Nailed it this time

Yes, it’s U-shaped, but to the best of my knowledge it’s still a nail. This one is sticking out of the top of a horizontal fence post out by my property, and I’m glad it is. The frost (yes, Rime Ice) on this one is blasting its way eastward.


It looks like a blast, doesn’t it? I mean, literally? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This was on Day One: the Saturday when we first woke up to spikes of ice and frost attached to everything. Those tended to be more fine, needle-like structures attached to everything. But that was only the beginning.


Fast forward a few days, and we had an entirely different type of ice develop out here. First, it seemed windier. Second, the temperature was different. And the way the ice and frost developed…well, that was entirely different as well.


How would I even describe this? Feather? Sure. Explosive? Definitely. It was something I’ve never experienced before with my camera, and I was absolutely delighted.


Here’s one that’s more natural. If you’ve paid close attention to my frost (Rime Ice) photos so far, you may have noticed the clean backgrounds on most of the shot. That’s no accident. Because the background was typically white, there’s no way I would have achieved the definition I wanted by just pointing my camera and clicking away. Or maybe something else was in the background which would act as a distraction. So how did I solve this problem? I improvised, and made a little experiment out of it.

I have a number of pieces of colored matte board from when I used to frame my own photo prints. I won some art show awards, and I even sold some prints (not enough for that new camera I’ve wanted for six years), but I gave up on that sort of thing long ago. Well, I cut down some various matte boards in a variety of colors and took them with, holding them in the background while I clicked away with a remote shutter release. I like how they turned out, especially considering the alternative. There’s no way I could have captured the detail if I didn’t have a contrasting background to work with. I hope it doesn’t look artificial…but even if it does, in this case I think the detail is worth it.

I still have plenty more frost photos, and I hope to put them out in a themed fashion as well. See you soon!

Pining for more frost photos

Not for the fjords, mind you. I ventured about, searching for a variety of pines, and boy, did I succeed.


I found a variety of pine needle shapes, in a variety of orientations, with a variety of ice formations attached to them. And here we go…


I love the funnel-like cone of some of these. I hadn’t paid such close attention to the pine trees near my place, but I found out rather quickly that they’ve got some really interesting features!


Even among similarly shaped pine branches, I found an assortment of icy spikes on them.


These were so breathtaking, I didn’t even notice how cold it was outside…or how long I’d been standing out in that cold. Didn’t matter.


The orientation of the ice spikes tends to convey a sense of motion, or at least an indication of some bitter wind as they formed overnight.


What I found interesting was how some of the needles were coated in ice, while others were completely unscathed.


Others were barren on one side, but blasted with ice on the other. That makes a wonderful photo like this one possible.


Any guesses which direction the wind was blowing the night before? I’m gonna say from the right side of this photo. Call it a hunch.


Naturally the long-needled pines wanted to get into the game, as well. We can’t let the short-needled guys have all the fun.


There’s something star-shaped about this one which caught my eye. The direction of the spikes seems to convey a rotation of sorts, despite their haphazard directions.


Plastered. It’s hard to tell just exactly what is under all that ice, but trust me: it’s a pine branch.


It’s almost like a hairdo when it’s on one side, isn’t it? This one could be in a punk band, or maybe an eighties New Wave group.


And, with this glorious specimen, I’m spent. At least on the pine photos. I have plenty more frost (yes, Rime Ice) photos yet to come in future posts, but I’m trying to theme each of them. Stay tuned…

Cherry, baby

Never pass up the opportunity to make a Neil Diamond reference. Ever. I’m happy to say that plenty of trees around my place still have these red delights hanging from their branches, and I took advantage of it.


Here’s a big bunch of cherries for y’all – how about those spikes? They’re absolutely glorious. They were so voluminous that they actually lasted for a couple of days on some of the trees.


For instance, this duo. I took this shot a couple of days after the initial frost (yes, Rime Ice) had appeared. You can tell it was wearing thin, but it still remained.


