The story that brought me to follow my passion.

It’s only a matter of time before I get the usual strange look after I tell someone I’m a Freelance Oil and Gas Photographer.   Almost inevitably comes the question, “How did you get to be that?”  Depending on the situation I’ll either give the extremely short version, “I realized there was a need and carved out my niche.”  If I have a little more time it goes something like, “I started out as a landscape photographer.  2 years ago I highlighted some of my sunset pumpjack pictures at a show in Williston.  The response to my photos prompted me to realize there was a need so I put together a portfolio and pounded the pavement.  I talked with anyone that would stand around long enough to listen to me.  Cold call after cold call finally landed me my first freelance job, which led me to the Williston API, which led me to Halliburton, and the rest is history.”

Only a few people know the back story that launched my career as a photographer.

I’ve always loved photography ever since I was little.  It was always about capturing memories never about any artistic qualities of a photo.  Just simply to remember the moment.  It wasn’t until I had children that I started to appreciate things like composition, contrast and lighting.  We tried for several years before conceiving Jack.   I wanted to capture perfect photos of my little miracle from God.  So I started reading on how to make a picture something that is worthy of a frame.

Soon after we had Josephine I quit my 9-year career at Scheels to be a stay at home mom.  After going thru IVF to have Jack and having our surprise gift of Josephine there was no way I was going to let someone else raise our children.  Being a stay at home mom was my dream.  I loved every minute of it.  The routine, the play, the joy of seeing their precious faces smile in front of me every day.  But through it all, I lost my connection with my husband.

Anyone who knows me has heard me say that 2010 was a year that I don’t care to repeat.  Now that it’s in clearly in my rearview mirror I can reflect upon it with a little more clarity than I ever could have at the time.  When the pain was more than I could bear I sought refuge with my camera.  There is something about being out in nature with my camera that helped bring me peace.  My love affair with the moon soon developed into my thirst for all things outdoor.  Flowers, leaves, icicles…anything was fair game.

When my almost 16-year marriage came to an end it was obvious I needed to find a job.  As wonderful as being a stay at home mom is, unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills.  I learned that most jobs that accommodated a single mom’s schedule paid very little.  And I couldn’t go back to Scheels since retail hours clearly would not work.  But what Scheels did was develop and foster the leader in me.  Six of my years were spent as a sales manager.  Inspiring people was my passion.  But inspiring myself would prove to be my biggest challenge yet.

A thousand good intentions aren’t worth as much as one small action.

You must first believe in yourself before others will believe in you.

I would rather try and fail than to sit and wonder “What if?”

I knew at that time that I needed to think outside the box.  This was a normal problem that needed a creative solution.  I took to my email and asked friends and family for suggestions on work.  My friend Gary Emineth who was the NDGOP Chairman at the time offered me a job being an event planner for a fundraiser where Governor Romney would be the keynote speaker.  What did I know about event planning?  Would I fail?  I basically had a blank slate that I needed to bring to life to create an unforgettable evening for a few hundred people.  I jumped in head first and worked harder than I ever had in my life.  I needed a win for the team.  What happened in the end was something I couldn’t have ever predicted.  The event was a huge success.  The confidence that I gained from that experience would lead me to follow my newly developing passion.

I knew it would be a stretch but I had to try.  I created a two-year plan to monetize my photography passion.  If I failed, then I failed.  It would be on my head.  My ex-husband told me it was never going to work.  That I would go broke trying.  I never needed a cheerleader.  I was taught to work hard.  Not because there would be a reward for doing so but because it was expected.  But was he right?  I hoped and prayed that my plan would work.  I decided if you want something bad enough you make it happen.

I have to be honest the first year and a half was pretty rough.  Several sleepless nights, early morning tear-filled calls to my mom asking her for help, the constant nagging of bills that needed to be paid.  Would I be able to keep my house?  Was he right?  The end of the two years was approaching quickly and I wasn’t prepared to declare defeat just yet.  I had two back to back shows in Williston.  I decided to put a couple of my pumpjack pictures out front and center to see what kind of reaction I would get.  After all the oilboom had mixed reviews.  But I went with my gut and did it anyway.

