Reasons to see North Dakota in the fall, photo safari — Evening gold Pt 1.

sunflower-gravel-road-and-golden-hour-sig-small

Domesticated sunflowers never rotate with the sun unlike their natural cousins that follow the sun. That’s why this mature field of sunflowers face east with the sun at their back. (One reason I like this photo, besides the leading lines is the hot/cold contrast of ground color and sky color.)

This fall, I’ve taken to exploring the last hour of the day with camera and dog.  That’s  easy to do because the golden hour is actually pretty early these autumn days; the colors are warm and the contrasting light is illuminating.  The golden hour, the golden sunset and the golden colors are striking.

mike-gunnar-sunset-prairie

Gunnar the foster dog leaps through tall prairie grasses on our walks. The golden grass, yellow skies and his yellow fur compliment each other

About 4:00 or so, the dog gets pretty alert and by 5:00, he’s ready to go.   He’ll pace back and forth or stand by the back door until I am ready.  Then he gets to the truck to wait for me, and off we go to find an abandoned section line road to explore.

eight-wind-turbines

Even just eight wind turbines disrupt the horizon. Imagine what 105 turbines do to the landscape.

Up until about 8 years ago, there were more opportunities, but more than 100 wind turbines were set up south and east of me.  There’s not much enjoyment in shooting miles and miles of wind turbines.  I find them to be intrusive. So to avoid the wind turbines, now I explore west and north of Wilton, mostly north.  There are not too many golden hour opportunities to the west. The Missouri River is about 8 miles from me, the hills and valleys separate section line roads. I stick to roads and section line paths, staying off private property, so there are not many chances to get out and photograph the area without trespassing on a farmer’s property.  I’ve been heading north of Wilton where there are more gravel roads and abandoned section line roads.golden-sunset-north-of-wilton-corn-and-gravel-road-sig-small

Our routine is similar each night. We drive until we find a good place to stop, then walk, looking for patterns, images to capture. Well, I look for them. The dog, he’s just off running.  It’s his free time.

abandond-house-in-the-middle-of-he-prairie-golden-hills-dark-sky-sig

I couldn’t see any approach roads. It’s just a house in the middle of the stubble field.

Sometimes we come across a surprising revelation. In this case (photo below),  we parked the truck, hiked up over the hill and caught the lower valley beyond the hill. An abandoned house with no noticeable roads or lanes nearby, just sitting in the middle of a small grain stubble field.

mature-sunflower-head-with-bokeh-sig

No longer yellow and green, but still attractive with the nubbly texture of a raw sunflower head.

Other times we walk along a yet-to-be harvested field. As I noted above, sunflowers are some of the last to come off, weeks after small grains and beans.

john-deer-pulling-grain-cart-sig

Hauling roughly a half-semi trailer of grain, a powerful John Deere on tracks not wheels heads to the working combine to unload the combine hopper as it keeps moving down the rows.

Sometimes we’ll be headed down a trail, and can hear the sound of million-dollars of machinery working.  Fields are so large that farmers need a grain cart pulled by a high-powered tractor to collect the grain from the working combine out in the field, and then haul it to the end of the field and a waiting truck.

Drive or walk to the other end of the section and you’ll come up on the combine doing it’s season-ending work. .

combining-corn-john-deer-sunset-sig-small

Sunset behind, the farmer keeps working to finish his cornfield.

It’s not too profound of a statement to say that this is an agricultural area, but that does not mean there are not opportunities to get in to wildlife regions.  I’ll see what I can do to show you that, next time.  Do you have fall hiking areas in North Dakota that you can recommend?  What are section line roads like in your area?

 

Between the rancher's fence lines is what used to be an active road, a section line road laid out on every section on one-mile grids. Most are no longer accessible or visible.

Between the rancher’s fence lines is what used to be an active road, a section line road laid out on every section on one-mile grids. Most are no longer accessible or visible.

 

Advertisements

He is not here

You know it had to be one of the worst mornings ever, that first Easter morning. Not only were Mary and the disciples mourning the death of Someone whom they loved, they were afraid. So they were hiding from the Romans, fearing they would be next.

A dark place

They were grieving. They were afraid.  They felt abandoned.  They felt hopeless.  Grief. Loss. Fear. Sadness. Sorrow. Confusion. Abandonment.

Mary got up to leave. She must leave. She had something to do. It was a dark place Mary went, the cemetery where they left the lifeless body of  Jesus.