But back to the initial spikes. They look like thorns, they’re so long and sharp! I can’t help but sound like a broken record: these are the finest examples of this phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed.


The geometry of the tree branches, the red of the berries, and the unique nature of the frozen spikes made for days’ worth of photographic fun.


To quote the first Captain America movie: I could do this all day. There was so much going on out there, it was impossible to capture each unique and breathtaking example of such a rare occurrence.


She got the way to move me, as the song says. I couldn’t get enough.


Here, the ice almost obscures the fruit! Even better: it helps illustrate just how incredibly fortunate we were to get a blast of weather like this.


Do your eyes start at the bottom, and follow the geometry of the branch upward, or do they start at the top and work their way to the tip of the branch? I always do the latter…although the branch starting in the upper left may play a factor.


I call this one the Glen Plake Berry. It reminds me of my mohawk. Yes, I had a nineteen inch mohawk back in my 20s. It was part of that decade and a half long “extreme sports” phase which did so much for my psyche and my orthopedic history.

That’s it for now – I’ll have more themed posts coming up for…well, for a while. I worked this occurrence like a rented mule, and I have plenty to show for it. I can’t wait to share more of them!

Stickin’ it to Red Lodge

This was the view coming back down the hill at Red Lodge last weekend. Some buddies and I rented a nice house with a hot tub and a view of the mountain and headed out for a quick ski/snowboard trip.


Not only was I the only cool kid (snowboarder) in our group of eight, I was the oldest. Proof: I choose to ride in old-skewl style. This is the Avalanche Bumps Pro Mogul snowboard I bought brand new in 1989 when I lived at a resort in the Rockies, and I’m rocking an Aunt Mable’s dino hat (with tail) from the early 1990s. Good luck finding evidence that either of these things ever existed, even on the Google.


If you’ve ever visited a ski resort, much less lived at and worked at one, you know that stickers abound. Naturally it’s tempting to mark your presence by affixing stickers to the nearest lift tower, and there’s plenty of that at Red Lodge.


I spotted a couple of Huff Hills stickers among the pile plastered to one of the towers, so it’s obvious a few of our locals have made their mark in Montana…


But I would love to hear the story behind this one. I’m not sure of its origin, and once again Googling the visible text on it gets me nowhere. But I imagine the story behind it must be a real knee-slapper.

The plan was to bolt down Thursday, shred the gnar Friday, hit the hot tub and grill some monster steaks Friday night, and bolt back Saturday. Perfect plan, perfectly executed. And I managed to get some photos and video to scratch that photography itch, too…while getting a few laughs thanks to the sticker-slapping folks whose handiwork will live in infamy…at least until the towers get a fresh coat of paint, anyway.

Valve job

I noticed something really cool while taking photos for the owner of a farmstead northwest of the Bismarck-Mandan area. Obviously it was a beautiful day, as you can tell from the green pasture and blue sky above.

This is an inventive way to block the door of the shop. The hasp doesn’t quite line up okay, but by grabbing a spare valve and dropping it into place, it’s easy to keep things closed.

I love the ingenuity of rural North Dakota.

You left your stools, I bet they were cold to sit on

These ice blocks caught my friend Rich’s eye before they caught mine.  Thanks to him, I was able to pay them a visit after work today.  They sit in a conspicuous location, but I can only guess how they got there.


When I first arrived, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the skies I wanted.  And, while it’s true that the clouds overhead didn’t have any of the brilliant oranges blocked by clouds on the horizon, I still had some sweet clouds to work with.


Bonus: I caught some of that color shining through the ice blocks.  I had to get to church, so I took off at the last possible moment…but I have a suspicion that going back with some different skies might yield an exciting result!

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.

How you know you’ve got a keeper

Well, there are many ways…but this is one.  My wife was at a friend’s, painting a portrait of some sort, and on her way home she stopped to grab this photo for me!  I didn’t even know they were doing this in the windows.  I have to admit, when she first said there was a giant “6” in the front windows I didn’t connect it to the Bison.  Duh.  I’m glad she’s got an eye out for things like this!  Now I don’t have to go out in the cold tonight.

