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Sunset Open Gate

Sunset Open Gate
Sunset Open Gate

Sunset Open Gate

The well known ranch rule is.: If the gate is open, leave it open. If the gate is closed, close it after you pass through.

I will leave gates open to allow easy passing of game through the fences. They don’t have to crawl under the wire or jump over it. This particular area is a busy summer area for game, not so much in the as winter water is more than a mile away. It has to be moving water of course to not be frozen in this environment. Dryland areas like this evacuate of all ungulates during the colder months of the year.

I usually put game trail cameras on open gates but I had just removed several from this spot due to the oncoming winter. Not only will it be difficult to tend to those cameras, they would capture almost nothing that time of year. I tend to keep them around those water sources that are kept open. We trickle a jet of high pressure water into 4, sometimes 5 stock tanks all winter. It keeps them open nicely and should provide some nice ice sculpture images this year. Wildlife hangs near the water for good reason. Trapped near an island water source surrounded by dry land with LOTS of food. It’s not a bad way to spend your winter if your an ungulate. The one thing we usually have enough of is deer fodder/food.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Open Gate

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Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets
Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Filed under things I see traveling parallel ridges. Driving in the backcountry and finding views like this is a reward in and of itself. I see things that are hard to capture that I’ve never been able to get just photorealistic as I saw it. This one was hard. High contrasts are such that the differences in dynamic range become difficult to record.

This backcountry is beautiful under MOST conditions. This night was quite special though. There are so many places to explore, it’s literally endless with so many nooks and crannies that you would need horses and nothing but decades to explore. I’ve lived here 20 years looking for new and old things just about daily. I find human artifacts as well as Cretaceous age fossils in this country.

Living in Dinosaur fossil bone country is also a place you can by accident find treasures in the grass. I have literally run across dinosaur backbones (centrum) laying in the grass as a “rock”. This grass is all covering Mounts of Hell Creek/Lance Rock Formations (Cretaceous). Fossils are not every where or everybody would have lots of fossils. There might be an acre total of fossiliferous ground in 5 or 6 square miles. Dinosaur fossils are in the Hell Creek Lance but are still very uncommon finds. The ranch collection currently has around 10K specimens in it recovered from the private deeded ground up here.

Dlsclaimer. You can only collect vertebrate fossils on private deeded ground. BLM, state, tribal lands are all forbidden locations to collect or even possess vertebrate fossil material. I’m not an attorney so look on the Bureau of Land Management website for specifics.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

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Mitten Butte Volcano Illusion

Mitten Butte Volcano Illusion
Mitten Butte Volcano Illusion

Mitten Butte Volcano Illusion

SATIRE:

So I wake up the other morning and much to my surprise, was a local pyramidal hillock that was blowing it’s top. The steam was rising, the cauldron boiling. I anticipate pyroclastic flows, lahars, glowing red hot clouds and other volcanic manifestations similar to what buried Pompeii. Ash should start falling any moment. Maybe “Sneaky Pete” the windmill will save the day and blow the ash away…

Back to my normal programming: Geologic Musings:

OK, this is NOT a volcano. It takes a properly positioned camera lol. Those are normal clouds up in the sky. Yellowstone is not blowing up. The Devil’s Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck field about 50 miles to my southeast has not reactivated. No, the Laramide Orogeny has not started back up just yet.

That Butte (called Mitten Butte), is made of layers of river sands stacked on top of one another. The volcanic shape is a result of a hard cap rock which resisted erosion better than every thing else between it and myself. All that rock has been removed by erosion. It is a erosive remnant of all the material that used to surround the hill. Hundreds of feet if not thousands of feet (depending on your location) of sediment has been removed around here. Remember Devils Tower? That used to be a mile or so deep. Now it sticks up 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. That river system essentially removed enough material to expose the harder tower. Same process here except just the top of the hill is harder rock.

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

Title: Mitten Butte Volcano Illusion

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Perspective: BigHorns Blurred Windmill

Perspective: BigHorns Blurred Windmill
Perspective: BigHorns Blurred Windmill

Perspective: BigHorns Blurred Windmill

Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill is doing what he does best, get into my landscapes. I have no control over his actions…..😎 (years old narrative).🤣

The window to the Big Horn Mountains from my ranch has 130 miles of atmosphere between my high ridge location and those 13,000 foot high peaks… I see them maybe once a week. It was windy but this is still a 1/15th second time exposure in order to blur the windmill sail.

This was a missed post so I manually posted this this AM. I’m not sure how I screwed it up but here I am working live and not a week out lolol.

Have a great Friday and be safe in all you do.

