October in the Dakotas is a particularly dry time of year, and it’s not uncommon to see smoke from the many controlled burns used to keep the grass lands of the Ogallala region in check from natural or man made fire starters.This fire was a mixture of both smoke and dust from the eroded prairies that was being carried by a strong wind storm. I was out in the Dakotas-Nebraska area checking out some off beat locations with my recently acquired D700 when I spotted this while leaving Crazy Horse. As I was heading south towards Alliance, NE. I saw this cloud of smoke and went up a hill to check it out. The road I had come up was smoggy as heck from the smoke/dust being blow all over and there was a grit that you could taste in the air. I found a forrest service truck with a Ranger monitoring the fire and inquired what was going on. He mentioned that they had a controlled burn that ran wild on them from the wind that morning, but it was under control now. I notice how the smoke and wind together made a eye shape that was kinda cool. who could resist shooting this? and even better, the only people seeing this perspective were myself and the Ranger.
I got busy snapping a few test shots and realized that the best way to get this would be to shoot a series of verticals and stitch them together since I lacked a real wide angle lens. Being that it was 5pm, and I was looking S-SE, the natural light was on my side. I set up a tripod and did two passes with about 7-9 images per series. In all, I was on the scene for maybe 10-15 minutes then on the road again looking for the next shot. Photo road trips are an inexpensive & awesome way to spend your time off. They allow you see things that put life in perspective, because were all small in the eyes of the universe.
Car Henge is one of those cool, off beat pieces of “Americana” that you can only find in the midwest. Unlike other automotive effigies across the USA, such as Cadillac Ranch in Texas, Car Henge is 100% awesome. The setting is in a rural part of Nebraska that offers easy access, free parking and a photo friendly environment with access day or night. It is made up of 38 automobiles arranged in a circle measuring about 29 meters (95 ft) in diameter. Some are held upright in pits 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) deep, trunk end down, and arches have been formed by welding automobiles atop the supporting models. The heelstone is a 1962 Cadillac. Three cars were buried at Car Henge. Their “gravestone” is a car that reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!”-Ironic considering the TARP bail outs of 2007-08 and the current decay of the once great Detroit=)
The actual park itself, I’m sure is a 9-5 deal, although, I’ve shot here at 3am with no issues. I don’t recall how I found out about Car Henge, if it was thru an road trip blog or elsewhere, but it’s been a great place to go get creative over the years. Located in Alliance, Nebraska, It’s always on the road plan when I travel to Denver, Las Vegas or LA. This image was captured in the winter of 2013 while I was deciding between living in the midwest or moving out to the west coast. I stopped off in Alliance around 4:30am to stretch and take a few shots at dawn. I had seen a few cool sunrises on my way back home and was hoping that this mornings would be similar. It turned out a little more subtle than the previous days, but I liked the look of this shot for the mood of the year. It also juxtaposed well with an earlier shot I had made at sunset in 2010.