Can you smell the wet sage and the ozone yet? Hear the distant rumbles of the thunder? As this HUGE MesoCyclone sitting over the whole northeast corner of the Wyoming and the southeast corner of Montana. This storm certainly spans the MT/WY border and probably is over in South Dakota as well. You can just see the edge of it to right frame. These big 40,000 foot high storms can be 100 miles across. Big spinning tops of a thunderstorm is a good way of thinking about MesoCyclones. They are the way we get most of our summer rain. Having moved over us the unfettered sun really popped in the refractions going on within the raindrops in the far distance. I’d estimate that rainbow is 1 mile out.
I see a lot of rainbows as I actually go to work after rain showers move through. It makes for a “Trip up on Ridge 1”. You know… go up the hill to see what is going on to the east. I see afternoon rainbows like this 10 to 1 over morning rainbows historically. Rainbows will move as you move. If I could have gained say 1000 feet in elevation magically I would have seen a full circle rainbow. A drone footage of a rainbow would show a big circle/halo of color. You see this with the 22 degree halos around the sun/moon. But rainbow alway present behind you when your facing he sun/moon. They are always down stream so to speak.
You might also notice that the order of color ROYGBIV is reversed to VIBGYOR on the double component of this twin rainbow.
Handed down over at least 3 generations this early antique electric lamp was enjoying a sun beam spotlighting it one late afternoon. It’s position in the world is way deep in our living room. A sun beam fought through the gauntlet of trees, walls, house windows, and “Stuff” to hit a ring of 100+ year old cut glass tear drops. I walked into the room to witness them just glowing. I’m sure the inventor of this style had visions similar to the scene I experienced. The bulbs originally used were not quite in the same league lolol. . So this is Late afternoon low angle golden light reaching as far into the relatively dark recess of our living room. Little areas of zen are everywhere…..
Spotlighting against dark surfaces are just “focusing” on the highlights. High f stop numbers will let you get the foreground objects in focus as well as the background. Here I set the exposure to ignore the shadow detail though I could have brought out details of the plants, the door. Interested in just the highlights, I ignored the darker details and in fact was dropping them out. . Dropping out shadow detail is all about exposure. Usually all you have to do is JUST expose the highlights properly using shutter speed. Everything else should fall into place. It’s nice of the light to cooperate so. So often I have to move something but here, it volunteered to sit for me. 😜 I wonder what the union rate is for lamp models ?
These two does (mother and daughter) were casually walking across the county road when the young one paused. Perfectly framed by the melt. The morning after the storm this pair was hanging around in the “Bull Pasture” just down the road from our main headquarters gate.
This picture postcard capture in the frost and snow shows a mom with her yearling doe (fawn) .
I’ll watch this pair over the years as the little one grows up. She’s a member of a group that stays close to my homestead using a stock tank in our corral to water. I will be a baby maker in the years to come. She’s about 9 months old now. It’s difficult to ID particular does unless they have split or notched ears. I know their family group though anytime I see them. I’m pretty sure they know me too lolol.
There are many smaller groups of deer that separate from a bigger herd that dispersed in the spring. Now, Mid to late winter shortly after the rut (December) the smaller herds start to join up and by spring I have several herds of 30 or 40 animals running about in different parts of the ranch. Each herd geographically controlled by water availability and location. They don’t care about ranch boundaries so I share some of them with other local boundary ranches.
This is a 800mm telephoto shot. Getting this close without a long lens is usually an accident in the winter. It’s a lot harder to get close to the deer when you can’t get off the road lolol. As I type this it’s REALLY muddy.
A wonderful veiled sun rising with the branches of a ridge lined pine providing the close part of the Close / Far perspective here.
Topographically, I’m working just over the lip of this ridge but a bit back. (hundred yards). Opportunities like this after photographing that sun coming up over a ridge 20 miles out are important parts of the timeline. I move quickly to transition to working a closer ridge several hundred yards out as the horizon drops away from the suns face. A sunrise is a busy period of moving from place to place to take advantage of the terrain. It is very important to know WHERE to be and WHEN to move to the next shot.
I work “Parallel” ridges because I’m very mobile to look for interesting leading lines and angles. Byworking that shadow line I am able to do shots like this with a long telephoto. Click and move as I get a photo. Keeping busy to use the little timeline I had left in this capture.
The glare from the sun is quite a hard thing to deal with. I am literally looking into the sun with this camera. You’ve GOT to turn your camera to HIGH F-stop, LOW ISO and your shutter speed is used to balance the equation. With a telephoto like this I’ll be running f-64. You adjust either with a neutral density filter in front of your lens, 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.
The closest “General Store” to this old buck board wagon was 15 miles. I wonder how many times this wagon was used to drive back and forth across the backcountry all the way to Biddle Montana or to Rocky POint Wyoming. They were about equidistant from our ranch headquarters.
