Winter is bleak and the snow is deep in the hollows. The restless wind of the borderlands, the sun, the grass fires have all contributed to what lives on this landscape of Tertiary river sediments. All this ground is composed of debris carried by rivers about 130 miles across the Powder River basin ALL the way to the Big Horn Mountains. That is a big apron of sediment 130 miles out. My ranch is about 8 miles over that hill from this location.
There was a snowstorm coming in and I drove JUST ahead of the storms shadow for about 10 miles. I of course was snapping the wonderful lighting all along the way. I have this antique grass rake from this side and looking through it at the sun. All taken from the road via telephoto. I will never leave the right of way taking photos if it’s private land unless I have permission ahead of time.
A seat is missing from the top of the center support for it. This was certainly horse drawn at one time or another in it’s history. A pair of horses with harness ruled early farm life in this country. As technology advanced but even more importantly, because servicible here. A host of various machinery was used to pull farm implements. Some had actual tractors other bought army surplus crate Jeeps freshly returned from storage depot. All produced during World War II. Many a Willis pulled a hay rake during the late 40’s and early 50’s.
Location: About 8 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
This big old sun dog happened one cool sub-zero morning. Ice crystals refracting light were falling out of the air in front of my camera everywhere. All the white speckles are ice crystals close to the camera. I was just driving along a high ridge as is my typical backcountry drive. It suddenly appeared as I was driving along. The ice fall moved over me.
Two ways these form:. 1: light passing through suspended atmospheric plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Alternately, refraction from drifting in freezing moist air at low levels as diamond dust as here. Those “mock suns’ are from the aforementioned “Diamond Dust”. The colors usually go from red closest to the sun outward with the standard rainbow sequence. This was VERY bright.
This half circle halo is 22 degrees from the sun. These 22 degree refractions are present with and without mock suns in my experience. This particular Sundog even has a sun pillar above AND below the sun itself. Pillars develop as a result of ice crystals slowly falling through the air, reflecting the sun’s rays off of their hexagonal flat surfaces.
I’ve only seen one better sundog off the face of the Jackson Hole Ski area at the Village mid winter back in the 90’s. This was a few miles back in the backcountry pretty much across the border with sky in both Montana and Wyoming. .
Not many Western Meadowlarks were singing the morning I got this capture. We are in their breeding area
It was not funny to the Meadowlarks as it was to me. This particular snow made it hard to find a place to alight. IT stuck to everything. Other birds occupied ALL perches in all directions. Worse: No one wanted to walk in the several inch thick sloppy wet snow. It was sticking to everything including the poor birds feet. A favorite perch were the electric wires around my compound.. There are other photos of that as well lol. There were many good captures this day.
Meadowlarks are insect and seed eaters. They are very well adapted to life up here in this remote grasslands up here on the high ridges. I’m sure they time their arrival or departure based on insect availability I suspect. They watch the weather pretty closely lol. The whole prairie was full of Meadowlarks this day and no shelter in this storm. The snow stuck to his feet made me feel better because I wasn’t the only one dealing with it lolol. There is companionship often formed in misery……..
Meadowlarks left this year around early October when winter started and heavier snows moved through. We’ve had a constant barrage of storms with just a bit of warmer relief since. 40 degrees and still is T-shirt weather in this country. We’ve already been below zero this year.
I have no idea of how the physic of the color center of the flake operated. It is not false color and I didn’t do it in the digital dark room. It’s not a digital artifact. Somehow there must be a polarizing film such as melted water there? But the physics say there must be a second polarizing film to draw color out of white light like this. I worked polarizing optical microscopes used in mineral analysis for years. Somehow “crossed polarizers” formed for this image to occur.
Captured using a 1:1 “macro” rated lens. (90mm Zeiss/Sony) I was able to zoom into this piece of natures artistry. As they say, no two flakes are ever the same. There are MANY different kinds of macro lenses. If you have questions about this PM me. I used an LED flashlight for the source of light hand held but there was not a polarizing lens on either the camera OR the flashlight. How this happened is beyond my level of understanding. I’m just happy to have captured it lolol. 📷
Geometric purity always amazes me. The geometric forms created under the rules of nature become phenomena… One thing I have observed and confirmed personally as a scientist over my travels, is that growth of any crystalline substance is orderly. A repetitive process, the materials used in the construction of the snowflake arrange themselves into a limited number of predetermined orientations. Science right in front of us.
