Wanna ride a grasshopper?

Yes, you can saddle up on an enormous green thing.

You can feel very very small at the enchanting stops along a highway in Western North Dakota. Gargantuan sculptures give travelers and tourists a reason to pull off I-94 at Exit 72 and head south on a gentle rolling blacktop highway called the Enchanted Highway.geese-in-flight-sig-small

I have. More than once. Over several years.

For me, the first enticement came from that eye-catching structure on the north, Geese in Fight.

It’s considered Sculpture #1. Structurally as well artistically, artist Gary Greff’s design is impressive and deceptive.  It’s larger than you think, over 100 feet tall.  Geese that are 5 or 6 feet big pass in front of sun rays, hillsides and a great “eye.”

Like most people, I buzz by it more than I stop.  It’s a good place to stop on my way to or from Dickinson.  There’s a parking lot and room to get out and stretch your legs, so I do — sometimes when the dog is with me to let him get out of the pickup for a while. Or on a summer motorcycle cruise we’ll stop with fellow riders.

Sidehack Mary's rig is dwarfed by the giant sculpture

Sidehack Mary’s rig is dwarfed by the giant sculpture

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This is how most drivers cross North Dakota see deer, running across the highway, jumping the fence. TomMN’s blog includes this pic. You can see his blog at http://www.tommn.com/

And those grasshoppers…the scourge of the prairie.  Bikers from the old days will tell you how they rode across North Dakota in August and at the end of the day, their shins were bruised from the biggest devils…but they weren’t this big.

mike-mary-grasshoppers-2Still, the rascals look to me like they need a little wrangling and riding.  So, on occasion, that’s what I will do, just to keep them in line, you understand.  I don’t win any buckles or anything.  I make sure they don’t get away and I use my best bronco riding techniques to stay on.

They look fearsome, but a calm head and a steady hand is all it takes to bring one under control and ride it to the sunset.

Ride. Ride the tiger...er um, grasshopper

Ride. Ride the tiger…er um, grasshopper

Down the road a ways, things get a little fishy.  I couldn’t begin to design something so realistic, but I can sure admire it. I’d hate to be the fisherman in the boat above all these monsters, but he’s up there.  I’m glad it’s him and not me.enchanted-highway-fish

After you've slid out of the boat wreck watch out you'r not swallowed by a walleye -- bikers need not worry.

After you’ve slid out of the boat wreck watch out you’re not swallowed by a walleye — bikers need not worry.

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Don’t stand under the back end…the “plop” may be more than you expect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 32 mile stretch has a stop near the north end at the quaint, protected, sheltered little village of Gladstone, or you can keep going all the way to Regent, at the end of the line. It’s where Gary Greff makes his sculptures and is working on his next one, a knight in not-so-shiny armor.

The last time I visited the Enchanted Highway, fall of 2016, I got to the south end in time for one of North Dakota’s legendary sunsets.  In my mind, I removed the highways, the ranches, the signs of civilization and could imagine how rough it must have been to cross this region in a real stagecoach, not a plywood replica.  In fact, the Mandan to Deadwood stage did pass near here. What a ride!enchanted-highway-stagecoach-sunset-sig-small

At the end of my late-day drive down the highway, Teddy was there to welcome me, the moon at his hand, his gregarious outgoing nature larger-than-life.  And wouldn’t ya know it — as a president, you could say he was “transparent!”tr-on-enchanted-highway-with-moon-sig

The North Dakota Tourism Department does a great job of promoting this loop off of the beaten path. Read about the Enchanted Highway here .  Do you have photos of your enchanted visit?  I bet you have photos of Paul Bunyan, or New Salem Sue, or some other monster replica, right?

 

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Sure it’s cold, but….

December's subzero temps and snow

December’s subzero temps and snow

Yeah, there’s a lotta snow out there. Yeah, there’s a minus sign in front of the temperature. That means the annual self-imposed illness called “cabin-fever” is about to set in, but only if you choose to let it.  I choose not to let it set in. That’s why I look for ways to get out of the cabin, and the annual Blue Collar Cafe art shows are one way to do it.  The first one is Thursday, December 5.

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I started getting ready for the show back in October.  I’ve found a photographic niche, nostalgic romantic images of North Dakota history.  That includes a farmstead long abandoned with an unused Ford pickup parked in the front yard.

