Boy has this been a long stretch of Smoke Pall Sunrise events. I keep telling myself it’s a once in a lifetime situation. This tends to make me pay attention to the smoke conditions and sunrise times. I don’t always get to see the sun crack the horizon. This is the first light from the actual sun to reach my camera that morning. I knew about where it was going to rise (the notch on the ridge just left/below where it is now). I was there on time but not a photon made it through the smoke gauntlet to my capture boxes. NADA, nothing. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky above or anywhere on the satellite map. The low smoke on the ground completely occluding the window to our furnace for a good 20 minutes.
The ambient light on the landscape came from the sky above. It was illuminated through clearer air up high and more like a white ceiling than a blue sky in this pall. Chasing color in this lighting is perhaps a waste of time but I am digging the dozens of different colors of green and red displayed here. The fall is well upon the grasses. Brown season started early summer this year. Trees have not lost their leaves yet in this country which missed the earliest freeze by 1000 feet in elevation. (we are higher here so when the cold settles in the valleys freezing everything, not so much here ).
During the Fall Equinox (on Sept 22nd during 2020) Smoke Pall over the skies from the fires to the west.
Around the Equinox, the east / west trending fences have a tendency to fall into order with the universe. For all intents and purposes, this fence line is directly on the Montana / Wyoming border . Montana on the left and Wyoming on the right. Looking East at Sunrise. Ive done many fence perspectives straight on with the fencline. Getting above it so far was an act of crushing perspective with a long lens from a far away hill. Looking over this west slope of a local divide between upper drainage courses.
Many of my photo’s have parts of both states in them. Either a Wyoming ground with Montana Sky or visa-versa. Here the sun looks over all that ground. It is having a great deal of trouble getting it’s light to the ground. The Pall of Smoke this particular day (this has set in for a few months I’m thinking ) was different than each day before it. The strange “filtered light” feeling reminds me of watching a total solar eclipse.
You might note the “Hump Gate” mid-fence. It’s a Cattle gate I designed to put on the ground without having to dig a hole under it. Cattle don’t cross it but ATV’s zip right over it. Idle minds are problematic in my world lol.
I’m sure your all tired of “Smokey Sunsets / Sunrises by now. I sure as heck am. Except for the amazing sky thing, this is getting old. Snow is coming to the high country of Wyoming and Montana as I type… About a week before this published. Still early September for that storm. It hopefully will shut down a few fires to clear up the air a little. Some individuals with lung ailments are not enjoying this month much….
If there were snow storms incoming I’d be taking photos of it as long as there is light. I have to admit that I’ve seen phenomena that were new to me through the smoke palls. This particular image is a front moving from right to left with the smokey air to the right. The Clear air is to the left. The bank of clouds blocking the sun are forming in advance of the air mass shadowing the sun and providing a projector screen to show the light shafts above.
IT was actually pretty bright out. Cameras have trouble with dark detail when looking into very bright light. Sometimes I can tease out that landscape. This capture didn’t have enough data there to deal with in the digital darkroom. Creating artifacts is not my job… I could actually see landscape detail averting my eyes away from the sun. I was playing the same game with my eyes as was the camera. Dynamic Range of your eyes is better than your camera by the way. Your a better generalist than the camera is. That camera can looking into the furnace though with out any discernable repercussions. Not so much with your eyes lol.
This subdued sunset brought to you by the soot in the air contributed by hundreds of western wildfires. Hopefully you’ve been off grid and out of the way of these plumes. Such a Pall changes not only the air quality but the amount of solar radiation that makes it to the surface.
This image is my best try to get the scene exactly as I remembered it. The wedge of smoke from various Montana fires were moving this way. The cloud front was forming in advance of the smoke pall with the smoke moving with the front. I have seen this develop before and got the heck up the hill well over an hour before sunset. I figures that as the sun dove behind that jagged bottomed cloud, that shadow would get projected in the smoke below. The result is a fan of crepuscular rays radiating outward away from the sun well above the cloud deck. This is a fairly expansive display. Taken through a very wide lens at 24mm .
This is the second nice crepuscular display I have seen from this years smoke/brown season. They are somewhat predicatable to me but to get the ducks to actually line up is an entirely different matter lol. This would be a nice candidate for a mirror/mirror ART treatment I’m thinking… I’ll have to make a note to reflect this back on itself. I bet a nice face will appear magically.
The smoke that evening was intense. The air conditioning in the truck barely moderated the sneezing I enjoy in such air. Going out into this for long is a health risk certainly. There are all sorts of negative effects from enjoying the air as this. A good allergenic episode is my typical response. I know others that are put out of action by this kind of Pall. This kind of pollution can push some individuals over that cliff too. My advice is to stay inside if you can. As I type this the thermometer is approaching 100 degrees. I hope the animals find relief from this. They can’t come in as much as I’d like it for a while. Then there is the clean up thing….