I often find Deer beds under trees suring snow storm. If the snow is falling straight down, the trees act as a pretty good umbrella to keep the white stuff off. It’s common sense (which deer have a lot of). Any shelter in a storm is better than no shelter.
Lone trees on a ridge are romantic figures up here. Battling the worst that the environment has to offer. 80 mph winds, -30 degrees for weeks (historically since I’ve been here) and terrible dry spells. These lone sentinels are king of all they survey. They don’t grow very fast. This tree is at least 100 years old. I suspect the big ones are several hundred years old. This fellow happens to be sitting on a fossil microsite. Just on the other side of the ridge, bare Hell Creek/lance Sandstone outcrops with large chunky dinosaur bone fragments weathering out. I even found a pretty nice toe bone from a hadrosaur there. I left it under a rock I found it next to so it’s out of the weather. can show it to a few random folks that happen to make it up here for the discussion.
The ridge in the foreground is several hundred yards out in this long distance telephoto shot. The ridge behind the foreground tree is 40 miles distant from the camera. Telephoto’s crush perspective something fierce. It’s hard to believe you can see individual trees at 40 miles out but there they are. 📷
These frosted Pines stand along against the elements high on a remote ridge. They have long survived backcountry wildfires. . The lack of branches down low help keep them safer from grass fires. . Their isolated island also helps prevent fires from taking them. These survived a major fire in the late 1930’s that burned all summer in this area. Only the winter snows extinguished that long burning fire. There are still many snags around from that fire. A lot of seasoned firewood has come from those snags. Some still stand as a stark reminder of natures wrath. Partially burned and totally now “wildlife” trees.
I don’t take a lot of Black and White images. However, this scene seems made for the genre . Frosted Needles and boughs are the rule in this shot. Each with 1/4 inch of ice everywhere on any exposed surface. There has been a lot of slowly freezing storms come through this fall. All starting out with rain or freezing drizzle. Then they turn to snow so an ice coating under a foot of snow makes for interesting backcountry driving.
I can not travel easily now in the backcountry. Over a foot of snow from the last storm put a hitch in my giddy-up. I try to be safe and not stick myself back country. It’s a long walk back. Having said that, I do carry several radios including a ham radio to which I have a repeater on my communications tower. I’m pretty much in communication if needed. Cell Phones usually aren’t much good up here.
The joy of this time of year is the variety in the seasons. I would miss seasons if I were to move to a more tropical climate. Snow is both a curse and a blessing in several ways each.
We get more of our yearly precipitation (water equivalent) in the form of snow. This year might be an exception as we have a very wet summer. This winter is starting early and wet so far. We got a foot of snow on December 1. Winter Started October 1 this year with a good 4-5 inch first snow.
Back in 1999, I moved topographically down to my ranch at 4000 feet from Jackson Hole up at 6200 feet. In Jackson Hole, your distance from the Teton Range dictated how many feet flat you would have in your backyard in mid-January. We averaged 6 feet flat in our back yard there. I had an ATV with a snow blower on the front for the asphalt drive I had then. In Jackson, when it snowed I cleaned our drive way before I went to work at 7AM. That ATV was agile and fun with the snow blower taken off for summer. I had a smaller yard there.
20 years later:
I have about 2 miles of various trails I clear until I can’t anymore mid winter. My driveway is about 1/4 mile and we have a gravel surface big enough to turn semi-trucks around on. I clean it with a Case Skid Steer™. (“Bobcat” so to speak). It has a heater, chains on solid filled wheels, it’s hard to stop. a 5 foot packed drift will stop it but it won’t bury it. It could back out I’m pretty sure. We get some pretty good drifts up on the lee side of ridges and often clumps of Yucca will trap LARGE snow drifts.
I am a real fan of pursuing close/far perspective images in the backcountry. I am standingup in Montana looking over the border down into Wyoming as the sun rises to the south east. The trees in the distance are in Wyoming. I’m one of the few photographers that can post most of the images I work on the borderlands in either states forums. I actually try to police myself if something is just Wyoming I’ll try to keep it only on Wyoming or national forums. Visa versa for Montana.
So perspectives and cold weather go together like peas and carrots. (classic reference intended). I’m not sure why this is but I’m drawn to the close details with mostly veiled sunsets behing. All caused by the icy atmosphere in the winter. between the sun and the camera. Hundreds of miles of ice and air only let through that gold light at this point. Earlier a lower angle only let through red wavelengths in twilight.
