Combine in the dust
The sun is about to go down, it’s just at the top of the image and in the right place to create a ghost-like effect on the working combine. Harvest dust throws a red cast on the horizon this time of year and creates red sunsets, too.
The red glow of the golden hour
If you back off from the work, you’ll find a more realistic view of the working combine, but again, notice the reddish cast to the image. It’s called “The Golden Hour” but it’s more copper than gold to me, or perhaps more “peach.”
Harvest provides opportunity for dramatic coloring of photos, and a level of high expectancy in town. Out in the field it also provides a meal or two for scavenging cats looking for a field mouse. Overhead, hawks circle looking for the same meal, and yet this season, I hope to photography one or two of the birds.
a load of gold
There on the truck is what will be eaten in not very long. You might even be the one to eat it. Or it might go to a relief effort in South America, Africa or elsewhere. This farmer has just unloaded a hopper of grain in to his truck. Before he can unload more, someone will have to take that truck in to unload, maybe at his farm or in town at the grain elevator. He probably won’t stop combining though, and will keep adding the nation’s stores of grain.
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.
This time of the year my eyes itch and my nose runs. I sneeze uncontrollably, but I don’t mind. It’s an exciting time of the year when the crop comes in.
It’s a dusty job, but someone has to do it.
The dust from the combines in the Northern Plains keeps a kind of rosy haze in the sky and makes for stellar sunsets of which I’ve done an entire album in previous years and have sold several of the prints of those red sunsets over combines
This year, I captured several of the behemoth machines in the fields doing their job collecting the grains we eat in our breads and pastas. This Allis Chalmers Gleaner combine was south of Washburn and easily photographed with bright blue skies, puffy white clouds — and dust. Geez, my nose is running even as I write this.
Hey! Your tail light is broken!
A late-afternoon drive out of town provides a variety of welcoming opportunities that just kept getting better. On this drive, as I was leaving town, I was the welcome wagon for this mini-chopper coming in to town. A rope-start on the engine, a flywheel and belt pulley and a dangling tail light added character to the black flamed paint job on this orange chopper, complete with full size mirrors.
I continued my drive east of Wilton and welcomed a new birth as I headed east — a bale was born.
Yep, I welcomed this baby bale in to the world with um, well, “maternity” photos of the baler giving birth to the round bale.
My trip continued eastward, only to welcome a parade of harvest equipment as it rolled down Highway 36. The combine leading the pack because it travels the slowest, followed by the support crew including the grain wagon.Harvest is a bit slow to start this year because of the late spring and heavy rains that dampened not only the unseeded fields, but then the rains that came right as harvest commenced. So, these farmers are actually some of the first to get rolling in the neighborhood.
And speaking of neighborhood, the neighborhood welcoming committee was on hand when I drove in to Regan. These guys were a friendly bunch and mobbed me with wagging tails and airborne, all four paws in the air, exuberant dancing right on Main Street Regan.
Regan Welcoming Committee
Regan, like many small towns allows the resident’s dogs run “at-large.” I don’t mind. Do you? I suppose if the town is much larger than Regan, population 43, that too many at-large dogs could be a problem. What do you think of letting dogs run loose in town?
wooden grain bin at sunset
The back roads of central North Dakota are peaceful passages through the prairies. At nearly every turn you see a bit of history such as this wooden grain bin. Once the storehouse of the summer’s crop, today it lists to the side, a junk pile nearby, the sun giving it a last daily kiss goodbye.
North Dakota's rolling prairies
Today’s blog entry has two purposes. One is to once again demonstrate that North Dakota isn’t as flat and feature-less as some believe. It’s not as barren and colorless as some would believe. The green, even in the end of July is omnipresent.
Toward dusk on this July afternoon/evening I headed north of Wilton toward McLean County. Only about 3 miles north of town, the landscape drops down below and a panorama of the green fields and pastures unfolds.
Next to the road, the contrast of two fields, one a small grain field, the other a pasture/hay field demonstrate some of the colors of North Dakota.
I mentioned at the top that there were two purposes to this blog. The second is to set up for your view similar images that I fooled with in a playful artistic moment, using filters, plug-ins and of course trusty reliable Photoshop CS 3, I gave these images a bit of a different look.
Which do you prefer?
Ben and Chuck Suchy
The father and son duo of Chuck and Ben Suchy says more about North Dakota than just a couple of music makers getting together on a Sunday afternoon. As you may know if you’ve been reading North Dakota 365, the Suchys farm south of Mandan. They’re quiet, unassuming people who diligently go about their work. Chuck has been at it long enough he is easing out of the farm, passing it on to the next generation, Ben’s siblings.
Chuck is also known as the North Dakota troubadour. He writes his own music, lyrics and melody. His lyrics tell stories, perhaps of a 1928 Indian Chief Motorcycle, or of a family matriarch whom everyone can relate to. If you listen to Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion, you’ve heard Chuck sing his stories.
On this Sunday afternoon, the father and son duo were on the patio of a local watering hole on the banks of the Missouri River in Mandan. They played solo and they played as a duet. They played as a team as equals who share a common gift, the gift of song.
These are the kind of summer days that make memories in North Dakota. They’re the kind of days that get you through the long cold winters because you know in a few months, you’ll be back out on the patio, listening to Chuck and Ben sing the stories of life on the Northern Plains. They carry their music all across the Midwest. Have you had a chance to hear them?
Southwest North Dakota
Go back to the July 5 entry in North Dakota 365 and compare it to this image.
This is the opposite side of the state. I’m standing on a hill south of South Heart, North Dakota, along the road to show that THIS is what most of North Dakota looks like. The gentle rolling hills, the variegated green of the landscape and the wide open view of a storm passing to the east is what most of the state looks like outside of the Red River Valley.
On this particular day, I was in the western part of the state of an event I thought I was going to shoot. The event was all weekend long and turned out to pretty much be a bust. So, I drove gravel roads that allowed me to penetrate the vast unpopulated region of southwestern North Dakota.
I actually had intended to go further south and east in to the white butte region of the state, but my gas gauge limited my enthusiasm. It was at about this point I realized I needed to head back to civilization to fuel up or I’d be out here forever.
I had meandered my way to this location without marking my route. And as you can guess, there are few if any directional signs or street signs to guide you to where you want to go.
Since I had been looking for photo ops, I had visually studied the landscape and traced my route backwards from where I had started at South Heart. It was a good thing I did, too because when I got back to Dickinson, I was down to the last gallon of gas in my tank. I suppose a GPS might be a good thing to have if I were to do this often. But in all my hiking, hunting and backpacking days, I’ve never gotten lost yet. So, to depend on a GPS is like depending on an electronic calculator when you’ve sharpened your mental abilities to do complex calculations in your head. Do you need a GPS?
Field of endless barley
I asked a friend of mine to pose for me at sunset. She’s from California and hasn’t had that “first hand” experience with North Dakota’s small grain crop. This barley field is one of many acres that makes North Dakota the lead state in the nation for barley production.
Okay, that’s enough hard news. Now for the soft news: The evening colors of the “golden hour” provide the right contrast for the field surrounded by windbreaks or shelterbelts. I love the way the soft heads of the small grain crop feather out the landscape. My model walked through the field with the palms of her hands turned down to feel their light stroke on her flesh.
For a photographer, the Golden Hour provides the relief from the blinding mid-day sun that overexposes photographs. It provides a color and softness that I find inviting.
The wide open vastness of North Dakota’s landscape give a wonderful balance between the isolation and independence of a sole figure against the seemingly endless fields of small grain.
I’m grateful to this model who expressed the childlike wonder of the soft small grains and the vast wide open spaces.