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

Title: Perspective: BigHorns Blurred Windmill

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Out the Back Gate

Out the Back Gate
Out the Back Gate

Out the Back Gate

This 1/2 miles of Campbell County road is the last of Wyoming going north as directly over the crest of the first hill, is the Montana border. The Valley in the Distance is the Ranch Creek Drainage which is the first watershed going into Montana. My closest neighbors live up there. We literally live in the last house north in Wyoming. There might be a few closer to the border but not many. We have land in both states, pay taxes in both, my son went to school in Montana but we live in Wyoming. By at least 3/4 of a mile.

In many ways we get the best of both worlds. There isn’t much difference in the landscape north or south from this vantage point. I am actually standing at our back yard fence for this telephoto capture. The hill on the left is several miles down the road with the far hills being about 10 miles distant. The Alpenglow sky from the sun that just set far to the left side of the frame is still lighting things up. The low light causes photographers to use tripods and long exposures to saturate their captures. I’m no exception here. A window clamp on my Jeeps drivers side did the trick nicely. These are very very handy things to buy on amazon. Don’t buy a cheap one as you get what you pay for.

I use “RC-2” mounts on everything. You have to buy tripod heads All my tripods and all my cameras all mate up properly (or that is the plan). I JUST got two of my Sony Alpha 7RII cameras back from repair (takes a month usually). At any one time I usually have one camera out being repaired. I’m pretty hard on the cameras, spinning dials all the time in a hostile dusty environment. Cameras will last longer if you use them on automatic and don’t spin dials (moving parts) that wear out and stop working after 50 or so thousand adjustments. However running a camera on automatic is like owning a supercar and having the computer drive you down a traffic free winding mountain road.

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

Title: Out the Back Gate

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Sunset Up Close and Personal

Sunset Up Close and Personal
Sunrise Up Close and Personal

Sunset Up Close and Personal

When the trees on the ridge 40 miles distant from my lens are in focus (more or less for the distance), the sun is scalloped and crushed The hundreds of miles of atmosphere the sun is filtering through, is distorting the suns edge. I get to watch those scallops move in real time when I set up shots like this. Big long lenses are necessary to do this kind of work.

When present, heat shimmer will create optical distortion that will diminish the quality of medium and long distance photos. trees at 40 miles is pretty hard to focus with moving air caused by heat islands in between my camera lens and the ridge. There is some distortion of those trees by the intervening atmosphere as well. Imaging anything over 20 miles I find you start running into distortions of various kinds. It’s not the lens, it’s the atmosphere.

What can you do about this distortion problem? Heat waves in the landscape are an image quality factor that you generally can’t spend money to put behind you. For example, a sharper lens and a better camera are not going to remediate the problem. . Selecting a different location, a different time of day and/or a different day completely or even a different season is often the best solution. A cloudy day with low temperature fluctuation may work for your image. Low angle moon and sun images are going to have differential heating between you and the moon/sun. Fact of physics and the environment.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Sunset Up Close and Personal

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Back Country Umbrella

Back Country Umbrella
Back Country Umbrella

Back Country Umbrella

I often find Deer beds under trees suring snow storm. If the snow is falling straight down, the trees act as a pretty good umbrella to keep the white stuff off. It’s common sense (which deer have a lot of). Any shelter in a storm is better than no shelter.

Lone trees on a ridge are romantic figures up here. Battling the worst that the environment has to offer. 80 mph winds, -30 degrees for weeks (historically since I’ve been here) and terrible dry spells. These lone sentinels are king of all they survey. They don’t grow very fast. This tree is at least 100 years old. I suspect the big ones are several hundred years old. This fellow happens to be sitting on a fossil microsite. Just on the other side of the ridge, bare Hell Creek/lance Sandstone outcrops with large chunky dinosaur bone fragments weathering out. I even found a pretty nice toe bone from a hadrosaur there. I left it under a rock I found it next to so it’s out of the weather. can show it to a few random folks that happen to make it up here for the discussion.

The ridge in the foreground is several hundred yards out in this long distance telephoto shot. The ridge behind the foreground tree is 40 miles distant from the camera. Telephoto’s crush perspective something fierce. It’s hard to believe you can see individual trees at 40 miles out but there they are. 📷

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

Title: Back Country Umbrella

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Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show
Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show is that moment in space and time when the red light of the ice filtered morning sun, touches the far mountains. As far as backshows go, this is a good example of that variety of Alpenglow. (Belt of Venus). The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. The low angle sunlight is red due to the longer wavelengths being able to penetrate the haze better.

