Starting with the first ridge about 10 miles down range. That would be the furthest west of the ridges in the Prairie Dog Hills. Between the first ridge and the last ridge here is 25 miles. The moon is a little further away at 1.3 light seconds for light to travel from there to here. That exact number depends on whether the moon is closer or further away in it’s elliptical orbit around the earth. The terms apogee and perigee come to mind to describe the furthest away and closest the moon is to the earth. A difference of about 25,000 miles (significant if your walking).
This particular morning was one of the few I got to work on that months moon’s timeline. I like to have both the moon AND the sun up behind me to get landscapes like this. There are only about 3-4 terminator crossings a month that I can work this kind of scene. Rarely do I see everything cooperating as this to get a wonderful color pallet on a morning landscape. They are usually TOO red for my taste. This is just about right to the lighting several minutes after sunrise. At most I get 15 – 20 minutes of the actual full moon above the horizon coterminously with the sun. A photographer has to work fast. It’s a bad time for batteries to go down lolol.
At first I had an imaginary shark hunting the water in the distant. The waves covering all but the dorsal fin. No wait… perhaps it’s a sail boat at a good breeze in high seas. The crest of the wave hiding the hull of the sailing ship. The illusion of waves swelling in the open ocean is unmistakable. I’m often taken by flights of fancy. The freedom to search for what could be is sometimes more compelling that for what is. On that segue…
I watched this moon descend into the cloud bank on the right 15 minutes earlier. Wrote it off for the session. I figured it would be obscured. From that point on, it was just until I looked back to the horizon. Looking the other way… Preoccupied I was working the sunrise on the dawn side of the sky. I was aware (back of my mind) when the moon was setting. Having done this a few times I finally did glance around at the other horizon JUST in case. I was surprised when I looked up to see this vision. The clouds had moved to the right leaving a window to the really low moon.
Now this was taken with a huge long lens. These totally screws with your perspective. Zooming up on the relatively small mountains, makes the moon looks big. That ridge is 40 miles distant. The place I set up for this backshow of the sunrise that morning was high enough to give me views both ways. Around 4000 feet which is high ridge country in this corner of Wyoming.
I see the light. Light has a tendency to travel in a straight line unless acted upon. Usually this is by passing through a change in media such as air to water. This refracts the light. As I was carefully wandering in the twilight dusk along a high ridge. I was scanning for imaginary faces in the silhouette. (This image having many for you Pareidoliacs out there).
Having huge deep boulders on the skyline usually makes anthropomorphic imaginings easy. This scene froze me in my tracks. The spot of orange light in the black on the low right is actually showing THROUGH the boulder field. Talk about a gauntlet/light filter lol. I’m not used to seeing straight lines through rocks. My geologic background caused OCD kicks in lolol.
I was walking around with the wrong camera upon first happenstance to see this. “Clever Girl” was up the hill about 4 stories. Climbed up and traded cameras, climbed back down. (Got to stay in shape to do this stuff). I figured I was never going to find the exact same place in 3-D space again. I went back to roughly the same spot with this lens, found the “zone” and clicked. It was visible in a little window about 2 feet by 2 feet. Move outside that box and I couldn’t see it.
It’s an obvious metaphor. Simply put: “Seeing the light is looking at JUST the right angle at the right time. “
The Smoke images keep coming up to bat. I get up hours before sunrise as I don’t need a lot of sleep. I typically nap most days to catch up. It’s what you have to do photographically working both sunrise and sunset in the summer. So with all the smoke from western forest fires I was assured colorful horizon crossings. I still walk out a few times before I head out to check the sunrise lighting. The hail storm in July KILLED my sunrise camera which see’s the eastern horizon. I can’t see the horizon from my homestead. So it’s a lot of instinct on whether to go out for several hours or not. If I go out in the morning, I’m making use of what light is worthy of your time and mine.
So the smoke is a very effective light filter here letting in this peach flavored light during a cloud banded sunrise. I pay very close attention to the scene as I take it to reproduce it effectively. The landscape detail was recovered in the digital darkroom as as a matter or course, I expose only the highlights correctly. Usually that leaves a very dark or silhouette landscape. This halfie (rare for me) was such a good landscape ladder that I thought it warranted a little extra room. Thusly framed the composition accordingly. Most of my compositions are in the camera. Rarely do I crop to any significant degree in the digital darkroom.
There are more smokey sunrise images in my “to finish folder”. Perhaps a dozen I really like. The will slowly mingle into my workflow as I get to them.
