All that ye survey

blockhouse_bw_25400My boys love going to Fort Abraham Lincoln.  They especially like the blockhouses, and we get pretty good use out of our annual State Parks pass.  Last night we got to watch a DVD about President Abraham Lincoln!  I like not only broadening their horizons but also helping them connect the dots on what they’re learning…and watching the little light bulbs come on.

With so much history being rewritten these days in order to fit a variety of leftist agendas, it’s important as parents that we keep a close eye on what our children are being taught… or teaching them ourselves.

A little research pays off

Good photography can be by accident, but most often it’s not.  In the case of this weekend’s photo adventure, I actually did a pretty good deal of scouting.  I knew that I wanted to try for a sunset photo, but that foreground was very important.  I’d selected in my head a set of old bridge pilings that have been very good to me in the past.  What I needed was to scope ’em out a little bit.

pilings_clouds_27590This is what I came up with in the morning.  I was so pleased with the high, wispy clouds that I actually took some time to start framing and snapping instead of just scouting.  I also took a little bit of time to check out the angles and see if it would work right:

sun_surveyorThis is the Sun Surveyor App, available on iTunes.  It allows you to hold your iPhone in position where your camera would be, orient accordingly, and see where the sun will be at various hours of the day.  You can even scrub back and forth to see it move and track its path across the sky.  We used this on a couple of locations for the Tigirlily “North Dakota” music video recently.  It’s very handy.

sunset_pilings_27870Then came the sunset.  Sadly, as this location was well out of town, I missed the light I was hoping for by a mere five minutes or so.  Despite that setback I was determined to come away with a shot I liked.  As it turned out, having the sun absent made it a little easier to expose details in the shadows as well as the sky, and the clouds suddenly aligned in a symmetry that played very nicely off the reflective surface of the pond.  I found myself okay with the fact that I’d missed the sun.

I would still like a crack at this with the golden orb on the horizon and clouds lit accordingly, but the fact of the matter is that I may never see such perfect clouds at this location again.  I put in the preparation, I got a cool shot, and that may just have to be enough.  If I hadn’t come back out here in the morning to scout things I may not have been ready to get the shot I did before the clouds moved on and the sky got too dark. Therefore I’m certain that the preparation paid off.

Thanks for pushing me past 450 Facebook likes…here, have some panoramas

I started this blog as an online photo diary, so I’m not really concerned about driving up social media likes.  In fact, if all attention to this thing dried up completely I’d still be posting away, typing my drivel and business as usual.  Having said that, I’m still surprised by the amount of traffic I see.  Now that I have a Facebook page for this blog I’m starting to see the response ramp up there as well.  Thank you all for apparently finding my photos and/or musings interesting enough to follow.

I’ve been playing around with panoramas a little bit lately via a number of means.  First, there are 360 degree apps for iOS that are pretty cool.  Next is the built-in panorama feature that arrived with my iPhone 5.  Third is the photo stitcher in Photoshop.  I also have the one that came with my Canon cameras, but I don’t use that one.  Here are some of the results.  Note that clicking on the image will bring up a larger version in a new window.


pano_rooftop_091712I got the opportunity to climb a tall building at the same time as a call from my wife telling me that the clouds were amazing.  She wasn’t kidding.


pano_riverboat_0811Here’s a panorama from the front of the Lewis & Clark riverboat as we slowly chugged toward the Northern Pacific railroad bridge.


pano_sandbar_0757This is a cool blue sunset from one of my little boys’ favorite sandbars.  They’re chasing a toad behind me, so they don’t appear on camera playing in the sand here.


pano_ftlincoln_0464The clouds advancing on us as I showed the fellas the old cemetery at Fort Abraham Lincoln were very striking.  The sunset had just waned and we were ready to march back to the truck and load up our bikes.


pano_fireworks_0611Setting up for our own Independence Day celebration.  The capitol and rodeo grounds had nothing on this show.  It was spectacular!  The food was good, too…and parking was easy.


pano_clouds_0745This surprised me as Sam Sprynczynatyk and I were about to set up the crane and preparing our lighting gear for the video shoot for Tigirlily’s new single, which was released via the Internet yesterday.  I snapped a quick panorama before setting up the gear and waiting for the girls to arrive.


pano_camera_0368Getting Camera 1 ready for the monster truck show.  My little guys visited me at work that night, and they were pretty enthralled.  A couple of nights before they’d watched me on the roof of a local hospital, shooting video and stills of the helicopter landing and taking off.  Daddy’s got a pretty cool job, they said…but their uncle is a MAILMAN!  I guess I can’t top that.


pano_sunset_0714More sandbar stuff, because I have made good use of the tail end of the summer in order to enjoy sand, sun, Spyro Gyra, my sweetie, and my sons.  Superb.


pano_bubblebliss_0781“Bubble Bliss” at the Gateway to Science Center.   I think I’ll still be posting and blogging about that sometime soon, if I get the time.  I got encapsulated in a very large bubble, which was a new experience.


pano_flags_0451Each of these flags represents a murder.  It’s part of a traveling display to bring awareness to the blight of abortion on North Dakota.  I long for the day when such tragedies never take place in our great state.


pano_sunset_27158There’s no dramatic foreground or interesting perspective here; I just loved the colors of this sunset so much that I pulled over on a hill along Valley Drive, just south of the playground, and snapped a few shots to stitch together in Photoshop.  I’d just taken my little boy to TCBY for rainbow yogurt to tell him how proud Daddy is of him, and the sun provided us with quite a spectrum of its own.  I didn’t get a blue tongue from it, however.

Once again, clicking on these photos will bring up a larger version.  They’re not full-size, however; the largest one of this is over 880 MB!  Prints are always available, of course.  Thanks again for the likes and supporting this online photo diary with your following.  I hope to provide plenty more interesting material in the future.

Roadside raptor rescue

raptor_rescue_26309On a photo drive tonight I spotted something unusual in the road ahead.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but as I rolled nearer I saw it was true: a hawk in the oncoming lane.  He didn’t seem to flustered by the fact that I was there, either.  Usually hawks bolt as soon as my camera draws near, but not this guy.

raptor_rescue_26310Yep…determined to stay put.  No matter how close I or my telephoto lens came, this bird was set in place.  It didn’t look injured, sick, or even frightened; however, it was not about to fly away.  Soon passers-by joined me and noted that they’d seen this hawk earlier in their walk.  Clearly something was amiss.

raptor_rescue_26345Before long, a resourceful homeowner nearby came up with a solution to help the hawk find its way into the relative safety of the grass of the yard a short distance away. It was able to climb up on this broom, its wings worked to steady itself, and there was no sign of illness. We surmised that it was a young one from a nearby nest that wasn’t sure what to do. With the threat of immediate danger beneath the wheels of passing automobiles abated, it was time for him to pose for some photos. I was more than happy to oblige.

raptor_rescue_26371What a handsome specimen! After years of watching in vain as potential photo subjects took flight before my camera was ready, this was a welcome change.

raptor_rescue_26454After a long time of photographing my willing subject from various angles while lying on my stomach in the grass, I figured it was time to give him some space and venture on down the road for a chance at photographing the approaching sunset. Hopefully the hawk eventually decided to move on to safety, even if under some of the trees in the yard. I’m thankful that we got to spend some time together, and hopefully he’s in fine shape and fleeing from my camera in the future!

Well, there it goes

It should be obvious by now that one of my favorite spots to catch a sunset is at the north corner of the Double Ditch historic site north of Bismarck. A familiar foreground object in my photos is a large wooden fence post marking the boundary of the park. It looks like I’m going to have to find a new one.

Last August, while poking around beneath the cliffs of Double Ditch, I noticed that the collapse of those cliffs had finally encroached on that fence post. Even now, more large chunks of cliff nearby have cracked and separated, soon to tumble to the river below.

It seems as though this process has finally begun to claim my favorite fence post, as it no longer stands so firmly at the northwest corner of the park. It has begun to tilt at an ever greater angle, the fence it supports going slack. I presume it’s only a matter of time, some spring melting, and maybe a little bit of rain before the earth supporting it finally gives way.

This is a stark reminder of an even bigger problem; Double Ditch has been receding for years. The area above these cliffs used to be a popular recreation spot. At some point a wire fence was erected to prevent this, as the banks had become so unstable. The road, which used to make a loop from one end of the park to another, was cut off and no longer exists from the south end. As time goes by, I fear we may lose access to the west end of this park entirely. I hope that doesn’t happen any time soon.

Dakota Roads revisited

This isn’t the same stretch of road as my original Dakota Roads post from 2006, but if my memory serves me right I believe they may both be Highway 1.

A beautiful black road like this is not a common site in North Dakota, since various transportation and road departments have a chip-seal fetish that I can’t explain. Actually, as a motorcyclist, I resent it. It seems a shame to cover a beautifully smooth, sticky stretch of blacktop with a damaging abrasive, one especially hazardous when it’s first applied and left to sit for a week or two. As a result, a nice black road like this one is particularly noticeable and wonderful to me.

Taco del Mar. Been there lately?

Oh, man. I can still feel the burn of the habanero sauce I pigged out on yesterday, when our office had a Taco Del Mar taco bar delivered. I’m chided on occasion by my friends because our office always has food handy. I know they’re just jealous. Doesn’t every office have lunch catered from time to time? I suppose that’s just one more way in which I’m blessed at work.

I first wrote about Taco del Mar in March, 2007. A friend of mine asked me to meet him for lunch there, and I hadn’t even heard about the place. I’m glad he invited me, because it’s now my favorite spot for lunch!

Not only are the owners super nice folks, but the food and service at Taco del Mar are fantastic. They have an enchilada sauce I love so much I’m at a loss for words. The atmosphere at the south store, next to the Dairy Queen by the south Wal-Mart, is really cool in a surf shop sort of way. I haven’t eaten at the north store, part of the Conoco on State Street and I-94, because I always make a short bee-line for the south one!