With a bit of hesitancy, I put the images under the lights but it felt like it was a magnifying glass.  Would they love them or hate them?  Overwhelmingly the people loved them.  After these two shows, I knew with complete certainty that there was a need for this kind of photography but could I do it?  I spent the next two months building my portfolio.  Putting together enough images to create a pamphlet.  Building a website for people to look at my work.  If you want to see what you are really made of go out and make several cold calls in one day.  Nothing will bring your spirits down quicker than a crabby receptionist that throws your card in the garbage before you even get to the door.  But I persisted and kept going until finally one receptionist said yes.  I jumped at the chance to drive out to their locations and take pictures of the sites that were being drilled at the time.

This one small job turned into another job that turned into another job.  And before long I had more than enough work to keep me busy.  It has been a humbling and incredibly rewarding journey.  There is nothing like going into an office where all the photos on the wall are mine.  I find I have to refrain from pinching myself yet to this day.  There’s something about throwing on my steel toed boots and my hard hat and heading to a location.  Every time I do, I stop and think to myself…..damn girl, you did it.

Everything that has happened to me, all the good stuff and even the bad stuff has shaped who I am.  Unfortunately, it took one of the most painful experiences in my entire life to make me believe in myself again.  To know that there was absolutely nothing that I couldn’t accomplish.

I only look back to know where I’ve been, the moment is where I choose to be and the future is where I dream.

In gratitude,


On location shooting for Nabors Drilling. Gotta love being on the rig floor!

On location shooting for Nabors Drilling. Gotta love being on the rig floor!


The evolution of an oil town in pictures…my HLN story.

CNN’s sister network HLN (Headline News) did a feature on me.  Such a fun and humbling experience!  Check out the video and my blog post here…

If someone would have told me two years ago that I’d be making a living photographing oil wells, I would have said they were crazy. But here I am tearing across the plains in western North Dakota on a treasure hunt. Except my treasure is not gold, its capturing the perfect image of Bakken oil.

The Bakken is a rock formation that contains billions of barrels of oil. Modern technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have catapulted my home state of North Dakota into the headlines as the second-largest producer of oil in the United States. Everyone in the Bakken has a story to tell, I’m just lucky enough to tell mine through pictures. I’ve been a freelance oil field photographer for about a year and a half.

Watch: Life after becoming a Boomtown

Life growing up on a farm by Williston, North Dakota, was simple to say the least. Every spring, my sisters and I would look forward to walking to our grandma’s house when the prairie flowers were in full bloom. It is hands down one of my favorite memories as a child. With the onset of the oil boom in western North Dakota, I’m not so sure that I would have the same pristine memory of this yearly ritual. That same route that I walked as a child would bring pipeline construction, trucks hauling everything from oil to water to gravel, a salt water disposal well and a hand full of production wells. Not exactly a path you would send three little girls on.

Over 30 years later, I can hear the constant hum of the trucks on the highway as I sit at my dad’s overlooking the prairie. Lighted oil derricks and natural gas flares now dot the landscape alongside cattle and abandoned buildings. The row of evergreen trees that I pulled weeds from every summer is now bordering a man camp. A view of our farm can be seen as I walk out of a truck stop carrying my freshly baked Cinnabon roll.

Yep, my sleepy little hometown of Williston will never be the same. Commonly referred to as the epicenter of the oil boom, Williston has been given the new title of the fastest-growing city in the country by the Census Bureau. A scan of the license plates in the Wal-Mart parking lot will quickly tell you that Williston is filled with people from all across this great country.

With tears in his eyes, a man from Florida said to me, “You have no idea how good it feels to make money again.”

Moments like this help you to realize that it isn’t about oil at all. It’s about redemption, not just for the people coming here to make a living, but for the state of North Dakota itself. Trust me, America, we’ve heard all the jokes.

“Is that really a state?” “They say its not hell but you can see it from there.”

We all laugh because, up until now, our state has been our little secret. This oil boom has not only redeemed North Dakota but it has given thousands of people from all over the country a purpose in life. A reason to have hope and the ability to dream again.

