A different type of fall photo

Not your typical fall photo, but since there are some golden autumn leaves I’m going to call it such. I was part of a search exercise which took me past this rural airport, and once our target was found I stopped for a couple of minutes to check out a surprise Phantom.

I’m one of those who’s enamored of the F-4. It’s been used as an example of “even a brick can fly if given enough thrust” and had its numerous shortcomings listed ad nauseum, yet it was still an amazing aircraft…one with a devoted following.

This is as close as I’ve been to an F-4 in many years. I did get to sit in one when I was 17, but that was eons ago. While I was a freshman at NDSU these were still being flown by the North Dakota Air National Guard. I presume that’s why this one is here, and probably its source.

What I found unique about this one, aside from its pristine paint job, was the intact cockpit. Normally aircraft on display as memorials are stripped and the canopies replaced or painted opaque. This one seems ready to rock! Oh, if only…

Did anyone ever tell you that the tailhook also makes an excellent kickstand? Well, it’s true, apparently…

The business end (depending on how you look at it). The F-4 was really, really fast. Maneuverable? Well, that might be another story…but the thing can get up and go.

Wide open. The other side is blocked off, but I’m glad this side, with the engine removed, is letting light through for all to see. This is a massive space.

It didn’t hurt that we had some really nice skies that day. Some intermittent rain, but definitely some cool clouds to make photography interesting. I really don’t like cloudless blue skies; they’re boring, and they don’t give very good light this time of year. Give me some deep textured clouds…those I can work with.


“I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave…” Nice tail.

See? Golden autumn leaves on the right. This really is a fall photo series.

I’m so happy I encountered this Phantom. It was a pleasant surprise, it allowed me to take some cool photos in some wonderful conditions, and it brought back memories. Fighter jets are among the most amazing bits of technology in the world, so it’s always a blessing to be able to enjoy an extended visit with one when the opportunity arises.

The new fall styles are in

Here we are…another autumn season! I have had a gut feeling for a while that this season will be short and sweet. So far we’ve got the sweet! The colors of the leaves have become spectacular.

I’m incredibly busy – still – so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get out with my camera to capture some fall colors before the leave are gone, but I’m going to give it my best shot! I already took an unscheduled day off to bolt to Pembina Gorge with my sweetie, and I hope to post those photos soon. So even if I’m tied up for much of this season, I won’t end up empty-handed!

Bucket list: Cave Hills Church at sunset

There’s a photo I’ve wanted to get for years. My subject is the Cave Hills Church, situated at the base of an incredible ridge of rocks, at just the right time and from just the right place.

I’d been here before, and found myself totally enamored of it, but I’d never really caught the photo of it I wanted. I discovered this church after seeing someone else’s photo of it and painstakingly dialing in its location. Once I visited the first time – and it’s a long trip to get back there – I knew what I wanted. But how to get it?

The thing about this church – or any church, or any photo subject anywhere – is that there’s a right time and a right angle. Take this shot, for instance…it’s really nice, but it completely misses those beautiful rocky cliffs in the background! So I knew I wanted to be uphill a little bit, trying to include those cliffs.

Okay…not bad. I had good clouds to work with that day. But it doesn’t quite do those cliffs justice. The church is too large in relation to the rocky ridge. Okay, bringing a high-quality telephoto lens and shooting from a distance will even that out, with the church a little smaller and the hills a little larger. That’ll work.

But what about the light? That green grass is lovely, and the hills have a nice texture, especially when offset by that deep blue sky and fabulous clouds. But that isn’t what I was trying to capture.

There we go. I knew the sunset would hit those rocks just right, bringing out their true red color. But it took some care to finally get this shot. Part of what keeps photography fresh for me when so many of my photo friends have fallen by the wayside (aside from never doing weddings or portrait work) is the planning. I love learning about places like this, finding where they are, scoping out to see if they still exist and how to access them, and then finally capturing them. This was quite a satisfying ordeal.

I’m putting this intermediate shot in here for illustration: I had to wait for the sunset, then catch that brief, fleeting instant where the red light hit the cliffs behind the church. You can see here that the shadow is starting to creep up the hill. The church is still partially bathed by the light, which is pretty yellow yet. Once the sun went behind the peaks behind me, it took on that red hue and only fell upon the rocky ridge which was the most critical element of this little plan of mine.

By the way, this was the ridge behind me, the one which diffracted that sunset light to give me the splash of red I was looking for. Once I’d achieved what I wanted with the church, and the red light on the rocks began to fade, I whipped around to grab this haphazard shot for the heck of it. Maybe to give it credit for lighting my scene with perfection.