The best Alpenglow displays are early winter based on my experience. Atmospheric ice requires temps obviously below freezing and at 4000 feet in elevation, that isn’t that hard to do. I’ve seen good Alpenglow mid-summer. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. When the sunlight is just touching the hills in the distance, I am in the shade of the ridge 10 miles distant from my perspective. Topography allows some interesting opportunities.

I strongly recommend googling “Belt of Venus” to further your knowledge of this wonderful phenomena. Often the sunward side of the sky show your watching isn’t the highlight (pun intended) of the moment. Make sure you turn around and check the sky. This was easy as I was still in the shade and waiting for the sun to come up over that ridge behind my position. I had a three mile drive on two track roads to get to this location. My jeep has no trouble on these old cow trails. (Except it beats me up).

Awaiting a new ride. According to the Ford Website, the 2020 Ford Truck is “In Production” at the moment being assembled. The last truck I purchased new was in 1999.

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

Title “Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show”.

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BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder
BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

This view of a BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder was taken a week ago as this posts. Th grassy remote ridgetop I was on, gives way to the Little Powder RIver Valley. The next ridge is the Red Hills backed by the 13000 foot high peaks of the core of the BigHorn Mountain Uplift. The Powder RIver Basin between the Mountains any my ranch pretty much ends at my ranch. I’m living right on the edge between the Wyoming Black Hills and the Powder River basin. Just west of my ranch, dinosaur fossil Bearing rock that is older than the Big Horn Uplift dive under the sediments worn off the BigHorn Mountains.

Our Ranch is as high topograpically above the Little Powder River Valley Floor as the dark 40 mile distant ridge. It allows me to see the peaks at this 130 mile distance. Weather windows to the BigHorns have been plentiful this year unlike previous ones. The sun is currently setting well south of these peaks from my vantage point at the moment. I won’t see it set over the big V notch until next spring again. The sun will continue to set a little more south each day until December 21’st. Then t starts to rise and set a little further north each day until the Summer Solstice.

I try to be very in tune to such things as my daily photographic activities take into account moon rise, sunsets with the time of year. Angles of sunrise and sunset are critical to where I go these days. Weather has the greatest impact of course.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

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MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect
MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

This a view northeast from my Communication tower hill in Wyoming. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. The Hill in between is rIght directly on the Montana/Wyoming border. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, sustained 30mph winds are howling at 20 degrees. 20/30 days are chilly.

High Contrast Landscapes lens themselves to a wide treatment. The peaks are about 10 miles distant. This is a very wide image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. TheMontana/Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before.

The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. THe ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formatoin and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).

Title: MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

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Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head

Moon Resting on Wolf's Head
Moon Resting on Wolf's Head

Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head Butte is one of my favorite Moon “Cradle” capture.

Satire: I’ve found that the Moon will often take just a second to rest on a comfortable spot before the effort to rise to it’s zenith. Some of these buttes have what I call “Moon cradles” where the moon can settle down for a moment. Fortunately, it never sits there for long. 😜😜

Back to my normal programming.

Getting terrestrial objects in focus along with the moon…. Be still my heart. It’s a hobby of mine within my larger photographic world catching the moon resting on things. I do get some requests for information on how to do this.

Photographic Musings:

In a nutshell, you need a 400 -600mm lens, distance, timing, topography and a full moon. Distance from the foreground object is your friend. So is a HIGH f-stop number (f22 or higher). High f-stop gives you a deep field of focus that extends foreground object to infinity (moon). Being the double edged sword that f-stop is, by turning it up, you reduce the already low light level in the camera. A short 3 second time exposure if you have a tripod would be nice to compensate. Longer exposure means more light into the camera.. I did this handheld at about 1/30th second. Your ISO (camera sensitivity) is your wildcard. Change it to get an image as rule one is get the image…damn the graininess (which high ISO will give you). There are only three things you have to adjust to use your camera on manual mode after all.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head Butte

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BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns
BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns is a capture from earlier this summer. The peach colored alpenglow and purple mountain hues really accent the rich green of the pasture. This was a very good year for grass. It was hugging the hill here. It was as high as the cattle down in the fertile washes.

Alpenglow is the result of atmospheric ice refracting light. The purples hues also come due to ice. All with lots of help from the the red light that make it through that hundreds of miles thick filter. I find peach colored alpenglow is not that common. I very carefully exposed that sky to match what I saw. Bear in mind that the cattle are 300-400 yards out. The first blue ridge is 40 miles out. The Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant from my lens. I had to find just the right spot in the 3D topography out here to line this up.

Both those were Bulls (at that time lololol). Now they are steers……… Nothing is certain up here but Winter and brown season lol. This picture hopefully will take you back to that early summer day.

