North Dakota ghost town


An old grain elevator in the ghost town of Arena, North Dakota, is backed by a brilliant sunset.

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Abandoned town yeilds sunset, milky photos

I wrapped up my two-week stay in the Dakotas by driving to the little ghost town of Arena, North Dakota, which I had discovered months ago while scouting out locations on Google Maps. I arrived just before sunset — and, boy, was it a great light show!

There's not much left of the little town, which was founded in 1906 and abandoned in the late 1990s. At one end of the town is the old St. John's Lutheran Church (below), while a grain elevator marks where a railroad once passed.

Today, the church is in bad shape: It has collapsed into the cellar. However, I set up and created a very cool print showing the passing of the church during a stunningly beautiful plains sunset.

Sunset at St. John's Lutheran Church

The sky above the North Dakota plains are painted during a stunningly beautiful sunset over the old church as the ghost town of Arena, ND.

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The light show wasn't over after the sun dipped below the horizon! I packed my gear and jumped into the truck for the short drive to the grain elevator to create a second sunset photo in the old town.

I wanted to get the face of the old facility, but it just didn't work well because most of the color in the sky would have been left out of the frame. 

So I moved around and created a print showing the grain elevator from the back, and it worked wonderfully. I mean, can you ask for a better sunset than that shown in the print at the top of this blog?

Milky Way photo seals the deal

My main goal when driving to Arena was to create a Milky Way print — the forecast was for a crystal clear night with the galactic center above the horizon. So when the light faded from the sky about 10 p.m. I drove to the nearby cemetery and parked just off the road to get a bit of rest.

I set my alarm for 11:30 p.m. and passed out (it had been two weeks of long days).

Honestly, when the alarm went off I didn't want to get up. I felt like someone had hit me with a hammer. However, when I stuck my head out of the camper and saw that brilliant Milky Way, I dragged myself to the truck and drove back to the grain elevator.

It was the right move: The Milky Way's galactic center was just above the top of the old structure, offering the perfect opportunity to create a stunning nighttime print.

Creating the print was a long process, however. I first captured 20 images without the grain elevator lighted; I simply needed to get that night sky recorded, and the multiple images would allow me to stack them and reduce the noise inherent in nighttime photography.

That accomplished, I pulled out a small LED panel to light up the building. The panel was pretty much pointed straight up to allow the smallest amount of light to fall on the grain elevator.

The next morning, I drove to nearby Wing, ND, for breakfast and worked up what is one of my favorite Milky Way prints in my online gallery.

Milky Way Over Grain Elevator

This is one of my favorite Milky Way prints ever!

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