Having unhealthy levels of forest fire smoke in the air isn’t a good thing generally. EXCEPT for the effect it has on light. I have been working every sunset and sunrise with a “box-o-cameras” since the smoke pall started a week ago. Taken 6 days ago.. (my current click to publish interval) This is one of the first of the SMOKEY timeline to make it’s way to your computer via a whole host of intermediate steps lol. I’d take a photo of a non-smokey sky but I’ve seen things this week that are new to me. That’s saying something as I do this a bit lolol. This is very hard core pollution by mother nature.
The stand of old growth trees remembers the smell in the air from fires to the west. During the 1930’s, this stand survived the “Fire that burned till the snows fell” up in this country. All around this area lie old snags that have not decayed in the intervening 90 years. The area between there and where I stand used to all be heavy pine forested before that fire. Remnants of trunks are everywhere. One has to be careful driving off trail here (private land all). Your likely to take out suspension driving in high grass. A low stump can make you walk miles back to the house lolol. (well there is the radio)…
The old growth trees all have lost their bottom branches. It’s hard to burn those upper branches with such a long trunk above the grass fires.
Dramatic occluded sunsets are typically dark. I present this dark because it was lolol. . It’s the color I was after in the highlights. It was dark enough that the dynamic range (DR) of the camera was apparent. The lack of DR there of is my point I’m thinking. My eye could discern much more detail in this lighting environment. There is a point. When the full sized sun popping through a thin slit on the horizon. Is effective already down. More of a candle light than the furnace it would be with the cloudy obfuscation. Most images would have a completely black / silhouette landscape in this light. Cameras dynamic range is lacking compared to the human eye. There are some that are better than most others lol. Give the technology a few years
There is a LOT of detail in the landscape buried in the “black” . Most of the ground here is 400 feet or so below the hill I chose to climb that evening. Driving up these hills can be challenging, but then the sun goes down and your still up the hill…..😜 One of the few disadvantages of “Clever Girl” versus my old Jeep Grand or even my Polaris Crew Ranger is being able to see over that big hood. IT does have a camera up there though…… 📷 It is also a full foot wider than my Jeep Grand Cherokee so fitting between trees I used to fit through becomes a considered thought process lolol.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana Title: Good Evening All
Watching the Photographer take a photo of the landscape, these two Mule Deer Doe’s were minding their own business. I come along and interrupt their grazing for a minute. Not my intent of course since I was minding my own business too. Driving in the backcountry I randomly run into small groups of creatures great and small. This time, I was more interested in the long landscape in front of me. But consider them and the tree they bracket, as a nice lower border to this composition. Bonus lol. This was a 10 layer landscape ladder just laid out for my enjoyment and now hopefully yours.
“Landscape ladders” are such captures with layer after layer of different color/texture/distance or topography. It’s easy to find a lot of intersecting angles in a landscape but layer on top of layer is desirable to me anyway lol. Of course this is a “Close / Far perspective taken
Late day Golden Hour Lighting predictably gave this image a markedly red colorcast as was true to the scene. I take great care to get the main sun colors properly weighted toward the longer wavelengths when appropriate. I’ve more or less categorized they types of evening light in my own head how. It is just a matter of verbalizing it now lol. I find that knowing and teaching are two different animals.
The August Full Moon Setting over two ridges and a cloud band. I’m low down in the drainage looking upward over parallel ridges. The first a mile out. The second ridge is about 7 miles out with the cloud bank further down range. The moon is a bit further out there past that. So thus a 4 layers landscape. That cloud bank was rising rapidly to cover the moons face.
The very early daylight or late twilight depending on which second this was taken. Very close to sunrise. This was the last image from this timeline. As soon as the clouds rose to cover the moons face, I was done. IT was a very subdued color with an obvious bias toward a red colorcast. All of the color on the clouds also hitting the light parts of the landscapes in the foreground. To the best of my ability, this is exactly as I saw it. Such subtle tones are rare at sunrise or sunset where intensity is usually the result. Only during twilight or smokey days do I see such lighting.
This one was a tough one to get right. As an avowed photorealist, I try REALLY hard to reproduce here the scene I saw there. The scene was somewhat dark as the sun was Just being exposed by the falling horizon. A slight ridge to the east blocks out the earliest light, I was in shadow taking the photos being a LOT lower than that far butte.
The moisture in the air was thick (as in still falling lol) The Devil’s Tower National Monument 40 miles distant from my camera took on a “Marcel Marceau” face for an hour. Timing and Topography combined here for a nice dozen “rung” landscape ladder.