Of course, now I’d like to get that sunset photo with green grass, not golden stubble (it had just been cut for hay). So I guess I’ll plan another road trip to this church next year!

Hey! In Maddock

One of my favorite road trip activities is to exclaim, “Hay!” whenever we encounter a bunch of hay. Of course, as a city kid I’m not very astute at distinguishing hay from straw, so I had better be careful if I have a farm kid with me. Thankfully I was safe when I saw this beauty while rolling through Maddock a while back.

Not only is it the coolest hay (straw?) creation I saw that evening, it’s also Kawasaki Green!

I have to admire the craftsmanship on this particular truck. License plate, even!

Uh oh – that’s the only ding. FORD. Well, nobody’s perfect. 🙂

Naturally, there’s gotta be an honorable mention. I saw some other hay bale creations, but these were the ones that caught our eye on the way back from Cavalier Air Force Station. I’m glad I’m able to share!

Morning sunset

I thought I’d start my morning – and my week – with a post taken in the evening. This is the elevator at Arena, ND. I hadn’t been there in a while, despite its proximity to Bismarck-Mandan, but I had a dear friend in town from Florida and we wanted to get out with our cameras. I had a bunch of cool places marked – that house in Robinson I featured earlier, for instance – and this was the last major spot we had planned on the way home. The evening didn’t disappoint: lots of color abounded, and even a really cool set of clouds posed in the background for us!

She’s a brick…house

I’ve wanted to visit this house, located along the state’s border, for quite some time. I’d seen a winter photo of it somewhere, put my photogrammetry and detective skills to work to locate it, then sat and craved a road trip for months. I did finally throw my gear on my motorcycle earlier this year and venture down to the spot, and it did not disappoint.

I’m glad I was able to capture such incredible skies behind it! I was actually dodging thunderstorm cells on the way down there and back. I have ridden and even raced motorcycles in the rain, but I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed it. I’d definitely rather avoid it when I have my camera gear on board!

Reflection on the past

I love this old house, and I recently had the opportunity to visit it with a dear friend (and fellow NoDak) who was in town from Florida for a few days. We roamed around with our cameras one evening, and I took the opportunity to show him some of my favorite area photo spots. This, of course, is high on the list.

Of course, the most prominent feature of this house is the porch. More specifically, the way the top floor overhangs the porch, accented by the absence of any pillars, columns, or supports. Those are long gone. It gives this house an overbite which is irresistible to any photography hobbyists who might be driving by.

Sadly, the strain of such a prominent feature can only be borne for so long. The lines of this house are no longer straight, and I fear it will soon go the way of many of my favorite photo subjects, eventually disappearing. I sure hope not, at least not any time soon. I’ll continue to visit and check in on it as time and gas money allow. Hopefully I’ll be accompanied by good friends each time, as I was on this occasion!

Another cool barn find

This barn was another which caught my eye on the way to another location. I couldn’t help but stop for a quick shot. This looks like many other barns except for that prominent feature in the middle. Pretty cool! It seems like all of these barns have their own unique character in one way or another, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was really eye-catching, perched atop a hill and facing that late afternoon sun with a solid, stately look which definitely merited a moment of admiration from this photo hobbyist.

Time for a windmill

Aside from a cameo in my last post, windmills haven’t made nearly as frequent an appearance on the old Blog as they have in times past. Heck, nothing has made frequent appearance here lately. The last two and a half years have been incredibly busy, to say the least. It’s time to get back into the swing of things. I actually have months worth of photos I’ve captured but haven’t had time to edit or post. Hopefully I can start getting caught up, but so far August has been the busiest month of all this year! Stay tuned.

I wonder how long it’s been standing here

I saw this wonderful old barn as I rounded a curve in a rural highway, and it caught my eye from the side long before I saw this gorgeous view of its front. I thought it was nice of the builders and/or owners to boast of its apparent construction date! I hope I look this grand when I’m 106 years old!

This was such a gorgeous scene, tucked into a little valley inhabited by mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. There were bogies like fireflies, I tell you…

Again with the cupolas. I have started to gush over these features as often as I focus on old windmills. Oh, wait a minute…there’s the windmill in the background!

There you have it: 1916. One hundred and six years old at the time of this post. It looks fantastic. I’m glad I stumbled upon it when I did. It’s this sort of surprise that makes roaming the back roads of North Dakota so wonderful.