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Winter Grass and Shadows

Winter Grass and Shadows
Winter Grass and Shadows

Winter Grass and Shadows

So the question arises is this beach sand or snow. It’s not hard to tell with out the low winter sun casting long shadows across the snow surface.

I love divergent shadows on snow. High contrast environments paired with really wide lenses show the divergence much better than lenses less so. I really like to think like a mouse when I set these shots up. Literally I imagine what it looks like down there and realize there is a possibility for divergent shadows. I will chase those and work with the sunset to compose the image. Stark was my point here.

Winter’s grip is firm here currently with a good amount of snow concentrated off the sides of the ridges. Where clumps of grass, sage or Yucca plants rise above ground level, snow accumulates in 3 foot high drifts. Our driveway has inches of glaze ice on it currently. I resort to walking around with ice cleats on my boots in the backcountry. They keep me off my A** walking as much as I do along the ridges. There are a lot of spots with very tricky footing.

Some deer obviously came by and took off all the seed heads of this grass patch. Cattle never made it to this spot this year so it was wildlife doing the grazing. I’m already having deer start to eat the hay bales we have piled up to feed the Corriente Herd. Ranchers feed a LOT of wildlife in our activities.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Winter Grass and Shadows

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Glover Moth Purple on Blue

Glover Moth Purple on Blue
Glover Moth Purple on Blue

Glover Moth Purple on Blue (plus green and orange lichen too….Wyotana Summer is a good thing…

6 months out of season for your pleasure.

When I had this Glover moth over for a stay in my refrigerator for a night (I caught him by a porch light, zip locked eventually cooled him down to 34 degrees). The next day was sunny, bright/blue, warm with scents of various blooms in the air. I definitely put him on that flower hanging over that tree branch. He was happy to hang on though. Being torpid/cool and slow from that stay in my fridge, he was enjoying the heck out of the warming sun.

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand.. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently.

Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. They are interested in reproduction not ingestion lol. This one was hanging out on this flower one summer morning in 2019. Being chilled, the Glover had no interest in flying away. (He did in about 15 minutes. Forever in my world for a photographic subject actually sits for me. Better, lets me move them from place to place to find the right frame. That antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜

I see several of these guys each spring. Running into them around the ranch headquarters compound I find them near the lights in the cool nights here. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS.

My “Catch and Release” approach with an over night in a fridge simply slows them down for the night and lets me have a much longer “encounter” with any buy you can catch. Just don’t take them below freezing overnight.🤔📸 Way nicer than either and a pin. Lots of photography done that way 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Glover Moth Purple on Blue

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Killdeer Oscar Performance

Killdeer Oscar Performance
Killdeer Oscar Performance

Killdeer Oscar Performance

I think this is the only acting photo I have of Killdeer. Performed so much I’ve ignored it photographically lol. They are pretty spooky. They literally live in my yard, nest nearby or on the prairie.. Of course the same injured bird ritual rinses and repeats. Shooting through grass has it’s issues but this is a fun image none the less. Getting within a hundred feet of a nest without a big scene occurring is unlikely. I got lucky with this one.

I knew where the nest was having run across this Killdeer and mate earlier that week. (early summer). I even have photos of the eggs sitting on gravel/grass. Nothing fancy for sure. There is a lot to be said for working out of cars/vehicles. Much better than a regular blinds because vehicles have radios news and tunes. 🤠 The birds don’t care as much for as long. Back to normal behavior shortly if your in a vehicle and park near the nest.

We live integrated with all these animals up here. Everyone has their place. These guys seem to be happy where they are whether in my yard or on the prairie. I watch them set up nest (I’ve got egg photos on rocks). They have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks). I follow them all summer through that August gathering season. I might see 30 or 40 of them in a flock at that time. About the time I see them again, I will know that it’s just about spring.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Killdeer Oscar Performance

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Perspective Snow on a Deck

Perspective Snow on a Deck
Perspective Snow on a Deck

Perspective Snow on a Deck

I’m always trying to imagine things as a mouse would in my travels. My cameras don’t care if I’m taking a mouses viewpoint or mine at 6 foot. I put the camera on a plate to protect it. It was warm from being inside.

I actually don’t do a lot of architectural images, maybe 10 a year 🤔📸 Rare of the rare, I even have electric lines in this images which is certainly less probable. I never have them if I can avoid it. But I like to think I have an eye for patterns and a tendency for walking around with cameras. I’ll give in occasionally to my habits…. The two characteristics are synergistic if you have OCD as badly as I do 😜 I try to take advantage of this partnership when ever the two meet in the middle.

This phenomena was the result of a very gentle, very dry powder snow. It was like sand sifting through your fingers on that deck surface. One poof of wind and it all would have taken to drifts. AND this was about 4 inches deep for an idea of scale. The entire deck surface had this appearance. I thought I had seen most odd ball phenomena in the snows during my 3 decades living in Wyoming. I’ve never seen this phenomena before though I’d seen other photos of it. I didn’t have a deck in Jackson Hole as we had concrete there. I missed all that dry powder then where this is probably common. We are 2000 feet lower and warmer here. Snow sticks all the time to itself and covers this surface solidly.

