Late for the party

weak_auroras_33458I had my phone on vibrate Monday night, so I didn’t get the aurora alert when they began blazing.  Then I watched in agony all day as the K-index shot up to (and hovered at) a scorching 8!  Then the clouds began to roll in.

My friend Zach sent me photos later Tuesday evening with some really nice auroras, but he had to head considerably north and east of Bismarck to escape the thick clouds.  I took a gamble that I could have simliar luck and agreed to meet him at the abandoned church at Arena.

I got the last fleeting bit of aurora borealis as it faded from view.  Dang.  Better luck next time, I hope!

Back for some color

berries_32257This is kind of a bleak time of year for photo enthusiasts.  What little foliage exists from last year is brown.  The nice, white blanket of snow is gone, and the ground beneath it: brown.  Even the water of the Heart River, where I’ve been poking around lately: brown.  Sigh.  So I went back a couple of months to find these photos from the capitol area.


berries_32261It’s nice to see such brilliant color disrupt the drab colors of a gloomy North Dakota winter day.  It’s going to be a while before we’re treated to lush green again, although I did see plenty of green blades of grass when walking along the dike in Mandan last week.


berries_32264Spring she comes, spring she teases…but oh, how winter freezes.  We’re in for a cold snap again after being treated to sunny 70s.  Bummer.  Hopefully we can have a glorious Spring soon…this past winter seemed far too long!

Car Bodies

ice_piers_33333I’ve always been amused with the way places get certain names, ones which last for decades or longer.  Around the World is one such name.  The hills below BSC have an interesting name I won’t post here.  Then there’s Car Bodies in Mandan.  Even an official Morton County web page acknowledges the name, since it clearly isn’t going away.  It probably goes back to the fifties or so, who knows?

I’ve been told that ice would be cut and hauled out of the river in this place.  There was clearly a dock of some sort here, as you can see above.  There are some segments of steel cable protruding from the dirt of the river bank, as well.

I haven’t gone underwater here, so I don’t know if there are even any car bodies below the surface at Car Bodies.  It would make sense, though.  I’ll try to recall any other sites with cool names and post them here if I come up with anything.


Piling up

spring_ice_33370Now’s that time of Spring where we photographers look for piles of ice in all the right places: places where water slows down and/or takes a curve, in the shade, or both.  As the rivers clear themselves they push ice further downstream and off to the sides, and an opportunistic photo enthusiast can easily find themselves some chilly photo subjects in stark contrast to the beautiful Spring skies and warm sunshine.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  – Charles Dickens

Now’s the time to photograph what’s left of the ice before it remains!

Rivers of Ice

river_ice_33084Simple Minds gives me the musical reference for this post title.  I was out on the Heart River last Friday for a while after verifying that the ice disc I photographed earlier was still frozen solid.  I had a photography pal with me, and we decided to work the river for a little bit.


river_ice_33042I found a couple of pretty neat ice chunks protruding from the river, and the lighting conditions were changing every few minutes or so. The coolest thing about the ice was the lines where it had melted and frozen. The photo above kinda shows some thick “veins” running down the slab.


river_ice_33001In the shade, and with a little off-camera flash, you can see a couple of sets of striation lines in this ice.  Some run vertically, probably from melting, and others run horizontally, most likely as the slab froze thicker and thicker. But something else about this feature caught my eye.


river_ice_33117My boys think this looks like some sort of sci-fi sword. Maybe it looks like a shark fin to some. I was just glad to find some sort of neat looking protrusion that wasn’t discolored by river sand. I decided to play some angles and experiment with off-camera flash while the lighting did various things.


river_ice_33173Looks like a sculpture, doesn’t it?  Maybe a golf trophy or something.


river_ice_33156The brilliant blue sky turned to gray and even a little purple at times (we dudes don’t know terms like “lavender” or “periwinkle”.  With that, the reflectivity of the ice changed (along with the color of the slab).


river_ice_33161Here you can see the lines of the slab. It looks like a chandelier – a five hundred pound one, at that.  I tried time and time again to do them justice, but I simply could not.


river_ice_33131I feel like I won a Longest Drive contest or something!


river_ice_33086And then the blue skies came back.  We sauntered up river a little ways to start pointing the cameras at some gnarly trees or something, and it’s a good thing we did. The standing water atop the ice was encroaching upon our position, meaning that things were starting to melt.  I’m not one to take a lot of chances on river ice. Even though the slab we were on was incredibly thick, I wasn’t about to let my guard down.

Soon there won’t be any river ice to photograph. I have to say I’ll miss it a little now that I’m getting more camera time again, but then again…not so much.  It’ll be back before we know it.


ice_disc_33225So I couldn’t help  but pay the Heart River ice disc a visit, since, I heard that it was frozen in place after the recent cold spells.  That’s true; it’s frozen in place.  But I have a hunch.

I spent a couple of hours in this area taking various ice and tree photos, and saw the area of open water spread dramatically.  The friend who was with me surmised that the area will be thawed in the next day or two.  With low temps remaining above freezing, I think he’s right.

