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.

June 23

They must be travelers pausing on their way through little old Wilton. The sides of those rail cars, like passports, bear the stamps of far away places where they’ve stopped and been marked. The artistry renders the language in to a cryptic cipher.  I struggle to read them, but to someone I’m sure they mean something, perhaps a branding of a network, a neighborhood, a gang, or  just an expressive person.Eventually, they end up parked at Wilton near the grain elevator waiting to get loaded so they can go back to the home turf of the artist who branded these cars.

I imagine the patient work that goes in to rendering the straight lines, the shadows, the depth.  I imagine cardboard used as edging and a whole lotta shaking of the cans as the artists rough out what it is they’re trying to say.
Around here, graffiti artists just aren’t that creative. They grab a can of spray paint and spray their graduating year, and that’s it.

May 23

Old rest stop

There along the road is a rest stop that once was very busy back when Highway 10 or the Red Trail was the coast to coast transcontinental highway.  When I-94 came through, rest stops were upgraded and not quite as homey, nor like the park that this one is near Steele.  It’s a good place for a couple of riders to pull over and chill for a bit, even take a nap.

A friendly engineeer

But the nap is short-lived.

Highway 10 runs along the BNSF rail line that hauls coal from Wyoming and points west to power plants east of North Dakota.  The train is just noisy enough that any nap is disturbed.  But at least the engineer was friendly when I took his photo.

The train was a long one and obviously heavy. It required an extra engine at the rear to push the load up on to the prairie and to get it started. I imagine at some point the push engine was disconnected and returned to Mandan.  I don’t know if that’s the case, do you know?  Does it happen in Dilworth, the next BNSF point?

Push engine at the end of the train

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.

April 24 (part deux)

Goin' round the bend

If you read the previous post, you know I was out and about the Medora area most of the day.  Later, toward sundown, I headed west toward Beach and then on to Wibaux, Montana.  The Interstate is NOT the scenic route, but old Highway 10 is.  Waiting for the train to cross,  this image presented itself as the trained curved round a slow bend heading in to the sunset.  It’s one of those shots that can not be set up as in a studio, but can only be captured the moment it happens.

March 25

Two locomotives down

March 25 was an ugly day.  Mid-day the call went out that a derailment has possibly injured two people.  In fact, it had injured one and killed another. The dead man was under the two locomotives that lay on top of each other. He had died when he jumped from the locomotive he was in as it started going over.  It landed on top of him.

I am an event shooter and have been a news shooter/reporter.  It’s this kind of thing that I always hated to have to report on — a neighbor killed.  The dead man, a fellow biker, lived about 15 miles north of me.  I could feel the tension of workers such as this fellow who was scoping out the situation, trying to reach the dead man.  You can see the cable stretched to the locomotive on the bottom trying to keep the two engines from sliding further down the hill in to the creek.

Apparently, the earth under the tracks had gotten soft in the spring thaw, but it lay on top of a sheet of ice well below the ground surface. When the train hit the softened soil on top of the buried ice, it squished out and down the hill, taking the tracks and the locomotives with it.

Crews worked all day an in to the night, bringing in specialized companies from various parts of the Midwest to not only stabilize the site, but recover the body and the wrecked locomotives.  I spent 11 hours on the scene, numb from not only the cold but from the sadness of the event.  Finally just before midnight, I clicked my last shots and headed back home, a mere 10 miles from the crash site.