The brown landscape color is accurate to the scene. The lowermost darkest ridge is 3 miles, next is 10 miles. The low ridge past that is 13 miles. Finally the 4th layer is 35 miles out with the sun hanging around 8 and 1/3rd light minutes out. This is as thick as it gets without blotting out the sun. I COULD have easily watched this outside of the camera with my naked eye. I don’t however suggest doing that. Always use appropriate eye protection. OK, maybe a very quick glance at this level of illumination.
Usually the Sun is FAR too bright to expose both landscape and it’s surface properly. Here because the sun has been smoke filtered a LOT it is possible to resolve the ridges. Normally hidden in the glare. The smoke acts like a theatrical gel over a spotlight. It allows only the longest wavelengths of light through.
The depth of the layer of smoke that gave me this apocalyptic image was early in the timeline that night. Keep this image in mind when I post an image of that sun setting into that mist. Here the sun is up high enough that the stepped gradient (natural not done in the digital darkroom). . Many stepped gradients from photographers are artifacts from improper digital darkroom technique. This is totally natural.
I don’t believe I have ever seen conditions worse than this. All sorts of backcountry outdoor activities are not occurring. Hard to cut wood when you can’t breath. Hard to do construction too. Some folks go about 70 percent effective under atmosphere such as this. Looks like fog, it’s choking, wood smelling smoke. 2020 is sure a mulligan year. Need to throw the ball out into the fairway and re-take the shot.
Of course, you couldn’t look into this to see it without a quality mirrorless camera. Just glancing at such a scene can do damage. I only look at scenes like this through my gear. Said camera moderates the intensity.
Disclaimer: I saw this scene on a live video screen within the view finder. I can adjust my settings real time accordingly. There is no direct light path to your eye in a mirrorless camera. DSLR cameras can blind you doing this kind of work so don’t. 🙂 Some cheaper small sensor cameras can’t take this either and doing it wrong is likely to burn your cameras sensor chip. With the full frame Sony A7 Series) I’ve taken thousands of directly into the sun images. No damage to your gear if you do it correctly. Getting your exposures too dark before you point at the sun is a good idea. Use highest f-stop and low ISO for this certainly. 1/3000th or so.
This Fawn Mule Deer is looking for those spots. Must have lost them somewhere around there. It’s been walking around with it’s head down for 10 minutes. Must be looking for something…..
Being 4-5 months old now grazing with it’s twin and Mother up High on a ridge line I call Rattlesnake Ridge. You’ve been seeing images of these guys all summer. I run into them randomly out on the ranch land during my journeys.
Love the lighting for this shot. (note the blur before and blur after. (f11 with a long telephoto due to the lower smoke filtered light levels). This clearly shows what “depth of field” is. Focus in the center, blur on either side of the focal zone. You have to think in 3-D for this work most of the time. The forest fire smoke is color casting the red here.
This fawn has not been named since it’s ears are perfect without notches. I’ll loose track of it by spring. Hopefully she will hang with her sister who has a very identifiable notch in her ear. Guilt by association at that point. I’ll wait until next spring to name this one. They change so much as they grow. Their mother is also easy to ID with her ears. Mule deer have HUGE ears. Much more so than Whitetail.
Re: Rattlesnake Ridge: Yes it is a sinuous ridge looking from above. My reason for the name is: apparently the ranches owner back in the 70’s, dynamited a rattle snake den here. Or so the story goes. Dynamite was a LOT easier to get back then. Years ago I heard a skuttlebutt rumor of an old box of dynamite sitting around on some fictional surrounding ranch. I’ve dealt with a lot of explosives over the last 10 years in my day job. I’d certainly rather not have to deal with 50 year old sticks of H.E. Probably a puddle of liquid nitro on the bottom of the box lol. I’m sure it’s a rumor… I’ll hear about it if true… (in the distant boom lolol). We really don’t have a lot of rattlers though which has been a good thing I believe.
I pleased this came out of a hand held one shot camera. Taken before the last full moon, soon forest fires west of us will cover our skies with a Pall of smoke. This prevented me from working the full moon a few days. There were smoke issues weeks ago which explains the following.
Through as little smoke as possible by taking this when it was almost straight overhead. My neck doesn’t bend that way very well these days lol. Still imparted is a brownish tint to the image. This by the soot particles floating above. Quite obvious in the eyepiece of my camera. The trick is to get the right exposure to show it. I do this by comparing the image in front of me to the image on the screen. I usually have enough time to consider such time consuming activities with celestial objects. They are not flitting off like backcountry wild critters. Anything over a minute to compose or consider an image is a luxury in this game. This is why I think of myself a landscape photographer. Geologically Slow movements are a good thing to me. The moon is a relative fast mover for me lolol.
