Minnesota: A Land Of Extremes / by Bradley Hanson

Minnehaha Creek under the Nicollet Avenue bridge in Minneapolis

I was born in the northern most major city of the central United States: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota is the birthplace of Prince, Bob Dylan, Brian Setzer, REM drummer Bill Berry, Tiny Tim, Bobby McFarrin, the Coen brothers, Monty Python writer Terry Gilliam, Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead, John Paul Getty, model Cheryl Tiegs, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Vice President Walter Mondale, authors Charles Schulz, F Scott Fitzgerland, Thomas Friedman and Sinclair Lewis, the bands Low, Husker Du, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, as well as actors Chris Pratt, Vince Vaughn, Peter Krause, Jessica Biel, Winona Ryder, Judy Garland, Jessica Lange, Tippi Hedren, Vincent Kartheiser, Josh Hartnett, Jane Russell, Marion Ross and Loni Anderson, as well as comedians Maria Bamford, Nick Swardson, Louie Anderson and Craig Kilborn. Minnesota is also home to companies Best Buy, Target, US Bank, 3M, Pillsbury, General Mills, Dairy Queen and Hormel: makers of SPAM.

Bordering Canada and surrounded by the Great Lakes, Minnesota offers weather extremes from winters with a Siberia-esque subzero windchill to hot, humid summers that open up and drain every pore on your body while your feet slowly sink into the melting tar. Between the two polar opposites, spring and autumn are absolutely breathtaking. As a young child, I naively thought this was the normal experience of everyone else. Once I started traveling the world, I realized the folly of this mindset, and also how much I loved to travel.

I moved to Seattle in 1997, wanting the proximity to mountains, the ocean, world class cuisine, espresso as an art form and year round moderate temperatures so I could motorcycle all year instead of just late May to October. 2 hours below Vancouver BC and 3 hours north of Portland, Seattle was paradise for me. I began motorcycle racing for WMRRA in 1998 and started photographing weddings in 1999. I gave up motorcycle racing when my oldest son, Gabriel, was born in April of 2000, but weddings have been my sole source of income since then, with over 600 under my belt. I couldn't imagine earning a living any other way, as every weekend I get to photograph for 6 to 12 hours in some very challenging and rewarding settings, in locations all over the world including India, Thailand, China, Korea, Indonesia, Canada and Mexico and all over the United States.

Circumstances in my personal life brought me back to Minneapolis again in 2009, and I now have an outsider's appreciation for Minneapolis mixed with the inherent biases I have as a native of the area, both pro and con. With two cities with different vibes adjacent to each other (Minneapolis is 410,000, St. Paul is 305,000 and the metro area of over 3 million people), it offers the benefits of a big city with a relatively inexpensive housing market. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did when I grew up here, now that I have the additional perspective from traveling. It is a beautiful city with a vibrant arts/theater community, world class museums, a thriving music scene, the most food co-ops per capita of any state, the best park system in the US, the best bike trail system in the county (as well as one of only 6 bike velodromes in the US) and more than enough great restaurants from every culture to satisfy even the most discerning palette. The winters are beautiful, stark, monochromatic and occasionally hellish, often more about sheer endurance than enjoyment. Then again, people in Minneapolis don't think anything about having to be on time to work after a massive snowstorm, they help their neighbors shovel and push their cars out of deep snow, and enjoy outdoor kite festivals on frozen lakes. People here bike ALL YEAR, in snow, sleet, hail, rain and sun. Just before everything becomes frozen tundra, the autumn is the most colorful I've experienced anywhere in the US. Minnesota has the most lakes of any state in the US with 13,700, the largest lake in the US (Lake Superior), the largest river in the US (Mississippi River) and the largest mall in the US (Mall of America). The older I get, the colder cold feels, so I'm probably not going to retire here (thinking about northern California wine country or coastal Oregon), but while I am here I am going to seek out and appreciate everything Minnesota has to offer.

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