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


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!

Maybe some places shouldn’t have those pet “bike lanes”

bike_lane_ip_5944Driving on Divide Avenue yesterday I noticed people swerving around an obstruction in the road.  I rolled up on it myself and noticed that the problem was one of those “bike lane” markings protruding into the driving lane, freshly painted and marked with a cone.  I think these are a bad idea in the first place, but they’re a real head-scratcher when found in places like this.


bike_lane_ip_5904Aside from mixing bike traffic with motor vehicle traffic in an unsafe manner, these markings are often placed in areas where that merging can’t possible work well.  Case in point: this is a hundred feet or so down the road from the previous photo.  Traffic on Divide is pushed into two lanes to provide a left turn lane at 4th Street.  Where’s the room for the cyclist here?  This bottleneck seems dangerous to me.


bike_lane_ip_5956If people have to cross the center line to get around the cone and paint, are they going to do the same to avoid a cyclist?  That’s better than hitting the guy on the bike, sure…but still not a desirable result on a busy street.

This is just one more example of how some of the starry-eyed “progressive” ideas of our community leaders don’t always translate into real world solutions.  If I find myself biking this area, I’ll just stay on the sidewalk, thanks.

Welcome, tree. Have a seat at the table

sitting_tree_34214While poking around in the trees, I came upon a picnic table which hadn’t seen a lot of love lately.  While the area nearby had been slightly maintained over the years, the immediate vicinity of this table clearly had not.  It had allowed some hearty young saplings the opportunity to reach toward the sky, regardless of what obstacle loomed overhead.  What made this noteworthy, however, was viewed from the other side of the table.


sitting_tree_34241Yes, I know.  It looks like a butt.  This tree looks like it’s sitting on the edge of the board.  I saw it, others I know saw it, even my little kids saw it.  Must be the groove in the middle.  I’m not going to the point of wondering if it’s an ash tree, though.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Saturday night’s all right for photo-ing

crown_butte_sunset_34261I took my boys to an area near the Square Buttes for a sunset tonight.  We managed to find a couple of ticks climbing on us and even a pretty decent sunset, before clouds on the horizon cut the show short by choking off those golden hour colors.

I’m still struggling to get back into the swing of things photographically.  Last year and the year preceding it were consumed with health-related issues for our family.  2015 is being consumed by happier circumstances, as we’re building a house to replace the one we gave up last year.

I keep telling myself that we’ll have more photo time soon, but I’m starting to realize that I have to make that time.  There have been times where I’ve been able to get out and pursue a certain shot but have simply been unmotivated, burned out, or just too darn tired to do so.  I know that getting into a new house is a huge task and that there will be plenty to be done, but having a home again really is the closure we’re looking forward to after the last couple of years.  Having reached that milestone alone will allow us to relax and take things as they come.  I expect to have lots of photo opportunities sprinkled in with all that.

Easing into it like a hot bath

crown_butte_33942Maybe it’s a guy thing – we go with what we know.  That would explain why so many dudes to back to their ex-girlfriends, or something.  Anyway, as I continue to resume my photographic journey, I find myself shaking the cobwebs by visiting some of my favorite sites…and this is one.  It’s a small no-maintenance road east of Crown Butte, from which I am able to get some pretty nice sunsets (if the sky will comply).

On this particular night, I was surprised to see that there was no water in the lowlands below the Butte.  Only a few remnants of last year’s cattails remained.  Given this week’s rains, maybe that has changed…but it was dry as a bone when I took this shot.

This was one of those nights where I hiked into position, photography buddy nearby, receiving my first tick (and bite!) of the year…and then something on the horizon flipped the OFF switch on our sunset.  Thankfully I was able to catch these colorful clouds before things fizzled!