Taken with the same lens I use for some of my terrestrial close ups. Lots of animal images through this glass. It’s pretty good equipment for looking across the prairie. Not as good for Astronomic Glass Lenses used in Telescopes. (this is just a regular camera lens). Telescopic glass typically is coated differently. There is no aperture to add diffraction effects to your bright lights. Ever see rays from bright point sources of light like the sun? Those are edge diffraction effects particularly for close/ far perspective with the moon. For you techies out there, astronomic glass usually doesn’t do as well dealing with Chromatic Aberration (Sony G-Series 200-600 with a 2x in the optic path. ). I have MUCH bigger/faster optics that don’t do as well across the board for this kind of capture.
This is an amazing image to me. It is VERY hard/rare/unlikely/difficult and otherwise tough to get detail on the back of anything standing by the sun. I’m easily able to read AEOMOTOR (with the A covered by the sail). I’ve run my cameras for a bit. Having pointed at the sun a few times. I don’t believe I’ve EVER had this result…. This is a very odd color.. almost salmon. Never seen it before either. Seeing the surface detail on this side of the windmill… priceless.
First of all, this is a smoke Pall (of course) blocking about 80 percent of the suns light. IT’s very even smoke though and effectively a filter for the sunlight. The face of the Windmills Sail are in shadow. The ability of the best consumer technology is limited by your camera’s sensor chip being able to resolve the differences between really bright and really dark. This is known as Dynamic Range. THe human eye has 21 f-stops of dynamic range. The Sony Alpha 7R4 I used for this has 15 f-stops of dynamic range. That is really high for a camera in the current crop. Being able to see detail of a black cat in a coal bin in a bright white room is what dynamic range is about.
This is “Re Pete” the backcountry windmill. Big brother of “Sneaky Pete” the windmill that hangs out by my residence. I have to travel a bit and go through some gates to get to this guy. He is positioned on a wonderful little area. We call his home the “Treed Pasture”. Named that for the thousands of Jack Pines living there. This guy is functional. I’d have to change the pump leathers to get it running again though. It worked last time we used it in around 2008. Probably eeds some lube I suspect. He’s 40 feet up there and that sail is 8 feet across. A man can stand on that high platform and not come to the top of the sail. These are big machinations.
“Sneaky Pete” the wind engine is the smaller of 2 “brother” windmills of the “Pete” family on our ranch. Big Brother is “Re Pete” who lives 3 miles into the backcountry. Both are up in the rolling ridgeline country of “Wyotana”. Sneaky has been running for 20 years with a few rebuilds. He is 25 feet tall and pumps air for a ponds benefit. “Re Pete” is an antique still functional Aermotor Windmill way in the back country. Either would have provided served as a filter here. The symmetry stroked my OCD lol.
During the recent 2020 brown / fire smoke season, sunrises / sunsets are unusually interesting. There are a LOT of particulates in the air. The Deep Crimsons and yellow sphere of the sol are the only colors in the otherwise color bereft landscape. The feeling on this last of the few remaining warm nights was of an original Twilight zone episode I saw as a child. It scared the heck out of me. A fog moved into a community, next thing they knew they had been transported to an alien world. Scary stuff to an adolescent with 3 channels on the B+W Tube TV with aluminum foil on the Rabbit Ears. Some of you might have to reach back early on to remember all that.
Stark lighting, like being under a partial eclipse. It’s an odd look with everything terrestrial cast in an odd red glow. I compare it to a gel filter over a stage light. Just a really big light lol.
As I type this narrative on the 7th of September 2020, a weather system is moving through with mostly drizzle so far. It’s a classic fall weather system though and that is a good thing. We need moist days for sure to make it to the snows. Snow in the high country. I’m not draining the water out of my fire truck yet to winterize it. I don’t keep it in a heated building as it is bigger than you can image. Winterizing is a balancing act as too late, you freeze something. Too early and you don’t have water immediately handy when you need to put out a grass fire for instance.
