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Sunrise over State Ground

Sunrise over State Ground
Sunrise over State Ground

Sunrise over State Ground

As I drive down the county red gravel road, I look to my left. Traveled a bit further to pull over safely. The paucity of traffic up here makes me drive even more carefully as I pull over at the strangest times. In the last 2 years I believe I’ve met less than 10 different cars / trucks out on the backroads working sunset/sunrises in this backcountry. . This image on “Section 36” taken 2 miles south of the Wyoming / Montana border . This is nothing like AREA 51 just so you know… . Section 36 in any particular township is the “school” section. That square mile reserved by the govt for the gov’t to be used for a school building.

This is a “School Section” mostly state owned ground 660 acres in size. It is leased to a neighboring ranch to me. A square Mile of State ground. Private ground past on the far Ridge. The pyramidal hill on the right skyline is “Mitten Butte”. Back in the 1950’s, the view the Parks Road /Trail Creek One room School House had. No neighbors then either. Only two signs of that old building… Some concrete foundations remain over a bank where they. Secondarily an old oil burning furnace about 3x3x5 feet still sits on the prairie marking the site where most of the local ranch kids learned the basics. It was a mile plus walk from our homestead where quite a few of the local kids came from to school.

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

Title: Sunrise over State Ground

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Hoar Frost Fence Line

Hoar Frost Fence Line
Hoar Frost Fence Line

Hoar Frost Fence Line

The sub-zero morning I took this out on a flat covered by geothermal steam. The Hoar frost covered ANYTHING that was exposed to the wind. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. Long shadows and red light dominate this scene …

Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow is usually as deep as the backcountry is big. Just a few plowed paths are about to provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top. The snow on the flats is unpredictable.

Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a sunrise session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost plus red morning light. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here. The highest ridges are 4000 feet in elevation. This is around 3700 feet. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions.

Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. The low angle light was still awesome. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Hoar Frost Fence Line

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Double Mint Bucks

Double Mint Bucks
Double Mint Bucks

Double Mint Bucks

Double Your Pleasure, Double your Fun with Double Mint, Doublle Mint, Double Mint Bucks. (commercial Jingle rolls around in your head lol)

I caught these two brothers crossing the country road. I actually “know” these two having watched them grow up from fawns. One is 4 and the other is 3 years old. Running into them often around the ranch, they have seen me so much that they are “Fairly tolerant” of my old Jeep (anyway). I haven’t seen them since my new ride arrived. No clue how they will react to the new rig. I suspect that they will not let me get too close for a while? Familiarity is a big deal with deer. My old Jeep never pushed or pressured them. They just don’t know that about the new bigger black truck.

I tried really hard to move more to my right. That would have better nest those antlers. . They weren’t in the mood for sitting still for me. Deer are like photographing a 2 year old human. They are very photographic but they don’t necessarily want to sit still for you lolol. These two are thick as thieves they are. “The deer on the right is called goal post and is missing his left brow tine. A male mule deer’s ears are 22 inches wide. I’m curious as to how large he will be next spring but he is starting to put on some neck mass.

These guys with the award for synchronized posing certainly. I’m not sure how they could get more alike without me cloning them in the digital darkroom lolol.

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

Title: Double Mint Bucks

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Perspective Porcupine Pine Damage

Perspective Porcupine Pine Damage
Perspective Porcupine Pine Damage

Perspective Porcupine Pine Damage

I’m walking along this ridge line way back up into the borderland backcountry of Wyotana. I see this scene developing. That is NOT water dripping off that injured pine tree. That is pine sap and it is dripping in SUPER slow motion at these temperatures lol . The Pine Sap extrudes on any external injury by the pine. This will keep out insects from penetrating the wound. This of course is part of the process insect/pinesap to Amber made famous in the Movie Jurassic Park. Tree resin traps insects, it gets hardened by heat and pressure over time and you get an insect in Amber. Fossilization requires specialized conditions. Amber formation must occur in a wet low oxygen environment. Something like an estuarine, swampy or even a marine environments. (chew on that last one for a while). 😜🤔👀

Stripped of bark, this injury caused by a Porcupine will likely not heal. Particularly if it is deep enough an injury. Porcupines strip bark off Pine trees. Porcupine is from the french translation of “Thorny Pig”. They eat roots, stems leaves of many plants but definitely consume and even kill trees by girdling a trees bark. I have seen numerous trees killed by porcupines. The mountain men used to not bother them. Being slow moving, easy to catch animals, as such were easy pickings. So the mountain men saved them for Hard times and emergencies. Porcupines are greasy when cooked I understand. I’ve never wanted to skin one lolol. 2:1 Aspect

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

Title: Perspective Porcupine Pine Damage

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Sunset Through Frosty Pines

Sunset Through Frosty Pines
Sunset Through Frosty Pines

Sunset Through Frosty Pines

This is a capture initiated by the -2 degree evening, the icy air and the lighting. The later of which was JUST settling down over the ridge with less than a minute left in the day.