I had followed this storm for several hours that afternoon. Following it over towards Rockypoint Wyoming just a few miles south of the Montana border. High up on the local Pass over what I call ridge 5. It was muggy hot in the mid-80’s, with a huge Mesocyclone moving just to my homesteads south about 20 miles. Sundance Wyoming caught some national media attention for this storm. Not too many folks got to see this spectacle from the north west. The hail is covering the ground below the tree line.
I have never seen such a thing in years of watching this “Volcanic Neck” weather geologically slowly. Or course most of you know the Devils Tower was our first national Monument. The generally dark surfaces of the porphyry volcanic rock formed in gigantic columns totally coated with slushy ice by all appearances. The causational event for this odd face on the Tower was in Mid-July 2020..
My view here is not your typical tourist’s view point. That is unless you are an adventurous spirit with good tires and a spare that travels backroads of Wyotana. When you get into parts of the country that is sparsely populated, Triple A (AAA) is not going to be easy to get to respond. You have to have a cell signal first lolol.
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: 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 Turtle 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.
Let me say right off this is a 60″ x 20 ” triptych image of the Devils Tower and the Missouri Buttes Volcanic Field. It was taken during 85 degree F weather in the LATE golden hour lighting. The storm that laid down this large swath of hail made national news in early August 2020. Bikers were certainly driving around the tower on the far side. This side of the 1000 foot high devils tower is “Slathered” with hail and Ice.
The atmospheric moisture between where I stand and the 35 mile distance to the tower is thick. It is mostly precipitation drifting off the rear of the huge mesocyclone just passed though this country. It was Pounding western South Dakota as I was taking this image. This is just the trailing edge still hanging over Wyoming. I followed this storm for 3 hours working the range of photographic activities you might expect of such a big customer as this storm.
I’ve never even seen this in winter before. I’ve worked this scenery a hundred times or more. How do you coat the steep (vertical) sides of a Dark Rock National Monument totally white? Just add a few inches of a few inch across hail and all sorts of things can happen lolol.
Location: The pass at Rockypoint Wyoming (Trail Creek Rd) on the Border of Campbell Co, Crook county being a few miles south of the Montana border.
Finding this landscape was a long ride. Getting up these ridges can be a chore, other places you can drive right up. It’s all about the perspective of the height of the hill. The 40+ miles wide Little Powder River valley is off in the distance. The Wyoming / Montana border is between myself and the sun at the moment. Both states being in the photo. The Wyotana area has it’s own character with a mixing of the two state cultures. No difference across the line.
The land is big and unpopulated here. An average of a little over 1 person a square mile I believe is about right. I seldom see lights other than car lights across a valley this wide. Pole lights are few and far in between. I thought the reflective lakes were a nice touch of mother nature to throw into this. Those are both spring fed artesian lakes. My ranch mostly covers the ridge right of the right lake. This location is about 300 feet higher than my ranch’s average altitude. I have a hill that is 50 feet lower than this spot but the view is entirely different as you might suspect lol.
I thought I’d end the day with an end of the day image. This was just about the last image I took that timeline. That was the end of a 3 hour photo session on the backroads of Wyotana.
I worked the storm that led to this photo for almost 3 hours. “Devils Tower” here is Hail Covered White. This was taken about 10 days ago when Crook County Wyoming made national News with it’s weather. I doubt more than a few dozen people saw this phenomena from this direction or at all… Sun only lit it up for a few minutes while I was working this storm over volcanic neck complex with several long lenses. I have never seen the Tower covered in hail before. I believe this is as white as I’ve ever seen it. The storm that dropped all this ice clearly visible on the three Missouri Buttes too was a big one. It ran east to west about 20 miles south of where I was observing it from.
I’m just starting to work this timeline finishing the images and writing appropriate narratives for each. Lots of lightning captures from this storm. This capture is at the end of the timeline.
Remember these posts are all book pages in my eventual coffee table book. Currently it’s over 1800 pages long about life and times up here in Wyotana. Admittedly the tower and the Buttes are all Wyoming. I’m standing about 4 miles south of Montana in northernmost Wyoming. I consider about 10 miles either side of the border (Wyotana).
Bear in mind this in early August, not winter. It was 80 degrees when I took this. An ice covered national monument is always an interesting image I think lolol. At the time I actually said “WoW out loud. Slathered with hail appears to be the towers fate . I hope no one was on the trail walking around it. If so they saw it up close and personal. All the while “slathered” too lol.. Hopefully no one was hurt. Hostile Environment sometimes up here. 📷
Location Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming, Trail Creek Road, Campbell County Wyoming.
