Let me say right off this is a 60″ x 20 ” triptych image of the Devils Tower and the Missouri Buttes Volcanic Field. It was taken during 85 degree F weather in the LATE golden hour lighting. The storm that laid down this large swath of hail made national news in early August 2020. Bikers were certainly driving around the tower on the far side. This side of the 1000 foot high devils tower is “Slathered” with hail and Ice.
The atmospheric moisture between where I stand and the 35 mile distance to the tower is thick. It is mostly precipitation drifting off the rear of the huge mesocyclone just passed though this country. It was Pounding western South Dakota as I was taking this image. This is just the trailing edge still hanging over Wyoming. I followed this storm for 3 hours working the range of photographic activities you might expect of such a big customer as this storm.
I’ve never even seen this in winter before. I’ve worked this scenery a hundred times or more. How do you coat the steep (vertical) sides of a Dark Rock National Monument totally white? Just add a few inches of a few inch across hail and all sorts of things can happen lolol.
Location: The pass at Rockypoint Wyoming (Trail Creek Rd) on the Border of Campbell Co, Crook county being a few miles south of the Montana border.
Almost all of northern Crook Co. is shown in the photograph. It is a VERY wide panorama done with high end cameras. A lot of time carefully stitching 3 images, left, center, right into place. Carefully match the images contrasts / colorations as there is always differences even with adjacent photographs. All done in the digital darkroom not the camera. I’m not sure but my Sony Alphas MIGHT be able to do a hand held panorama like a cell phone. I never use that automatic crap, it uses too much battery power lolol.
This is a “TripTych”. That is a good google word for you if you’ve never heard it before…. The left panel frames the horizon…the Bear Lodge Mountains are the last ridge at about 70 miles distant from my camera. Beyond them is South Dakota. Closer in the center panel of the “Triptych” is the first National Monument (Devil’s Tower). The tower is about 35 miles from my camera in this capture early after sunrise that snowy morning. The right “Tryptych” panel contains the three volcanic cousins of the Devil’s Tower. Those called the “Missouri Buttes”. They were all part of the same volcanic system closely related in time and space. The Devil’s Tower had a better advertising agency than the Missouri Buttes. AKA known as the “Three Sisters”, the wagon pioneers knew them as a way point on the 19th century GPS they used.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Yes here you are looking at the Pronghorn Team for the Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, All ungulate Triathalon Team Competition. I’ve already seen the Mule Deer working on their marching for the entrance to the venue as well. The Whitetail Deer, while ungulates too, tend to not show up on time as their clock is set differently. But the Pronghorn and the Mule deer will probably go head to head.
Now the Pronghorn can certainly Out run the deer on the overland part of the Triathalon. But they are less adept at swimming where Mule Deer Clearly have the edge based on past events. So it’s about even going into the Bicycle Phase. That’s usually where the event falls on it’s face, or sides, or head or ass….. We have never had a completed/finished triathalon here.
We have high expectations one of the guys will figure out the breaks. No opposing thumb was the grumble I heard. That is just a rumor though and you shouldn’t place much emphasis on it. Pronghorn are always rumor starters.
“Getting your Ducks in a row” is pretty tough I have heard. I have found getting Pronghorn in a row is somewhat less common. I have seen deer walking side by side much more. We will see how big the event is this year.
I believe this is a Triceratops Toe (nail)… It’s known as a Pez Ungual to be precise.
The difference between Hadrosaur Dinosaurs (Duck Bills) and Triceratops (Three Horn) is a matter of opinion i believe lol. Wider like this is probably Triceratops. Longer thinner versions of the same bone I usually attribute to either Hadrosaur or PachyCephalosaur (Bone Head with Spikes). . These three and others had hoofs very similar in general shape. The larger ones are probably all Triceratops as they constitute over 50 percent of the fossil record of the Hell Creek Formations. Hadrosaurs only were about 25 percent of the herd.
It’s like the bone that is under your fingernail. Except the cuticle/nail covered it like a horn. The holes and grooves are all venous processes and nerve pathway/holes for those to base around the blood rich toe tips.
