Windmill test

windmill_26255I was out at my favorite windmill location for a number of reasons, but one was to test the sharpness on a lens that I’m considering selling.  I’m pleased to report that it performed admirably.  Next was to look for some tracks from a midnight critter encounter I’d had in this location recently, but the rain had obliterated any chance of that.  Also was to simply take the camera out of the bag, something that hasn’t happened a lot lately and is obvious in the decreased volume of posts here on the ol’ Blog.  That was a success.

I have a couple of photographic targets in mind for the near future, and with a little luck I’ll have the time and means by which to pursue them and, of course, post the results here.

Nestled in the trees

It’s painfully obvious now that this maddeningly busy year of 2013 has taken a huge toll on my photographic adventures. I got a long-needed opportunity to roam recently and, although I’ve done plenty of poking around the area with my camera, found some new features.

As usual some windmills caught my eye. Some I marked in the trusty Garmin, and others I chased down. This one was particularly attractive since it was tucked behind some rather nice trees. I grabbed a few quick shots from the section line road and moved along to grab a few others that I’ll share in due time.

Windmill with a half twist

I’ve alluded to the frustrating fact that I haven’t been able to get out with my cameras in quite a while. It shows; I’m always eager to share cool North Dakota photos with y’all, even daily if I get them. This photo came from a much needed and overdue photo trip with my little boy. He has a good eye and steady hand, too. We stopped to take a shot of this windmill (as I’m wont to do) and noticed that only half its blades were still intact. Good conversation, good snacks, four wheel drive, and Daddy-son time were a great way to break the cameras out of the bag and do some roamin’.

Winter windmill

I used to post a lot of windmill photos. Well, I used to post a lot of photos in general, but these days I’ve been doing more work-related and Daddy-related activities. That won’t stop me, though.

I was all lined up to do a brief photo trip today when I realized that my little guys wanted to go sledding. In an instant I sacked said photo trip and donned my snow gear for some sledding, sliding, and snowball throwing. What a blast!

To satisfy my urge to share a photo with all-y’all (my Texan wife swears that’s a word) I grabbed this one. I snapped it on my way back from a freelance photo shoot north of Bismarck, so it certainly isn’t stale. By the way, I don’t do freelance portrait photography; I freelance industrial photography to pay the bills while doing the landscapes and other stuff in my free time. That available free time is harder to come by these days, but I do still find an occasional opportunity for windmill photos to share!

A rosy glow…a pinkish hue

I thought I’d start off the morning with an early Seinfeld reference. One of the greatest things about this time of year is the brilliant colors at sunrise and sunset. This winter certainly has not disappointed in that regard. We’ve had our share of cloudy mornings but also some brilliant sunrises and sunsets! The trick is to be ready to capture them when they occur.

23,000 and we’ve got another man down, Dude


While perusing a road along Highway 3 a couple of weekends ago I spotted what I deem a tragedy: the head of an old windmill lying battered and broken in the grass. As you may have deduced by now, I have a soft spot for these old windmills…and when I see the wreckage of one I consider it a loss, both historically and photographically.

This particular windmill had company; there was plenty of old machinery and other interesting stuff lying about, and I was able to peruse much of it with my camera while staying on my side of the fence (and No Trespassing signs). Some of them are going to be a lot of fun to play with in Photoshop, so they’ll have to wait to be posted until later.

Oh, I almost forgot: the reason I mention the number 23,000 in this post’s title is because the first photo above is the 23,000th photo I’ve taken with my Canon 7D. Still less than half of what I have taken with my other camera. No worries…we’ll get there eventually, but of course by that time the other Canon will have left 57,000 in the dust as well!

Oil patch anecdote (comes with bonus windmill)

Because I can tie an old windmill to just about anything, here’s a shot of an old abandoned farmstead that I located just south of Watford City on Highway 85. There…I think I’ve made my rustic windmill photo quota, so here’s my interesting story about the past several weeks in Bakken Country.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the Wild West: the crime, the traffic, the overcrowding. I don’t doubt that many of those growing pains, and many of the reports thereof, had basis in fact. Oil production in Bakken country has slowed somewhat recently for a number of reasons, and perhaps that’s why my experiences there departed slightly from the tales.

