Red cross surprise

I was blazing up Highway 281 in “Other Dakota” when I saw a brilliant red cross off to the right. I was on a mission, so I didn’t really have any photography in mind on this particular date and hadn’t done any research to see if there were any prairie churches along the designated route. But I couldn’t pass this up.

No, it ain’t lit, and no, I didn’t play with the brightness or saturation of the red in the cross. It really was that bold. I believe it had a lot to do with the blue light of the overcast sky. We’d encountered fog and wet roads all along this leg of our route, and that can actually do some pretty cool things to items like this red cross. It seemed absolutely brilliant, and I’m glad I got to stop in for a quick shot.

Fifteen years in the books

The photo above is the one which started it all. I had picked up photography in 2005, and I wanted a place to share it. And so it began on New Year’s Day, 2006. And, like many of you, I’ve made a tradition of visiting the capitol on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, whichever works out. I’ve only missed it once, a few years ago when I was busy having surgery at Mayo Clinic. Otherwise, I’ve a spotless record.

Ya know what’s tough? Finding new angles after fifteen trips to the capitol on a cold winter’s night! But I try…and thankfully, the capitol grounds have changed a bit over the years. This angle, however, has always been here. I discovered it last year, and took another crack at it this year with a slightly different twist. Last year I didn’t feature the columns.

It’s said that good artists borrow, and great artists steal. I’m borrowing this angle from my friend Kyle. I didn’t duplicate what he did exactly, but I like my treatment of this one. Previously I’d featured the entire statue, but this is a more interesting perspective.

These guys are totally lit for New Year’s Eve.

Remember how I said the capitol has changed over the years? One thing is the lights on the pioneer statue on the capitol mall. Its look has changed a lot over the decades; I have an old postcard on which they’re surrounded by flowers, granite posts, and a chain to protect the flower beds. But I’ve never seen this statue lit before. It saves me the trouble of lugging remote flash units out there!

Okay, I brought lighting for this one.

One other way in which the capitol has changed is the new monument/sign at the south entrance to the grounds. This is its first New Year’s Eve, so of course I had to find a way to work it in. Thankfully I was able to find a spot that included the pioneer statue, the entrance sign, and the capitol itself.

The new sign is really nice, and has its own lighting, but that leaves a lot to be desired. For some reason they opted not to light the state seal! It’s normally a dark gap in between the text. It’s less obvious in this processed, long-exposure photo; it’s a dark gap otherwise. I have a painfully bright tactical flashlight on me these days, and parking it in the snow provided some much-needed fill light in the center of this new addition (you can tell in the photo above this one).

The capitol has a nice backside, too. Thankfully the numbers are on all four sides. As I took this, it was the wee hours of the morning and the weather was starting to do some weird things. There was some sort of temperature inversion or something causing the exhaust from the refinery and/or power plant to hang low in the sky, drifting southward. That’s the line you see in the sky behind the capitol tower. As I drove home later, the same thing was happening at ground level with the exhaust from home furnaces in my neighborhood. This morning it’s just plain foggy.

And we might as well go vertical for the last one. I do a wide-angle shot of the capitol grounds from the northeast for the banner of my blog’s Facebook page, which you can see by clicking here. That’s another tradition I’m glad to uphold.

I didn’t take a lot of photos in 2020. In fact, my camera barely left the bag this year, aside from a brief period of awesomeness in June. But I’m glad that, of all the things 2020 took from us, it didn’t take this annual labor of love away from me.

First time my camera’s been out of the bag in four months

I only took one photo today, and this was it. When I headed out today, it wasn’t with a plan as I usually roll. I just wanted to hang with my boy and poke around to see what the frost was doing. We had a blast, roaming and listening to Ben Shapiro, and this tree caught my eye along the way.

I looked at the date of the last photo on my memory card, and it was from August. I know I did get out once doing a short video experiment with my video rig, but I haven’t had a photography event in a long time. I’ve simply been too busy this year. I don’t see any sign of things letting up any time soon, either… *sigh*

And now for something completely different

I love to tinker. This is a rig I devised to work on a little project I’ve got in mind, should I ever get time to do little projects again. This is a DJI Osmo Pocket on a DJI Extension Rod, with an iPod Touch controller, a 360 GoPro MAX on a Smallrig hanging off the cold shoe mount, with a TASCAM audio recorder. Two cameras, three lenses, nine microphones, and two different methods of stabilization. I figured it would be fun to put the physical gimbal of the DJI up against the HyperSmooth of the GoPro in HERO mode. More on that later.

I figured I’d take a ninety minute hike to compare how the two cameras handled stabilization, try to get some fall photos and video, and just generally have a good time. Good plan.

I had a sunny day, lots of fall colors, and a mission. It was breezy, but not too windy.

The path along the Missouri River is a pretty fantastic hike. The trail had a nice carpet of fallen leaves, but there were plenty still on the trees.

