“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…. . 👀 📸
This late in the summer, the sun sets about as far north as it ever does. Here the sunset at Summer Solstice, the inclination of our earths axis has slowly turned in relation to the sun. It is now setting a little more south each day until the Winter Solstice. The lower black silhouetted ridge has trees on it. Those are full sized pine trees at 55 miles distant from my lens. The sun is a bit further out…🤔
I find a vantage point that puts me as high as my horizon when that is possible. Knowing most of the trails up on the high hills these days makes my life easier lolol. That is very true of the morning where I have to wind my way around in the dark to get places I’ve never been to before or for a long time. It’s always easier in the evening when I’ve already come that way. This is VERY big country up here. There is 100 square miles area circled by the “loop of maintained road I live on the far side of.
I personally live about 400 feet lower than the ridge I’m standing on’s perspective looking at the far northeastern setting sun. Heck it’s not even setting up north of the arctic circle at 66.5 degrees north at the moment. We have 8 hour nights currently I live VERY close to 45 degrees north. A difference of 21.5 degrees. There are 69 miles per degree of latitude. Just a mere 1300 miles to where the sun never sets to our north from my homestead on the high prairie. But the further north you go during the summer, the shorter the nights get.
As the solstice is tomorrow, I thought I’d show you what a Bighorn Mountain sideshow looks like with a far northern sunset. The sun is WAY off to the right of the frame. The landscape ladder here climbing off to the 130 mile distant 13000 foot tall peaks leaves me speechless more times than not. Now this is a very long lens which crushes perspective. The second furthest ridge is 40 miles away from the ridge I’m standing on. My elevation is about the same as the saddle on that second to last ridge. The red layered badlands are only 10 miles distant.
Those red banded layer hills are all Tullock Formation. The rocks exposed on the surface all the way back to the Bighorns have been carried there. A complex process by rivers of the past. These moving eroded by the elements, sediments off the peaks. All running down slope from those world class hills. At one time there was a smooth ramp all the way to the peaks to my feet. It was a smooth slope that huge alluvial fans were deposited off the Bighorns. The middle of those alluvial fan stack are dissected at right angles by the Big Horn, the Powder and the Little Powder Rivers.
The rocks I stand on are older Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstones with their share of Dinosaurian fossils. (Hell Creek/ Lance Formations) These older sandstones are dipping toward the Bighorn’s Powder River Basin being downwarped with the formation of that regional structure. About a mile off my ranch’s west boundary, the alluvial fans overlapped the Cretaceous River Sands. The dinosaur fossil bearing rocks diving deep off toward the mountains.
Driving up to the pass on Trail Creek Road to Rockypoint Wyoming, there is a view that tourists don’t get to see. These “little” volcanic “necks” resisting erosion and the ride to the Gulf of Mexico. The express train to the Ocean is always running though the schedule is a the whim of the environment. The sedimentary aprons around them consisting of smaller detrital chunks of the peaks piled up waiting for their ride down river.
Lighting being what it is, I chase it. Sometimes it get’s away from me. Occasionally I don’t have a camera with me (I know, Rule number 1)… If I’m in a vehicle though, I definitely have camera(s) set up for capturing an image. I say that if I can see it, I can photograph it. This looks to be a few miles out from my camera. More like 30 miles distant from my lens. Telephoto lenses crush perspective bringing in distant objects up close and personal.
This was taken during a golden sunset with the background sky being lit up by the color of the ambient light traveling through the atmosphere. The ice there reflecting the sunlight a creme soda colored look over yellow color cast peaks composed of Tertiary Porphyry Igneous rocks. Also known as the “Three Sisters”, these landmarks greeted many a pioneer in covered wagon along the trails to points west.
Location: About 10 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
That 5112 foot tall Devil’s Tower National Monument is standing 1267 feet high above the surrounding ground. There is an intervening ridge JUST covering the base from this spot. The high ground looks pretty close. Those columns of phenolytic porphyry are pretty distant/ big and stand out in this well lit Tower and shadowed landscape. The summer rain dump behind the tower is the reflecting color of the light reaching the suspended ice from the sun. That all reflected back to my lens.