The Smoke Pall has shown a short fall of solar renewables to keep up with demand under the significantly lower light levels. ALL the ranchers under this smoke that rely on solar wells to water stock are scrambling if they use solar… (When you have to chain a 12 foot long 6 inch diameter pipe tied to a well casing down to keep it from moving in the wind). There might be some wind loading on this infrastructure lol…
Many ranchers have to put generators on their wells now to pump enough water to keep all the cattle well watered. The average cow drinks 30 gallons a day on a nice day. Hot days…. 50 or more :)… That adds up in a herd with say 400 head drinking 30 gallons each. That’s 12000 gallons they need on an easy day ….. A garden hose at 5 gallons a minute, 300 gallons an hour is only 7200 gallons a day with 24 hour sun………. Hard for any ranches solar well working a it’s highest efficiency to do that much…. This one does 5 gallons a minute in full sun. Maybe 10 hours a day in the summer……
Ranchers aren’t the only one to notice this shortfall I assure you. ANY solar array installed on homes, businesses, and utility based are having performance issues lately due to the western forest fires. This is perhaps biggest problem with solar is that the sun doesn’t always shine and it’s really expensive to store the power (plus inefficient).
Apparently Tesla has recently sold some BIG batteries to England that some hoopla was made that power can be stored then used in peak demand times. I don’t know the specifics but that had to be expensive and will need to be replaced in 10 – 20 years. I read where some body in Tennessee has figured out how to crack ethanol from water using an exotic copper catalyst plus CO2 driven by electricity If that comes to fruition, electrolysis using spare electricity from renewables will change the game. Just burn the generated ethanol to run a generator then…. In the mean time, any scheme to substitute renewables will run into this problem with regional brown outs or rolling blackouts.
Having some background in this…. I have run 18- 200 watt solar panels net metered to the utility since 2005 . Individual solar set ups since 1995. ). I did all the engineering /wiring / installation of the systems. We even had 5 electrical engineers from the power company there for the initial connect. All watching the meter run backwards going ooo and ahhh. We were first to hook up feeding back to the utility in this region according to them in 2005. They were excited.
I was even a member of the Wyoming Wind Power working group upon it’s inception for about a year of monthly meetings in Casper. All of us were “pioneers” doing this. That group was more interested in the big projects unfortunately so I left. I was more interested in what ranchers could do…. Wind, just another renewable that doesn’t work all the time. Interesting hobby if you have the spare money to put into a project that will never pay for itself. The solar well now…. that’s another story since running electricity to this particular spot would be several hundred thousands of dollars. It has paid for itself many times. Solar running a house…. not so much.
Boy the Land of the Rising Sun has nothing on this country. (Except Deep Sea Food lol) . Those swanky Japanese Maples are perhaps more photogenic than the backcountry Jack Pines seen here. But not much. Old growth and 60 feet tall survivors of the “big fire” back in the 1930’s. Here they bask in the colorcast smoke filtered light. The smoke from the fire all over the west. The sun size show the crushing of perspective by this long lens. Those trees are a mile distant.
These survivors dominate the ridge on the Wyoming / Montana border. This ground was more like the ridge behind them 100 years ago. No low branches is an adaptation to range fires. Those trees that loose their lower branches to heat from earlier fires do better the next time around. This growth habit is not reflected in the young progeny around the old still standing soldiers.
Living Hundreds of years on this ridge, the family here is tightly knit. I would imagine they are all related closely from a single pioneering ancestor. No doubt from way back in local early post glacial history. These pine trees of course release their seeds by way of cones falling scattered around their base. Those cones only open in response to a grass fire that is not too big, not too small. When the fire burns past, you get a generation of young pine trees that sprout up afterwards. Unless the fire is too hot. Fed by a century or more long build up of fuel in the grass. Old logs, branches and layers of pine cones.
Facts are that regular fires are GOOD for the ecosystem by regularly cleaning up the forest litter. Preventing HOT uncontrolled fires is a good idea across the board. Those fires burn the seeds they release and set the trunks of the old grown on fire destroying them in the process. Regular small fires help, large hot burns not so much. I’ve fought a few fires during my two decades on ranch. I don’t like fighting back in the woods too much. Not that I like fighting fires at all lol. Controlled burns are a GOOD thing. It spreads out the work over decades safely instead of all at once where you just loose things. This is not new knowledge. Common sense.
Random things happen all the time. Who would have thought I’d come upon two yearlings (1.5 year old buck anyway) playing hide and seek in the woods. They both carefully backed in behind the old pine to hide from me… Not seeing each other figured they were safe… What happened after this I leave to your imagination but I suspect someone or both got a startle when they bumped. I know but I’m not telling 🙂 I unfortunately did not get much more on camera as they weren’t cooperating with my mental wishes.
Back to my normal programming.
Well the twilight was spectacular anyway as par for the course of late. Magnificent skies are the rule rather than the exception when wispy clouds are overhead and there is a lot of smoke in the air. Long traveled sunshine colored the clouds with only the finest of displays that night.
