Tail end of the storm

stormy_tree_42193As the driving rain made its way past Bismarck-Mandan on Saturday morning I was hatching a plan to follow behind it.  I had to head to north central North Dakota anyway to pick up some kids from a church camp, so what better way to spend a Saturday morning than depart very early and work in a bunch of camera time along the way?

I’ve stopped at this particular spot along Highway 3 many times, but never had a really dramatic sky to work with.  That was not the case on Saturday.  There were crazy clouds moving in all directions at around 400 feet or so (if my eyes deceive me not) and the deep blue of the departing storms was a wonderful offset.

Not only did my plan work: I got plenty of photos in various locations with the dramatic skies in the background, but I also found a lot of new locations and took photos there, and I was able to mark a bunch of potential future spots for the next time I head northeast.  Trifecta.

My cameras and I were busy over the last few days, though.  More on that later.

Forelorn Fireball

old_car_40684-6_hdrThis is a 1950 Buick Roadmaster, a car known for its Straight Eight, or Fireball Eight, inline eight-cylinder engine.  I remember hearing about this engine in the movie Rain Man, when Raymond mentions it.  This one sits beside a rural road, its glory days long past.

This car is noteworthy because Buick put those ports on the side of the car to denote power, or something.  It’s that distinguishing feature which helps identify the year of the car, because the placement varied from year to year.

I’m not really into classic cars, as nostalgic as I am about other things.  I like technology, and hot rods really don’t have it.  I can appreciate ’em, don’t get me wrong.  They’re especially nice to photograph, especially on a nice, sunny day under a North Dakota prairie sky!

I bet it’s seen lots of these storms

windmill_storm_40782-4_hdrYesterday’s storms missed my family’s abode, but they did cause plenty of excitement east of Bismarck-Mandan.  I took the opportunity to venture out with my boys and my new used truck to see what the clouds were doing.  Thankfully they obliged – I caught this shot not far northeast of Bismarck.  Wow.  I also got some cool video, but I don’t have time to post it just yet.  Maybe I’ll update the post later.

This old windmill, weathered as it is, has probably seen quite a few storms roll through.  It looks as though it’s probably been battered by them, too.  Is there any wonder why I’m so attracted to this feature of the North Dakota prairie?

If Morton County had a Joshua Tree, this might be it

tree_n_bale_40335My “stranded on a deserted island” album is Joshua Tree, which you can now get on vinyl again at Walmart.  Strange.  Every time I see a tree like this, half yucca and half bonsai in its appearance, I think of the imagery of Joshua Tree National Park.  Of course, we have our own species of flora and not a whole lot of desert, and this shot throws in a hay bale for good measure to give the photo that North Dakota flavor.

A hard shot to get

flax_field_40493I didn’t realize that flax blooms for such a short time!  Thankfully I happened upon this field at the right time.  A couple of days later all the blue was gone.  Apparently the flowers only last for a day.  Even though each flax plant makes many flowers, I guess these fields are only visible for a fleeting moment each season.

IT LIVES. I present to you: Frankenrig

arena_truck_37216-8_HDRI’ve alluded recently on social media that I was working on a little rig to help me with the type of photography I do.  Case in point: the photo above.  The sun was setting to the right of this photo, leaving the rest of the car in the dark.  I wanted to fill with light rather than try to Photoshop it later, but that takes a lot of light.  After trudging back to the van twice for more lights and stands, I figured there had to be a better way to get multiple flash units in one place.  That was the inspiration for Frankenrig.


frankenrig_40696I’ll admit: it doesn’t look like much.  It’s more an assembly of parts bought online with only one piece of my own handiwork.  I messed with different lengths of 1/4″ thick aluminum until I found the right one, cut it, drilled it, tapped threads into it, and attached the various things I needed in order to hang three flashes from one lightweight portable stand.  Once I found the right length, it was off to the powder coater to get a durable finish applied.


frankenrig_40700To each of those pegs I attached a pivoting light bracket.  Each bracket can swivel on its post, while each bracket can articulate back and forth.  Why use such tall pegs, you ask?  Because I want to be able to operate the knurled knobs on the bottom of the pivoting brackets, even with winter gloves on, so I need the clearance.


frankenrig_40711In each pivoting bracket I attached a cold shoe so I could easily slide a Speedlite on and off.  I have spare pegs in case I want to use a studio strobe, but that’s not why I built Frankenrig.


frankenrig_40703Here are the three radio controlled Speedlites attached.  I tried different lengths of aluminum because I wanted Frankenrig to be as compact as possible, yet allow enough room between brackets to allow manipulation with winter gloves on.


frankenrig_40704It’s a very flexible rig.  The posts allow a number of things to be hung on this bracket in a variety of ways.  Each flash, in addition to its own pivoting head, can pivot by rotating the cold shoe’s peg in its bracket.  The bracket can pivot using its hinge, and it can swivel on its peg.  The 1/4″ x 1″ aluminum isn’t going to bend and everything is clinging together with 3/8″ threads and Loctite, so it’ll handle anything I opt to hang on it.


So here I have a compact little rig which attaches to any universal light stand, including the lightweight ones I use for my type of photo trips.  It’s a simple device, but allows me to bring a lot of light to a location with very little work.  It’s a pretty specific tool, though; it’s most suitable for my type of photo trip.  I want something lightweight and portable, not studio strobes.  I need to be able to set up in uneven terrain, so the stands I have do that.  I need to be able to adjust it, even in the cold with thick gloves on.  And I want it to be overbuilt in the strength department, because that’s how my dad taught me.


I look forward to taking Frankenrig into the field and throwing a lot of light at something!  Then I can sing its praises when I have cool, well-lit photos to share here.

North Dakota quietly continues banishing those pesky Indians

1804_01In 2009 I posted this example of the fact that Native American imagery is a matter of respecting someone’s heritage in North Dakota, not a “Hostile and Abusive” offense like the NCAA wants everyone to believe.  Native American imagery is on the side of the State Patrol’s vehicles, on our highway signs…it’s an honor, not a dishonor.


road_sign_40677That’s why I was surprised this week to find the same sign inconspicuously changed to just the shape of North Dakota.  No Hostile and Abuse™ silhouettes to get any pointy-headed liberals’ pantaloons firmly entwisted.  How was this decision reached, and who made it? I’d love to find out.

So, let’s see here…we’ve thrown the Fighting Sioux Logo back in the faces of those who gifted it to UND decades ago, we’ve quietly removed Native American imagery from the state highway signs…it’s almost as if North Dakota is ashamed of the culture and heritage of the indigenous peoples who reside here!

Political correctness is tyranny.  North Dakota has a long history of honoring the Native American people who live here.  It was remarked by a tribal elder that “We went to a hockey game, and they talked about the courage and integrity of the Sioux people. We looked at each other like, ‘Wow, we don’t even honor our Sioux warriors or veterans like this on the reservation.’ ”.  To banish all mention of these people for the sake of placating a bunch of liberal busybodies does more disrespect to the native people than any logo could ever do!

How long do you suppose it’ll be until the State Patrol is forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring some out-of-state company to design them a new logo?

Sandbar sunset surprise

hoge_sunset_ip_2465I took my little family to our favorite secluded sandbar spot tonight, and it was a win on all counts.  Wading in the river cooled us off in the warm early evening, a bonfire allowed for heat as dark approached and provided opportunity for lessons in fire safety while letting the boys poke sticks into the fire, and we got to watch the die-hards in the area continue to light off expensive fireworks.


sandbar_dance_circle_ip_2481One of the best parts was dancing with my wife.  After a while one of the boys came up and pointed out that we were making a circle with our feet, which was pretty cool too.

I have fond memories of going to the sandbar under the Memorial Bridge in the 80s, especially in the evening after various practices would get over and we’d get a group of guys assembled for some frisbee.  We’d have some fusion jazz going on a big boom box and hang out at sunset until we couldn’t see the frisbee anymore, then jet up the hill and eat insane amounts of A&W food.  So to be able to share the music, the sunset, the frisbee and football with my sweetie and my little guys brings back old memories even as we forge new ones.

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.

Actually, it’s growing on me

messy_farm_40207-9_hdrI was originally going to title this post, “I finally found a Fallen Farm I didn’t like”…but darn it, the place actually has a lot of character.  The old camper is certainly retro cool, and the boat lying in the grass could come in handy if that pond overflows.  While originally I just thought this was a junky mess, I now think it’s more of a funky one.