This is a very long 800mm lens. With an 800 from here, I can just fit the main peaks of the BigHorns in the frame from this distance. You need to use a pretty high f-stop to get this deep a focus. Distance from the closest object is your friend in this kind of image. Deep focal fields come at the expense of loosing light. Your already in a low light environment in twilight. Tripods help a LOT.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns is a capture from earlier this summer. The peach colored alpenglow and purple mountain hues really accent the rich green of the pasture. This was a very good year for grass. It was hugging the hill here. It was as high as the cattle down in the fertile washes.

A result of atmospheric ice suspended in the atmosphere, Alpenglow colors the scene. The purples hues come with help from the the red light that make it through that hundreds of miles thick filter. I find peach is not that common. I very carefully exposed that sky to match what I saw. Bear in mind that the cattle are 300-400 yards out. The first blue ridge is 40 miles out. The Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant from my lens. I had to find just the right spot in the 3D topography out here to line this up.

Both those were Bulls (at that time lololol). Now they are steers……… Nothing is certain up here but Winter and brown season lol. This picture hopefully will take you back to that early summer day. Tired of the cold I already am.

Our Corriente’ herd has intermingled with the angus this winter. They will mooch when they can . Bossy to a cow, they know how to use their horns. IF they want through a fence, they pretty much walk through it. Fortunately, the old cows in the herd pretty much keep everyone close by. THey mingle with the angus but they know they are “better” in their mind. 😜

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Longhorns

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Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies
Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies with golden Alpenglow behind these two species cooperating so closely. There are several images in this timeline still to be finished.

The Bird Is a Magpie, a fairly common bird here in the borderlands of Montana and Wyoming. We live on the high ridges with a mix of wildlife, deer, pronghorn, some lions and coyotes with the occasional wolf and bear. I seldom see such a big bird interact with deer but have seen this before.

The lighting was bright from behind and there was a lot of fog/moisture in the air. All the brightness was amplified by the Projector Screen the fog became. The Golden Alpenglow and mist behind him made it necessary to silhouette him. The camera couldn’t do any better. There is no way to accurately bring out the detail in the deer or birds body. So I left them as the camera saw them.

A symbiotic relationship between magpies and deer doesn’t seem logical but here they are. Somehow the deer, jumpy as heck, knows to allow these raucous birds to land and pick away. I’m pretty sure the ticks are torn away and not gently pried out like they should be. It has to be taught from parent to fawn somehow. I had never witnessed this before this timeline and I have several more similar captures, one with a deer and several birds on her. Crazy stuff you see only once or twice in a lifetime.

Magpies are cool birds. Lewis and Clark reported that they came into their tents to steel food. They used to follow hunters to clean up the “leavings” from hunts. They are mostly a western bird with our place being centered in their distribution.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies 2-1 Aspect Ratio

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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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Thunder Basin National Grasslands

Thunder Basin National Grasslands
Thunder Basin National Grasslands

Thunder Basin National Grasslands (The only shaft of light I saw ALL hat Day. )

I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming. Driving toward my ranch, I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. This road skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states.

There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. Right side of the fence is reserve, left side is private ground. There might be a few water and oil wells out there but they actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.

I get the best Hoar Frost images from those geothermal ponds in the deep winter. It is a good 1/2 gravel road drive to the closest of those ponds though so I’ll only work them photographically a few times a year. If it’s -10 or lower, I’m heading that way for sunrises. Mostly those ponds are on the north side of this grassland complex. Gotta love vandalism of shooting signs. Shooting signs which cost hundreds to make, is senseless and a waste of good ammo. It’s also vandalism. 😞

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Thunder Basin National Grasslands

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Sunset Across the Border

Sunset Across the Border
Sunset Across the Border

Sunset Across the Border starts in Wyoming where I stand. The Prairie Dog Hills on the Horizon in the Montana side of this sky show.

The Horizon Rising to cover the suns face occurs with finality in the backcountry. This spot is several miles out into the grasslands. When the sun goes down, it gets very dark very quickly. Particularly so on moonless or cloudy nights. Dark as Pitch. In fact as Dark as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA’s website that discusses such things.

Twilight landscapes are one of my favorite things to pursue. Landscape details out of the dark are worth learning how to extract from your data file on an image. The information is usually in there but just hidden in the black in your cameras raw file. I pay very close attention to the highlights exposing them correctly to the actual scene then retrieve the details in the dark later.