A drive to supplies from here in a modern Car at 60 mph car is about 20 minutes. to drive the 15 miles to Biddle Montana. There has been a “General Store” there since the first settlers moved in. There were dozens and dozens of smaller ranches settled in the early 1900’s. When little chunks of land were available for settling.
Wagons like this were the main way that good made their way from civilization to the backcountry. A couple of good carriage horses should be able to convey a carriage 20-30 miles in an 8 hour day.. Carriage horses trotted but horse pulling loaded couldn’t travel as far. Trotting wasn’t an option with a heavy load of flour, beans and oils. Don’t forget cattle supplies and machine parts for fixing broken farm equipment. This wagon made many day long round trips from dawn to dusk. Probably 12-15 hours. Rough on the team plus rough under the Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana) weather.
Weather up here is dangerously changeable. I’ve seen it drop 40 degrees in 24 hours. Dust storms, wind storms and worse lightning storms. (a place called “Lightning Flats” is 20 miles east of here lolol) You and your cargo is at the mercy of the elements. I’m trying to image getting a winters supplies of food (months anyway) in this wagon.
Heck, the supplies themselves where hauled to the general store from the rail head by horse and wagon. Early trucks certainly started up hauling that 50 miles as the technology because affordable and available. The roads then were not concrete stretching across the country. Those roads were rutted 2 track roads. Most of which were originally game trails following the easiest path.
This place is a living museum. I’m always finding old technology discarded here. Old plows, discs and a long list of old grass machines found in the “bone yards”
When rain storms move over my homestead, I tend to get out in a vehicle and gain elevation to the ridges That is, assuming it’s not too muddy as I’ hesitate to scuff up my trails. In the warmer months when rain is possible, I’ll jump in my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV to run up the hill just looking for rainbows. I find that the ATV’s have a much lower impact on the native soils than do the pickups but the ATV’s beat me up much worse.
I put 3500 miles on that UTV in one year. doing back country photography. That is equivalent to one and a half times across the country. It definitely beat me up lol. . All of that milage on an ATV was mostly travel within a 20 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch with 99 percent of that NOT being on county roads. Almost all Two Track. . My old Jeep and now my new Ford F150 Raptor are higher P.S.I on the turf.
SO distinct windows of light are shafting down from the mostly veiled / occluded sun off off frame top left. The rays are lighting up some atmospheric moisture between here and the darker background as well. Of course there has to be cooperation from mother nature here. Shafts of light across a flat lit sky is not terribly common but to have all the rainbow angles line up with those shafts….. IT’s an interesting confluence of events for such a scene. I’ve never seen anything similar to this even spending some time looking at sky.as I do. This all taking place over “W” Butte 30 miles distant from my camera up in Montana. I’m standing in Wyoming.
Windmill Wednesday, Windmill Junkies Unite :🤘📷 Don’t let your mother know you look at subversive material like this….🤔😜
Veiled sunsets make it much easier for me to point a long camera lens at the sun. The glare blocking ability of clouds combined here with a photobombing windmill effectively reduced the stress on my gear. This night was a pretty one. Veiled suns are by far the best background for me to take a landscape with… If I could only keep “Re Pete” from moving into my scenes. I have no control over these windmills actions.. 😜😜📸 Attention hogs all how they work into my landscapes.
Silhouettes of trees which are much closer than the windmill which by the way is a tad close than the sun is. This windmill hangs out about 3 miles away from my homestead and is a rare shot in the winter. I don’t get over in that country much particularly now that mud season is “spotty” with days being above freezing and nights crisping up. Morning is way less muddy than evening. I way prefer winter weather in the high 20’s than the low thirties. I will not drive a pickup truck over saturated old Prairie. Ruts are damage to turf that has existed for several hundred years at least. The roads are almost as bad at the moment but at 32 degrees, it’s snowing as I type this.
Hiding a major inflexion point in earths history…..
Reading earths book: Musings.
When the Bolide (google this) struck the earth at the End of the Cretaceous, it spread a thin layer of Iridium (an element) rich dust all over the globe. This impact occurred down in Yucatan Mexico. The rocks that make up this ridge/pass are from that moment in time. There the “K/T” iridium layer exists somewhere.
Now what does a geologist/photographer do with a hill like this…. The Bolide) Crashed into the earth, killing the dinosaurs, and many other animal groups on the planet. Huge upheavals in food chains ensued. Major extinctions do that of course and here we are. Our ancestors survived the conflagration. I traced the Rock Formation that is dinosaur bearing (Hell Creek/Lance formations) to end on this hill. The type of rock changes and SOMEWHERE in the photo, is that 4 inch thick layer of debris from that major impact. You can only tell exactly where it is from taking detailed samples up the rock section then running them through a mass spectrometer . One just looks for the Iridium spike (Iridium as an element is common in outer space but rare on earth. The impactor vaporized enriching the surface in that rare element.