Scenery all around. This area was ravaged during the 2011 flood, when the Missouri River put it underwater for a while and deposited a lot of sand in places. Some of the trees didn’t like it.

2020, naturally, ws one of those years in which we didn’t have a very long autumn season. Due to wind and rain, these leaves weren’t going to last long. So I’m glad I got a hike in.

Here’s the GoPro footage. I’ll probably post the DJI Osmo Pocket footage in the near future. It’s a long hike, but it might be just thing we need in a few weeks when it’s cold and gray and there isn’t a leaf to be found on the trees any more.

I just stumped you

See what I did there? Yeah, another dad joke. But I could stump you if I asked you where this is. Especially since it isn’t even in North Dakota! Thankfully I was able to get a break for some photography a while back. It’s taking me forever to get around to reviewing and posting the results, though!

Read this post about red posts

Did you know that one thing North Dakota and South Dakota have in common also separates them? It’s the string of quartzite marking posts which dot the border shared between the two states. In fact, the Dakotas are the only states which have such a feature.

These markers were placed along the border as it was surveyed in the late 19th Century. There were originally 720 of them, cut from the red quartzite stone near Sioux Falls, placed along the established border.

Oh, if it were only that simple. Naturally there was a lot of politics going on behind the scenes. Here we had two new states established from the Dakota Territory, thousands of acres of previously unsurveyed land, competing interests, and other complications. These are all documented in the book “The Quartzite Border” – which my wife was kind enough to order from me, directly from the author. He even signed the book and included a nice note to us. At the time, this was a very rare find…but as I type this, Amazon claims to have two copies. The North Dakota State Library has a copy.

Many of these markers have disappeared for a variety of reasons: theft, erosion, cattle trampling them, or construction. I-29 took out one of them. But this one, which I’ve visited numerous times on my way to a glorious old abandoned prairie church, stands firm. Recently I checked it out on the way back from Other Dakota and snapped these two photos. It’s cool to know some of the stories behind these unique stone markers, even as so few Dakotans know they even exist.

Right place, right time

I visited Yellowstone earlier this year, and it was simply the perfect time to do so. I got this amazing shot thanks to two people: a friend who pastors a church in Cody, who told me of the vantage point far away from where all the congestion of the usual tourists, and my wife, who dialed in the best location with regard to the trees in the foreground.

When I say it was the perfect time to visit Yellowstone, I wasn’t kidding. While Yellowstone is normally intolerable because of the sheer number of people everywhere, this time was the complete opposite. There was hardly anyone there.

This is the parking lot at Old Faithful. It’s statistically empty by normal standards. We walked right up to the geyser, stood front and center while it did its thing, and hopped back into the car…all in a matter of minutes.

I hadn’t expected to even get a vacation this year, but thankfully it worked out. I’d booked everything in advance and planned it since 2019, so any cancellation would have been an enormous disappointment. But I was able to squeak it in – important items at work which I simply couldn’t work around were cancelled or moved, my schedule opened up for the entire ten days, and my boss gave his blessing. So my family and I got to enjoy some much needed rest!

Naturally I have a ton of photos from this trip, but now I’m too busy again. So it’ll be a while till I post them.

Lakefront resort

Out on this peninsula sits one of the coolest old homes that I’ve ever found. Accessible only by air, it has a fantastic view of a lake on three sides.

Meticulously built from a wide variety of stone, this home sits in a spot that used to have a road long ago…but that road sits well underwater these days. I drove as close to it as I could but I was still a long distance away.

Incredibly scenic, but sadly just too far away from…well…anything. Near what some would call a ghost town, I suppose…but otherwise isolated, this stone house is one of my all-time favorites.

Not as happy to be a barn

Not too long after I’d found the happy barn (which I posted about last week), I came upon this one. I’ve photographed it before, and it doesn’t look as if it’s fallen any more than it had the last time I’d stopped by, but it is definitely not in the same condition as the smiley-face one.

Sadly, this barn has been collapsing for some time. Fortunately, it’s still likely to be striking a photogenic pose for a while yet.

Naturally, if there is an opportunity for a windmill or a well, I’m gonna take it. Thankfully, there was this this fantastic specimen standing nearby.

Oh yeah – there’s this building right next to the barn. Isn’t it glorious? That brick. The roof that used to be there. The row of windows. And a fortunate sky. Some days it’s better to be lucky than good!

I’ll have to keep an eye on this old farmstead the next time I’m in the area. Of course, you’ll see the results here.

Happy to be a barn

I spotted this cheerful red barn on a trip southwest of town. It brought a smile to my face, even as I caught a fleeting glimpse through a row of trees and made haste to turn around for a quick photo.

The shape of the face reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books: The Little Red Caboose, which was a Little Golden Book:

The idea of a building with a smile, however, reminded me of another favorite from my childhood: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton:

Either way, I’m glad I spotted this, and I’m glad someone took the time to add a friendly smile to their barn for passers-by to enjoy.