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Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Lighting Under a Mesocyclone
Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (vehicle) seems somehow logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea 🤔 ⛈. Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list.

Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I actually flinch for, is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that particular photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. 📸

Photographic Musings:

There are two ways of doing this. If it is very dark, set your camera on a stabile tripod in a dry area. Take 25 second time exposures at ISO 200 and f11 to start with… You will have to tweek some to see what comes out. Or use an external “lightning trigger” to snap the camera as the bolt touches off. Set your camera near or at ISO 200 F11 and 1/4 second. Your setting s may vary but now too far out. The trick here to get a full frame (not a crop) image was to watch the storm and figure out where the bolts were consistently hitting. Then you just point the camera into that area and wait. Turn on some tunes…..

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

Title: Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

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Sunset Behind Lone Tree

Sunset Behind Lone Tree
Sunset Behind Lone Tree

Sunset Behind Lone Tree

Five months ago I saw this scene up on the high ridges overlooking the Little Powder River Valley. The hard part about this kind of image is to get up that ridge without leaving your rig up there until spring. Some drift was likely to stop progress as much as the ice going up the steep two track roads. This tree is 400 feet higher than my homestead about a mile away. The paths there are determined by the drifts.

I thought the contrast of a beautful snowy sunset versus the hot humid dry summer would be therapeutic. At the time it seems like you want summer…just never happy are we 😜🤘

Winter sunset around 4:30PM instead of the 9 (ish) PM sunset now in the summer as this posts. The 5 AM Summer sunrise comes all too soon for this photographer in the mid-summer when this posts. Summer has trouble competing with the amount of ice in the air to generate BIG sunsets like this. I have to admit that in my experience and personal choice, winter sunsets are better than summer🤔 👀 ❤️

Close / Far Perspectives as this where a telephoto is used to CRUSH the distance between the camera and the close object with the far object more or less uneffected by the magnification. . I’m a good 300 yards back from that foreground lone tree. I’ve said it before that with this kind of photography (close/far), high F-stop and distance from your foreground object is necessary.

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

Title: Sunset Behind Lone Tree

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Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

Sun Windmill Tree Clouds
Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

This is the second image from this timeline I am publishing. Each has it’s own merits. I worked this wonderful scene moving around for the different compositions that are hiding from us. Our perspective is “where we are”. The goal of photography is to see past where we are actively moving to the “optimal” perspective possible for the scene at hand. There are an infinite number of options available here only limited by the topography I’m positioned on. There have been so many times I wish for a ladder of just a few feet to change the angle ever so slightly. This is of course why I drive along parallel ridges to work terminator crossings. I can move up and down the opposite ridge as it is my metaphorical ladder.

Terminator: This is the dividing line between night and day as seen from outer space. It’s a good way for me to describe EITHER sunrise or sunset to you if you understand what it is. That visible shadow/light line moves around a globe that is 24000 miles around in circumference one time a day. That is, the shadow of night moves in at 1000 miles per hour over us as the sun rises or sets. Likewise sunrise moves over the earth at 1000 miles per hour likewise. Terminator is an interesting google search… You see it on the moon all the time….

I hadn’t been to this particular location for a while, it’s SORT of off the beaten two track. Anyone notice the photobomber? There are no cattle in this pasture yet so lazy me tends to stay out of pastures I have to open and close gates to enter. I’m getting lazy in my old age… 😜 📸

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

Title: Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

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High Plains Dawn Act 1

High Plains Dawn Act 1
High Plains Dawn Act 1

High Plains Dawn Act 1

There are nice twilights and then there are ones like this one. It’s almost Art if it wasn’t absolutely real as I saw the event. The Golden Alpenglow derived from the ice in the air, was resultant from suspended ice in the air. The longest day of the summer (Solstice) and ice was acting as a projector screen. Filtering some of the light passing through to spotlight the sun’s long traveled red rays on the cloud deck above. This dramatic opening act was just a preview of the sunrise to come. Sometimes these morning shows last well over an hour…. This one was around that. One hour is FOREVER in my world…. 😜

The air at my back was moving with a definite chill. Mid-June is an odd time to have to wear a good jacket but at 5:30 AM with a breeze, dress for the part. I have found this location that I call Sunrise Ridge). Such is “Fairly” easy to get to. It’s about a mile of bumpy two track roads. The journey takes me past several Game Trail Cameras thusly I had ulterior motives. Some mornings as this are so beautiful for so long I end up with 8 or 9 hundred images for the timeline. I’m sure I surpassed 1000 with the various camera/lens combinations I used to study this drama. The longer the show, the more clicking that occurs amazingly. 😃

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

Title: High Plains Dawn Act 1

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Lavender Sunset Backshow

Lavender Sunset Backshow
Lavender Sunset Backshow

Lavender Sunset Backshow

During sunset a few days ago, I habitually turned around during a very colorful sunset. After picking my jaw off the dirt…. Looking over your shoulder can often be well worth your time. Certainly true in bear country but up here during sunset, the back shows can be as impressive as the sunset. The scene was dark so is the image.