The Tower exposed from burial by thousands of feet of sediments, stands unsupported. Those rocks used to surround the tower. Supporting the hard rock volcanic neck up many thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The surrounding “softer” sediments were removed. All by the action of 2 rivers. Little Missouri River plus the Belle Fourche River Drainage. Those two drainages providing the bulk of that erosive work locally. The soft rock easily removed. While the harder material remains as mountains. Removal of material is how most mountains take their shape. Nature is a sculptor of magnificent skills. Those expressed by the breadth and majesty of it’s creations.
Devils Tower National Monument is about 40 from my vantage point on the Pass to Rocky Point Wyoming on Trail Creek Road. I’m standing Campbell County Wyoming. This is the view that tourists never see as they are all on the other side of those hills. You can see South Dakota from this site on a very clear day…completely across Crook County Wyoming. That is a BIG county 80 miles wide anyway.
I traveled 30 miles one way to get to this windmill standing agains a late afternoon landscape. Of course I have a whole timeline of this backcountry Wyoming gravel road trip from start to near finish as this was. I left back for home a few minutes after this shot. There was landscape I wanted to be in front of at sunset.
Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting or mud doing on since you may not see another traveler this week. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. This is 30 miles west from Devils tower with it’s related volcanic neck’s of the “3 sisters” (Missouri Buttes)
The sail of the Aermotor Wind Engine has a ding at thop. What does it take to bend a windmill vein…? One heck of a hail stone anyway…. That windmill has seen a local ranch house inhabited then abandoned nearby. It’s in rough shape. The mountains (Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower (far left light butte) seem to have not changed very much over it’s shoulder. What lighting 👀 📷 Golden Hour in the middle of nowhere. This from the road.
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) (Looking south east in northern Crook County Wyoming
It’s green spring grass contrasted with Snow on the 130 mile distant peaks. This image is taken from my driveway here on the MT/WY border. Clearly “Nipple” butte stands 10 miles distant. The treed ridge is 40 miles out with the trees at the top of that ridge being the same elevation I stand/live. The 13000 foot high peaks of the Bighorn Mountain Chain reach far above that but well over the curvature of the horizon at it’s base. . Even further out than the range the bank of clouds stands perhaps 200 miles out from my camera.
Anything over 100 miles is a long photograph. Particularly through the low earth’s atmosphere. It take extraordinarily clear air to get detailed images of the Bighorn Mountains from this distance. To get images of the clouds well past it… That is a silly far shot. Now I take images of astronomical objects millions of miles away but only through 300 miles of atmosphere. MOST of that atmosphere is in the bottom 10 miles of the blanket. About equivalent to where Nipple Butte is….
TO find the distance to your “horizon, take the height of above the surface of your view point divide that by 0.5736 , then take the square root of that number and you have the distance to the horizon from your viewpoint. If your 6 feet tall the horizon is about 3 miles away. Works very well on flat ground… up here where there might be a few ridges around, it depends on topography too lolol.
Twilight Over the Borderlandsis a capture standing on the Montana/Wyoming border. That line is 45 degrees north Latitude exactly, which runs right through that hill. EXACTLY 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator.
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… I seldom do.
This area of the sky is the size of your thumb at an arms length on the horizon. The BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover that morning was climbing up the back of the peaks. Those clouds well past the 130 mile distant 13,000 feet high PreCambrian Cored, uplifted Mountain Range. Parts of Montana and Wyoming in this photo.
It was to cover the highest ones within a few minutes of this photon trap. The sun was JUST rising over my shoulder. I was standing in the long shadow of the ridge I live on.
Getting to see weather move over those 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”. (Google Word of the day) Cloud peak is 13,175 feet. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east toward my camera. This deep basin is called the Powder River Basin.
The Powder River basin is a major source of clean burning 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.