Oliver County Farm in barn board frame I made

Oliver County Farm in barn board frame I made

Or a farmstead on the edge of a growing pothole, water lapping at the doorstep.

Sheridan County abandoned farmstead about to be overtaken by growing pothole.

Sheridan County abandoned farmstead about to be overtaken by growing pothole.

I’ve found antique cars such as this 1941 Ford Tudor Deluxe parked in a pasture in northern Burleigh County.Old Fordt wtrmrk Mike shoots old Ford

They’re part of my collection of images headed to the Blue Collar Art Show and Soiree.  The Blue Collar Cafe on Airport Road across the tracks from Krolls Kitchen hosts monthly art shows beginning in December, and I’ve been pleased and honored to be a part of the shows.  The owner, Jerod Hawk advised me to come in with larger pieces than what someone at home could print out from their computer.  So, I have. These are as large as 2’x3′ framed images.

A few images for blue collar show

Late at night I’ve worked in my wood shop, turning old barn siding in to frames for my images. The wood is from a 105 year old barn between Anamoose and Goodrich that blew down about 5 years ago.  I maintain all its color and character.  The texture, the warp and the bends in the wood makes it a challenge to create a straight and square build, but it gives each frame its unique style and color.

Selecting the right piece of wood for a frame

Selecting the right piece of wood for a frame

On many snowy winter nights, you’ll find me in my wood shop sorting and selecting the wood, matching its dimension, color and grain for both the inner frame and outer border (making it two frames, one inner and one outer)  to create as uniform appearance for each frame, yet different from every other one.1201131859

A few of the images I’m taking back to this show were quite popular at last year’s Blue Collar art shows, that includes this one of the Pettibone Brain Company. (No that’s not a typo. The private owner climbed up there after he bought the structure and turned the “g” in to a “b” to make the word “brain.”)

Pettibone "Brain" Elevator

Pettibone “Brain” Elevator

This year’s Blue Collar art shows are bigger than last year’s first shows.  The floor space is more than double from the original space and there will be twice as many artists. I’m blessed to be one of them.

Collecting North Dakota’s beauty

mykuhls tree storm

ND Tree and Storm for art show display

  I love displaying North Dakota in ways others have not seen the state.  That’s why I relish opportunities such as the Blue Collar Cafe Open House and Art Show this week.  If you attend, you’ll see North Dakota displayed several ways.  Most obviously will be the images you will see such as the tree and storm clouds pictured above.  The image of course is a prairie vista ahead of a storm, typical of a spring day in the state.  That’s North Dakota.

Surrounding the image is more North Dakota — the barn board frame. I was fortunate enough to get good solid siding from a barn that was torn down. The siding is in good shape and I use it to make frames.  It’s North Dakota.

That barn also supplied wood for the image below of a farm house in a stubble field.  I shot this near Rugby and again, North Dakotans will see something that reminds them of their state: stubble field, horizon, storm clouds and huge house sitting empty.  That’s North Dakota.

mykuhls farm house wtrmrk

Then there are a select few people who will recognize the bottom image as also being North Dakota.  Those select people are bikes.  They know the state for its  smooth roads, little traffic, wide open vistas make for great rides in the state.  It’s North Dakota.

mykuhls print bikers on hwy and skyThese three images are part of the collection of North Dakota that I’ll be displaying at the Blue Collar Cafe Art Show.  It’s a little North Dakota Internet Coffeehouse run by North Dakotans, in North Dakota’s capital city, across the street from the big North Dakota Department of Transportation district offices.

North Dakota images. North Dakota barn board. Assembled by a North Dakotan.  Shown in a North Dakota venue. Even the images themselves were produced and processed by a North Dakota lab.  The Blue Collar Cafe Open House and Art Show is Tuesday, February 12.

That’s North Dakota.

Blue Collar Black Friday Art Show

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Late nights meant burning the midnight oil — and wood — to get frames ready for the show.

What a surprising opportunity!

It’s crunch time producing exclusive handmade frames to go with matted photos for the Blue Collar Black Friday Art Show.  North Dakota barn board, North Dakota images, North Dakota art — I’m fortunate to be one-quarter of the show at the little coffee shop and cafe on the east side of Bismarck.