Meanwhile out on the grassy prairie…. with a view… the 30 mile distance to the Red Hills looks crushed to just a few miles by the telephoto “distance effect”. I’ve always said that telephoto lenses “CRUSH” perspective. It certainly does here. From where I stand. There are 5 ridges (drainages) between that “tallest” ridge in the distance. The perspective here is misleading though.
The 3700 feet elevation I’m standing at is right at the same height as the lowest saddle between the big peaks in the distance. (furthest ridge. The ground I’m standing on is sloping downward about 400 feet over the next 10 miles to the Little Powder River valley. The big ridge? I wonder Why it’s called the “Red Hills”. It might be their generally brownish red color certainly. I’ve seen it scarlet in the red tinted morning light at times.
Mostly this red is from an abundance of generally reddish “Clinker” rock. Clinker is natures ceramic. It is formed at the boundaries of underground coal seam fires. The century’s long burn fires the coals surrounding clay layers into a porous ceramic. Lewis and Clark thought it volcanic in origin. They were wrong on that one. Oh the wonders they experienced. I believe Jefferson enabled that group. If you don’t know the story, it’s well worth googling. History in general is valuable to understand so as not to repeat it’s mistakes.
This is a reasonable gathering of Pronghorn for this early in the season. They have their reasons I suspect. Oh wait, rut is slowly building. There is already a lot of banter going on within the herds. To this day I have not been able to work myself into the middle of a wild Pronghorn herd of this size. Deer yes, Pronghorn ….. no ☹️ . I’ve been close but never IN the herd surrounded by the animals doing natural things. I think they are collectively more paranoid than individually.
The convoluted bedding of the Hell Creek Formation Sandstone bedding in the foreground is a long way from the moon. The same moon was peering down over it’s deposition here on the Cretaceous piedmont existing 66 million years ago. Similar to a tropical North Carolina with Mountains to our west Paleo-geographically BEFORE the Bighorn Uplift. Those mountains were eroded away prior to the Larimide Orogeny Mountain Building episode. Those mountains all turned to sand grains I stand on. That moon back then was a little closer and bigger however. Dinosaurs looked up and watched it loom bigger over head (for another post). Our ranch is covered by this Formation at the surface. A known dinosaur bone deposit is about 1/2 mile distant from this spot.
Paleontological Musings: A series of MAJOR Rivers flowed around here in the Late Cretaceous. Some certainly as big as the Missouri River swept back and forth across the landscape. Leaving behind sand but snaking back and forth meandering on a surface it can’t cut down into. Shuffling and reshuffling the sands. Several times a fossil dinosaur tooth were excavated. Only to be redeposited dozens of times. Over the 3 million years this particular sand conveyor belt sedimentary system survived. Leaving about 700 feet of sands. This is literally sandstone country. We have more sand that most public beaches lol.
Upon the Ancient river dropping it’s load. When something else heavy covered it. Sediments flow like plastic. Pushed around underground like silly putty under your boot and a hard place. We get all sorts of various sandstone creations by mother nature occur in this country. Hydraulically reworked soft sediment deformation is a common occurrence. Boulders are left behind. The softer sands around them are blown or washed away. Those boulders were hardened. Cementing minerals in ground water responsible. That passing through the sands. The boulders cemented obviously better/harder than the sand that blew away exposing them. These sands moving down river to the “sink” filled up the Cretaceous Interior Seaway over time. Then the asteroid slammed into Mexico……..
I only get to play with a low full moon with the sun still up one or two times a month assuming the weather cooperates. Here the sun had just been obscured by a low cloud bank as it was setting. Low light makes this close/far perspective much more difficult to obtain. Of course the really hard part here is getting something like this close chunk of ancient river bed in focus. In focus at “infinity” along with the moon in the background that looks very large rising over this ridgeline. I’m shooting at least 400 yards away ( almost 1/4 mile) from that pile of rocks. Distance is your friend when attempting this type of composition. 📸
Mayan Pyramids on the Montana border…. Perhaps but the geologist in my pulls my imagination back in lol. Timing and position is a critical factor in this kind of image. The hill top is over a mile away with me watching the sun slowly rise while climbing up its left side. You see the sun moves up yet but it always moves to the right horizontally as well. More “Diagonally” up the sky than straight up.
