One more time, with feeling

capitol_tree_32410Feeling blue?  I absolutely love blue; it’s right up there with Kawasaki Green for me.  That’s why I had to employ one of my few photographic tricks last night – being in the right place at the right time – to get this shot of the Capitol’s Christmas tree with the windows of the Memorial Hall filled with a vibrant blue in the background.

During Monday night’s ceremony I took careful note of when this phenomenon occurred, using my phone for some test shots.  I came up with some really nice blue at around 5:18 pm.  Obviously there was plenty of ceremony remaining, so there was no way I could get all those people and chairs out of the way to catch the light I was anticipating.  As an annual attendee of this ceremony I understood this, and used the opportunity to do my homework for a Tuesday night shoot.  For those of you out there who like to do this kind of photography, you probably already understand the importance of research.  If you don’t, consider this a tip.

So, I arrived at the capitol just after 5pm and set up, letting the light come to me.  I required a clear sky, which thankfully God provided, and just clicked away for a while until I got just the right blue with the exposure and fill flash settings I’d prepared.

Governor Dalrymple was the last person I saw leaving the capitol, around 5:30 or so, and he gave my photo pal Zach and me a cheerful greeting on his way out.  I can tell that he and Betsy, as well as Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley and his wife, really enjoy this season and the festive way in which North Dakota’s capitol celebrates in tradition.

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!

In memoriam

gwot_memorial_32255I teach my kids that there are three real superheroes: the preacher, the soldier, and the first responder.  I took a moment to visit the GWOT Memorial last weekend and thought I’d share this image from that visit.  Would have loved to visit the Veteran’s Memorial this weekend as we remember the Pearl Harbor attack, but I’ve been down with a sinus infection thing all weekend.  That’s okay…one can still be thankful from a bed or couch, all dosed up on TheraFlu.

The scary thing is, it was swinging

ndak_windchime_32350I’ve wanted to take a photo of this oddity for a long, long time.  I actually got an opportunity today while on the road for another errand in western North Dakota, and researched the odd route needed to reach it.

This and a couple of other items reside along the south side of I-94 west of Glen Ullin, but one has to take a long route to the north to reach them, cutting back across a county road to an overpass and a frontage road.

I guess I can finally cross this off my photo bucket list!  It’s interesting to note that as I bracketed exposures to deal with the harsh sunlight directly behind it, I caught the chain actually swaying slightly.  I don’t recall the wind being that strong, so maybe it was residual motion from my little boys climbing to the top of it.  I guess I’ll never know.

Capitol Christmas tree scheduled to arrive today

I have a meeting this morning and it’s wicked cold, so I won’t be able to catch the arrival of the 2014 tree.  That’s okay, I can share this experience from a couple of years ago to show how that enormous tree is brought to the capitol building’s Memorial Hall for us to enjoy.


Each Christmas one can see a beautifully adorned and rather huge Christmas tree standing in the Great Hall of the state capitol building. It’s lit at night so that people driving past the front of the building can see it, and the display is readily available for you to visit from around 7:30 am until 5:30 pm each weekday. One can’t help but wonder: how does such a large tree find its way into the capitol building in the first place?


Of course, the direct approach is the most effective. Rather than trying to thread any hallways or turn any corners with the cumbersome tree, it comes right up the front steps and through the revolving doors. Conveniently, the panels these doors are able to collapse and slide out of the way to allow a wide berth for anyone wishing to wrestle a formidably sized conifer through the doorway.


These doors were actually designed to do this; while bringing anything larger than a briefcase through the revolving doors might pose a challenge, these doors are designed to pivot completely out of the way and provide an even wider opening than most conventional doorways.


The tree arrives on a flatbed trailer in the morning. There are some preparations that need to be done before it enters the building: a slice needs to be trimmed from the bottom of the trunk, so that it can take on water; and branches need to be trimmed from the bottom to provide around sixteen inches of clear trunk to fit the stand. After that it’s a question of manpower.


Dudes from the facilities crew grab an armful of tree and march it up the steps, wrangling through the doorway with plenty of clearance. After that it’s simply a short left turn and a matter of bolting the tree stand to the bottom of the tree’s trunk.


A rope is used to move the tree into position, first by tugging the top into line while the adjusters in the stand are tightened or loosened to make sure that the tree is standing straight. Once that is completed, the rope is pulled down from the top of the tree and wrapped around the stand’s base, which is then pulled into position at the center of the windows of the Great Hall.


After a bit of sweeping and other cleanup, the binding wrapped around the tree is removed and the branches allowed to relax. The stand’s remote water tank is filled to provide the tree with ample hydration. Later in the week, the tree will be decorated with items made and/or donated by North Dakotans, through the ND Council on the Arts. I hope to submit one for next year, because i ran out of time this year. The tree now sits as you see it above until it gets decorated on Thursday and Friday. The official Tree Lighting Ceremony is next Monday.

So, there you go…one more geeky question answered by yours truly, a geek who chases down the answers to questions which haunt the most neurotic among us.

Updated post

double_ditch_post_32313I’ve loved this wooden post marking the northwest corner of the Double Ditch Indian Village site north of Bismarck. I’ve taken many of a photo of it, whether with the International Space Station flying overhead at sunrise or with my little boys and I in the foreground for a self-portrait. One used to be able to walk around the post on the left side, but attempting to do so today would land you on your head far, far below.

It’s pretty clear that the post is hanging only by virtue of the barbed wire looped around it.  I’ve been curious about what the other side of the post looks like, but unfortunately the high levels of the Missouri River made a hike along the bottom of the cliffs impossible.  Now the water is hard enough to walk on without divinity, so I made my way along the edge to take a peek.  I found some surprises along the way that I may divulge later, but let’s get to the post.


double_ditch_post_32301Sadly, my suspicions were true.  There is no more earth holding the post at all.  If the barbed wire ever lets go, this post will join the other unusual items lying along the bank at the bottom of these cliffs.


double_ditch_post_32268I wouldn’t even advise getting anywhere near the post at this point.  The cliff is seriously eroded.  I wonder how long it will be before this whole area drops into the Big Muddy?

Along my drive into town yesterday I noticed some of my other favorite photo objects that have fallen over the past ten years since I decided I wanted to get into photography.  Good thing I’m eager to find some new ones!

Out roamin’ at last

river_ice_32240It’s been a long time since I could just load up the truck with gear and go pokin’ around the area in hopes of some nice photos.  Today was that day.  I don’t need anything that would require any Black Friday insanity, and I didn’t feel like going in to work today, so I opted to take a little “me time” and peruse some fertile spots along the river.

I was hoping that the warm front hanging out to our west would roll in and maybe cause some frost on the trees and fences, but that front didn’t arrive overnight.  My second option was to hope for a colorful winter sunrise, but clouds on the east horizon obscured any chance of that.

I did manage to find a few things to satisfy my curiosity, occupy my viewfinder, and pacify my urge to roam.  Here’s the first: a ridge of ice being pushed up  along the boat dock at Schmidt Bottoms.  The river hooks a left here, and all the ice that was floating down river was getting deposited in the outside of the corner.

I did a lot of hiking today, and I’m sure I’ll have time to share the photographic payoff from that exercise…another time.

One failing grade Bismarck can be proud to receive

hrc_bismarck_2014According to this report, Bismarck has received a failing grade from a deceptively named activist group called the Human Rights Campaign.  They’re not actually for human rights; they just promote sexual deviancy in the guise of “equality”.  The last thing they want is equality; they only seek special privilege for the sexually disoriented.

According to the Tribune article, the homofascists are upset with Bismarck “due to a lack of LGBT-specific benefits” (where is the equality in that?) and other concessions that grant special status to people based on their choice of sexual behavior.  Sounds legit.

Kudos to Mayor Mike Seminary for pointing out that Bismarck isn’t on a witch-hunt against homosexuals simply because they don’t want to grant them special status. He’s quoted as saying “We are a very open employer, we don’t discriminate in any way shape or form…We put no barriers in front of anyone that wants to be engaged with the city.”  Exactly.  These people want their lifestyle choice codified and granted status above that of the average citizen.  They must not be accommodated (to use their word).

The most chilling sentence in the piece betrays the true intent of this ranking system by the homofascists:  A Human Rights Campaign statement called the annual report “a terrific tool” to spur cities into taking civil rights action.

This extortion attempt must not be allowed to succeed.  The list of travesties everywhere these people are allowed to establish themselves grows longer every day: photographers and bakers sued out of existence, religious liberties trampled upon, and the rights of private citizens obliterated in “defense” of sexual deviancy and gender-related disorders.  Bismarck must not become the latest casualty of these bullies.