It’s a win-win-win.  The Blue Collar Cafe gets more traffic, four artists get more exposure and Black Friday shoppers get original handmade art at ridiculously low prices.  If the same products were in Macy’s or Daytons, they’d be hundreds of dollars.  But here, only tens of dollars.

I visited with Jerod Hawk earlier this week when the idea was kicked about.  Within an hour Hawk had lined up four artists to set up on Friday at his little coffee shop and cafe. That was Tuesday. Now here it is Thursday and we’re almost ready to throw open the doors to throngs of people who want a piece of North Dakota.

Since the idea first took hold,  I’ve been keeping the wood fires burning in my wood shop making frames.  .  As it is, I have mass-produced hand-made frames for an inventory, but not as many as I would have liked for this little show.

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The abandoned Pettibone Elevator at Lake Williams is one of my favorite pieces that will be on display at the Blue Collar Cafe art show on Friday.

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From near Rugby, this abandoned farmstead is wrapped in a barn board frame from a barn near Good Rich.

Tuesday and Wednesday I started the work of matching photos I had on hand to the frames I thought would work.  I think I went about it backwards. I first should have selected the prints, then built the frames to fit.

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Color looks good in the barn board frame from a 100-year old barn near Goodrich on the left, and in a frame from a 100-year old barn that once stood near Almont

Either way, it was crunch time. I turned my kitchen in to a matting and framing shop.  I brought in all the frames I thought would work from my wood shop.  Then I started matching prints to frames.

A couple of quick trips to Bismarck and I bought a few pieces of glass and some mat board.  I would have liked more, but time was running out.    Wednesday I put in some 12 hours framing and matting. Sadly I got in to so much of a rush I ended up damaging three prints and throwing them in to the trash.  A couple of my larger print were damaged and so will only be on display as examples, but not for sale. They’re not “perfect.”  Mats were crooked, images warped.  *groan*

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Wilton’s Soo Line Depot, also 100 years old (1910) is framed in 100-year-old wood from a barn near Goodrich.

So, here it is Thanksgiving days.  Just as the other three artists and Hawk are doing, we’re dedicating a portion of the day to getting ready for the Blue Collar Black Friday Art Show.  It’s a first, so we don’t know what to expect, how much room we have or how many people show up.

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Grain bins from near Regan in barn board from a 100-year old barn near Almont will be at the Blue Collar Black Friday Art Show.

Here’s your invitation to joins us. 135 Airport Road, Bismarck, just across the RR tracks from Krolls Diner, one block south of Main Street in East Bismarck.

Come on down!

November 16 Ravae and Kendra

You know that room down in the basement that you’re not quite sure what to do with it?  Maybe you don’t have one.  I do.

Kendra

Ravae

Well, I did.

I turned it in to a studio and these are some of the first works from the newly remodeled room.

It’s a work in progress, but this is where it stared with a cool friend of mine, Ravae. She brought with her Kendra, her very close friend.The two of them agreed to TFP — that is Trade for Pictures.  I’d shoot and they’d model. We both get the images for our portfolio or for whatever we need.

It was a great afternoon. They were very camera friendly.  So we worked through a number of poses and images.  It was a great opportunity for me.  (Actually I already knew that Ravae was very camera friendly since I shot her earlier in the year, back in March when she was very near her due date.

Ravae March 13

Ravae November 16

Now she’s a mother and what a great model she is, pregnant or not.)

So, through the afternoon we worked with different poses, different outfits, different backdrops and different lighting.  We wanted to come up with as many different “looks” as we could.

Kendra has the classic good looks of a young woman from North Dakota.  Her quiet confident poise is well-suited for  senior style images — they seem to suit her very well.  She’s a classic.

Ravae has that kind of spirit that lends well to anything new and different.  She can pose as a quiet Madonna-look as a pregnant mom, or can come off with something a bit more edgy as a grungy biker look.  Her obvious outstanding feature are her eyes, piercing, clear and blue.

All in all a great adventure for that unused room in the basement.

Afterward, thanks to the new models I got to work with, I then got to experiment with post-processing effects.

Are you ready for your session?

A little bit o’ grunge

High contrast, smiling, beautiful women

 

October 3 — Singing the blues on a Sunday night

Bob T and Wayde S pair off

I love shooting artists of another genre: musicians such as Bob and Wayde.  They are a couple of the finest blues players in this part of the U.S.

