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kyle cassidy

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North Dakota Bound [Feb. 1st, 2013|06:38 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |lana del rey]

I'm giving a lecture at the University of North Dakota next week and then immediately after I'm off to Williston (North Dakota) with three members of the history department. They've been documenting life in the temporary housing (called "man camps") which have sprung up around the Bakken oil boom. The temporary housing ranges from winterized RV's to barracks style apartments. I'm really looking forward to getting out there, meeting some people and hearing some stories.

This all happened because a few months ago I was hanging out with an architect talking about buildings and whatever else and he mentioned that he'd been to an oil boom town with some historians from the University of North Dakota and they were doing this big multi-year history on how the discovery of oil has changed the state. Very high wages, lots of jobs, etc. have thrown everything into the air and towns are popping up all over the place.

So, long story short, I'm leaving next week for North Dakota to spend some time photographing people in and around Williston WHERE IT IS CURRENTLY TWENTY DEGREES BELOW ZERO. What I'll be photographing is all up in the air right now, I'm trying to figure out if I should bring a backdrop and just do a bunch of head shots or ... what. Anyway. No real idea what I'm doing but I trust the magic will happen once I hit the ground.

I bought new mittens and insulated pants. I will now get to test out my parka.

My Wiggy's Antarctic Parka, EMS Ascent Summit mittens and insulated Fencemender pants.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

One interesting thing, my digital cameras are only rated to work to 32 degrees. Below that THAR BE DRAGONS.

I'll probably update Twitter the most from there (twitter.com/kylecassidy) provided I can use my fingers.

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[User Picture]From: lentower
2013-02-01 11:54 am (UTC)

finish this outfit?

I assume you have consulted with your history prof hosts about clothing.

In those conditions, I would also cover my face and eyes with a balaclava with goggles outside that. Frostbite around the eyes is very painful.

best -len

ps: you got me wondering what the temp limits are on film cameras, and if there are special films for shooting under 32F.

Edited at 2013-02-01 11:57 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2013-02-01 04:39 pm (UTC)

Re: finish this outfit?

Seriously, people used to have the lubricants cleaned out of their cameras for really cold-weather work. The lubricants got stiff and locked things up. Of course, they wore out faster without lubricant. Also the film gets brittle, you should wind it gently. And you get static sparks! Inside the camera! Showing up on the film!
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[User Picture]From: oracne
2013-02-01 01:53 pm (UTC)
Moisturizer might be a good thing to pack if you haven't already.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 02:23 pm (UTC)
you just want to see me trying to apply frozen moisturizer while wearing EMS summit mittens....
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[User Picture]From: oracne
2013-02-01 03:02 pm (UTC)
That could be funny. Make sure to get film footage.
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2013-02-01 02:11 pm (UTC)
So I'm from just outside Grand Forks (my parents still live there) and while it's obviously hard to tell from a photo, that jacket doesn't look warm enough for February in North Dakota. Stay warm.
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2013-02-01 02:14 pm (UTC)
Also, I'd normally recommend The Red Pepper in Grand Forks to visitors, but since you're in Philly I'm guessing that you probably have higher standards for grinders. Regrettably, there's not much else in distinctive food in the city to recommend.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 02:22 pm (UTC)
The Wiggy's Antarctic Parka has been tested to -80 below, which should give me 60 degrees of latitude in the balmy -20's you have now!
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2013-02-01 10:33 pm (UTC)
If it's -20, wind chill can get you down to -80 pretty quick. I remember fondly one week where it was -50 all week WITHOUT wind chill. Of course, I can say fondly because I was 12.

Have a good trip! The western end of the state has some interesting geology and add in the boom town and you should have plenty of subjects. I look forward to seeing some of them.
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[User Picture]From: ladycelia
2013-02-01 02:33 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an exciting trip--boom towns are fascinating. I see a National Geographic feature in this.
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[User Picture]From: holyoutlaw
2013-02-01 03:09 pm (UTC)
You can see the boom towns in this recent image of the US from space:


It's the blurrier than usual bunch of lights in the middle of nowhere, the upper center.
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2013-02-01 04:43 pm (UTC)
Hmm, Williston is showing as 15.6F on my charts right now. But there's a front somewhere around there, there are negative temperatures in North Dakota too.

Decent warm pants (or over-pants) are something I've never really had (just a wind-breaker layer can help a lot though). I don't spend huge amounts of time outside in the winter if I can help it, mostly just going from car to building and back. You look like you're decently prepared (if anything can protect hands while leaving them usable; you've got thin under-gloves, right, so your bare skin doesn't touch anything?).
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 05:16 pm (UTC)
I might cook myself if it's 16 when I get there. I went RUNNING in chicago when it was 10 and felt like the king of the world. (Though my moustache froze).

I have underglove liners. And I've got a pair of "ordinary winter" gloves in case it's only 16 when i get there.
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[User Picture]From: herpdaddy
2013-02-01 04:46 pm (UTC)
And you're taking the Hassy! Yay! :)

I've shot with the Hassy in sub zero temperatures before without a problem. But I suppose it can't hurt to be careful. Then again...it did make it to the moon before too...(yes yes...specially customized I know).
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 05:14 pm (UTC)
I figure it's the only camera I can use with mittens on.....
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[User Picture]From: herpdaddy
2013-02-01 05:21 pm (UTC)
That's true :)

Also, I just saw this article about Alec Soth going up there too. Similar location?


It's interesting, and should provide some great photos but even more, some great stories I think.
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[User Picture]From: girlguitarist
2013-02-01 05:13 pm (UTC)
If you're spending a good deal of time outside in that, be sure to also pick up boots rated to those temperatures (I have boots good to -40, but even at -4 in them my toes get chilly!).
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[User Picture]From: meternieth
2013-02-01 05:25 pm (UTC)
Go see Anisa Nin!!!!!
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[User Picture]From: lawbabeak
2013-02-01 05:48 pm (UTC)
You look very warm, but need more face covering. Seriously.
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From: elusis
2013-02-01 06:37 pm (UTC)
Don't forget the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault that has also come along with the boom towns. I hope you talk to and photograph some of the women there.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 07:04 pm (UTC)
going to try to for sure.
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[User Picture]From: skywayman
2013-02-01 08:50 pm (UTC)
Bring some 35mm film backup!
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-01 09:00 pm (UTC)
y'all are just itching for me to break my back carrying 40 cameras aren't you?
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[User Picture]From: skywayman
2013-02-02 04:00 am (UTC)

Read a short article by a photographer from San Diego who shot pictures of an ice fishing competition in Minnesota. It may inspire (or discourage) you, but is certainly something you may experience.
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[User Picture]From: pickleboot
2013-02-02 07:03 am (UTC)
my cameras have worked fine in the negative 20-30's minnesota winters, just be sensible. having been in that area quite a bit(my dad has done environmental impact reports for both gold and oil mining) you can take a backdrop, but i think you might find that if there is a common room it is going to provide a pretty good background.

one thing a photographer friend does is uses an underwater case for sub zero photography. i know that when i did film retouching and photographers were shooting out door hockey games, they used those on the worst days, and no issues. so maybe try that if you are worried about your camera?

have fun. if you make it to minneapolis, give a holler!
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[User Picture]From: dawn_metcalf
2013-02-03 02:05 pm (UTC)
Careful with your eyes! They're your most important artist tool and we, your rabid fans, value them above rubies.

Go--stay warm & make great art!
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[User Picture]From: smithing_chick
2013-02-03 11:53 pm (UTC)

Welcome to the Frozen North!


I'm a student at UND (MFA program for Studio Art in Jewelry/Metals), although I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I couldn't remember why your name was so familiar until a friend reminded me that you were the photographer for "Who Killed Amanda Palmer". -5 fangirl geek points to me.

I'd say I was jealous of your rated to -80 coat as mine's only rated to -30 but if it's below -30, I just don't leave my apartment. I'll admit that the last few weeks I have been wishing I had a baliclava on the bad days but I've never even thought of getting goggles as I'm not outside for long. It has warmed up the last few days here- it's currently a whooping 5 degrees! Yay! We're above 0! It's supposed to keep warming up this week, too, with Friday predicted at a balmy 26 degrees. It's a heat wave! :-D Not being a local, I'm still fighting the urge to just hibernate for the winter. I'm from Northwestern Pennsylvania so I'm used to cold, but this is really beyond cold. I tell my friends back home that NoDak has three seasons-- Summer, Winter, & Deep Freeze. Deep Freeze started about two weeks ago, so this is only a temporary reprieve from the sub-zero. If you're indoors, it's quite beautiful since it's typically bright and sunny (admittedly a nice change from the constant gloom & lake-effect snow back in Erie). It can be beautiful outside when it's super cold, too. The ground looks like it's covered in diamonds with lots of sparkle & flash, but it's hard to appreciate when you're trying to keep your eyeballs from freezing shut (which My Prof quite gleefully informed me was at -70. He's a bit twisted). Of course, what's going on in Williston isn't necessarily the same as what's happening in Grand Forks, what with it being on the other side of the state & all. Pay serious attention to wind chill factors because the wind up here is intense-- *way* worse than Great Lakes area lake effect, mostly because there's nothing to slow it down anywhere. Mostly, though, I've found NoDak's weather to be less terrifying than advertised & have had a much harder time adjusting to the serious lack of both trees & varying topography.

There are some surprisingly good restaurants here, though, considering how tiny this place is. I'd recommend The Blue Moose (tapas & American with a good beer selection), Rhombus Guys (specialty pizza- not Chicago style, but still good), Fuji (Japanese steakhouse & hibachi, sushi), Little Bangkok (Thai & sushi), & Babylon (Middle Eastern with excellent lamb. The service can be a bit dicey as it's family owned & most of the servers are the owner's kids but if you're in town on Saturday night, I totally recommend their buffet-- an amazing array of food for about $12.) Dakota Harvest is great for lunches- good soups & sandwiches, plus pastries & coffee.

I'm curious to see your Williston photos. There's a part of me that's kind of hoping one of the wells catches fire while you're there (although without anyone getting hurt) because the fracking stuff is so problematic-- although less here in NoDak it seems than back home in PA. Probably because there's not so many people around the oil area. There was a fracking well that did catch fire about two years ago & burned for at least a week. I wanted to go shoot it myself but everything's too far away in this state & couldn't miss that many classes. I hope the researchers are looking at the aspect of the state having a massive budget surplus & yet they're still cutting funding for the Universities & education in general. In fact, near as I can tell, part of the reason they have that surplus is because they refuse to spend it on anything-- including clearing snowy & icy roads.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-04 01:41 am (UTC)

Re: Welcome to the Frozen North!

Thanks for the extensive reply! It'll be easier but slightly dissapointing if I get to NoDak in February and it's warmer there than it is in Philly -- there go my stories of journalism under terrible hardship -- I'm going to pack a bunch of layers and go from there. It'll be nice if my camera batteries work.

I expect we'll be spending a decent amount of time inside so who knows. I think I'll be eating in grand forks twice (like dinner and breakfast) but it'll likely be at someone's house. Though it's entirely possible we'll go out somewhere after my lecture. I'll squeeze some WKAP slides in there. Hope to see you this week!

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[User Picture]From: the_hatstand
2013-02-05 04:29 pm (UTC)
A couple of months back someone recommended fingerless neoprene gloves for photography in cold conditions; keeps the hands warm while leaving the fingertips to operate the camera. Shortly afterwards I came across a cheap pair of neoprene anglers' gloves, which are full fingered gloves, but with slits in the thumb and forefinger to allow you to fold back the tops and expose the tips. A few weeks ago I used them while taking pics in the snow, and they made it very easy to use the camera while keeping my hands reasonably comfortably warm.

I don't think the temperatures went below about -5 though, and the chap who recommended the fingerless gloves wasn't thinking of anything colder than pre-sunrise wildlife shoot on an ordinary day, not actual full-on winter. But I think they're a useful thing to have, even if full mitts will serve you better for this shoot.
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