Finding two deer on a ridge in front of the show was cool. Having them pose for me, priceless. The two caught in my cameras stare were frozen in time. Click. Who can argue with photographic evidence of hide and seek play lolol.
At first I had an imaginary shark hunting the water in the distant. The waves covering all but the dorsal fin. No wait… perhaps it’s a sail boat at a good breeze in high seas. The crest of the wave hiding the hull of the sailing ship. The illusion of waves swelling in the open ocean is unmistakable. I’m often taken by flights of fancy. The freedom to search for what could be is sometimes more compelling that for what is. On that segue…
I watched this moon descend into the cloud bank on the right 15 minutes earlier. Wrote it off for the session. I figured it would be obscured. From that point on, it was just until I looked back to the horizon. Looking the other way… Preoccupied I was working the sunrise on the dawn side of the sky. I was aware (back of my mind) when the moon was setting. Having done this a few times I finally did glance around at the other horizon JUST in case. I was surprised when I looked up to see this vision. The clouds had moved to the right leaving a window to the really low moon.
Now this was taken with a huge long lens. These totally screws with your perspective. Zooming up on the relatively small mountains, makes the moon looks big. That ridge is 40 miles distant. The place I set up for this backshow of the sunrise that morning was high enough to give me views both ways. Around 4000 feet which is high ridge country in this corner of Wyoming.
Here the BigHorn Mountains are surrounded by an odd color to cover a landscape. It was really that color lol. I saw this developing the other night. I’ve been on a mission to catch the orange light behind the BigHorn Mountains. I haven’t seen a weather window open to the BigHorns for over a month. Smoke, haze, soot and other forest fire products were blocking the view. The sun was hiding far to the right off frame. This was a night when the side shows were WAY more photogenic that the glare of the sun. The odd lighting resultant from the filtering of the light by the smoke.
The 130 miles distant 13,000 foot high mountain range was shrouded in this Orange (ish) colorcast. It was like a stage light with an orange gel in front over the landscape. As the sun moved down through progressively thicker and thicker layers of clouds, the scene disappeared. Too dark to capture.
I’ve spent a lot of time this month pursuing the Big Horns photographically. The distant range is always playing peek a boo with the weather controlling the show. I have very few Long Distance captures from this month on the ranch. Those few will slowly work their way into my work flow here. The black ridge at the in front of the BigHorns is 40 miles out from this high resolution camera.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana overlooking the Red Hills out to the Bighorn Peaks.
There are some technical hurdles necessary to capture something like this lol. First, you have to wait for the sun, done with it’s day, to start rolling down the hill to catch it “thunking” over the boulders for those last few “steps”. The Smoke has to be thick in the air filtering out all but the yellow through red wavelengths. The Black is for free.
You see, this is what actually happens over the horizon. I bet you thought the sun falls below the horizon to fly clear around the earth for it’s morning appointment with dawn. In reality as I show here, the sun disappears only to take the steps instead of slowly floating around the globe. Remember it has to be all the way on the other side of the planet in the morning and the stairs through the center must be the fastest way. Don’t go around, go through must be the plan…
IT takes a LONG lens to reach “over the horizon”…… (snickering). (drats…. my emoticons aren’t working at the moment on this program).
SO at any rate, no is the time to return to my normal programming lolol.
As I type this a 45 mph wind from the Northwest is bringing DENSE smoke down from a fire up in Montana 80 miles away. The air quality went from good to terrible in 30 minutes. It has stayed poor or worse since the start. We are under a Red Flag warning. No sparks needless to say. Humidity out currently say 18 percent….. Wow. (Note: this was written a week before it publishes).
The Forest Fires to our west (this publishes 10 days after I wrote it), contribute many things to our environment. The clearing of the overgrowth in healthy ecosystems is certainly positive. When the fires become an issue is when poor conservation (at best) combines with drought to set up a tinderbox. That becomes a negative. Then we build our houses in the trees. A failure to have a firebreak in your landscape is what burns structures. If you live in a fire area, you have to build for a fire area.
The dry year has this lake about as low as it gets. I have seen it about a foot lower but it’s artesian source replenishes it about as fast as evaporation. Normally it is topped off by a storm or two causing surface run off over a few thousand acres. It can get very full very fast. I have a post I placing a game camera a foot above the spill ways lips elevation. Those images will occur late next spring. I hope to have ducks next to the game trail cameras lol.
As a composition: I placed the sun behind the tree for two reasons. One the thing was still too bright to do this properly. It’s hard to get those details in the shadows with a super bright sun glaring at you. Two the water wouldn’t reflect the exposed sun…wrong angle lolol. Give it a few weeks and it will move far enough south (left frame) that it will reflect clear of the trees. Angles change over the year and to follow them is to give yourself possibilities with that photon capture box. Knowing when things align up lets you be there.