Someone once told me that you can see how I feel about the Bakken through my images. Well then, my work is done. Because even though the transition hasn’t always been a smooth one, I truly have been blessed. This niche that I’ve carved out with my camera has brought me from a position of having difficulty paying my mortgage to one of economic freedom.

So it turns out that redemption is not just for the man from Florida with the dirty coveralls and the crooked smile, or for the state that has always been the punch line of jokes about rural America. It also means redemption for the girl with the camera just doing what she loves in the place that she loves.


Blizzard on the Bakken!

The second weekend in November usually finds me at the Tri-County Craft Show in Williston, ND.  It’s one of my favorite shows because it gives me a chance to catch up with lots of familiar faces.  Up until this year, I’ve managed to luck out with the weather.  Setting up during a blizzard was precisely why I stopped doing December shows.  (That is not exactly my idea of fun.)  But old man winter was going to come early this year whether I was at a show or not.  Our winters in North Dakota have been fairly unpredictable the last few years to say the least.  Two years ago Williston had record amounts of snow compared to last year when it was barely white for a week and a half.  I told myself as soon as it snowed in western ND I would be racing out to the oilfields to capture as much of the snowy white goodness as possible.

What I didn’t know is that I was going to get my wish sooner than later.  The forecast for the weekend was a full on North Dakota style blizzard.  As soon as I heard the forecast I knew exactly what I wanted.  After the show on Friday night, I followed my dad out to the ranch north of Williston.  The wind was blowing like crazy,  the roads were getting icy and snow was quickly making it difficult to see the lines on the highway.  When we got to my dads, I brought my kids in the house.  I didn’t even have to say anything, they all knew where I was headed.  I hopped back into my jeep, set the 4 wheel drive and off I went.

The driving conditions had already deteriorated since we were on the highway just minutes earlier.  But the huge snowflakes and the crazy wind kept me going.  As soon as I pulled off the highway, I thought I had lost my mind.  I could barely see 10 feet in front of the jeep.  I had to keep stopping to snap the ice off my windshield wiper blades.  I kept inching along when there it was off in the distance, the image that I knew I had to have.  The lights on the derrick just barely peeked through the snow that was now blowing horizontally across the open plains.  Anyone who has been in a North Dakota blizzard knows what I’m talking about!  As soon as I pulled onto the pad, I was greeted by a roughneck.  He peeked in my cracked window and said, “Oh it’s you….the crazy photographer lady!  What on earth are you doing out here?!”  I smiled and said I couldn’t miss a show like this.  He laughed and carried on with his business.

Shooting was proving to be more difficult than I anticipated.  I had to roll up my window and wipe my lens clean after about 4 or 5 shots.  The snow was blowing directly into my jeep.  After looking at the first few shots, it was exactly what I was hoping  for.  I shot from every angle around the rig.  Just as I was reviewing my pictures and preparing to leave,  I saw two roughnecks walking around the rig.  As I watched them walk away, it was then that it popped into my head.  I got outside of my jeep and ran towards them.  I asked them if they would pose in a particular spot for me and they responded, “Heck ya!”  Even though they got plenty of crap via the radio, they were such good sports.  The picture I managed to capture will always be one of my very favorites!  It shows just exactly the extreme conditions that these guys work in both day and night.  I will always be in awe at how hard they work.  So proud of you all!

Photographing a derrick during a blizzard was way more challenging than I imagined, but dang was it a lot of fun!  Next summer….a lightening storm!  🙂

Blizzard Roughnecks

A Golf Course Like None Other–Bully Pulpit, Medora, ND

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this golf course but truly none of the words spoken to me could even come close to actually being there.  Breath-taking, awesome raw power, capturing everything that makes this state of ours the best in the nation!  This past week I had the pleasure of attending the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s annual meeting in Medora, ND.  The golf tournament kicked off the event on Tuesday.  I was more than happy to hop on a golf cart and cruise around the course taking pics.  The course is set up to come to a crescendo at the last holes where the views are unreal.  Along the way, you encounter an actual Hess oilwell on Hole 2, the Little Missouri River, a wooden bridge through a meadow type setting that is truly storybook-worthy!  Here are a few pictures from an amazing day!






