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VALENTINE'S DAY: Siouxland wedding photographers share some favorite romantic shots

SIOUX CITY -- On entering the profession, Britton Hacke quickly saw he really likes the jolt that comes with taking photos of music concerts. Hacke also found he enjoys shooting weddings, when romance hangs in the air and he aims to capture images that exhibit the love and regard people have when starting a great new phase of life.

Britton Hacke Photography in Sioux City has been shooting weddings for a few years. Some are planned out for months ahead, while others have popped with less lead time.

"My first wedding was for a friend's mom, and it was Beetlejuice-themed at a bar. It was so much fun," Hacke said.

Hacke sometimes has a plan for how the wedding shoot should go, but he also knows that being ready to creatively react to a tender moment is crucial to getting a good outcome. A key thing is also to meet the expectations of the marrying couple, with the thoughts they have on things that are important to capture indicators of love.

Shane Monahan 

This photo of McKenzie and Andrew Kelly in 2016 in Sioux City is one of professional photographer Shane Monahan's favorite wedding photos. For Valentine's Day, the Journal asked Monahan, of Sioux City, and two other local photographers to share some of their favorites.

For Valentine's Day, three Siouxland photographers shared with The Journal a few of their all-time favorite wedding photos, captured over recent years. The photographers -- which also included Shane Monahan of Shane Monahan Photography in Sioux City and Christina Kjar of Christina Kjar Photography in Holstein, Iowa -- explained how they pulled off the shots and what made them so distinctive -- in other words, why they love them. 

Monahan's shot of Jamie and Austin Stubbs in Sioux City in 2018: "This photo was taken near the end of the night. The weather had not cooperated most of the day and the couple was a bit disappointed that we wouldn't be able to get a lot of outdoor photos. I realized the mist was perfect to create this sort of shot and asked the couple to just trust me. We went out, but tried not to venture too far, as I didn't want to get them really wet. Once I set my flash up and posed them, it only took a couple shots to nail it. It's still one of my all time favorite shots from an incredible couple."

Monahan's shot of McKenzie and Andrew Kelly in Sioux City in 2016: "The wind was blowing nicely, but we still needed a little help getting the veil to do what we wanted. My wife Becca held the veil in place and hopped out of the frame just before I took the photo. To get this shot, I used a large flash to help overpower the sun and create the deep blues and clouds that can be seen in the background. I love the dramatic sky and the overall feel you get when looking at this beautiful couple. No matter what lighting tricks you use though, nothing photographs quite like a couple in love."

Kjar's shot of Ashley and Mitch Trost in Holstein: "Winter weddings are becoming increasingly popular and are always a challenge with the weather. This wedding was a few years ago and I remember it being just above zero that day. When I took the bride and groom outside for a few images, it started snowing. It was the perfect snow with large flakes. I couldn't believe how perfect the timing was, that never happens!"

Christina Kjar Photography 

This photo of Ashley and Mitch Trost in Holstein, Iowa, is one of professional photographer Christina Kjar's all-time favorite wedding photos. For Valentine's Day, the Journal asked Kjar, of Holstein, and two other local photographers to share some of their favorites.

Kjar's shot of Claudia and Wesley Swanger in Ida Grove in 2019: "I had photographed both the bride and groom's senior portraits, so I was excited to be photographing their wedding too. Before the dance started at the reception, I took the bride and groom outside for a few images at night. The reception took place at the bride's family's airplane hanger, which was decorated with lights for Christmas. I wanted to capture the bride and groom spotlighted in front of the castle-shaped hanger."

Hacke's shot of Lilith and Michael Brandt at Stone State Park in Sioux City in summer 2019. "The shoot was at a Celtic-based ceremony in which the couple was surrounded by a giant circle of flowers and jumped over a broom at the end. "It was out of the norm. I could really feel a lot of love. I love her dress, and the look on his face as she's getting ready to recite her vows. Just the look of love on his face."

Record-breaking Valentines Day

Hacke's shot of Gloria and Jared Cosgrove in Ponca, Nebraska in summer 2019: "I had a lot more time to show small details of the wedding. They put so much into the details. This is the bride's shoes and bouquet and her dress, hung up in the window. We used the light from the window. She liked that a lot."

PHOTOS: 97 images of 2019 in Sioux City food

Bruce Miller / Provided 

Comedian Steve-O talks about his life -- and his outrageous stunts -- in a one-man show that's coming to Anthem at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Barr swipes at president

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe at President Donald Trump on Thursday, declaring the president's tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and open cases "make it impossible for me to do my job."

Barr made the comment during an interview with ABC News just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Trump's longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. The department didn't offer an amended number.

Barr himself has been under fire for the reversal, and Thursday's comment served as a defense of his own integrity. He is a Trump loyalist who shares the president's views on expansive executive powers.

