Always pack a backup piece

dead_battery_57896Little boy loaded in the truck: check.  Camera bag and tripod: check. Sandbar with grit getting everywhere: check.  Battery…battery?  Oh, seriously.  I even have a dual battery grip on my 7D, so how in the world did I get Munsoned out in the middle of nowhere?  Well, as you can see I still had something capable of taking photos with me: another Canon DSLR in its bag, which I’d forgotten to remove from my truck yesterday.


sunset_57878Fortunately, I realized this just in the nick of time, and was able to catch the sun just as it was about to disappear over the horizon.  I was in the best spot I could think of on short notice, and I think it paid off nicely.  Then we came home to watch Courageous with the rest of our little family while I stuck batteries into the charger.

Moonshadow contingency

Kp_091214The sky sometimes, so unkind
Then again, he’s my best friend…
                                                            – Crocodiles, “Sleep Forever”

See that point where the K index plummets from a tasty 7, indicating a geomagnetic storm, to a serene 4, indicating bubkes?  That’s the point where a friend and I loaded up the truck and blazed north to catch those auroras that we’ve been anticipating.  That’s okay…my photo buddy and I had a backup plan, and it worked out quite nicely.


lake_mitchell_dock_31837Step One: I had this spot in mind, along a little lake northeast of town.  Even though the auroras weren’t cooperating, the moon and sky sure were.  There was a fantastic lunar corona which actually manifested as a couple of paraselenae, or moondogs as the sky conditions mutated.


lake_mitchell_dock_31841We played around at this dock for a little bit, allowing the sky to do some things and letting long exposures turn the rippling lake to glass.  At this point we were still hopeful for some auroral activity, but moved on to the next stage in our backup plan since it didn’t require Northern Lights to bear fruit.


arena_church_31845This is the abandoned church at Arena.  It looks like daylight, even though it was around midnight or so, because the full moon was a-blazin’.  I grabbed my big 6-D-Cell Maglite and did some light painting of the cross atop the church’s steeple, and we let the stars and clouds do their thing in the background.


arena_church_31851In this shot it almost looked like I could see some splashes of color in the clouds, as if the auroras were trying to peek through, but even at full size I wasn’t able to tell definitively.  It was cool to be able to visit this ghost town in the dark, though, and it was another excellent consolation prize since the Northern Lights trip was otherwise a bust.

I have the attitude that any time I return from a photo trip with even one image that I really like, that trip has been a success.  It doesn’t even matter if the photo is relevant to the purpose of the trip.  In this case, I have a few such photos, and they were the result of a solid backup plan, so I’m pleased not only with the results we captured but the success of that plan.

Geometry at the best presentation I didn’t see

geometry_ip_4107I spotted this cool geometry the other night…any guesses what it is before I give the answer below?












geometry_ip_4106Yep, it was this stack of chairs at the library Wednesday night, where Marilyn Snyder presented the results of an incredible study into the history of the Bismarck Police Department.  More on that another time, because I haven’t actually seen all of it.  I had a church function at 7, and the presentation started at 6:30, so I had to peel myself away shortly after things really got going.  I returned later to find the chairs stacked, cookies gone, and presentation completed.

Don’t worry – Dakota Media Access recorded the presentation and will have it available sometime in the future.  Keep an eye on to catch it!

Bismarck, bend over for some more “local control”

bps_dollarsRemember those who said North Dakota property taxes are too high and there’s little accountability for the entities who levy and raise them? We were told that eliminating the property tax would cede “local control” to state government. Well, get ready for “local control” here in Bismarck, where a mostly unnoticed meeting of a small group of people aims to increase your tax burden yet again. 

I didn’t like the wording of Measure 2 a few years back, but I sure like the principle. Unfortunately, the state legislature stepped in to “buy down” local property taxes, thereby hanging the property tax issue around their necks like a lead weight. In the aftermath, local boards and commissions continue to raise tax rates and assess properties higher and higher to fill their coffers. Great plan.

Several years ago I lived near Richholt School. The school district decided to “close it” due to declining enrollment, we were told. Meanwhile, they managed to get a new eighty million dollar school project rammed through during a special election in which almost nobody but their activists participated.  They were serving cookies at the polling places, for crying out loud!  And the Richholt facility?  It’s still there.  You my notice that the Hughes building, which was in such “bad shape” that we needed to build Horizon Middle School, is still in operation as well.

Now we not only have multiple pet projects in the works for the school district, but we also get to play catchup on funding the maintenance and staffing of those facilities…something that never seems to appear in the initial price tag when they propose these expenditures.

Once again, I’ll state my positions on property taxes in ND:

  • Measure 2 was flawed, but I believe the property tax should be eliminated in the future.
  • It was an enormous and tragic mistake for the state legislature to implement an ill-conceived “shell game” to try to ease the burden of taxes they neither levy, assess, or collect… but for which they have now assumed a good share of the blame.
  • Local entities continue to use their authority to fund pet projects and advance their own agendas, and this “local control” they screech about has translated only to local abuse.
  • Quite frankly, if more people showed up to board and commission meetings and expressed their opposition to these constant tax increases, and held elected officials accountable, we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion.