I’ve very interested in trying to get the colors scheme accurate to the scene I experienced live. This one is very blue/cyan to my normal published image because that is the actual color of the sky at that moment. I was shocked that it wasn’t just grey with tinged pink clouds, but the cyan was there. I made a mental note of it. It was a rare color in my experience. The drift from day to dusk twilight was a colorcast experience on this evening. This sky was complex all around the periphery of my viewpoint. More or less the whole atmospheric dome above me was worthy of photography that evening. I was happy to comply working it with 3 different camera/lens combinations on a rotating basis lol.

Oh, the repeating cloud pattern on the horizon is a series of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. They are a fairly rare phenomenon, where a cloud produces a billowing breaking wave pattern. They occur when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams, causing winds to blow faster at the upper level than at the lower levels. Filed under rare weather phenomena lol.

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

Title: Lavender Sunset Backshow

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Sunset and a Wide Lens

Sunset and a Wide Lens
Sunset and a Wide Lens

Sunset and a Wide Lens

At the top of a drainage, standing on the top of a pass, any water that runs off after falling here will go through 5 rivers to reach the Gulf of Mexico. In Wyoming and Montana are located the head waters of many a watershed. The strip roughly 10 miles shared between both states… Wyotana of course does not exists at a place in time and space. It is a mystical place of undetermined dimensionality along the 45th parallel 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator. I’ve seen many things that amaze me and quite often remarkably. Having lived here for only 2 decades I have certainly missed a lot and am not as good a rancher as I could have been. Spending anytime up here teaches you respect for the land and for others that endure the hardships here.

This land imaged above is barren of human intervention. Only a few barbed wire fences keep the perimeter on pastures several square miles in size for herds of thousands of cattle. There are by far way more cattle in this land than there are people. Locally we are around 1 person per square mile density… I last heard 125 people were in our voting precinct covering 256 square miles of land. There are a few non-voters under 18 living about but not a lot. We are a community with a lot of elbow room as you can see by our back yards. Closest neighbor is 3 miles+.

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

Title: Sunset and a Wide Lens

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Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show
Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

I call this backcountry ridge “Sunset Ridge” for it’s awe inspiring views of the eastern horizon covering the Big Skies of BOTH Montana and Wyoming. There is even a little South AND North Dakota there in the lower Golden Alpenglow. A classic Alpenglow Gradient with a fully involved complex cloud deck. I watched this Saturday the 20th’s morning with 3PM Mountain time roughly being the actual solstice. That is when the sun is over directly head of the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north Latitude. This location is for all intents and purposes exactly at 45 degrees North Latitude. This will be the longest day of the year. It was a beautiful morning.

Left early mid-nautical twilight as it takes a while to get to this spot. It’s a civilized drive with a little over a mile of fairly smooth two track trail. A few miles of county gravel to start. It was cool this am in the 40’s with a stiff breeze. This kind of capture is handheld walking a ridge line I could park “Clever Girl” within walking distance of. I am NOT used to 40 degree windy weather. There is this thing called windchill that works it’s way into the “hoodie” I had on. Just for your minds eye, I am usually in full camo dress as if I was hunting wildlife. As technically I am with the cameras lol. I would rather blend in than not.

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

Title: Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

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WindmillTree and Cloud Filter

WindmillTree and Cloud Filter
WindmillTree and Cloud Filter

WindmillTree and Cloud Filter

Clouds hundreds of miles away accentuate and attenuated this image filtering the light before it reaches my lens.. Various levels of smoke from burning forests, dust and moisutre give western photographers opportunities. I am not ashamed to take advantage of it though my heart goes out to those that the fires impact. 

I’ve physically fought my share of grass fires living surrounded by a giant sea of grass. Fires used to burn here from their start to the first snows putting them out. I’ve seen some tremendous sunsets as a benefit to natures actions cleaning up the dead fall that we have allowed to accumulate to dangerous levels. 

Photographic Musings: 

I’ve said many times before that I don’t use glass filters in front of my lenses. When shooting directly into the sun, the best filters have leftddfff a ghost of the sun in my images. Offset reflective artifacts are not generally welcome to a photographer that tries really hard to be a photorealist. I will occasionally wander using lens reflections/flares in my work, but not here lol. 📷 

Big Long Telephoto lenses have a tendency to CRUSH perspective like a compressed accordion . Getting topography, Windmill and Sun all to line up at the same time while at the same elevation as the sail…..not that regular an occurrence lol. I know the topography I work pretty well after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the sun is going to rise is a matter of looking it up on google which would be about as far north as the sun gets mid June lol. 