Hadrosaurs and Triceratops were both the “cattle” of their day. All the Raptors accounted for less that 5 percent of the fossil record. I have found a dozen of these over 20 years. River transport beat up most… . Often someone chewing/breaking dinged them.. Random breaking in the outcrop is also selective against these being preserved. This particular one is essentially perfect, no glue needed. This needs a serious session under an miniature sandblaster using sodium bicarbonate to blast away the sand on the surface.
Formation: Hell Creek / Lance Cretaceous Terrestrial River / Lake sediments at the end of the reign of the dinosaurs. Circa 66 million years ago.
Half the Sky Summer Sunset (full screen suggested)
This Triptych image (3-20×20 inch) prints is 180 degrees wide and is a full 180 degrees of the sky. A full East to West Sky
I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 80 miles distant/ 40miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing. But at exactly the opposite side of the sky as well. There are just plain intense downpours under these storms sometimes. Depending on how fast they are moving makes you lucky or flooded locally lol. These only rain on a few percent of the ground area up here. Spotty! The ground under them becomes totally soaked if the storm doesn’t move.
We had a summer Mesocyclone years back that sat over us and dumped 4.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Water was sheet washing down the hill behind my home and skirting around the house. Almost nothing got in but that slope was angle deep in sheet wash. I have since re-landscapes using mounds to redirect any potential sheet wash off the long hill to our back. It’s only been a problem once in 20 years of living here.
Creation of a Triptych:
Really wide images like this are of course composites created by taking multiple images and “stitching” them together in the digital darkroom. I point out that there is a crescent moon compounded by the setting sun. The buildings of our ranch on the lower right edge several miles away.
Sunset Pillar Skyshow Triptych (3 – 20×20 inch images. )
Sun pillars are shafts of light. Ice reflected spotlights as it were shooting generally 90 degrees up or down to the horizon.
I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere. A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is pretty big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about 1/2 again the angle than your normal vision at 55mm.
The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. For this Phenomena to occur, big oriented plates of ice at a high angle are required. The crystals are all flat 6 sided plates. These fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that 5-10 degrees tall is not unusual. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 degrees. This is a very big image wide and high. (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).
Fog Bank Rolling In : a little summer green for your Winter doldrums..
The cloud bank on top of this landscape ladder is a layer literally hugging and slowly flowing over that back ridge. It appeared obvious that it would eventually get to us. The back cloud bank is the 4000 feet tall Red Hill’s under the slowly moving blanket. If I’d had a time lapse on my rig, (I didn’t have mine with me 😔). I never worry about the little things though lol. That morning was sunny and clear but when this eventually rolled over us, the day went totally grey.
The whiter layer of clouds, the leading edge still trapped in the LIttle Powder River Valley 400 feet below. It took about an hour for it to climb the hundreds of feet up the ridge to my position from the valley. Lots of Rungs on this landscape ladder.
I’ll be configuring my new backcountry photography vehicle all week. Hopefully I can get back in the field more after removing all my photo gear from my old Jeep Grand Cherokee’s cubby holes last month. My new Ford F-150 Raptor has a big more storage than the jeep. The new rig is more purpose build for backcountry photography/access. It’s very agile and should be able to go anywhere I need it to up here in the borderlands. It’s longer than my last rigs so I’ll try not to high center it. I’ve never been stuck up here in 2 decades…. yet. 😜
Composite. This is a really wide angle three telephoto image composite (left, center, right). Triplet.
This is an image of more or less the entire northern 1/2 of Crook County Wyoming. This vista is a very wide and deep telephoto composite at high resolution. The light was wonderful that morning with a strong orange colorcast. This orange tinting was extreme at times reflecting off the snow quite strongly. I have several captures with it WAY more extreme than this. However this work is very representative of what I was watching this am. (about a week before this posts).
This photo is of course from on top of the Trail Creek Road Pass to RockyPoint Wyoming. I live on this same high ridge but my ranch is about 6 miles over my shoulder. If this ridge wasn’t here, this is view we would have. It’s starting to get snowy. By the time this posts, I should be driving a taller vehicle (ford f-150) with quality studded snow tires. My 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee is being traded in. I just cleaned it completely out of anything remotely “mine” today. It’s amazing how many photographic gadgets I had stashed in there.
In Wyoming during the winter driving extended backcountry roads, I am very well prepared. Essentially I always over dress and generally drive with one or more windows open at most winter temps. A comprehensive emergency kit including most medical and lots of blankets/carbs. I alway wear pretty high tech gear in multiple layers. I carry a radio that easily will connect with my home base. Someone usually knows where I’m going if I’m going far. This is my 20th winter in these lowlands. I spent 10 years living at the foot of the Teton Range for my snow training 😃 Jackson is 6200 feet and snowy, we are 4000 feet and blowy …….
I might have the feet heater going hard though lol. Keeping the car temp and the outside temp the same reduces mirage effects on your images from a vehicle.
Location: near the Bliss Dinoaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Certainly I am not an expert on extant raptors. I know a bit about Avian Dinosaurs, this is the Bliss DInosaur Ranch after all…. That being said, I “believe” that this is a “Ferruginous Hawk. A single bird along it’s flight path. In other words, this is the same bird against the very background it was flying past. (A composite/multiple exposure of sorts) . (Red Tail versus Ferruginous is a tough one. ). I’m sure someone reading this will know instantly.
The bird is actually below me topographically. It was actively flapping to keep or gain altitude and was on an hunt. Mouth open giving a screech. Camera on rapid fire of 10 shots a second. I was high on a ridge several hundred feet above the surrounding ground. This hawk was actually making enough noise for several birds lol. He was calling so much, I’m sure he was telegraphing his presence to the prey.
This guy actually circled twice which gave me enough time to tweek the camera and catch him on the second pass. I don’t see hawks from above too often. Passing by me twice was a gift from him to me. He must have seen something down there and wanted to check it out twice. He didn’t give me a third opportunity. Hunting appeared better else where. It was soon flying off. Not a bit worried about whether I took his photo.
So I wake up the other morning and much to my surprise, was a local pyramidal hillock that was blowing it’s top. The steam was rising, the cauldron boiling. I anticipate pyroclastic flows, lahars, glowing red hot clouds and other volcanic manifestations similar to what buried Pompeii. Ash should start falling any moment. Maybe “Sneaky Pete” the windmill will save the day and blow the ash away…
Back to my normal programming: Geologic Musings:
OK, this is NOT a volcano. It takes a properly positioned camera lol. Those are normal clouds up in the sky. Yellowstone is not blowing up. The Devil’s Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck field about 50 miles to my southeast has not reactivated. No, the Laramide Orogeny has not started back up just yet.
That Butte (called Mitten Butte), is made of layers of river sands stacked on top of one another. The volcanic shape is a result of a hard cap rock which resisted erosion better than every thing else between it and myself. All that rock has been removed by erosion. It is a erosive remnant of all the material that used to surround the hill. Hundreds of feet if not thousands of feet (depending on your location) of sediment has been removed around here. Remember Devils Tower? That used to be a mile or so deep. Now it sticks up 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. That river system essentially removed enough material to expose the harder tower. Same process here except just the top of the hill is harder rock.
Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect is literally 3 for the 1. Add the Devil’s Tower and the Bear Lodge Mountains to their left.
This early morning (2 minutes after sunrise) on the Pass to RockyPoint Wyoming was clear sky. Alpenglow was lit up by the low angle far traveled rays. Those long yellow and reds are the only light to make it through the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Only then they refract off the ice needles to my camera. A yellow sky in the morning is a VERY common thing in the winter.
This is a view to the south west . This location overlooks MOST of northern Crook County in Wyoming with the Bear Lodge Mountains coinciding with the South Dakota border. A REALLY big area covered in this 3:1 Aspect image (60 inches by 20 inches). Triplet aside, this is one wide image.
This is a 3 photo (left/center/right) composite) corrected for perspective and seamlessly integrated together). This is not a panoramic telephone image lol. I must admit that I like panoramic cell phone camera images very much. Handy as heck. However they will not quite go to 60 inches wide lol.
This was a beautiful morning for a clear sky sunrise. These kind of morning are all about the side shows, not the sunrise itself. It was calm, little or no wind (rare), you could hear cattle calling from miles around. The air was crisp and clean as can be.
Location: Trail Creek Road, The Pass at RockyPoint Wyoming.