My first impression of Williston was that sure, it was crowded with heavy traffic…but their equivalent of State Street, the divided Highway 85 that runs north out of town to Highway 2, was completely closed down on the southbound side for resurfacing. Of course it would be crowded with half the roadway available. In fact, I was able to get served faster at McDonald’s in Williston than I have been in Bismarck lately. While working with the security manager at the facility I was in, he gave the following advice: “Oh, sure…it’s not so bad here. But you should see Watford City!”

The very next day I found myself working in Watford City. I needed some accessories to build some 50 amp power cables, so I stopped in at the RV store located at the busiest intersection Watford City has. I noticed that I had no problem getting in/out of his parking lot onto Highway 85, despite a lot of traffic. It just wasn’t as bad as I’d been told. “Oh sure,” said the owner. “…it’s not so bad here. But you should see Williston!”

Now just a doggone minute here. The person I spoke to in each town thought the other one was the madhouse. In neither case did I see the kind of problems that I’ve heard so much about. Of course I’m sure traffic gets insane when there’s a blockage on the road…but I have spent dozens of hours on the road in northwestern North Dakota and never experienced any such issues. I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m saying they’re not a 24/7 phenomenon.

I know that the medical system and first responders are overwhelmed in the area. I acknowledge that many aspects of life have seen great upheaval since the boom took hold. What I suspect happens, however, is what I call “REO Speedwagon Syndrome”: the tales grow taller on down the line.

By the way, if infrastructure is so far behind, and they can’t afford to catch up, then why in the world is Williston breaking ground on a $70 million recreation center? Is that the greatest need, or do they simply have a fetish akin to the Bismarck City Commission’s? I think it hurts their cause when they claim they can’t keep up with critical needs but they certainly have more money than you or I will ever see to start building indoor pools.

Of course my limited time up there didn’t give me the chance to see the whole picture. Again, I acknowledge the upheaval northwestern North Dakota has experienced. I also acknowledge that we can’t believe everything we hear about the Bakken boom without experiencing at least a little bit of it for ourselves.

We’ve got another man down, Dude

In a friend’s backyard, no less! I was out poking around with my camera before dinner and enjoying the extremely rural Dakota atmosphere when I noticed something in the grass. Closer inspection revealed that it was a windmill head from the early 1900s. What is it with me and old windmills, anyway?

As a mountain and city kid, I don’t know why I find these artifacts so intriguing, but I do. I’ve joked from time to time that in North Dakota’s vast expanse of prairie, anything sticking up more than a few feet can be considered a landmark. More honestly, I think they have more of a connotation of the pioneer spirit, the hardiness that it takes to farm a section of North Dakota land. For every windmill there’s a story of someone who put it there. I suppose that’s the real fascination.

Rainy day road trip

We were blessed with a steady soaker this weekend, with some places seeing up to two inches of rain. I had a really strong need to roam, so I threw my gear in the truck and headed out on some soggy, spongy dirt roads and trails. I saw some really cool stuff, grabbed a few satisfying photos, caught up on a few podcasts, and managed not to get stuck. In other words, a success.

The rain let up briefly when I grabbed this shot of a rough-looking windmill. The valley in the background is still slightly obscured by the rain, and just after I snapped this shot it picked up again. Thankfully I have lens hoods to keep the front element dry when I poke it out the window of the truck! Yes, I did get out and hoof it in the rain a bit as well.

Getting to the bottom of things

I’ve take a LOT of windmill photos since I got into this photography thang a few years ago. I don’t think I’d call it an obsession, but then again I’d be the last to notice. Although they make a really nice addition to scenic North Dakota landscape photos, I’ve started to explore them a little more closely.

This old pump still remains at the base of an otherwise unremarkable remnant of an old windmill. The blades that would turn this old pump are long gone, yet the heart of it remains. I enjoy getting landowner permission to poke around and photograph things like this and imagine what they were like when they were new. I’ve even come across windmills like this which are still operating faithfully, which is an even better find.