Just not from that little mouses viewpoint.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Perspective Snow on a Deck

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Red Plum and Dragonfly

Red Plum and Dragonfly
Red Plum and Dragonfly

Red Plum and Dragonfly

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies. That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare. Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.

There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water.

They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands. I don’t see them a lot on barbed wire though lolol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly

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Beer Bottle Sun Filter

Beer Bottle Sun Filter
Beer Bottle Sun Filter

Beer Bottle Sun Filter

So I’m driving around the backcountry . This old piece of Drill Stem Pipe was 10 foot high off the ground with this wonderful sun filter on top. No way a person that wasn’t standing on a horse to get this up there. It’d take a heck of a toss to place that bottle up there so high. At least a 3 pointer I’m pretty sure if so thrown.

I’m always looking for sun filters of any kind but glass in front of my lens. This of course is a notable exception. Usually I shun “Screw on” UV filters, Neutral Density filters and glass in general as they leave ghost images of the sun when pointing into the sun. This amber glass was the perfect solution to how to take the sun without blinding yourself or the camera.

Can anyone ID the Bottle as to what brand of beer? I don’t drink it so I’m clueless.

Photographic Musings:

This was done with a canon M50 consumer level camera. Maybe 600 bucks on Amazon, get a used one. It’s a small sensor Mirrorless Removable Lens Camera that held up to me pointing them into the sun just fine. I can testify it can do this kind of work lolol. If you want a good mirrorless camera to start with fairly cheaply, I suggest that model. I’m not saying you couldn’t destroy the camera looking into the sun with a telephoto with no filter, you could.

Disclaimer, this kind of photography CAN damage your cameras and your eyes so use only mirrorless cameras rated for this work. Never work sun under f22 or even higher if your lens can stop down more.

Square to 18 inches

Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Beer Bottle Sun Filter

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Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

Glover Moth on Purple Barberry
Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

These are amazing moths. They don’t eat as adults. So this one is looking for a partner and hoping to reproduce the species shortly. Hanging out in my side yard is as good a place for such things as any I suppose lolol. I don’t think there is a dating app for that yet …..

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand.. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently.

Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. This one was hanging out on thie flower one morning. The cold morning had it chilled. He had no interest in flying away. The troublesome part was sneaking up close enough for the macro shot. That barberry has barbs lol. Macros start at 9 inches from the lens… . That antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜 They might not be receiving radio waves though lolol.

I see several of these guys each spring. They are typically not worried about me much. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Homestead side yard, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title : Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

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Rodent on a Rock

Rodent on a Rock
Rodent on a Rock

Rodent on a Rock

This Northern (not the Wyoming Pocket) ) Pocket Gopher was on the Montana / Wyoming border. The Northern is considered a Sub-species of the Wyoming Gopher though… Underground mostly, this one was active as I randomly wandered by his ground in the backcountry. I spied the movement. Any hawk worth it’s name would enjoy this though I suspect he blends in pretty well on that sane of the same exact color lolol. I suspect the rock was warm too from the sun that bright early morning. It may well have been warming itself.

His burrow was next to this chunk of Hell Creek Sandstone. I saw him several times getting up on this rock to take a look around. I’m thinking it was pretty bright for him. It took a bit to get into position for this one. He didn’t like me at first but after about 15 minutes he was back at it again. This was not an easy one to compose lolol. He was king of the hill as far as he was concerned. Understanding your position in the world is an important perspective to gain lololol. 😜📸

Of course this is posted a bit out of season. I’m pretty sure this guy is sleeping here in mid-winter as I post this. He’s in a burrow under the backcountry snow at the moment. Filled his burrow with seeds and other stores. You have to admire an advance planner that stores food for the lean future. IT’s a good survival strategy.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Rodent on a Rock

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T-rex Tooth in the Rough

T-rex Tooth in the Rough
T-rex Tooth in the Rough

T-rex Tooth in the Rough

Yup, a Tyrannosaurus tooth sitting in the matrix. Wrapping it up for the trip back to the ranch headquarters is the next order of business. There it will be cleaned at my leisure when I get a pile of such things to clean so it’s worth setting up the micro-air-abrasive fossil cleaning cabinet. The black enamel of the tooth is etch by tiny rootlets that covered the surface. The chemical reactions at the rootlets deeply marked the enamel of the tooth.

Fossil Teeth: Selective preservation…

Teeth were “plentiful with many per dinosaur. They often broke off, the new ones erupting from below. Shed teeth were called spitters.They were literally spit out or lost eating. Some teeth passed through the digestive system. Quaintly named (sh**ers) by collectors. I’ve been told by older and more experienced paleontologists the way you tell the difference is their taste…… 😜

Here pictured next to the 6 inch wood awl that I used to dig it out of the Hell Creek/Lance Formation quarry wall. I have a 50 foot long by 4 feet thick in the center, river channel filled with mixed debris. This debris was dropped by the river for a reason. The current velocity dropped enough to leave what it carried here, behind. The bigger/heavier things came out first so we find a lot of big bones. The little things concentrated somewhere else with a lower current velocity.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: T-rex Tooth in the Rough

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Green Stink Bug Macro

Green Stink Bug Macro
Green Stink Bug Macro

Green Stink Bug Macro

OK, a little out of season but some summer color seemed like a good idea. A little up close and personal..

