Back in the saddle a bit

auroras_28783After dozing off early in my recliner tonight I woke up to a text from a friend who was out on patrol tonight.  He noticed that the Northern Lights were in full swing.  I grabbed a good friend, hopped in the truck, and took off.  We were not disappointed.

 

auroras_28789As I mentioned recently, I’ve had some health issues and other things that have just plain sidelined me as far as photography and blogging.  This was a great way to get back in the saddle for a bit as much as my pain would allow, and happens to have been one of the better aurora borealis nights in a long time.  Just because I’ve been in my recliner doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching what the sun and skies are up to.

auroras_28793

We appear to have arrived along one of my favorite rural roads just in time to see some very spectacular lights.  We saw spikes, we saw ripples, and we saw a lot of them.  I worked the area the best I could within the time allowed, and we pointed the truck back toward the Bizzo once things began to taper off.

I can’t speculate on the frequency with which I ease back into my beloved photo hobby, but hopefully this is a harbinger of good things to come.  With the weather changing in our favor and another spring and summer on the way, things are looking pretty good.  I hope to be on the mend in time for mountain bike and volleyball season, too!

This one may always be my favorite

windmill_20696One of my favorite subjects in this ongoing photographic adventure has always been the old windmill.  I’ve got some old standbys that I can visit if the sky is looking dramatic.  Some of them have even vanished, such as the one that was along Apple Creek Road across from the old Farmers’ Livestock Market.

This one is not likely to vanish anytime soon.  What’s better is that it’s on a slight hill, with easy access right near the road, and it’s short.  Why would that matter, you ask?  Perspective.  It’s possible to get a variety of really cool angles on this windmill while including the prettiest parts of the sky – and even the horizon at times – due to its position and diminutive stature.

I haven’t been able to get out with my cameras in a while; in fact, I’m not exactly sure where all of them are!  2013 has been that kind of year.  I hope to get out some more, especially since I’ve missed autumn, but for now I still have a few unused photos that I really like, “in the holster” for posting and sharing.  With the weekend only a couple of days away, maybe a photo trip is in my near future!

Gnarly

spooky_tree_28560I had a very short window to try to get some photos in, something that hasn’t happened in a while.  I’ve pretty much missed most of the foliage, I think…so, since the trees are looking all bleak and nasty, I figured I’d try to find a spooky tree photo.

As a Christian I don’t do the Halloween thing.  That’s not what I’m going for.  I knew that the Apple Creek Wildlife Management Area south of town was a fertile ground for nasty looking trees, so I bolted down Sibley Drive to South 12th Street.  Many of the best looking trees were in poor locations, but this thing sure looked gnarly with some interesting geometry.  Thus it was my subject for a little while before I had to bolt back home.

Outstanding in the field, and a different sort of crop

lonely_tree_0033I’ve known of this tree for years, and even tried to get some photos of it, but never found myself in the Valley City area at a time where the field and the skies were really conducive to a good shot.  Thankfully I had good timing as I drove past it this week and was able to pause to snap a few quick shots out the window.

lonely_tree_crops_0033My friend Ken still has the best photo if this tree that I’ve ever seen, but even in my haste I think I was able to get a couple of satisfactory shots.  It’s all in the cropping.  By deviating from the standard 4×3 aspect ratio and making the shot appear wider I was able to convey the unique solitude of the tree out in the middle of the expanse of the field.  Above are a couple of examples.  I wish I’d have shot a little wider for a few frames to produce a few with even more background, but these will have to do…until next time.

 

28,000 at Papa’s Pumpkin Patch

pumpkin_patch_28000This has been an incredibly busy year, both with work and with being husband and Daddy.  I did take one of my cameras with to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch this past weekend to accompany my boys, and I did get a couple of decent zip-line photos, but for the most part it was unremarkable photographically.  I was just following my little dudes around and letting them enjoy the day and the amazing autumn world the PPP folks have assembled once again this year.

I did hit a milestone, on this particular camera I crossed the 28,000 photo mark.  That’s what’s pictured above.  While not a remarkable photo, it did what I wanted for memory’s sake: show my little dudes atop a large pyramid of bales with blue sky and a little bit of green leaves in the background.  That’ll work.

If you haven’t gone to the Patch yet, make sure you do so before it’s too late!  You can check out their schedule and other information at www.papaspumpkinpatch.com – they even post weather updates there so you can find out if they’ve closed due to rain or other factors.  They also have a Facebook Page if you’re into that sort of thing.  Don’t let it be one of those things you plan to do but then never accomplish before the season suddenly passes you by!

Pursuing perfect petals

golden_flower_26626I wanted to try to get one of those ubiquitous “sunset lens flare over the top of a sunflower field” shots recently, but I noticed two interesting things.  One is that many fields I used to see full of sunflowers are now stocked with corn.  The government’s tampering in the market by subsidizing ethanol is probably a factor in that.  The other is that I’m a little late; all the fields I saw had sunflowers sporting tattered petals.  There are still a bunch of these little yellow flowers left for some one-on-one time, but it looks like my plans for a stepladder and a field of beautiful golden sunflowers will have to wait until next season.

Independence Day 2013

capitol_fireworks_26204I decided to try a different angle for tonight’s capitol fireworks photo.  I questioned whether to even try a photo at all, since I’ve been more devoted to Daddy time than anything else.  I’ve taken an unprecedented week off from work, and am enjoying how much it has allowed me to do with my little guys and my sweetie.