Photographic Musings:

Topographically, I’m working just over the lip of that higher ridge. Opportunities like this after photographing that sun coming up over a ridge 1 mile out are important parts of the timeline. I move quickly to transition to working a closer ridge several hundred yards out as the sun climbs. A sunset for me is a period of moving from place to place to take advantage of the terrain. It is very important to know WHERE to and WHEN to move to the next shot. Extending your time working the “Golden Hour” is the result. You only have so much time to “Work the Light”.

Shadow line:

I work “Parallel” ridges because I’m very mobile to look for interesting leading lines and angles into the light. Here I saw this long line of smaller pines covered in ice from freezing fog the night before. (the night I’m typing this the same weather is occurring and I’ll be up on the ridges for sure ). There was an 1/8th inch of ice on everything that was exposed to the wind. So a vibrant landscape with an interesting weather event… (a hero as every photo needs a hero). But working that shadow line is the game.

The glare from the sun is quite a hard thing to deal with. I am literally looking into the sun with this camera with a white ground reflecting light plus the ice. The trees are my cellulose filter in front of my lens. Regardless, I had to turn my camera to HIGH F-stop, LOW ISO and your shutter speed is used to balance the equation. If you don’t want a sun star, go f-11 mid range. You adjust either with a neutral density filter in front of your lens (I hate them), or higher shutter speeds. Many consumer cameras don’t have 1/8000th shutter like the higher end models do to compensate . So faster shutter speed to reduce light into the camera may not be as much of an option depending on your equipment. Be careful pointing your camera into the sun.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Sunset Through Frosty Pines

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Hoar Frost Red Light

Hoar Frost Red Light
Hoar Frost Red Light

Hoar Frost Red Light (Full Screen is really a nice way to view with this image).

RIght at sunrise when the light from the sun is colorcast markedly red, any scene with hoar frost reacts vividly. Here on this high ridge with an infinite view to the horizon 100 miles away. This, the same light that makes the Pink “Belt of Venus”. Also responsible for the Red lIghting on distant hills these long traveled rays. Ultimately reflected to my lens. All pink is sky images are reflecting this very light. Those long red rays are going through the most atmosphere. The really bound off the bright white frost flowers and crystals. Catching it digitally is another thing 📷🤔

This scene is produced here to the same colors I experienced that morning. It’s as close as I can do it. Note how the snow in the shadows is grey/white .(natural) While the sunlit pure white frost turns into a nearly fiber optic pink projector screen.

Exposed surfaces to the wind were coated here by 3/4 of an inch of hoar frost. The north side of trees, grass interrupted the air flow of moisture laden air. This changed the “Triple Point” (good google word along water vapor). The Hoar frost growth is ice forming simply by moist air flowing over objects where a SLIGHT pressure change from the turbulence causes deposition of the ice. It’s crystal growth live real time that I’ve watched happening real time during several trips up on the ridges. I have gone up in terrible foggy cold weather to work the flat light before a time or two lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Hoar Frost Red Light

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Watch That First Step

Watch That First Step
Watch That First Step

Watch That First Step, it’s a Moosey. She was carefully considering her next Mooove.

So just a few Really cold minutes after sunrise this sub-zero icy morning. Bossy looks outside at the long step down. The cattle have obviously access to the first floor in this abandoned ranch homestead. I personally would stay in the house as it cuts any wind making sub zero hoodie weather lol. This borderlands image caught me by surprise.

Bossy thinks that this looks like a good exit but a 1000 pound girl going down over that window jam 3 feet to the ground seems excessive to me. Obviously she is not the first through that window based on the bottom sill board laying to the side. There was a herd of perhaps 100 angus crowing the building for it’s wind break characteristics. The half dozen cows inside the old building certainly had the better idea. I didn’t look to see if there was a basement under the structure. I didn’t approach the house as it was full of cattle and I really didn’t want to panic them to get out of there quickly. A panic is seldome a good thing.

I have seen cattle do many things but this is the first time I’ve seen one examining in some detail a move. She waited at least 2 minutes in this window looking down the whole time. It was pretty snickery at the moment. .

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Watch That First Step

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Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn
Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn

I’ve been on this spot many times. It is not easy to gain access to Midwinter. I have discovered that gaining elevation is a necessity required to acquire views such as this. 400 feet higher up here than where I live on the lower lip of this ridge. This rare back-lighting effect (colorcast) is accurately produced here exactly as I experienced it. The Red “Belt of Venus” in the sky background is from the same color light reflected in the atmospheric ice. The White Snow acting like a projector screen. I see a few of these a year historically. The snow and the hoar frost created “Pine Noodles” out of the needles. Witnessing and understanding what is happening below the surface are two different things however 🤔📷.