I take images with cameras that can look places your eyes can’t. You MIGHT be able to glance at this for a fraction of a second before you instinctively turned away. I watch this on a video screen and I know exactly what I just took a photo of without having to look at it. What I see on my screen is what I get here. (Actually I take very dark images only exposing highlight correctly. (If you must know). 📷
The very small piece of one Bliss Ranch Rock Garden shown here, thins found by a life long hunter of “treasures”. . Things collected off the ranch for my yard living on the Montana/Wyoming border. Two decades I’ve been riding around on this ranch very systematically searching the land for Dinosaur Fossils. I am an opportunist that will pick up about anything not a piece of wood and I have a few of those lolol. I generally built pretty big rock gardens full of ranch finds as needed. Lots of outdoor dinosaur fossils about even. Petrified wood, minerals from Wyoming are all around the place.
Found deep in the backcountry this hammer was.. It appears blacksmith made from a piece of good rock pick steel. This was very well mated to a standard piece of galvanized pipe. Probably 1950’s or so. . Cattle skulls are ubiquitous in deep ranch country as we live in. As we discover them, deer skulls/antlers are located then put in a rock garden.
. It’s a common western ranch tradition to collect deer bone or skulls.
I tend to get thematic with rock gardens. Some of them are quite big, full of river cobbles imported by semi truck from the Big Horn Mountains. A quarry near Buffalo Wyoming is the source of the cobbles in the garden. I’ve found quite a bit of Epidote in this. A beautiful green semi-precious minteral. Wonderful for making cabochons from. I love finding nice material by the semi load. I collect petrified wood in Gillette in various parking lots all the time. City Cobble Collecting is ALMOST as good as the treasures found on this ranch lol.
This a view northeast from my Communication tower hill in Wyoming. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. The Hill in between is rIght directly on the Montana/Wyoming border. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, sustained 30mph winds are howling at 20 degrees. 20/30 days are chilly.
High Contrast Landscapes lens themselves to a wide treatment. The peaks are about 10 miles distant. This is a very wide image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. TheMontana/Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before.
The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. THe ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formatoin and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.
Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).
Landscape Under Moonlight is a 3 second time exposure under very dark Nautical Twilight skies.
Nothing but Moonlight is illuminating this 40 mile deep landscape. The “Red Hills” are the distant ridge across the wide “Little Powder” River valley. I am located 600 feet above the valley floor on the Pass road (Trail Creek) to Rockypoint Wyoming. Looking toward the west/northwest the moon is about as far north as it travels in it’s movement around the planet.
There is no way to properly expose the moon AND gather the very faint light reflected back at my lens. So it might as well be as bright as the sun up in the corner. This is definitely hard to color correct. There were a lot of subtle hues and tones that weren’t natural because of the time exposure. The cloud highlights are indeed excessive as the time exposure allowed it to over saturate. Without digitally replacing that whole area of the image, I decided to leave it as it is.
Photorealism goes out the window a time exposure. They seem to always excessively expose something it seems lolol. Still the technology is very limited in it’s ability to see as well as the human eye which could resolve this. Reading under this light MIGHT be possible under moonlight . No camera on earth could bring this out with the moon’s face properly exposed. To do otherwise would be to have a composite image and not a genuine unaltered photo in this light.
Location: The Pass to Rockypoint on Trail Creek Road, Northern Campbell Country Wyoming. That’s Montana off in the distance. I am standing about 4 miles from the Montana border and those mountains ARE in Montana. (Wyotana)
Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice is an unexpected Game Trail Camera Capture. I have 4 good shots of this guy walking by here on 4 different days. (so far).
There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans.
This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀. I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.
I’ve always thought that Coyotes were “Wiley”. Hunting on thin Ice isn’t the brightest things I’ve ever seen.. This particular lake isn’t frozen at all at the moment as I type this…. That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.
I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks.
This image was captured just as the horizon dropped exposing the relatively stationary sun. Everybody always says the sun rises but it’s really the horizon falling away. OK. It was a “sunrise” bone chilling cold sunrise. At -2F any wind amplifies the experience from a sweat shirt to full arctic gear. In dead calm air, -2 might as well be 50. I dress in layers.
Working in really cold conditions with cameras:
I’ve been up here in an open vehicle at -20 before so this was pretty comfortable relatively. Riding around with a box of 4 or 5 camera/lens in an open ATV in that temp is something I don’t like to do now.