The number of fossils and the diversity seems to be slowly declining near the top of the section but I don’t have HARD numbers on this. Don’t discount the pizza oven effect from the Bolides ejecta reentering the atmosphere. Massive tsunami’s hit further south. I’m sure this area got cooked. Later a blast wave plough through at the speed of sound. Anything that wasn’t under water, in a burrow or somehow hidden was killed outright on this hemisphere. The climates changed markedly and initiated a failure of major populations of animals to successfully reproduce. Ultimately it’s the inability to reproduce that causes extinction. No matter what the cause.
Looking westward across the 40 mile wide Little Powder River Valley , a cloud bank will snuff out the light within minutes. I am often sent home early with no “photos in the can” by cloud banks shrouding the horizon. When I head off road to climb up ridges chasing light, the mid-winter wins sometimes. This night I went up hill. Over 300 square miles of landscape presents here, all covered by this snow blanket. We get most of our 14 inches a year of precipitation during the winter.
You will note how effectively Yucca plants have a tendency toward collecting their own stash of water. The result of this is to soak the ground around them. The Yucca is a great plant up here providing food to the deer all year long. Deer from both species eat the seed pods from Yucca which grow in significant quantities up here. Yucca flowers are edible too I ‘ve seen ungulates take advantage of them every year. The deer grow fat on them. Already eaten, mostly deer have consumed the seed pods. By Mid-Winter, the deer have consumed much of the food reserves on this ridge. They have moved on to other pastures. Typically they head to sheltered gullies with water near by.
If it’s going to be winter, I wish it would freeze the backcountry ground. As I type this it’s been staying around freezing and just above for weeks. Mud in the backcountry completely blocks me from access as I don’t want to rut up my two track trails.
Seeing faces in clouds or other natural scenes is termed: Pareidolia. Historically this tendency diagnosed one with psychotic symptoms/ “abnormal”. Now we are teaching computers to do it. It’s not just clouds of course. Any pattern the human mind creates out of literally random data is symptomatic. Of course the state of medical/psychological science has improved a tad from those early days.
I’m thinking this is a cloud version of Mount Rushmore. Looking behind me to the eastern back show a bit after sunset on summers evening is a good habit. Many photographers get tunnel vision and forget to glance around. The back shows are often better than the main sunset if your chasing light like I do. Usually associated with a disruption in airflow, called Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, aka billow clouds or shear-gravity clouds, and they look like breaking ocean waves. Taking many forms, these clouds can be impressive.
Typically by topography such as mountains causes the “ripples. . The interface between two layers of atmosphere with different temperature / density properties causes the phenomena. A series of waves with crests and troughs are created at the two air masses boundaries. The shapes are random but usually fairly consistent in one way or another.
I swear on a stack of geology books that I didn’t alter this image in the digital darkroom. It’s a totally natural scene. If you look enough at clouds, you see some very odd things :). The hard part is being there with a camera (Rule 1 of Photography).
Twilight is the time of dark blue and pink in the sky. Spring is the time of the calving. Add the two and you get a story to be told in this Diptych side by side image. (2-20 inch squares).
Corriente’ Long Horns are a hardy group having come over first to the “Americas” in 1493. Their descendants walk down this hill slope in this capture. A solid unbroken line since then. Hardy souls all with very little care required for their up keep. Just standard vet care for cattle. They pretty much fend for them selves but will mooch off the other cattle about if there are any. Last winter my small herd of 32 Corriente were the only cattle on the ranch. Besides some lick and some salt, I only had to feed the 12 Large Bales over the winter. They paw the ground to expose grass similar to how Buffalo do it.
I actually took this through the fence that surrounds our “compound. I had just returned from a photo mission and was closing up the homestead for the evening.. You know, closing gates so deer don’t cross them, putting the chickens to bed locking them into their coop. In the same motion I lock the creatures that don’t need to be in with the chickens out. We have a 8 foot high deer exclusion fence around about 10 acres we live in. It’s high and it’s electric. Not too much get’s through it. My cats negotiate it occasionally. I’ve actually seen where they get through and fixed several places but keeping out skunks is a tough one. I have kept porcupines at bay with my fences.
It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not this well very often…. The highest ridges here are 4000 feet in elevation. Valley fog/ moisture was being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions. Natural Sharp edges like the points of barbed wire provides a “point of nucleation” for the ice feathers to form. The symbolism by mother nature was not lost on me here lolol. 👀
Science here is a conversations about the “Triple Point” of water which is a good basic concept to understand if we’re talking about weather. When the water vapor is thick and RIGHT at the temperature/pressure point it can be deposited directly to ice from water vapor. Typically these ice crystal feathers are less than an inch. Thes monsters were a full inch and a half with a few around the ranch reaching 2 inches for that storm.
