Hey! In Maddock

One of my favorite road trip activities is to exclaim, “Hay!” whenever we encounter a bunch of hay. Of course, as a city kid I’m not very astute at distinguishing hay from straw, so I had better be careful if I have a farm kid with me. Thankfully I was safe when I saw this beauty while rolling through Maddock a while back.

Not only is it the coolest hay (straw?) creation I saw that evening, it’s also Kawasaki Green!

I have to admire the craftsmanship on this particular truck. License plate, even!

Uh oh – that’s the only ding. FORD. Well, nobody’s perfect. 🙂

Naturally, there’s gotta be an honorable mention. I saw some other hay bale creations, but these were the ones that caught our eye on the way back from Cavalier Air Force Station. I’m glad I’m able to share!

Gnarly, dude

I saw this tree along a gravel road in Morton County and had to stop and take a few shots. I had the right sky for something so twisted and nearly grotesque. What a testament to the tenacity of creation!

Clearly this tree has endured some things, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s given up. Reach for the sky!

I’m no Tim Burton, but I see an elegance, a grace, even a beauty in this tree. That’s why I jammed on the brakes as I careened down the adjacent gravel road at 45 mph, threw it in reverse (I drive a manual transmission truck, so I can “throw” it into any gear I please), and whizzed back to take a few shots of this remarkable tree.

The Wreck of the Abner O’Neil (No Gordon Lightfoot parodies forthcoming)

Recently a group of local kayakers made for a viral sensation when they posted photos of the wreckage of the Abner O’Neal, a steamboat from the 1890s. The river’s low levels have allowed the wreck to begin poking out of the water, and anyone coasting downstream from the Steckel boat landing is likely to encounter it. Thus the sensation.

I finally got out there myself. I’d been eagerly awaiting a time like this ever since the State Historical Society posted about it a while back, which allowed me to figure out its exact location. As a certified SCUBA diver, I’d heard about this site but never discerned where to look for it.

I actually went out to it multiple times, which explains the different lighting in some of the photos I’m posting here. Once was in the afternoon, and once was toward sunset with really calm water. Incredibly cool.

The most popular feature you’re going to see online is this part of the hull, which sticks out most prominently.

I admit, this is one of the most photogenic parts of the craft. Only the hull remains; when the Abner sank in 8-10 feet of water here, everything which was salvageable was indeed removed.

As you can see the planks of the hull are still intact, remarkable for something that has been here since 1892. I think this is my favorite angle, actually. Maybe it’s the evening light.

I was blessed with some pretty amazing skies when I went out. One time it was windy, the other time the river was like glass and I didn’t get bounced around so much.

I wish I knew enough about steamboats to know what part of the hull this is, but sadly I’m a total landlubber. Not too surprising, for a kid who grew up in the mountains and lives in a landlocked state near the geographical center of our continent.

Here’s another view of the wreckage in its entirety. The bottom left corner is the downstream end.

I made a short video of some of my favorite angles of the riverboat wreck. I hope you enjoy!

Here’s where I must point out a couple of things. First of all, the shoreline adjacent to this shipwreck is private property. Don’t get any crazy ideas about walking downriver from the boat landing: that’s trespassing. Second, you can’t see anything from the shore anyway. Your best bet is to see it from the air or from a kayak. The water’s too shallow for a boat. Third, this is a historic site; if you do manage to get to it, please don’t disturb it in any way. That means wading around and tracking up the river bottom, taking anything from the site, or generally leaving any trace that you were ever there.

This is a pretty awesome piece of North Dakota history, and the fact that we can experience right now is a silver lining to the drought conditions and general 2020-2021 malaise that’s struck so many. I’m sure glad I can share it with you!

Think Spring

As Austin Powers would say…I’m spent. That’s right, this is my last frost (okay, Rime Ice) photo. I might have more left in the “unedited” category, but they’re going to have to remain in limbo for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Spring. Since I pretty much worked straight through 2020, I’m really hoping 2021 will make up for it. I’ve accrued a ton of vacation time, I’ve worked hard to get myself in the best physical condition I’ve seen in a long time, and I have big plans along with some re-evaluated priorities. So bring it on!

Right down to the wire

I have to admit: my go-to when it comes to frost (or Rime Ice) is barbed wire. It’s a no-brainer; it frosts up frequently, has its own wild geometry, and there’s plenty of it in North Dakota.

See what I mean? Spikes on spikes. I got a lot of cool photos over that stretch of frosty/icy days, but I started with the barbed wire.


I did do some of that “colored matte” thing in cases where I just couldn’t get the kind of separation I needed to highlight the spikes. I hope it isn’t distracting, but it was simply necessary in some cases.


One of the cool things about barbed wire is that you can twist it, loop it, and otherwise manipulate it in ways which become pretty cool once ice spikes start growing on it.


Twisted, ain’t it? And with spikes! Kinda reminds me of the 1990s.


Barbed wire is more than just strands of wire stretched between posts. It’s got plenty of variety, and thankfully the ice didn’t discrimate.

Beautiful, isn’t it? I froze my butt off over the course of four days, taking hundreds of photos in the process…but I have to admit: I don’t get tired of this stuff. It’s just so pretty – and so rare.

Then there’s stuff like this. I don’t even feel the need to compose any words about it. It’s simply marvelous, regardless of what I might try to say about it.


Gotta put some other metal in here. My iTunes just shuffled into Def Leppard’s “Rock Brigade” as an inspiration.


A post about barbed wire featuring a post wrapped in barbed wire. I couldn’t resist pointing that out.


This is the shot I had in mind when I first left the house that Saturday morning, having successfully predicted this phenomenon. I had no idea what nature had in store for me, though.


Talk about cooperative geometry! Opportunities like this come around so infrequently, and I was finally able to take advantage of one.