For this capture, I was walking around from place to place for quite a while. Drove up there in my jeep. Usually my right had is my weak link. I wear “Red Head” Mitten/fingerless gloves. They are better than other gloves I’ve seen advertised for photographers and do a pretty good job. I always carry two pair. If they get wet, it’s time to change them. But you CAN work the delicate controls of a camera with them on.
I even had my Jeep to retreat to . I prefer not to let my cameras get so cold so having them in a heated car has it’s advantages.
Working out of a car window in the cold:
You have to watch shooting cameras out of a heated car into very cold air. You can get distortion similar to a mirage that I’ve actually seen live and watched it distorting the image on the cameras monitor. The warm air and the cold air mixing makes a little distorting lens just for your annoyance. With a long lens the distortion caused by this interface CAN be significant. Each situation is different. I try to keep air flowing into the drivers window versus warm air flowing out. It’s a huge difference with long lenses.
Coyote Up Close and Personal is a Game Trail Camera capture where the Ice was JUST a LITTLE too thin for him to cruise by here on the ice. I’d seen this coyote on several other days walking right on the ice. (Still one image to post with him pretty far out there lol.
I suppose he hunts the shore pretty regularly. My cameras have captured quite a few images of him. This lake freezes solid by mid-December. The only source of water is one of my stock tanks which I will keep open. This is quite a ways out into the backcountry. I have limited access to these locations in the winter. Snowmobiles only can get here. I’m not really big on using my cameras off of snowmobiles as the random flying around moisture and my rigs are not compatible.
Coyotes work hard for their meals. A “coyote breakfast”, defined as a cold pee in the corner is their typical morning meal. They don’t eat much else unless a roadrunner screws up…. mostly they eat field mice and rodents they catch. Coyotes as a group do predate ranchers stock. They will kill calves worth a couple thousand dollars each (eventually) without hesitation. Lambs are easy pickings if not protected by sheep dogs or Llamas.
As such they are pursued and shot by most ranchers. State trappers/hunters work overpopulated areas. Many organized hunts are scheduled around the area. Coyotes would cause ecosystem mayhem if not controlled. (a ranchers view point after living 20 years with them). They are not in the least bit endangered as they reproduce quite rapidly and are elusive usually. You just find the dead calf with it’s face chewed off. (sad).
Don’t get me wrong. These are beautiful animals. I admire them for their tenacity, their survival skills and their intrinsic beauty. They have a place in the ecosystem but like any predator, they need to be carefully managed. Stock predation is Wyoming Game and Fish’s business. They employ professional hunters to control Coyote numbers. If they get out of control both stock and other young wildlife suffer excessive population decline. Professional Wildlife managers generally get it close to right. (Some notable exceptions of course).
Golden Hour Sunset on Snow. When the sun is so low, slowly working left of the BigHorn Mountains here, the light is quite golden.
You would be blinded looking into this scene but the ability to shut the camera down to light changes the game.
This is an overlook across 130 miles of landscape in north central Wyoming. Looking west into the scene that the pioneers saw at the end of a long day of travel. Custer was around here, Native Americans were all over this place for thousands of years. The history here is long, many have crossed that land but daily I walk places where no human has been before.
We are up high on the ridges where there is not much running water. We find TeePee Rings, a few artifacts, stone tools, even a couple of metal ornaments (rare). There actually exists one of the very RARE Documented Clovis Man Habitation site within 10 miles of my ranch. It’s not on my land however. Those same pre-historic folks walked around the post’ glacial landscape burning/slashing/hunting/driving game for a living. I have no doubt they were walking here to some of our artesian spring locations.
When the pioneers got here, they built dams below those artesian wells and formed lakes. The natives didn’t have that option and it can be a long way between water holes when you have deer bladder canteens to carry your water for the day…
Wooden Windmill Orange Hour was a natural very colorcast morning with the orange light permeating and reflecting off the snow and ice.
I traveled 30 miles to get to this windmill before sunrise and of course have a whole timeline of this scene from start to near finish as this was. I left a few minutes after this shot.
Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting doing on since the county may not plow it for a few weeks. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. It is genuine backcountry Wyoming.
There was a slight sunpillar/shaft of light coming down from the sun. More of a spot light really but there was a LOT of ice in the air that morning. It had snowed the whole drive there and I was leaving the first tracks on the road both ways. I often go on road trips for hours up on Wyoming/Montana backroads and not see another vehicle. Breaking down is not an option up here without LOTS of survival supplies this time of year. Blankets, sleeping bags, food and basics are all on board. I do have a very good radio that communicates via repeater from 30 miles away if necessary. Not to worry.
