May 7

Just when tulips think it’s safe to come out, they get hit with a reminder than winter doesn’t let go easily in North Dakota.

What started as rain last night turned in to snow by morning.  Wet, heavy snow.  Farmers have been working, motorcycles have been riding the highways, and now it’s back to snow shoveling.  I thought the Good Friday snow storm would have been the end of winter, but I was wrong.

The snow plows are even back at it.  I caught this one as it was turning in to Wilton at the truck stop/convenience store.  That familiar rumble of plows on the highway had been echoing through the wet countryside most of the morning, and I just happened to catch this one as it pulled in to town.

On the other end of town, the Dakota Missouri Valley and Western Railroad is back at it. Apparently the spring melt that had caused the fatal train derailment back in March was just a temporary setback and trains are rolling again through Wilton and north.  The surprise find for me is this cut the railroad makes through a small rise in elevation of the ground on the south end of Wilton.  I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to it until this day.  One of these days, I’m going to find some good ways to shoot this train coming through a low-level pass in to Wilton.

May 6

Winters are brutal on North Dakota’s infrastructure, but it’s generally not until spring when the damage becomes apparent.   The pavement of this country road on the edge of Washburn took a hit, part of it sinking with the wet spongy soil below, leaving the large crack.

North Dakota’s road crews, state, county and city go non-stop through the summer to repair the damage left by the freeze-thaw cycle and the unpredictable spring rains.  In the winter cold everything shrinks.  In the summer with the heat, everything expands.  That kind of movement is tough on what is supposed to be a hard surface.  In this case, the grade below the pavement washed out with the spring rains.

It’s going to take a fair amount of money and time for the local municipality (Washburn) and McLean county to repair this break.

May 5

The Matins have moved in. Well, at least they’re trying.  Their condo isn’t quite ready for them, but they’re hanging around waiting to move in.

Wilton’s Centennial Park could be a mosquito haven if it were not for the voracious appetite of these natural mosquito predators.  Purple martins have been courted by communities in the upper midwest to control mosquitos and it appears to work, at least in Wilton’s Centennial Park.

The single martin house is home to at least 14 martin families who migrate in to Wilton in the spring and will stick around until fall when they head back south.  Again, another sing of spring.

I didn’t have my Nikon with me when I spotted these birds and only my point and shoot, but still the images are clean enough to see what’s happening in the martin condos.

May 2

He’s a big dog, as you can tell by the hand stroking his neck, but this Seaman is larger than life.  Indeed Seaman who accompanied Lewis and Clark was a large dog, a Newfoundland, but even that large of dog is no match for this statue at Fort Mandan near Washburn.  The replica of the Fort duplicates what is allegedly underwater nearby, the fort where the Corps of Discovery stayed a long winter with the hospitable Mandan Indians and met their young guide Sacagawea.

It’s May and the grass is just beginning to turn green, the skies lack any depth to them because there is so much moisture in the air, but spring is here, and it’s a good time to get out and explore the resurrection of history and its stories in North Dakota.

March 31

North Dakota is warming up. Finally.  There is still a bit of snow on east-facing slopes, but the ice is off of the sloughs and ponds. The wind is light and the sunset reflection in the water is a scene I’ve not seen in months.

I was out driving the back roads of Sheridan County when I saw what was going to be a perfect reflection in the water.  I actually drove past the potential scene, backed up and then waited.  I was rewarded by the still waters and the duo-images of the clouds and the colors of the evening.

Earlier, I had photographed the abandoned farm house on the hill and it’s reflection in the nearby pond.  So, I already had in mind the potential for reflection of the sunset and was not disappointed.

The humor of the day, however, came from two pairs of geese who apparently did not have the same idea about sharing.  One pair apparently encroached in to the home turf and perhaps the nest and eggs of the first pair.  There was a bit of a turf battle as the two pairs their territorial differences.  Who said the Northern Plains are peaceful, pastoral and quiet?  I guess they weren’t a trespassing and feuding pair of geese.

March 22

Notice the transitions here. This is the rail car that I shot north of Linton.  There are many of these scattered across the state, old wooden box cars turned in to sheds.  This particular one would look good if shot in the golden hour.  But in this case, on a dreary overcast afternoon, I didn’t have the opportunity to shoot it in the golden hour.  But I shot it anyway.