So I started vividly imagining this unfolding stage play of the Mayan King awaiting the mounting of the sun god on the great pyramid. This “pyramid” is literally located 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole. 45 degrees North Latitude about where that tree stump is on the left. This must be a far northern suburb of the Chacchoben, Place of the Red Corn in Yucatec. But wait, the Hill seems to have fossil turtle remains, and dinosaurian parts and pieces in consistently sandstone/mudstone sequences. It is/was not built by stacking man made blocks as ancient cultures were so adept at constructing. Shape is a poor indicator of what things are. As we Pariedoliacs well know eh? The substance has to be there…
The area around the sun is VERY bright. You will need a mirrorless camera as looking into the sun through a DSLR camera could blind you. It’s a direct light path from the sun to your eye. I look at a video screen inside my camera so it’s impossible to blind yourself with one of the mirrorless cameras out there. However I suggest you check with the manufacturer to see if your particular camera can take this kind of abuse. A good use of negative space I think…. 😜
Crimson Sunsets with a boulder field acting as a sun moderating filter. Otherwise the glare is such it makes it very difficult to catch the detail in the clouds above. I point out that cloud frame is a Pariedoliac’s dream with a dozen faces, figures, creatures and imaginary anthropomorphic shapes. I’ve got horses, dolphins humans faces. I swear I did not put those shapes there or add dots for eyes or any of those cheating activities. This is a totally natural image with a pretty much closed down camera to light. That sun is bright. The human eye could not look into this scene.
Taken at the top local top of the world with a hard boulder covered butte top protecting the sandstone below from erosion. Most buttes are built by cap rock protecting the softer sediments below from being removed. Ridges are formed because everything softer was carried away by water moving one grain of sand at a time. Just lots of time.
Photographic Musings. High F-stop for the deep focus plus loosing some light. (you’ve got an overabundance of light here). Low ISO because you sure as heck don’t need a sensitive camera here. Shutter speed is going to be fast but the boulder filter can lengthen that out a bit. Each of the Manual settings is a double edge sword. If you want deep focus, you need a lot of light. F-stop is your iris size inside the lens. A pin hole gives you very deep focus fields. But a pin hole doesn’t let in much light. Manual is all about balancing light.
The morning that showed me this view was 14 hours earlier than when I typed this narrative. It’s rare that I take a photo and schedule it to be published the same day. Sort of like being a bouncer choosing who gets to enter a nightclub. If your a “looker”, you go right to the front of the line. There are several thousand images for me to finish at the moment lolol. They are sitting in a folder on my workstations desktop called “Images to finish”. Job security 📸
The texture on this wonderful old snag from 100 years of exposure to the elements. It is harsh here in Wyotana with hot high altitude sunny summer days and terribly dark cold winters. Wood rot here take a LONG time as 14 inches a year average of precip tends to reduce rot. There are a LOT of “Snags” around from the 1930’s fire that “burned until the snow fell” up in this country. This one developed even more character as those orangish spots are bruises from the hail storm that threw up to 3 inch ice balls at it. The Mountain in the knot hole is known to me as “Turtle Butte”. It is precisely on the Montana/Wyoming border about 1/2 and half. 🤔
This is the second of a series with this Snag. I worked it a few years back as well. The lighting was entirely different then and it hadn’t hailed lol. The old masters would go back to the same place again and again to get different light. It was harder to travel then. I just work a very large area of backcountry photographically.
Sometimes the sunset sideshows I see are just overwhelming, then a Pronghorn Doe wanders into my “visual tunnel” that I’m working. Layers of interdigitating hills. Slow tapering like so many water waves on a pond. The Golden Hour Lighting and long shadows add to the contrasts and hues. Accentuating even the drought covered grass’s early brown season patina.
This was taken about a week before a grass fire blackened the hillside just before the tall ridge of trees near the horizon right of center. That whole field was burned over about a mile. I’d say 12 fire rigs of all sizes made a local debut for the 2020 fire season in this country. About 30 men descended on that ground within an hour of it’s announcement. It’s still very dry. We have been enjoying trains of lightning rich storms.
The Pronghorn doe was moving from Yucca plant (Spanish Dagger) to Yucca Plant enjoying the abundance. That is a plant that plans ahead. Their shape on the prairie causes snow to drift and cover them better than the surrounding area. They get a LOT of their watering in the winter. Their lush blooms are eagerly sought by most ungulates. I understand they are good in salads… 🙂
Besides the other minor world wide issues, locally: Drought Hail and Fire this year has surpassed in intensity the green well watered year we experienced last year in 2019. I’d like to play this year over and it’s not even close to done yet. Think I could do that??
A Couple of old soldiers standing on this saddle of this mile distant ridge. The perspective long telephotos give you is crushed between the two ridges here. The far ridge is 8 miles out from my camera. Sort of a “Close/Far” perspective.
These trees are old growth that survived a major fire in the 1930’s that “burned till the snows fell”. There is a mix of grass and forested areas in this region. Our ranch is about 25 percent ‘treed’ pasture. The rest is just grass and sage with a few dinosaur fossils mixed in on the surface. That is prime dinosaur hunting ground amid those small outcrops. I never know what I’m going to find walking areas like this.
Twilight Landscapes are much easier before the sky gets too bright. Photography is a light balancing act. Having your camera try to see into the dark needs a tripod or sandbag to stabilize the camera. Extend your exposure so you can get more light. Take that gained light away by turning up your f-stop to a higher number giving you a longer field of focus in return (Double edge sword) Only of course, if you want to have it all in focus instead of just those trees lolol. To sum that up: giving up light you gain with a longer exposure then taking it away by turning up f-stop to give you deeper focus…. Then you have only ISO (Camera sensitivity to adjust to give you a proper exposure.). You can also adjust for a longer shutter too if your brave.
Summer sunsets happen early. This one at 5:31AM. The ridge I wanted to work for this had a good view of the crescent moon. Working the crescent moon from 5 AM until it was lost in the haze. Keeping busy with cameras is a good thing. I was loving the roiling distortion around the edge of the solar disk. It’s a result of the atmosphere distorting the shape and the details. The sun is ACTUALLY below the line of sight (below the horizon). The atmosphere is bending it’s image around the corner for a few minutes at the rise.
I have Sirius XM radio plus a reasonable audio system in the Raptor. This has been a good thing up here. I went out doing backcountry photography for years on an open ATV with my cameras in a open basket. No tunes…. I’ve work open ATV’s to -30. Having had cameras literally not work from the cold…. I put 3500 miles on that ATV one year doing backcountry photography only in this area.
This year, I’ve accumulated 1300 miles of only backcountry driving. In the Ford Raptor’s first 6 months. The Raptor is an all weather, all terrain, comfortable photographic studio for me to work from. There are not many places it would not go within reason up in this region if I asked it to. Think of it as a “Free Runner” which is a truck built for racing courses like the Baja 500. So far, it will do anything I ask of it that I’m not afraid to do. 📸 🤘 More hail dents than I like on it though….. ☹️
The sage was thick to walk through. I always check for tick before I even get back in my ride. Walking the high ridge lines with camera gear during warmer summer months is problematic that way. I pull one or two off almost every time I walk around. Now if ticks attached to grasshoppers, I’d be good with them. I had one ALMOST get attached next to my watch band on the back of my wrist. Shivers…. ugg.
First of all let me say that Sage brush is VERY hard to get to be the right color. Talks about fine adjustments in the digital darkroom. That slightly bluish green is unique to sage and is a challenge for everyone to get right. Particularly in high dynamic range images as this. Shadow Detail looking into light….
So anyway, the golden sky this time of year is the rule rather than the exception. The sun is slowly setting and rising a little bit more south on the horizon each day. The wheel, it keeps on turning.
The sun is already setting to the left of the peaks on the far ridge. (the Red Hills) Soon I’ll be chasing images of the sun setting behind the Big Horn Mountains. Those mountains are left of the sun in this image. Soon…. Remember they are 130 miles distant and with this wide shot. The distance makes the 13000 foot tall peaks hardly discernible at this focal length. This capture taken with a 90 degree wide lens which is right about what most people see normally. That’s about 22 mm focal length for a 90 degree Field of View (POV).
Pointing a camera where a bolt had just hit has a good probability that a repeat performance is in order. It took me a second to zoom into where I thought the last strike was based on the residual image left on my retina . So I moved the camera, got it all set up just in time Flash…1,2,3,4 BOOOOM…. So not quite a mile just over the hill we call “Dobie” (don’t ask me why it’s called that). Looks to be a ground to cloud bolt..
It’s not too often I get a really large (OK, huge) bolt like this completely on the frame without cropping down a larger image. Usually the some leader is cut off. This is a full frame non-cropped image though. I couldn’t have centered it better if I knew ahead of time where it was going to be. Well I still had that ghost image in my eyes from that last flash lol.
There was a whole series of storms that moved through this evening. Each had it’s own character and lighting into sunset. I worked each and every one till the lightning and lighting subsided. There were some amazing captures from this timeline . I spent over 3 hours with this storm train. That is 1000 to 1500 image stuff. This will take a while to sort it all out. I had two cameras on lightning trigger and others free handed. I can run up to three cameras but it get’s to resemble a rats nest on my truck window.
This is the first image from the July 2020 full moon from this timeline. I’m still down loading images from the last 2 photographic trips into the backcountry. In the last 15 hours I’ve taken photos of the moon, rainbows, lightning, and (rainbows with lightning in the photo too). I’ve been very busy.
A significant portion of the twilight this particular morning provided obscured (at best) views of the setting moon. If I get one night a month where I get the full moon floating over sun illuminated landscapes, I consider myself lucky. THe moon disappeared as it touched down into that slight white hazy layer above the ridge. Show to the west over…now back to the east.
What I do with that morning and where I choose to set up is not entirely random I point out. Knowing WHERE the moon is going to set or rise becomes relevant to the discussion when your ready to go out the door with a box o’ cameras. Compass directions of moon/sun set and rise are handy out in the backcountry. The cyclical changes in the orbits of the moon changes where it sets. As the seasonal migration of the sun north and south are variables.
I still have to fly by the seat of my pants when the sun is rising behind me with a beautiful sunrise. Simultaneously this moon is going to disappear in a few minutes. Storms were going through the area. Best possible photographic conditions in my opinion. 😜
“Sneaky Pete” the windmill has a commanding view most nights. Those evenings where the weather window to the BigHorn Mountain Range are open to my lenses. The latest part of the Golden Hour has the best light in my experience. The low angle of the sun accentuates the light by filtering the rays through the suspended ice in the atmosphere. The smooth yellow (top) to orange (bottom) gradients of Alpenglow colorcast everything highlighting reflective surfaces and ridge tops with the right angle.
There was no wind that night. The Sail of the windmill moved not for my camera. No shutter speed tricks would have blurred it’s lack of motion. We do get occasionally dead calm air. During air conditions as this, I tend to get suppressed rifles out. My activity is to Shoot and listen to the bullet going supersonic across it’s entire arc of travel. Whoooooooooosssssssssssssh Twack…. Hearing the bullet Twack it’s final backstop 1000 yards out. You can hear your heart beat if your no where near herds of cattle. Then you hear a lot of cow calls, moos, and bawls by calfs.
The 130 miles to the BigHorn Mountains are visible due to my homesteads position high on a ridge (pass between drainages). I am topographically elevated as high as the far ridge is above the Little Powder River Valley below it. I have a straight shot right to the core of the BigHorns. 13000 foot peaks are part of the Backbone of the Rocky Mountains here in America. They used to be a lot taller. The Powder River Basin at my feet used to be a lot deeper in the distant geologic past. More like the Tetons but bigger. Then the basin filled up with debris from the mountains and the elevations are balancing out a bit.
The 40 mile landscape across two drainages from this viewpoint this early summer. The Trees are in the Little Powder River Valley. Beyond the far ridge is the Powder River Valley. It’s like Yellowstone over there without the tourists and the exotic wildlife. All of this is grass and cattle county.
All this ground is eroded on top of a network of Tertiary Alluvial Fans. These are large aprons of sediment spreading across the land eastward from the Big Horn Mountain Range. It eroded spreading sediment out many miles in each direction. These sediments actually filing the greater geologic feature, the “Powder River Basin”. It was a sedimentary bathtub/down warp to be filled up before the aluvial fans could spread from the uplift. Those Big Horns were relatively taller in the past with the valley next to them much lower. That by the way is why the coal swamps formed there. They were formed on the low ground next to high mountains.
The sediments exposed in this image are mostly alternating of beds of Sand/Silt and Clay this 120 mile distance to the source. Over time the more recent rivers have cut down across the older beds between here and the distant mountains.
I’m not usually at tree level down in the river valley floor but this was a rare trip to the highway. Those travels cross part of this a little lower is the drainage.
I’m normally 10 miles off the right frame where I live about 400 feet higher in elevation than this “low” country. Across the river valley, the Mountains are in Montana. I am standing in Wyoming by at least a mile looking this direction. Most of my images have both states in them. Sky of one, ground of the other or both lol. I consider 5 miles either side of the border as the mythical land called “Wyotana”. Added together the 10 linear miles over the length of the Montana / Wyoming border would be 3700 square miles or 3 times the size of Rhode Island. I suspect the population of Wyotana is a thousand at the most.
Almost all of northern Crook Co. is shown in the photograph. It is a VERY wide panorama done with high end cameras. A lot of time carefully stitching 3 images, left, center, right into place. Carefully match the images contrasts / colorations as there is always differences even with adjacent photographs. All done in the digital darkroom not the camera. I’m not sure but my Sony Alphas MIGHT be able to do a hand held panorama like a cell phone. I never use that automatic crap, it uses too much battery power lolol.
This is a “TripTych”. That is a good google word for you if you’ve never heard it before…. The left panel frames the horizon…the Bear Lodge Mountains are the last ridge at about 70 miles distant from my camera. Beyond them is South Dakota. Closer in the center panel of the “Triptych” is the first National Monument (Devil’s Tower). The tower is about 35 miles from my camera in this capture early after sunrise that snowy morning. The right “Tryptych” panel contains the three volcanic cousins of the Devil’s Tower. Those called the “Missouri Buttes”. They were all part of the same volcanic system closely related in time and space. The Devil’s Tower had a better advertising agency than the Missouri Buttes. AKA known as the “Three Sisters”, the wagon pioneers knew them as a way point on the 19th century GPS they used.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
If I’m in the right place at the right time, I often catch the moon pausing on it’s journey to it’s zenith. I’ve even seen it casually reclining on various soft surfaces but not this time. Here’s I caught it stuck in a rocky rut on the way to work. Sometimes it takes a while for someone to come along and give you a push in this country. I’ve seen stretches of “main” road go a day with no traffic before up here. Worse this is in the deep backcountry. Fortunately… Yet again I happened to come along at the perfect time and free the moon up. Saving tidal tables world wide from being off kilter. You can’t delay clock work schedules. All it took was a nudge, a word of encouragement then onward climbing it went. 😜
It was getting fairly dark at this click during the timeline I was working to get this. If I have a clear rising or setting moon, I will try to involve a close / far perspective. Usually this is initiated by a trip out to some backcountry parallel Ridges where I can have multiple horizons just by moving my positions. Distance is always your friend for this kind of work. You want a big length focal length lens. 400mm or greater comes to mind. Also it is good to be at least 300 – 400 yards out (depending on what lens) away from the fore ground object(s). If the moon rises, I walk down the hill I’m on and get another chance at it. If it’s setting, I just climb up a few steps and keep on shooting. Tripods don’t work well for this but a monopod has some applications here.
I don’t see a lot of really strong “Belt of Venus” Pink even in the winter but it’s out there if ice is in the air. At As the long traveled reddish light hits the projector screen the ice collectively makes, that ice glows the color of the light. Just before sunrise, the blue darker clouds barely above the mountains on those clouds is the shadow of the horizon on them. That shadow “zone” will turn pink as the shadow drops with the sun rising on the opposite horizon. The clouds above shadowed by the cloud deck topping the sun slit also on the opposite horizon. So just a bar of sunlight making it to cinema screen.
This 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 planet Venus is Often in the pink some mornings. The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. 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 like mid-summer before. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. Interesting year.
Right into the sun Captures with layers of landscape are actually one of my favorite images. I’m not sure how many of these I’ve taken. Likely they certainly number in the hundreds. Probably only 50 or so have been finished and published from my archives of photos that need to be finished (extensive). I think it’s a 70’s thing of mine… Could be just me
I prefer to do photography without additional “filters” in front of my lens. Pointing such right into the sun usually gives me ghosts of the sun I can’t fix in the digital darkroom. If your camera doesn’t have the dynamic range the mirrorless Sony Alpha 7 versions I used for this, you will have to use Neutral Density screw on glass filters in front of your lens. Those will act like sunglasses to your camera so it can actually see what’s going on. Please don’t try to do this with a DSLR style camera. They have direct light paths to your eye and blinding has happened. The Sony Alphas are a mirrorless design that is entirely a video in the eyepiece. No direct light path to blind you.
The trick on all of these is to not overexpose the sun but yet have enough detail in the shadows to bring out the horizons. It’s a knife / razors edge of tweeking exposure back and forth. You could also adjust f-stop since it’s not as critical here but is useful for eliminating light at high settings. Pointing a camera at the sun is an exercise in turning down the camera to light a LOT before you point it at the sun (hint). Don’t burn a spot in your cameras digital sensor…. . 👀 📸