Imagine the long, tearful walk she walked alone.  Tears. Could there be so many tears?  She had never cried like this.  She had never gone through this.  No one had ever gone through this. She must have been frightened.  She must have been sad.

She must also have been in love.  She loved Jesus so much she left the safety of the others hidden in that grief-filled room.  She went alone.  No one else had the love or the guts to do what she had to do, visit that borrowed tomb.

I cannot imagine her confusion when she arrived and she met what she thought was a gardener.  Her frame of reference, her point of view were shaped by the horrible hours she had just experienced.  The betrayal, the arrest, the trial, the torture, the spikes, the blood, the darkness, the earthquake, the torn temple veil — all shaped her mind and left her little prepared for the next event that topped anything she had experienced in the last three days.

A light shines in a dark place

She looked for a dead man and thought she found a gardener.

“Please Sir, what have you done with the body?”

The body?  A dead lifeless form that had held the Man whom she loved?

“Mary, it is I.”

He’s alive! He is risen!

Where there was darkness, now there was light!

Can there be, has there ever been such a shocking turnaround?  Not merely from darkness to light, but rather from death to life?

Light was shining in the darkness of that morning, but also in the dark gloom of her thoughts, her mind and her heart.

He is alive!

You know the story. She ran back to tell others.  John — the disciple who writes more of love in his Gospel than the other three, the one who wrote those famous words, “For God so loved the world, He gave…”  loving John ran to the tomb.  From fear and grief now to unbelievable excitement.  John ran.  Peter ran.

Peter outran John.  He was first.  He stooped down, and there were the grave clothes, neatly folded. (Isn’t that just like Jesus to leave things better than he found them?) Angels met Peter and the disciples.

He is not here. He is risen!  It is Easter this morning as I write this. I look up. I look past the cross. I look past the darkness.

He is not here. He is risen

He is risen!

Footnote:  And so, here in little Wilton, I don’t have to look far to see the story.  All within sight of my home (if it weren’t for the trees) are these pictorial reminders that Jesus is a Risen Savior.

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.)

October 22 moody images

Pontiac under the moon in the weeds

In this set of photos, my goal was to capture the mood rather than the image as a snapshot.  The Pontiac under the moon is one of my more complimented images.  I think it would work well as one of a series of notecards. What do you think?

You can see the moon barely visible just above the front left corner of the car in the trees.  It was another one of those hazy, overcast fall afternoons. My goal that day was not to photograph the car.  In fact, it was an after thought. My goal was another set of images of the old Wilton Coal Mine entrance — again here stylized to represent the surreal and even “spooky” mood of that area.

Wilton Coal Mine entrance

Photoshop filters enhanced the natural light and glow of the golden hour to create that warm surreal effect.  In the photo of the coal mine entrance, can you spot the full moon? It’s just above the horizon next to the mine entrance, between it and the tree on the horizon.

This scene is just east of Wilton about a mile.  It captures my imagination every time I see it or visit it because of the old stories I’ve read about life during the mine’s peak — a time when this region of the United States was in its infancy and growing quickly.

Moon glow

Scattered around the pasture are other reminders of days gone by including the old Pontiac.  In a few days I think I’ll have to return to capture more of the imagery, but most capture more of the mood of the region.  The full moon rising only added to the surreal spooky atmosphere.

I dunno. How do you present an image with its natural “feel” by merely pressing the shutter release on a camera.  I believe some crafty artwork applied post processing helps tell the story.

October 12 Wilton Miners are no more

Wilton Miners Football mascot

You will never see this again.  It does not exist.

There is no more Wilton Miners Football team.  This night was their last home game as the Wilton Miners.  From now on, the Miners’ identity is merged with that of the Washburn Cardinals to become come the Southern Mclean Roughriders.

A new identity

The students of both schools (Washburn and Wilton) voted to form the new co-op for 9-man football.

On the last night of home turf play, the Miners lined up against whom else but The Cardinals.  Here their opponent.  Next season, their teammate.

The Miners got spanked pretty hard in this game, so it appears it will be to their advantage to merge with the stronger Cardinals.  But I don’t think that will make it any easier. School pride will be eroded a bit.  Personal and school identity will be a bit more vaporized.

Both Washburn and Wilton are losing something.  Like many small North Dakota towns that lose their railroad, their businesses, their schools, this is progress of a deteriorating sort, a kind of devolution.

October 10 Wilton’s pond at sunset

Sunset at Wilton Centennial Park

This is one of my favorite images in my year-long project of shooting North Dakota every day of 2010.  Some days my photos are so amateurish and bad that I don’t post them.

But on this day, just a short walk from my home I saw what might work for a good image. Of course it’s the Golden Hour, and it shows.  The color is radiant in the trees and along the horizon.

Most unusual (and if you’re from North Dakota, you know what I mean) there is no wind.  The reflective glass of the Wilton Centennial Park pond is perfect to bounce back the trees and light around it.

I could easily vote for this as my favorite photo of the year in North Dakota 365.  What do you think?

September 5

Wilton park bench

It’s become one of my favorite locales for seasonal photo shoots. I’ve returned often to the Wilton Centennial Park and on this evening caught the empty picnic table, the orange lights and the quiet environment.

Looking back in North Dakota 365, I surprise myself at how many different ways the park can be photographed.  It all started way back on January 4 this year.

September 3

Wilton Miners HS football


Huddle time

Friday night lights.  It’s a small town tradition, meeting at the high school football field for a little early evening entertainment with your neighbors.  It happens in larger cities, too, but

I’ve noticed that in smaller towns, it’s more of a community event, not just a school-supporter event.  For me, it’s easy to catch a home game because the football field is on the other side of the block. It is the last point of the city before the wheat fields and shelterbelts begin their stretch across the horizon.

The young men in identical garb, identified only by their numbers draw the community to the sidelines.  The players are there to compete, to prove their young manhood, to execute their learned maneuvers and plays.

However, it’s not just the players who are there with purpose.  Their support staff includes a host of schoolmate performing their duties.

Cheerleaders of course are among the most visible and photographic, too!  They’re just as focused on their “plays” or their routines as the players on the field.  Like the players, they’re there with purpose.

They are making their own memories and their own personalities are forming even as they watch the game, plan their routines and perform for the crowd.

Equally vital to the Friday night activities are two other groups.  The statisticians are there to keep the information the coaches and players need to formulate and execute their plays.

And then there  is the concession stand. It’s where everyone seems to end up sooner or later and frankly it’s where most of the community chatter (gossip?) can be exchanged.  The wait-staff of high school students and advisors provide the hot food, hot coffee and cold soda pop over which neighbors chat while the game goes on.

Yeah, it’s Friday night lights.

Though it’s harvest season when tractors, combines and other equipment are in full operation this time of year, they all seem to pause on Friday night while an entire collection of subcultures interact and support the community event.

September 2

Wilton Miners Jr. Hi football

There are some things that are just plain fun to shoot — like the Wilton Miners Junior High matchups.

When I’m not shooting or writing for industrial purposes, or shooting weddings, portraits or senior pictures, I like to shoot this kind of “memory.”  Of course it helps that the football field is on the other side of the block from where I live. 

So, when I hear the official’s whistle I know there’s some action by which I will be entertained and will be able to capture some images of these future Brett Favre’s.

They certainly play some of the most physical and acrobatic football that I’ve seen in sometime.  They throw themselves in to each play, it would seem.

I’m not sure how many will continue their football career, but at this stage I’m rooting for all of them to keep on — especially since it gives me something fun to shoot on a late fall afternoon.

This being a Thursday night, I know that the big kids are gonna take over the field tomorrow night, probably under the lights. So for now, this full sun opportunity to catch some action is an easy task with the light being as it is. I can freeze action and get clean and clear shots that wouldn’t be as likely as under lights.  Again, this is another example of the Golden Hour, when photography comes alive, when shadows are long, contrasts are good and the light is right.

(To my own dismay, I didn’t keep my eye on the action to see whether this receiver actually got away from the block to catch the ball that was headed his way.  I know I wouldn’t have.)

August 21

 

Lined up at Wilton Grain Elevator

 

It’s that time of year when farmers haul their grain to market.  But unlike in years past when a tractor and flair-box wagon hauled the grain, farmers today use semi-trucks to get their crop to town.

 

Unrolling the tarp

 

Drivers pull their trucks up under the sampling auger. They unroll the covering tarp so several samples can be taken.  From that, the grain is evaluated and given a grade to determine the purchase price.   Then the pull in to the line to wait their turn to dump the grain from the belly of the trailer in to the elevator hopper where it is stored until sent to a mill elsewhere in the U.S.

Today, I had to weave my way through the trucks along the road, but I don’t mind. I like the sensation of  harvest. The mammoth combines in the field to the large trucks at the elevator it’s a massive job, much different from the days when I grew up on the farm with a tractor pulling the combine and a tractor hauling the wagons to town. It’s one more step in the process of feeding the world, a job that North Dakota farmers do with superior results.