Why any submarines in Bismarck-Mandan were nervous Friday

I walked out of a lunch appointment on Friday and immediately noticed a jet on a very unusual trajectory over Bismarck, far out of position compared to the track usually taken on approach to Runway 13.  It was a short leg, and they were still banking south of Main Avenue.  Even better, it was a touch-and-go.  Well, being the curious type, I had to see what was up.  That’s when I snapped this shot and realized it was a Navy plane, not some wayward bus driver or something.


Just doing laps, as you can see.  A few down the Runway 13 way, followed by a few down Runway 31.  Cruising Main, almost.  My flight app did give an ADS-B entry for this aircraft, but being a military plane that was all I got.  The desktop app, however, was blank. No worries, it doesn’t take long with “the Google” to narrow down that this is a P-8A Poseidon.  There’s a good chance it’s from Whidbey Island, home to those F-18s which stopped in for A&B Pizza about this time last year. AirSOC has an article about the P-8A at Whidbey Island, which you can read here.


This is a particularly cool aircraft (Wikipedia), even though it isn’t as exciting as a fighter jet. It’s a sub-hunter, and apparently a pretty modern one.  Just like those F-18s last year, which are actually two-seater Super Hornets loaded with all kinds of electronic warfare equipment, this plane is chock full o’ goodies.  First off, look at all the antennae on the top.  The 737-800 this is based on doesn’t have those.  It’s also capable of deploying anti-submarine weapons once it detects ’em.  Sweet.  Want to know more about some of the toys?  Click on this link.

A few more laps, and they were out of here.  I listened to a little bit of the CTAF banter on my handheld transceiver, then went on with my day.  I had put in a long week, and it was time to knock off early and play photographer for a while.

Keep on truckin’

Do I belie my 1970s upbringing with that post title?  Too bad.  My kids and I set out for this old Dodge with the intention of working the entire sunset with it as our subject.  It was a wonderful trip.  The kids are finally old enough to appreciate not only the photography aspect, but the beauty of hiking out in the middle of nowhere and exploring.


I have way more shots from this area than I’ve got the energy to post for now, but let it suffice to say that there was a different sunset in every direction. The first shot in this post shows the long, linear clouds that eventually blazed over Bismarck-Mandan at sunset.  This shot shows the brilliant pinks and purples that greeted us from the north; and my kiddos took plenty of shot featuring a blazing orange and gold sunset to the west (behind the camera in this shot).

Not only was this photo jaunt a success, but I have turned the corner with my kids as far as convincing them of the joys of rural photography.  Next time I head out roaming, I expect to have a couple of enthusiastic companions!  Maybe each with a camera of their own…


This “Studie” (short for Studebaker) sits on my friend’s property, waiting for me to drop by every now and then.  I keep planning on grabbing a tractor and dragging it so it faces north, so I can do a “drive-in” style photo the next time the Northern Lights make an appearance.  That may end up being next year at the soonest, now that winter weather is upon us.

An old car kind of weekend

A friend of mine had posted a picture of an old abandoned car recently that caught my eye not just because of the car body, but because of the unique landscape behind it.  He’d been roaming and had no specific idea where he took the photo, so I thought I’d go hunting.  I knew which county it was in and a general orientation, so I did some research on Google Earth and headed out.  I caught a few surprises along the way, including some vehicles – which I’ll focus on here (pun intended).


This is the first shot of the morning.  We had layered fog and some wild clouds, too…so the rising sun made for a pretty spectacular morning.  This is actually a drone photo, as I tend to use UAS cameras for shots even as low as 18 inches if necessary.


Next was this old guy, sitting next to a garage on a parcel of land I have wanted to photograph for two years.  I got the owner’s contact information in March of 2016 but was reluctant to call for permission last year because of all the NODAPL jackholes roaming Morton County last year and the increased fire danger this year.  Today was a beautiful day, I called and got permission, and the rest is history.


This little guy is on that same property.  I took a few different angles, but this is the one that worked out the best.  Morton County is so beautiful that I have to make sure to show some of those rolling hills in the background.


This truck isn’t going anywhere, at least until someone spoons some tires onto those rims.  It was fenced in with a bunch of cows anyway, and they seemed completely uninterested in the truck or me.


This is the vehicle I wanted to find.  See why the background caught my eye?  Very reminiscent of the Badlands.


One more, although you can imagine I shot tons of different angles.  The ground had begun swalowing up this car’s frame and floorboards. With such amazing terrain on all sides it was a regular smorgasbord of photo opportunities.