Interestingly, this is NOT a black and white photo. It’s is full color but the light was as flat as it gets. The T-posts are very old and only slightly green but they provide an anchor to the world of color in this other wise chroma bare capture. Science
This is the only time I’ve ever seen such a thing such that the barbs grew so prodigiously. I spent hours that morning walking from place to place absorbing the unique sites as they were presented to me. It wasn’t long after this photo that the wind picked up and obliterated the threatening look of the wire.
Nick named “The Bone” as in “Bad to the Bone” I think…. 550 million dollar machine built by the lowest bidder ? 😜😜📷
Flying over me here at their common operational speed of 450 knots (518 mph). The wings swept back means he’s got some of the throttle forward. This guy came over the ridge behind us at maybe 500 feet. . I’m thinking it took 5 seconds to go from no indication they were there, to the sound to finally catch up and the plane is virtually past you. So the average encounter is hard, really hard to get. I would invite any of you jockeys riding the tip of the speed to fly over that big white roof on the Montana/Wyoming boers any time you want. (Daytime would be nice). You would not believe the sound of that much power.
We live under the Powder River Flight Training Complex. It’s a huge area of South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming used by the U.S. Airforce to work out their rigs. A couple of times a year I have a close encounter like this. Usually it’s without a long lens camera ready to rock in my hands. 🤔 (Rule one of photography is “Have a camera handy”.
They can of course fly that run at 50 feet. Catching these guys incoming is my goal but that is fairly difficult. I usually at best get them right over head or past me from behind. I’ve had a lot of encounters with the monster pieces of technology.
Ellsworth AFB is located just outside of Box Elder, South Dakota but think Rapid City. Without a doubt military is the largest employer in the region. Statistics show it the second largest employer in the state.
“Providing rapid, decisive and sustainable combat air power and expeditionary combat support, the 28th Bomb wing is assigned to 12th Air Force under Air Combat Command. As home to the B-1B, the 28th Bomb Wing provides operational support in many areas.” Hu Raaaa Tip of the Spear. 🤘
Here is a Unique rainbow. I see a lot of variations on the classic arched colorful rainbows. There are doubles, very rare triples and quads, complete circles and regular arches. This one definitely stands out in my mind. When I climb up on the high ridges, I’m never sure what I’m going to find. When rain comes over us I start getting ready to go up hill. IF the sun comes out, there are always rainbows but their presentation is always in doubt.
This one certainly didn’t disappoint. What is going on? Well “Spotlighting” is a situation where clouds block all but individual shafts of light. Like a spotlight on a theatre production stage. With enough moisture in the air, even the individual shafts can be visible. They usually go unnoticed on their own. You can clearly see the shaft coming in from the upper left. They are pointing directly at “W” Butte 30 miles distant from my cameras location in Wyoming.
Shooting across the Wyoming / Montana border here up into Montana. “W” butte is a well known Landmark and a wonderful site for the communication tower that is there. I personally have never seen this phenomena before and I see a LOT of rainbows. I never know what I’m going to find when I go up into the backcountry. The 180 mile across horizon to horizon Sky doesn’t hide it’s secrets from me very much 🤔👀📸
Deep Winter up here in the highland ridges of the Wyoming / Montana borderlands is intense. Particularly intense getting up on some of these ridges lolol. We are currently a little low on snow. I’m not going to say something stupid like we need “more snow”. That would be inviting catastrophe lolol. Up here in the hills (versus down in that valley 400 feet lower) is a bit more harsh. I was told when I moved here by the locals that this place was nick named “Little Siberia”.
Siberia eh? While I haven’t found a fossil mammoth on ranch, I did pull a Pleistocene Elk out of the ground. Well the back 1/2 of a 6 foot all at the hip elk with toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the ankle bone etc. All the way to the third vertebra in front of the pelvis. The tail, all the little leg bones were all articulated. It wasn’t in the Hell Creek / Lance formation bedrock but in the relatively loose Pleistocene loess/sands overlaying the Cretaceous bedrock up here. IT was about 10 feet below ground level at it’s location in a deep gully. There are other “more recent” individual bones I’ve found out of the more recent Pleistocene but not many.
The Pleistocene epoch was from 2.6 to about 11,000 years ago when it ended after the last ice age. We were in the Holocene right up until we started making plastics. The first indication of micro-plastics in the geologic records starts the Anthropocene. Epoch. The start of the industrial revolution is technically the start.
The drums beating in the distant past as the northern most Mayan Pyramid is back lit during the summer solstice. Crowds gather at it’s base in anticipation of the sunrise of the longest day of the year. The humidity mid summer was oppressive in the heat even up here half way between the Equator to the North Pole. Insects buzz around and things that slither in the night are awake. Mountain Lions call in the night. . Whole house holds emptied predawn for the sky spectacle around the main structure of the community. Heavy vegetation lines all roads leading to the pyramid. But no electric lights means it’s dark till sunrise.