Those long fans of sand/gravel/silt and clay, dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. The first two sets of ridges are all Tullock, as are the hills behind them out to the Mountain range. They are all made of sediment that traveled from the Big Horns when they were MUCH taller.
Major Mountain Chain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from continental wide compressional forces. Huge were those forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks weathering to sand and clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed all the way… well just about to my front door.
Low Light photos as this are very hard to capture as the animals are moving plus a close/far perspective with a telephoto lens. The combinations of what you are asking your camera to do is contrary to physics. A cell phone might do better than a 5K dollar camera rig in this case lol. Getting a LONG focal field in low pre-dawn/twilight is an exercise in how long an exposure you can get away with at high f-stop settings. Here at 1/10th of a second, the term “Forever” applies to how long the exposure is versus how fast a Pronghorn moves. Getting the landscape is easy. Getting a non-blurry Pronghorn on that landscape is a challenge at 1/10th second….
The Large Conical Monadnock called “Mitten Butte” looms two miles in the distance for perspective. I’m estimating 200 yards for the Pronghorn with the horizon being 30 miles at this angle. Mitten Butte is totally on State Land being on the “School Section” of the 36 square mile township we are located in. The rest of the foreground is part of the Ranch. This point she is standing on is a toe of “RattleSnake Ridge”. I like to work that ridge as I have mostly all season access to this hill side. No Bentonitic Mud there either…. It’s also on a trail that leads to water…. This makes it a regularly traveled route by numerous animals including this photographer.
A lone Pronghorn doe grazing, from about 1/4 mile away on a parallel Ridge; I had just a little elevation over the historic sheep herders cairn on the right. This morning was one of long shadows. Only this part of the sky exposed to the sun, was photoworthy. The southern part of the view over my shoulder was all in dark shadow. Heavy storm clouds were on the eastern horizon. Those clouds blocking the sun behind. The mists further obfuscating the clear view that way. I turn my lenses off away from the rising sun to my right. All in order to catch the back show in all it’s 50 mile span of landscape.
This view, looking north into Montana with the foreground in Wyoming. Living on the border high on several ridge, I have extensive views in all directions. This is a dryland ranch meaning no running water year round. I do however have views to dream about (as I do dream in full color) on the right morning. This particular morning at 5:30 AM at sunrise was as good as they come. That is without invoking deities to improve the view.
These heavily dissected Cretaceous and early Tertiary terrestrial sands/muds between me and the farthest ridge have all been removed by little rivers. That whole basin, previously filled up to the brim with sediments in the past. However, one sand grain at a time this land has slowly been moving toward the Gulf of Mexico. These sediments making up the rocks here were on that very trip. But the Cretaceous Rivers carrying them got all choked up and dropped it’s load. Wait 66 million years….Those old sediments hardend, then re-eroded recently. That sand stationary until now when it resumes it’s journey on the the ocean. The ultimate sink. This just a way stop along the journey.
Imagine what a pioneer traveling to those peaks with an ox cart thought when he saw this vista. 🤔👀
The subtle hues of this image of theBigHorn Mountains are amazing colors to cover a landscape with. It was really that color, you could feel the humidity in the air. Wet sage too.
I saw this developing the other night. I’ve been on a mission to catch the orange light behind the BigHorn Mountains. Some nights, the weather window is closed to the mountains. Closed to the sun that window was that night. It hid far to the right off frame. The 130 miles distant 13,000 foot high mountain range was shrouded in the mist. All that air between my lens and the peaks are full of moisture and dust. This at the end of that nights sky show performance. Result: a subtle low light scene with an orange gel in front over the now moist spring landscape. Alpenglow in the spring.
I’ve spent a lot of time this month pursuing the Big Horns photographically. The range is playing peek a boo with the weather controlling the show. I have many good captures from this month of the ranch which will slowly work their way into my work flow here.
The first dark ridge is 10 miles distant. The next darker ridge in the middle is 40 miles out. Taken with a 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 size. Big lenses take place a very small part of the scene in front of you covering the cameras chip image area.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana overlooking the Red Hills out to the Bighorn Peaks.
It’s called turtle butte for two reasons. First, the cap rock from the correct angle (not this angle) looks very much as a turtle silhouette. Second, I have found fossil turtle shell 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 as much as 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 very remote borderlands I find a variety of interestings things just walking or driving around. We actively hunt deer antlers as running over them will potentially flatten your ATV’s tire. Numberous 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…
I find you are where you are when rainbows pop out of the sky. All rainbows are on the opposite side of the sky as the sun as they are reflective. The light hitting the water droplets in that rain shower reflected back to my camera in a classic ROYGBIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet) order.
Finding a frame that “fits” the situation is of course always the problem. It’s easy to take a photo of a rainbow. IT’s harder to take a frame around the rainbow when there are two trees within a mile radius… Spring green grass below mixed with the golden stalks remaining from last year. Soon the green will overtake the gold with the grasslands brown season ending. The Cottonwood Trees in this small draw frame “Mitten Butte”. Famous in my world, the Monadnock / erosional remnant is 300 feet higher than the surrounding ground. I’ve been over it and on top of it a few times. The view is good up there but it’s a long stairway to be at just at the right time for chasing light. It’s a long walk down in the dark and then there is the 2 mile two track road to/from it lol.
Mitten butte has been famous in my narratives having been a volcano a time or two, a local Mt. Fuji in geofiction. Backdrops for hundreds of images. Here it’s accumulating Skittles™ in it’s saddle or so it appears… 😜🤔📷
Close far perspectives are always a favorite to bring to completion. Windmill Wednesday: Windmill Junkies Unite 🤘🤘
For me to publish this, I take an average of 1.5 hours per image. I then have to study that timeline to pick this photo. Then there is the small amount of digital darkroom time maybe 10 minutes.. then I have to write / type the accompanying narrative… I start at 250 words for an image. I could write 250 words about a clump of dirt these days after the last 6 months writing over 1500 narratives to accompany my portfolio images. Each post I publish on line, is an e-version of one page out of that eventual book. For now it’s all free reading lol.
So just ignore “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill. Any recognition by the public makes him insufferable. He’s been photobombing my landscapes for years up here in the high ridge lines of the Montana / Wyoming. The narrative is years long and “Sneaky” gets his share of recognition. Some fans instantly know him versus other less gregarious windmills. He is a notorious photobomber in the local tales of lore.
SOO, “Sneaky” here is the Close part. The 130 mile distant peaks of the 13,000 foot high BigHorn Mountains loom on the horizon the far…. The Windmill is 1/4 mile out, the first ridge 10 miles. The valley under the treed second ridge / mountain slope is the “Little Powder River Valley. Finally stand at 40 miles distant are the Red Hills, made of sediments from the BigHorns far distant. (Google Alluvial Fanglomerate).
These 3 younger bucks got caught working out for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Fall Pronghorn Rut. Taking turns with male aggression. It’s a single elimination tournament with winner taking all in the long run.
These Bucks actually get along pretty well in the “Boys Club” they hang in most of the year. But this is as close to a full blown organized training session I’ve seen this year. Getting ready for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, annual Pronghorn all male review for a party of just the Does. Hot and heavy in the fall, it’s a yearly thing up here… So turns the wheel of life. 🤘📸
So on an overcast tuesday HIGH up on a backcountry Ridge was a small dojo formed for the purpose of working out and getting “tuned” for the battles to come. These guys were not not yet playing for keeps. The bigger bucks usually take it easy on the smaller males training/ramping up to the rut. It can really be violent when big Pronghorn Bucks cross swords. It’s all fun and game until someone puts out an eye!.
. Probably 4 year olds. This of course is a game trail camera capture from late in the fall (Fall was on a Tuesday this year). From this location in the past, dozens of various wonderful candid captures of both deer and Pronghorn occurred. All the Pronghorn are off ranch at the moment.
They all migrated over a month ago from about 30 miles south from the Thunderbasin National Grassland. Pronghorn herds numbering in the hundreds with thousands in the larger Grassland area where they overwinter. I once had a Old Pronghorn Buck I named “Grunt” that stayed over winter several years but he’s not here for the last 2 years. . He either migrated with the others or in in much higher and greener pastures by his passing. I miss him as I could get very close to him as he was tolerant of me as a pronghorn can be tolerant. Grunt was a nice buck too. 😔
Literally playing “King of the Hill”, this American Eagle had quite a view. This hillock is one of the higher Buttes about (erosional remnant sometimes called “Monadnock” which is a good google word for the morning). Several hundred feet above the surrounding terrain is a good spot to look for game without all that effort of flying etc.. I’m going to have to take a climb up there as this is a hill I haven’t been up yet. It’s a little scramble to climb sandstone buttes and not without some challenge. I might put a game trail camera up there just for kicks… See what flies by…
I saw the “silhouette” of the bird from a LONG way out. Way out in the hilly backcountry, it took me about 10 minutes to get THIS close. All the while this sharp eyed bird was watching me bounce around the backcountry well away from the closest “smooth” two track trail….
The whole game was trying to get into position to take the sun RIGHT behind the bird setting on the peak. The sun was actually above the bird just off frame. IF I could have maneuvered for another few minutes, he would have been in the crosshairs between sun and my lens. No such luck as he flew away seconds after this capture. I’m not sure why he flew but I wasn’t being subtle trying to get into the right position. I always stop in intervals while approaching wildlife. Get the shot, move a little closer, get the next shot, rinse and repeat.
The spring Alpenglow was rife with orange gradients. The suspended ice in the air is responsible for the orange color. If you haven’t experienced a deep orange late evening sky before, you need to spend some time up here in the winter… I was miles out into the backcountry minutes before sunset. It was a long clear sky sunset drive back…….
Spring time thunderstorms moving through the area are much appreciated in giving us a little more moisture for the apparently soon to be dry summer so typical of Wyotana. Our annual precipitation amounts are BARELY above desert at 14 inches per year. Not this day though 😀
This happened May 13th late in the afternoon as a series of smaller storms moved through the area. This thunder storm went on into South Dakota and grew as it went but wasn’t particularly violent. It was however strong enough to dump enough hail to cover the ground off in the distance under the “rainbow”. I didn’t think there is supposed to be a bucket o hail at the end of the rainbow but something with a bit more glitter. “Clever Girl” got slushed on but fortunately the hail was a bit further east. This capture looking almost straight east along the Montana / Wyoming border. I’ve been known to move my position to avoid hail a time or two. It’s usually not a huge area that get’s hailed on but reading the storm isn’t necessarily straight forward as I’m not “Bill Paxton” in the 1996 movie Tornado.
The Rainbow is right at 5 miles away from my viewpoint. The first tree on the right is at least 1/2 mile out. Telephotos CRUSH perspective jumping over lots of ground before you get to the “foreground” of the frame lol.
Brown Season twilight landscapes are always dark, some are more colorful than others. When the veil of clouds is heavy, the shade and hues become muted with the encroaching dusk. Unfettered light causes an entirely different result… here, browns are in full display. I spend a lot of time working twilight skies/landscapes and find them challenging to reproduce accurately. It would be very easy to turn up the sky colors but I’m trying really hard to be a photorealist. This is as close as I can get this to how I experienced the scene. I find that an infinite spectrum of variable twilight exists and are mostly “capturable” with the right gear.
A majority of photographers wouldn’t finish this image I’m thinking. Having said that, I’m all about subtle tones and hues that escape view by most. The cool air of the twilight, the movement of game in the distance, the quickening of the light fleeing the scene is always breathtaking to me. Huge long landscapes (40 miles) make for an appropriate venue for this end of a day capture.. All creatures great and small getting ready for the night are all in their own world. Anticipating the washing away of the brown by spring rains to expose the green that is forthcoming. Seasons change, days come and go, but the animals seen to survive the hardships with an ever optimistic outlook toward the next day and the next meal.
This is the second finished capture of 3 from this sunrise stage show. The play started at 5:15 AM when I had a 5:36 appt at sunrise. There was very little indication at my homestead that this would be such a show. Taking in the information from a remote ridge lined camera I have looking east, I jumped into “Clever Girl” my Ford F-150 Raptor and started gaining altitude. A sunslit window to the light was showing…might have amounted to nothing…. I never know for sure if I’m wasting my time before I commit to an hour at least watching sky plays…
Our ranch is on a high ridge but I have to climb higher ridges to actually see sunrise. There is a 400 foot high series of parallel ridges to my east which effectively hides my east view. I see 130 miles to the west and 50 miles both north and south from my homestead. I see about 1000 yards east without climbing to the top of Ridge 1 to the east. The actual time AT my homestead I see the sun is about 1/2 hour later than what ever time the sun actually rises.
The Snow squall that was ongoing at the time (taken the first week of May). We are used to a late frost with the “last” frost being May 15th…This posting on May 20th, 2020… A very wet cold weather descended on us after this sunrise. Certainly the completely overcast (thickly so) cloud deck was quickly obscuring the solar disk at this capture. There was less than a minute of light left before the day turned to a gloomy lack of interesting light morning. Wet and rainy for a week thank god as we need the moisture.
The mountain range on the left Horizon is the 90 mile distant Bear Lodge Mountains laying on the border of South Dakota and Wyoming. The 4 peaks on the right are the three Missouri Buttes with squarish Devil’s Tower between the Bear Lodge and the Buttes. Essentially your looking at the northern 1/2 of Crook County Wyoming in this image as I’m standing in Campbell County Wyoming by about 1 mile.
This view from the Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming to the Southeast across northern Crook County Wyoming. I’m actually standing in Campbell County with the camera. The sky was fully involved in a wonderful twilight sky snow. Well you know those distant hills as Devils Tower (left) and the three Missouri Buttes (right). 4 ancient volcanos throats exposed by erosion remain elevated over the surrounding debris plains.
The volcanos fed by these conduits didn’t erupt all at the same time precisely but were in the same general geologic time frame of a few million years. They are certainly all related and in the same volcanic “field”. Eruptions supplied by these pipes which occurred far above on ground that is no longer up there.
Erosion removed a LOT of material that used to be above the Tower and the buttes. Deeply buried these rocks were originally. The harder rock making up the Eventually the pressure in the original volcanic system dropped to the point where it was not pushing magma up the pipes. Insulated by the surrounding rock, the magma froze slowly in place. Because of that insulation and the slow cooling, the rock (Phonolitic Porphyry) was able to “crystallize” and freeze into columns.
Known for it’s columns, the Devil’s Tower has it’s status as our nations first national monument. The Missouri buttes only have SOME columns. Not as many or as well formed. So they are not considered monument worth lolol. The Bear Lodge Mountains are known as the Wyoming Black Hills and are indeed related to the geologic dome that is the Black Hill Geomorphic Expression in SD and WY. My ranch is on the farthest west edge of that uplift.
Location: Near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
I have to drive about 10 miles to get to this location viewing the Devils Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck Complex. This is a rare sunset early golden hour photon hunt. I’m not usually headed this direction in the afternoon with a tendency to go deep backcountry. This hunt was a road trip mostly watching the storm move through. My bucket list is to get a rainbow against this scene….
Devils Tower was the nations first National Monument is on the left. The “Three Sisters” (right) as they were known to the wagon train pioneers, are related to the Devil’s Tower. Related in space and time and are all remnants of ancient volcanic necks. Exposed by eroding the material away from above/around them.
Formerly deeply buried, these volcanic necks have been exposed on sand grain at a time. The “Little Missouri River” washed away thousands of feet of sediment down to the Gulf of Mexico a little at a time. Rivers very slowly but surely move miles of thicknesses of sediment to expose structures of very deep origin. The 3 Missouri Buttes the real name) is about 30 miles drive from my cameras vantage. The tower is closer to 45 miles out. View from the Northwest (the side the tourists NEVER see).
The lighting this evening was spectacular. I find you are where you are when the “Golden Hour” hits with it’s long shadows and rich earthy tones. This is big country here in the borderlands of Wyoming and Montana (looking southeasterly into Wyoming). Thousands of square miles of less than 2 people per mile population density.
Landscape Ladder was taken a week ago as this posts. The grassy remote ridgetop I was on, gives way to the Little Powder River Valley across the first ridge at 10 miles distance.
The next ridge is the Red Hills 40 miles out, is backed by the 13000 foot high peaks. Those 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. They 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 BigHorn peaks at this 130 mile distance. Weather windows to the BigHorns have been more plentiful this year unlike previous ones.
The sun is currently setting well north of these peaks from my vantage point at the moment. IT was still up at this capture… I won’t see it set over the big V notch until next fall again. The sun will continue to set a little more north each day till the summer solstice. Then it starts to rise and set a little further south each day until the Winter 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 to photograph these days. Weather has the greatest impact of course.
Thank god, been waiting for this a while…. (since OCT 1, 2019). The water falling is washing away the brown to leave the green underneath. This must be why all the flood water is brown downstream right? 😜📷
With the green season above, there are three seasons up here. White season or simply “the snowy time”. Brown Season hereby defined as ground with no snow. And green season, when there is no snow and just a little brown. Last year was a VERY rare long green season when AUGUST had green grass. Almost unheard of up here in the borderlands. This was certainly the most wet year in my 20 year memory on this ground. I consider winters here easy.
I spent a decade living / working in Jackson Hole Wyoming dealing with 6 feet of snow flat every year in the back yard. We do get some good snows with WINDS here on the border. Jackson Hole is not overly windy. We have WAY more drifting than Jackson did. I used to snow blow a foot of powder snow a couple of times a month. Snow seldom drifted like it does here.. Jackson Wins the snow amounts hands down over here in the borderlands. We win here with the amount of wind. Jackson is Colder of course. I’ve lived 30 years in Wyoming this year. I first came here as a student of geology 40 years ago in 1980.
A lowly pond deep in the backcountry flats below the ridge my ranch is situated on. About 300 feet lower than my homestead where the Artesian Waters from rocks 250 feet underground. This water works it’s way to the surface via cracks…faults… My homestead gets water from the same formational source. But it only rises from it’s source 500 feet deep in my wells to 250 feet up the pipe. Down low topographically though, there are quite a few ponds up on this particular area as the Fox Hill Formation below is a wonderful Aquifer under pressure from up dip of the formation. Geographically, this unit stretches from Alberta to northern Colorado with analogues/ similar depositional environments further south. The western interior sea during the latest Dinosaur Era (Cretaceous) provided the barrier islands/beach for this grey sandstone with shale interbeds to accumulate.
Fox Hill Formation is a MAJOR source of ground water around big cities. BUT the water from the Fox Hill is typically diluted. IT takes purer water as it is very high in total dissolved solids (TDS). Drinking high TDS water is a good way to get kidney stones. We use reverse osmosis filters for all our drinking water. The animals drinking this are on their own and generally do OK. I did have a wonderful 7 year old quarter horse die of a kidney stone. The complications probably from drinking this water. Most animals do fine.
As the Fox Hill unit is dipping about 50 feet per mile toward the west (towards setting sun). This means that to the east it is higher giving a “hydrologic head” . The miles to the east the formation is physically a lot higher. So if you have a water bearing sandstone higher than you. Plus a crack between it and the surface, you get “spring fed ponds”. Artesian simply means that water is flowing from underground. The water flows upward to the surface because the water bearing sand is WAY above this location miles to the east. Just because water is “Artesian”, doesn’t mean it’s safe or much good to drink. It just means it’s flowing on the surface…