I always travel with a tritium illuminated compass. There is a very real phenomena called “Death by GPS”. I only use them for land owner Identification. I would never travel back here with one. There was a semi-truck driver that had to walk out of the backcountry up here because he followed his GPS. He high centered his truck trying to turn around. 95 degree day, he had a bad time but managed to find a ranch with a hose and got cooled down after a 6 mile walk with very little water. Compasses used properly don’t usually lie.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Across the Border

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Twilight Over Turtle Butte

Twilight Over Turtle Butte
Twilight Over Turtle Butte

Twilight Over Turtle Butte is a capture from the Montana/Wyoming border. That line is 45 degrees north Latitude exactly, which runs right through that hill.

Its called turtle butte for two reasons. First, the cap rock from the correct angle looks very much as a turtle silhouette. Second, I have found fossil turtle fragments there. Some of them the size of your palm. These fossils are significant only by their presence. They are not valuable in and of themselves. The whole fossil assemblage taken as a whole is the significant scientific information. I have found some fairly nice turtle fossils in this “general area” but not much on that hill. There have been scattered dinosaur chunky chunks but alas, no amazing finds there. This is VERY big country to walk around in and cover any significant ground.

Up here in the borderlands I find a variety of things just walking or driving around. We actively hunt deer antlers as running over them will potentially flatten your ATV’s tire. Native American stone and metal artifacts have been found on our ranch. We note the presence of several teepee rings near natural seeps and springs on the ranch. There were no big “villages” up this high up on the ridges.

There were hunting parties though during the summer. The winter restricts access to these high ridges. Where there was water, there was game. Humans have been walking around this country for 11000 years. There is a documented Clovis man site within a 20 mile circle of my place. (LOL, that narrows it down). I still walk places up here that no human has been on before. Certainly try to walk off trail when ever safely possible. You will cover better ground that way. Everyone walks the trail…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Twilight over Turtle Butte

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Mud Hills Across the Border

Mud Hills Across the Border
Mud Hills Across the Border

Mud Hills Across the Border into Montana was captured early summer 2019. Traveling to these remote overlooks is 1/2 the gift of photography.
I don’t travel without cameras. Particularly when out on a photographic excursion where I’m actively “Hunting for the Wild Photon”. The Hillside where I’ standing on is 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.
Scattered musings:
I haven’t looked it up but I’d be curious if that measurement has changed much over the centuries. Our ability to be more precise in our measurements surely change earlier estimations before satellite GPS. Of course there is some side discussions here related to geology that I’ll save for another post later lol.
Geology Factoids: The Mud Hills in the Distance are younger than the rocks I’m standing on. They are Tertiary Fort Union Formation sediments. hich are mostly alluvial sediments sourced from the Big Horns after those mountains rose. This the Mud Hills (I wonder how they got their name) may have some fossils like alligators, fish, birds, rays, fresh water clams and other invertebrates. They would not be abundant and have random occurrences up the section. The rocks I’m standing on are Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance formations. The random fossil beds here have DInosaur remains in them where the rocks above a certain point, don’t. Humm 🤔
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Title: Mud Hills Across the Border

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Moonset in the Backcountry

Moonset in the Backcountry
Moonset in the Backcountry

Moonset in the Backcountry

Layers of ridges sprawl below the Crescent Moon perceptively nearing the rising horizon. This 2 second time exposure of a 3 percent crescent setting over the Red Hill.s That last ridge is 40 miles distant from my lens. Resolving the different darkness of distant ridges in early civil twilight was a secondary goal in this image. Of course, getting that shadow and full outline of that sliver of a crescent was my main goal. I love alpenglow.

Actually capturing a detectable outline of the whole moon seems to be “restricted” to moon captures fairly close to the horizon. I’m not sure of the physics involved in this observation anecdotal as it is. However, what I do know for certain: seeing the whole outline is a tough capture. I can actually see things like this in the camera’s live video at the time.

The joy of “Mirrorless” removable lens cameras is that you get what you see in the eyepiece (or backLCD) BEFORE you click the shutter. Working in manual mode on a Mirrorless, you instantly know what your settings are doing, you watch it live on the screen. This is NOT a DSLR camera routine where you approximate the settings, take a photo, check the image on the LCD. Then you reset your setting better….. Rinse and Repeat until you get the shot.

I wouldn’t even consider buying the best possible DSLR versus a 1500 dollar mirrorless removable lens camera. Not even close. Mirrorless allows you instant feed back to your actions. If you are Christmas shopping, I strongly suggest you find out about mirrorless camera bodies that take removable lenses. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. I use Sony Alpha 7R series extensively though I have a couple of consumer level Canon M series cameras. I use the smaller chip cameras (not full frame like the Sony) for astro/big telescope work).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Moonset in the Backcountry

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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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Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape

Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape
Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape

Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape: It’s mid-November and a HUGE hay crop was everywhere in this country. Still picking them up this late in the year. Boy there are still a lot of haybales to move. I caught the a hydraulically equipped hay truck stopped long enough to take this 1 second exposure. They had been at this all day and it was pretty dark and were still hauling. There were hundreds to pick up this year.