What a beautiful bug. The legs are startling in the color gradients they present. In nature, bright colors usually means “Stay Away”. Well these guys do not bite or sting posing no real danger to humans and our familiars. They are however considered harmful bugs to be eradicated as they are a major agricultural pest. They cause millions in damage to a large variety crops. Also called Shield Bugs or Chust Bugs.

You may remember a Macro close up I did of a Tachnid Fly a month ago. A big gold Hairy Fly…. Those Hero’s of the Flies lay eggs in the Green Stink Bug and will paralyze the pest devouring it from the inside out. So we have both sides of that parasite / host equation right out in our back yard. We have apple trees here but we have not had excessive Green Stink Bug problems. Natural predation is obviously working up here at the moment.

These guys are found throughout North America unfortunately. Large Stink Glands grace both Nymph and adults of the species. Able to discharge LARGE amounts of a foul smelling liquid when they feel threatened. This fluid used to be used on an industrial scale to add odor to some acids thusly reinforcing their own odor. Long since that process has been modernized utilizing modern artificial aromatic compounds.

Location: Backyard, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands *Wyotana) That’s a piece of Fossiliferous limestone he’s walking on.

Title: Green Stink Bug Macro

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Wagon Wheel Snow Drift

Wagon Wheel Snow Drift

Wagon Wheel Snow Drift

Any old ranch has a “boneyard” where utilitarian things you just don’t want to throw away lay. Some since the beginning of the place. I’d bet this buck wagon saw use from the start of this ranch in 1906. It was probably retired upon the first model T truck. No matter how many decades, here it lays with nothing but the cows for company in the summer. Not many wildlife bother it but for the mice that might live under or in the boards. 80 or maybe 90 generations of cattle calves and adults have rubbed against this wagon’s side and wheels. I see them do it every summer in that pasture.

Between Ice expanding between the grain of the wood. The drying contractions of hot summer droughts wear. But occasional soaking from our meager 14 inches of precipitation is insufficient for fast wood decay. This climate (ALL climate is local), is semi-arid with that low annual average of moisture. Wood might last 100 years, some woods like cedar, longer. I’ve seen posts here put in early with little damage. We even find leather shoes and Horse Harness materials in some of the old over the gully bank junk yards from the old homesteads up here. You never know what your going to dig up in those. The settlers here didn’t throw away much that worked or could be repurposed. We are the same way. You have to be.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands *Wyotana”

Title: Wagon Wheel Snow Drift

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Oh Crap a Camera Lens

Oh Crap a Camera Lens
Oh Crap a Camera Lens

Oh Crap a Camera Lens If you had a “Crappy Old Year, this image is important. It’s going to get better after 😉

I’ve raised many parrots (I owned a pet shop in the 80’s). Working very closely with dozens of big birds before. I’ve been pooped on by the best. Big Birds Shoulder birds can really mess up a shirt … This meadowlark is not much different than those big birds but for it’s size. With this I’ve pretty much have all different obvious Meadowlark activities. Eating, sleeping, pooping and singing lolol. Most birds will do this move if they must right before they fly…

I’ve learned that all birds lift their tail and squat just a bit right before…. Note: If you have a parrot or other arm tamed bird on your arm, if the tail lifts, push it down with the other hand. They don’t/can’t “go” with the tail down. . So my timing only looks lucky. While this might be a bad example lol … anticipating a shot can save a lot of machine gunning with the camera. Storing photos is expensive if you do say 50 thousand 100 meg images some months.

Computer Tech Musings: So how do I keep track of and store that many 100 plus meg files? (How does a serious photographer deal with safe backups).

Finished photos are one thing (not as many of them). There are only a few thousand of those at 220 meg each lolol.. It’s The raw files streaming out of the 7 or 8 cameras I routinely use are huge files. There are also many. I like to keep the timeline so I have all the raw files for the last several years on demand. Older than a few years I have to connect external drives to the system.

I currently manage 50 TB of storage devices. Most storage drives I keep off line. All turned off to prevent any intrusion or loss. . I keep a monthly backup off site in a pile of 8 (currently) 4 TB SSD hard drives I keep adding finished work to. As they fill up, I add a new one to the pile and always have a pristine backup of the raw files and the they are kept in a fire safe.

