Sometimes I feel that I’m being pointed in the right direction. Either by amazing chance or other forces beyond my comprehension. As I left my driveway in the middle of this blowy spring snowstorm, the flat light was not the best for photography. I stopped at the end of the drive deciding to set up my long lens for the light conditions. I pointed the camera at a random spot on the surrounding hill out in the distance. Amazingly on a big scale, it was already in focus and looking directly at this group of Pronghorn. I had about 120 degrees of landscape to choose from and I point DIRECTLY at this group perfectly framed. I didn’t see them, didn’t know they were there. Using this 1200 mm lens at about 300 yards out. Blended perfectly into the landscape. They sure stood out in the camera though.
So I very slowly worked my Black Ford Raptor higher above them. Carefully closer until I could get a better look. I must have done well. I have never ever been able to sneak around on a group of Pronghorn bedded down before. I’m thinking the 30 mph winds driving moderate snow at this moment might have given them reason to hit the deck. They are all looking into the wind and you can see snow starting to build up on their back. There is 5 inches of snow out there as I type this at 15 degrees F.
This 18 inch square aspect capture is of the “Ideal” family of course. Papa behind his velvet covered antlers just starting to grow in the early spring. Momma next (with a bun in the oven). Last but not least is Junior, a yearling doe a splitting image of her mother but smaller. Yup, they see me but they went back to grazing in the fresh green rocket fuel (grass).. I had to make a noise to get them all to look up. After a few times, they ignore that lolol. By mid-late summer I’ll be working them from inside the herd. 📷📷
This small group and a few other spent the winter together near our homestead. They take advantage of the water troughs we keep open all year to stay up in this high ridge line ranch. It’s dry up here in the winter with little open or flowing water for their use. We keep 4 watering tanks open all winter up here for anyone that comes by.
All my deer encounters are random. They never know when I’m heading out and I don’t know where they are hanging out. They have a pretty good range this time of year. Quickly they can move a mile from where they were a mere 5 or 6 minutes before. Many of the deer that live around here recognize my vehicles. Certainly the vehicle is a mobile blind albeit a noisy/smelly one. No human form presents itself to the wildlife so by mid spring, they become accustomed to the black truck that moves like a Black Angus, appearing to be a grazer. If ever you decide to try to skirt deer or Pronghorn, you will figure out quickly that won’t work lol. Just approach like your eating grass, move a little, eat some more, rinse and repeat.
You will probably find where the Deer’s line in the sand is that way.
I run a network of 29 game trail cameras. About 8 of them were inaccessible to me from December 2019 until mid-April 2020. In other words I have thousands of images to go through. This is one such image of a thickly Winter Coated Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes is the scientific genus and species to this largest of the true foxes. The species is not unique to Wyotana occurring across the entire Northern Hemisphere. It is not endangered with a stable population. Looks about 30 pounds to me at 18 inches tall. Beautiful Animal that I’ve only seen a few times in the wild. They tend to be elusive and wary of humans.
Foxes are known for their intelligence with a smattering of cunning in their reputation. Loners and solitary hunters all feeing on small game. They are omnivorous however not being above fruit and vegi’s with a side of fish, and an earth worm garnish.
I place Game Trail Cameras in locations where I believe the wildlings wander and congregate. The only control of these cameras I have besides some general settings are where I put them. This particular spot is more or less of a natural wildlife funnel. I’ve seen this foxes prey walk on this same trail too. Raccoons and probably skunks are on the dinner list though the latter is questionable I suppose lolol. Porcupines are a tough sell but I’m sure the mouse population is a target. Pickings are slim in the last half of the winter up here in the high country of the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. Competition is fierce and unrelenting.
I caught this one with a quality game trail camera I just checked the “roll” timeline as the mud season has had some dry periods. Enables me to get into the backcountry that does. Miles from anywhere. This particular camera has been alone in the backcountry since December 2019 almost 5 months ago. Batteries were still 60 percent lolol. From this camera, came dozens WONDERFUL captures of coyote, fox, skunk, porcupine, raccoon, mule deer, whitetail deer and finally pronghorn over it’s tenure in this spot. BEST roll off a Game Trail I’ve ever seen in years of this. Two different cameras were planted in this spot. They actually took good photos mostly. They are 30 meg each raw if you want to know. Higher resolution than most DSLRs in use. (I run a network of 28 game cameras at the moment).
Located at a wildlife funnel. The fences lead all to this gully and then the gully provides a lot of security to these animals here as it’s well forested. There are several “marked” spots that both coyote and fox are chewing on a particular stick there. This was with out a doubt the best game trail camera timeline I’ve ever looked at. .