Get a compass, a map (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up. I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE it is going to take place though. 😄 

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

Title: WindmillTree and Cloud Filter

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A Storm is Down the Road

A Storm is Down the Road
A Storm is Down the Road

A Storm is Down the Road

We are by trick of geography quite isolated from the surrounding world. It’s 15 miles to the nearest asphalt highway and 70 miles to the nearest stop light. I’d like to think I’m a fairly astute observer of media as we are well connected to the web here……..

There are times up here I feel we are watching the storm in the distance from afar. The expectations, the eventual realization of the reality, finally the lost sense of normalcy are all heavy on my mind. But unlike the storm in the distance, we have many choices that may be made. To turn back usually isn’t an option in any particular timeline we are experiencing. Einstein has his rules after all and we must obey…..🤔

So onward inexorably toward the storm we move with no other option but to make it through. The path can be treacherous, full of pitfalls with negative effects, change, and and a loss of control perceived or otherwise. Adversity brings opportunity now and then. Like walking barefoot down this road.. Does it feel like we are in a river only able to swim to one side or the other? Maybe, but we are still ALL in the same river regardless. 👀

I’ve just had a couple of days of writers block where I didn’t want to write these narratives/pages. I finish images those days. Then this image came by my desktop and kicked me back into retrospective and forward thinking thought at the same time. This image is so metaphorical to the world situation we find ourselves in. Each of us traveling within our own sphere of influence experiencing our own storm conditions. Watching the various issues arisen in our travels appear, only to drop by the wayside mostly occurs in retrospect. The information technology age changing the way we think and act by the second. Changing our expectations. Quickens the pace they do. Driving a herd to a degree. Some of these issues may not drop along the way…. Don’t give up so freely what others have given all for is my advise.

The roads may all be different, the storms that effect us will move on to another with time. Properly considering your journey is paramount in it’s ultimate success.

Be Safe All and god bless

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

Title: A Storm is Down the Road

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Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree
Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Finding a Huge Mesocyclone Spinning 50 miles+ off in the distance, I’m thinking “Perspective” 📸 So I had a “Far Object’. This little Spinning top of a storm with the energy of the atom bomb spread out over it’s lifetime. This is just the right 1/3rd of the storm. I easily could have made a triptych out of the total storm. Over an hour after this capture, I was chasing this storm and indeed took a very wide composite image of the sunset projecting red on this storm. Both daylight AND twilight captures of this storm are now in my portfolio. 

These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as potential monsters if they roll over you. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long. Yes tornadic activity can occur out of them. Hail is also a HUGE threat. 

They make ultimate IMAX™ wide theatre screen for the filtered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector over my shoulder with this being the backshow more mid-day . 📸 Having passed right over us. This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across. Still Blue with white clouds, the twilight colors later in any sunset timeline are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere.

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

Title: Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

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Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby
Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Driving toward the Montana / Wyoming border to work a high spot for a veiled sunset. Rapidly developing, light conditions change by the second. I’m trying to get somewhere to photograph the “sunsets” timeline when I saw this developing. From inside my truck on a remote county road at sunset, a meadowlark was enjoying the sunset. Famous for their vocalizations, they are a challenge to just get a photo of in my experience. Lining one up with a veiled sun is a bucket list item. Now if I can only get an American Eagle to do this….. 🤔 😀 📸

In small bird photography, there is a goal of eyebrow close, feather detail photos. Then there is having celestial objects cooperate AND cloud cover just so to let the shape without all the glare into the frame. Being hard to get close to is the game, getting sol to cooperate is just amazingly cool in my world. But then I like to point cameras into the sun. (Disclaimer: Professional Mirrorless Cameras that can take it. No DSLR’s please….

It is very hard to get finished images without a rim around the silhouette of some other color. It’s a diffraction artifact from a high f-stop setting. . This amazing capture has no trace of a color rim. Sharp as heck. I’m still trying to figure that one out. If I do I’ll share it with you. Color rims around objects against bright light is a problem I’ve been trying to solve for years. I have a clue… perhaps… 👀 🤔

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

Title: Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

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Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

Sunrise at the Summer Solstice
Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

I sense the turning of the wheel again. Living here for 2 decades now, makes me ponder those that came before me. Loving the land as I do all.

There are so many ranch stories from any one particular spot that will never be told or known by the public or for that fact history. Some epic, standard stuff sure and most were. But stories of sweat, toil and hard work by generations of cowboys and cowgirls in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana.

I look around at all the fence posts set deep in the ground on my ranch, I just shake my head in astonishment at the work. If anyone hasn’t hand dug a post hole, raise your hand, you know who you are. This is true cowboy country. There is a huge cattle culture in this place complete with the uniforms for such.