Every image I finish is saved in three separate external hard drives as a last step. I’ve maintained professional graphic stations for 30 years. I’ve still got most of my graphics files available to me. Even those created decades ago available to me fairly quickly. Most of my old images, belonged to clients back in the day. Lots of them around. Can’t use them. But I’ve got a few of my own to work with

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Oh Crap a Camera Lens

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Pony Up It’s Cold

Pony Up It's Cold
Pony Up It's Cold

Pony Up It’s Cold

This beautiful little Shetland Pony was standing in it’s corral by the backcountry road I was on. Smart ponies I understand. This is not my equine but was a Christmas present I understand at a neighbors place.. An endearing face certainly. Most of us consider any equine less that 14 hands a pony. The tallest allowed for the Shetland breed is 11.5 hands here in America. I’m not an expert on these horses but I do read there are 4 breed types.

These guys were BIG in the coal mining industry in the UK as they were small enough to pull wagons of coal in a small space. They moved into the mines when the use of Women and Children was outlawed. I sincerely believe these horses rarely saw daylight out of the mines. Their power to weight ratio is way higher than a bigger horse.

The Celts brought the breed into the English Isles where they were bred to adapt to the harsh climate. They were first domesticated around 500BC and centered around the isolated Shetland Islands north of the Scottish Mainland. This isolation protected their genetics from more “modern” hybrid animals elsewhere. Those early horses carried a lot of coal and peat for the locals. Tough little wagon pullers they are.

This little fellow was far from cold in the -14 degree air he was enjoying. They have a double coat, better than what I was wearing at the time lol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pony Up It’s Cold

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Icicle and a Warm Day

Icicle and a Warm Day
Icicle and a Warm Day

Icicle and a Warm Day

Some warm(er) winter days present the sun directly on a snow covered roof and melting starts. If the air is still below freezing, icicles will of course start to form in the run off stream Of course it depends on how warm the roof is, how well insulated from below.

I took this to sepia intentionally as I have enough blue icicles in my pile of image to do lol. So perhaps this is considered art with the color not being photorealistic to the scene as I experienced it. I go nuts if I don’t vary my routine every once in a while lolol. One has to have a bit of variety now and then .

Photographic Musings:

Most of you have the ability to do this shot with any good DSLR or Mirrorless Camera on Manual mode.

Here is my thought process on pretty much every image I ever take.:……. You have to decide what your first priority is. ….. Freezing the water droplets so…. Shutter Speed is your FIRST priority. To freeze motion of a falling water drop start at 1/1000th of a second and you might have to wander to 1/1500th or there about shutter speed.

OK, Second priority… Adding light. Since the fast shutter speed cuts the amount of light entering the camera, you must add some. Opening up the lens by turning down the f-stop (aperture or pupil size of the lens). Lower fstop number will open up the lens and let a lot of light in. This has the double edged sword effect of thinning the focal depth of the camera. Take a photo of someones nose and his ears are out of focus thin focal field sort of thing. Well this is a flat surface so I don’t need focal depth, F4 or about as low an f number as your lens will go to. This will also BLUR the backcountry to a uniform “Bokeh”. (Good google word).

Only three things to adjust in Manual mode, so your first two priorities were satisfied above. Last is ISO or camera sensitivity. With a mirrorless camera, I would just adjust it to “get the image to the exposure you want” live real time on the video screen. You can see your adjustments before you click. Lower ISO is better IF YOU CAN. High ISO gives you grain AND artifacts in the photo but you have to resort to it in some dark environments.

With a DSLR, you guess, take the photo, look at what you got, adjust again (guess) and repeat until you get the desired result.

You now know everything I know about taking this photo for yourself.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Icicle and a Warm Day

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Ladybug on a Daisy

Ladybug on a Daisy
Lady Bug on Daisy

Ladybug on a Daisy

Pursuing Ladybugs with a quality macro lens has it’s rewards. This 18 inch square image with a smooth green bokeh is a favorite summer pursuit. They are usually fast movers, difficult to catch sitting still enough to compose a frame. This one was an exception. It was sipping on the drops of “nectar” from the flowers petal.

The Ladybug didn’t eat the daisy. There were many grasshoppers around, obviously someone seconds before munched the petals. I wouldn’t want to accuse the grasshoppers without any proof ……(apparently outdated morality these days but I digress😟) Anyway, ladybug saw an opportunity to rehydrate and get some sugar. Nature is all about one creature making it either easy or hard on another. This little one is making good from damage. It will go on and eat aphids, scale insects and mites.

Red in nature is usually a warning. It’s a big flag that says they might not be a good choice to eat. Ladybugs blood (yellow) has a foul odor I understand from reading but I’ve never noticed it. I have ordered thousands of Ladybugs for my aquaponic greenhouse. Handled them by the hand full before but never crushed one let alone tasted lol.

I think they are little turtles having photographed them up close and personal for a while. When threatened they “turtle up” and release a little yellow blood from their legs (stinky as discussed above). The red / stinky strategy apparently works as they are abundant up here in the borderlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Ladybug on a Daisy

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Best Friend Bucks

Best Friend Bucks
Best Friend Bucks

Best Friend Bucks

These two are the best of friends. These two are thick as thieves they are. About 5 minutes earlier, they were sparring with antlers locked. This image was taken about 2 months before the rut. The time is nearing here. They really were working on building up their necks. Those necks will swell considerably the close to the rut they get.