The snowstorm began at nightfall but ceased at mid-night. Bedded down were all the animals. The crisp wet morning accented the twilight. It might take half an hour of pre-sun travel to gain access this high remote ridge. There are no maintained roads up here off the county road. Busting drifts you can’t see is always a challenge…. Stuck describes a situation my 15 year partner Jeep Grand Cherokee I just traded in has never been. They ride like a board sadly under these backcountry two track roads. New ride 🙂

The Lone Tree and a few of it’s children surrounding the old soldier. These trees live in some very harsh conditions. They are almost all twisted grain under that bark from the high winds at the ridge.

This 40 mile landscape overlooks the Trail Creek Drainage. Off in the distance to the Little Powder River Drainage. The Mountain Ridge on the horizon is a reference point here. The camera is at the same elevation as the saddles between the peaks in the distance. This is a BIG valley / river drainage. The Big Horn Mountains had filled that big valley between the far hills with where I stand here.. The “Little Powder River, a 20 foot wide river most of the time removed all that sediment here to there….. Humm.. The “Alluvial Fans” (google this) from the Big Horn Mountains washed up to our doorsteps from 130 miles distant. Those have been bisected and removed by that little river. It’s drainage fingers cover a large area too. This is just a dry environment. This geomorphological process has taken a while.

Our ranch literally sits on the geologic inflection point between the Black Hills Uplift to our east and the Powder River Basin west (this view) The range distant to the horizon earned it name, the “Red Hills”. (I wonder why?)😜 Morning Red LIght is always illuminating those peaks for me.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Light Crack of Dawn

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RockyPoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store
Rockypoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store

Clarence Reece built a two story building in 1907. This became the General Store for the area (Rockypoint Wyoming which is in the North Eastern Corner of Wyoming). Just north west of Devils Tower which you can see from here about 35 miles away. Run by various local characters over the years, the store changed hands a dozen times. It closed finally in the Mid- 1950’s.

These timbers, cut 112 years ago, are the last remains of a building that served a whole community. These merchants who weekly at least, dealt with terrible dirt roads bought a lot of freight through these doors over time. Imagine if you will the old time gasoline pump with the glass top. An ranch kid attendant with a rag in his pocket took care of the windows and checked the oil.

I can’t imagine all the horse team trips to Gillette to hit the railroad in the early 1900’s. Gillette would be a two day trip via buck freight wagon I’m pretty sure from Rockypoint Wyoming. Camping on the trail, no weather forecasts or radio. These folks 100 years ago were tough hombres.

The community dance hall / community center became ground zero of local / national political discussions of course lol. Dances too but the roads could keep the band away. I’m sure they did best they could.

I own the back 1/2 of the Rockypoint 1940’s dance hall. It is a good structure that I resurfaced when I moved here in 2000 and it remains as a shop building.

Location/ Title : Rocky point Wyoming

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Frosty Milk on Tap

Frosty Milk on Tap
Frosty Milk on Tap

Frosty Milk on Tap

It was cold, it was foggy, it was frost that morning. These moms were bunching up to gain a little extra body warmth from their neighbors. Their breath was lighting up in the low angle light. Living in sub-zero weather that is actively hoar frosting has got to be challenging.

This was taken down at the geothermal lakes about 20 miles to my south. There is a deep oilfield (5000 feet) that a lot of HOT water comes up with the petroleum. The geothermal water separated from the oil is treated before it is released into the environment of course. The ponds that are resultant from the field seldom freeze even in the coldest weather. I’ve never seen those lakes freeze over and I’ve worked them for weeks of -20 F degrees weather. The water exits the processing plant at 140 degrees. Even miles downstream, the ponds fed by that run off aren’t freezing yet.

The fog that develops here rivals the geothermal steams that Yellowstone has but here in Cattle Country. This geothermal lake area is adjacent to the ThunderBasin National Grassland in Campbell/Crook County. The water is fine for stock and game to drink according to the EPA controlling the site. Each lake is a liquid water oasis in the middle of a frozen desert for the animals living there. Each lake is also an enormous producer of that fog with warm water under -20 air. The wildfowl that gather here most nights would amaze you. I’ve caught many wonderful images in this area. More to come this week as I’m working some images from this area currently.

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

Title: Frosty Milk on Tap

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Moon Rolling Down Hill

Moon Rolling Down Hill
Moon Rolling Down Hill

Moon Rolling Down Hill

Perspectives of Close/Far are a favorite pursuit of mine particularly if the Moon is part of the photo. In the gamut of my photography, chasing the moon seems to be a constant. This chase of a terrestrial object in focus with the moon is literally a sub-hobby of mine. Nestled within the larger business of pursuing the possibilities of light on a broad scale. I still consider my self to be a landscape photographer. I find myself distracted by any movement or unusual angle most of the time. Click….. This morning of glass clear skies had me working at an operational tempo most seal teams would envy. One of the things I try really hard to do during a moon set this clear is “keep busy” lolol.