The both counties my ranch spans have WAY more cattle than people living in an area the size of a small state. Ranches can get large up here, not as big as some of the historic ones though. There are still a few 100000 acre outfits (outfits as they call ranches locally 🙂

This IH/Deering Seed Drill was certainly used in the 1920’s and 30’s maybe into the 40’s. There are several old homesteads from the 20’s (ish) within 3 miles of my place that I know about. Somewhere back then, the owner parked this complex machine meant to drop seeds with some precision into a prepared field. It was the last work it did…

Planting Hybrid Grass seed was it’s primary job. I’m not sure what pulled it, maybe both horses early on and then the rancher got a tractor or a WWII surplus Jeep and pulled it with that. Many surplus Jeeps worked fields here in the west during the 40’s and 50’s. So many stories not told…. I even find fragments of historic leather harness “tack” for horse teams here along with the iron skeletons of old 2 seat carriages and abandoned buck wagons here on ranch. (The black-smithed iron is fantastic.)

There is about 110 years of European man living on this remote ranch in the borderlands. Over that century, many residents threw broken items “over the bank” and out of mind. So the steep/deep gullies near old collapsed sod houses are prime hunting ground for iron antiques, glass bottles etc left over from previous lives. There are even a handful of car/truck skeletons from the 1920’s around and even some in the backcountry. I have a “Small” eclectic collection of select ranch artifacts carefully spread about in rock gardens around here. Interesting stuff for sure, pretty rusty all.. 📸

Round and round the Wheel It Comes…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

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Fully Involved Morning Twilight

Fully Involved Morning Twilight
Fully Involved Morning Twilight

Fully Involved Morning Twilight

The Poetry of the moment is often hard to quantify but as poetry it does qualify. The color of the scene is a result of the cold hard physics of the world. The light proceeds on it’s path until some substance acts either to block or bend the dual nature of particles and waves. (This is a wonderful concept and worthy of an extended google search this AM). Light acts sometimes as a particle but also has wave like properties. Scientific wisdom everyone needs in their daily life but is beyond the scope of this narrative 😝 🤘

Turtle Butte from this angle is often confused with a volcanic cone (and even volcanic during a few of my journeys into satire). Maybe it’s just me. Impersonators are everywhere in geology. Things that “look like”. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about those volcano’s. FYI, they are sedimentary remnants. Hard Cap Rocks protect the sediment below… . It’s all in the details, not the shape.

Humans are generalists. We miss details but do gather a wide interpretation of scenes at first. Shape! Then we slowly start focusing on details like composition and color. The color here is spot on to the original scene. I take great care in this exposing the highlights such that detail is still visible in them. If you’ve never spent twilights in Wyoming or Montana, you’ve never seen skies like we have. My job is to climb the 300 foot high ridges in the dark to get into position before this amazing show of artistry by mother nature. My photography is resultant of the various to and fro journeys pursuing those dual nature particles. (Photons).👀 🤔 📷

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

Title: Fully Involved Morning Twilight

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Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset
Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

You really have to see this full screen to appreciate it. It is dark but that is because the dynamic range required to look into the sun. The Camera relents. It’s inability to replicate what my eye sees is obvious to me. Technology will eventually catch up. The human eye has 5 or more F-stops of Dynamic range than the best camera. IF you blow this image up, you can see lots of detail in the dark. If you looked at the sun at the scene, it would have blinded you the glare was so intense. Cameras seeing details in the dark while looking at other very bright things is why silhouettes are created. The camera is unable to do what the eye does. I point out that the camera is better at looking into the sun than the eye is though 👀😜📸

This timeline was limited to about 15 minutes as this is just a thin slit for the sun to shine through. The cloud deck was otherwise opaque to the sun. It was actually quite beautiful as a stand alone sky show. Always trying to work a scene, I had no way to incorporate the foreground into this scene. I was up too high on the ridges and at a point JUST above the next ridge in front of the camera. No time to move. The cloud deck never lit up from under significantly on this show. That was a trick mother nature held out for a short 8 hours later for dawn the next day. That timeline will make it’s way into my work flow shortly. Stay tuned….

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

Title: Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

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Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus
Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

This was a very Late afternoon “Golden hour”. Clouds all illuminated of the west side of a huge growing Mesocyclone. The Sun had already set where I was standing even on a high hill top. . The lower part of this cloud is in the shadow of the horizon as well. I was miles out on that high ridge from the homestead watching a huge storm in the distance when I noticed the “hat” on the top. The amount of energy tied up in these massive spinning monsters is amazing. The 60 mile across storm was growing stronger as it traveled away from me. It was visibly growing taller as well. 

The Science of this: 

Pileus Clouds are also called “cap” clouds or “Scarf” clouds. They typically are short lived. Usually the climbing cumulonimbus absorbs them. Only occasionally seen only over strong updrafts. THe change caused a dew point tripping phase change. Flashing vapor to condensation droplets. The appropriate changes in either Temp/pressure/humidity can cause the condensation. 