Biologists say that a Bucks neck will swell up much bigger than this capture. They will swell up to 50 percent larger of a circumference adding more muscle mass. This is all related of course to the Rut which is the annual fight to breed. They live in a world of scents and hormones floating in the air from the does in the group.

I have followed these two around for several years. These 3.5 year olds have known me since the beginning seeing me out on the ranch land taking photos of their childhood and parents. Now they are starting to really accept me as a another grazing animal. I slowly over time carefully approach deer. They are aware of my vehicles and how I approach. I drive like I’m grazing stopping and stopping. No hurry. Might take me 1/2 an hour to get up this close. I’ve actually worked inside of deer herd boundaries before. I didn’t get a chance to do that this year for what ever reason. Everything has to line up just so for a good day of grazing with the Mule Deer. I will see what they do to my new truck that is supposed to be here two weeks before this posts. Running late.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Best Friend Bucks

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Snipe on a Post Silhouette

Snipe on a Post Silhouette
Snipe on a Post Silhouette

Snipe on a Post Silhouette

The Old World Native bird, the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is often “hunted” in lore and legend. You take the “new guy” out hunting Snipes after all. If you didn’t, you were raised in another country than I was lolol.

Well this is a silhouette of a real Common Snipe bird. They are of course considered a wading bird but I’ve seen them in my yard numerous times.. I catch them digitally in our barnyard pond as well as the wetlands here in the borderlands. Home on the range here in the side yard lolol.

Catching silhouettes against a beautiful twilight sky isn’t an easy or common thing to do. I’l like to have more of these. Snipes are fairly tolerant of my vehicles but they don’t like me getting out at all. I was trying to walk up slowly to one and it didn’t stick around. It wouldn’t have left had I not gotten out of my ATV. They tolerate vehicles pretty well but not the human shape was the lesson I got out of that lolol. I’ll use my portable blind/vehicle. I don’t seen them too much so I hate to loose them to being seen 👀

Under Twilight conditions, you have to be really lucky not to have the bird move for this 1/2 second exposure. I get a lot of chances to shoot birds on posts but this early in twilight is really dark.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Snipe on a Post Silhouette

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Chicken Butt Hearts

Chicken Butt Hearts
Chicken Butt Hearts

Chicken Butt Hearts from my backyard bird buddies…

Christmas is a season of love ❤️❤️ and these Buff Orphington Hens above each wear their hearts on their butt. (mid-summer when the grass was growing, lush and green. I had just let them out and they were starting to free range…

Now chicken life is not all about love at least with the males that more or less have their way with the hens. Rules of the roost and all that…. This seems to work for them as a species as they are still around. Probably more because they taste good with BBQ hot wing sauce. Their may be other reasons. 🤔

I understand anecdotally that chickens are as close to T-rex dinosaur as any bird is. Dinosaur love as it were😜. If you add a tail, some size and some teeth, you will have a t-rex of sorts lol. Chickens are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They will certainly eat meat given the opportunity. I’ve seen it many times.

I am a BAD paleontologist that believes that Birds Are Dinosaurs (BAD). 🤔 There is a group of paleontologist that are BAND (Birds are Not Dinosaurs) but that group is dwindling rapidly. There are just FAR too many similarities reinforced by recent finds in China along with other observations indicating a direct lineage from “Avian” Dinosaurs to modern Avian species. At least that is my opinion having done dinosaurs a bit. Anyone that has had to deal with a wild male turkey, can testify that Birds are Dinosaurs.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Chicken Butt Hearts

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Killdeer Wading the Lakeshore

Killdeer Wading the Lakeshore
Killdeer Wading the Lakeshore

Killdeer Wading the Lakeshore

Down in the wetlands, this Killdeer is hunting for goodies to eat certainly. It paused and shook itself and with every feather puffed out. Fortunately he held the pose long enough for me to capture him. 😜

The vast majority of Killdeer that live up here don’t get to enjoy water sports very much or so it seems. This is only about a 5 acre lake and adjacent wetland area. Considered a shorebird, This Ringed Plover is actually living up to their reputation. . Most of them around “these parts” live out on the open grassland / ranch land. Seeds and getting water from isolated stock tanks seems to work just fine for them. I keep 4 stock tanks open all year for wildlife up here on our high ridge. They guys have left here by winter having migrated after their fall “gathering”. I’ve seen small flocks of them gather near stock tanks fueling up and watering before their departure for warmer climes. About the time I see them again, I will know that it’s just about spring.

