Oct. 22—GRAND FORKS — Catching the moment in nature, when a great heron snatched a northern pike out of the water, was "probably once-in-a-lifetime, seeing that happen," said Lisa Buchweitz of Langdon, North Dakota.
The photo of a fight worth waiting for, "Catch of the Day," took patience — knowing where to wait, camera in hand — before the image could be captured. That effort, and the quality of the resulting photograph, earned her the top prize in the Wildlife Category in the 19th annual North Dakota Governor's Photo Contest.
Another winner from this area, Mary Lizakowski, of Minto, North Dakota, earned honorable mention for her photo "Cool Waters" in the Roadtrips Category.
Along with other award-winning photographers, both were honored as guests of Gov. Doug Burgum at a special event earlier this week in Mandan. They also will receive cash prizes, but notably, their art is receiving statewide recognition as Governor's Photo Contest winners.
These and other winning photos by amateur photographers — in categories such as Festival and Events, Recreation, Scenery and Vibrant Communities — will be used in the state's tourism promotional materials.
This year's contest drew 471 entries from 79 photographers, with a limit of 10 entries per photographer. Since the contest began in 2004, it has attracted more than 17,600 photos.
Contest entries are judged by a committee representing the Governor's Office, AAA, the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and North Dakota Tourism, and membership changes each year.
In her prize-winning photo, Buchweitz captured an image of a great heron snatching a pike from the water at the Goschke Dam, south of Walhalla in northeast North Dakota, last April.
"I had seen the great heron in this area, and so I just pulled over and just sat and was watching him and taking a few photos — and he nabbed that fish," she said.
The heron fought with the sizable fish for quite a while, she said. "I had never seen him catch anything that large. (The bird) caught the fish several times; he had a hard time hanging onto it."
She was "very happy" with the photo she entered in the contest, she said. "I knew it was an unusual one."
Buchweitz shoots mostly wildlife and some scenery, she said. "I spend a lot of hours on the road." Most of her photos have been taken in northeast North Dakota — in Cavalier County mostly, and to a lesser extent in Pembina and Walsh counties.
She became interested in photography about 10 years ago, when she shot sunset pictures in a wheat field.
"That kind of sparked my curiosity, and it evolved from there," she said. "I'm just teaching myself as I go. I don't think you ever get done figuring it out. I thoroughly enjoy it."
Her interest springs not only from a love of nature, but from something deeply personal. Her husband, "a farmer to the core," loved to go for drives when he wasn't in the midst of seeding or harvesting, she said. He died unexpectedly in 2011.
"On the first anniversary of his death, I spent the day driving the area where we farmed, taking various pictures. I went that evening to his wheat and canola fields and took pictures of the sunset through the crops. Those pictures struck me to my very soul and I looked at my surroundings more closely from that day on.
"So, in a way, my husband led me to photography."
She has entered the Governor's Photo Contest every year for, at least, the past six years, and has won awards, she said. Her 2020 entry, "The Amazing Grace of the Bald Eagle," was named "Best in Show."
Buchweitz always participates in the North Dakota Outdoors photo contest and her photos also have appeared in that publication, she said.
She is "very happy" that her photos have been and will be used to boost the state's tourism, she said. "It's a great contest they run, because pictures do say a lot. And we have a lot in North Dakota that, unless you live here, people don't realize it."
People might think wildlife is more prevalent in western North Dakota, but Buchweitz said, "we have a lot of diversity in wildlife in our little corner."
Mary Lizakowski, of Minto, was "very surprised" her photo received honorable mention in the Governor's Photo Contest.
"I still can't believe it," she said.
Her photo depicts a waterfall at Fort Ransom State Park, in the wooded Sheyenne River Valley of southeastern North Dakota. She took the photo two years ago, at age 74, when she took a two-mile hike with her daughter, Mary Horton of Grand Forks, to see the waterfall. Horton and her dog, Bogie, are in the photo.
The Mineral Springs Waterfall in the Sheyenne River State Forest is the only registered waterfall in the state. It comes from an underground spring that drops eight feet and runs into the Sheyenne River.
"It's kind of out in the middle of nowhere, out in the wild, and getting to it was kind of hard — there are ruts you have to walk in," Lizakowski said. "But, for me, it was worth the hike."
Sara Otte Coleman, the state's tourism and marketing director, said the contest winners "continue to provide stunning imagery that inspires travel and encourages visitors and residents to experience our vibrant communities. The Roadtrips Category ties directly to our recent marketing efforts and we look forward to using these fresh photos to inspire more trips."
At Monday's event, Burgum said, "Today, we celebrate these talented photographers who captured the essence of what makes North Dakota a great place to visit, live, work and raise a family. They do a fantastic job of highlighting the wide-open spaces, world-class outdoor adventures, and diverse opportunities available in our communities."