Just a quick shot from my very eventful drive home from North Dakota last week. This is the Lutheran church at remote Lodgepole, South Dakota, just south of the border with our neighbor to the north. I had four hours of freezing rain to navigate after leaving the oil fields, and when I needed a few minutes every hour or so to peel my fingers from the steering wheel and relax my saucer-sized eyes, I’d stop and try to shoot something interesting.
The personality of our neighbor to the north is changing these days.
No longer our more desolate sister on the upper Plains, North Dakota has been getting national attention for several years now because of its oil boom and the instant wealth that has accompanied it.
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot up there for some companies involved in the boom, and it’s quite an experience. There have been many lives changed by money, some for the better and many for the worse, and the state’s coffers are now brimming with tax revenues. The Bakken formation is the name of the area where all the action is taking place, and it covers nearly all of western North Dakota. It takes me about nine hours to drive into the heart of it, and while I enjoy the drive to get there, it’s a much different story once you reach the Bakken.
The roads are more or less destroyed from all the truck traffic, it’s dangerous to drive among tired (and fast) oil field workers, especially at night, and the once scenic landscape now has many new scars upon it.
But, the challenge from my clients is to make all of this look pretty, and I do my best for them. Up close, a drilling rig can be a very dirty place to be, but from afar, it’s not so bad…kind of like a wind turbine or even an old-time windmill if you really use your imagination. From the sounds of it, the boom will be around for many years to come, so all North Dakotans better get used to it.
The old grain elevators in Tioga now have oil-bearing tanker cars parked next to them.
Shooting oil field aerials can be very interesting, if you have the stomach for it.
A local hunting preserve lets me stay at one of their cabins (above) when I’m shooting, and I really like the area. Quiet and desolate, if you can ignore the drilling sounds and bright lights coming from the nearby valley. Even with the light pollution, you can still see the stars.
With just a touch of frosting from Mother Nature, a normally bland November landscape can become interesting again.