We live integrated with all these animals up here. Everyone has their place. These guys seem to be happy where they are whether in my yard or on the prairie. I watch them set up nest (I’ve got egg photos on rocks). They have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks). I follow them all summer through that August gathering season.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Killdeer Wading the Lakeshore

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Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan
Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan

While Sharp Tailed Grouse don’t migrate, it’s always a good idea to check your directions. 🤗

I have SOOOO many of these guys hanging around it’s actually kind of humorous. I’ve lived here for 20 years with this year having the largest population of of the “Sharpies” I’ve ever seen. I watched a flock of at least 100 of these behemoths. I consider them flying boats. They don’t look to me like they should be able to fly but I’ve seen them glide at least a half mile before. I will get the flock on camera this winter. Snippits so far is the rule….

Deep Deep Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse don’t go along too well. They tend to say out of the powder as they sink in and have short legs lolol. They usually have to fly out of the hole they make for themselves by landing in a controlled crash. In this image, there is about 8 inches of snow next to our backyard fence. We see them in our compound all winter as they mooch grain off our ducks and Buff Orphington Chickens.

These Birds are known as the “fire grouse or fire bird” by native Americans. This is because they are reliant on natural brush fires to keep their habitat open. Their common name around here is “SHarpies” or certainly Sharp Tail. Uniquely American birds that survived the extinction at the end of the Ice Age. Geologically it is the last species of the Genus Tympanuchus. (Linnaeus named them AGAIN, boy was he busy) Apparently there are 7 subspecies one of which is extinct, the other 6 are extant. (extant versus extinct…. good to google if you don’t know).

Being one of the larger grouse, they are hard to sex visually. The males have yellow eye combs that are not conspicuous. During the spring they males puff up a pale violet air sacs on their neck. UP to 18 inches long (plump birds) In the early fall, Females Ring-necked Pheasants easily are mistaken for a female Sharpie. Watch for the length of the tail which the pheasant wins with the longer tail.

They really don’t exist south of Wyoming/northern Nebraska ranging WAY north into Alaska through out central and northwestern Canada. I’m thinking they like the snow but I might be wrong[ They are year round residents of the Wyotana borderlands but I understand the continental divide is a boundary too them and they really don’t live west of there in the the US. Western most Montana doesn’t have them apparently.

Location; Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Checking Your Flight Plan

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Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe
Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

Dinosaur: Pachycephalosaur Phalange… Hoof/Toe (Real Big Wyoming Critters lolol).

I have read that Pachycephalosaur fossils of any kind constitute only about 1 percent of the fossil record. This toe nail’s journey started 66 million years ago in a sand choked river flowing to the eastern sea. The Hell Creek/Lance Formations (uppermost Cretaceous) is a terrestrial deposit consisting of 700 feet of sand. We have the upper 3 or 4 hundred feet of the formation exposed on our ranch. Of course we are a grassy ranch so somewhere under that grass is a REALLY NICE fossil but I can’t see it. I might have driven over the complete t-rex a hundred times and would have no idea. 

I have found 25 micro-sites…sand deposits of coarsely sorted sands mixed with small fossils. Many teeth, small bones, fragments of almost anything alive in the environment besides dinosaurs.. Even occasional really nice claws come out of the micro-sites. 1 amazing bone bed exists on my ranch that I’ve located. I have mined that location for 17 years now. I call it the “Horn Sieve bed because of the 30 (ish) triceratops horns that have come out of the dig over the years. The dense bone and hydrodynamic shape combined for more of those to drop out of the rivers current at my particular “bend in the river”. The current dropped here and dropped all that dense bone on the river bed. The light stuff kept on going down river. 

Most Hell Creek Bone that I’ve collected has been transported by river systems. Often soon to be fossils were buried and re-excavated several times as the big rivers swept back and forth on the alluvial plain. Lots to know about dinosaur and paleoenvironment lolo. 

Title: Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

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Birds Need Naps Too

Birds Need Naps Too
Birds Need Naps Too

Birds Need Naps Too

I approached the post he was occupying while in my Jeep. I stopped preeeeetty close to him. If you get lucky. You run upon a Meadowlark close while in your car, stop, don’t move any more. If you move after you stop, it will fly away. Every time but perhaps 2 in thousands of encounters I’ve had with these wonderful birds. So I sat there a while working different lenses. This isn’t a cropped image at all. After watching him for a few minutes, he literally closed his eyes and took about a 3 minute nap. I’d say 20 feet for the distance with a 800mm lens. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes

I have a few dozen images of it as this was not a blink. Having said that, even blinks are not that common with birds either. Photographing people is way worse. If you have 20 birds on a line, none of them will be blinking. Put 20 people on a line and about 5 of them will be blinking lololol. I believe the blink thing is a law of photography similar in complexity to the physics of lenses… 😜

Meadowlarks frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Birds Need Naps Too

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Pronghorns Lining Up

Pronghorns Lining Up
Pronghorns Lining Up

Pronghorns Lining Up

I find this is one of the few ways Pronghorn Does get their heads together. Seeing alignments now and then since I do a lot of photography of herds. I normally get two lined up pretty easily but 3 is a good capture.

The North American Pronghorn:

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….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pronghorns Lining Up

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Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise
Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

It was cold breezy morning, a walk down by a small remote lake. Stepping over and around various obstacles being the key to staying up right. I spend some time circling the lake and stop here. This HIGHLY weather enhanced piece of driftwood was laying there. It was all beautiful in it’s weathered finest.