Starting 1800 BC and Lasting to 900AD, the Mayan Empire had the largest most sophisticated culture in South America. This image COULD be the last northern most outpost up on what is now the Wyoming/Montana border. The Mayan certainly would have liked to built Pyramids on 45th parallel….. 🤔🤔. They might have to dress a little more warmly however. I’m thinking a whole new wardrobe up here lolol.
Back to my normal programming. 😜😜😜
This of course is a very dark image because it was a very bright scene. There was enough difference in illumination though that it was impossible to pick up detail in the shadows. Exposing the highlights properly is the main thing I try to accomplish. Deal with the shadows later… I prefer silhouettes than to have too force detail out of the dark in the digital arena. It was a striking scene to see live.
*Oh, this is a sedimentary rock Butte made of sandstone by mother nature. The hard caprock let it resist erosion. It is not a pyramid.
It’s about 20 minutes of traveling 2 track trails to get to this location I call sunrise ridge, I set up there high above the valley just over that lip waiting for that mornings stage show. This opening act was pretty much put on for my benefit alone. Mother nature takes care of me if I tread lightly but often I have discovered. There is something about paying dues, going out to chase the light regularly will pay off sooner or later. This winter I’ve been working on a lot of my older photographs. I haven’t gone out for “common” skies of late. Worse, the mid-late January Thaw we just went through has softened the back country soil considerably. The top 4 inches of topsoil are pure soup with some grass roots mixed in at the moment lol . Right now I leave deep foot prints just walking in the backcountry.
We actually need a freeze and a series of five or six 4 inch snows over a month to entice me to go out at the moment. I’m working Wyotana roads when ever I get away from the ranch of course. This winter will be one of getting the rest of my portfolio finished and on the web. I’m mixing and matching new and previous images all winter so bear with me.
I might have to reduce the total number of images I produce a day from 6 to 5 shortly. I’ll loose the last post of the day at 9PM and move the 6pm to 7 pm. Producing 6 finished print a day is a serious amount of work. I’ve done that every day since Sept 21. I don’t have enough time to get everything else done 😔
I see lots of things on the “way up the hill” to photograph sunsets. Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill photobombed my divergent shadow landscape yet again! (exasperated look on my face). He hangs out (mostly) about 1/4 mile up that hill I often travel to. I’m not sure how he manages to get into my landscapes but he seems to. I have no control over his actions…. 👀
Stories about “Sneaky Pete’s” accomplishments have spread far and wide. He has his legend and then there is actually living in the neighborhood with the guy. What happened here is he got a BIG idea about a Wind/Solar Hybrid invention and I think he was trying to communicate the specifics to me. I’m not good at translating him being much better with deer translations of stories than “windmillian”. Tough to communicate with him, he speaks faster or slower depending on the wind speed and that throws off my cadence…. 🤔😜😜📷 I have so much to learn…. I speak geology not Windmill…..
He is such an attention hound. In fairness though he is known as a skillful negotiator with the deer. He’s helped me before with various “deals” with the various herds to get them to sit for me I’m sure of it.😀
Windmill Weekend, Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘🤘😜
Back to my normal programming ….
So I was actually surprised by this capture. I technically was working those aforementioned divergent shadows with a high f-stop on a wide angle lens. The high contrast environment lends itself for a good perspective image. “Sneaky Pete” provides scale for the foreground which was my interest. Winter in Wyotana..
So I’m driving up a steep hill to the east in my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV . That hill obscured my view of the horizon so I didn’t see this coming. I did have a box -o-cameras next to me that I had set up for the conditions. I usually keep one on fast shutter/ lower fstop and at infinite focus. The camera was idling but not full on as they power down after about a minute. They keep their settings and take between 1 and 2 seconds to become useful upon tapping the shutter button (wake up camera).
So this 200,000 pound strategic bomber crests the hill RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME bigger than life, I was driving… I saw it, reached over instinctively and grabbed a 24-135 lens on a sony alpha 7RII out of the box. I manually clicked as it wasn’t set to machine gun. Didn’t have any time. I just pointed and clicked, never looked through the lens or at the alignment. Pure muscle memory I’m thinking. No active thought involved. Luckily I managed to get these 7 captures of a 450 knot aircraft that I had no warning of it’s approach until it was on me. UTV’s are loud moving across the prairie but this guy 1000 feet over head was eye opening. Something about roughly 1000 horsepower that is recognizable at a distance but my passenger and I had no warning . The swept wing jet was moving right along as he peeled right and disappeared into the cloud deck.