Coyote on Razors Edge is a Game Trail Camera Capture.
The metadata attached to the image showed 45 degrees F. . The ice was not thick to begin with. You can see the tracks behind the canid as he trots along the shoreline. He’s right on a razors edge here…. I’m thinking that this is not a good habit for a coyote to have. Hard to argue with the image though lol. He’s just a few pounds from breaking right through to the lake below. It’s not really deep where he is but there are deeper spots around the edge of this lake.
It’s got to be easier walking than on the shore but that ice was NOT that thick. I have several captures of this fellow over several days doing this same thing. Each is unique in it’s perspective as I have several cameras covering this area. Each camera has it’s own characteristics of color and exposure based on light conditions. They are after all…automatic cameras.
I’m currently running 29 game trail cameras. It takes several trips to check them all. I usually do it while I’m actually at a location. I’ll be picking some cameras up for the winter. While others I’ll refresh the batteries and let them run all winter. I’ll check them in the spring, swap out SD cards (modern digital image storage chip). Then freshen the batteries is the final task. A good game trail camera will use 16 – 24 AA batteries a year.
Pronghorn In a Snow Storm is a game trail camera photo. They really do a great job IF the conditions are just right. Perfect exposure for this Pronghorn Buck at Night while it’s snowing. This is of course, the exception not the rule of Game Trail Night Photos.
Of course this is entirely night vision Infra-red flash photography. The Pronghorn never saw any of the light but perhaps a faint red glow. He never knew he was captured. The snow didn’t amount to much over a few inches that night but I bet it was less than comfortable out there. Wet snow is it’s own blanket though on well insulated ungulate.
This is about a mile from my house and around midnight out in the backcountry. He’s pretty much in the open there, nothing to hide behind but an occasional hay bale for shelter. Every time I catch wildlings on film under weather I always have this empathetic impulse to invited them all in. I probably not enough room in my barn IF they would take me up on my invitation. There are quite a few critters running around here that are not cattle. It just depends on where you look. 🤓
This is a favorite gate and I will really miss it being open when the cattle come back into this pasture. It’s a fine location for catching the wildlings walking between water and feed pastures. MostlyI don’t see Pronghorn much after Early November. They migrate 30 miles south to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands to winter over. IT’s milder down there and there is some geothermal water that is always running.
Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough is a capture initiated by the -2 degree morning, the icy air and the lighting. The later of which was JUST coming over the ridge but about 15 minutes after sunrise.
Topographically, I’m working just over the lip of that higher ridge. Opportunities like this after photographing that sun coming up over a ridge 20 miles out are important parts of the timeline. I move quickly to transition to working a closer ridge several hundred yards out as the sun climbs. A sunrise is a period of moving from place to place to take advantage of the terrain. It is very important to know WHERE to and WHEN to move to the next shot. Extending your time working the “Golden Hour” is the result. You only have so much time to “Work the Light”.
I work “Parallel” ridges because I’m very mobile to look for interesting leading lines and angles. Here I saw this long pine bough covered in ice from freezing fog the night before. (the night I’m typing this the same weather is occurring and I’ll be up on the ridges for sure ). There was an 1/8th inch of ice on everything that was exposed to the wind. So a vibrant landscape with an interesting weather event… (a hero as every photo needs a hero). But working that shadow line is the game.
The glare from the sun is quite a hard thing to deal with. I am literally looking into the sun with this camera with a white ground reflecting light plus the ice. You’ve GOT to turn your camera to HIGH F-stop, LOW ISO and your shutter speed is used to balance the equation. If you don’t want a sun star, go f-11 mid range. You adjust either with a neutral density filter in front of your lens (I hate them), or higher shutter speeds. Many consumer cameras don’t have 1/8000th shutter like the higher end models do to compensate . So faster shutter speed to reduce light into the camera may not be as much of an option depending on your equipment.
Coyote On Thin Ice is a Gamer Trail Camera photo. I see a trap set by the Road Runner obviously. Soon he’s going to finally do ol “Wiley Coyote” in. It seems that he was led out on to thin (very) thin ice by the much lighter bird. Of course we do have road runners up here ….. (a local elementary school sports program are the “Roadrunners”. I understand his s pair of ACME Ice Rescue Picks never arrived. Apparently, “Sneaky Pete the Windmill” didn’t take delivery when UPS came that day being out trying to photobomb me. It’s not going to end well for the coyote I bet 😜
This image is of course showing the cafeteria line for a coyote. It’s obviously much easier to walk the ice than the shore of the lake. Tall vegetation and brush cover the shore. I do however have reservations on the brilliance of walking out there. If it was thicker than 1/2 an inch I’d be surprised. It’s amazing to me he wasn’t crashing through the ice.
If you remember the verse below verbatim, you and I could be friends 😀
If you’re on the highway and Road Runner goes “Beep beep”,
Just step aside or you might end up in a heap.
Road Runner, Road Runner runs down the road all day.
Even the coyote can’t make him change his ways.
Road Runner, the coyote’s after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you’re through.
Road Runner, the coyote’s after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you’re through.
That coyote is really a crazy clown!
When will he learn that he never can mow him down?
Poor little Road Runner never bothers anyone;
Just runnin’ down the road’s his idea of having fun.
Credit : Warner Bros I believe through who owns it now is anybodies guess. I tried to find out, google was no help…..
Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset is a capture miles into the wilderness of the Wyoming/Montana border lands. I am always looking for frames and compositions, play of light and shadows.
The pine trees were coated with a thin layer of ice on the windward side and ALL the grass was coated. I found a spot where the light was funneling in through that break in the trees. The Sky was incredible but alas this kind of show is fleeting. I only have a few minutes before it darkens up and everything goes to bed for the night.
Many deer bed down on this ridge and I’m always walking upon their “melted” spots in the snow along the rim of the hill. They usually are bedded on the down wind side of the hill. I’m thinking I need a game trail camera or two down in those bedding spots. Sunsets like this don’t happen every day, some are boring, some are clear sky but now and again, I get lucky. The skyshow turns on and I get a few minutes to work intensively. Lots of operational tempo ongoing during that final 15 minutes of the horizon rising to the sun to cover it.
The show is not over usually with the sunset. But it is hard to predict what will happen to any particular sky. I try my best, I’ve come home before with a WONDERFUL twilight show that suddenly developed while I was coming off the ridge lolol.
Miles into the backcountry, it was a chilly -2 degrees F. The ridge with the cloud veil blocking the blinding sun. This Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise is a backcountry very wide angle image taken about ten days ago as this posts. A lot of this snow has melted since the image was taken. A few days of autumn return but with mud…
There was an 1/8th inch of ice covering most of the north side of trees, the sun rising to the south west was just starting to light up the ice that was coating the grass. The Pine Noodles (Needles covered with ice) were a subject all by themselves this morning of worth light. This square aspect image is full resolution to 18 inches by 18 inches.
The is a very nice little ridge line being the uppermost reaches of the drainage. This particular ridge separates Trail Creek (Wyoming) and Ranch Creek (Montana). I usually work ridges in the early winter leading to road work only in the late winter. Snow depth will deny access to the ridges without me plowing snow over two track paths in the backcountry. I start going on road trips late winter when conditions look photogenic. The two tracks are drifted over badly is the rule. Deep snow is problematic from my viewpoint.
I am trading off my Jeep for a taller vehicle (F-150) some of my viewpoints might change lolololol. Hopefully I will be able to get through a big higher snow with this new rig due sometime this century I understand …..😃
Satire: This young punk pine tree was sure that getting his needles “noodled” would upset his adult mentors. The 1/8th inch of ice sure gave him a frosty “do”. I suspect he was about ready to go hang out down in the gully where he could watch things move down drainage at a geologic pace. It’s not a very exciting place to grow up out in the backcountry.😉
Back to my normal programming…
SO it was -2, I was walking a high ridge, the pines were all ‘noodled’ on the north side of the tree. . The sun has been up for maybe 20 minutes so thusly is just cresting the ridge. The crisp air is moving and seeping into my gloves/mittens which are almost always my limiting factor. I’ve worked up here with -30 wind-chills many times. I’ve had various cameras (mostly old used Canon 5D’s) freeze up at those temps. . Rapid temperature changes aren’t good for anything but you don’t want to keep your cameras cold either.
“Winter is Coming” (If you don’t know the classic reference by now, you need to read a few books lolol). I actually enjoyed the audiotapes of “game of thrones” tremendously while building things in my shops.