Here you see the third leg of the annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Ungulate Track and Field Triathalon. The Mule deer team is over 2 laps back with the Whitetail team a did not show at the starting line. Whitetails are always unreliable/flighty but I blame their management for the miss. They will probably show up tomorrow for the event scheduled today. Typical of the Whitetail species.. 😜
WE are looking at 10 Pronghorn slight downhill run where something spooked them. They decided to take a jog to the left. I see these guys running about daily and they can cover ground. I never push animals as they tend not to appreciate and remember. My next encounter would be shorter and further away if my vehicle acts like a predator and follows. I work out of a Jeep (currently) in the backcountry as a human form would cause them to run sooner. It’s usually not a discussion IF they (as a group) are going to take off or not, it’s WHEN.
Pronghorn are the Fasted Land Animal in North America. Nothing else even comes close. They developed these skills/anatomy as a result of learning to avoid predation. It seems there used to be some pretty fast Lions, tigers and other cats living in these hills. Those predators were obviously prolific during the last Ice Ace and before here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands. The most most recent continental Ice sheet (5 glaciations in the last 500,000 years) stopped it’s advance about 20 miles up into Montana from my perspective here on the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. There were LOTS of critters hanging out below the glaciers.
The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. Paleontologist recognize this age as a time of geologically rapid Glaciations followed by warmer periods in between. A vast and diverse “Mega-fauna” was present within those variable ecosystems. About 11,700 years ago, things started warming up for the 5th time in a half a million years. (Warm periods between the ice sheet advances). The earth’s various climates (the earth has NO climate, it has ALL climates) were “Changing” every 100,000 years or so. The Term “Cycle” is thrown about loosely these days. I use it here in that I’m glad it’s warm because living here with an ice sheet 20 miles to our north….Might have experienced some “Climate Change” back then. Sort of like this winter so far…. (Winter Storm incoming as I type this narrative).
Sunset Across the 130 mile Distant BigHorn Mountains is one of quite a few BigHorn Range captures over most of last week. Amazing stuff 😲📸
Watching this alignment start up with the sun WAY left of the range less than a half hour before this. The sun will always move from left to right as well as downward. Of course it’s the horizon rising but you already know that. (The sun isn’t moving here, the earth is spinning) . The earth is tilted on it’s axis
That tilt is relative to the solar systems flat plane called the ecliptic. All the planets are circling the sun on that plane. The earths north/south axis Currently, the Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from the plane of its path/orbit around the sun. But this tilt changes/wobbles like a top. During the long wobble cycle that averages around 40,000 years. (Based on good scientific work eh? 👁
The tilt of the axis varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. Because this tilt changes, the earth is exposed to differing amounts of energy from the furnace over that interval. Paleoclimatology is something I have dabbled in. I will tell you the sun is the driver of our climate so one would assume that global changes occur as the way you face the sun. Yup, the climate has been changing since it all started as a pool of molten rock accumulated in a gravity well lol.
SO back to this photo:
This time of year, sun sets dramatically from left to right as the horizon rises here. But it rises from left to right at sunrise. (The phrase to google here is Ecliptic solar system). So tracking this and watching it change by the minute was very impressive.
Bright bright bright stuff. Shutting the camera down to light ALMOST taken with the len cap on (it’s that bright lolol) You only have 3 main things to set on your camera by working it on manual mode.
They are: “ISO” (Camera Sensitivity), f-stop (aperture or pupil size of the lens) and Shutter Speed in parts of a second (s). Figure out what is important to you (deep focus or freezing motion?). You set f-stop high for deep focal field . F-stop low for shallow depth of focus field. F-stop takes away light so high f-stop (small hole in the lens) is good for high light situations. Priority 1 taken care of.
Your next priority (2) is ISO (camera sensitivity). Low ISO is ALWAYS best because High ISO give you too much light AND a grainy appearance in the image. So LOW camera sensitivity (or slow ISO 100). High ISO is best for LOW LIGHT situation. Really HIGH ISO over 2000 is for the dark if you need it only. I consider ISO evil to go high with.