North Dakota needs to stop punishing individual citizens for owning property.  We have a sales tax (the only “fair” tax) and plenty of revenue from energy production in our state. My hope is that someone will find a proper way to eliminate it…with the right mechanism I think we could have a relatively smooth transition and quell the abuse of taxing authority.

Looking back on the longest year

footsteps_ip_3747I’d like to start out this week by pointing out that of all the blessings my family and I have received through the past year’s trials, we have deserved NONE of them.  They are the grace of God.  All the answered prayers, the people who stepped in to help, the healing and provision…they are a gift from above. We could earn NONE of them by any goodness on our part or by any bad things we’ve endured. All serve instead as a testament of the grace, mercy, and love shown to us by our Lord and Savior. We’re so thankful and look forward to a “light at the end of the tunnel” as it appears that we may be on the tail end of many of our health issues and other setbacks. :)

Around town…can you identify these?

where_ip_4055I spotted this door tonight while waiting for a friend.  I’d seen it before but never grabbed a photo of it.  I don’t suppose anyone can correctly guess where it’s located?  It’s actually in a place that sees plenty of traffic.


where_ip_3706Since I’m on a roll, I grabbed a shot of this unique curtain rod a week or two ago with the intention of soliciting guesses as well.  If you’ve seen this in person, you’re probably a very happy individual.

Any takers?  Comment below or on Facebook.

Thursday Night Sunset returns!

sky_ip_3981Click on the image to view full-size

Remember way back when, in days of yore, when Thursdays meant that I’d be posting sunset photos like clockwork?  I’d sure like to get back to that for a while.  Here’s what the sky showed me last night, and I had the opportunity to be in a fantastic spot to capture it while sharing some quiet time with my sweetie.  I know the shot above isn’t a sunset, but it was so beautiful I just had to share.  But the real dazzle was yet to come…


sky_ip_4007Click on the image to view full-size

Last night had some amazing, brilliant colors.  The orange and pink hues reflected by the clouds were a sight I’d been craving for some time.  I’d either been tied up with Daddy stuff, reading to my boys at bedtime, or otherwise incapacitated when other sunsets presented…not this time.


sky_ip_3992Click on the image to view full-size

Like all amazing sunsets, they come and go quickly.  Already the sky began to darken in the east as the reflected colors blazed on.  Then, within a few short minutes, it was over.  Before departing, the sky gave my bride and me a few precious moments to admire God’s handiwork and each other’s company.  Oh, how I needed one of these.  And I also wanted to make sure to share!

“Fog Bow”? I guess so. I didn’t know.

capitol_fog_ip_3953I was surprised by yesterday’s heavy fog when I ventured out in the morning.  On my way northward I decided to grab a shot of the ever photogenic capitol tower, which always looks cool on foggy mornings.  By the time I got there, it was hardly obscured by fog when looking up from the bottom of the mall.


capitol_fog_ip_3958Once I had the sun at my back, however, I noticed something really bizarre: a white rainbow!  Of course, I had to look into this new-to-me phenomenon to find out that what I was witnessing was a fogbow. Click on the image for a larger version.


capitol_fog_ip_3963Over time the capitol began to emerge as the fog moved along, but the fogbow remained for quite some time.  Unlike a rainbow, which seems ever distant, the fogbow appeared to be close, only a couple hundred feet away…easily between me and the capitol building.  What a bizarre sensation!  Click on the image for a larger version.


capitol_fog_ip_3960I had to get going before the fogbow disappeared completely, but I had plenty of photos to remember this unique weather encounter.  I’ve never seen anything like this before,  and I didn’t know such a thing even existed.  I know now, I’m sure glad I was able to witness it yesterday, and even more excited that I had the ability to take some photos to share!

Smile! It’s time for a new week

smile_ip_3160Thanks to the skywriters who gave me this smile a few weekends ago.  I thought I’d share it as we begin a blustery new week.  I have so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of such challenging times for our family.  Temps are expected to hit the 80s again later this week, I’ve got some very exciting irons in the fire, and I have God and my family.  It’s already a great week.

Harbinger of autumn comes early? Well, not exactly

dq_ip_3663Few things can strike fear in the hearts of summer-loving Bismarck residents than the closure of the DQ on Broadway and Washington.  We can kid ourselves endlessly until the CLOSED sign shows up in the window, meaning that cold temps and seemingly endless winters and school years are right around the corner.  So you can understand why the sight of this sign can make hearts jump when passers-by spot it!  In this case, however, a little context is needed.


dq_ip_3661The job market is an interesting one in North Dakota, and has been for some time.  I remember even several years ago, before the oil boom, hearing from a friend how he’d receive such poor service when traveling to the northwestern part of the state.  It was explained to him that “people who can pass a drug test are working in the oil industry…what’s left is who’s taking your order, preparing your meal, or providing your customer service.”  Again, that was before the big “oil boom”.

Now there’s simply a shortage of employees, period.  HELP WANTED signs adorn shop windows all over the state.  We’re blessed in that regard.  With the onset of school as well, labor in certain types of positions will probably be even harder to obtain.  For example, I recently heard of Arby’s paying $20/hr for certain positions in Williston.  Well, how many $5 roast beef sandwiches do they have to sell to pay for that labor?  It gets to be quite a pickle, I’m sure.

Thankfully we still have other DQ options in Bismarck-Mandan.  Now, when the store on Highway 83 closes for the season, then it’ll be time to panic.