This is one of my Close/Far perspectives from the viewpoint of a mouse. I have to think small to see this kind of rule of thirds image develop at ground level. I imagine what the effect is then I employ the proper lens to capture the scene. Looking into a sun while capturing detail in the shadows is one of my favorite things to succeed at. Still inadequate equipment prevents detail to easily be found in the shadows These details in the “dark” came out as the sun was veiled just enough

This lake I have seen run dry before but not this year. We were way above average moisture accumulation. It remains full through the current. Wood lasts a long time up here. It’s pretty dry , as a result, beached driftwood lasts decades. I don’t know how low it took to furrow this log but it was a long time. Living in the backcountry tends to boil down life to the essentials. I find that photography, simple is usually better. Wood, Water, Grass and Sun combine for this composition.

Landscape 2×3 aspect up to 3 feet wide.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

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Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker's Dozen Sharp Tailed Grouse
Baker's Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse is a capture of 13 Fat little Prairie Chickens feeding on Flowering Crab Apples, taken from my front deck 2x3aspect to 3 feetBakers Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Talk about a great puzzle!. This one would be just nuts…

As the winter goes on, the Sharpie flocks gradually move in on the main homestead. They attack the peripheral Flowering Crab Trees in our gardens further out first. Then the gradually get used to me moving around. Then they don’t even care if I’m around fairly close by. . The crab “apples” are smaller than cherries in this particular tree.

I never go out with a camera given time looking like a human shape. I love bulky hoods and cloths/coats that hide my human shape. A moving lump scares these guys a lot less than a moving human. It was 7 degrees the early morning I took this and I was working them a while. Spotted them inside and I just took my time getting into position for this. I very slowly opened the outside door of which they could plainly see me. Moving maybe 3 feet a minute with an 8 pound lens and camera to get behind a porch column was necessar. I rested the camera on the column of course and tried to hide my movement behind it.

This is a 1200 mm telephoto image from about 40 feet distance from my camera lens.

There are indeed 13 grouse in this image. Feel free to count them. I’ve done it a few times very carefully and I’m seeing 13. There were a LOT more in the tree. I couldn’t get the detail I wanted and have the shot wider. The local Sharp Tail Flock around our homestead is at LEAST 100 individuals at the moment. I’ve never seen this many birds winter up here before. It was a VERY good grass year so I will stick with that as a reason.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse.

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Corriente’ Calf’s Curious Eye

Corriente' Calf's Curious Eye
Corriente' Calf's Curious Eye

Corriente’ Calf’s Curious Eye

Hey Brown Eyes …. I always wonder what these guys are thinking. Humans are scary things to them but we provide food. Our vehicles show up and food magically appears to them. In the winter when the trucks feed the herd, the sound of the rig brings them trotting across the snowy prairie.

This is one of our calves born this year. It’s horns still pretty small, a month old baby. Adults will have pretty good sized horns for such a small beed of cattle. They definitely know how to use those horns. The breed routinely bully much larger Angus around with them.

The Spanish breed Corriente’ where first shipped to the America’s in 1493. The smaller breed was easier to transport, feed/ care for. They tough as heck athletes each and every one. Their meat contains about 1/2 the fat that our modern hybridized breeds. They require a lot less water adapting easily to sparse range. In other words, they pretty much take care of themselves. As a beef producer, your upfront costs are way lower. OF course these are sport cattle. Thusly we are not raising them for beef but as roping cows to train cowboys.

We’ve had Corriente’ for a decade. Their worst characteristic is that they go where they want. Doesn’t matter if there is a 4 wire barbed wire fence between them/where they want to go. They work their way through fences as if the barrier wasn’t there. Fortunately, they like it here. Hanging out by the water sources is the attraction. Water get’s scarce 3 miles out from our homestead. So they stick around mostly bulls excluded. Bulls go where their hormones tell them to. Since those bulls are small, no one want’s them to breed with a purebred Angus, you won’t get as much money lol.

Title: Corriente’ Calf’s Curious Eye

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SpringTime Velvet Buck

SpringTime Velvet Buck
SpringTime Velvet Buck

SpringTime Velvet Buck

I know this buck as “Goal Post. He only has one brow tine on the horn on your right. He also has perfect ears meaning he’s a lover not a fighter. I’ve been watching this boy grow up for the third year now. He’s almost respectable now, has grown and generally is very receptive to posing.

I’ve been “working around” this guy for several years now and he is pretty tolerant of me. I have to be slow in what I do with my vehicles as with any wild animal. IT’s all about getting your rig to act like a grazing animal. Stutter stop, start move 10 feet, “graze a while” move some more. You have to wait to move until their attention span lessens of their awareness of you. They go back to grazing. Wait a few seconds and move another 20 feet. Take your time.