I had a blast working my way around south central Best Dakota, then bolted home for tacos.  What a fantastic way to spend my Saturday!

And the sound of air horns was heard by all

touch-a-truck_46115-7Last weekend Main Street in Mandan was home to Touch a Truck, put on by the Mandan Progress Association.  If you were coming into Mandan from the east and didn’t know what the heck the DOT sign flashing “TOUCH TRUCKS AHEAD” meant, your confusion probably only lasted a moment until you saw all the crane booms up ahead.


touch-a-truck_45992-4There were all kinds of trucks and various other equipment, with the cranes being the most prominent.  There were road striping trucks, sanitation trucks, bucket trucks, the works.


touch-a-truck_45759Of course, one doesn’t have to be a piece of heavy equipment or possess hydraulics with super powers to be an awesome truck.  The Bookmobile was there, too.  And it looked like it was getting a lot of attention from the kids.


_MG_45749See the giant crane?  Well, each of the four hydraulic cylinders holding it in the air is fed by a trio of the tiny little metal elbows you can see me pointing at on the left.  Crazy.


touch-a-truck_46049My favorite thing about the cranes, how they hoist Old Glory.  The colors were on display and waving in the breeze.


touch-a-truck_45971-3Tractors and other big equipment was present as well.  They may not have air horns like some of the other trucks, but they have plenty of stuff to climb on and buttons to push.


touch-a-truck_45980-2  Then there were the mini excavators, which were a hit.  I think there was a line to see them at one point.


touch-a-truck_45968-70This is only a drill. There, I did it.  You can’t stop me.  My kids don’t think I’m funny either.


touch-a-truck_45997Balloon animals were available, or in the case of my kids balloon swords.  Guess how long those lasted before popping in battle.  En garde!


_MG_45784Another attraction that amounts to playing in the box the toy came in:  These sections of conduit were a hit with the kids, who climbed in and promptly insisted their parents roll them around on the grass.  Yes, I did it too…rolling, not climbing inside.


touch-a-truck_46069-71These guys are heroes every time I place an order with B&H or Amazon.com.  Note the flag in the background.


touch-a-truck_46075-7I never get tired of shots like this.  The weather was perfect, the skies cleared enough to give me a sunburn by the end of the day, and the breeze kept everything comfortable and the flags waving.


touch-a-truck_45818-20One time my kids saw me running camera for a monster truck show, getting closeups of giant trucks doing wheelies and burnouts.  The next day my wife took them to watch me on a rooftop, shooting video and stills of a helicopter doing touch-n-go’s on a helipad.  When I was tucking them in, I asked if they thought their Daddy had a pretty cool job.  “Yeah,” was the reply, “But did you know that Uncle [my brother-in-law] is a mailman?”  He’d subbed in our neighborhood and let them walk his route with him for a bit, totally stealing my thunder.


touch-a-truck_45947-9It’s a small crane, but the kids got to operate it…lifting and moving a small load using the tethered controller.


touch-a-truck_45824-6This gives a whole new meaning to the term “Boom town”, doesn’t it?  I just made that up right now as I’m typing.  Seriously.


touch-a-truck_45959-61I bet I could set off these scales nowadays…I need to bike more and shovel less food into my head.  But when I keep coming up with things like blueberry ice cream float recipes, that isn’t very easy.  Actually, these scales did weigh my kids, so they don’t just work for heavy things.


touch-a-truck_45863-5This was a fantastic event, with lots of fun for kids and big kids.  I sure hope they do this again next year!  I may bring ear plugs next time, though, because they let the kids tug the air horns in the trucks.  It was a wonderful cacophony, don’t get me wrong, but they get pretty loud!


Hornets visit Bismarck-Mandan in February (updated)

f18s_44360I got a tip that a group of F-18s were inbound for Bismarck yesterday, so I took a long lunch break to wait for them to arrive.  I love few things as much as military aircraft, despite being afraid of flying myself.

f18s_44378Aren’t they breathtaking?  There was a group of seven of them en route to Washington state, returning from a few weeks in Florida.  A friend of mine who moved up here from Pensacola said he got to see F-18s in the air all the time.  That’d be amazing, until you’re trying to take a nap with the Sound of Freedom roaring overhead.

f18s_44504-6Three of the planes stopped in Sioux Falls, but four of them were able to come to the Bizzo and tank up on fuel from Executive Air and pizza from A&B (of course).  If you were only in North Dakota for an hour or two and wanted pizza, wouldn’t you pick the best too?  I actually think it may have been complimentary for them.  Awesome.

