Introducing 'Sunrise at Arena'

Sunrise at Arena

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North Dakota sunrise photo is a winner

One of my favorite trips during 2022 came in August, when I spent a couple of weeks banging around the Dakotas. I finished out at the ghost town of Arena, North Dakota, and produced several beautiful images of the old buildings there.

However, I missed one that made my jaw drop when I came across it in my files in early February.

I instantly knew the sunrise photo would be an absolute winner — and I can't explain why I ignored it after my trip.

Perhaps it was because I had already produced three beautiful prints from the little ghost town. Included in the North Dakota Collection were two views of this old, abandoned grain elevator. One of those prints is "Milky Way Over Grain Elevator," which instantly became a best seller.

So maybe I thought the little dot on the map of the North Dakota plains had produced enough.

I was so wrong.

Here's how the print I titled "Sunrise at Arena" came about.

I arrived at Arena just before sunset the previous day. My first image created there was "Ghost Town Sunset," followed by "Sunset at St. Johns Lutheran Church." Both were awesome, capturing the essence of the day's end on the Great Plains of the Midwest.

Sunset at St. Johns Lutheran Church

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Ghost Town Sunset

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Soon I was crashed in my tiny camper on the side of the back road through Arena, with an alarm set for 11 p.m. to see if a Milky Way photo would be possible. I was blown away by the night sky when I was rattled awake.

Even though I was dog tired from two weeks on the road, I pulled myself out of the camper and drove back to the old grain elevator. It was absolutely the right. choice! 

The Milky Way was positioned perfectly over the grain elevator, so I pulled out a small LED light to add some detail to the tops of the wooden facility. The final image is simply amazing, with the galactic center fading into the golden light pollution from Bismarck

The print titled "Milky Way Over Grain Elevator" became a fan favorite as soon as I posted it on my Facebook feed, and just as quickly was added to my Best Seller Collection of prints.

I was really happy with what I had created when I crawled back into my camper about 1:30 a.m., and I honestly had no intention of being awake for sunrise. It had been a long couple of weeks, and I hoped to sleep late.

Milky Way Over Grain Elevator

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However, my eyes popped open about 30 minutes before sunrise, and I couldn't get back to sleep. So I figured I might as well get up and find somewhere to eat breakfast.

As I stumbled to the truck, I saw beautiful light creeping over the eastern horizon, with just the right amount of clouds above.

I drove right back to the grain elevator to see what would happen.

Am I ever glad I did!

I composed the scene with the elevator on the right side of the frame, including some hay bales on the left side. The composition was just wonderful, with leading lines galore. The horizontal boards of the grain elevator ad the elevators themselves pointed toward the rising sun, as did the hay bales. There were even lines of grass pulling the eye toward the coming sunrise.

The clouds also cooperated, with a nice point of mid-level clouds pulling the eye toward the middle of the frame.

It was just a wonderful setup that illustrated the agricultural spirit and beauty of the Midwestern plains.

The clouds on the horizon exploded in color just minutes after I locked my camera onto the tripod, and "Sunset Over Arena" was created.

I loaded up and drove to the Chat & Chew in nearby Wing for breakfast, where I met the most wonderful folks who made me feel right at home as I perused my files.

It was the perfect way to end my time in North Dakota!