Happy Birthday!

capitol_2017_44339You’d think I would be wishing you a Happy New Year, but that’s so cliche’.  Instead I’m celebrating the birthday of this website.  It was New Year’s Day 2006 when I started this thing with a photo of the year in the capitol windows.  Since then I’ve written thousands of posts, with more thousands of photos, and I’m still standing.

I used to post almost daily, and wondered how long it would be until I simply ran out of material.  That hasn’t happened.  There have been plenty of life changes since then…kids, new house, severe medical setbacks, and just generally being busy.  For instance, it’s been two months since I’ve taken any significant photos, even though I bought a new drone in December!  Life is like that some times.

I’m hoping the next couple of months bring a slowdown so I can get back to doing what I enjoy: roaming Bismarck-Mandan and other parts of North Dakota, having fun with my cameras and sharing the results here.  Hopefully there will be many more anniversaries like this one each New Year’s Day!

How about a few Independence Day Parade photos?

That’s right: I didn’t say “July 4th” – it’s Independence Day.  I was hoping to walk in the parade today, but my knee said otherwise.  So it was painkillers, Ace bandage, and sidelines.  But I did get to spend the time with my oldest boy and some friends in town from Idaho, so that’s a plus.  Here are some photos of things I found interesting:


2016_4th_parade_40550The colors.  It was nice to see people rise and salute the flag, hands over their hearts, without anyone having to tell them.


2016_4th_parade_40563Bismarck High School football carrying Old Glory.  The parade’s in Mandan, but we’re one big happy Bis-Man community.


2016_4th_parade_40557Serving and Protecting.  Morton County is going back to silver vehicles again, which is too bad – I like the way their white and blue ones look.  Especially the reflective blue stripe.


2016_4th_parade_40567Since the liberals are fighting pipelines and now oil by train, this is how Bakken crude is going to make it to market.


2016_4th_parade_40571Because it’s in North Dakota, the parade requires a Zamboni.  The folks accompanying this parade entry were on roller blades.  Cool, but probably spooky if one gets horse poo on those wheels.


2016_4th_parade_40568I can’t see this without thinking about this song by They Might Be Giants.  It’s a beast like this which helped assemble that giant weather vane construction crane at St. Alexius.


2016_4th_parade_40577My friend and karate training buddy Nathan Toman, who I believe is running for reelection to represent Morton County.  Please give him your vote.


2016_4th_parade_40576One of the most colorful entries every year from ACE towing.  I did happen to notice something on the side of this tow truck I hadn’t seen before, though:

2016_4th_parade_40573A little tribute to the law enforcement officers we lost a few years back.

2016_4th_parade_40647There’s only one way to heaven, and that’s through being born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Good to see a church proclaiming it!


2016_4th_parade_40582This was one of the coolest entries I saw: pedal powered!  Plenty of people shared the responsibility of propulsion duty.

2016_4th_parade_40595The pedals turned a shaft which went to a gearbox and turned the rear wheels.  I never did see how the front wheels steer, though.


2016_4th_parade_40630Any event which has a bubble machine is a fun time in my book.  This float actually had two, but it was the other components of the entry that caught our eye:

2016_4th_parade_40629I’m going to resist any puns here.  This looks like it was a lot of fun to drive.  Note the wheelie bar.  I never saw that part put to use.  But that’s not all…

2016_4th_parade_40628-2Rub a dub dub!  This tub gizmo, along with the motorized toilet and outhouse trailer show a commitment to putting on a good display for this year’s parade.


2016_4th_parade_40659One participant to keep an eye on every year is Butcher Block Meats.  They always do what I wish more Mandan parade entries would do: make an actual FLOAT.  They always motorize something, too – and this was no exception:

It’s good to see they wanted to keep up the creativity this year.  Now I’ve got to show my kids some Yogi and Boo-Boo cartoons – I really haven’t shown them much from the Hanna-Barbera catalog.


2016_4th_parade_40631Here’s one of the Touchstone Energy logo folks out representin’.


2016_4th_parade_40672And finally, the Bowdon Meats folks decided to do a little Beverly Hillbillies thing.  Although they’re not necessarily in a part of North Dakota where the ground is “a-bubblin’ crude”.

At this point the heat was getting to my little guy, even though we had shade nearby for an occasional respite, so I honored his wishes and packed up for home.  Looking down the line I could see that the next several entries were mostly vehicles, not actual floats.  Although I have no doubt there were some occasional gems in there, nothing within view caught my eye, so it was easy to pry myself away.  In future parades it would be cool to see more bona fide floats of clever design rather than vehicles with logos plastered on them.  But for the time we spent today, the photos prove that we saw plenty of cool stuff on parade for Independence Day.

Another reason to like A&B Pizza

planes-n-pancakes_ip_1888Click for larger version.

Here’s a panoramic photo of Planes and Pancakes, the aerial version of Buggies ‘n’ Blues.  If you follow my blog’s Facebook page you saw a pinned post with a copy of their poster listing all the various attractions during the day.  One of the highlights of this event for me, though, is the breakfast.  The breakfast consists of scrambled eggs, country style sausage, and fresh pancakes.  Yum.  It’s free with a request for donation, which I think benefits the local EAA club.

What’s cool about this is that Dave from A&B Pizza, an aviator himself, puts on the breakfast as a way of supporting the aircraft organization and helping assure the event’s success.  I wanted to issue a public “thank you” last year and never got around to it, but this year I’m giving props where they’re deserved.

Satisfying sunset

riverboat_35390My precious, sweet wife and I recently celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. The timing wasn’t right for an elaborate vacation, but we did one better: we took our little guys on the Fort Lincoln Trolley and the Lewis & Clark Riverboat, with a picnic in between.  One thing that made it more special is that, aside from the riverboat cruise, I left my camera out of the picture (pun intended).

Getting the shot so often detracts from enjoying an event, something I know all too well due to the nature of my work.  For instance, I can’t count how many time I came home from running Instant Replay or directing a live sporting event show, unable to tell my wife who won.  It’s the nature of making things look good for others.

I’ve got plenty of photos and video from on board the Trolley anyway.  We did take a photo of our picnic, because it was at the location where I initially proposed to my then-girlfriend.  I was free to enjoy the afternoon and the evening.  I even brought a little Bluetooth speaker so I could dance with my wife on the Riverboat while Captain Jeff Bathiany, the coolest riverboat captain around, allowed my boys to join him and his dog in the cabin and pilot the boat.

There was one shot, however, that I really wanted to have.  Thankfully the two-up seat at the front of the boat was available, and as the boat chugged its way home I was able to quickly set up my tripod, frame up my shot, and let the light and the bridge come to me.  I also took a nice photo of my sweetie, too, but I don’t post photos of my family online.  The shot above, though, I’m eager to share.

Even more horribly overdue: Independence Day Parade 2015

Okay, they’re a month overdue.  So let me unload.

parade2015_34846Here’s what it’s all about:  the American soldier.  After all, we’re talking about fighting for liberty.


parade2015_34844I think this must be Plasma man or something?   Or is it Prostate Cancer Awareness Week? Hepatitis Bob?


parade2015_34842Pony tow.


parade2015_34859Before and after.  I love Kawasaki Green or anything approximating it.


parade2015_34862Of course, in North Dakota even July 4th has a Zamboni.  Duh.


parade2015_34868OSHA approved?  Maybe just for parade duty.  This is the company that was listing cntree.com in their TV commercials on KFYR…the only problem is that it was an Indonesian site selling counterfeit shoes.  Oops.


parade2015_34869Love a progression of matching tractors!


parade2015_34898Becks promoting their Fort Lincoln Trolley.  Shoot, I haven’t ridden it yet this summer!  Okay, it’s on the list.  One noteworthy thing about this fire truck:


parade2015_34900It’s apparently a Bismarck original!


parade2015_34905Well, some are more festive than others.  ‘MERICA.


parade2015_34850Kawasaki Green and Suzuki Blue?  Bartlet & West knows how to get themselves featured on this website.


parade2015_34906Butcher Block always does cool floats.  But the animated Mater wasn’t the thing that I liked the most about this year’s iteration:


parade2015_34910This is why I liked it so much.


parade2015_34917Again…a stark reminder of what freedom costs.


parade2015_34918Infuriating that any of our own would be left behind.


parade2015_34923Over $20 million PLUS staffing and operating costs?  A “thank you” is the least that Mandan voters should receive.


parade2015_34929Color guard.




parade2015_34958Lawrence Welk made North Dakota the home of the bubble machine.  This spa keeps the tradition alive.


parade2015_34961Seriously, folks.  This is what it’s all about.


parade2015_34972It’s pink, but it can lift more than you can.


parade2015_34968Unless you’re this guy.


parade2015_34856A whole range of John Deere tractors in procession, in order by model number.


parade2015_34976I’d say the kid knows how to race.


parade2015_34979A reminder to MOVE OVER when you see a law enforcement officer with someone pulled over.  It’s for everyone’s safety.


parade2015_34980As you can see from this side, they’re serious.


parade2015_34984Now that is colorful.


parade2015_34992And of course, there’s an opportunity to shoot a couple of free throws.

I’m glad the parade didn’t get rained out this year.  I miss the days, however, when everyone actually made floats.  Yeah, trucks and tractors and military vehicles are cool…but what about the creativity?  The most memorable participants in this year’s parade were the ones who made their own floats.   Of those, the ones who showed respect for the death and/or imprisonment of those fighting for our freedom were the ones which left lasting impressions on me.  Hopefully in future parades we’ll see that creativity return.

Why these Fargo Airsho tickets never got used

airsho_ticketsI was so enthusiastic about the Fargo Airsho that I bought tickets for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s shows.  After all, the Airsho was cancelled in 2013 because of the Blue Angels’ cancellation due to politically motivated budget cuts.  This time I was all set to have a blast with my best friend and my two little boys.

The Blue Angels were AWESOME.  The fact that we entered through the Fargo Air Museum and were able to browse around there was an added bonus.  The F-M Ambulance gang had brought a neat contraption: an EZ-Up canopy rigged with PVC pipe that misted people if they walked underneath, a sure necessity in the scorching heat of the weekend.  The static displays and exhibits were really cool.  I saw the largest UAV I’d ever seen, my boys got to peek into a Harrier cockpit, and my youngest even caught a frog (He does that everywhere.  Seriously.).

So why didn’t we go back Sunday?  Frankly, because of the view.  Or shall I say, the lack thereof.

  • Nearly the entire show line was lined with VIP canopy tents.  There were two little corners where the little people could try to angle for a little bit of space with a view of the runway.  Of course, most of the action on or just above the runway took place in a spot that we couldn’t even see.  To make matters worse, my little kids could see even less due to their height.
  • They were excited when they saw bouncy houses, and thought they could at least do that…but that was actually part of another HUGE corporate area that took up an enormous slot of space near the south end of the runway.  What’s sad is that the inflatables appeared to go mostly unused throughout the day, although we saw other kids walking around the orange fence trying to find a way in.
  • Apparently there was a rocket-powered bus and stuff.  I heard it.  For a second I actually caught a brief glimpse of it between two VIP canopies.  My kids were out of luck.
  • The aerobatics were really neat, and I guess they did some nice low passes along the runway.  Never saw them.
  • One of the pilots landed his airplane on a moving truck as it sped down the runway.  Didn’t catch that either.  I heard it on the PA system.

We braved the heat and had a good time, fortunately being at the south end of the runway when the Blue Angels started.  Thankfully they did most of their maneuvers down on our end, so our day actually culminated in being able to actually see what was going on in the show.

When we woke up in the hotel room Sunday morning and began to review our plans for the day, the heat was a factor.  I was ready to brave the heat and try to get their even earlier than before, to stake out the best spot I could manage despite all the Reserved areas.  I left my camera behind on Saturday to scope things out for Sunday and enjoy the show with my children.  But when we considered the fact that we couldn’t see much of the show anyway, we decided to just bag the entire thing out of frustration.

I was going to drive up to the airport and give my tickets to someone waiting in line, but we’d had such a poor experience with the lack of traffic management the morning before (shutting the road on us within sight of the FargoDome, even though we were there 45 minutes before show time) that we decided to just write it off and find something else to do.

So, if you’re considering going to the Fargo Airsho again in two years, you might want to do one of two things: make connections to get a corporate tent to sit under so you can actually see, or hold off on buying tickets until the Saturday show has commenced, so you can get a report on whether or not all the good viewing is out of your reach.  If so, you can either stay home or park along a side street and get the same view for free and save $25 per ticket.

I’m not a smart man, Jenny…but I know this trick

capitol_2015_32539Last night was a little ugly for photography. It was cold. It was windy. I was preoccupied with taking my little guys to Mandan to light a few dollars’ worth of fireworks, then bringing them home for story time with Rush Revere.  I checked the weather on and off through the night, but the wind and cold kept me indoors.  That’s okay; I had another plan, anyway.


capitol_2015_32537One problem I had right off the bat when doing photos of the capitol with the windows lit was the dark surroundings; the lit windows looked like dots floating in the dark.  I realized that I needed a brighter background if I wanted the photo to look better, so I started chasing my capitol photos just before dawn.


capitol_2015_32546Showing up a little before dawn gives one the flexibility to let the light you want come to you.  It’s a delicate balance between having things too dark and too bright, because you want the “2015” to stand out.


capitol_2015_32551Of course, it’s half part luck. If this morning had been sunny, I’d have been sunk.  The cloudy sky, however, diffused the waxing light of the sunrise just enough to give me what I needed.  The snow and capitol were lit, as was the sky in the background, but not enough to blow out the numbers in the windows.


capitol_2015_32555It’s a just-perfect set of circumstances that will allow you to get a shot like this, where it looks like daylight but the windows are still visible.  I didn’t do any Photoshop or Lightroom trickery to make any of these shots happen.  It’s all by trying to glean an understanding of the light, being in the right place at the right time, and having the good fortune of the weather conditions required.  I was out of bed, done with my photos, and back home before my first bleary-eyed little boy wandered out of his bedroom to say good morning to Daddy.

Happy New Year!



Ta da! This year’s Christmas Tree adorns Memorial Hall

capitol_tree_32392Isn’t she lovely?  This is the 2014 Christmas tree in the Memorial Hall of the North Dakota state capitol.  The ceremony, as usual, was wonderful and a highlight of my year.  There were Christmas carols, Bible verses, and of course cookies and cider.

In conjunction with this festive occasion, the capitol windows once again display a Christmas tree shape in green and red.  I didn’t stop for photos of that, but I’m sure I’ll take advantage of the opportunity soon.

Amid continued rumors that fire code keeps threatening the possibility of switching to an artificial tree, I was pleased to find that we have a real Douglas Balsam Fir again this year.  Both the governor and lieutenant governor have told me that they’re resolved to keep a real tree part of the tradition.

Incidentally, and I didn’t know this until just now, the tree’s arrival was actually delayed by a day.  I was otherwise engaged last Monday and was unable to hang around awaiting its arrival.  I guess the weather was so cold that the temperature change from bringing itside could have damaged the tree and caused it to shed many of its needles.  Thankfully, it’s here and looking healthy.

Oh, how I love this season!

This post takes the cake

125th_cake_32051I mentioned a while ago that I was able to play with my new macro lens and grab some close-ups of the various decorations adorning North Dakota’s 125th birthday cake.  Here are a few…and by a few, I mean many.


125th_cake_31991I’ll start off with a piece that you’ve already seen: the state capitol building.  It’s missing the J-wing, but that’s alright.


125th_cake_32025Let’s start with the eastern border of the state.  Down near the Wahpeton area we have sunflowers…


125th_cake_32028To the north a bit we have Roger Maris’ record and Cass-Clay for the Fargo area…


125th_cake_32004Let’s not forget the NDSU Bison…


125th_cake_32030Then of course we have the sugar beet and (I presume) wheat or other crops…


125th_cake_32023As we reach the Grand Forks area we have a catfish (and UND, in the background)…


125th_cake_32033Topping off the Grand Forks area is, of course, the Grand Forks Air Force Base.


125th_cake_32012I presume this is a tribute to the North Dakota honeybee, who are all probably wintering down south somewhere at the moment.


125th_cake_32013Hat tip to Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake nation.


125th_cake_32009We then move westward to Rugby.


125th_cake_32010Here’s the Floral Clock, one of the attractions at the International Peace Garden.


125th_cake_32011Turtle Mountain representin’.


125th_cake_32035Good ol’ Lake Sakakawea and the Garrison Dam are featured.


125th_cake_32017To the northwest we have a tribute to oil country.


125th_cake_32016Here’s the far northwestern corner of the state.


125th_cake_32008Now we head south into Roughrider Country.


125th_cake_31997Here we have the Bully Pulpit and Medora.


125th_cake_31996If I’d gotten the focus right here, you’d think that Dickinson was known more for the Dinosaur Museum than for I-94.  In the low light I had to use a wide aperture, making the depth of field very shallow.  Excuses, excuses…


125th_cake_31995Not much in southwestern North Dakota.  I’d have put a police car with a mannikin in it to celebrate Amadon, at least…but instead we head east toward Standing Rock and a hunting scene.  My friend Nathan just got a big buck like this one.


125th_cake_32019Strasburg celebrates the home of Lawrence Welk, don’tcha know.  Bubble machines come to mind.


125th_cake_32020Next we have Gwinner and the Bobcat plant.


125th_cake_32001I’ll wrap this up with the enormous bison at Jamestown.

There were a couple of other fittings on the cake, such as some tractors and nods to the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Wheat Commission.  It was a really cool tour around the state, and I made sure to get a slice of Slope County, where the cake is thickest.  See, it helps to know a little bit about my home state of North Dakota!

32,000 at 125

125th_cake_32000Yesterday was a day of milestones, one of which was the 32,000th photo through one of my cameras.  I captured it with my new macro lens, and the subject was the North Dakota state capitol.  Well, it was actually a facsimile there of, as I’m sure you can see.


125th_cake_31990This was part of the state’s birthday cake, as yesterday marked the 125th anniversary of North Dakota’s statehood.  I’ll have more on this cake at another time, featuring many of the unique decorations from around the state.  Yes, I did get a chance to eat a chunk of Stark County late in the day.