The remarks, made so quickly after the decision to back away from the sentencing, suggested Barr was aware the reversal had chipped away at the department's historic reputation for independence from political sway. But he stopped short of acknowledging wrongdoing by anyone.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump "wasn't bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions." She added, "The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law."

Barr said Trump's tweets created perception problems for the department that called into question its independence, but he denied there was any order from Trump and said Trump's tweets did not factor into the decision.

Barr joined a roster of high level aides who have publicly criticized Trump, with the key difference that he is still in his job. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is to publish a book next month detailing his time in the White House including criticism of Trump actions such as his decision to withhold military assistance while seeking a political favor from Ukraine. Former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has largely kept a low profile since leaving the White House, has grown more open about his unflattering assessments of the president.

Earlier this week, Trump applauded Barr on Twitter for the decision to reverse the sentencing recommendation, writing: "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought."

The department insisted the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump blasted the recommendation on Twitter as "very horrible and unfair" — and prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it. The about-face prompted the four attorneys who prosecuted Stone to quit the case. One left the Justice Department altogether.

"I'm happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," Barr said in the ABC interview. "However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we're doing our work with integrity."

Stone was convicted in November of tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He's scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Barr said he was "of course" prepared to deal with any ramifications from the president for his comments. Administration officials said senior White House aides were not informed of the contents of Barr's interview before it aired.

"As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as attorney general. I am responsible for everything that happens in the department, but the thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision," Barr said in the interview.

It is extremely rare for Justice Department leaders to reverse the decision of prosecutors on a sentencing recommendation, particularly after that recommendation has been submitted to the court. The actual sentencing is up to the judge.

"What they did to Roger Stone was a disgrace," Trump said Thursday during an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Newsradio WTAM1100.

He said of the prosecutors who resigned in protest, "I don't think they quit the case. ... I don't think they quit for moral reasons. I think they got caught in the act by me."

"Now what am I going to do, sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years when murderers aren't going to jail. You have some of the most serious horrible rapists and everything else. They don't go to jail for nine years," Trump said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham tweeted his support for Barr, saying the president had done a "great service" for the people by selecting him. Graham also released a statement saying Barr "has my complete confidence" and "is the right man at the right time to reform the department and stand up for the Rule of Law." 

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Flooding seems certain for some along the Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb.  --  Several states along the Missouri River face an elevated flood risk this spring because the soil remains wet and a significant amount of snow is on the ground in the Dakotas, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

The forecast heightened concerns in areas of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri with levees that still have extensive damage from massive flooding last year and where residents and officials already anticipated some flooding.

“We are very concerned at this point,” said Jud Kneuvean, who oversees emergency operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Kansas City office.

The weather service said Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri and eastern North Dakota and South Dakota face an above-average flood risk this spring. The flood risk is close to normal in Montana and the western half of the Dakotas.

Even in places where the Corps has patched holes in levees that were damaged in last year's flooding, the level of protection may be lower than it was because initial repairs haven't all been done to the full regular height of the levees.

Officials say levee repairs will likely take two years to complete.

The status of levees varies greatly. In Iowa and Nebraska, many of the major levees have been patched, although some breaches remain open. In Kansas and Missouri, much of the repair work has yet to begin.

Part of the problem is that the water remained high for so long in some areas that officials couldn't even assess some of the damage until recently.

In Missouri's hard-hit Holt County, where Tom Bullock serves as emergency management director, repairs have not yet started on the levees that broke and allowed roughly 95,000 acres (38,445.17 hectares) of mostly rural land to flood last spring.

“We’re not looking very good for spring,” Bullock said.

While most of the breaches around Hamburg, Iowa, have been patched, some repairs probably won't be done before spring, said Fremont County Emergency Manager Mike Crecelius.

“It’s not a good outlook no matter how you look at it,” Crecelius said.

The Missouri is the longest river in North America, running from western Montana through the Dakotas and touching Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas before cutting across Missouri and entering the Mississippi River at St. Louis. The Corps of Engineers manages the river's flow using six dams and reservoirs in Montana and the Dakotas.

Even if spring weather is mild, some places could still see flooding when the Corps increases releases from upstream dams on the river to prevent the reservoirs from overflowing.

The Corps estimates 2020 runoff will reach 36.3 million acre-feet (44.8 cubic kilometers) — the ninth highest out of 122 years — so there will likely be significant water releases from the upriver dams. The highest runoff year was 2011 with 61 million acre-feet (75.2 cubic kilometers), followed by 2019, with 60.9 million acre-feet (75.1 cubic kilometers).

Much of the land in low-lying areas nearest the river is cropland, so that often floods first, limiting damage to homes and businesses.

Farmer Gene Walter noted that the private levees that used to protect his cropland north of Council Bluffs, Iowa, remain wide open. Repairs won’t be complete in time for typical spring flooding in March. So it could be a day-to-day decision for Walter on which acres to plant.

“You can’t even plan or make plans," Walter said. "It’s kind of upsetting.”