November 15 McLean County courthouse destined for destruction

McLean County Courthouse — last days

For more than 100 years the McLean County Courthouse has stood in Washburn, overlooking the Missouri River several blocks below.  The county was organized in 1883 and the courthouse built in 1908.  It’ s one of three remaining old courthouses in North Dakota with the Romanesque styling.

Bats invaded the courthouse several years ago, and with the bats came the airborne health hazard of hantavirus.  Parts of the building have been closed off. Some of the county work has been moved to other buildings in town.  It took two votes before county voters agreed it’s time for progress.  Voters agreed to raze and rebuild the structure.  It’ll be gone in a couple years.

At night, it is a solid visual even in the snow. The eerie green lights give it an other-worldly appearance.  I hope to photograph it often before it’s gone.  A photo-tour inside the building I’m sure will be rewarding.

October 26 Winter isn’t sneaky — it’s slammin’

Winter’s first blow

Wow. Winter didn’t pull any punches with its introduction. It hit us hard, and it’s still two months until the first calendar of winter.

The blizzard rolled all day and tonight it’s slow going on Highway 83 at Wilton.  Trucks are still doing their thing, but a few have decided it’s not worth it. So, they pulled in to the Wilton Cenex truck stop.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find to photograph when I went out, but had hoped to catch some snow plows working Highway 83.  I gave up after about 10 seconds. I’m not used to this cold, yet.  So, I captured these images to show what we are in for until spring.

In a way, I find it a bit exciting to be challenged like this by winter, but it’s also groan-worthy because I know it’s going to be a long winter ahead.

And just as conflicted as I am about winter, I’m conflicted about the Wilton City street crew.  Yes, they do a great job of clearing the streets,but dang, a full 6 months of this is gonna be hard on my back — cleaning out the end of my driveway every time the snow plow goes by.

The morning after the night before

(Actually, this shot belongs with tomorrow’s entry, but I thought it was fitting to put it here to give a glimpse of the “aftermath” of this Intro to Winter 101 course.)

April 9

Louis Ousley monument

I tried it yesterday and I like the results, so once again I put the old HD FXE to work as my model — this time in front of the Louis Ousley monument that stands on a hill at Riverview Cemetery outside of Wilton.  It was later in the day than the my first go at it posted as April 8 here on North Dakota 365.  I used my speedlight to light it up a bit against the darkening evening.

The monument to Louis Ousley states that he was killed  February 2, 1918, “somewhere” in France. It proclaims, “He died for democracy.”  A document regarding Wilton’s history states, “Private Ousley of Company “A” North Dakota Infantry, was not only the first Wilton man to give his life in World War I, but was also the first from North Dakota.  He died a hero’s death, carrying a stricken officer toward safety under enemy shelling.  He was hit near his own lines, and comrades brought both men in.  Louis died and the officer survived.”

March 6

There was a time when a night view of Garrison Dam in the winter could be quite spectacular. That was taken away from us when the Global War on Terror descended on the United States.  Now potentially key targets are under high security, including Garrison Dam. If it were to go, it would unleash a tidal wave down stream, potentially overwhelming, perhaps even breaking dams down stream all the way to Omaha, Nebraska.

I was unaware of the limits when I headed up to Garrison for a night-time photo. I had planned to drive the frontage road past the dam to shoot it and it’s lights from down stream.  That area is inaccessible as far as I can determine.

So, I settled for this shot of the cooling towers of the hydroelectric power plant inside Garrison Dam.

March 3

The night produces a landscape of a different shade or coloring.  Wilton’s Centennial park, a short two-block walk from my house is an attractive destination on an evening stroll.  The pony-truss bridge moved in to the park is a pedestrian bridge now, though before it was moved it carried families and farm equipment across a nearby creek.  On this night, it had one set of foot prints.

I used my tripod, kept the shutter open and tried several angles and several shots to capture the glow of the park.  Generally it has an orange or yellow glow similar to the photo above, but once I process it to give it a visual personality, the blue tones in the photo to the right seem to suit the image, giving it that crisp clean cold look that you can feel.

March 2

I admit I was not paying attention to how close she was getting.  I looked up from my camera to see her eyes locked on mine.  Gentleman that I am, I excused myself properly and got back a safe distance from her.

The buffalo of the Northern Plains still fascinate me even after photographing them for decades.  I have heard of but cannot envision the millions of buffalo that wandered these unpopulated regions 150 years ago.  I’ve seen mountains of buffalo skulls piled high above the men who shot them for sport.  It is a black spot in American humanity.

Today the buffalo population has rebounded. Though no longer free to roam the Northern Plains, they are more numerous than they were 50 years ago. This cow was in a feed lot in either Morton or Oliver County. (I’m not sure where the county line runs.)  So, being a bit domesticated, I was not in an immediate danger as I would have been had she been completely wild. 

March 1

North Dakota, like many western states, lives and dies with its railroads.  It was the railroad building after the Civil War in the late 1860’s that brought the 7th Cavalry here to protect the railroad workers.  Towns sprung up along the rail lines and some of those towns today are gone because the rail lines were abandoned.

Mandan is a railroad town. The Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad operates out of Mandan as it has for more than a century.  On a cold snowy evening, the switchyard is lit up with a golden glow and provides a photo op from the nearby hill.

Knowing the intimate historical connection between railroads, North Dakota and Mandan, I often imagine in my mind’s eye what it used to look like.  Perhaps something like this:

February 28

There’s not much left of Dodge, North Dakota.  The railroad pulled out and left the grain elevator which had been an investment in not only the community but the area.  It stands idle in the rolling hills bluffs and buttes of western North Dakota.  The deteriorating church in the foreground is also testament to the decline of rural communities. I guess the sower went forth elsewhere to sow.

I’ve shot the church in years past in different weather and different lights. This time I drove, up a hill south of Dodge, hiked a short bit to get the church lined up with the grain elevator.  I’ve thought of ways to filter the image, to do some “fixing” in post–processing, but decided just showing it as it is tells the story.

Meanwhile, down the rail line a ways, is another grain elevator that still struggles without its rail line.The Killdeer elevator serves area ranchers with storage and with feed supplies.  On a full-moon night, I caught the moon peeking through scattered clouds behind the elevator. To get the angle I wanted, I climbed a snow stockpile the city had pushed up in the elevator yard.  I dug in my boots in to the side of the snow pile, laid in a still position, bracing the camera to remain steady for the long exposure.  I know more than one vehicle passed me thinking perhaps that I was some drunk laying in the snow.  Who knows, I may still be there. Maybe I should go back and look.

February 25

The heart of North Dakota beats to the rhythm of agriculture. Three grain elevators behind the bent steel heart represent two things — the lifeblood of agriculture to North Dakota, and the center of the state, McClusky.

Another one of those cold bleak days wrapped the region in winter. It’s tough to find much that is visually appealing to photograph, but this juxtaposition of the three elevators and the steel heart tell a story — and add to that the post-processing of cold and grainy filters and you can sense the atmosphere.

However, before you get to McCluskey, coming up from the south, a bright yellow mailbox will grab your attention.  I don’t know how many times I’ve passed this mailbox, overwhelmed by its color and missing the fact the two statues of Dalmatians posed under the mailbox.  This time, I literally stopped my truck, backed down the highway that I’d just driven.  (Remember, there’s little or no traffic out here, especially in winter.  Just try this maneuver in the populated area where you may live.)  I grabbed the shot, and headed off toward McClusky.  But you can be sure that when I pass this mailbox now, I look for the canine carvings.

After getting shots of the mailbox and McClusky, I finished my circuitous route through Burleigh and Sheridan counties, stopping one more time to capture an image that represents North Dakota. Finger drifts across the gravel road, and an unused red schoolhouse with a blue sky background presented a nice contrast to the dreary landscape that started the afternoon when I started my day’s search for capturing my daily image of North Dakota.

February 24

Bundled against the cold a lone snowmobiler crosses a highway to continue his or her trip down the ditch of Highway 83, north of Bismarck.  Snowmobiles, or “sleds” are one way to break the monotony of winter.  Often used as a tool for a farmer or rancher to get out on the range to check the condition of his land or cattle, sleds are mostly used for entertainment.  North Dakota has hundreds of miles of marked snowmobile trails, some heading up to the Canadian border.  Most, though run in the expansive ditches along the state’s highway scene.

I was shopping for my 1-a-day photo when I saw this snowmobile headed this way. I parked and waited for the rider to pass by.  There’s not much life out here to shoot, and having shot my share of snowdrifts, I welcomed this shot of a snowmobile.

Later, I spotted a pair of sleds and nabbed photos of them as they zoomed up and away from me.