On a sub-zero mid-winter morning, the Moon decided to roll down the hill but it hit some resistance in the high grass as it was just starting. It couldn’t go any farther down hill so it “rose to the occasion”. Actually this is a setting moon. Keep track of those three equal sized mares on the right pointing to 3 o’clock. That indicates a setting moon. If those 3 circles are pointing to 12 noon, it’s a rising moon.

Positioning compositions like this becomes a matter of millimeter side to side or up and down movements of my camera/head. You really can’t use a tripod easily doing this. The moon is always moving. You might think there is a limited window of opportunity to catch this moment. Yup. Pretty limited but I was doing this by hand and as such, I could move with the moon. It is literally dancing with the moon. 🌕🕺📷

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

Title: Moon Rolling Down Hill

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Frosted Christmas Wreaths

Frosted Christmas Wreaths
Frosted Christmas Wreaths

Frosted Christmas Wreaths

We get some tremendous frosts here in “Little Siberia”. That is the nickname the previous family that lived here passed on to us. When it’s raining in the valleys, we usually have the snow line right around the edge of our ground. Of course mid winter everybody had snow and this year is no exception. There are advantages to living up on a high ridge (views). But living above the snow line is always interesting when weather moves through.

I’m mostly locked out of the backcountry due to snow already in late December. Deeper drifts keep me closer to the house and on the roads. I do occasionally plow a path up on the ridge tops which usually don’t have deep snow. The wind pushes it off the east and southern slopes leaving a path of thinner snow pack at the ridge top. You only have to watch out for Yucca plants which will trap their own drifts which can be huge. I’ve never been stuck back here that I had to dig myself out YET. I’ve been lucky

This has been an exceptional year for moisture in all forms. Normally we only get 14 inches but I’ve counted 20 inches myself this year There is about an inch of water sitting on the ground in the form of snow. We still have a probable last week of December to go. We need a few dozen snows like this to keep up the moisture for next year.

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

Title: Frosted Christmas Wreaths

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Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge
Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Winter leaves a few nice scenes to offer me out in the backcountry. I have so many choices where to point my cameras. There are certain basic photographics principles one wants to follow. I am always trying to adhere to those rules. There is a strong rule of thirds here both horizonally and vertically. The old masters discovered visual tunnels of which I’m always on the lookout for. Framed here by the totally frosted pine “noodled” tree. The Visual tunnel to the mountains 40 miles distant is just above center. Every thing I saw through the eyepiece of my camera said “Click”. So I clicked lol.

Those are the “Red Hills” off in the distance. We actually have more snowthan in this image as I type this. Even the grass is coated with ice in this capture. Any surface that was exposed to the wind had freezing fog stick to it’s surface. Coating everything.

This beautiful hillside that I’m standing on is very close to precisely 1/2 way between the equator and the North Pole. A long walk either way lolol. Its exactly 5,000,000 (Five Million) meters from this hillside to either point. Some well connected person in history decided 1 meter would be 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the north Pole to the Equator. You can covert 10 million meters into Ten Thousand Kilometers though. 45 degrees north latitude precisely. This also corresponds to the line that IS the Montana / Wyoming border.

2×3 aspect to 36 inches.

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

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

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Reflections: Ice Covered Night

Reflections: Ice Covered Night
Reflections: Ice Covered Night

Reflections: Ice Covered Night

It was around 11pm and my Mastiff’s wanted out. It was the beginning of a 24 hour snow but it was still rain at this point. The drizzle covered anything exposed. That is a 400 watt LED stadium light. It is as bright as the sun versus the total black here in the backcountry. According to nasa, when it’s dark here, it’s as dark as the north Atlantic Ocean. I can see lights effecting the sky from towns hundreds of miles away. Particularly if I go up high and look around. (Billings, Gillette, Sheridan for starters). You can’t see the actual city lights but you do see the glow in the sky on the horizon. The cities light pollute the local “seeing” and not at all here, 70 miles from the nearest town.

I don’t do much dark night photography these days. I’m not sure why but I do need some sleep sometimes.

Photographic Musings:

I did this without a tripod as I was only hunting for the highlights in this image.. Negative space here is as important in the composition. I wanted to razor edge the settings. So you need light in the camera AND a fairly deep focus. Compromise. ISO 1000 for sure. (or a tripod) and minimum handheld shutter speed of 1/50th. That only leaves f-stop to set. . If your far enough away, you’ll have some leeway in f-stop. F-stop primarily going to be set low numbers here to gather light, damn the reduced focus depth of field as a result of the low f-stop setting.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Reflections: Ice Covered Night

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Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever
Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Sun pillars are shafts of light. Ice reflected spotlights as it were shooting generally 90 degrees up or down to the horizon. This is BY FAR the tallest pillar I’ve ever seen.

I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere. A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is REALLY big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about 1/2 again the angle than your normal vision at 55mm.

The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. Big oriented plates of ice at a high angle were required for this particular phenomena. The crystals are all flat 6 sided plates that fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that 5-10 degrees tall is not unusual. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).