I have worked my way into the middle of several different wild deer herds precisely doing the process above. You can’t just drive up in the middle of a group expecting them not to scatter like the wind. . They would misconstrue the quick approach as a hostile act. Only the other grazers can integrate into a deer herd. So there is an art to getting really close to any wild animal but I do stay in my rig. Getting out is a bad idea across the board. Making them used to the human form is counterproductive to their reproductive processes. I get them used to my vehicles. I never get out or push them ever. If I scared them routinely, it would be a hard thing to approach the next time.

2×3 aspect up to 3 feet

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: SpringTime Velvet Buck

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Fawns Running at the Camera

Fawns Running at the Camera
Fawns Running at the Camera

Fawns Running at the Camera

These 2 month old Pronghorn fawns were “up the hill” There were 5 adults and 8 fawns in a “nursery”. Adults often care for others fawns cooperatively. I only got 6 of the running fawns in this frame. A full frame high resolution capture taken from out the window of my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I had been there a while. The vehicle obviously blended into the background as a non-threatening thing to them.

When I accidentally drive into what I consider a group of pronghorn’s “uncomfortable zone”, I stop and start driving like a grazing animal. stop, stay there a while. Start and move 10 feet stop for a while, rinse and repeat that process until I get into reasonable camera range. I had an uphill shot to the group. Suddenly ALL the fawns took off running at the same time while the 3 doe babysitters didn’t flinch. Something startled them but not the adults.

This group ran by my Jeeps I’d say within 20 yards. I get inside groups of deer several times a day using this technique but not too often Pronghorns. If you ask anybody which end of the Pronghorn you usually get the picture of, it’s not usually the front end. I’m thinking I have 2 other encounters were the animals were running at me. I actually was almost run over by a Pronghorn by accident. I was JUST over a ridges lip standing in a cattle trail by a fence (a natural funnel). He didn’t see me running up the other side until he crested the ridge maybe 10 feet behind me.

I had a wide camera and did get that encounter too lolol. Spun and caught them running by my rig. Their hoofs threw dirt at me with their turn to avoid me. Almost a head on collision in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never wanted to collide with a Pronghorn at speed lolol. I’ll dig out that photo soon.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Fawns Running at the Camera

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Hunting the Wild Pasque Flower

Hunting the Wild Pasque Flower
Hunting the Wild Pasque Flower

Hunting the Wild Pasque Flower

Hunting the wild Pasque Flower. Located on east facing slopes, they are not that common here.. I never really see them growing anywhere without a partial tree cover canopy over them. The south and eastern slopes here tend to collect a bit more water. Snow collects there blown from the north and west slopes. These are wild Crocus effectively. Commonly called “prairie Crocus”. The HAIRY bell shaped blooms are distinctive. Tissue paper delicate, transparent to bright sun with a very photogenic subject for a study of highlights.

Catching these guys usually involves being on your stomach. Please be careful where you lay down. (Besides the occasional Prickly Pair Cactus)….this is cattle country. You definitely need to watch what you roll around in lol. I have put my (then) un padded jeans covered knee on a prickly pear before. I also put my hand down once getting up on a prickly pear. There is definitely some hazardous duty pay situations out here in the backcountry. I now wear Goretex™/waterproof pants with knee padded pants when I work in the back country. I highly suggest good outer wear and layers in this country.

Since these little 6 inch flowers are random and rare in their distribution, you have to actually hunt them down. I have found them in small groups of 4 or 5 plants Harder is finding them on the upper part of that eastern slope where they can be worked photographically. In order to get low angle golden sun on the plant, they have to be on the edge of the forest. This limits your opportunities tremendously if your hunting the wild crocus.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title : Hunting the Wild Pasque Flower

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Sunflower with Praying Mantis

Sunflower with Praying Mantis
Sunflower with Praying Mantis

Sunflower with Praying Mantis

I caught this top level insect predator hunting on a sunflower out in my garden about three months ago now. I JUST got to finishing the capture. I’m sorry to say the cold got this one I’m pretty sure. It was a good summer for insects. There should be lots of Mantis Egg sacs about. IF I see any I’ll photograph them of course. I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. Patient predators if you ask me 🙂

I was on my knees praying for this shot. However I was for good focus as well as a slower subjec lol.

Mantis are part of a huge order of some 2400 species under that umbrella worldwide. This is a native Wyoming/Montana species. Though almost all the flowers it hunting have all been imported from elsewhere. Thrilled he was to see my lens coming at him lolol. I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. Patient predator if you ask me 🙂 The are constantly moving back and forth a lot to imitate plants swaying in the breeze. They usually don’t stick around in any one place very long on their rounds.

I don’t see many of these out in our gardens but my Aquaponic Green House in on it’s 5th generation now of Mantis babies. About every 8 months or so I have a hatch take off down there. I bought some egg 4 years ago + and they are still going supporting themselves in that 40 x15 by 20 foot “Wyoming Walipi”. That means it’s an underground green house and is all aquaponic using all water (except for some orchids where I have some hydroton nuggets involved. .

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Sunflower with Praying Mantis