BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota is many things to many people: it's home to those born and raised in this area; it's school for those who cheer for the Bison, Fighting Hawks, Jimmies and more; and it's a nature-lover's paradise for the farmers and enthusiasts.
But for Georgia native Zachary Hargrove, a move to the Great Plains was the perfect opportunity to chase one of his passions, and discover another — the perfect recipe for his debut book, "Abandoned North Dakota: Weathered by Time."
After graduating from the University of North Carolina Asheville, Hargrove and his new wife packed up their lives and headed north to Grand Forks so Hargrove could continue his education as a meteorologist at the University of North Dakota.
In his book, Hargrove recounts the feelings he had when he learned he'd be moving to North Dakota.
"After the initial shock, my wife began to look at this new chapter in our lives as an adventure," he writes in the introduction. "Still, she made it clear that I was allowed two years only, and then we were out. While I was nervous about the move, I was very excited. For my entire life, I felt a longing to explore the West. More importantly, I longed to live in the Great Plains where I could chase the most dangerous storms the country could offer."
Hargrove says he began chasing storms as an undergraduate meteorology student in North Carolina, but trying to see the perfect storm was challenging — finding a storm that was spectacular, visually, was rare, and when it did happen, thick pine forests impeded the view.
"The desire to freely chase storms across the Great Plains became an obsession for me — to chase and witness storms that could be seen for miles and that moved slowly enough to keep pace with," Hargrove writes in his book. "Moving to the Northern Plains made that dream a reality."
Storm chasing with his fellow graduate students, and a bit of frustration along the way, sparked his passion for photography.
"I became frustrated that the pictures I took of these magnificent storms just didn't measure up to the dramatic images I saw from my favorite storm chasers, so I began to research the art of photography and digital post-processing," he writes.
The abandoned photograph that started it all was made locally, just off Interstate 29 near Hillsboro, N.D.
"In the storm chasing community, if you go out on a day where there's supposed to be storms and there aren't any storms, then it's called a bust," Hargrove says during a recent interview with The Forum. "So it was a bust day and it was around Hillsboro, N.D., on 29 there. I had gone off the road at the Hillsboro exit just to take some pictures of some clouds and storms. (The storm) started diminishing and I found this nice little abandoned house and for some reason it spoke to me."
After graduating from UND, Hargrove was hired as a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, where his fascination with photographing abandoned buildings flourished.
"I got to where, in the off-season in the fall and winter and early spring, I really didn't have anything to photograph and I was really getting into photography at the time," he says. "I ran into the guys who do the 'Ghosts of North Dakota,' I ran into their website and started finding these different places really fascinating that they photographed and I started going to the places that were near me in Bismarck and then I started trying to find my own places, scouring Google Maps. It started to become an obsession a little bit. No matter the time of year, I had something to photograph."
His book, "Abandoned North Dakota," was released in early December, and features 112 pages of stunning photographs of Hargrove's journeys to the farthest corners of North Dakota — shooting in sunshine or snow to capture what the world has left forgotten.
The book is available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as in participating bookstores.