This guy has pretty wet fur down low. He’s been traveling and putting out some heat out of those legs. Mid winter here is harsh on everyone. Every calorie of energy expended to melt snow, has to be replaced. The Coyote eating more than a stick in the corner sometime during the week. These guys are eating machine no doubt. They don’t bite horribly hard but they bite about 4 times a second based on what I’ve seen from a tame one I met. They make a lot of holes with their chompers. Mostly they eat mice/voles/prairie rats and anything else that they can catch. Unfortunately sometimes that includes young livestock. This gives them a most unwelcome reception at most ranches around these “here” parts up on the border.
Wiley here and a few of his mates make return after return to this spot over the last few months. I nailed the placement of this camera. Of course I will maintain them. Might set up another with movie mode on. The fox captures are amazing too. This camera even caught a 5 image sequence of a doe deer chasing a sharp tailed grouse wanting to stomp it. ….. Stay tuned.
These three Great Blue Herons are a mated pair and a third. The pair is busy building a nest, the third is waiting for it’s mate that is off fishing. Perched in their nest for the next few months there. Soon the yet to leaf Cottonwood Tree supporting them will conceal them. Soon hidden behind the canopy of this 50 foot tall tree. They have an amazing view up there until then. Sitting above a lake high in the Montana / Wyoming borderlands.
The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread species ranging to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here about 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂 Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up here and I don’t see them skinny lol. They usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and head out.
The rookery is adjacent to a tall grassy hill such that I can get an angle at the tree top level. This from about 150 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years both sunrise and sunset. This wetlands is one of a few on our remote highland ranch. The lake is a spring fed ponded behind an early 1900’s dam. Water from the Fox Hill Sandstone 200 feet below seeping through a crack to the surface. I’ve never seen that lake dry.
Meadowlarks named amazingly by Audubon himself. Noting them “neglected” by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them as well. The melodic enchanting song is a constant here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. A lot of grass is growing up here along with the afiliated insect population. These guys thrive in this environment.
The Species is the “State Bird” of 6 Western States!. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me. Wyoming was the 6th and last state back in 1927 to grant it that honor. Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and Wyoming are the list.
They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots. I’m often listening to their song driving along slowly around my place. I have found that if I pull up to a bird as close as I dare in my vehicle, if it didn’t fly, it probably won’t until you move your vehicle at all. If you move just a little they are outta here…. 😜 I can count on one hand the number of Meadowlarks that let me move to get a better shot once I had come to a stop. This was one.
This was a very windy day thus the sporty feather-do hair cut and the “cow lick” on his shoulder. It was a 30/20 day. 30 degrees F and 20 MPH winds that morning. He was happy anyway…… First Meadowlark I worked this year. Early bird…
This Timeline was the first of 2 essentially Full MoonSets over sunlit ground. I also worked a single full moon rise while the horizon was lit by the sun in the opposite sky. Here just the peaks are lit up. . Having clear windows for 3 of these in a month is a very rare occurrence. I consider myself lucky to get one peek a month. 📷📷
Following the moon down… The as the horizon climbs, the moon will slide down and right into the notch between those two hills. I have already published that image of just a little of the top of the moon remaining above that notch centered. I followed it all the way down until it was gone. Knowing where to be and when is a somewhat important part of my planning for an evening like this. I wanted the moon setting in that notch.
I had to find a high place with a view that lined up with the setting moons expected compass direction on the horizon. The Compass corrected of course for polar wandering.. The current resultant Magnetic declination is 8 degrees 44 minutes East current at my location. 👀🤔🤘 You can google the actual magnetic declination for your location. Many good compasses have an adjustment. Those that don’t, you have to add this mentally. Other wise your going to be 8.5 degrees off your nav’s.
What a beautiful supermoon.
Because the orbit of the moon around the earth is not perpendicular with the ground, the moon appears to be sliding to the right and down ward. It is indeed moving, revolving around the earth. We are rotating but it’s orbit is inclined. Don’t forget it’s the western horizon that is mostly doing the rising here lol. Two relative motions on going at the same time. Sort of hard to get a handle on it.
The Far Ridge is the “Red Hills” which has the Montana / Wyoming border sliding through right just off to the right of those peaks.
A second post for my Windmill Wednesday. Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘
Aermotor windmills account for the bulk of windmills out there. The company started way back in the 1888 with 24 sold the first year. Over 20000 of the beasties sold in 1892. The company still exists. They also sold a LOT of steel fire “look out towers” for fire watch and being a lightning target lololol.
Reconstructing past lives and events grabs your minds eye coming upon and old homestea. The comings and goings of old homesteads spark my imagination. There was a homestead about 1/4 mile from this location. They had their own hand dug well 35 feet deep and 4 feet wide about 200 feet from their house down in a deep gully.. I filled it in when I moved here. It was an “attractive nuisance”.