Life on this ranch starting 1906-1960’s was hard. Somewhere in the Late 50’s and through the early 60’s several oil wells were sunk into a good oil reservoir. The family that was the recipient of that revenue decided to build what was then the largest building in Campbell County in 1964. A project of clearing ground for this pad started. Included was a corral system adjacent to the barm. The Pad ended up level. Literally notched into a big hill . The rocks and sediment bulldozed from the hill as a road cut on a highway. This “dirt” distributed around was old river sands so the drainage is pretty good now… This eliminated the original/natural contours and flattening out the “pad”. I understand that work alone cost 50,000 dollars to move all that dirt. That without the cost of this huge building.
A bit of Infrastructure already in the ground became deeper due to that dirt… This has been a little problematic… Now there are a few pipes that were 6 feet down that are now 15 feet down. All that ranch infrastructure works of course. We did experience a deep pipeline burst leaking water . Fixing that was a day long chore. That hole was pretty big. I’ve had to fix that pipe twice (so far in 20 years lolol).
The oil eventually went away by the mid-70’s and the oil well’s mothballed. Back to normal ranch revenue but they did effectively have a foot ball field under roof. Those hardy folks were cowboys from the start. Born and bred in the Wyotana borderlands. I’m not sure how many 1963 Corvettes that building would have purchased but I’m betting 30. At any rate having a barn with that much area under roof is a good thing. We pull vehicles in there when storms approach and have even had a tailgate picnic after calf brand cut short by a thunderstorm. There have been many calf roping events for the locals in there I’m thinking through the 80’s anyway. Probably around 100 of them would be my guess. Ropers are serious folks as it’s a life skill up here.
Double Back Country Rainbow (late summer Golden Hour, just 6 months out of season..)
Can you smell the wet sage and the ozone yet? Hear the distant rumbles of the thunder? As this HUGE MesoCyclone sitting over the whole northeast corner of the Wyoming and the southeast corner of Montana. This storm certainly spans the MT/WY border and probably is over in South Dakota as well. You can just see the edge of it to right frame. These big 40,000 foot high storms can be 100 miles across. Big spinning tops of a thunderstorm is a good way of thinking about MesoCyclones. They are the way we get most of our summer rain. Having moved over us the unfettered sun really popped in the refractions going on within the raindrops in the far distance. I’d estimate that rainbow is 1/2 mile out.
I see a lot of rainbows as I actually go to work after rain showers move through. It makes for a “Trip up on Ridge 1”. You know… go up the hill to see what is going on to the east. I see afternoon rainbows 10 to 1 over morning rainbows historically. Rainbows will move as you move. If I could have gained say 1000 feet in elevation magically I would have seen a full circle rainbow. A drone footage of a rainbow would show a big circle/halo of color. You see this with the 22 degree halos around the sun/moon. But rainbow alway present behind you when your facing he sun/moon. They are always down stream so to speak.
You might also notice that the order of color ROYGBIV is reversed to VIBGYOR on the double component of this twin rainbow.
The 3 Missouri Buttes (the real name) is about 30 miles drive from my cameras vantage. The wagon train pioneers called them the “Three Sisters”. They were a major sign post along the way to all places west. The tower is closer to 45 miles out. View to the southeast (the side the tourists NEVER see). That is all northwestern Crook County.
The weather during this sunset over my shoulder was a tad snowy. Those were all falling ice plates (Diamond Dust). The next morning I went up on that pass and worked that fresh snow as well. Lots of good captures on this timeline). Taken up on the pass to Rockypoint Wyoming (Trail Creek Road). The view is to the southeast. This is off the beaten path a tad lolol.
The Exposed Volcanic Necks in this image are all related in space and time. Once deeply buried volcanic conduits to the surface. Each of the 3 (actually 4 but you can only see the 4th from above), peaks stands eroded at the surface. These pipes carried magma to the surface as lava/ash in four volcanos popping off at the surface . The rock we see here froze solid in that neck cooling slowly being insulated by the surrounding rocks. . We know this was deep as the columns of rock in the Devils Tower nearby cooled VERY slowly. This allowing the columns to crystallize in the eroded tower that the National Monument is famous for. Lots of material around them washed down the river to expose those necks. All that sand/mud is sitting in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment.
Location: about 10 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana)
Hollow Tree Portal to the Sky (From the inside out)
Hollow standing tree trunks are not terribly common out in the backcountry. I have only found a few. I’d love to have the sun directly over head here. I’ll have to wait for the right day. This is about 7 feet of trunk accessed from a critter hole in the base. I couldn’t quite get in my my arm and camera could. You don’t have to see what your doing to point a camera after a few hundred thousand clicks I’ve found out. Of course that’s not for detailed compositions but I can usually get the focal point somewhere near the center of the frame. You can smell the dried wood and moist ground. The grass I was laying in cushioned a bit but chunks of wood dug into my side lolol.