Starry Night in North Dakota

I can’t describe it but there is something about getting out in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night and just covering yourself with a blanket of stars.  Its a feeling like none other.  The landscape in eastern North Dakota is perfect for star gazing since the ground is relatively flat and trees are few and far between.  Living in the city you can catch a glimpse here and there but nothing like it is north of Fargo.  I actually grabbed my backpack last night in search of the Aurora.  I heard they might be active last night so I jumped at the opportunity to catch a glimpse of this spectacular display.   Sadly we didn’t see any dancing lights but the star display was definitely worth the drive.  After we missed our original destination, we found this lovely old covered bridge that crossed the Red River.  It was the perfect place to set up shop.  The sound of the river could be heard in the background while fireflies where popping up everywhere.  As soon as I set my tripod up one came up and greeted me as if to say….hello.  🙂   Here are a few pictures from my evening that rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me that the same God that threw the stars to the night is the same one that created me….. pretty cool if you ask me.

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Stormy Skies in North Dakota

Ever since I was little I’ve never been a big fan of thunderstorms.  Few things will send shivers down my spine like the crack of thunder.  But I must say, on the trip back to Fargo from Williston, I was mesmerized by a band of storms that ran parallel with Hwy2 from Minot to Grand Forks.  The clouds were like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  I was already running late heading back home from shooting rigs.  But now I’m glad that I kept saying….just one more rig… because the show that God was about to display was well worth the late arrival to my house.

At first I told myself no pictures because I was already running late enough as it was but then curiosity killed the cat so I pulled the car over.  After my first experiment shooting lightening a few months back I was determined to capture it again.  I managed to get a few bolts here and there but it was the combination of the sunset and the swirling clouds that grabbed my attention.  I kept inching along Hwy2 pulling over every now and again to take pictures.  Finally at one of my last stops I realized that I needed to get my tail moving unless I wanted to be a part of this unbelievable scene.  At one point in time I looked out the window of my car to the clouds that were quickly coming over the top of me.  There was this cluster of dark clouds that were starting to rotate and the puffy white ones next to them looked like they were pushing out and pulling back in.  I have to tell you, I was a bit scared at that moment.  But after saying a few prayers, in no time it all was in the rear view mirror.

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Foggy morning in western North Dakota

Seems as though my job is taking me to western North Dakota more and more these days but few things other than the drive are getting old to me.  As many of you know I love it out there, it will always be home to me.  Last weekend as I was trying to force myself to get up and start the day (in my defense I had spent nearly 13 hours driving 325 miles shooting wells the day before!), I decided my incentive would be to take in the sunrise.  Peeking out the window was all it took for me to grab my camera and head for my car.  It was a beautiful frosty (yes frosty!) morning with low lying fog along the Little Muddy River which runs right by my dad’s house.

It used to be that I would be the only one out and about at that time of day but with all the oilfield traffic those days are over!  So my morning wasn’t quite as peaceful as I would have liked it but it was still glorious!  I drove to the Little Muddy bridge and started shooting these wonderful images of Rick’s cows walking through the fog.  It didn’t take them more than a few minutes to realize I was standing there so here they all came in search of a morning snack….or so they were hoping!  Sorry to disappoint you guys but thanks for posing for me!  🙂

After mingling with the water trucks, oilfield trucks and the cows I headed back up the hill to take it all in.  “Dad’s road” has been one of my favorite images to shoot for years now.  I love the curves in the road and the depth of field with the lone tree by the river.  And of course it wouldn’t be a shooting session without something oil related.  The flame from the well at the end of the road looked extremely fascinating with the fog in the background.

It’s hard to believe that it ended up being over 70degrees that day but that’s North Dakota for you in April!  I couldn’t have asked for a better day on the Bakken!

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Good night Williston….Sleep Tight

Recently a customer of mine requested that I take a panoramic cityscape view of Williston, ND.  She had a specific spot in mind where her and her hubby liked to watch the planes land and to take in the beautiful view from the east side of town.  Always ready and willing to accept a challenge I gladly jumped at the chance to capture the perfect image for her to give to her man.  When I arrived at the spot I realized that this was what we referred to in high school as “the make out spot!”  (Not that I knew personally….I’m just sayin!)  Oh man, could it be approaching 25 years already??  No way!  The view had changed considerably since my days as a Williston Coyote but it was still my hometown.  A place that I take great pride in saying will always be my home.

The clouds lined up perfectly for me that night, something I wasn’t sure was going to happen when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day.  But there they were on the horizon just waiting to perform for me in all their glory.  God is pretty cool that way!  After sitting up on that ridge for nearly two hours, I packed up my tripod and headed north on my next adventure.  You see I’ve been wanting to photograph a drilling rig with the lights of Williston in the background for sometime now but could never quite get the right angle to accomplish my task.  But with a new Nabors rig just to the south east of my dad’s the possibility was about to become a reality.  My dad loaded up his new Kawasaki toy on the trailer and away we went!

The night was perfect for off roading in the hills.  I felt like a tiger stalking my prey.  We would go over one hill, stop and take pics, maneuver over the next valley and take pics again.  We were getting closer and closer to the image that I knew would be perfect.  We had so much fun that night, those are the kinds of memories that go way beyond just taking a picture of a drilling rig.  Thanks Dad for the fun time and I hope you love my “North Dakota Skyscraper” picture that you helped me to hunt down!  🙂

So good night Williston, I hope you sleep tight…

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Photographing the Bakken in the Badlands

My excitement was beginning to reach a fever pitch when I pulled off of I-94 in Dickinson preparing to head north to Killdeer, North Dakota.  I have heard about this area of our great state but never had any reason to go there.  But this time, I had an invitation.  Partly from my curiosity but mostly from Donny (a field sales rep from Power Fuels).   He told me about all the amazing landscape shots where it looked like the rigs were dropped from the sky.  Now this I had to see!  After grabbing a snack at a convenience store in Killdeer, I set out to find Donny.  Right out of Killdeer along Hwy 22, the horizon was filled with amazing bluffs and dotted with drilling rigs everywhere.  Donny had two particular sites he wanted to take me to but then there it was…..Little Missouri State Park…aka “the Badlands.”  I gasped for air when I saw the deep valley that seemed to tell a story that my pea sized brain could never begin to comprehend.  We pulled over to get our bearings straight.  Donny came up to my car and said, “You should see the look on your face!!”  I could only imagine as I felt like a kid who opened the most awesome gift ever on Christmas morning.

My journey that day took me to the most incredible places, some new others familiar and finally to home…on the farm in Williston.  It was off to bed to get rested to photograph the American Petroleum Institutes annual Chili Cook-Off the next day, which no one could have ever prepared me for but we’ll save that one for another day. 😉  Along this journey, I gained a greater understanding of God’s creation, a new friendship with one of the nicest people that I’ve met in a long time and a collection of pictures that I will always treasure.

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Winter Photography in North Dakota

There is no doubt about it, winters can get to be a bit long here in North Dakota.  But I’ve learned you got to sit back relax and take in the beauty that God creates throughout all four seasons….winter included!  Last year while I was staying with my dad in western North Dakota, I woke up to the most amazing surprise.  The sunrise was gearing up to cover the entire eastern sky while the newly formed frost twinkled on everything from old rusty trucks to the bird house on the front lawn.  I threw on my boots and jacket, grabbed my camera and headed out the door not even caring that I had my pajamas still on.

After shooting some basic images of the sunrise, I decided to jump into the truck to set something in front of this glorious sky.  Just as I pulled up to the house where my dad grew up I heard a coyote howl.  With a chill up my back, I ran to the truck sat there for a few seconds and decided to “man up” and get my shot.  (This one was too good to walk away from!)  Like a little kid running to the Christmas tree, I ran over and got the present that I’d been waiting for a long time…the perfect image of the house that held so many memories for my dad.

What I wasn’t expecting to get one of my other favorite images.  The frost on the old thick barbed wire was mesmerizing.  I could have looked at it for hours.  As a nature photographer in North Dakota, this will always be one of my favorite mornings of shooting.  This is why I love winter, it makes up for the days where the 30mph wind is knocking you down.  I hope you enjoy these shots as much as I enjoyed taking them!