Smoke from a Distant Fire


I had to run several errands today, and being out in the smoke from wildfires in Canada, Montana, and other points west caused me to begin developing a headache pretty quickly.  I decided to knock off a little early and lie down at home to ditch my discomfort, but on the way I drove to the capitol for a few minutes to grab some shots for posterity’s sake.  For the title of this post I couldn’t help but take you back to 1977 and a little Sanford & Townsend.  Here are the resulting images:

 

Let’s start off with a shot straight south over the mall.  The horizon fades off pretty quickly.

 

Looking west over the DOT building, same deal.  I can’t see past the east hill of Bismarck.

 

Looking north is pretty much the same.  The big tower next to Dakota Carrier Network is obscured.

 

Looking out over the legislative wing, even “Harvard on the Hill” (my affectionate name for Bismarck Junior State College) is fading away in the haze of smoke.

 

For a while the sun seemed to blaze, so it may have emerged from behind a cloud up above all the smoke below.  So these shots have a far different tone to them.  Here’s looking northwest toward MDU’s corporate campus.

 

Normally you’d be able to see Bismarck Airport looking southeast like this.  Not today.

 

See the Missouri River?  Just barely, past the cathedral.  This view got more obscured as time passed.

 

Looking over toward the no longer functional water tower near Tower Avenue.  It isn’t actually on Tower Avenue; it’s on the south side of that block, technically on Avenue F.

 

The Energy Center of Excellence building, one of Bismarck’s finest, is the last thing you’ll see before the horizon goes white.

 

Just a fleeting glimpse of the river as we zoom in past the water tower.  The smoke really seemed to pack in between the trees.

 

Looking south, one could barely make out Kirkwood Plaza, Kirkwood Mall, whatever you prefer.  Even the Kirkwood Tower was only slightly visible.

Hopefully the people fighting these fires, and who have been fighting them for a long time, get victory with a little help from some precipitation in the next few days.  We’ll be beneficiaries as well – this smoke is a health hazard as well as an eyesore.  No, really, it does make your eyes sore.  Here’s the song reference for the post title:

 

Heat haze

Here are a couple more shots from Friday, when I didn’t let the haze of smoke from fires in Montana, Canada, et cetera get in the way of a great photo day.  I’m actually starting to like the drab background it provides, without any cloud distractions and the change to the color cast of the light in the foreground.

 

Take this shot, for example.  I was going to post it later on its own with something about “leaning” in the title, but it is actually a great example of the diffused light provided by the haze.  And, just like a previous photo, the color of the otherwise drab building stands out against the gray background better than a brilliant September blue.

More to come!  I went out thinking the light was giong to kill any chance of good photos but came home with a whole pack of candidates.

Oh yeah…the post title comes from this dreamy song by Walls… a wonderful little instrumental track just perfect for roaming the North Dakota countryside.

Fog and Wind

This was actually my first photo of the morning last Sunday when I went out before church to chase the dense fog.  I’d been watching the data and was certain that we’d have a thick blanket of fog in the morning, and I was right.  It was fantastic!

I suppose you could attribute inspiration for the post title to a song if you prefer.  My iPod has been serving up some wild 80s stuff lately, such as the Bats, Stranglers, Daysleepers, Severed Heads, and the like, so why not a little Robert Scott?

The hail, you say

hail_2001As the old poem goes, the fog comes on little cat feet.  The hail on June 9th, 2001, however…well, that came in its own indescribable fashion.  The most noteworthy memory of this is the two underpasses on 7th and 9th Streets filling up with ice and water.  I was at a friend’s house that evening and remember walking to Thayer Avenue just east of St. Alexius to watch the city clearing chest-high piles of hail stones with a payloader and grader!