Bob Tikippe

On this night, they’ve teamed up as the opening act for the Joe Moss Band, thanks to Steamer Productions.

Bob Tikippe has appeared here earlier in the North Dakota 365 blog.  In that entry he was performing  in another venue as an acoustic blues player on his steel-bodied National.  In this entry, he’s here on a Fender Strat — the leader of the pack for those country, blues and rock guitar players who like the precise sound of the Strat.

Wayde Schafer

Wayde’s down home authenticity is woven in to blues with his Gibson, the other leading choice of blues, rock and country guitar players.  (Back when I was a blues bass player, Wayde was the man whom I aspired to back in a public performance.)

Together, these  two men combined always provide a purists blend of sound, each taking rhythm/harmony to the others lead.

I like shooting musicians like these fellows because the color, the lights and the energy enhance the emotion you can read in their faces.  Do you see it?  Can you almost feel it?

The two work well together. And when Bob pulls out his mouth harp to blow some tunes, Wayde expands the sound accompanying Bob.

Theirs is a blues you can sit and relate to, feel, absorb as though they’re telling you their story — one you recognize as your own.  This night they entertained with not only cryin-in-your-beer leavin’ me blues, but some nasty hard core deep down rumbling gut-moving stories put to a 14 bar progression.

You can catch them playing as a group called Levee, but you gotta work hard cuz they’re full time employed with other careers and this kind of outlet is only their night job/hobby, and their passion.  If North Dakota were a bit more receptive to the arts, both performing arts and visual arts, they would be able to make a go of it full time as the boogie-meisters of Bismarck.

On this night the two were here to warm up the crowd for the Joe Moss Band a Chicago blues band with high energy and gutsy mojo.  Joe Moss draws in a crowd wherever he is and for blue-hungry fans in Bismarck, a night like this is one to not only attend but to remember.

The blues nights such as this, as rare as they are, bring in a crowd even on a Sunday night like this.  Joe Moss brings his Chicago blues band across this region far too rarely to suit most rockin’ blues players.  But thanks to Steamer Productions, North Dakotans can catch something that is usually reserved for blues lovers in larger cities. 

Joe Moss’ high-energy sound on this night built on the groove dug by Bob and Wayde.  The energy of this band doesn’t shock you, doesn’t irritate you, but it lifts you to the next level.

Joe can entertain as well as any, but when you pair him with Carl Davis, the crowd gets a two-for-one treat.  I love Carl Davis. He’s a misplaced 50’s-60’s rockabilly, rock-and-roller, R&B master.  I was completely unfamiliar with him until this night.  Now, I’m a fan.  What I especially like about him is that he gets in to the role as a soulful emotive guitar master.

Carl Davis

When a night of high quality low down entertainment such as Bob, Wayde, Joe and Carl hit the stage, it’s a good idea to break those doldrums you’re wallowing in, and hit the highway, head to town, and pack the house for an art form you don’t get to experience often here in the Northern Plains.

Can I count on seeing you there, next time?

Christmas Season

 

Merry Christmas from Burnt Butte

Yeah, I know…kinda out of order — Christmas and all.  But this is a fun project I started this week using my North Dakota 365 photos from earlier this year.

 

I have a plethora of images to use, and it’s very hard to make up my mind which to use.  For example this one of the bridge in the Wilton Park is moody, but people seem to like it.

I like the one of the large deer herd bunched up moving across the prairies in Sheridan or McLean County.

I had forgotten about many of these images, some of them posted here on this blog, so it was a good reminder to go back and see what I’ve accomplished this year.

Obviously I used the same template for several of these images, merely adjusting the words  and of course changing the historic tale on back that relates to the images on front.

It would have been kind of fun to use some snow plow imagery and make some remark about making way for Santa or some kind of thing.

But generally, I tried to stick to more generic kinds of images from Central North Dakota including Wilton, Washburn, Bismarck, Center, McClusky and Wing. The Soo Line Railroad Depot that houses the railroad museum in Wilton is a natural for this kind of project.    It has that kind of “down home” feel to it.

