September 10


Black Cat Rumble


Four extremely talented local musicians get together for good rockin’ blues. Each play on their own, in their own bands or with others.  Sarah McMahon, Adam Halverson, Arnold Jordan and Weston Shick get together to play as Black Cat Rumble. 

Bismarck doesn’t seem to have the venue for such outstanding musicians to perform, so they get together when they can, where they can such as here at in the corner of the lounge at a local motel.  I don’t know if there’s no market for such music or if there’s no venue. Either way ya gotta catch this talent when you can, where you can.

I was fortunate enough to catch them here, and in conversation with another member of the audience shared the same thoughts. Except he’s a promoter and invited me to shoot some upcoming acts he has coming to town.  What good karma!  I look forward to developing this line of photography.



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.

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 19

Late night gravel grinding

As you might expect, road construction season in North Dakota is fairly intense — short but intense, and necessarily so.  Once the frost goes out and roadwork can begin, road crews go nearly non-stop to get as much done as they can before freeze up in the fall.  Cold fall weather shuts down asphalt batch plants about mid-October.  So, the gravel pits supplying the aggregate for asphalt stay busy — even at night.

This plant is about 20 miles north of where I live.  Belly dump semi trucks roll constantly past Wilton hauling mixed asphalt to road work.  I followed the trucks one evening to this site where the horizon was lit up with the overnight work.  A fast shutter speed froze action, and a wide aperture allowed enough light to enter my lens to make the image.

Though North Dakota’s road construction season is short, its roads are some of the best in the nation. Numerous studies, surveys and reports show that the state’s highway system is well-maintained for the population.   It doesn’t happen automatically.  Local road engineers keep monitoring road conditions and then prioritize projects.  A limited amount of tax money is available for projects, so some get put on hold.  But when they’re approved, they go quickly.  One of the basic tenants of the United States is commerce and facilitating commerce between the states. The nation’s road infrastructure is part of that fundamental effort of commerce between the states.

So the next time you eat a slice of bread, know this: it is because the farmers here raised the grain that was hauled to the mill and bakery on the roads that were maintained by men and women who work non-stop through the night.

July 21

Sunset behind the wind turbines

They stand silhouetted against the dying light of North Dakota’s prairies. The giant wind turbines are today’s version of the 1950 electric poles that broke up the horizon when the REA brought electricity to the plains.

For me as a photographer, they give depth and perspective the horizon, though I can see why some people think they are a detraction to the landscape.

They are giants rising above everything nearby.  It’s not just their size, but notice the coloring. I’m intrigued by the surface and the paint of the turbines.  Notice the pink glow on the column?  It reflect the ambient light of the sunset.  So even though their silhouette breaks the lines of the horizon, their coloring causes them to almost (but not quite) blend in to the light of the moment.

You don’t have to go far, though to see something that remains of the silhouettes on the horizon of sunset — the image that pioneers must have seen.  A dead tree stands frozen against the last streaks of light just a mile or two from the turbines.

So, though the turbines disturb some views of the prairie, you can still catch a reminder of what it once looked like here.

July 19

Sushi, Sake and Suchy at the East 40

Monday nights means Ben Suchy night at the East 40 in Bismarck.  They call it Sushi, Sake and Suchy night.

Ben is a product of North Dakota’s bohemian culture, both in terms of society and in terms of ethnicity.  I’ve written about him before here on North Dakota 365, and probably will again.  He’s one of my favorite people and musicians. He’s a songwriter, balladeer of the folk/blues tradition who plays harmonica, banjo and guitar.

Ben Suchy at East 40

On this evening at the East 40, the late day sun streams through the stained glass windows behind Ben.  Overhead are actually blue lights, but the powerful yellow of the window sets the overall color of the photo.  If you look closely, you can see the blue cast around Ben from the overhead lights.

It’s some of the best times of the year, a late summer evening, still sunlit, good food, good friends and good music.  It’s no wonder that even grownup girls like to goof off.  When I asked permission to shoot their photo, they had to ham it up for the camera.  They’re pose is a good representation of play time on the Northern Plains.

girls goofing off

July 17

I can only imagine what motorcycle travel was like 40 years ago, heading north along the Missouri River.

I was riding my 1978 HD superglide with that vibratory shovelhead engine, heading north up River Road, or State Hwy 1804.  Years ago, this was a good road by travel standards. A few miles to the east was federal highway 83, a more straight shot from Bismarck to Minot.

On this night, I had left a weekend-long party north of Bismarck.  It was dusk and I wasn’t real comfortable with the ability to see deer crossing the road as they do at this time of day.  My headlight on that old bike isn’t very powerful.

Still it represents some of the best riding a person could have enjoyed in the 1970’s.  It was a warm night, so I didn’t need to wear my leather jacket.  That’s it bungeed to my handlebars on the bottom of the image.  In the 70’s few bikes had windshields and a rolled up sleeping bag or jacket did a noticeable (though not “good”) job of breaking the wind and deflecting bugs up over the head of the rider.  That’s still the way I ride.

July 16

Richard Torrence and Sarah McMahon

Two of the most incredible muscicians in Bismarck, Richard Torrence and Sarah McMahon.

She’s played in numerous jazz, blues and jam bands in town. She’s a teacher. A mother and a down-to-earth person who is valuable to know.

Richard Torrence is a recorded guitarist who has opened for groups such as Fleetwood Mac. He is home in North Dakota, Bismarck to be exact and plays with only the best blues, jazz rock, jam musicians in town such as Sarah.

Arnold Jordan

I like shooting bands in town, especially those I “groove” to such as the Sarah McMahon Band, the Black Cat Rumble and others.  In this case, in the evening at Fiesta Villa the musicians play for an appreciative crowd on the patio between the old Northern Pacific Depot and the railroad tracks of the modern Burlington Northern Sante Fe line.

On this night, the same guitarist I caught the night before, Arnold Jordan is playing a gutsy and precise guitar for the blues band at Fiesta Villa.

It wasn’t much after this shot that I shut it down for the night. It gets too dark and too many shadows to shoot in a natural light, and I do not typically use a speed light.  I use the “golden hour” even for musicians on the back porch of a 150 year old depot.

July 10

A rare rain

By the time July rolls around, rainfall is rare in Bismarck. Including snow fall, Bismarck only gets about 16 inches of moisture a year.  June and September are the months with the greatest rainfall.  So, this July rain shower in Bismarck gave a nice glow of Main Street. I wasn’t prepared for it, didn’t have my rain gear nor a tripod. So, I just snapped a shot before I jumped in my truck to stay dry.

June 18 part deux

Remember these days?

On the way back to Bismarck from the Twin Buttes Powwow, I drove through Golden Valley, North Dakota.  A remarkable family tradition of a different kind is enshrined just off  Main street. There the Lindemann’s have invested themselves in restoring and maintaining a bit of history.  This Standard Oil gas station is actually the entrance to a private Harley-Davidson Museum.  Neatly displayed inside the museum is at least one Harley-Davidson from every year of production — and each one runs, ready to be rolled out on the street of John chooses.

John Lindemann inherited his father’s love of meticulous restoration.  His father, Bill restores old Model As and Model Ts to running and operating perfection.  It wasn’t too long ago that the pair would be seen putting down some back road to a car show or motorcycle show in Canada or the West Coast to display their work and take home accolades.  Their attention to detail is evident with the effort put in to just the front door entrance to their private museum.  The gas pumps that I can barely remember from my pre-driving days.  How far back does your memory of these corner icons go?