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

Title: Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

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Perspective Sunrise Ridge

Perspective Sunrise Ridge
Perspective Sunrise Ridge

Perspective Sunrise Ridge

I am a real fan of pursuing close/far perspective images in the backcountry. I am standingup in Montana looking over the border down into Wyoming as the sun rises to the south east. The trees in the distance are in Wyoming. I’m one of the few photographers that can post most of the images I work on the borderlands in either states forums. I actually try to police myself if something is just Wyoming I’ll try to keep it only on Wyoming or national forums. Visa versa for Montana.

So perspectives and cold weather go together like peas and carrots. (classic reference intended). I’m not sure why this is but I’m drawn to the close details with mostly veiled sunsets behing. All caused by the icy atmosphere in the winter. between the sun and the camera. Hundreds of miles of ice and air only let through that gold light at this point. Earlier a lower angle only let through red wavelengths in twilight.

I take images with cameras that can look places your eyes can’t. You MIGHT be able to glance at this for a fraction of a second before you instinctively turned away. I watch this on a video screen and I know exactly what I just took a photo of without having to look at it. What I see on my screen is what I get here. (Actually I take very dark images only exposing highlight correctly. (If you must know). 📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective Sunrise Ridge

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Echinacea on Ice

Echinacea on Ice
Echinacea on Ice

Echinacea on Ice

This silhouette on ice is in full disclose a left/right mirror of the left side of this flower head. Limited by reality I am not within my digital darkroom. I took the silhouette against this wonderful orange Alpenglow sky. The seed head hides the sun totally.

As I said this is ART. IT looked strangely incomplete and unbalanced. I simply mirrored the other side to make an ice world of reflections on the seed head. There is a cross and some face figures inside of the dark area if you are prone to seeing anthropomorphic images in random data. (seeing faces in clouds etc). ART yes but just the totality of the image. Not the left half… When I combined the left 1/2 of the image with it’s mirror was the moment art was committed.

Sun reflections through the ice are in the dozens in this capture . I can’t imagine a better cellulose filter to reduce the light of that bright bright sun . Be still my hear as I definitely like highlights and miniature sun images lol. My cameras work best with moderate amounts of light. Using natural filters like this seed pod is a favorite topic of mine. Conveniently there was ice the night before 😃📷 Without that seed pod in the way, the sun would have overpowered the camera at the settings I used for this capture.

Note: Will all the photorealism I do, if I don’t play a little now and then, I start making mistakes.

2×3 Aspect to 36 inches wide

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Echinacea on Ice

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Bad Horn Day

Bad Horn Day
Bad Horn Day

Bad Horn Day for sure. So how do you have to sleep to get that “Cow LIck” or is that Pronghorn? Might be chilly out for this shot… (-2F). I love it when I get a Pronghorns breath. Frosty!

Shed Horn Sheath.

That appears to be a pretty sharp point on his right horn. I doubt it grew that way. I suppose he might have broken it off or is shedding the sheath (most likely). He actually might do some damage with that horn if he ever get’s big enough physically to be a “contender” in the rut. You know it’s all fun and games until someone puts out an eye. Designed to lock up in a fight, horns shape is sort of standardized. . Having said all that, this is a late migrator working his way down to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. The Pronghorn “herd up” about 30 miles south of my place for the winter. Those grasslands are part of the American Serengeti. down there. They have been over the rut for weeks now.

I have never found a full sized shed Pronghorn sheath. I have only found one SMALL example. I’d like to think I have a pretty sharp eye for things left on the ground having been a dinosaur/fossil hunter all my life. Patterns and shapes stand out in my mind like a starburst against the black sky. They disintegrate pretty fast I suspect.

I’m always looking down with my eye’s to the ground and I walk in the backcountry a LOT. Most folks don’t know the males do in fact shed their horns. This Pronghorn buck still has one to go. The Horns will grow back pretty quickly in the spring.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Bad Horn Day

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Landscape Under Moonlight

Landscape Under Moonlight
Landscape Under Moonlight

Landscape Under Moonlight is a 3 second time exposure under very dark Nautical Twilight skies.

Nothing but Moonlight is illuminating this 40 mile deep landscape. The “Red Hills” are the distant ridge across the wide “Little Powder” River valley. I am located 600 feet above the valley floor on the Pass road (Trail Creek) to Rockypoint Wyoming. Looking toward the west/northwest the moon is about as far north as it travels in it’s movement around the planet.

There is no way to properly expose the moon AND gather the very faint light reflected back at my lens. So it might as well be as bright as the sun up in the corner. This is definitely hard to color correct. There were a lot of subtle hues and tones that weren’t natural because of the time exposure. The cloud highlights are indeed excessive as the time exposure allowed it to over saturate. Without digitally replacing that whole area of the image, I decided to leave it as it is.