Last thing on the list is shutter speed which is your variable to adjust the total exposure. You adjust until you get the result you desire. On an older DSLR reflex type camera, you look at the image on the LCD on the back of the camera body AFTER you take the photo. With a Mirrorless Removable Lens Camera though, you get what you see on the screen INSIDE the camera, WHILE you are moving the dials the image reflects the changes you make. What you see is what you get. Instant feedback, MUCH easier for you to learn on. So if you made it this far in my text, and your looking at cameras, pick a mirrorless model, preferably a full frame/large sensor camera. Full Frame cameras have higher dynamic range than smaller sensor cameras. 📸
Don’t USE a standard DSLR camera to take sun photos and YOUR camera may not be rated to take this heat. Large sensor cameras spread out that light and don’t melt like some smaller sensor cameras would here. More important, don’t blind yourself in a DSLR even trying this. Seriously!👁
This Capture of Devil’s Tower/Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect is very high resolution composite:
It is composited from three high resolution 1200 mm telephoto images combined back into one image in the digital darkroom. Left image + center image+ right image = this photo… This is not taking a cell phone and swinging a phone lol… I’m considering this one of the best daytime shots I have of Devils Tower from the Pass at Rocky Point and that’s saying something 📸 This is a distance of 35 miles. The sun was setting golden hour, the air was full of ice but hadn’t gone pink just yet. Maybe 1/2 hour to sundown.
This image was taken from the snow line on the pass I was on but you can see the valleys were not covered at this capture about 10 days ago as it publishes. The snow we got last night and today took care of the snow cover in the valley. We’ve had a very early winter up here so far. The long term forecast looks to be cold and snowy. We always need the moisture but it’s a trudge sometimes to deal with all the snowfall each year.
In all fairness to the rough weather we have here in the NE part of the state. Hat’s off to the folks in Jackson Hole and the high country along the western part of the state. It’s relatively mild living here compared to the decade I lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming. We used to get 6 feet flat in the back yard every year. Closer to the range folks would get 10. Cleaning snow off roofs is an industry there :).
We just enjoy MUCH more wind than Jackson Hole does. I’m not sure anyone living there appreciates the difference but I may be wrong. Migration of Wyoming folks are moving outwards not toward that area. 🙁
Here is a rare shorter narrative as I realized I didn’t have a 3pm post ready lol. The Devil’s Tower Missouri Buttes Twilight 3:1 Aspect image is 60 x 20 inches at full resolution. This was taken about 2 days ago. In full disclosure it is a Left/Center/Right telephoto image from 35 miles distant. This is a view from the Northwest looking southeast. The Pass at RockyPoint Wyoming with Trail Creek Road going over the “hill” is a pretty good view if the weather cooperates. It’s an hour and a half from the nearest population center so there aren’t a lot of images like this out there I suspect.
I took this Sept 30th the day before the October 1 storm came in so this was the Last Day of Fall for the BigHorn Mountains eastern front. You could feel the storm coming in. Everybody was buying snow shovels and salt at the local farm store.
Full Screen is obviously best…. 🙏
These 13,000 foot + peaks dominate the landscape near Clearmont Wyoming. The highway State 14/16 from Gillette to Sheridan Wyoming will present you with this view if you stop at the right spot :).
This is a composite of three images left/center/right carefully blended/stitched back together within the digital darkroom. As such is it ended up being 60×20 inches at full resolution 300 dpi so the original is a huge file reduced here for social media of course lolol.
Oct 1, the region got 4 – 12 inches of wet heavy sticky snow on trees fully leaved still from the 75 degrees the day before when I took this on Sept 30th.
I of course take photos of these hills all the time from my Ranch about 100 miles over my shoulder at this location. I get a little better resolution up here📸
Location: Somewhere near Clearmont, Sheridan County Wyoming.
This wide 3:1 Aspect Ratio Panorama of the Big Horn Mountains on the day of Autumn 2019. Autumn was on a Tuesday this year.
This is a long telephoto composite of 3 very high resolution images stitched together in the digital darkroom seamlessly as the scene actually was. This image is the “state of my art”. It’s high resolution to 60 x 20 inches lol.
There is no sign of mans impact in this image except for the few fence posts you can see. This was captured on a road trip to Sheridan I took last week. It was 119 miles of backcountry gravel roads and two lane Wyoming highways over about 3 hours. Not that I stopped to take a photo now and then or anything….. It was a classic Wyoming, it’s hard to get from here to there trip.
Cool backroad Wyoming burbs of Ucross, Spotted Horse, Clearmont, Recluse and Leiter are the “Big Towns” along the way. WONDERFUL drive on 14/16 going into Sheridan from the east if you ever get a chance to go that way.