The horizon is a ridge 40 miles out. Those bumps are full grown pine trees making the saw teeth on the horizon. The perspective is deceiving. The area of the sky covered in this image is about the size of a postage stamp at arms length. Telescopic lenses literally give you a front row seat by crushing distance and thusly perspective you perceive. Such large celestial objects are possible. The relative apparent sizes mess with you… This actually makes the trees look HUGE relative as the sun. 863,000 miles across for that sphere, 50 feet for the tree. Based on that comparison, the sun must only be a few thousand feet tall. (shaking head side to side)…. Early Scientists/observers had it rough. They came up with the “Flat Earth” theories….
All the smoke in the atmosphere these days is good only for photography. Giving me crimson, yellow and black as my entire color pallet to capture. Three color, color schemes are fairly hard to find in nature typically. You have to narrow your search with the telephoto. There was a MUCH bigger sunset on going all around this close up. Many more colors started to appear. But when looking directly into the furnace, you only capture what light makes it to the camera. The smoke stopping ALL colors but Red/Yellow =Orange from making it to my photon traps. I can only record what is sent my way after all . I’m pretty sure that the time spent watching backcountry sunsets is not taken off your life’s timeline by the powers that be. It’s all free time….
The Amount of Smoke in the air should not be underestimated here. When I get stepped gradients around the sun, there is literally a visual tunnel / window your looking at suspended in the sky. LOTS of Smoke… This is the scene exactly as I saw it. The colors are spot on. It shows the prodigious accumulated plume from of hundreds of forest fires to our west all the way to the Pacific Coast. The southwest/west is in a Mega-drought of sorts and has been for two decades. Megadroughts happen, and have happened several times in the past. This all before man became responsible for climate.
Researchers in the “southwest” compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other historic drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record. I haven’t read this study personally but this is from the abstract.
The paper, presented in the journal “Science” reveals the south-western US has been suffering from a 20-year “megadrought” – a period of very severe aridity that is starving rivers, stoking fires, emptying reservoirs and constraining water supplies to the municipalities of the region. Explosive Population growth and river diversion for agriculture as well as human use certainly looks to be a future problem. Millions depend on rainfall in the South Western United States.
Way up in northeastern Wyoming, our ranch is mid-continent 100 miles from the geographic center of North America. None the less the Drought monitor map has tongues reaching right up from the Southwest to this corner of Wyoming. We are definitely “enjoying” a serious lack of precipitation. Unless a Mesocyclone or two happened to run directly over you this summer. You’ve had a rough year growing grass. (our main crop).
I have accumulated a series of right turn signs photobombing objects near, far behind or on them I’m trying to take a photo of. The series name came from the Orangutan star in the early 1980’s Clint Eastwood Movie “Any Which Way You Can”. Having lived in Jackson Hole for the Decade of the 90’s, it was a classic to watch locally and see the familiar sites. The Great ape when told to “Right Turn Clyde”, would throw his hand out to the right, usually into somebodies jaw. That person typically needed a good punch in the story.
The lighting was silly hard to do this with. It took a tripod to get enough depth of focus to capture this. Telephoto of course from some distance back. It’s the only way to do this. The settings are highly variable depending on how much light you have. The more the better. There wasn’t much here to collect in my photon capture boxes.
As a photorealist, I reproduce images dark if it was dark out. That sun was as dim as a candle in the window across the street. IT was in the process of being snuffed out like that candle by the cloud bank behind the Pall of Smoke. Neutral grey light background and just a bit of light from my truck on the sign. Those surfaces are holographic at times. Messes with your camera big time lol.
This is the Sun…not the Moon. During the forest fire smoke Month of August 2020, I had “SOME” opportunity to play with the subdued / occluded sun under otherwise clear skies. Of course the smoke moderated the intensity of the light. That REALLY helped with the technical issues of taking a blurred windmill against a still very bright object. It’s easier to do with lens filters on the camera (Neutral Density) but I don’t use anything in front of my lenses 99.9 percent of the time. This is raw in the camera stuff.
There is a lens artifact in the sail of the windmill pointing from the sun to towards the center of the spinning dish. I left it in the image as I liked it lol. Lens artifacts are a result of light bouncing around inside the lens. Usually a lot of light. I’ve fought them before being too intense glaring out the whole image. The subdued sun makes all this possible.
The lighting through this smoke pall reminds me seriously of the total eclipse a few years back. I watched that total eclipse in Douglas Wyoming. There was an odd shading at first followed by a progressive “dusky” feeling. Life under this pall beside the breathing issues, is very similar to that odd eclipselighting both in illumination value and overall feeling.
The Smoke images keep coming up to bat. I get up hours before sunrise as I don’t need a lot of sleep. I typically nap most days to catch up. It’s what you have to do photographically working both sunrise and sunset in the summer. So with all the smoke from western forest fires I was assured colorful horizon crossings. I still walk out a few times before I head out to check the sunrise lighting. The hail storm in July KILLED my sunrise camera which see’s the eastern horizon. I can’t see the horizon from my homestead. So it’s a lot of instinct on whether to go out for several hours or not. If I go out in the morning, I’m making use of what light is worthy of your time and mine.
So the smoke is a very effective light filter here letting in this peach flavored light during a cloud banded sunrise. I pay very close attention to the scene as I take it to reproduce it effectively. The landscape detail was recovered in the digital darkroom as as a matter or course, I expose only the highlights correctly. Usually that leaves a very dark or silhouette landscape. This halfie (rare for me) was such a good landscape ladder that I thought it warranted a little extra room. Thusly framed the composition accordingly. Most of my compositions are in the camera. Rarely do I crop to any significant degree in the digital darkroom.
There are more smokey sunrise images in my “to finish folder”. Perhaps a dozen I really like. The will slowly mingle into my workflow as I get to them.
My sense of Proportion mixing with the admiration of the cowboys that built all of the 30 miles of fence on and surrounding our ranch. Pastures being shaped by topography as often as by choice. I wonder how many fence builders / fixers that have passed this way before. Dozens of good (and bad) hands over the years I suspect. I’m just the latest to stretch, patch and otherwise tend to the pasture borders.
Rotating pastures is good husbandry of the land. One big pasture is inefficient as cattle center around the water. Ranchers have found over the years that open range just doesn’t work. Rotating keeps any particular area from being overgrazed (assuming you have any grass at all un-like this year). Fences make ranches work. They also make work for ranchers lol.
The smoke Pall covering the valley distant spans the 40 mile distance to the “Red Hills”. The last ghostly ridge is what you can see of that range.
The one good thing about a Smokey Atmosphere is the effect it has on the incoming light. Mostly it just absorbs all the shorter wavelengths such as Indigo, Blue and Green. That makes orange and red disproportionately abundant (otherwise known as “ColorCast”). When you have a LOT of Red, Orange and Yellow light, everything takes on a strange “Golden Color” thus the “Golden Hour”.
The air was quite unhealthy. Similar to smoking outside except one can’t get fresh air between puffs. There are a variety of health effects with a new study indicating even “Gut” health is related to air quality of all things. The SUN (not the moon) was setting into the Pall… Close/Far Perspective with Smoke Filter… Not a condensation cloud in the sky, this is ALL ground level smoke.
There are hundreds of fires burning in the west. Many in California but every western state has something burning. Most are lightning related other might be a bit more suspicious. None the less the smoke has spread far and wide to the point where my copy of “Weatherwall™” shows me where it is the thickest. Some of the applications out there now will actually have a choice to select where the fires are. The map is covered…😔
I have only had to fight one fire this year so far fortunately. I understand the forecast is for cold weather. This is a good thing lowering the fire danger considerably. Last night was a .2 rain here with a hard rain surrounding us. There isn’t much grass to burn in this area due to drought and grasshoppers eating what’s left. Basically it doesn’t pay to run the tractor and other equipment to harvest hay. It’s very desert like this year. We normally get 14 inches a year mostly in the spring. This year the spring did not deliver AND the last two months have been VERY HOT and DRY as this narrative is written.
Milling about, generally moving a bit to the north, the group was grazing a little. generally they were uneasy but I don’t think it was me they were upset about. I find that groups of these guys are the definition of jumpy lol. This perspective is through a long lens camera sideways. I’m well outside their “line in the sand” that get’s them nervous. I was stopped, engine off. Watching them for about 5 minutes at this point. It was more like they were waiting for something to happen. Maybe me moving on… hard to know.
That last ridge is known as “The Red Hills”. This was taken a few weeks ago as this posts. Still at the very beginning of some lighter smokey days. It got WAY worse later the next day. The normally crystal clear view to the “Red Hill’ turned to haze by the massive fires out west.
Visibility was 10 miles tonight as I worked the smokey sunset again driving ridges in the backcountry. It’s getting close to dense fog kind of visual occlusion as I type this. The air is just plain unhealthy. I’m not sure if “Clever Girl” even likes it. Might have to change the air filter sooner driving around in this forest fire soup. The sun disappeared tonight long before it hit the horizon. The surface smoke totally obscuring the solar disk. It was last seen around “Sneaky Pete” tonight.