Photorealism goes out the window a time exposure. They seem to always excessively expose something it seems lolol. Still the technology is very limited in it’s ability to see as well as the human eye which could resolve this. Reading under this light MIGHT be possible under moonlight . No camera on earth could bring this out with the moon’s face properly exposed. To do otherwise would be to have a composite image and not a genuine unaltered photo in this light.

Location: The Pass to Rockypoint on Trail Creek Road, Northern Campbell Country Wyoming. That’s Montana off in the distance. I am standing about 4 miles from the Montana border and those mountains ARE in Montana. (Wyotana)

Title: Landscape Under Moonlight

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Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows
Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

This image was captured just as the horizon dropped exposing the relatively stationary sun. Everybody always says the sun rises but it’s really the horizon falling away. OK. It was a “sunrise” bone chilling cold sunrise. At -2F any wind amplifies the experience from a sweat shirt to full arctic gear. In dead calm air, -2 might as well be 50. I dress in layers.

Working in really cold conditions with cameras:

I’ve been up here in an open vehicle at -20 before so this was pretty comfortable relatively. Riding around with a box of 4 or 5 camera/lens in an open ATV in that temp is something I don’t like to do now.

For this capture, I was walking around from place to place for quite a while. Drove up there in my jeep. Usually my right had is my weak link. I wear “Red Head” Mitten/fingerless gloves. They are better than other gloves I’ve seen advertised for photographers and do a pretty good job. I always carry two pair. If they get wet, it’s time to change them. But you CAN work the delicate controls of a camera with them on.

I even had my Jeep to retreat to . I prefer not to let my cameras get so cold so having them in a heated car has it’s advantages.

Working out of a car window in the cold:

You have to watch shooting cameras out of a heated car into very cold air. You can get distortion similar to a mirage that I’ve actually seen live and watched it distorting the image on the cameras monitor. The warm air and the cold air mixing makes a little distorting lens just for your annoyance. With a long lens the distortion caused by this interface CAN be significant. Each situation is different. I try to keep air flowing into the drivers window versus warm air flowing out. It’s a huge difference with long lenses.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

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Coyote Up Close and Personal

Coyote Up Close and Personal
Coyote Up Close and Personal

Coyote Up Close and Personal is a Game Trail Camera capture where the Ice was JUST a LITTLE too thin for him to cruise by here on the ice. I’d seen this coyote on several other days walking right on the ice. (Still one image to post with him pretty far out there lol.

I suppose he hunts the shore pretty regularly. My cameras have captured quite a few images of him. This lake freezes solid by mid-December. The only source of water is one of my stock tanks which I will keep open. This is quite a ways out into the backcountry. I have limited access to these locations in the winter. Snowmobiles only can get here. I’m not really big on using my cameras off of snowmobiles as the random flying around moisture and my rigs are not compatible.

Coyotes work hard for their meals. A “coyote breakfast”, defined as a cold pee in the corner is their typical morning meal. They don’t eat much else unless a roadrunner screws up…. mostly they eat field mice and rodents they catch. Coyotes as a group do predate ranchers stock. They will kill calves worth a couple thousand dollars each (eventually) without hesitation. Lambs are easy pickings if not protected by sheep dogs or Llamas.

As such they are pursued and shot by most ranchers. State trappers/hunters work overpopulated areas. Many organized hunts are scheduled around the area. Coyotes would cause ecosystem mayhem if not controlled. (a ranchers view point after living 20 years with them). They are not in the least bit endangered as they reproduce quite rapidly and are elusive usually. You just find the dead calf with it’s face chewed off. (sad).

Don’t get me wrong. These are beautiful animals. I admire them for their tenacity, their survival skills and their intrinsic beauty. They have a place in the ecosystem but like any predator, they need to be carefully managed. Stock predation is Wyoming Game and Fish’s business. They employ professional hunters to control Coyote numbers. If they get out of control both stock and other young wildlife suffer excessive population decline. Professional Wildlife managers generally get it close to right. (Some notable exceptions of course).

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote Up Close and Personal

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Golden Hour Sunset on Snow

Golden Hour Sunset on Snow
Golden Hour Sunset

Golden Hour Sunset on Snow. When the sun is so low, slowly working left of the BigHorn Mountains here, the light is quite golden.

You would be blinded looking into this scene but the ability to shut the camera down to light changes the game.

This is an overlook across 130 miles of landscape in north central Wyoming. Looking west into the scene that the pioneers saw at the end of a long day of travel. Custer was around here, Native Americans were all over this place for thousands of years. The history here is long, many have crossed that land but daily I walk places where no human has been before.

We are up high on the ridges where there is not much running water. We find TeePee Rings, a few artifacts, stone tools, even a couple of metal ornaments (rare). There actually exists one of the very RARE Documented Clovis Man Habitation site within 10 miles of my ranch. It’s not on my land however. Those same pre-historic folks walked around the post’ glacial landscape burning/slashing/hunting/driving game for a living. I have no doubt they were walking here to some of our artesian spring locations.