Rather than photograph the Independence Day Parade this year in Mandan, I joined my little family to participate in our church’s float instead.  It was extremely rewarding, and worth missing photos of some of the cool things I’ve heard about in the parade.  I was planning on not taking any photos of the capitol fireworks display, too…but at my wife’s urging I combined family time with a little bit of “me” time:

I set up my camera with wireless transceiver with around 1,000 foot range, then went to enjoy the fireworks with my little guys on a blankie in the grass at the capitol.  I was able to use the remote and time things pretty well, getting some neat photos.  This one is my favorite.  And, as my credo goes, any photo trip one returns from with at least one good photo is a successful trip.  This one falls into that category, even though I spent most of it playing catch with my boy on the capitol lawn.

Multitasking on my vacation, you say?  Absolutely.

Home on the Range…the High Dynamic Range, that is

I captured this Fallen Farm on an overcast day southwest of Mandan. By snapping multiple exposures I was able to capture a bright exposure, a medium exposure, and a dark exposure of the same frame. That allowed the camera to acquire detail in the shadows of the dark house, the highlights of the sky, and everything in between. Then it was up to Photoshop to smack ’em together.

I’ve been slow to dabble in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography because I have seen so many examples of it done badly. HDR can be used to do some really cool, artistic things if you like…but in my opinion its best use is in capturing detail throughout a wide range of shadows and highlights (thus, high dynamic range). When I find a shot that works well with HDR to do so, then I play around with it.

This technique can also be used to make some artistic but not very appealing (to me, this is subjective) images. I’m more interested in the hyper-realistic qualities of HDR imagery, and a very few, well-planned shots lend themselves well to this technique. It sure is fun, though, when you come across such an opportunity. I hope to find more of these in the future and, of course, share them here.

I wouldn’t call it the Holy Grail, but…

As a would-be photographer, I’ve got a list of certain things on a photographic “bucket list” I keep in my head. Last night I was able to get one: a perfectly straight-on shot of the Provident Life Weather Beacon.

One of the reasons I got into photography in the first place is that my video work takes me to places and shows me things that are so amazing that I wanted to be able to share them with others. One of the others is a love of North Dakota, particularly my home town area of Bismarck-Mandan. As a result, our local landmarks hold special significance for me.

While wrapping up a helipad photo shoot last night I noticed something that had almost escaped me: a perfect vantage point for photographing the Beacon! Naturally I took a few seconds to spring into action and grab a couple of quick shots. Since what I’d been seeking is a simple, direct, squared-up shot, I didn’t need to squander any time trying to brainstorm something funky. A few clicks later I had some different shots of one of my favorite local landmarks, just as I’d always hoped.

Here’s a refresher on my long relationship with the Weather Beacon:

It was fun to joke about the Beacon, as if it actually made the weather, during my KFYR days. The TV station control operator (me, five nights a week) was in charge of changing the weather beacon to reflect the updated forecast throughout the broadcast day. On our program log in the control room, in between entries for commercials and programs, were occasional reminders to update the weather beacon.

There was a panel in the weather room with six buttons on it: red, white, green, flashing red, flashing white, and flashing green. These switches are still in a rack at the TV station, even though they are have not been connected to the Beacon for quite some time. Last I remember, the KFYR Radio control guys switched it by dialing a phone number (no, I’m not posting that here).

The poor Beacon almost faded into history in 1997. It was showing its wear, and the cost of modernizing it was prohibitive. That was, however, until KFYR Radio rode to the rescue. Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong headed an effort to Save the Beacon!

At this time, Meyer Broadcasting was still intact. While I was hard at work on the TV side of the building, I also freelanced the website for KFYR-AM Radio. As part of the campaign to save the Weather Beacon, we had a couple of pages on the website urging people to help donate.

You can click here to see the original Save the Beacon page from my archives. Yeah, the Web has come a long way.

The campaign was a success in that it raised money toward the Beacon’s restoration, increased public awareness of its plight, and served as a rallying cry to its rescue. While the entire cost of the Beacon’s renovation was not raised, its importance to the community was indisputably proven. Through a matching grant from local government and plenty of donations, the project was underway.

As part of the KFYR website, we were happy to post that the Beacon would be saved. Cliff Naylor did a report on the Beacon that aired as part of a live telecast from the roof of the Provident Building, atop which the Beacon still sits.

You can click here to see the post-campaign page from my archives and watch the video.

As I recall, and the details in my head are quite murky, the Beacon was restored but still had some gremlins. I believe it was then refitted one more time and has functioned ever since. None of it would have been possible without Phil and Mark. To this day, the controls reside with KFYR Radio instead of the television station. In fact, why don’t you call the PH Phactor on KFYR 550 AM and ask Phil about it?

Oh yeah…the t-shirt. We had t-shirts made, and I still have mine. It has caricatures of Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong on the front, and a key to understanding the Beacon on the back:


Weather Beacon white as snow, down the temperature will go.
Weather Beacon red as fire, temperature is going higher.
Weather Beacon an emerald green, no change forseen.
When colors blink in agitation, there’s going to be precipitation.

Provident Life used to sponsor TV spots featuring the Beacon and its rhymes. Since they’re no longer doing business there, the ads don’t run. That means that the weather beacon itself is somewhat obscure now, with newer Bismarck-Mandan residents unaware of its history. For those of us who have lived here a long time, it’s good to see the weather beacon standing tall. No matter what the forecast, there’s something great about seeing it red in the spring, green when things are just right, and white when Thanksgiving and Christmas approach. Thanks to everyone who helped keep it up and running!

Elevation

No, I wasn’t listening to U2 when I began posting this…although now I have that song stuck in my head. No, this is simply a photo I chose to convert to black and white while playing in Photoshop. I haven’t had much time to play with either my camera or my image editing software lately, so this was a nice diversion. With spring right around the corner, hopefully many outdoor photography days lie in store!