Blast from North Dakota’s stereoscopic past

It all started when I started going through a box of old toys and things that my mom dropped off at the house.  Most of it was old stuff that was in disrepair or otherwise unusable (such as an old Commodore 64 that I can emulate on my PC), and ended up being discarded.  The two items above, however, caught my eye.  Both eyes, actually.

One of them had a disc in it (they were called “reels”), but I didn’t find any other reels.  One of my favorites as a little kid was one about dinosaurs, and I’d sure love to find that one again for old time’s sake.  But I started thinking about this vintage technology and couldn’t help but wonder…are there any North Dakota-related View-Master reels?

It didn’t take long on eBay before I discovered a set of reels from 1956, and of course I had to have them.


This arrived shortly after I fervently clicked Buy It Now – a new, unopened 1956 set of three View-Master slides portraying North Dakota tourist attractions!


The pack contained three reels, an insert describing the the photos portrayed, and a couple of order forms for other Sawyer products.  Sawyer invented the View-Master, and is no longer in business.  The company’s View-Master division has traded hands a few times.


These are the three reels in their protective sleeves.  Even though the paper package has never been opened, the film slides in the reels have a slight bubbling to them.  I’m guessing they’re some sort of acetate film medium that does this sort of thing after sixty years.


The reels are in pretty good shape, although they do have some dust and that sort of thing.  Parts of the reels are slightly bubbled as if they have pimples, and there was some powder in the sleeves, but otherwise they’re totally fine.

Naturally we threw them into a film scanner, although it took some rigging.  Want to see some of my favorites?


Here’s the capitol building, long before the Judicial Wing was constructed (or probably even conceived).  I like the water tower on the east side.  Who knew there were trees on the mall, my favorite frisbee spot?


Here’s an entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  I may try to find this monument and take a current photo.  A friend of mine recently did that with the tree at the nearby entrance to the campground west of Medora, a tree which appeared in a family photo from his childhood.


Here’s a dam photo.  I was just up at the tail race with my kids a week or so ago, and the water was nowhere near this high.  I just looked at the photos from that day and I guess it was closer than I thought, but this is still a high level.  Remember, the dam was only officially completed in the early 1950s and didn’t begin its work as a hydroelectric power plant until 1956 or even 1960, depending on which source you consult.


Back to the capitol.  The Pioneer Family monument no longer has the fence around it, and the marble posts are long gone.  I have a postcard of this somewhere as well.  Again, I love the water tower.


It wouldn’t be North Dakota without a farming photo or two.  The harvesting equipment of today is significantly larger, and of course there’s the GPS and air conditioning.


Here’s another example of things being bigger now: lignite coal mining equipment.  The draglines I’ve done video and photo work on north of here weigh in at up to thirteen million pounds (13,000,000)!  The coal haulers have a 160 ton or greater capacity, too.


Here’s the front of the insert.   Click on the photo for a full size (ie, legible) version.


And, of course, the back.  Click for the readable size image.


And, because I can’t change who I am, I spotted a typo.  I think maybe someone had Fargo on the brain when they wrote the section about “Tiago”.  Hey, at least they didn’t call us South Dakota!


I may post some additional images from these reels down the road, we’ll see.  We only scanned one of each image, it might be interesting to take a crack at scanning both.  What am I talking about?  Well, the View-Master is stereoscopic, meaning that the creators of these reels took photos with two cameras spaced slightly apart.  For each image you see, there’s a left one and a right one.  So you get 3D depth perception as you do in real life.  It’s wonderful.  But I currently lack the ambition to scan both perspectives of each of these images and don’t really have a plan for how I’d combine them into a 3D-viewable digital image anyway.

Certainly some of you have enjoyed View-Master reels?  Feel nostalgic yet?

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  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!