What it looks like without any wedding parties in it

heritage_center_atrium__37592I took my kiddos to Bismarck’s 144th Birthday celebration at the Heritage Center’s State Museum last weekend.  One our way out it occurred to me that I hadn’t really done any photography in the Northern Lights Atrium.  This was my chance.  After all, nearly every other time I’ve been there I’ve seen wedding parties getting ready for their photos.  In fact, there were a few such people there when we first arrived.


heritage_center_atrium__37595-2I like geometry, so of course I snapped a couple of shots and looked around.  This space is so busy with portrait photography that they had to start taking appointments and setting forth some common sense rules.


heritage_center_atrium__37590For some reason I really expected this to actually…do something.  But if you’ve driven by at night, you can see the disappointingly faint glow of someone’s homage to Northern Lights.  I’m not looking for a Pink Floyd concert, but some lights that moved or changed in some way would have been nice…and a far better tribute to the real thing.


heritage_center_atrium_37600Again…it’s all about the angles.  The beautiful skies last Saturday helped a lot.

If you’re looking to use the atrium for photography, here is a link to the finalized rules of conduct you should adhere to in order to help keep the building an enjoyable place for everyone as you share the space.

Double Ditch Auroras

auroras_37499As I hinted a while back, I got to go out chasing auroras last weekend.  While I was a zombie Sunday afternoon between church services, I was glad I went.  Without a concrete advance plan I defaulted to Double Ditch, which was also because a friend of mine was already there.  We started off by hiking down to the river with the aid of abundant LED light.  In fact, I was astonished at how much light I was carrying.


auroras_37505We took some time to venture out to, and even into (in my friend’s case).  We caught a waft of skunk smell, so going back up top started to seem like a pretty decent idea.


auroras_37511We hiked out to the little stone hut, an attraction to which one used to be able to drive.  There we camped out for a while as we worked various angles of the structure and the lights came and went.  They started to settle down and we both started thinking about our responsibilities in church in a few short hours, so it was time to pack it in.  I’m pleased to say we each got some pretty decent shots for our effort.

I got a few Northern Lights photos last night, and – SQUIRREL

baby_squirrel_37557Before I process and share the photos of Saturday night’s blazing auroras, I have to share this little guy.  We had the kids at a park in Mandan for an afternoon with their cousins, and my youngest came up to tell me he was able to pet a little squirrel. He wanted my help to climb the tree where the little buggers were (apparently there were two) so he could get another look at them.  Well, I found the tree and one of the squirrels.  I was astonished to find a hole in the tree and a tiny little baby squirrel daring into it.


squirrel_setup_ip_8341Well, that’s all it took.  I got my camera gear out of the truck and set out to capture the little guy.  The family day was wrapping up anyway, so I set up shop under the tree and decided to wait until the baby squirrel(s) decided to make an appearance.  All the din of the boys and girls had settled, and after a while one of the babies popped up for a visit.


baby_squirrel_37570Isn’t this cuuuuuuuuuute?  Peek-a-boo!  Thankfully I didn’t appear to be too big a threat, as I actually had a much longer time with my subject than I anticipated.  I had the tripod all set up in position so I wouldn’t have to waste time framing, I had my focus point set, I had weighted down the tripod with my bag to avoid wind issues, and I had the remote handy so I wouldn’t have to get any closer to take my shots.  Preparation paid off.


baby_squirrel_37563I didn’t see any evidence of my own to corroborate the existence of two baby squirrels here, but rather than wait around to find out I chose to pack up and work my way home…after checking out a place for a sunset shot.  That shot didn’t happen, as my fuel pump in my truck decided to flake out on me…but from a photographic standpoint I was satisfied with my day.  Just not from an automotive point of view.

Watching those skies

old_combine_37463-5_hdrOne thing North Dakota does have is some of the best skies anywhere.  That’s most evident at sunrise, sunset, during thunderstorms, and when the clouds do really cool, wispy things in the vibrant blue sky.  This old combine gets to take it all in, sitting in a nice little meadow enjoying its retirement.

A couple of tidbits about this photo: first, it’s got company.  There’s a bird perched atop its chute.  Second, someone was performing a controlled burn to the east, as you can see by light smoke over the hill on the left side of the photo.

Working all the angles

ww_memorial_37376-8_hdrI recently took my boys to the memorial monument on the east side of the Liberty Memorial bridge.  They read the plaques an wandered around, appreciating both the monument and the nice weather (finally) after so many rainy and/or windy days. I, of course, wanted to do some photo work as I’ve been bouncing off the walls lately.


ww_memorial_37383Here’s the view upward as my camera looks straight up the middle with a wide-angle lens.  A little fill, a little circular polarizer, and I have a satisfying bit if white geometry on a vivid blue backdrop, with a trio of flags thrown in for good measure.


ww_memorial_dji_0085My favorite angle.  Not only does this show the center “aurora” looking spires, but it also looks like something out of a Picasso painting of an eyeball.

I’ve been trying to revisit some familiar photo sites lately, as well as branch out for some new ones…but this is a b usy time of year for me.  Thankfully I still have a few places in mind that aren’t far out of town.  Then I get to post them here and share!

My name is Sue! How do you do?

salem_sue_dji_0019I had the opportunity to swing thru New Salem the other night and pay the “World’s Largest Holstein Cow” a visit.  The last time I had my little boy with me and he used his toy Vtech digital camera to take some 640×480 stills of it.  Well, this time I had a different angle in mind.


salem_sue_dji_0073I’ve always wanted this angle, although she looks a little angry right now.  Maybe that’s when I started getting the Johnny Cash song in my head.


salem_sue_dji_0065And there’s the gleam in her eye, as she surveys the Morton County Fair site on the east side of School Hill.  That won’t be till August, though.

There are other giant fiberglass cows out there, but I can’t find any evidence of one bigger.  Here’s a site that details some of them.  Didn’t see another holstein, so perhaps New Salem’s claim holds true.

The Arena church is not doing so well these days

aren_church_DJI_0002I recently took a road trip to Arena, the nearest photogenic “ghost town” near Bismarck, to spend some time with one of my favorite subjects: the abandoned St. John’s Lutheran church, one of only a few structures still standing


arena_church_37089As you can see, the old church isn’t looking so good these days.  The cinder block foundation has collapsed on both the east and west sides of the building, and the building itself is beginning to collapse as a result.


arena_church_37090One thing I try to do when I photograph a place like this is to avoid tampering with it, damaging it, or (in most cases) entering it.  Someone else didn’t show the same restraint, tearing off one of the wooden covers over a window toward the front of the church.


arena_church_37135-7_hdrFound it.


arena_church_37092Here’s the west wall of the foundation.  Not only have the cinder blocks caved in, but so has a lot of the dirt along the foundation wall itself.


arena_church_37132Ditto on the east side.  This was actually the first side to cave in, although a portion of it is intact.


arena_church_37119Peeking under the church, one can assess the damage.  Nothing is holding this church from folding in half except a few pillars downstairs…


arena_church_37313…and the concrete around the base of those has crumbled as well.  Craters around the bottoms of these pillars illustrate how, with the cinder block walls absent, they bear the entire weight of the structure.


arena_church_37126-8_hdrA few supplies remain: the screens from the windows and an old stove sit in the corner next to the steps leading downstairs.  I got all these basement photos by lying on my stomach next to the collapsed wall; as I mentioned before, i didn’t want to enter the building.  In fact, while it’s gone now, there was a No Trespassing sign on the front of the church long ago.


arena_church_37274-5_hdrEntry to the basement is barred by collapse as well.


arena_church_37270Since someone else tore off the window covering, I decided to see what was inside the church.  I put my camera on a monopod with a remote and a flash, stood outside the window, and poked it inside with a wide angle lens.  Here’s what my camera saw.


arena_church_37304-6_hdrThe outhouse is also collapsed.  Too bad, because I really had to pee by the time I was wrapping up here.  Thankfully a friend lives nearby, and I was able to stop at their place right after leaving “town”.


arena_church_DJI_0013At some point this steeple’s coming down.  It’s sad to see the inevitable happen to this little church.  I’ve photographed it on cloudy days, sunny days, starry nights, and with the faint glow of the Northern Lights behind it.  It’s such a picturesque little church, in such a scenic location, and so accessible to sentimental photography hobbyists like me.  I guess all I can do is make an occasional trip to Arena and capture as many photos of this little church as time takes its toll.

Don’t sic the NCAA on the Bismarck Tribune for its Hostile and Abusive™ content

bistrib_20160425While reading an article in the Bismarck Tribune today, titled “Power of old bones stops $10 million job”, I came upon the above paragraph and the inconvenient history therein.  Not only do they use a name that dare not be used in collegiate athletics these days, they also betray the myth that everything here in the Buffalo Commons was rainbows, butterflies, and loincloths until the wicked settlers came.

Quite honestly, I’m surprised that anyone is even allowed to speak like this anymore, in the era of “safe spaces” and “hate speech”.  Hopefully the NCAA doesn’t see this!

I got its good side

arena_truck_37216-8_HDRRecently I took a trip past my favorite and nearest ghost town, Arena.  I stopped to take a shot of this old vehicle propped on its side next to an old outbuilding.  I have been to this site many times, but since it’s next to a scenic old abandoned church I never took the time to get a shot of this subject in the right conditions.  One other thing is that I never had enough portable off-camera lighting to light the shadow side of the car.  Well, that’s no longer the case, and I took the opportunity to flex a few of my new toys to get the shot I always wasnted to get but never had the time for.

Another one bites the dust

fallenfarm01I took this photo ten years ago, and I bet many of you recognize the location.  It’s on the south side of 1804, northwest of Bismarck near Hawktree.  The house at this time was in pretty rough shape, sagging to one side, but the other little building was standing firm.


fallen_farm_37667A few years later I ventured out to the house with a friend who was visiting from Alaska.  The house was still mostly upright, but starting to collapse a bit more.


fallen_farm_37699It was sagging most in the middle here, and it’s no wonder why it was beginning to lean to the east.  By the way, this land is posted now, so there’s no hiking out to investigate any more.


fallen_farm_37058This is what it looks like from the road.  Sadly, the house has fallen in completely and the little garage-like building is doing its own leaning.  Before long there won’t be any evidence of this local landmark remaining, at least nothing visible from the highway.


fallen_farm_dji_0021I didn’t actually see any signs posting the land, but I assumed they were there the other night – so, in order to satisfy my insatiable curiosity, I flew over the land (airspace being public and all that) to appraise the situation.  Sadly, the house is even more deteriorated than I thought.  It won’t be long before it’s just a nondescript pile of old wood rotting in the sun.

On a recent photo road trip with a friend I noted that many of the cool “Fallen Farms” I have photographed over the years have begun to deteriorate, with many either a pile of old sticks or gone completely.  Sadly, this looks like it will soon be one of them.