In the process of going through old motorcycle racing video tapes last week I found the footage of this event, footage I had presumed lost.  This was before I was into photography or videography, so even though I had a digital camcorder at the time I did not have a steady hand.  But shaky amateur footage is better than none, right?  Have a look:


Click on the YouTube logo to view in a larger window

it was over ninety degrees out that evening, so once all the hail fell it began to melt and give off steam.  That’s why it seems so dark and foggy, it was a sauna outside.  My camera gave multiple high humidity warnings before actually shutting down to protect itself. 12th Street was half river, half avalanche for the duration of this storm. It was unbelievable. The hail piled up in a low spot at 12th Street and Thayer Avenue, forcing the city to bring in heavy equipment and dig/plow it out.  . The clouds were incredible.  And the underpasses needed to be dug out and cleared by that same sort of heavy machinery.

Do you remember this storm?

Dramatic clouds east of Bismarck-Mandan

clouds_44287-9_fusedA couple of nights ago I saw these really wild clouds east of town, and had to snap a photo once I got home.  They remind me of jellyfish in a way…tendrils hanging down and all that.  Or perhaps something from a science fiction feature?

 

clouds_44317-9_fusedThese reminded me of birds, perhaps blue jays.  I got home just in time to catch some golden light reflecting off the clouds, so they looked even more dramatic.

Work and stuff is so chaotic right now that I haven’t had much time to chase any sunrises or sunsets, so to catch these clouds at such an opportune time was a really nice break!

Not only did we actually have an autumn this year, but I actually photographed it

fall_barn_43937-9_hdrIn several years past the leaves have fallen from the trees so quickly that there hasn’t been much opportunity for photography.  2016 will not count as one of those years.  While I’ve been beyond busy lately, I did manage to take a couple of trips roaming around and pointing my cameras at some of the fall colors.

 

fall_barn_43907-9_hdrAnyone know a good roofer?  I’ve found some gaps.

 

fall_bridge_44099-101_hdrIt wouldn’t be fall without a walk down the trolley tracks.  There were a few portrait photographers utilizing the bridges that morning.

 

fall_trolley_tracks_43961-3_hdrI used to play on these tracks and bridges as a kid.  That’s why I had Poison Ivy so many times.  These days I just get one little spot, and that’s it.  I guess I built up a tolerance.

 

churchtown_43836-8_hdrNaturally I had to chase down one of my favorite former country churches.  This one still receives plenty of TLC.

 

churchtown_43943-5_hdrThe first day was cloudy, so I went back for some blue sky.  I can’t decide which I like better.

I have some other fall photos too, but it’s a busy morning – so I’ll have to stop there for now.

Fleeting fall

fall_barn_43937-9_hdrAutumn can be pretty short in central North Dakota, but we have had a nice period where the trees are still adorned with various colors of leaves.  Unlike the last few years, I’ve actually been able to get out and capture some of them!  Hopefully I’ll have a few more shots like this one to share.

Tuesday night turbulence

clouds_42486I worked late Tuesday night, and when I left my south side studio at just after 9pm I was blown away by the clouds to the south.  I’m told this cell actually put down a tornado somewhere to the west.  I was concerned more with the colors, oblivious to what it was doing down along the ground.

I bolted as fast as I could in the new truck to find a spot where I could try to capture the color.  I know how fleeting that sunset light can be, and last night was no exception.  As I got set up and mosquitoes as big as dimes began to swarm around me, a cloud moved in along the western horizon and choked off that amazing light.  There was more than what you see here when I first bolted in search of a suitable spot, and almost immediately after I took the shot these clouds faded into dull blues and grays.

Tail end of the storm

stormy_tree_42193As the driving rain made its way past Bismarck-Mandan on Saturday morning I was hatching a plan to follow behind it.  I had to head to north central North Dakota anyway to pick up some kids from a church camp, so what better way to spend a Saturday morning than depart very early and work in a bunch of camera time along the way?

I’ve stopped at this particular spot along Highway 3 many times, but never had a really dramatic sky to work with.  That was not the case on Saturday.  There were crazy clouds moving in all directions at around 400 feet or so (if my eyes deceive me not) and the deep blue of the departing storms was a wonderful offset.

Not only did my plan work: I got plenty of photos in various locations with the dramatic skies in the background, but I also found a lot of new locations and took photos there, and I was able to mark a bunch of potential future spots for the next time I head northeast.  Trifecta.

My cameras and I were busy over the last few days, though.  More on that later.