The one I’m most proud of, however is the one on top. That one is not a template, but is a complete start to finish image that I worked up on Photoshop, including the page curl, the drop shadow, the background and of course the image itself.

In the end, I had 11 postcards but only turned three in to products for cash register impulse buys at local retailers.  I’m so jazzed by the whole process I think I’m gonna go make some more.

Got any suggestions?  Which do you like?

 

August 29

What a chance to shoot a set of promo pix!

Raced back from Grand Forks where I’d just enjoyed Blues on the Red, to get the opportunity to hang with some of my favorite people in North Dakota: the musicians of the Sarah McMahon band.  Even if these were not some of  my favorite entertainers in the region, I’d still want to hang with these people. They’re not only talented but they are real, warm, down-to-earth intelligent folks who do not fit the stereotype of a typical North Dakota.

While the typical North Dakotan is personable, wise, steady and solid, they are also very pragmatic and not at all varied.  They are homogeneous.  People such as the musicians of the Sarah McMahon Band maintain the qualities of a typical North Dakotan, but add their own artistic variety to the cultural landscape.

Sarah, the lovable pixie who emotes vocally like Aretha or Norah is from Idaho. The others, home-grown North Dakotans. They’re awesome.

Shooting this promo shoot in the Blarney Stone in Bismarck was a delightful experience.  First of all, they’re not afraid of the camera as many North Dakotans tend to be — humble, shy and reserved.  So, with willing models we got to try several different approaches to the shoot, always working to keep Sarah front and center in her band.

I tried different lighting as well as different poses.  I wasn’t sure about the three overhead lights. I thought they might be distracting to the final image, but actually they add  interest to the photos

We worked up several poses and angles, but seemed to settle on this angle for the photo, mostly because of the direction of the pool table, with the corner pocket at the front.  It acts as a visual funnel directing your attention up in to the photo.

I like using props like that to direct the flow of the viewer’s eye in to and around the image.

In this case, it helped to have such a stunning centerpiece to the group — Sarah. She gets a lot of attention for not only her talent, but for here physical attractiveness, but she still keeps it real.  I look forward to doing more with these musicians in the Sarah McMahon band and in Black Cat Rumble (the two personnas of the same group).  If you scan through this blog you will see I’ve already posted several images of them.  They’re good people.

 

August 28

 

Big Walter Smith

 

Blues on the Red.  Grand Forks party on DeMers and Big Walter Smith was there to entertain. Grand Forks puts on the regular event each summer and it’s worth attending.  On this night the electrified Chicago/Delta/Mississippi blues of Big Walter Smith attracted the crowd on a perfect weather night. Motorcyclists joined the eclectic crowd of beer drinkers, bar-b-que eaters and blues lovers for a celebration of summer — one of those rare nights when the mojo is working and the black cat is strutting.

This time of year, the sun is still lingering as it descends in the west, and the crowd packs in to the park to enjoy a brief moment of  those lazy hazy days of summer.

After the Red River destroyed much of Grand Forks in the Big Flood/Fire/Blizzard of 1997,  the city was re-built with a flair and design that is perfect for good easy culture such as Blues on the Red.  A good ride to Grand Forks, a good night of entertainment, good food and good weather made this a memorable trip of 2010 for me.

The music as good as any I’ve heard all year. The photo ops were supreme.  The trumpeter in Big Walter Smith’s band was far more than an accompaniment. He was a show all to himself.

And when the show was over, there was still plenty of energy and opportunity to wander the streets along the Red River in Downtown Grand Forks.

And so wandering was on order for the rest of the night, visiting some of the more collegiate and more cosmopolitan establishments in the rebuilt section of town along DeMers Avenue.

 

DeMers Ave on a Sat night

 

August 26

 

Arnold Jordan

I just can’t help myself. I think some of the best and brightest talents of North Dakota need more exposure.   They all have day jobs which help pay for their love which in this case is music.  Arnold Jordan is one of those young artists who needs to be known nationally. He’s had the good fortune to play with some big regional acts and I hope his exposure continues.  In this case, I caught him in the lounge of the East 40 in Bismarck, a cozy chop house.

 

You’ve seen him here before on ND 365, and you probably will again. As much as I love shooting motorcycles and motorcycle events, I like shooting musicians as much and sometimes more.  Arnold is one of my favorite musicians to photograph.