Nailed it again. See what I mean? I just watched Top Gun, so let me declare this a target-rich environment.


Intersection would be a good way to describe the serendipity of the weather conditions which brought about this spiky phenomenon occurring at a time when I could finally dig my camera out of the bag and go for it! I’m thankful for the ability to go out and appreciate this example of God’s handiwork.

Think I’m done with frost photos? Not yet…

Another post featuring posts

I’m not trying to see how meta I can get with these posts about posts, but I love a good pun (or dad joke) as much as the next guy – if not more. I spent a ridiculous amount of time around that last post, but it wasn’t the only one which caught my freezing eye.


Here’s an example of the “white frost on a white background” challenge brought by the conditions that day. But I had plenty of photogenic subject matter!


The background may be artificial, but the subject matter certainly stands out better… would you agree?


In some cases – but seldom, on this day – going in closer works out pretty well for catching enough of a dark patch in the background to get the necessary separation. This one worked well.


Never let ’em see you crack, or they’ll ice you, man. It seemed every hard edge available was spiked with some of this ice that day.


This photo is pretty edgy, wouldn’t you say? The entire edge of this post was coated with a uniform row of icy spikes.


You might say these two are inseparable. Without a wire cutter, that is.


Some might point out that not all posts are metal. Fair enough. Others might claim that it’s fair to give metal its due. Out of context, but it’ll work in this case.

Fear not! I’ve got even more frost (Rime Ice) photos on the way…stay tuned.

Frosty miscellany

I took a lot of other photos of the Rime Ice (affectionately referred to here as “frost”) stuck to various other things besides trees and fences. Oh, yes.


These were out in a ditch, and managed to barely hold still despite the breeze which was attempting to freeze my face off.


There’s so much going on right here. You can’t even tell whether I was able to feel my fingers at this point! But the spikes are grand.


When the Lord gives you this kind of stuff to point your camera at, you take the opportunity for the blessing that it is. You can always grip about the cold later, when you’re in your home office next to a space heater.


I’m not a betting man, but once again I’d be willing to lay odds on which direction the wind was coming from that night when these spikes formed.


Normally, these things are ridiculously annoying when you have to clean them up around your property. But not so much when they’ve got spikes of ice over an inch long protruding from them.


Suddenly, at least for a few days, they became beautiful. It’s amazing what a little touch of winter can do for something’s public image.


I wanna rock! Well, okay. Here’s one. I threw this in just to show you that even the rocks couldn’t hide from this wintry occurrence.


Don’t worry…I have even more frost (yes, Rime Ice) photos coming in future themed posts. Like I said, this was a very productive few days.

Meanwhile, out in the open…

So I’ve shown you a lot of close-up, tight shots of the frost (yeah…Rime Ice) of a week or so ago…but what else was going on out there? Plenty.


Hey, it’s me…so you know there’s gonna be an old windmill in there somewhere. This one was frosted along with everything else left out overnight.


Naturally, on a day like today one is going to go after some trees or other large objects which will show off their crusty coating.


Of course, it’s up to me to give it my own personal touch. I don’t know if I have a style or not…I just take photos, process them a bit, and stick them online. If I have developed a “look” unique to my work…well, cool.


Trees and a windmill? Say it ain’t so! I didn’t have to venture far from my place to find a target-rich environment last week.

I haven’t even begun to run out of frost (yeah, Rime Ice) photos, though. There are even more coming. I have to say that, especially in light of 2020, the “year that wasn’t” for me in many ways, the four days I spent chasing this icy phenomenon have been among the most productive I’ve ever had since I bought my first digital camera. And I’ll continue to share.

Loopy for frost photos

I’ll warn you now: this post is entirely about…well, this post. Period. I spent a lot of time here on two separate days: first to get the really fine, spiky ice formations on the post and barbed wire, second to get the blasted ice of the following round of foggy cold.


First off, some color. Remember, it was a white, foggy day when I went out to this part of the fence. That doesn’t work well when you’re trying to capture the detail in the little spikes of frost (yes, Rime Ice) on the wire. In fact, the first photo in this post is the only one where I had a dark enough background to be able to discern the tips of the frost by way of contrast. So I chose to improvise in the interest of getting more definition.


The fine detail on Day One was absolutely stunning. Why wouldn’t I want to do everything in my power to be able to capture it?


Almost has a “crown of thorns” thing going on…doesn’t it? This is a blend of natural texture (the post) and matte in the background, so you can get a feel for how spiky this ice really is. It was like little white needles – or thorns.


Same shot, matte held closer. I love the contrast. I’ve always been one for a healthy dose of contrast, and I believe I owe that to my background in broadcasting. High definition – and now HDR – video doesn’t suffer from the same high-contrast characteristics of old standard definition, analog video like the stuff I grew up with. So my eye tends to prefer more contrast, since that is what I was accustomed to working with video since the eighties.


Perhaps it looks almost marine in nature. Whale’s teeth…the fronds of a denizen from the ocean’s floor, or some deep coral reef…these spikes take on a life of their own.


Maybe a beard? As if this post has gone full-blown Hezekiah on us?


The second time around, however, this post had been absolutely blasted with ice overnight.


I was getting really cold, so I decided to shoot against a warmer backdrop. That way I could imagine I was able to feel my fingers at this point.


For the record, this is what the photos look like without a matte to separate the white ice spikes from the white background on a white day with a white sky. Get the picture? So not only did I get the chance to experiment with my little matte board technique, I was able to get photos under some really hostile conditions, while still coming away with some detail in the spikes which lured me out there in the first place. Not that I feel I need to defend this technique, but it bears explaining.

So that’s it for this post. About this post. I have many, many more photos to share, so hang in there…more are coming soon!