Enhanced and filtered first go around

I thought it was rather bland but more could be done with it. It had potential.  So I worked it a bit with different filters and actions that I have in Photoshop, adding layers, altering layers, deleting layers…playing stroke by stroke.

final enhancement

Finally, I settled on this image, almost a drawing of the original image.  I like it full size, will print it and add it to those images on my wall in my home.

These old wooden box cars,  in my imagination probably once carried hobos across the nation.  Railroad bulls would kick the hobos out of the rail cars, and eventually the rail company kicked the wooden box cars off their lines.  That left them for farmers to buy or acquire for sheds and barns. That’s why you see so many of them across the state.  They tell a story of another era…as does this abandoned school house down the road from the box car.  The structure tells a story, and so does the graffiti — 4 goofy Canadians were here. Can you read it scratched in to the chalkboard?

And oh, just for the record, there was one other post-processing set of filters I worked with that wooden box car turned in to a shed.  Do you have a preference?

March 21

Spring!

We made it!

Sometimes it was questionable which would come first, spring or insanity.  It was a race.

Now the snow is giving way to the fall colors that have been covered since October, and just a hint of green is beginning to appear.  The wind turbines south of Wilton are at work, having made it through the winter, pumping electricity to heat and light homes across the upper midwest.  Now, they’ll be pumping electricity for cooling.

It’s time to blow off the sludge of winter, and that’s just what this Corvette owner is doing at the new car wash in Wilton.  Yellow Tweedy is going to be yellow again, not dingy off white.

The backhoes are waiting for the right moment, any moment, a soon moment to once again disturb the earth and start building.  They’ve been poised like this, arms flexed, buckets on the ground, like a worker whose arm is cocked, elbow in the air, fist on hip, waiting for work.

And down the street, the girls are getting fresh air and sunshine and practicing a good old-fashioned lay-up, the kind of thing they couldn’t do outside for several months.

Spring.  What was hidden under snow is now revealed.  What was dingy is now made clean. What was trapped inside is now released.

March 17

What a find!  I didn’t even know this dam existed on the south edge of Washburn.  The snowpack is melting and rushing over the dam, about to carry with it a couple of chunks of wood.  Again, it’s the Golden Hour of the day. I walked out along the creek to the dam and laid on my stomach to get as close to the action as I could.

I like how the water is both clear and deep, but also rough and churning.  The reflections of the golden hour and the golden weeds along the shore add the right color contrast to the blue of the water.

I’m not sure if I could capture such deep and contrasting colors of the water if I were to go back there later in the spring or summer.  I’ll have to find out and make a comparison.

I am certain the farm on the hill overlooking the creek, further upstream would be different later in the year, more green.  But I wonder about the stability of the bank. Will the farm get swallowed up some day by the erosive creek?

March 16

Once spring snow melt began in earnest, culverts across the state channeled rushing water down stream.  These large culverts at Apple Creek east of Bismarck moved water so quickly rapids were formed at the mouth of the culvert.  Lowlands were flooded, but the ND DOT and other agencies seemed well-prepared to handle the erosive qualities of the runoff.  I had heard about the flood potential at Apple Creek. When I got there, I was surprised it wasn’t worse.  I shot it anyway.  Glad there was no severe flooding, but a bit disappointed that I didn’t have anything dramatic to shoot. Sick,huh.

March 12

waiting for spring's "hurry-up"

Construction grinds to a halt in the winter, but now that it’s spring, the “hurry-up” season is about to begin.  East of Bismarck sections of crane booms sit in a construction company yard waiting to be put to use.

And like so many recent days, fog and overcast skies are the rule.

Later, I drove up to Wilton through Wing, and as they’d been doing all year, the deer were feeding in town.  They’re not really afraid of people, just warytwo deer in wing

Finally by day’s end we got our first glimpse of blue skies.  Spring is here, for sure. Just check out the muddy rural roads. This new water tower is part of the enhanced water system for our part of the state. Work had been slowed down during the coldest days of the year, but when it wasn’t too much below freezing, crews were at it to get the tower completed.

It’s what I hated about being an iron worker in the winter.  Cold, windy aerial work was always a challenge handling cold steel.  Now, I handle a camera from the warmth of my pickup