Another name is “Crown” Sky. This is the second image I’ve posted from this timeline. This is the widest lens I have. The top of the frame is past straight up (over 90 degrees tall). These “Crepuscular Rays are actually over my head from the horizon. This is a first for me. I’ve never seen one this big before. It literally covered 1/2 of the sky. I figure this is about 1/4th of the sky as it continued over head quite a way.
Unfortunately there were no “Anticrepuscular” rays on the other side of the sky associated with this or I would have done the whole sky as a mosaic dome with 5 or 6 images from this lens. Still this was an awe inspiring display to witness. It lasted a good 1/2 hour too so it’s not like I don’t have options regarding image choices lol. Several hundred clicks were heard in proximity to this event from my place.
The different images each reflect the constantly changing dance of clouds blocking the rays. It’s not rays lighting up the sky, it’s shadows not lighting up part of the sky you note as distinctive. Without the shadow of the cloud tops, you would be looking at a uniformly illuminated smoke screen. That acting like a projector screen from that bright bulb. Otherwise, everything would be lit up . This is all about shadows of that big cloud above the sun.
Old “Sneaky Pete” here has met his match. The environment is even kicking his butt. The air is thicker up here, it’s hard to breath, the sky is under a perma-eclipse. Asthmatics need not apply for a ranching job surrounded by a sea of grass/sage with smoke filling the air. Not an eclipse of the sun by the moon but by Forest Fires. If you’ve missed this enjoyment consider yourself healthier. Visibility was about 8 miles this morning at times. It comes and goes.
I don’t even remember a stretch this long (2 weeks) when I had a “normal” sunset to watch. These images will stretch out over the fall as I have dozens to finish from the startling skies. The very unexpected physics is welcome from a photographic standpoint. I have to clean my lenses more often that is for sure. I find my eye’s are more sensitive than my nose or lungs. It’s hard to take photos of what you can’t see. I found that out taking photos of Comet Neowise. Photography by instinct.
This was actually QUITE a dark Scene. Everything was indeed brown or a shade of red. I’ve seen VERY interesting shadow effects from this that I will work into my publishing schedule. There is SO much red light proportionally that it is actually hard to take a “normal” photo until about mid day. More than a few miles of atmosphere will completely block out the sun. I’ve seen it set into the smoke not the horizon 1/2 a dozen times already.
This is the pullback and image number 2 from this timeline. That is the original and official “pin hole camera”. We have a silhouette here of a local mountain top from another nearby peak. I was walking along the ridge to take maximum advantage of the Pareidolia I suffer from. There are at least two “easter island” faces in the silhouette. Suddenly as I’m walking along…..
I freeze. I really didn’t have the right camera with me, so after a trip to my truck. Consisting a few hundred feet of climbing, I figured I’d never find the window again. I couldn’t see it projecting a dot in the shadow on the landscape. The sky was too “lit up” throwing very bright diffuse light making that impossible. (What a sky).
It turns out that the “window” to this pinhole was about 2 feet by 2 feet at this distance (about 300 yards). I just by happenstance walked with my head at the right level. I’m amused by simple things these days.
I find looking at the world with the amazement of a child has done well for me over the decades. I attempt to view perspectives like a mouse and lighting as a youngin’. Try to moderate those with a dose of awareness though lol. Even though I’ve photographed thousands of sunsets/sunrises, each one is a new experience. Each different than any before. The spiffs of being a landscape photographer. 😎
Of course this is very dark. It looked like a refrigerator bulb across the yard. ONLY the red through yellow wavelengths were making it. Not many of those either. This reminded me of the Eclipse we witnessed down at Douglas Wyoming a few years back. The way the subdued lighting had everything awake but on hold. Almost like a pause before the curtain opens for the screen play to follow.
We’ve had smoke for two weeks now and I’ve worked every terminator crossing (look that up if you don’t know it) during that interval. Except this AM as I type this. A small cloud system came in and blocked my eastern view with nothing but a gray slate screen. Sort of like the internet was down in the denial. I was so used to getting up and about, shock to my system…. The nights are very short in the summer. It’s a good thing I don’t need much more than 4 hours of sleep. (as long as I get a nap during the day lol).
I’ve spent a good deal of time doing photography these days. This intense a smoke pall for so long is fortunately a rare event this severe. This plume(s) is equal or in excess of any I’ve experienced in my 20 years living in Wyotana. It’s been an interesting “disaster” year all around now with twin hurricanes landfalling on the Gulf Coast. I did some post-graduate marine biology teaching down at the Gulf Coast Marine Lab in Ocean Springs Mississippi. Those guy are getting clobbered as I type this. (Shaking head side to side).