f18s_44522-4I watched as one truck was drained dry and another came up to finish the task.  Perhaps it’s good that they weren’t trying to top off all seven!

f18s_44459-61 Nice tail. Just sayin’. I’ve been told that these are F-18F Super Hornets, which are two seater models and used for electronic warfare. They’re part of VAQ-129, an Electronic Attack Squadron based out of Whidbey Island naval air station in Puget Sound, Washington.

f18s_video1These pods on the wings house antennae.  Lots of ’em, apparently.  So since it’s the navy, the wings gotta fold anyway (for carrier space limitations?) but I’m guessing they also want to protect these from damage.  I forgot to ask if that’s a secondary reason why they folded ’em up when they parked.

f18s_44432-4If I was expected to fuel up visiting aircraft on a daily basis, I’d absolutely live for days when a pack of military jets roll in for some juice.  I’d probably be humming the Top Gun theme, even though they flew F-14s in the movie.

f18s_44355Love the colors on that bubble. It takes a while to fuel four of these, which thankfully left plenty of time for conversation.  A friend’s brother is one of the crew here, so we got to chat him up about the flight.  They were all very nice and accommodating.

f18s_9612Joe gives an interview to…somebody.  Since I don’t work in television anymore I have no idea who most of the reporters are.  I haven’t seen any reports online, and the cameras these days are too small to slap a logo upon, so your guess is as good as mine.

f18_44504-6Last one to get gas.  Yes, they do actually have Navy credit cards they use to pay for their fuel, one per plane.  How’d you like those bonus points?

f18s_video3Then it was time to fire ’em up.  What’s cool about these is that they can start themselves; no need for an APU to power ’em up and get the engines turning.  No remote starter, though, although we joked about that.

f18s_video2Then, with a wave it was time to roll out, one at a time.  They didn’t leave close together, as you can probably tell from the open cockpit in the back.  I suppose they bunched up later after everyone was in the air and headed westward.

I took a little ShakyCam™ (I haven’t trademarked that, but I should) video of the arrival and departure.  Using a still photo lens not suited for video, I still got some passable results.  I do enough video work with actual video cameras that I don’t care to do it with still cameras, but if I do more of this I’ll probably have to nab a stabilizer rig to have with me.  Anyway, here’s the video.  If you view it full screen it’ll be 1080p.

It has been a LONG time since I’ve been able to get out with my camera. This was incredibly therapeutic, even if it was dreadfully cold outside. Getting some photo time feels GREAT!

Some assembly required

old_truck_42105-7_hdrActually, you might be shy a few parts too.  This truck cab  and fenders are nestled into a hillside along the river, where they enjoy a fantastic view for their retirement.  No sign of the rest of it.  I bet it was pretty fancy in the day – that yellow is still brilliant after what appears to be a decades-long abandonment!

Forelorn Fireball

old_car_40684-6_hdrThis is a 1950 Buick Roadmaster, a car known for its Straight Eight, or Fireball Eight, inline eight-cylinder engine.  I remember hearing about this engine in the movie Rain Man, when Raymond mentions it.  This one sits beside a rural road, its glory days long past.

This car is noteworthy because Buick put those ports on the side of the car to denote power, or something.  It’s that distinguishing feature which helps identify the year of the car, because the placement varied from year to year.

I’m not really into classic cars, as nostalgic as I am about other things.  I like technology, and hot rods really don’t have it.  I can appreciate ’em, don’t get me wrong.  They’re especially nice to photograph, especially on a nice, sunny day under a North Dakota prairie sky!

Studebaker sunset

whitmore_car_37711-3_hdrI’ve been meaning to get a shot of this old car for quite some time.  It sits on my friend’s land, gazing over the prairie.  It looks like some bushes have taken root and called it home.  I’ve often wished it was facing north so I could do some sort of drive-in theater looking shot when the Northern Lights appear, but a sunset this weekend showed me that it’s in a perfect spot already.

One other good thing about this photo: no ticks, despite wading through the tall grass!

I got its good side

arena_truck_37216-8_HDRRecently I took a trip past my favorite and nearest ghost town, Arena.  I stopped to take a shot of this old vehicle propped on its side next to an old outbuilding.  I have been to this site many times, but since it’s next to a scenic old abandoned church I never took the time to get a shot of this subject in the right conditions.  One other thing is that I never had enough portable off-camera lighting to light the shadow side of the car.  Well, that’s no longer the case, and I took the opportunity to flex a few of my new toys to get the shot I always wasnted to get but never had the time for.