The Perspective here is of course close / far.
Go to Manual Mode on your camera and work thus learning the controls on your camera..You only have three settings you have to adjust to accomplish your goal. Equipment is a wide angle lens whose aperture set through the camera to high f-stop numbers. High f-stop is a very small “iris” in the lens. Pin point pupil so to speak.
The far tree is hard to get into the same focal plane as the close to the camera wood. Complications: To successfully capture detail that close in a dark place is a technical balancing act. SO… Deep Focual Field (the depth of focus) is your primary priority number one. You accomplish that using high f-stop numbers. . Doing so lets your lens focus on both close / far things at the same time.
Side effect of doing that is the lenses small iris lets in very little light in an already dark (ish) environment. So you have to compensate by longer/slower shutter speed, turning up Camera sensitivity or BOTH. More on that later. Just remember that f-stop is a double edged sword. Low f-stop number let in a LOT of light but your subjects nose might be in focus, his ears are blurry.
This captured during a rare trip to Gillette for a medical checkup. I came out of my Dr’s office only to have this scene in front of me. This is a Gillette Owned Christmas Star up on a high hill overlooking the city. Personally I think it’s a secret gov’t project to get us to look up at that hill top. Sort of a “Men in Black” “Flashy thing” lolol. What DO I know. I’m just an observer during the day. I try to get out of town before nightfall. The road home is a gauntlet of deer on the road . Most nights I come across a half dozen groups crossing the road in front of me . It’s a 70 mile trip home so there is plenty of ground to cover.
I spend a lot of money on bumpers and lights for the time I do spend driving at night. Deer hits are a real thing in this country. My road work is mostly early morning chasing sunrise light on backcountry roads. This particular day in town was undertaken / initiated during twilight travel. I of course worked the trip to town photographically driving through the ThunderBasin Grasslands. Road Time is good photographic time in my experience. You cover a lot of ground. Slowing down a bit helps to actually tune in to what’s going on around you. 70mph is too fast to see around you let alone stop before that “Hawk on the post” flies away…
Speed limit on the gravel backcountry roads is 45 mph. 👀 There are lots of moving brown or black speed bumps to keep you honest…
As I watch the sun descend across the sky moving to the right and downward as it travels. The light is so bright as to prevent the technology I am using from picking up any details in the landscape that I can recover. Too much dynamic range in this stage show. The scene was so bright, no human eye could bear it for more than a quick glance. The necessity to set the camera to expose the highlights properly can and does preclude catching any shadow details.
I was after the blue in the sky above the glare though. The Blazing orange alpenglow from the surface haze is only light that traveled long distances through the atmosphere. Only reds and yellows make it. But way up high in the sky, there is still blue light. That blue is unfettered by the atmosphere that high up. Because of the angle of the sun, that part of the sky is still in full colored daylight. That versus the red/yellow light that is being caught by my traps.
To have the sun drop into a perfect little valley for it to rest the night was also a consideration. To be in just the right place when this happens is a matter of planning and preparation. Knowing where cool terrain features are is just a matter of being there and learning/working your area. I have a whole list of things I CAN do any particular day. It depends entirely on the light plus where it’s coming from. 📷
I occasionally go on long morning drives after a fresh snow to see what I can see. I will drive a big loop maybe 30-40 miles working what ever I come across that interests me. Mostly untapped by photographers the back roads of Wyoming are. . There are a few of us up here but not many doing this full time.
So I had drive a big round trip circuit and was just about back. Now this is a “major” local artery. It’s a Gravel Road but it’s usually a fairly busy road. Here it is on a Sunday morning at 9AM with no tracks but my own. I was surprised by it. The road I live on is often untracked most weekends unless I drive over it. You don’t want to break down out here. No cell phone service and no body coming by since the night before say 18 hours at least. There are some very remote parts of Wyotana I cruise about where I would expect that but not so much here.
Snow Diamonds (Diamond Dust)
All Blue Sky morning it was Diamond Dusting. Can it really snow on a cloudless, sunny day? It can if it’s diamond dust. It was pretty light so ore like Mother Nature’s tinsel than snow, this weather bonus is caused by millions of tiny ice crystals that form near the ground. As they float slowly in the air (much like household dust) they reflect the sunlight, which makes them sparkle like diamonds! A very similar phenomena is responsible for sun pillars both below and above the sun. Here those ice crystal plates fell all the way to the ground.
You see them on the road as bright sparkles.
Location :Trail Creek Road , 9 miles east from Rt’s 59, . Northeastern Wyoming, Campbell Country looking west up into Montana.
I know this deer as “Goal Post” I’ve watched him grow up since he was a fawn. He is really obvious as he is missing his brow tine over his right eye. He has already shed his winter coat as he’s looking quite well groomed here. Goal Post is 4 years old here from last spring 2019. He will be 5 in the spring. It will be interesting to see if grows much bigger antlers this year. He has never grown in that brow tine though. He just doesn’t have it in him I think lol.