When the pioneers got here, they built dams below those artesian wells and formed lakes. The natives didn’t have that option and it can be a long way between water holes when you have deer bladder canteens to carry your water for the day…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title Golden Hour Sunset on Snow

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Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha
Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Happy Thanksgiving from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. “Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha”

These two missed attending dinner today as I had a camera not a shotgun (in my hand anyway 🙂 ) This capture show 2 wild turkeys coming in for a landing in a hoar frosted environment. I’ve raised small flocks of turkeys and even the “tame” males have attitude to deal with. These guys are a force to be reckoned with if you ever get cornered by one with an agenda. 😜

Short Narrative for Thanksgiving lolol. Enjoy your time with family and friends. God Bless

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

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Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

Wooden Windmill Orange Hour
Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

Wooden Windmill Orange Hour was a natural very colorcast morning with the orange light permeating and reflecting off the snow and ice.

I traveled 30 miles to get to this windmill before sunrise and of course have a whole timeline of this scene from start to near finish as this was. I left a few minutes after this shot.

Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting doing on since the county may not plow it for a few weeks. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. It is genuine backcountry Wyoming.

There was a slight sunpillar/shaft of light coming down from the sun. More of a spot light really but there was a LOT of ice in the air that morning. It had snowed the whole drive there and I was leaving the first tracks on the road both ways. I often go on road trips for hours up on Wyoming/Montana backroads and not see another vehicle. Breaking down is not an option up here without LOTS of survival supplies this time of year. Blankets, sleeping bags, food and basics are all on board. I do have a very good radio that communicates via repeater from 30 miles away if necessary. Not to worry.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

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Pronghorn In a Snow Storm

Pronghorn In a Snow Storm
Pronghorn In a Snow Storm

Pronghorn In a Snow Storm is a game trail camera photo. They really do a great job IF the conditions are just right. Perfect exposure for this Pronghorn Buck at Night while it’s snowing. This is of course, the exception not the rule of Game Trail Night Photos.

Of course this is entirely night vision Infra-red flash photography. The Pronghorn never saw any of the light but perhaps a faint red glow. He never knew he was captured. The snow didn’t amount to much over a few inches that night but I bet it was less than comfortable out there. Wet snow is it’s own blanket though on well insulated ungulate.

This is about a mile from my house and around midnight out in the backcountry. He’s pretty much in the open there, nothing to hide behind but an occasional hay bale for shelter. Every time I catch wildlings on film under weather I always have this empathetic impulse to invited them all in. I probably not enough room in my barn IF they would take me up on my invitation. There are quite a few critters running around here that are not cattle. It just depends on where you look. 🤓

This is a favorite gate and I will really miss it being open when the cattle come back into this pasture. It’s a fine location for catching the wildlings walking between water and feed pastures. MostlyI don’t see Pronghorn much after Early November. They migrate 30 miles south to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands to winter over. IT’s milder down there and there is some geothermal water that is always running.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Pronghorn in a Snow Storm

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Coyote On Thin Ice

Coyote On Thin Ice
Coyote On Thin Ice

Coyote On Thin Ice is a Gamer Trail Camera photo. I see a trap set by the Road Runner obviously. Soon he’s going to finally do ol “Wiley Coyote” in. It seems that he was led out on to thin (very) thin ice by the much lighter bird. Of course we do have road runners up here ….. (a local elementary school sports program are the “Roadrunners”. I understand his s pair of ACME Ice Rescue Picks never arrived. Apparently, “Sneaky Pete the Windmill” didn’t take delivery when UPS came that day being out trying to photobomb me. It’s not going to end well for the coyote I bet 😜

This image is of course showing the cafeteria line for a coyote. It’s obviously much easier to walk the ice than the shore of the lake. Tall vegetation and brush cover the shore. I do however have reservations on the brilliance of walking out there. If it was thicker than 1/2 an inch I’d be surprised. It’s amazing to me he wasn’t crashing through the ice.

If you remember the verse below verbatim, you and I could be friends 😀

If you’re on the highway and Road Runner goes “Beep beep”,
Just step aside or you might end up in a heap.
Road Runner, Road Runner runs down the road all day.
Even the coyote can’t make him change his ways.

Road Runner, the coyote’s after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you’re through.
Road Runner, the coyote’s after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you’re through.

That coyote is really a crazy clown!
When will he learn that he never can mow him down?
Poor little Road Runner never bothers anyone;
Just runnin’ down the road’s his idea of having fun.

Credit : Warner Bros I believe through who owns it now is anybodies guess. I tried to find out, google was no help…..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Coyote on Thin Ice

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Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail
Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail was a capture from 30 feet away with a LONG 1200mm fast lens. Sitting on a copper plate that protects the top of our main gate posts (18 inches in diameter) and 16 feet high. . It was about -2 at the time. . Frost on the copper… I would think the copper would be cold to stand on but what do I know? 😵

I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 50 others were hanging out nearby. There is a very large flock hanging around this year. All the good images I will get this year will be from inside of my vehicle. If Sharp Tailed Grouse see a human, they take off for a good distance. I understand they can fly for several miles at a time. From up here on the ridges, they could glide for 20 miles lololol. These guys are plump prairie Chickens.