This of course is a time exposure as it were. I consider anything longer than 1/4 second a time exposure best done on a tripod or some support. You can take photos like this free handed but your ISO is going to have to be so high that you’ll get grain on your image. A minimum handheld speed is about 1/100th with a telephoto so your going to have to compensate for the lack of light somehow. Turning up camera sensitivity? This will unfortunately give you larger grain to your image and add noise to the color. It will however bring an image in. The first rule of photography is get the shot. The second rule is get it right !.

Longer time exposures give your camera a chance to gather light the easy way. You always want as LOW and ISO as you can get away with. Low light images like this look wonderful if done on a tripod. Not so much hand held. I use a clamp on my car window with my favorite tripod head on it that mates to my cameras.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape

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Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect

Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect
Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect

Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect is literally 3 for the 1. Add the Devil’s Tower and the Bear Lodge Mountains to their left.

This early morning (2 minutes after sunrise) on the Pass to RockyPoint Wyoming was clear sky. Alpenglow was lit up by the low angle far traveled rays. Those long yellow and reds are the only light to make it through the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Only then they refract off the ice needles to my camera. A yellow sky in the morning is a VERY common thing in the winter.

This is a view to the south west . This location overlooks MOST of northern Crook County in Wyoming with the Bear Lodge Mountains coinciding with the South Dakota border. A REALLY big area covered in this 3:1 Aspect image (60 inches by 20 inches). Triplet aside, this is one wide image.

This is a 3 photo (left/center/right) composite) corrected for perspective and seamlessly integrated together). This is not a panoramic telephone image lol. I must admit that I like panoramic cell phone camera images very much. Handy as heck. However they will not quite go to 60 inches wide lol.

This was a beautiful morning for a clear sky sunrise. These kind of morning are all about the side shows, not the sunrise itself. It was calm, little or no wind (rare), you could hear cattle calling from miles around. The air was crisp and clean as can be.

Location: Trail Creek Road, The Pass at RockyPoint Wyoming.

Title: Missouri Buttes 3:1 Aspect

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Twilight Over the BigHorns

Twilight Over the BigHorns
Twilight Over the BigHorns

Full Screen is a good choice for this. . Twilight over the BigHorns was so obviously gorgeous. I had to resort to a time exposure to catch it. The timing on this sunset is very late in Civil Twilight. I was returning home from a Photographic Road trip. My driveway offered this view as I returned to base.

Civil Twilight after sunset ends about 28 minutes after the sun goes down 8 degrees under the horizon. It’s usually the best time to get those crimson and yellow skies. The yellow is Alpenglow. Atmospheric Ice causes this phenomena caused by refracted light passing through. Only the red wavelengths which have survived through hundreds of miles of atmosphere light the cloud deck.

The Big Horns of course are 130 miles from my camera at this location. The long lenses I use crush the perspective. The black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out. The clouds behind the range are around 200 miles out I would suspect. The distance is hard to put into proper frame. Those 13000 feet high mountains appear smaller than the thumb on my outstretched arm from here.

Photographic Musings focusing on :

Shutter speed:

When I don’t get detail in the landscape, you can assume that the lighting was pretty dim. I use very sensitive gear and this late, handheld camera work is silly to attempt. This is a 2 second time exposure. A rested camera at 1/15 th of a second is pretty tough to keep from blurring. 2 seconds you HAVE to have either a timer to initiate the shutter and a tripod/sandbag or your going to blur. I say if it’s 55mm and smaller that 1/50th is fine and stable unless your taking photos of moving things. The longer the lens, the more ANY movement will tend to blur. WIth a 800mm lens, if I’m working handheld at less than 1/200th of a second is rare and a rested camera.

My rules of Thumb for Handheld cameras shutter speed. (manual mode) all times are in fractions of a secondl You MIGHT get away with less and slower speeds blurring things intentionally is a valid photo technic. I’ve done that slow setting for a blur numerous times intentionally with bees and other fliers. Freeze the body but blur the wings composition sort of image…

Sitting still subject: 1/50th or faster..

Walking human 1/200th.

Running anything 1/800th

Flying things/moving vehicles: 1/2000th

Bumble Bee Wings 1/4000th.

These are just a rule of thumb and you can sure get away a bit on either side of those numbers. Of course the faster your exposure and the less light will enter the camera over the shorter period of time. You will have to adjust for fast shutters by either turning up ISO or turning down the F-stop numbers (bigger aperture). There are only three things to adjust in manual mode after all. You just learned one of them. 😀

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Twilight over the BigHorns

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BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover
BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

From My viewpoint at 130 miles out. This area of the sky is the size of your thumb at an arms length on the horizon. The BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover that night was climbing up the back of the peaks. It was to cover the highest ones within a few minutes of this image collection. I had a visual window to the peaks that lasted at most a few minutes. The sun was still over head and this was very bright and hard to see. The lighting was high overhead and slightly oblique to the images. It’s a tough photographic environment lol.

Getting to see weather move over these 13,000 feet high ridges is a rare treat from this far away.

These huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide Orogeny. Cloud peak is 13,175 feet and is visible in this image. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east. This Basin called the Powder River Basin. This basin the major source of coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.

My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns. Dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. . These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. Major Mountain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from the continental wide compression.. Huge were the forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks to clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed just about to my front door.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

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Sunburst Over The BigHorns

Sunburst Over The BigHorns
Sunburst Over The BigHorns

Sunburst Over The BigHorns is the solar equivalent of a nuclear burst over the 13,000 foot high mountain chain at sunset. A clear sky sun.. this was bright! The ice in the air was magnifying the sun like a projector screen.

Imagine this as a nuclear burst melting snow to vapor. This would be the scene just before you went blind ….. I think the trees on the first ridge would be smoking. You know…. Like the second Terminator Movie with Sarah Connors on the Chain Link Fence at a playground as the nuke goes off…. (Classical Reference to a SciFi Movie). I digress lolol.

This is a TOUGH light environment and on the edge of the envelope for any camera system. Looking into the sun with any gear is risky if your not using a mirrorless system and looking at the brightness ONLY on video. No direct light paths to your eyes allowed with this level of brightness. No DSLR’s. I look through a video eyepiece to set up my camera for captures like this. The term STUPID bright comes to mind lol.

There are two ridges visible in this image. The first lowest dark and treed ridge is 40 miles out from the camera and is called the “Red Hills”. They are right at the same elevation I live at. A long 130 miles to the high peaks from my lens.

The sun looks so big because the ice in the air projecting plus the distant mountains are really very small on the horizon while the sun is the same size. Further back, the mountains shrink but the sun looks bigger due to perspective. Telephoto lenses CRUSH perspective looking at an area of the sky the size of your thumb at arms length. Then they fill the image frame with it in high detail. Optical Zoom is FAR superior to digital zoom. FAR!

2×3 feet

Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sunburst Over The BigHorns

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BigHorn Sun Over the Notch

BigHorn Sun Over the Notch
BigHorn Sun Over Notch

Weather this year has been cooperative in getting the Setting BigHorn Sun over the Notch between the 13,000 foot high peaks.

The Sun apparent motion is from left to right as well as down so it actually set on the peaks to the right. It’s kind of tricky to figure out where to set up for an image like this. I’m WAY out away from the range at 130 miles for this shot and the area in the sky this image covers is tiny. Hold up your thumb at an arms length and your covering it from where I am. Those are HUGE peaks, they just get smaller as I move away. The sun doesn’t change size so quickly lolol.

This sky was a Sunslit. The sun came down from the thick cloud deck above to light up the narrow strip of the sky. The relative difference in dynamic range of the bright sun and the much less bright land makes silhouettes. My eyes could have seen details in the land if I wasn’t totally blinded by the sun at that moment.

I remind you it’s not the sun that is setting. It’s the horizon that is rising. Things are as they are, not as they seem or as you were told. This is the basis science works off of. The trick is to determine how they are … The essence of discovery is the effort to discern the way things actually work. Electricity comes out of the wall right?

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Sun over the Notch

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Sun Slide Composite

Sun Slide Composite
Sun Slide Composite

Sun Slide Composite: Taken about a minute apart, the sun slides into the Notch between two 13,000 foot high peaks of the Big Horn Mountains.

Setting suns move from left to right as well as the earth rising up to cover it’s face, the sun fell into that Notch. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t get out because it gradually got darker and then nothing. 😝

The Big Horns Mountains only Align with the setting sun and my ranch a few days a year and only one will the sun set into the notch. I’ve been trying to get this image for 20 years .. This week I had a pretty cooperative weather window. More of these will be incoming as I get them scheduled. I do occasionally travel to extend the alignment but there are only a few places high enough to see 130 miles to these peaks.

The BigHorn Mountain range is of course 130 miles out. This is a long 1200mm telephoto shot . There is a LOT of atmosphere between my camera ant the V notch. The area of the sky covered by this image at this distance is the size of a postage stamp at arms length or smaller. These mountains are WAY out there which I can see because I’m on a high ridge. There is another ridge down in the shadows that prevents me from seeing this if I’m not high enough up in elevation. Just a few spots for this angle.

The Play of light behind these peaks that night was spectacular to watch through the long lenses I use. I watch this essentially on video. Don’t try this with a standard DSLR camera with a direct light path to your eye. You will likely blind yourself. Please be careful. I use a mirrorless camera but even then if your camera isn’t rated for this, you could damage your gear.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sun Slide Composite

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Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

This is a pull back as your eyes would see this scene at around what a 50mm lens sees of a Big Sunset Over the BigHorns Mountains. If you were on my ranch watching from 130 miles distant.

I’m almost always using telephotos to bring in just the BigHorn Mountains filing the whole frame. It takes about a 800 mm long focal length to fill the camera frame side to side with the tallest part of the range. I have many captures from this night worthy of finishing. I’m standing a few hundred yards north of the Montana/Wyoming border to take this so it’s across the state line.

This kind of sky show changes by the minute. Looking tightly into the setting sun is dramatically bright but the shadows add up and it’s actually pretty dark where I stand. The Camera shows me the scene on a video screen so I’m not going blind from this.

Exposure time is so important in getting the colors right. I see the actual image my camera is going to save BEFORE I click the shutter. So I can actually check the color of the sky in front of me and the camera Once you realize a high f-stop and low ISO are necessary to take this kind of image, shutter speed becomes your variable to match the colors in your viewfinder to the actual scene. (applies to mirrorless camera users not you DSLR guys).

The mountain chain in Silhouette to the right is part of the Red Hills at 40 miles out from the camera. That range is an erosional remnant of the sediment apron the BigHorn Mountains spread out this direction. There are no sediments from the Big Horn mountains “Fanglomerate” (google word of the day) that reach my ranch. It’s likely that those that did have been removed from above by erosion. Those distant mountains used to be a lot higher. Plus Powder River Basin between here and there was a lot deeper.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

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Orange Banded BigHorn Mountains

Orange Banded BigHorn Mountains
Orange Banded BigHorn Mountains

Colorcast orange Banded BigHorn Mountains is an odd color to cover a landscape with. It was really that color lol.

I saw this developing the other night as I’ve been on a mission to catch the sun behind the BigHorn Mountains. Some nights, the weather window is closed to the mountains but this night it was closed to the sun. The 130 miles distant snow covered range was shrouded in this Orange colorcast that was like a stage light with an orange gel in front over the landscape.

This only lasted a few minutes of course as the sun moved down through progressively thicker and thicker layers of clouds. All just prior to being snuffed out by the range. The horizon of course is rising here, not the sun is setting….

I’ve spent a lot of time this month pursuing the Big Horns photographically. The sun and the range is playing peek a boo with the weather controlling the show. I have many good captures from this week which will slowly work their way into my work flow here. T

The black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out from this 800 mm telephoto capture on a very high resolution camera. If you hold a postage stamp at arms length and place it against the horizon, this image would fit into a square that side.

2:1 aspect. (very wide. 40 x 20 inches at 300 dpi.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana overlooking the Red Hills out to the Bighorn Peaks.

Title: Orange Banded BigHorn Mountains

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BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter

BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter
BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter

BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter is a good a filter for reducing light into my camera as any glass filter out thre. Here the air was clear, there was some gravel dust lit up in the valley at the bottom. There were high clouds in a thin layer.

The BigHorn Mountains are 130 miles from my ranch (and this is taken on ranch). I’ve been following this angle for several days moving about 1 mile and a half north each night for this precise alignment this week. A few nights I’ve had clouds in the way but this night was perfect.

There was not excessive moisture in the air for a change. Looking into the furnace like this is a very hostile light environment for most cameras. Don’t try this at home with a DLSR with a direct optic path to your eye. I look at this through video and am at no risk for blinding.

This is certainly a unique view and I’m not aware of others trying to do this at such a distance. The little black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out (the “Red Hills”) The sky was cloudless but for a thin band as seen as my top frame for the image. What is amazing to me with this photo is the snow blowing up maybe 5000 feet off the peaks on the right.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch in Campbell County Wyoming and Powder River Montana, the Big Horns are in Sheridan County Wyoming. The sun is a bit further out there.

Title: BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter