A visit to my favorite local 2,063 footer

kvly_tower_35148On the way home from Fargo last weekend I decided to show my boys the fourth tallest man-made object in the world: KVLY’s tower near Blanchard.  It was weird stopping by there as a former employee of NBC in North Dakota, but I still take pride in this structure.  It’s a biggun, as they say.  The massive structure above is just one set of guy wires and anchor holding it in place.

 

kvly_tower_35119This tower is enormous, and for quite some time was the tallest man-made object in the world.  It has since been dethroned, but aside from the Burj Khalifa its competition edges it out by fewer than ten feet.  There’s phone booth sized elevator that goes up the center of this tower…scary.  Rumor has it that the former chief engineer would ride up on top of the elevator so that  second person could ride inside to go up the tower.  I never asked him.

 

kvly_tower_35126I haven’t been inside this building for a while.  Structures near towers like this have heavily reinforced roofs, as enormous chunks of ice come crashing down over the winter and spring months.  In fact, I’m pretty sure one has to make a mad dash for the building if going out there in the winter!  Facilities built early enough, like this one, have living quarters inside…a throwback to the days when an engineer actually remained on site during all hours of transmitter operation.

 

kvly_tower_35135Silhouette.  Can you imagine how long a shadow this tower casts on a winter day?  Its counterpart, by the way, is nearby… a short little 2,060 footer.  That tower, belonging to fellow Valley News Live station KXJB, fell twice: once after being struck by a helicopter, and a second time during the storms of 1997.

I’m so accustomed to dropping by this tower when in the neighborhood, hoping the engineers might be there servicing the transmitter, that I didn’t even stop to check if they’ve posted the access road.  If you go out this way, check that out.  I’m just used to the old days of being able to approach, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been “in the neighborhood”.  But something this big has to be seen.  If you want more information, Wikipedia is probably your best bet.  I don’t think the Valley News Live page has the same tower information page that the old KVLY site did.

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.

The reason I got rained on

I’m sad to say I haven’t been doing much with my cameras lately.  I’m happy to say it’s no longer because of medical issues, surgeries, travel, or recovery, but because we’ve moved into a brand new house and I have plenty to do. I am, however, starting to get out on my motorcycles more, and tonight I took one to church..

After church I grabbed an ice cold Dewski from B&J along with a bag of BBQ chips, then sat on the steps of the Capitol to ponder Psalm 51 with the Bible I keep on board my Kawasaki.  As I was wrapping up, I saw lightning to the west and some ominous looking clouds.  Then the wind came up, and I figured it might be high time to skedaddle before I got drenched.  But on my way home I saw some amazing clouds, and had to stop along the way to take a couple of shots:

stormy_skies_ip_6525This one’s pretty wild…the photo just doesn’t do it justice.  The rays streaking out from that window in the clouds were bold and strong.  It didn’t take long for that window to close, either…so I’m glad I was able to get the shot by pulling over to the side of the road and scrambling for a camera.  This was facing west.  To the east of me was an equally impressive show.

 

stormy_skies_ip_6507This one’s my favorite of the two.  The combination of the sweeping lines leading to the towering head of the cloud, the ceiling of dark clouds advancing overhead, and the column of heavy rain spewing out the bottom of the cloud in the center of the photo made for a great roadside capture.

At this point I was getting a little nervous, as I’d felt a few sprinkles here and there.  I bolted home in hopes of beating the rain.  I could tell that precipitation was spotty, as I drove across sections of road that had obviously seen rain…but was myself dry right up until I turned on my street.  That’s when the skies opened as I bolted the last block to my garage.  I didn’t get soaked to the bone, but I did feel some pretty heavy drops smack my helmet as I scrambled down the home stretch, feeling the sting through the lightweight Nike shirt I’d worn due to the oppressive afternoon heat.

Let’s see…a good church service, a snack and some Bible meditation, a little bit of motorcycle riding, and two cool photos?  I’d call that a Sunday Evening Success.

Auroras from the road

auroras__34823I watch solar data pretty closely.  Thanks to a couple of guys at NOAA, I’ve learned which numbers are the most important to us here in North Dakota.  The way the numbers were peaking on Monday, I was going absolutely nuts.  The sky was on fire, but unfortunately we were on the daylight side of the globe.  As darkness approached, I made plans to go out to see them.

 

auroras__34821I had planned some dramatic foreground objects, but things didn’t time out the way I’d planned.  I found myself along the side of a rural highway with some friends, however, which was cool in itself.  I started to swing the camera around to see what I could capture.

 

auroras__34820Again, I’m of the opinion that any sky photo is made 10x better by having an interesting or unique foreground.  That was driving me nuts as I didn’t really have one, but the Lord put on a lightshow that was so astonishing that I began to just look upward and not focus so much on the camera.

 

auroras_34825I keep little LED flashlights in my camera bag, and I grabbed a blue one to illuminate the roadway with blue light so vibrant I actually had to tone it down for this photo.  I played around a little bit until the clouds began to roll in, I began to get tired, and the lights began to wane.

 

There’s a really good chance of more Northern Lights tonight – keep your eye on the skies!  I’m going to be on the road for a shoot all day and don’t expect to get back until after dark…but I may have the opportunity to transition from work to play just in time to catch more Northern Lights.

Tail end of the storm

storm_34805As I’ve mentioned, I’m a homeowner again.  Since we’ve got water behind us and there was plenty of rain on the way, I opted to hang out and see how the new place handles near flash-flood conditions.  Not a drop of water in the sump, I’m pleased to report.

So instead of being staked out near some sort of old farm stuff or a really cool tree, I’m just shooting across the way from my deck.  I got some amazing cloud shots, but I’m pressed for time.  I just like the contrast of color in this one and wanted to share.

Blue Moon redux

blue_moon_34541Several nights ago a photo pal and I went out to catch the sunset.  It came together rather suddenly and with very little time before the sun actually set, but we hastily set out to see what we could capture.

We were heading toward a little spot I’ve rediscovered north of Bismarck, but due to time constraints we stopped at Double Ditch instead.  The sky was ready to deliver an amazing sunset, with brilliant colors already developing and dramatic clouds.  That’s when it happened: two opposing clouds crossed each other from our perspective, essentially covering the sun and snuffing out the aforementioned brilliance.  Bummer.

We made the best of it (in fact, my last post came from this trip) and came away with some pretty cool shots.  Then we saw the rising moon behind us.  We had an idea for another familiar spot down the road with that moon in the background, also dancing with some dramatic clouds, so we hopped in the Monster Truck and headed back that way.

That’s when it happened: in exactly the same fashion, two clouds scissored together and sliced our beautiful moon from view just as we were rolling up to our stop.  Really.  We hiked a little anyway to see if something would develop, but all that we got for our efforts was a few dozen fresh mosquito bites.

The trip home involved a stop at the Hoge Island boat landing parking lot.  There wasn’t much to see…or was there?  The moon began to peek out, and there was an interesting line of trees…so, what the heck.  We hopped out in the middle of the gravel parking lot, set up the sticks, and took a crack at it.

We had a brief moment of luminescence in the clouds and an unobstructed moon before hopping in the truck and making our way home.  I often say that any photo trip resulting in even one pleasing shot is a success.  This one, bug bites and all, certainly fit that category.  When you’ve got the fellowship of a dear friend, even coming home empty handed would be just fine, too.

Long-awaited post

double_ditch_post_34520

I know, I know…posting has been far too infrequent lately.  2014 was the year of severe health issues rampaging through our entire family, making 2015 a “rebuilding year”.  Well, actually it’s been a “building year” too.  As we get our lives back, we’ve also been building a new home.  Lord willing, we’ll be homeowners again tomorrow morning.

I really needed to get out and roam.  Working at the house until 1:00, 2:00, even 3:00 in the morning many nights while holding down a full time job runs a guy ragged.  With nothing left but the formalities of paperwork, it’s time to relax a little.  My wife urged me to get out and capture the sunset.  I didn’t have much time, but I grabbed my friend Zach and we headed north.

The shot above is one I’ve wanted to get for possibly years but never quite pulled off; you see, the light on the grass and the post is mine.  It’s not easy to light such a scene as this without it looking entirely artificial, but I think this time I actually did pretty well.  I was able to light the post and surrounding grass without losing the sky.  No Photoshop…just a well placed and configured remote flash.  That right there gave me great joy, and made all the mosquito bites worth it.

 

double_ditch_post_34535Feeling a little adventurous, I decided to go closer to the aforementioned post and take a shot down the barrel, as one might say.  This post is hanging on tenaciously by multiple strands of barbed wire, so I don’t think you’ll find it at the bottom of the cliff anytime soon.  I’m afraid the bank itself will keep receding, though.

It felt great to be out and about again, with a close friend and some cameras.  I got a couple of other shots too, but I can’t share them all at once.  Gotta tease ’em out slowly, you know.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Peeking out the window

fort_lincoln_34325It was time…my fellas and I ran out to Fort Lincoln to grab our annual Parks Pass for the truck, then took some time to run around the blockhouses for a bit.  I remember when they were so little I had to closely guard them as they went up the steep ladder to the roof.  Those days are long gone.  As they enjoyed their independence, I looked out one of the ports on the side of the blockhouse and caught this view.  Thankfully I had a camera handy so I could share!