A Googled gaggle, a fox that baled, and a pause for reflection

I bolted to Sweet Briar with my best friend tonight to see if I could catch a red sunset.  There’s a lot of particulate matter in the sky right now, making for some very red suns, and I wanted to get in on the action.  There were a few things in the way of that plan, however:

road_geese_30196First is this gaggle of geese. I had to double-check my terminology to make sure that I was right, and apparently a “gaggle” is at least five geese.  This bunch easily meets the requirements and, although they were plopped down as if they owned the road, I was able to convince them quite quickly that it was time to move.


fox_bale_30194Just prior to that, I’d spotted an unusual sight: a fox laying on top of a hay bale.  He had his front paws out in front of him and was just lounging around as we passed.  I grabbed a telephoto lens and a camera and circled back, but this time he must have seen the lens or something…and scampered away.  Shot missed.


sweet_briar_30213The sky played a cruel one on me today: the clouds moved in, obscuring the sun and the horizon.  That’s okay, I had a Plan B: catch some nice reflections in the calm water of the lake.  That worked.

Because of the advancing clouds and haze of the sky, it got dark quickly and it was time to head for home.  It wasn’t the result I was looking for, but it was a good night nonetheless.

Somebody else wants in on the action

pj_29213On Memorial Day I was able to take not one photo trip, but two.  Each time I took a different boy with me, and I was able to see their photography talents emerging.  They did great, and we had some fun “two dudes” time as father and son.  Well, my young gentlemen now understand what a Website is, and at their behest I’ve agreed to post some of their work for the world to see.  Here are a few shots from my oldest boy:


pjs_57809This was one turtle who didn’t dart into the water right away as we approached.  He was patient enough to let us put a 300mm lens on my boy’s camera and snap away for a while.


pjs_57793These geese didn’t like us much.  They swam over to the far shore and got out to walk away.  The funny thing is, they came to the end of the land and had to plop back into the water anyway.


pjs_57779Then there’s this guy.  He posed for us briefly before taking off.  He had a pretty nice perch until we came along and made him uncomfortable with all the cameras pointed his way.


jon_29276Then I took another boy for a trip in the opposite direction!   We didn’t approach any water at all, but we did find plenty of scenery.


jons_57827He didn’t have a wide enough lens to get the whole church in Almont into the frame, but he did frame a nice level shot.  I didn’t have to crop it or anything!  There are plenty of grown-up would-be photographers who can’t frame a level shot.


jons_57864One of his favorite subjects:  Daddy.  This is that old piece of farm equipment I posted recently.  This one was taken from the truck, as it was getting late and we were running out of snacks.


jons_57832We ventured out to Fish Creek Dam, where we were a trio of kayaks and this fishing boat.  You can see from the background how the clouds were pretty spotty.  There were long periods of shade as enormous clouds passed over.

I was so happy to get out with my camera not once, but twice.  I was even more happy to do it as a father-son trip, also twice.  I haven’t been able to use my cameras for a while, so to get back into the swing of things for now has been very therapeutic.


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.


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!


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.