Most settlers had to use the water at their windmill. I suspect an outhouse long since gone somewhere nearby downward of the prevailing wind. This land has had cattle or sheep on it for 100 years and slightly more. That’s 5 generations of cowboys that stayed the night or the summer in this treeless pasture. Being the only source of water for several miles around, the cowboys drank here too.
This is very big country open back country. Many square miles of grass are attached to any particular ranch. This is a steel windmill which is more expensive than building the wood towers was. Wells were positioned centered in the pasture. This made it accessible to the entire area. A lot depended on the ground water geology to make the shallow wells work long term. (luck mostly early on).
Windmill Wednesday, Windmill Junkies Unite: I know there are a bunch of you that are withdrawing from a paucity of windmill images in your news feed. I will try to keep up with your insatiable demand. You know who you are but don’t let your partner know you look at this stuff…. 😜📸
This is “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill doing what he does best. Photobombing my landscapes. I only tolerate him for his negotiation skills with the various creatures around the ranch. I give him credit for many good animal “sittings”. (Years long narrative). He is also a reasonably good scale for an event this big lolol.
Sunrise was just starting to crack over the ridge who’s shadow I stand in. The Windmill up slope reaches up to be illuminated. But the ramp leading to it is in the dark. This corresponds to around 18 minutes after sunrise most of the year. To see rain shafts moving across the valley beyond this shallow ridge is a sight to behold. The morning sun’s color components from orange to the non-colorcast white clouds high up. All in a smooth gradient up the center of the frame.
The high clouds reflecting white uncolored light back to my camera. That light passed through much less atmosphere. The orange light cast by classic atmospherically filtered photons. Those survivors reflected back to my camera are what you see. Shorter wavelengths usually become absorbed on the long trip through the atmospheric gauntlet/filter doing it’s job. . . 🤔👀😜
This Young buck is still growing his horns larger this early in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. They shed the sheath yearly.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers howeverare made of bone
Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . Each horn is composed of a slender, flattened blade of bone. That grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. It is retained. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter. They disintegrate quickly I understand.
My black Ford F-150 Raptor is being well tolerated. The local wildlife doesn’t seem to see it a threat. My old Blue Jeep was noisy moving across the prairie. Not so much this new rig. I have spend some good photographic time aside some larger groups of Pronghorn already this spring where I was the one to move away. Leaving them to continue grazing. This is a good sign that these guys think my Black truck looks like a big noisy, smelly mechanical Angus Cow. Local groups will become used to me by the beginning of the summer. I already have this spring a few encounters that have given me great captures of these magnificent animals. They will make their way into my work flow. 📷👀
The Pre-sunrise windy morning was chilly with the breeze cutting through the kinks in my cold armor. My first instinct was to work the ridges but I went to the top first instead of working up. I usually don’t take the high photo early in the photoshoot. This whole timeline has marvelous pastels. A plus was the moon was almost pink too shining though the pink alpenglow. Blue clouds thicker but parting to let the moon peek through.
A Supermoon is one when the moon is at perigee (closest to the earth on it’s elliptical orbit). The moon looks particularly large because it is lol. An Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Grass, Sprouting Grass Moon and otherwise known as the Pink moon historically. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, April’s full moon often corresponded with the early springtime blooms of Phlox subulata, a pink wildflower native to eastern North America. The wildflower is commonly called creeping phlox or moss phlox – and also goes by the name “moss pink.”
Syzyge (SiZ-i jee) … what a wonderful scrabble word. It’s a nifty occurrence though. Conjunctions of 3 celestial objects (sun, earth moon) is an alignment in a straight line). A solar or lunar eclipse when all three are aligned is Syzyge Perigee syzgy… the moon is at perigee AND there is syzygy happening, aligning with the Earth and Sun, It’s termed perigee syzygy, AKA Supermoon.
Now you know as much as I do about the Pink Moon this year. All my images are posted about a week after they are taken so this posts the 14th, taken the morning of the 7th. It’s as fast as I can get to new images posted these days as I write these narratives right at a week ahead of their posting. (currently).
Photobombing Hawk. This image is so deep it almost looks almost fake to me but I swear I did NOTHING to this other than some shadow work to bring out some hidden details under the birds wings. The edge detail on those birds is just SPOT on focus as fine as I have ever seen at this 150 – 200 yard distance. The trees behind were blurred (bokeh) as I relented F-stop/depth of focus for gaining shutter speed here. I gained sharpness doing so in the zone that is in focus. The lighting was early morning hard right over my shoulder. I’m thinking the “field of focus’ is maybe 4 feet deep at this distance. The 3-D appearance of this stunned me in it’s depth. Closing speed has got to be 100 MPH. Both birds were cruising with the hawk veering away the last second!