Personally I’ve only seen them once before. I didn’t have a camera with the legs to reach out and capture their essence. Rule number one of Photography is (Have a camera). Rule number one subsection 2 (1.2) is have the right lens on the camera to get close to what you want in the frame. This was a 1200mm on a full frame mirrorless Sony Alpha 7R4. This is about 10 miles distant. 

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. 

Title: Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

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Veiled Crimson Windmill Sky

Veiled Crimson Windmill Sky
Veiled Crimson Windmill Sky

Veiled Crimson Windmill Sky

There was a lot of complexity to this evenings sky up here in Wyotana. The wind was indeed blowing hard and spinning ol’ “Sneaky Pete” a good bit. I have no idea how many times those bearings have rotated but it’s millions…. many I suspect. As I type this we had a 43 mph gust and the storms that moved through last week gave us an 84 mph gust on my weather station. I now have my weather reporting station back on line. Do a search for DW1087 for my weather station live here on ranch.

Photographic Musings:

From a technical standpoint, doing this in camera with no Neutral Density filter in front of your lens is rare. The conditions must be JUST right. Anytime I point a camera into the bright sun, I’m mostly turning off the all the light valves. This gives me either crimson or burnt umber colorations. Who am I to argue with the camera. No human eye could stare at this live and work later.

Problem/obfuscating factor:

I wanted to blur the windmill sail. A fast shutter speed will freeze it in it’s track and reduce light (less light is good here into the camera). It’s all about balancing these three things. But to blur such a thing, means 1/15th of a second which is VERY LONG in bright light. OVERPOWERING BRIGHT = hard to do right. Balance……3 things…..Shutter and:

Camera Sensitivity to ISO 100. Faster shutter speeds reduce the light coming in too. (you need to)

Leaving F-stop (aperture/iris size) to consider. I want a close far focus with this telephoto so I’m using F-36 (a high setting for a 400 mm lens). Higher the F-stop, = less light BUT deeper focal field. That means the depth of focus will have both the windmill and the distant sky/horizon in focus). Sort of a requirement but not a problem here. I only use 1 of maybe 10 of these I take….. Hard to do.

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

Title: Veiled Crimson Windmill Sky

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Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients
Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients

The stripe of orange/yellow colored ice under the Crimson Cloud Deck is what the sun light is passing through. A fully involved twilight sky is the result of that red/orange light making it through to the underside of a cloud deck This image was taken near the border line of Montana / Wyoming. The Butte actually sits directly on the border which coincidentally is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole. Some bright guy in the past decided that a kilometer would be based on the distance from the Equator to the North Pole. That distance is 10,000 kilometers between the geographic characteristics 90 degrees apart on the globe. There is actually a difference in distance to the south versus the north pole from the equator. There are several related discussions but that is something you’ll need to google for yourself 👀🤔😀

I must climb several hundred feet of topography to get this eastern view. It’s a several mile drive over two track roads. This spring time image from from May of 2020. With the drying out of my trails, I have much better access to the ranch’s high ground. The views are spectacular up there. I consider the east west view from certain high points around here to be 180 miles from horizon to horizon. Those spots however are not very easy to get to 1/2 hour before the sun rises lolol. The Big Sky of Montana merges seamlessly with the Wonderful Wyoming Skies right over my place.

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

Title: Spring Twilight Color Gradients

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Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

Strawberry Moon Two Mesoyclones
Strawberry Moon Two Mesoyclones

Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

TWO Big Storms rumble across the high prairie land of Wyotana. The wedge on the left is closer, smaller and in the partial shadow of another storm between it and the sun. The right storm is really huge and ‘muscular” for your “garden variety” of giant storm moving across the high plains. The close storm is 40 miles out obscuring the Devil’s Tower from my view. The larger storm is well over 100 miles out over in South Dakota across that state line. These storms have energy equal to an atom bomb that they expend over their lifespan.

Closed to me the window to the horizon rising early June 2020 Strawberry Moon. These two monsters spinning like tops in the way being effective a keeping me out. By this point in this 30 mile road trip, I was getting impatient for the extra 1/2 hour it took for the moon to rise over that cloud bank.

In full disclosure, this is two very wide images individually stitched side by side inside of the digital darkroom. A real scene though. It is over 160 degrees wide almost 1/2 of the sky. These were really quite a scene. This is of course, the reason I followed the storms out on the road. Waiting just for this moment. The colors are as I experienced them with lighter / whiter clouds at the top and the “Belt of Venus” sunset light projected onto the storms sides.

60″x20″ image triptych

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

Title: Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

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Old Man North Wind

Old Man North Wind
Old Man North Wind

Old Man North Wind

I laughed out loud and then took dozens of images in all sorts of frame compositions. I liked this particular capture the best. There are several very good cloud creatures in this image. The hoot is the face on the upper gray cloud. The north wind as it were … Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale” The Selfish Giant (1888) exemplifies the North Wind as a man who “was wrapped in furs. He roared all day. I’ve always pictured him in my minds eye as a grey old guy… here he is caught on camera.

I thought as this was taken, it was an exercise in futility for the old guy. It was early June and 80+ degree days are already past us. My sense of normalcy was safe or so I thought. Of course it’s snowing in the mountains as I type this now. Looks like the old fellow got his way after all. I have seen snow in every calendar month of the year in the 30 years I’ve lived in Wyoming. I now have garden crops in and am hoping we will avoid the worst of the old North Winds effects.

Meanwhile on the rest of the image here overlooking both Montana and Wyoming. I’m also imagining a swan diving it’s head under the surface of a frothy ponds below the old guy. Pareidolia takes no captives and gives no quarter. If you have it, and don’t take definitive action to turn away, your likely to see all sorts of anthropomorphic shapes in clouds. If you do have this tendency, welcome to the club of us “suffering” from this malady.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands.

Title: Old Man North Wind

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Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter
Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

This adult female “Corriente” Breed is pulling nursery duty with two other angus calves that are in with her. We have a few white face “Angus” hanging out with a few “Corriente” this year and these were their calves. The calves mothers were nearby. This “Corriente” mother is still pregnant as my Horned gals are on a late June birth schedule. Very soon… I’ve owned this cow “Salt” for the last 5 years. (or she has just hung around and let me stay here too). She has given me a salt and pepper calf each year. This might be her last year as she is getting a little old for breeding much longer.

The “Corriente” breed originate from Spain/southern Europe. Imported into the America’s in 1493 reportedly by Spanish Settlers. I call them longhorns but some have said “they are not longhorns”. As I understand it, the Texas Longhorns were developed from this old stock but I could be wrong. Their most impressive characteristic to me is they are extremely hardy and take very little care. We do run them through the state required vaccinations, worming etc obviously. Other than that, there isn’t much to do for them except find homes for the calves from the previous year.

They are often used in the rodeo ring to rope as calves and to practice practical cowboy skills on around the ranch. Many large ranches have a few “Corriente” calves around just to practice on. “Training up” your “hands” on a ranch is a good “slow time” activity. The HUGE barn on this ranch was built for this. It still could be an indoor calf roping arena if I got all my crap out of it lol. There is still lot of the old memorabilia associated with those calf roping events held back in the 1970’s on the walls of that foot ball field sized building.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

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Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake
Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

The night was a partially cloudy evening with mid-layer patches of stratus clouds. The air was cool but NO wind makes mother nature say “find a pond” to me. When I get lucky, the sun drops below the layer of clouds. Then it can happen that nature provides me with a color pallet that says “take my photo” lolol.. Conveniently a rare windless Wyotana last light of the day moment was spent down by this local pond with a view. I particularly enjoy fully involved skies but sometimes the mosquitos push my limits. Out comes a small can of DEET (Off™) I keep handy in “Clever Girl” for such excursions. I don’t like it anywhere near optics/lenses though. Yuck…

Spring time is a good time for new angles for me to work photographically. The sun pushes North every sunset. Landscape features I use for compositions here in the backcountry are changed in their relationship to the light everday. An infinite variety of subjects over the 5 square miles of this small ranch.

The sun will start setting more to the south each night starting the Summer Solstice June 20th 3:44PM MST, the sun will continue to set to the left from this view point from June 20th till next December. Moving completely off frame with it progression to the south. This is a very wide capture at 130 degrees wide showing the whole sky that night.

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

Title: Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

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Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody
Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.

The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.

Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.

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

Title: Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

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Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying
Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying

The smallest of the North American Falcons, the Kestrel is elusive to photograph in my world. I might see one singularly in a years work. Usually at a distance and seldom at rest. They have an uncanny ability to hoover with their head motionless. All the while scanning the ground below for any prey movement.

They are not very large at only a foot tall. Somewhere between a robin and a crow in size. They are the most common falcon in North America as well as the smallest . They are aerial acrobats though with the ability to hoover with their head motionless. None the less they are so small buffeting in the high winds here on the high ridges is visible. The vertical slashes on the face are shared by the sexes but the blue/slate wings and brown “cap” head markings are distinguishing in the males.

Kestrel eat a broad range of grasshopper sized bugs up to mice, bats, songbirds and even smaller snakes or frogs. Opportunistic hunters they are. I have seen them hunt before but are elusive to photograph being quite small. I was very fortunate to come up over a ridge top to find this guy sitting on a snowy branch. He spent about a minute and a half after we surprised each other observing me. I immediately stopped on seeing him. It was windy so he might not have heard me as he was up wind. It only took me a few seconds to bring this long lens to the task. I clicked a few images carefully checking focus each time and off he flew off after game. I lost him after that.

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

Title: Kestrel Falcon Flying

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Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion
Turtle Butte Volcano Illusion

Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

Exactly on the Wyoming / Montana border, this Volcano simmers at behest of forces beyond our control. This of course is a satire and illusion of a volcano created naturally by a confluence of events and my position.

I love the long distance perspective of a properly involved deck of clouds colorcast by Alpenglow. These are real colors not unknown in this remote high country. The 180 mile long cloud deck positioned above a clear icy window to the sun. Our “volcano”, called Lookout Butte has a commanding view from the top as it’s name suggests. Being an “Insulberg” (google this), it has few characteristics resembling a Cinder Cone Volcano but for it’s shape. All form and no substance passing for an event of geologic significance in this fleeting moment. The chances of a thick layer of clouds across the sky lining up with the top is not terribly high so I cheat and move. The levers my ability to get just the right angle. The ability to move quickly from place to place is really useful for this kind of opportunistic photography. 👀

I don’t always work sunrise, but when I do, I always like a simulated volcano going off in the photo.😜. Illuminated by a dynamic gradient of long traveled cinema quality light, the actors of the stage show have a huge projection screen to perform under. Sometimes dramatic plays happen overhead taking over an hour from start to finish. I have a tough job watching entire sunsets and sunrises as they mutate from second to second.🕺 This show was the directors cut. 📸

I might take 800 photos of a particular sunrise as this. Maybe 2 or 3 images from the twilight will be finished. All the images from the timeline that morning but with different frames were equally as dramatic. Skies as above are rare but the high ridges I work have their share.

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

Title: Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

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Perspective Fish Eye Tower

Perspective Fish Eye Tower
Perspective Fish Eye Tower

Perspective Fish Eye Tower

Taken up on the ranch communications tower….. We have to get internet from somewhere now don’t we lolol. Having built this about 12 years ago, I maintain a couple of radio repeaters as our ranch business band radio plus the local 2 meter repeater to the local Ham radio network.

To start with let me say I don’t work with Canon Cameras too much any more but I pulled a 3 year old Canon M50 off the shelf and put a 8mm VERY VERY VERY wide Fisheye lens on it. If you can find one, they are a wonderful camera to learn on. Mirrorless cameras are WAY easier to learn as What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) is the game.

The clouds were patchy with a deep blue sky above. The sun had set but the clouds above were still bright enough to register. Your looking at pretty much of the entire sky here. The old Canon M50 is a wonderful camera but has a smaller image sensor. I use all “Full Frame” (larger image sensor) Sony Alpha 7 series currently and can’t even buy a wider lens than 10 mm for the platform. I would if it were there to buy.

Lenses that are so wide tend to compress the image on the edges. The Image is right at 180 degrees wide at the corners. That is VERY wide for a single image.

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

Title: Perspective Fish Eye Tower

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One Mornings Twilight Dance

One Mornings Twilight Dance
One Mornings Twilight Dance

One Mornings Twilight Dance

Captures like this really wide angle twilight melodrama are always a welcome eye opener . Treated to this wonderful show I was. As it turns out it was just a promise of things to come. In my travels, I’ve experienced occasional morning light worthy of capturing in my photon traps last several hours as did this show. Well into the “Golden Hour” this play continued. Unfortunately there is no universal/international rating system of the various iterations I experience of twilight beauty. I might have to come up with one some day.

Taken a full 15 minutes before the horizon dropped away. Thus exposing our star in it’s full brilliance. The attenuation of it’s glare not as intense filtering through the veil of clouds on the horizon. The withering gauntlet experienced by the light on it’s path to the cloud deck above kept the shorter bluer wavelengths back. Only the strongest waves survive natures filters. True of light as it is ourselves. Nature filters out those things that can’t, won’t or are ignorant of adaptation to the conditions that prevail up on them.

The promise of a fully involved twilight sky is of a better day to come. Though sailors are to take warning so goes the wisdom of the ages. It’s a good thing living about as far away from the ocean as we do as such rules do not apply here. (We live 80 miles from the geographic center of North America). This was a wonderful day with more images from this timeline to come.

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

Title: One Mornings Twilight Dance

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Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky
Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana is a mystical place somewhere near the border of Wyoming and Montana. That demarkation line between the two American Redoubt states is 360 miles long. I consider the “Zone” of Wyotana is about 10 miles wide. That makes a total 3600 square miles in this exotic land. That included area is 3 times larger than Rhode Island. Largely unknown, it includes parts of Yellowstone is mostly remote containing some of the most Mountainous country in the US. This is Cowboy Country from the east border of South Dakota west. All the way to the Yellow park boundary on the west.

Wild Wonderful Wyoming and Big Sky Montana have a few cultural differences. These largely result from Montana having more larger population centers. Their population derived from more migrants exiting huge cities on the coast. Wyoming is more rural with mostly rural local populations. There are HUGE areas of Montana is very similar culturally to HUGE areas of Wyoming. The oil industry and blue collar hydrocarbon guys come and go but a rancher is a rancher on both sides of the border. Our ranch IS in both states by the way lolol. Living in a remote rural ranching community on either side of the border is an entirely different existence from living near population. I’ve operated in both environments and way prefer the “long drive to town”.

Oh, the photo… taken 10 days before it posts as a side show to the main sunrise to the left of frame. I love complex skies with spring Alpenglow… 5:15 AM for this capture. My summer nights are getting shorter until the summer solstice….. Tough schedule to work both sunset and sunrise….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands.

Title: Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

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Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

Floaty Clouds Fully Involved
Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

I never know what to expect from a sunset. Each one takes on a life of it’s own. I am constantly receiving/interpreting cues from the environment about what appears to be happening. I only have a few minutes to decide where I want to set up for the show soon to arrive. There is a quickening of my pace around this time of the evening as the setting sun usually terminates the light

I’m fairly agile in my Ford F-150 Raptor and able to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly as it is more or less a Baja Capable photographic Studio. I’m able to get around on just about any terrain I don’t want to tear up. Ruining trails I am not so much into. We strictly stay off of muddy surfaces. I have well traveled two track trails leading to most high points. I only drive off trail on private ground I own as a matter of principle. Over 80 percent of my trucks current milage off road.

Never expected this iteration on an infinite series of themes. It’s one I don’t normally see with the “Floaty” clouds light up with the deck just above them dark and foreboding. The starred sun which is in and of it self, an artifact of the camera’s high f-stop setting (diffraction artifact). None the less, it adds geometry and order to the chaos of the clouds that evening.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

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Eagle in the Clouds

Eagle in the Clouds
Eagle in the Clouds

Eagle in the Clouds

A series of storms moved through the area a mid- may afternoon late.. I had been photographing them for several hours with the photosession running well into twilight. Shot the heck out of this… Here the sun has set but the clouds are being lit up by the long traveled red wavelengths. Up high the clouds are white which is the unfettered light that is just skipping off the atmosphere. The crimson had to fight it’s way to reflect off those clouds. IT’s a classic red to white cloud sunset gradient projected on the clouds by our star. The colors generated from path differences of the light. The shorter wavelengths just don’t make it that far so you have red (longer light waves).

At any rate, is that an Eagle? Condor? Turkey Vulture? Any body for a Unicorn?? I suffer horribly from Pareidolia (seeing faces or shapes of familiar objects in clouds). Carl Sagan theorized that hyper-facial perception stems from an evolutionary need to recognize — very quickly — faces. There is an evolutionary advantage to those that can see them quickly and act accordingly. I act by grabbing a camera in manual mode, set the ISO to 325, aperture to F11 and speed 1/100th rested 12 mm lens.

That is a VERY wide angle lens grabbing a big chunk of sky for this wonderfully complex sky production. Captured of the trailing back edge of a much larger Mesocyclone where I was driving around the sun lit side of those storms. The show that evening continued well into twilight with me driving two track roads up in the backcountry to capture it.

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

Title: Eagle in the Clouds

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Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud
Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

I was watching this monster come in. It was coming right at us. Everybody on ranch had their car under that big white roof a mile distant from my camera. That roof is the size of a regulation foot ball field in it’s entirety. Built in 1964, it was the largest building in Campbell County Wyoming. It’s a pretty tough heavy metal framed building. That roof replaced in 2008. After a hail storm threw baseball sized ice chunks at us. That along with all the other roof tin on the ranch. Definition of “Big pile” of dented metal left over after that repair. I’m still using it for various projects.

I seriously respect hail in this country having seen it crash through car windows many times. I also respect the down drafts from big storms that have shelf clouds stretching 130+ degrees across the horizon. Taken with the widest lens in my tool kit. It’s not a panorama but a 10mm lens. Looking south west (right frame) and east left frame. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in with the gear I had. I don’t have a lens wider than 10mm for full frame Sony cameras. No one makes one.

I thought this storm might produce the golf ball sized hail it was known for from radio warnings. That missed us as it passed fortunately. Rapidly moving, it produced .3 tenths of an inch of sideways rain and 60+ mph winds but from where I stand, they were way higher say near 80. I had a calf shed cartwheel over a fence, a window blew in, two empty 500 gasoline tanks/ stands blew over. Found some things moved “quite a ways” here and there by the blow. I made it into that big shed before it hit but that is where I weathered the storm too lol.

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

Title: Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud