This doesn’t bode well for Morton County

wind_survey_37874I was roaming some of my favorite Morton County back roads, searching for blue flax fields and whatever else I might find, when I noticed this.  Actually, I noticed three of them…all in a line, spaced evenly about a mile and a half apart.  That was weird…short little guy-wired towers springing up like that.  So what’s the deal?

I asked around a broadcast engineering group I belong to, and they gave me the scoop: they’re temporary anemometers.  After I found that out, I was able to verify it on my next trip past that area when I actually got close enough for this shot:

wind_survey_40391As you can see, there are multiple anemometers on this tower.  Well, there’s only one reason why you’d want to measure wind in an area like that.  Yes, you guessed it: more stupid wind turbines, among the most expensive types of power to produce.

These subsidy grabbing, bird killing eyesores are the bane of anyone who loves photographing North Dakota.  Sadly, they’re encroaching on some of the more scenic areas surrounding Bismarck-Mandan.  As I type this, work is in progress on a wind farm south of Hebron as well.  Sad.

If you want to get any scenic photos around Morton County, especially at sunset, you’d better do it before those ugly structures ruin the skyline.

IT LIVES. I present to you: Frankenrig

arena_truck_37216-8_HDRI’ve alluded recently on social media that I was working on a little rig to help me with the type of photography I do.  Case in point: the photo above.  The sun was setting to the right of this photo, leaving the rest of the car in the dark.  I wanted to fill with light rather than try to Photoshop it later, but that takes a lot of light.  After trudging back to the van twice for more lights and stands, I figured there had to be a better way to get multiple flash units in one place.  That was the inspiration for Frankenrig.


frankenrig_40696I’ll admit: it doesn’t look like much.  It’s more an assembly of parts bought online with only one piece of my own handiwork.  I messed with different lengths of 1/4″ thick aluminum until I found the right one, cut it, drilled it, tapped threads into it, and attached the various things I needed in order to hang three flashes from one lightweight portable stand.  Once I found the right length, it was off to the powder coater to get a durable finish applied.


frankenrig_40700To each of those pegs I attached a pivoting light bracket.  Each bracket can swivel on its post, while each bracket can articulate back and forth.  Why use such tall pegs, you ask?  Because I want to be able to operate the knurled knobs on the bottom of the pivoting brackets, even with winter gloves on, so I need the clearance.


frankenrig_40711In each pivoting bracket I attached a cold shoe so I could easily slide a Speedlite on and off.  I have spare pegs in case I want to use a studio strobe, but that’s not why I built Frankenrig.


frankenrig_40703Here are the three radio controlled Speedlites attached.  I tried different lengths of aluminum because I wanted Frankenrig to be as compact as possible, yet allow enough room between brackets to allow manipulation with winter gloves on.


frankenrig_40704It’s a very flexible rig.  The posts allow a number of things to be hung on this bracket in a variety of ways.  Each flash, in addition to its own pivoting head, can pivot by rotating the cold shoe’s peg in its bracket.  The bracket can pivot using its hinge, and it can swivel on its peg.  The 1/4″ x 1″ aluminum isn’t going to bend and everything is clinging together with 3/8″ threads and Loctite, so it’ll handle anything I opt to hang on it.


So here I have a compact little rig which attaches to any universal light stand, including the lightweight ones I use for my type of photo trips.  It’s a simple device, but allows me to bring a lot of light to a location with very little work.  It’s a pretty specific tool, though; it’s most suitable for my type of photo trip.  I want something lightweight and portable, not studio strobes.  I need to be able to set up in uneven terrain, so the stands I have do that.  I need to be able to adjust it, even in the cold with thick gloves on.  And I want it to be overbuilt in the strength department, because that’s how my dad taught me.


I look forward to taking Frankenrig into the field and throwing a lot of light at something!  Then I can sing its praises when I have cool, well-lit photos to share here.

Horsing around

horses_37832I had an equine audience for a second as I roamed my favorite area of rural Morton County – let’s face it, most of it is rural – last weekend with a friend who was in town from Philly.  I only had a second or two to try to get this shot, because they obviously figured I had food.  Right after I took this photo they began working their way down the long hill toward the truck, obviously hoping for some goodies.  Maybe I’ll have to take a bag of apples with me next time!

Post in color

post_37959-61_hdrAs you probably know, I have a soft spot for rural North Dakota, particularly around Bismarck-Mandan.  I love roaming the back roads and section lines, trying to find picturesque views and document remnants from the pioneer past (which, in many areas, isn’t all that long ago).  I’m a “city kid” who actually spent his childhood in the Rocky Mountains despite being a native NoDak, so I feel like somewhat an interloper in that regard…but I love the natural beauty of North Dakota and the spirit of the people here.

That’s one reason why I love taking photos like this one from Saturday.  There is no other side of this gate; the adjacent quarter is open where this approach enters.  The open fields of brilliant green were offset by a lovely morning blue sky, devoid of clouds for a change.  The drab, colorless post was a perfect contrast to the beautiful natural hues in the background.

I discovered something which I feel is very sad nearby…but I have to get ready for work now, so that’s going to have to be in another post in a day or two.

Need a place to faceplant in Mandan? Look no further

faceplant_zone_ip_1764This sign has since been fixed, but as I stopped near the Trolley Bridge on my motorcycle a while ago I noticed it and thought it was slightly funny.  Opinions may vary.  It looks like the sign is indicating a Faceplant Zone, newly paved for your comfort!


faceplant_zone_ip_1761What happens in Mandan stays in Mandan…

Folks are known to faceplant in Mandan, after all…why not have a zone just for them?  The only problem is the traffic.  Maybe that’s why they reconsidered and fixed the sign. 🙂


What it looks like without any wedding parties in it

heritage_center_atrium__37592I took my kiddos to Bismarck’s 144th Birthday celebration at the Heritage Center’s State Museum last weekend.  One our way out it occurred to me that I hadn’t really done any photography in the Northern Lights Atrium.  This was my chance.  After all, nearly every other time I’ve been there I’ve seen wedding parties getting ready for their photos.  In fact, there were a few such people there when we first arrived.


heritage_center_atrium__37595-2I like geometry, so of course I snapped a couple of shots and looked around.  This space is so busy with portrait photography that they had to start taking appointments and setting forth some common sense rules.


heritage_center_atrium__37590For some reason I really expected this to actually…do something.  But if you’ve driven by at night, you can see the disappointingly faint glow of someone’s homage to Northern Lights.  I’m not looking for a Pink Floyd concert, but some lights that moved or changed in some way would have been nice…and a far better tribute to the real thing.


heritage_center_atrium_37600Again…it’s all about the angles.  The beautiful skies last Saturday helped a lot.

If you’re looking to use the atrium for photography, here is a link to the finalized rules of conduct you should adhere to in order to help keep the building an enjoyable place for everyone as you share the space.

Working all the angles

ww_memorial_37376-8_hdrI recently took my boys to the memorial monument on the east side of the Liberty Memorial bridge.  They read the plaques an wandered around, appreciating both the monument and the nice weather (finally) after so many rainy and/or windy days. I, of course, wanted to do some photo work as I’ve been bouncing off the walls lately.


ww_memorial_37383Here’s the view upward as my camera looks straight up the middle with a wide-angle lens.  A little fill, a little circular polarizer, and I have a satisfying bit if white geometry on a vivid blue backdrop, with a trio of flags thrown in for good measure.


ww_memorial_dji_0085My favorite angle.  Not only does this show the center “aurora” looking spires, but it also looks like something out of a Picasso painting of an eyeball.

I’ve been trying to revisit some familiar photo sites lately, as well as branch out for some new ones…but this is a b usy time of year for me.  Thankfully I still have a few places in mind that aren’t far out of town.  Then I get to post them here and share!

The Arena church is not doing so well these days

aren_church_DJI_0002I recently took a road trip to Arena, the nearest photogenic “ghost town” near Bismarck, to spend some time with one of my favorite subjects: the abandoned St. John’s Lutheran church, one of only a few structures still standing


arena_church_37089As you can see, the old church isn’t looking so good these days.  The cinder block foundation has collapsed on both the east and west sides of the building, and the building itself is beginning to collapse as a result.


arena_church_37090One thing I try to do when I photograph a place like this is to avoid tampering with it, damaging it, or (in most cases) entering it.  Someone else didn’t show the same restraint, tearing off one of the wooden covers over a window toward the front of the church.


arena_church_37135-7_hdrFound it.


arena_church_37092Here’s the west wall of the foundation.  Not only have the cinder blocks caved in, but so has a lot of the dirt along the foundation wall itself.


arena_church_37132Ditto on the east side.  This was actually the first side to cave in, although a portion of it is intact.


arena_church_37119Peeking under the church, one can assess the damage.  Nothing is holding this church from folding in half except a few pillars downstairs…


arena_church_37313…and the concrete around the base of those has crumbled as well.  Craters around the bottoms of these pillars illustrate how, with the cinder block walls absent, they bear the entire weight of the structure.


arena_church_37126-8_hdrA few supplies remain: the screens from the windows and an old stove sit in the corner next to the steps leading downstairs.  I got all these basement photos by lying on my stomach next to the collapsed wall; as I mentioned before, i didn’t want to enter the building.  In fact, while it’s gone now, there was a No Trespassing sign on the front of the church long ago.


arena_church_37274-5_hdrEntry to the basement is barred by collapse as well.


arena_church_37270Since someone else tore off the window covering, I decided to see what was inside the church.  I put my camera on a monopod with a remote and a flash, stood outside the window, and poked it inside with a wide angle lens.  Here’s what my camera saw.


arena_church_37304-6_hdrThe outhouse is also collapsed.  Too bad, because I really had to pee by the time I was wrapping up here.  Thankfully a friend lives nearby, and I was able to stop at their place right after leaving “town”.


arena_church_DJI_0013At some point this steeple’s coming down.  It’s sad to see the inevitable happen to this little church.  I’ve photographed it on cloudy days, sunny days, starry nights, and with the faint glow of the Northern Lights behind it.  It’s such a picturesque little church, in such a scenic location, and so accessible to sentimental photography hobbyists like me.  I guess all I can do is make an occasional trip to Arena and capture as many photos of this little church as time takes its toll.

Another Boot Hill

boot_hill_36765It’s been a while since I’ve seen a fence with so many boots perched atop its posts.  The one north of Bismarck along 1804 is pretty photogenic, but the way it winds around a curve can be a challenge.  This one goes straight up an over a hill.  It’s in Morton County, and I’m not sure I remember where.  I’d have to ask my GPS.

Gazing down the fence line

old_equip_36895On a cold, blustery day a week and half ago I found this old piece of equipment near a stretch of barbed wire fence in rural Morton County.  It’s hard to tell here that it was actually starting to snow sideways, something that makes flash photography nearly impossible.  Thankfully I caught just enough of a break to light this shot and get back into the truck to thaw my fingers!