 Governor’s Photo Contest for Travel and Tourism 


Category Winner: “A Break Among the Clouds” by Sierrah Fischer, Watford City  
Showcasing very green Little Missouri National Grassland of the McKenzie County Badlands, a hiker sits down the take in the gorgeous view that seems to never end from this overlook. The sun is starting to set and the sky is beginning to show the bright yellow-orange gradient emerging in the sky.   

Honorable Mention: “Badlands Under Starlight” by Marshall Lipp, Mandan  
This night shot showcases very dynamic rock formations under the vibrant starry sky. The Milky Way is visible and countless stars can be clearly seen. It takes a lot of skill to have that kind of clarity in those pinpoint stars.   

Honorable Mention: “Crocus” Rachel Dewhirst, Grassy Butte  
The Crocus photo was taken at Lone Butte Ranch near Grassy Butte. Not your typical badlands shot, as it doesn’t showcase endless buttes and unusual rock formations, this photo showcases the first sign of spring in the prairie crocus flower, or Pasqueflower. Taken right as the sun sets, the flowers seem to glow, having emerged from the remnants of last year’s grass.    


Category Winner: “Along for the Ride” by Marshall Lipp, Mandan  
This photo captures the wide-open prairie near New Salem as an evening summer storm passes by, representative of so much of the center portion of rural North Dakota. In the year of social and physical distancing, this image definitely represents being away from the crowds. A solitary lightning strike is captured in great clarity in the distance. Timed prior to sunset, the angle of the sun seems to light the edges of the clouds on fire. The texture of the clouds is similar to the texture of the plains.   

Honorable Mention: “Summer Sun Halo” by Casey Helling, Golden Valley   
An unripe wheat field sits in the foreground of an unusual summer sunrise surrounded by a halo similar to winter sundogs. Agriculture has always been a top economic driver in North Dakota and this image stands tribute to the beautiful side of how that industry shapes North Dakota.   

Honorable Mention: “Kayaking at Government Bay” by Nicole Morrison, Bismarck  
Lake Sakakawea is a top destination in the state for water recreation in all forms. This photo showcases a kayaker meandering through the rock formations at Government Bay, some of the unique structure that makes Lake Sakakawea stand out. The clear blue sky is reflected in the water on a peaceful summer day.   


Category Winner: “The Painter” by Meredith Jo Ehli, Bismarck  
With paintbrush in hand, “The Painter” showcases a man recreating the serene summer scenery of McDowell Dam Recreation Area. You can almost hear the birds singing and smell the fresh morning air.  

Honorable Mention: “Fishing Buddies” by Laura Gardner, Washburn  
North Dakota’s fishing season never ends, and this shot showcases and man and his dog enjoying an early spring day fishing along the Knife River. The movement of the water, the intense stare of the dog, and the contented look of the man make invite us all to enjoy the great outdoor opportunities we have in this great state. 

Honorable Mention: “Reflections of Lives Nurtured” by Connie Krapp, Jamestown  
A family enjoys some time together on a dock as the sun sets on the Jamestown Reservoir on a still summer evening.


Category winner: “Down By The River” by Katherine Plessner, Verona 
Steamboat Park in Bismarck, showing fall colors along the riverside mixed-use trail, which increases walkability for area residents and is a center for healthy activities such a biking, running, rollerblading, etc. and connects from nearly Fox Island (proposed trail to get all the way there) to Pioneer Park/Chief’s Looking Village (with plans to expand all the way to the Hoge Island area).  


Category Winner: “King of the Mountain” by Laura Gardner, Washburn 
Overlooking the beautiful rugged badlands on the Custer Auto Trail Tour near Medora, a vehicle sets parked complete with rooftop tent, ready for adventure. The expanse of the distinctive western North Dakota landscape appears endless from this vantage point.   

Honorable Mention: “Taking the Backroads” by Suanne Kallis, Carrington  
This sunset image showcases a restored 1958 pickup on a rural gravel road between fields on a back road near Carrington. The sun is breaking through distant clouds on a calm summer evening. The ageless nature of the fields, the sky and the vehicle in this restored condition could have looked just like this 60 years ago but the vibrancy of the image brings it to modern day.   

Honorable Mention: ”East Meets West” by Lisa Gruebele, Bismarck
This fun image showcases a bike rider wearing a NDSU Bison jersey pausing on along the road in Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a bison starts to cross the road in the distance.   


Category Winner: “The Amazing Grace of the Bald Eagle” by Lisa Buchweitz, Langdon
A bald eagle, with wings outstretched, comes in for a landing on the high branches of a tree in early spring in Walsh County. The bold color of the bird is a stark contrast to the almost monochromic backdrop.   

Honorable Mention: “Mink on the Move” by Steve Silseth, Minot
In early winter, a mink playfully jumps across the thin ice on the Souris River near Burlington.   

Honorable Mention: "Here's looking at you kid" by Lisa Buchweitz, Langdon
A thoroughly saturated beaver in Pembina County looks over its shoulder towards the photographer, with a very spirited look on its face.  

Honorable Mention: “Snow Geese” by Steve Silseth, Minot 
Snow geese fill the sky in a late fall migration near Garrison. Countless birds fill the frame, yet the detail of each bird can be clearly seen.


“The Amazing Grace of the Bald Eagle” by Lisa Buchweitz, Langdon