Calling this unlikely would be an understatement lol. I was tracking the Heron with a partner of his across the tree line. 50 feet high Cottonwoods house their nests. A 1200 mm lens, 28 inches long resting on my trucks glass. (lens is padded) I saw them incoming a ways off . Fortunately I had a few seconds to “spin the dials” in anticipation of a 1/2000th sec shutter speed. (see above for some more camera on manual mode hints) So I got lucky on the light. I was “machine gunning” the camera rapid fire. I also caught this raptors partner diving in as well but it is well out of focus in that capture. A total of 3 hawks dove at this Heron Pair that had already claimed a nesting spot on the trees. They are all building nests at the moment down at the ranches wetlands.
Raptor War: This week I found a Red Tailed Hawks body at the base of the tree the Heron’s nest in. Photo of such on my web gallery. It lays there still as it’s illegal to collect any piece part or even a feather of a Raptor or most other migratory non game birds. (Fed Laws) I’ve seen Herons there every year for 20 years.
Actually this is indeed a 98.5 Percent Full April “Pink” Moon but the images title is a classic reference to a Movie Line. If you know from where, you could be my friend lol.
This is a very long 1200 mm telephoto shot with the sun being mostly up behind me with a brief over lap. Having the two celestial bodies at the horizon with daylight and a full moon is a one or two times a month opportunity IF the weather cooperates. Of course I have the moon lowering in the sky from about an hour before this. This particular one the last shot of the timeline consisting of several hundred images.
I am standing on my ground which is the same elevation as the saddle between the two far peak. That range of mountains is called the “Red Hills” and is 40 (forty) miles distant from my camera. The Intervening Little Powder River Valley 500 feet lower than the far ridge removed all that ground between here and there. A sand grain at a time the 20 foot wide “Little Powder” River carried all that sediment down to the Gulf of Mexico, through several tributaries. Some of it is still in the river banks along the way. All things eventually work to the sea.
This, looking westward barely diagonally across the Wyoming to Montana border. The moon setting at 279 degrees. I prepositioned myself just so it would set between the peaks. Fore knowledge of how things work makes your photo session “predictable”. It helps you choose to use the map in your head. Google: ‘Moon Compass’, and work the choices.
The difference in illumination of the front versus the back of this perched Raptor is huge. Bright unfettered “Golden Hour” sun was hitting this guy from behind JUST off frame left. I tried about every manual shutter and f-stop setting possible on the camera to get the shadow detail and not overexpose the rest of the scene. This was the best result of the scatter. I think the photo finished with his chest very pink but I would indicate that that area was in deep shadow and I’m grabbing detail out of that shadow.
Colors brought out of the shadows seldom survive photorealistically under these harsh differences in dynamic range. I couldn’t with any precision see it’s chest in the camera. Regardless, the detail was in the dark and I do take MANY photos dark only exposing the highlight correctly in the camera. .
The digital dark room enables me to bring differential exposure to life. My long time job as a professional ‘photo finisher’ is to do just that. It’s the same thing that Ansel Adams did sort of.. He laboriously, in the chemical darkroom masking off negatives so as to expose different parts to a different light exposure. That act VASTLY expanded the dynamic range of the technology at the time. Essentially I’m doing the same thing in the computer. Different subjects…. Be nice to have Yosemite to yourself….🤔👀 I don’t think, this birds chest was quite that pink. It’s the way it finished and I have no memory of that part of this image to argue with it. …
The sun did highlight the tail feathers nicely thank you. He sat that way for 5 minutes… tail 1/2 fanned. I think the branch kept it from opening all the way. Robin’s Egg blue sky just at the start of golden hour. Stay tuned to my narratives for the story of “Raptor’s versus Herons at this tree line. I watched battles this morning, found a casualty of a Red Tail Hawk under the Great Blue Heron Nest. Witnessed the battle from UNDER trees and barely caught on film (Horribly I suspect) , 3 Herons and 3 red tail hawks doing aerobatics. I expect this mornings timeline to publish next week (my current lag time). This mornings work was wonderful with a HUGE April Setting Supermoon to start my early morning.
Egg Moon images soon.
Till later and Be Safe. Stick with the plan folks. I’ll do the tourism for you 📷🤘
The red light passing to the pink/red “Belt of Venus” alpenglow behind the snag pine tree. That phenomena projected filtered to red light on the ice in the sky opposite of the sun. Same effect here but on the moon.
This just the atmospheric gauntlet of dust, moisture of all phase states, pollution etc block out all but the red light. So the “Worm Moon A.K.A. Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Chaste Moon or just the March Full Moon lol.
Getting topography/ hills and a celestial object to cooperate the same time can be challenging. …I know the topography I work pretty well on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the moon is going to set is a matter of looking it up on google. Get a map, (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up.
I decide where to go early on but am flexible enough to change mid stream because I’m very mobile. Getting around these days in snowy or muddy hills is a requirement for this job lolol. I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE a celestial alignment will occur with what hillside. 😄 This moon didn’t sneak up on me by any means. Getting up on the high ridges is of course the place to be for such a shot. The backcountry high in the hills provide all the topography and perspective that any photographer could need. Having effectively unlimited access to many square miles of backcountry Wyotana is always a good thing with a camera.
I had just left my drive way to photographically “chase” the light for this Golden Hour at sundown here on the ranch. Before I leave, I set my longest lens camera for the lighting at the time with the anticipation of catching some animal running/jumping/flying or otherwise trying to blur my otherwise in focus landscape image. Nice puffy clouds for Spring in Wyotana..
I work everything manual including focus on my cameras. So I physically have to twist the lens to get a bird flying at least 50 mph like this in focus.. So I have to stop my truck, bring the camera to bear, it only takes a few seconds….. Moving bird…..close to me, the landscape blurred as I was tracking this Raptor with a 28 inch long 1200 mm lens.
I really don’t see a lot of Bald Eagles up here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. They certainly are not rare in the area but tend not to hang out up here. I see them on carcasses/road kill all the time. They also hang out on the river valleys where they fish as opportunists. But to find one coming across my high ridge land ground is sort of an unusual thing. We have some wetland areas on our place where “most” of my other eagle sightings occur. They tend to hang near water which of course is where most animals levitate to. Ranchers are no exceptions. 😜
Magic happens sometimes here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. Here I caught a the Bliss Ranch Gynmastic Training Camp. Here a Great Blue Heron showing off spinning that big burning bubble on the tip of his beak… While standing on his Mates Back . Crowing/Displaying after a little bird whoopee that evening. Even while on a moving tree swaying in the breeze. Talk about balance….👀🤔😜 They are just building that nest. The third guy is a bystander as far as I can tell. I couldn’t see him blush within the rarefied air of this light environment.
With Topography my master, I find getting celestial objects to cooperate lining up with birds is mostly the miss part of a hit or miss situation. To have these huge eagle eyed birds patiently watch me work my way to them. Then tolerate me getting this alignment… Pretty cool …. 😃
Working the Great Blue Herons this time of year is certainly best. The 50 foot tall Cottonwoods have no leaves so capable of concealing nesting but not for another few weeks. Approaching and positioning for this shot in time and space has been a long term goal. Learning to do this in a camera is a task and a half plus getting all the variables to align. Trust me on this…
It just so happens my All Black Ford Raptor (new vehicle) backcountry truck looks enough like an Black Angus to these birds so as not to care so far. I very carefully work up to the nests in a familiar grazing animal gate. The new Ford stops the engine when I stop…perfect for photography. Wait a while, slowly approach, turn to the side, stay there a few minutes, take a few photos, move about 20 feet closer, rinse and repeat. I will gradually work my way over to where these 5×5 birds…. 5 foot tall birds with a 5 foot windspan…. are nesting. I was able to work these guys for 35 minutes as the sun disappeared behind the rising horizon . Forever in my world. 📸📸
The peaks in the distance, known as the Red Hills reach 40 miles out from the camera. Most folks out east would call them Mountains. We live basically at the same elevation (4000 ft) as the ridge tops on those hills. The “Little Powder River” Basin lays between myself and the Red Hills in the distance.. Part of the right side of that ridge is in Montana while I’m standing in and looking at 1/2 a Wyoming , 1/2 a Montana scene. This Gibbous Moon captured here in the process of heading for the horizon/setting. Remember it’s not the moon that’s moving. It’s the horizon/you. I chase the moon from time to time. Sunrise over my shoulder was an amazing show that morning… Nice snow for an Early April.
The full moon that morning was too late setting that day for me to nab it’s photons while in the Belt of Venus. 😔 The “Belt of Venus has dissipated with the blue wavelengths finally making it through to the atmospheric Ice clearly suspended in the low atmosphere here. That icy haze was rich pink red 20 minutes earlier before the sunrise. that morning. The time lines from a really good sunrise/sunset might run 2 hours long for me. I might take 800 -1000 images during that two hours. Out of those, maybe 4 or 5 will make it into my work flow.
Alpenglow with a Zig Zag Landscape Ladder with a reflective ice surface. That pond is filled by the melting snow off that hill.
This is pretty far back into the backcountry on my ranch. I didn’t even know there was a pond in this “Cul-de-sac” until a few years ago when I first found it. It was built in the 1950’s according to the engineers office. It only fills with melt water from about 200 acres of a small portion of this overall drainage system. This is sandstone country with about 500 feet in 10 miles difference between the “Little Powder” river in the valley with the ridge tops here.
I have to climb that far ridge to see the eastern sunrise and you’ve seen many dozens of images up on it. It’s a little harder for me to get to the top in the winter but I’ve done it numerous times. For those of you that keep track of such things, this is just east of ridge one looking at ridge two on the far south end of the ranch. That’s right at 300 feet difference in elevation and about 2000 yards to the ridge top. That takes a while to get there lol. It’s all two track roads over the divide. Then I walk or ride on ridge tops as is interesting with the light. I have an 80 mile view east from that ridge.
Musings on getting out of Dodge:
Knowing when to stop taking photos is a significant skill to acquire as a photographer. Wasting time, battery and disc space is bad JuJu. I know my camera backs pretty well and know instantly when I have the scene in front of me captured. The image rolls around in my head like a melody does for some. Then: It is necessary at that moment to analyze the possible future scenarios of the light unfolding in front of oneself. To predict the future is a skill worth working on. That very attribute leads me to a better area/angle/direction. Working landscapes is all about that. Finding the Frame.
In the spring of 2019 mid-April, I took a “Wyoming backroads” trip up the Powder River Valley crossing the Montana / Wyoming border. This area is about 70 miles west of my ranch. It takes about 2 hours to travel to the start of this excursion.
The light this night was second to none. I drove this 2.5 hour drive in 4 hours. The last hour and a half was pitch black night on unknown country roads. I do carry two compasses at all times. I didn’t have a GPS which I have to admit would have been nice that evening. Navigating the crossing roads is not easy up here as they might start out going east but eventually wind straight north. So dead reckoning might just get you the first part. I’ve actually only been disoriented one time in 30 years up here. That was on an overcast night in the middle of a very large featureless grassy pasture. I had a compass which got me to a fence line with narrowed down my choices to two lolol.
The country along the Powder River reminds me of the Yellow stone plateau but without the geysers, tourists or buffalo. There are a lot of cattle ranches and CLASSIC photos to be taken along that drive. If you need directions and suggestions I request you PM me and I’ll get you on the right track.
Some twilights are full of primary colors so pure they rival a new Pantone swatch chart (about 300 bucks new). I very carefully reproduce what happened that morning here. The snow had a decidedly cyan tint which I can see clearly in my minds eye from the moment of the shutter release. I don’t see it too often, it’s always under intensely involved Twilight Skies. I see so many posted images of electric blue snow. I’m confused because I have never seen electric blue snow in real life.
I’ve lived in Wyoming working with color images professionally or other artists beginning 1991. Experienced a few well taken winter images up here I have. It is my observations that Blue Colorcast in Snow is quite rare. Images that have it, are (usually) either 1: improperly set up white balance (most likely), or 2: intentional twisting up the volume on a broad stroke color enhance control. Now I’m all for art in a photograph but with full disclosure of the deed. I’m not going to present an art work as a photograph. It’s a matter of Professional Courtesy to other photographers.
I have found that a good portion of the viewer ship like color enhanced photos. Everybody has their own likes and that what art is all about. Unfortunately for that segment I’m a photorealist and try VERY hard to accurately reproduce what I saw at the time. I’m sorry, if you like blue snow, you’ll have to look at another artist. I live within in a blue snow free zone.
There are 19 bones in the toes of “Triceratops horridus” . These toe bones are each a separate animals contribution to this composite assemblage. All approximately the right sized toe bones properly place to assemble those toes to scale. Our Ranch sits entirely with the Dinosaur Fossil rich Hell Creek/ Lance Formation at the surface. The 66 million year old/Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstone Formation is not abundantly fossiliferous but I’m sure there are several animals around here. The trick is seeing them through the rock. Each and every bone I find promotes an adrenaline filled EUREKA moment. I’ve been a student of paleontology since I was 5 years old with my first EUREKA moment. 🤔🤣
Each one of these individual bones was a separate excavation at different times and 3D place in the outcrop. None of these belong to the same Triceratops. It took a few years and a little work to gather the bits and pieces for this assemblage. Several of the pieces show repair, a few are as found broken/cracked. Stabilized all with a diluted superglue compound. (Paleobond or Starbond). Soaking into the porous bone, the capillary action wicks the thin cyanoacryilate stabilizing the fossil. Deposition occurred long before the Big Horn Mountains rose from the earth. 130 miles to their west. The River that transported these bones also carried sand from Mountains long gone now. Mountains come, and mountains return to the sea as sand carried down by the river.
The hooves/claws/fingertips are the RARE bones but I indicate that just “plain old” Triceratops toe bones don’t grow on trees anymore lololol. Particularly pretty well preserved ones. This particular fossil site providing these is a wonderful place. 📸
Table below is an Eocene lake bed from Kemmerer. The whole table has several fossil fish on it but that’s not the focus for this post. You can see a partial on the lower left corner and a tail on the far right. The white spots are cuprolites. For a Scale I used an 18 inch ruler. The table weighs about 400 pounds. It rolls well on it’s side though. 🤣👀
Sunrise, Moon set. This remote backcountry road here in the late Wyotana spring is easy to get around on. As I type this a spring storm dumped 6 inches on everything but the light has been flat. Six or more inches of snow that did blow around graces our backcountry drives now. At least for a few days we will avoid the mud season with 8 degrees on April 2nd, 2020. Winter comes late to the high ground of Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana).
The look back and the sky beyond is a technical challenge I’ve been working on for years. Occasionally I get one just as I remembered the scene. The inadequate technology in the cameras is unable to overcome the limitations of the physics of the moment. With a removable lens camera, this is the technical walking a tightrope. You can only capture deep focus images like this in Manual mode with a really good DSLR or mirrorless camera. It would be way easier I believe with almost any cell phone in the country. 🤣
I miss the familiarity/control of my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was under me for 15 years in this backcountry and never got me stuck. Of course I traded it in back in December, 2019. Last Truck sold by the local Ford Dealer that Decade. … The Raptor I drive now is WAY better but not as familiar yet. Knowing where the wider vehicle is…. tough… I digress. What a sky 📸👀
Lone Trees and Large Suns are in an of themselves, each worth of pursuing with a long lens. (1200mm). 300 yards out,. With the dramatic veiled sun and clouds in front, I was able to pull a Japanese scene out of this light.
This Isolated Lone Tree actually has a fossil site at it’s base that I’ve not collected much. I just walk around the surface there and I have not dug. I even left a caudal (tail) vertebra under a boulder there so there is always a fossil to find there. If you were astute looking around you might see large chunky bone fragments coming out of the sandstone in a small outcrop under the ledge to the right of the tree. I keep this place native for the rare person(s) I would take to this place. One of my 4 rifle courses for the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship surrounds this hill top.
I have a theory that is certainly just anecdotal. I believe that the soil types derived from the underlying sediment from fossil sites is easier for this species of pine tree to grow in than surrounding soils. MANY of the small fossil sites in this Cretaceous Sandstone Country have either a big majestic Snag laying around or a tree growing just above the fossil site. It is a “working” theory in the jargon of science in that I’m always trying to observe subtle nuances
Moon Lollipop? : Full Moon Landing? : Ent Showing off Celestial Basketball?, Backcountry Harlem Globetrotters Tryouts? …… So many titles, so little space and time. 🤣📷
I find that celestial objects follow a routine in their movements. This governs my movements pursuing it’s light. Our companion in space has habits that humans have noticed over time. Many synchronize to it in ways not entirely understood. There has always been a connection between humans and the moon. Just ask any Emergency Room Doctor on Full Moon Nights. I think women even more are connected than men. Your results may vary 🤔👀
Blamed for many things historically the moon has. That lunar disk has played an important role in our history and even language. “Lunatic” is derived from several languages denotes to the madness or hysteria caused by the moon. Then even from the Old English “monseoc,” implying lunatic, epileptic and “lunatic” literally translates to “moon-sick”; From the Latin word “lunaticus,” . That originally referred mostly to epilepsy and madness. Such diseases were thought to be imparted to humans. The moon was responsible for that.
The ancients certainly noticed strange human behavior coterminous with the appearance of the full moon. As a police officer in Ohio, I noticed an increase in strange events during the full moon. The scuttle butt in the station was “watch out, it’s a full moon. Interestingly, I heard the same during my years as an EMT from that group. Hearsay.
You just have to be there to look at the right time and place about 200 yards away…… 😜😜
I usually don’t take too many photo’s of Pronghorn walking away. I was watching these young buck wander off and hit the machine gun button on my camera. From my perspective, they were swerving back and forth. It appeared a semi-drunken path as the cattle trail pulled them side to side. The way their color is, blending is part of their evolutionary camo plan. A wonderful color scheme as they really blend into this country. Thusly produced a seamless illusion of “Siamese Twins” I don’t get a chance at too many of these.
Graphic Artist note:
I could have EASILY removed the extra legs but I think they are fine so you can see what’s going on. I get this kind of alignment occasionally. More so from HEHIND lolol. I’ve even built images similar to this for fun. This one is legit and unmolested.
Boy are these Sony Alpha 7R4’s fast on the trigger with a 60 meg .jpg resultant each click. 📷👀 Machine gunning cameras that produce big files is costly to backup and store. I do fill up 32Gig cards with these things. Usually in about an hour and a half’s work on a normal day out in the backcountry. I always run into something interesting out there.
Long Lenses Crush Perspective tremendously. Far and near objects become “closer” in the frame through them. Long telephotos are tricky to use versus wide angle short lenses. They are very sensitive to motion.
Location: my backyard at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Every capture I post is my memory of a moment in space time that will remain in our digital universe. Anything posted on the internet will probably survive us all. Digital memory is forever assuming a massive solar EMP doesn’t throw us back to the 1880’s. In a sense this image and most of my work is preserved as long as the internet remains a viable domain. Eventually Artificial Intelligence will know everything all of us have ever posted on the internet. Kind o scary huh? AI combined with the development pressure of Covid -19 will make it happen very fast too.
So I had myself a mirrored pond on a rare becalmed evening up here. This spot is exactly on the Montana/ Wyoming border. 45 degrees North Latitude is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole.🤔👀📷 (There are new people reading this lolol).
I made this an action shot. Driving my F-150 Raptor into the pond generated a large train of ripples slowly expanding outwards from the disturbance. The resultant ripple crests were a perfect mirror train to repeat the suns ever expanding reflections as they approach the lens.
These high land ponds are ephermeral, drying with the onset of summer. The sandstone rocks under them soaking up the water slowly replenishing the local “water table”. Water is still in this pond as this posts.
About this photo:
The Dynamic Range in this photo is incredible. I’m using a Sony Alpha 7R4 which has 15 stops dynamic range. I’d like to have a few more of these cameras lol. The dark lower part of this picture has very few artifacts from the WIDE range from straight into the sun to almost pure black but you can see the details in both ends of the lights dynamism.
All natural colors from the grey of the clouds to the green of the grass that is now starting to grow. A taste of spring has slowly permeated the local climate. All climate is local of course. As a Geologist, I will tell you the earth has NO climate. It has ALL climates lolol. Watch when someone says the “earth’s climate”. I have discovered in my travels, that when someone starts an argument on Climate with that phrase (earth’s climate) , it’s a pretty good indicator that they don’t have a clue about what they are talking about lolol. I’ve seen this so many times.
This was actually rain and not snow for a change. I haven’t seen rain for 6 months since before Oct,1, 2019 when winter started last year. I remember it well as I was on the road the day before in the BigHorns. Those are about 130 miles just left of frame here with this view to the north west as this thing was coming in. The mountains on the far left were 40 miles distant from my camera at this click. Anybody else see a face in the thunderhead??👁👁
Dark environments…Open up your camera a bit. Little bit lower fstop, a bit slower speed or a little more ISO (camera sensitivity). All THREE setting this way will increase the amount of light into your camera. Each effect the light gathering ability of your rig. Your just trying to balance light with the other attributes of those three, each of which is a double edge sword. More on that later…
My camera lens front just from the warm car, captured two flakes of frost falling from the trees. Those ice flakes hit the warm glass and turned to liquid with the heat transfer. Providing two extra lenses for me to peer “through”. Artifactual obviously ….. Pretty anyway 😜😀📸
I usually don’t publish images with lens artifacts but the artist in my liked the way this came out. In full disclosure I had to fix the flare on the right which for what ever reason doubled enough to be distracting from the symmetry of the image. Just a slight double ghost I fixed there. So technically I removed a beer can from the postcard photo here. ART.
I have a tendency toward pointing cameras into suns lol. This was a photo I took AFTER the main twilight show that morning. The twilight lighting was truly amazing but as soon as the sun cracked the horizon, chapter two of this stage show began. No intermission either !. The orange red color cast early light was saturating all the white frost and snow surfaces for the next few minutes. Sometimes the same red light that colors the “Belt of Venus” variety of Alpenglow works it way down on the ground. Particularly up on the high ridgelines. Add a little hoar frost, a bit of white ice and you have a perfect reflective surface to light up. Light up just like the Belt of Venus was doing coterminously with this image but over my shoulder. The back sky was all pink down to the ridgelines.
The lighting during the “Golden Hour” is usually markedly rediish/orange. The distance traveled by that light through the atmosphere is a path that drops the longer wavelengths to the side. I actually drove up in my mobile photo studio (my Ford Raptor) and never had to get out of that portable blind. It took me about 10 minutes to drive up once I crested the hill.
When I approach this area, I slowly encroach in steps. It’s comparable to imitating a grazing animal. The Raptor is pretty quiet. Particularly when compared to my previous Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is also very Black, dark and stealthy in it’s appearance. Lots of black animals walking around the hills (angus cattle). So my new rig is working very well to integrate into the scheme of things up here. The various creatures on ranch become accustomed to that truck with time. I also worked a herd of deer this same evening getting very close for this early in the season.
This particular trip into the backcountry was the first one this spring with Pronghorn AND meadowlarks seen and photographed. The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of nesting season. I have only seen this ONE Heron so far and expect the others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 6 nests in the trees across the lake from where this guy stands here. He did fly up to the nest which my truck was parked near. (to look across the lake at this bird). He obviously wasn’t worried about my truck as he was motionless for 20 minutes all through my approach till when I backed up and away to change the scene. (got enough photos lolol).