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Thomas preserves memory of farmsteads

Dickinson's Bob Thomas captures the artistic beauty of abandoned farmsteads with digital photography. While listening to '60s music on the radio, he drives on the backroads of western North Dakota. "I stay on the roads. I don't trespass," he said...

Dickinson's Bob Thomas captures the artistic beauty of abandoned farmsteads with digital photography.

While listening to '60s music on the radio, he drives on the backroads of western North Dakota.

"I stay on the roads. I don't trespass," he said. "It's peaceful. It's intriguing. I kind of wonder what it was like living there."

Thomas has a lifelong love of photography, starting with his first Minolta 33mm in the 1970s. He studied art while enrolled in college.

Having a busy career and family to raise, he didn't have time to pursue his art until now.

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"The Digital Age is a great happening. I can control the whole process from start to finish," he said.

He uses a Nikon camera with a 200mm-zoom lense. It has anti-vibration features and the ability to shoot in low light. He doesn't hesitate to shoot 1800 frames to get 20 quality prints.

He makes his own prints using Epson archival paper and Ultrachrome ink. The lightfastness rating is over 70 years.

"My passion today is to find unique buildings, hope for dramatic lighting and get a great composition," he said.

Thomas' travels have taken him west into the Badlands, north of Richardton and Hebron and east to New Salem. There's a sense of urgency as the farmsteads are rapidly vanishing from the prairie landscape.

"Some day the elements will dispose of these treasures. I am happy to preserve their memory,"

Autumn is his favorite season because of the colors. However, one of his favorite prints was captured on a winter morning when the snow was melting on a barn roof. It's titled "Frosty Morning."

He likes one print that depicts an approaching summer storm and sunlight still streaming on the barn. It's titled "Golden Glory."

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Other prints have descriptive names such as "Seen Better Days," "Old Neighbors," "Hidden Beauty" and "Overgrown."

Thomas has sold the photographs as wall hangings and as note cards at Dickinson craft shows. Customers sometimes recognize the location.

"One gentleman told me where four or five were. He was from the area," he said.

Thomas works for Roughrider Homes and RV's Inc., while his wife Bea works as a cook at Hagen Junior High School. The photography is a hobby business, which he markets as Dakota Reflections.

His work can be viewed at bob-thomas.boundlessgallery.com.

The art work also is available at Dakota Rubber Stamp in Dickinson and Western Edge Books, Art Work, Music in Medora.

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