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Stillwater Lift Bridge is OPEN!

After a 20 year process, the historic lift bridge is repainted and open for pedestrian and bike traffic including a 4.7 mile loop that spans both bridges!

It has served as an amazing backdrop for our photography over the years and is now a more safe and usable asset to the community.

Here is the video from august 2017 when the bridge closed with a “decades parade” of vehicles from every decade since the bridge was first built.  What an amazing collaborative effort – I met the man this morning that has been working on this project for 20 years and I asked him what he was going to do next and he said “retire!”  Well this is an amazing legacy to leave for him. 🙂

Here is an animation of the Loop Trail from 2014.






















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Help a small business today!

Hi! I’m Judd, and I am a small business owner.

During these unprecedented times, I have been sorting through some of the untouched (and very dusty) bins in my garage and found this film print circa 1992.  Great images tell stories and I wanted to share this story with you.

1. I was 19 years old and was on interim from St. Olaf College in southern Germany.
2. We had a couple free days so three of took the train down from Munich to northern Austria to do some skiing (Why not?!).
3. I was not a good enough skier to tackle these mountains with Afton Alps being my only skiing experience before this.
4. We had to ski the lift lines just so we didn’t get lost – so those are tough, steep, narrow black diamond runs and everyone can watch you get pummeled by moguls.
5. I’m sure I had a traveler’s cheque in my pocket (remember those?).
6. I’m taking a picture with my dad’s 35mm Pentax FILM camera which actually cost money to develop the pictures. This was 13 years before I started my photography business, and probably only the third roll of film that I had ever shot.
7. Somebody else took a picture of me taking the picture which cost THEM money.
8. The camera actually had a self timer which must have been a physical countdown timer.
9. I still remember the anticipation of going to the store to pick up the developed film – better than Christmas!  And then free doubles became a thing! 🙂
It is hard to believe that was the way we operated pre-digital.

“How are you doing?” people ask me this question often these days.  It is a complicated answer but has changed substantially with Covid-19.  I think we will all be OK and pull through this just fine.  We just need to take precautions so our response is different next time.  I have gained a new perspective, and knocked out a lengthy to do list that had some tasks that were over a year old on it!

It has been said that an entrepreneur is the only person in the world that will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 and that is certainly true of me.  It’s not that I love to work long hours, but I love the process – the endless to-do lists that are rewarding to complete and everyday challenges of small business.  I love creating memories for people through photography and manufacturing self confidence with great images.  I love the celebrations in our venues.  I love creating spaces where people can raise money for awesome causes.

So “How are you really doing?
1. In some ways I feel like I’m retired – golfing with my boys who had their spring and summer baseball seasons canceled – check out Youth on Course to golf for less than $5!
2. I’m confident we will pull through this and be taken care of by the government, banks, and loyal clients. It’s good to hear the chorus that we need to help small business in this unprecedented time.
3. I feel bad for Bjorn, my 18-year old senior that was robbed of his senior baseball season and countless spring events
4. I have 8 businesses that pretty much became illegal to operate over a couple weeks’ time.
5. I feel the need to help our our immediate small businesses and friends during this time, so if you have time to check out their pages and social media sites that would be an amazing help to all of them!
6. We are planning some get social distance get-togethers and concerts at JX that will work during Phase 1 of eased restrictions since JX is so large.
7. We are launching an “Eat Local Spotlight” to help restaurants, as well as some missed events for the Class of 2020.  Keep an eye on the JX Facebook page for these events.
8. I feel hopeful that Covid-19 is not as bad as the original projection models that were very scary.

So “Do you still do photography?” is a question I also get a lot. I think since people think that we are so busy with the venues that we aren’t shooting as much, but we are shooting more than ever. We shot about 200 portrait sessions (Families, High School Seniors, Commercial, and headshots) last year and about 20 weddings and recently bought a drone to add to our shooting arsenal! We also built a new studio adjacent to the escape rooms in the back of the JX building right underneath the dining room. We are currently working on two new escape rooms The Train Car and Space Escape to compliment our Space Cave and Connolly’s Office rooms. If you haven’t tried an escape room, it is a must for any group of people! We also built a conference room in the middle level of JX for all your small team building and private party needs – even birthday parties!

