Minnesota: A land of extremes / by Bradley Hanson

Minnehaha Creek under the Nicollet Avenue bridge

After almost being born on a US Army base in Germany, I was born in the northern most major city of the central United States: Minneapolis, Minnesota. I grew up in 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, 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 coffee and year round moderate temperatures so I could motorcycle all year instead of just June to October! Seattle was paradise for me. The city where I began photographing weddings in 1999, the same year I began motorcycle racing. I gave up motorcycle racing when my oldest son, Gabriel, was born, but weddings have been my sole source of income since then, with 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. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did when I grew up here. It is a beautiful city with a vibrant arts community, world class museums, a thriving music scene, 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 to satisfy even the most discerning palette. The winters are beautiful, stark, monochromatic and hellish, often more about sheer endurance than enjoyment. Just before everything is 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). I'm not going to retire here (thinking about California wine country or Portland), but while I am here I am going to seek out and appreciate everything Minnesota has to offer.