The thinnest part of the ice will melt first, and that is the perimeter of the disc.  If that holds true, the thing could be back spinning before we know it!  Only time will tell.  Whether it spins again or not, the ice in this area won’t be around much longer..

Winter playlist (UPDATED)

I know we all hope there isn’t much winter left, but I finally decided to put together some links to the songs on my current Winter Playlist. Thanks to that lovely Internet, I can share these songs with you either via YouTube or iTunes. If you find a broken link, let me know.

In looking over the list, I realized a couple of things:

  • My tastes over winter tend a little toward the electronic, but not exclusively;
  • I seem to favor a certain style female vocalists in the winter;
  • I tend to choose more ethereal or wistful music.

I figure a lot of this is because it gets dark early during winter, and it’s more a matter of how the darkness affects my mood. Some of these songs, though, have a sentimental attachment from my time working for Mountain Operations for a ski resort out in the Rockies. Snowboarding for a living when you’re in your late teens and early twenties is a real blast if you can pull it off – just make sure you get back to college after your sabbatical!

Anyway, here’s the list. No particular order. If you don’t like one, move on to the next. Feedback appreciated.

UPDATE: I forgot a couple of songs, so I’ve added them to the beginning of the list.

Grouper – “Vessel” (I originally forgot this one) LINK

Spiritualized – “200 Bars” (One more tragic oversight) LINK

Junip – “Far Away” LINK

Kid Loco – “Relaxin’ with Cherry” LINK

Kitchens of Distinction – “Mad As Snow” LINK

Nasty Rox, Inc – “10th Wonder” LINK

Télépopmusik – “Breathe” LINK

The War On Drugs – “Comin’ Through” LINK

One Dove – “Breakdown” LINK

Mac-Talla – “Griogal Cridhe (Beloved Gregor)” LINK

Lost Lander – “Wonderful World” LINK

Minks – “Everything’s Fine” LINK

Lord Huron – “She Lit A Fire” LINK

The Besnard Lakes – “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time)” LINK

The Sundays – “Here’s Where the Story Ends” LINK

The Nightgowns – “Narwhal Aerobics” LINK

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Heavy Days” LINK

Steve Mason – “All Come Down” LINK

Royksopp – “Remind Me” LINK

Big Spider’s Back – “Terminal Seat” LINK

Big Spider’s Back – “Brigette Bombay” LINK

The Innocence Mission – “That Was Another Country” LINK

Sin Fang Bous – “Melt Down the Knives” LINK

Miko Mission – “How Old Are You” LINK

Lower Dens – “Brains” LINK

Phenomenal Handclap Band – “Following” LINK

Chad Valley – “Fast Challenges” LINK

The Octopus Project – “I Saw the Bright Shinies” LINK

Blue Sky Black Death – “Sleeping Children Are Still Flying” LINK

Lindsey Buckingham – “Trouble” LINK

New Division – “Starfield” LINK

The Lonely Forest – “Coyote” LINK

Pink Floyd – “Learning to Fly (Live version)” LINK

Trentemøller – “Snowflake” LINK

Dapuntobeat – “0 (Dospuntocero)” LINK

When Saints Go Machine – “Fail Forever” LINK

Kruder & Dorfmeister – “The Lick” LINK

Midnight Masses – “Walk on Water” LINK

Pixies – “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf Mix)” LINK

Iska Dhaaf – “All the Kids” LINK

The Ocean Blue – “The Planetarium Scene” LINK

Yello – “Sometimes” LINK

Mint Royale – “Always Welcome” LINK

Ian Brown – “Northern Lights” LINK

We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Keeping Warm” LINK

Thomas Dolby – “Leipzig is Calling” (Live) LINK

808 State – “Pacific 202” LINK

Suuns – “Up Past the Nursery” LINK

Spiritualized – “I Think I’m in Love” LINK

José González – “Heartbeats” LINK

Nicola Conte – “Bossa Per Due” LINK

Nitzer Ebb – “Let Beauty Loose” LINK

Slowdive – “Rutti” LINK

Rupert Hine – “With One Look” LINK

The Future Sound of London – “Papua New Guinea” LINK

Dreadzone – “A Dream Within A Dream” LINK

Active Child – “I’m In Your Church at Night” LINK

BØRNS – “10,000 Emerald Pools” LINK

So, there ya have it.  That’s what I like to have playing when out driving around looking for photos or hiking in the snow.  Of course, it’s about time to start looking for a Spring playlist!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

ice_disc_32940I couldn’t resist.  I felt like the last time I was here, the time was too short.  I’d visited once with my cameras and once with my boys, but I never really felt like I got to bond with the spinning ice disc on the Heart River.  So, after work on Monday I decided to bolt over and grab some stills and video of it at dusk.


ice_disc_32950I got the perfect match of dusk and cloud cover, bathing everything in very nice, flat, even light.  The absence of hard shadows allowed me to capture detail that would otherwise be lost in glare or contrast.

I decided to put together a brief video of the evening:

I have to admit that my curiosity will take me back there again a time or two.  I can’t help but wonder how long that rotating disc will survive the ups and downs of this unusual North Dakota winter.  Whatever I find, rest assured I’ll share my finds here.