Here are some of our businesses and friends in our building – if you have time to connect with their pages that would be a huge help during this time!
If you want to support them by inviting your friends to “like” these pages, you can do this:

  1. Go to your Facebook Fan Page.
  2. On the right hand side, under Community, click on “invite your friends to like this page”
  3. A pop up will appear, click on. “See All” then “Select All”
  4. Lastly, click “Send invites”

Bella Vida Catering (Brand new!), owned by Tim O’Brien in partnership with One23 Events, and exclusive caterer to JX Venue.  New full kitchen was built in JX lower level and finished in December.
The Collective – A Photography Studio, owned by Vickey Weiss and other photographers include Nancy Varberg, Laurie, Morgan, and others
Just Cuz Salon, Salon and beauty boutique owned by Ashley Hamble
The Lumberjack Axe Throwing Bar owned by Sara and Nate Jespersen
The Velveteen Speakeasy owned by Dariush and Sarah Moslemi
So here are the small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19:

One23 Events: This is our umbrella company for venues, photography, catering, etc. We needed a cohesive name and the name is based on the address of JX (123 Second Street North).
Bella Vida Catering (Brand new catering partnership launching soon!)
Cheers!  Mobile Bartending Service (Available to cater liquor for your home parties or any off-site location)
JX Venue (Stillwater – Capacity 720 – Weddings, Galas & Private Parties) – One of the largest event venues in Minnesota.
The Loft at Studio J (Stillwater – Capacity 330 – Weddings, Galas & Private Parties) – This was our second photography studio in Stillwater which is now exclusively for private parties as we expanded the lobby.
Riverbend Venue at River’s Edge (New Richmond, WI – capacity 250 – Weddings, Galas & Private Parties).  We operate and manage wedding clients at this venue owned by Steve Kaufman.
Stillwater Escape Company Four puzzle rooms with secret doors, up to 20 clues and puzzles per room that takes about 60 minutes to escape!  These rooms are great for family, couples, and corporate team building.  We are looking to expand these rooms into other communities.
Studio J and Judd Sather Photography, (Weddings and Portraits, High School Seniors, Commercial Work, and Real Estate).  Our new studio is located in the middle level of the JX building in Stillwater.  It is our 5th studio and we have been shooting now for 20 years!
Judd Sather Photography is when Josh and I shoot personally, and Studio J has about 5 other amazing photographers available at lower price points.
We are starting a brand new MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM to help keep your images fresh and help us keep a steadier income year round.  Click this link for details – pricing starts at $15/month!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and support small business!! Here is my message to our venue clients about COVID-19. -Judd

I will leave you with my favorite quote towards which I constantly strive (and fall short):
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”

― James A. Michener

T Song - May 6, 2020 - 10:00 AM

Let me know when you can golf!! I would love to steal some of your free time!

Carl & Tracy Baglio - May 6, 2020 - 11:28 AM

Hi Judd
Small businesses are the backbone of our community and need to pull together in character building times like these. We appreciate your families friendship and support over the years and really feel for your boys and the challenges you must all face as a family. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you…Stay Strong! -Carl & Tracy

HOWARD FOER - May 7, 2020 - 9:29 AM

Keep up the good fight Judd!

Peace and be well


jsather - October 13, 2020 - 6:14 AM

Thanks Carl and Tracy!!

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The Grand Canyon – a short film of the September Surfer hilarity

The Grand Canyon is a magical place, and when you add magical people on a 14 day trip unplugged from the world the result is something really special.  Here is a glimpse of the people that spent two weeks in September paddling the mighty Colorado River.

To say I was scared at times is an understatement.

To say that my fingers hurt from playing guitar for 4+ hours per day is an understatement.

To say that the rafts were adjusted to accommodate a ridiculous amount of beers is also an understatement.

This was my second time to the Grand Canyon; I was more prepared from a photography / battery standpoint, but I wasn’t prepared for the physicality of paddling 100 of the 226 miles in an inflatable kayak!

Enjoy the footage, and everyone please put this on your bucket lists!!  The amazing tour group is AZRA, and they have a 1-2 year waiting list!

Links: Images on my Facebook page, Link to Download Images and here is a clue to the password: river____y
If you’d like to order an album of the fun (large or small), email me at!

Highlights – A Short Film of 13 minutes

Full Songs and Stories – so you can drink in every drunken lyric
Bagpipes – for only the true fans of the majestic instrument


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