Familiarity of myself with deer is a photographic asset for me. . His herd is one of several different groups I have been able “get used to me”. I have in the past been able to drive my rigs right into the herd without spooking the group. Intermingling with herds of deer is a very interesting activity to say the least lol. I just traded in my Jeep Grand Cherokee they were used to. Now I drive a Ford F150 Raptor (all black) which they don’t know from Adam. We will see if they are tolerant of the vehicle or not. I’m betting that it’s the way I approach the herd rather than the particular vehicle. I do my best to drive up like a grazing animal. Move, stop for a while, turn a bit, move, stop, move etc. rinse and repeat.
JUST as the sun came up, lighting up that 15 mile distant ridge. Bright sunlight was about 10 feet over my head at the time. Less than aminute before I was lit up by the sun for my timeline.. In the distance the bright was working it’s way down the hill sides. The rain in the distance was far enough away to be a worth telephoto image. I was well over 200 yards out from Momma Angus to get her in focus along with the background with this long lens. Distance is your friend.
OK, another F-stop discussion…. High F-stop numbers take away a LOT of light from your light capture boxes. (camera). The higher the number, the smaller the hole in the lens for light to travel through. At the same time you make that hole smaller by turning up the F-stop number, you are thickening the “depth of field” focus depth. F-stop becomes a double edged sword. You can open up the aperture (turn down the f-stop number) and get a lot more light versus a pin hole at maximum fstop setting. But you loose depth of field/focus depth) So Bigger hole in the lens= shallow depth of field but a lot of light. A smaller hole in the aperture means less light but it gives you the ability to focus on things close AND far at the same time.
SO, you have to compensate for HIGH f stop numbers by adjusting the other two settings. Turning up camera sensitivity (ISO) boosts what little light that comes through a small hole in the lens. IT’s a double edge sword too though. More Camera Sensitivity (higher ISO) will give you a grainy image and introduce color noise. Speckles and big grain are not desirable so moderation is necessary.
Lastly you have shutter speed. Slower than 100th of a second you risk blurring the cow. Any movement from her would blur under longer exposures. Rule of thumb is 1/100th for minimum handheld telephoto (rested).
Volcanic Rainbow Turtle Butte (a little out of season).
Rainstorms were moving through the area this late fall day. This was before the first frosts. That seems a long time ago sequestered in the house most of the day. Various levels of Cabin Fever begins to creep into your psyche. Most ranchers get outside enough and maybe some light to keep them sane. A lot of times their wives go first unless they get out too. You’ve got to get some sunlight during the winter.
Sort of a cheap “Skittles™| knock off I’m thinking lolol. Rainbows are not fixed objects but will move as you move across the landscape. (Did you know that?). If you jump in a car and stay sunward of rain shafts in sunlight, you’ll have a moving rainbow. So to find the place to line this up you have to travel. I’m glad the Sun wasn’t much right (behind me) as I would have run out of ridge and gone over a cliff lolol. That has happened to more than few photographers
I all that conical / pyramidal butte “Turtle Butte”. In this late summer shot, you can see the normally mild mannered wanna be volcano, spew rainbows everywhere. Now we know where all the rainbows came from. They sky is stocking up. Makes sense. That butte is EXACTLY on the Wyoming/Montana border. That border is PRECISELY 1/2 way in between the Equator and the North Pole.
The trip to get this (and other) images from this time line was memorable to me. I left the house around 6am well over an hour before sunrise. It had snowed 6 inches flat with zero wind. Yes I said, zero wind. It was a Sunday morning so traffic was non-existent on the backcountry road dozens of miles from the nearest highway. Every path was trackless until I drove that way. The back of the Jeep covered by 1/2 inch of hard snow crust from the drive in the powder. The tail lights visible as neon through the white translucent shroud. Everything was bathed in an icy blue/cyan cast over the snow. A pastel pink soaked the sky.
From my perspective I was alone without another living human for miles in all direction. The sky opened up for me at sunrise.
Worried I was the cloud cover would not relent it’s hold on the light passing through. Clouds ultimately are gate keepers of my work either allowing me to chase light or keeping me cloistered behind my computer lol. Fortunately, snow depth wasn’t a problem as it was flat. Sub-zero snow is very dry and powdery. It was like driving through flour. Mid-winter snow storms can be cold lolol.
Old Wooden Tower AERMotor Windmill heads were an expensive investment to the rancher back in the 30’s. A wooden tower was the cheap way to go. Wood does decay over 50 – 100 years out here. Lack of much rain is the reason. We are considered semi arid here, almost desert. There are NOT many left standing.
Location: somewhere near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).