The native Americans called them Fire Chickens because they would take advantage of burnt out areas moving in very quickly to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. They are plump birds for sure lolol. At least it doesn’t make their tail look fat ……. cue top hat rif…

They really don’t occur in the east or much bast Wisconsin OR west of the continental divide. They are quite a large grouse with the characteristic pointy tail. The purple cheek bags the males puff out in breeding season is spectacular. I will get to that one too ….

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

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Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles
Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Satire: This young punk pine tree was sure that getting his needles “noodled” would upset his adult mentors. The 1/8th inch of ice sure gave him a frosty “do”. I suspect he was about ready to go hang out down in the gully where he could watch things move down drainage at a geologic pace. It’s not a very exciting place to grow up out in the backcountry.😉

Back to my normal programming…

SO it was -2, I was walking a high ridge, the pines were all ‘noodled’ on the north side of the tree. . The sun has been up for maybe 20 minutes so thusly is just cresting the ridge. The crisp air is moving and seeping into my gloves/mittens which are almost always my limiting factor. I’ve worked up here with -30 wind-chills many times. I’ve had various cameras (mostly old used Canon 5D’s) freeze up at those temps. . Rapid temperature changes aren’t good for anything but you don’t want to keep your cameras cold either.

“Winter is Coming” (If you don’t know the classic reference by now, you need to read a few books lolol). I actually enjoyed the audiotapes of “game of thrones” tremendously while building things in my shops.

In reality it’s been here since Oct 1 and the day before was fall. (fall was on a tuesday this year). Oct 1 is when winter started up here which continue till April anyway. Winter does bring certain photographic opportunities however and I enjoy the crisp cold. It’s easy down here at 4000 feet after living at 6200 feet in Jackson Hole for a decade. Warm here but MUCH windier here in the borderlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

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Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise

Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise
Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise

Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise is a perspective at -2 degrees F. There was a breeze and I don’t care how you dress, something gets cold lolol.

Photographic musings:

For some reason, I’m drawn to perspectives under icy sunrises. Focus close requirement(1) plus a sun show far (2)is my goal. Putting them in the same focal field is top on my list for planning this capture.

These two “priorities” fortunately compliment each other while in your Manual Mode camera settings. High light gives you the ability to set your widest lens to it’s highest fstop setting f-22 (ish). This cuts back light considerably which you need . It also lets you focus on things 10 inches in front of this particular wide lens AND have the background in focus. I always pay attention when I’m buying lenses to look for ones with the shortest distance to focus close. (macro) but if you want to do this, you need a wide angle say 12-24mm lens with a close focus.

Shutter speed 1/100 – 1/400 depending on your light conditions and ISO (camera sensitivity) is low like ISO 100 or ISO 200. This was a very bright light environment in the distance but just. The sun was just clearing the ridge.

The right gloves for cold work. There are many brands but I use:

The joy of -2 degrees is that the gear doesn’t like it, but my fingers take the brunt of the cold abuse. They don’t operate the equipment as well either if chiled.. I wear glove/mittens by “Red Head” that have the ability to open up your fingers. Fine detailed adjustments on a camera take more tactile feedback than through a glove sometimes. Finding your location on your camera body is the biggest problem. I find it is always better to have warm fingers and have quicker control of the camera bodies settings oddly enough lol. “Red Head Mittens” have been used by this photographer down to a -20 windchill with good results. I was tougher then though……

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise

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Perspective: Snag to Sunrise

Perspective: Snag to Sunrise
Perspective: Snag to Sunrise

Perspective: Snag to Sunrise is a view right as the sun was coming up over the hill. The grass was just starting to highlight, the air was very crisp at -2 degrees. I tend to work wide lenses in really cold weather. They do better with a shivering photographer I think. Long lenses don’t like the shake lolol.

It had snowed about 4 inches but the 1/8th inch of ice that covered everything was problematic walking around the uneven slopes. The footing was treacherous as seeing sticks under the snow was not a sure thing. THe reason they call fallen logs snag, is that they snag you walking near them lolol.

Perspectives that go from closest focus (12 inches with this lens) to infinity are a challenge to compose. Having the snag as a leading line is an easy choice but the ice covered snag was sure novel to me. I worked this hillside through this entire sunrise…. until I got a tad chilled and then headed back to the Jeep. A few dozen good captures came from that morning. Winter has sure come early this year.

I can still get up on the ridges though and today (a week ago as this posts) is 50 degrees and muddy. We get a bit of a warm snap before it get’s serious lolol. I figure by late November this year we’re going to have a foot flat +and it won’t melt till late February. Winter is long here in the borderlands on the high ridges.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective: Snag to Sunrise