Ask your boss if he appreciates you. If he answers in the affirmative, encourage him to show it with an office lunch from Taco del Mar! If he says no to either, then stop at Taco del Mar on your way to Job Service during your lunch hour! They’re quick as well as courteous!

Tuesday night sunset

Sunsets are pretty elusive these days, as the sun tends to have set before I can stagger away from work! Today’s sunset photo was a nice opportunity… my camera and I were actually east of town taking more pictures of spiky frost on the fences.

This was a nice shot because that red sunset gave the wood a nice warm tone, yet the frost and background were still a nice bluish white. In the past year and half since I started photography, I’ve learned that a good photo requires being in the right place at the right time. Tonight I was there.

Those little spikes are absolutely amazing! I’ve got some closeups, I’ll have to post one or two. One thing about a macro lens is that it’s got a very shallow depth of field; once I focus on a point, anything minutely closer or further away from that point are blurred. It’s neat for some things but a challenge for shots like this. I love a good challenge…

Campione del Mondo – the Kentucky Kid

Yes, I’m starting off the week with one of those post-race motorcycle entries instead of something local. Actually, since I’ve talked to the guy on numerous occasions over at our home track in Brainerd, it feels local. This weekend was the deciding race in the MotoGP World Grand Prix Championship. If you watch SPEED Channel, and you really ought to, they’ll be talking about this all day Monday.

Nicky Hayden, one of three roadracing and dirt tracking brothers from Owensboro Kentucky, has been racing in the most advanced series in all of motorcycle racing for a few years now, and his hard work has finally come to fruition with a world title. This has been an up and down year for him, with tbe biggest downer last week: while in the points lead for the championship, he was t-boned by his own teammate and didn’t score any points at all. He basically had to win or crash this weekend, and had to beat his championship rival by a certain number of positions to wrap up the title. And he did. Misfortune plays no favorites at this level, and his rival, Valentino Rossi, crashed early in the race. While he was able to get back on the bike and continue, he was unable to catch up and earn a points position that would preserve his lead. Nicky had a disaster last weekend, the tables turned this weekend.

Michael Jordan was in attendance, of course. You see, MJ is a huge motorcycle fan and sponsors his own team. While he was playing professional sports, his contracts prevented him from riding motorcycles. Nowadays, however, he not only rides, he sponsors a team of his own. So it’s a given that when we’re at the races, he’ll likely be there. A lot of times he’ll be joined by some of his NBA friends, too. There’s not a lot of overlap between NBA and Superbike, so he doesn’t get mobbed too badly…rather, he’s just been accepted as “one of us.”

This is MJ’s black Ducati that he’s got all tricked out – I’m not sure if he has a new one since then, but this wasn’t the newest model when we took this picture. Having a good motorcycle isn’t about having the latest & greatest – it’s about having one you like, customized to your tastes. In this picture I was doing some video/photos for the Ducati factory from Italy, and they were about to give MJ and some other Ducati riders a couple of laps around the track during intermission. Later on I met with the Italians about a possible Ducati dealership here in Bismarck, but never moved ahead with that. If you wanna help me finance it, send me an email.

This is back when Nicky raced in the AMA series, so we could talk to him here in the garages. When things allow, he’s here to watch his two brothers race…although that doesn’t always work out, with his races being all over the world. All three of the Hayden brothers – heck, their whole family, really – are really nice people that you want to know. I remember seeing them all in the chapel service in the racers’ lounge every Sunday before the racing started, and that leads me to my next point:

I want to quote an excerpt from Nicky in the post race press conference. Rather than talk about himself, he’s really all about the people who surrounded and supported him. Racing is a team effort, and it’s not just the rider, the mechanics, the designers…it’s the synergy of all those people, plus the family who’s stuck by him from the start. Nick was uprooted from the AMA series and placed in an environment where he faced language and cultural barriers, a microcosm where Americans aren’t always looked at favorably, and the most intense pressure to perform that a rider could ever face. Thanks to his character and that of those surrounding him, he has performed and matured admirably. In the post-race press conference, he was eager to give credit where he feels it’s due: …my friends, my family, everybody back home in Kentucky, to the Lord, too…man, I’m so blessed, and so fortunate that I’m just really humbled by this, and it’s a great day for me.” As a Christian, I’m pleased to see that he’s still sure of where all good things come from. While a vocal Christian is hard to find in Nick’s environment, the character of the Hayden family is known worldwide. They have a great testimony, and I’m grinning ear to ear as I report his success this weekend.

I’m on the fence regarding this one

How long do you suppose it takes for a fence such as this one, on a hill just outside of Bismarck, to lean at such an angle? The hill has gradually shifted, causing the fence posts along its ridge line to lean and sag toward the road below.

Sometimes I get a bit jealous of my friends who live in Alaska, because they’ve got such dramatic scenery and wildlife nearby. They need only point the camera out into the backyard to catch a moose or other interesting creature! But scenes like this one are a nice reminder that North Dakota is not without its own scenery. We native North Dakotans might take an old run-down fence for granted, but it’s got its own charm that merits appreciation.