In reality it’s been here since Oct 1 and the day before was fall. (fall was on a tuesday this year). Oct 1 is when winter started up here which continue till April anyway. Winter does bring certain photographic opportunities however and I enjoy the crisp cold. It’s easy down here at 4000 feet after living at 6200 feet in Jackson Hole for a decade. Warm here but MUCH windier here in the borderlands.
Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry can be a very contrasty thing after a storm. This vista surprised me coming up over the ridge behind the camera. I instantly stopped of course and started composing the final frame. What dramatic contrast…. I honestly don’t see this very much this pronounced. That was a very interesting (if not cold at -2F) morning up on that ridge. It always is after a storm and the cold. That is BIG country back there.
I call this phenomena spotlighting for obvious reasons. There is about 4-6 inches of standing snow up on the ridges and I’m still driving about in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have a new vehicle incoming if Ford will put it in production lololol. (We have a vin now 🙂 ) Winter is coming though and I’m going to have to get plowing some snow to get up in this country. This particular spot is about a mile up a long hill to get to. Roughtly the same distance to the far ridge in the shadows with trees on it. The far right side of that ridge (ridge 4) is a full 2 tiles out. Distances are deceiving out here. The closest ranch house in that direction is about 10 miles of hills and gullies that have to be driven around. That would mean about 20 miles of driving lololol.
All of this ground in this image is underlain by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Dinosaur Fossil Bearing Sandstone. This is prime country to find dinosaurs. I found a partial Triceratops just left of the frame around the corner or a hill so I have some basis for saying this lol.
Deep Deep Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse don’t go along too well. They tend to say out of the powder as they sink in and have short legs lolol. They usually have to fly out of the hole they make for themselves by landing in a controlled crash. In this image, there is only a few inches of snow next to our backyard fence. We see them in our compound all winter as they mooch grain off our ducks and Buff Orphington Chickens.
These Birds are known as the “fire grouse or fire bird” by native Americans. This is because they are reliant on natural brush fires to keep their habitat open. Their common name around here is “SHarpies” or certainly Sharp Tail. These birds are found only on the North American continent. . Geologically it is the last species of the Genus Tympanuchus. (Linnaeus named them AGAIN, boy was he busy) Apparently there are 7 subspecies one of which is extinct, the other 6 are extant. (extant versus extinct…. good to google if you don’t know).
Being one of the larger grouse, they are hard to sex visually. The males have yellow eye combs that are not conspicuous. During the spring they males puff up a pale violet air sacs on their neck. UP to 18 inches long (plump birds) In the early fall, Females Ring-necked Pheasants easily are mistaken for a female Sharpie. Watch for the length of the tail which the pheasant wins with the longer tail.
The They really don’t exist south of Wyoming/northern Nebraska ranging WAY north into Alaska through out central and northwestern Canada. I’m thinking they like the snow but I might be wrong[ They are year round residents of the Wyotana borderlands but I understand the continental divide is a boundary too them and they really don’t live west of there in the the US. Western most Montana doesn’t have them apparently.
Perspective “Brace Yourself” looks cold….It was indeed quite chily when I took this. -2F with a good breeze is chilly in my book.. Taken a few miles into the backcountry off the main gravel road.. Traveling ranch Two track trails to the spot.. There was 1/8th inch of ice on virtually everything, . Ground under the snow, grass, barbed wire and posts all were laden with a coating of the storms warmer beginnings..
This was a good snow because I was actually noticing I was driving through deeper snow up on the ridges. Most snows so far this winter have been relatively minor in their effect on my travels… No blowing snow off the ridges in this snowy iteration. It wasn’t a particular windy storm. Thus there are no drifts to deal with, however, there is deeper snow on the ridge line which CAN build up if there is a crust. This makes it more difficult later (sadly). . It seems 5 inches of flat snow with ice under it starts getting problematic climbing steep backcountry hills.😜. I have slid backwards down many a long hill in the snowy backcountry…. denied access!!! 😫
So as the Winter progresses, the cold brings to mind a late November from 2000 that was -30 for well over a week straight. I mean all day for a week at -30F degrees was a long week here on the ranch. As I recall, I was driving back and forth from Jackson Hole to my Ranch north of Gillette (almost 500 miles) during that week . I definitely respect November weather in Wyoming.
I will plow the main two track up to this ridge this winter. It’s a several mile job with a skidsteer with tire chains. That takes a while if it drifts over and I will eventually be locked off the ridge by drifts working across my previously plowed paths.
I love lots of angles in photos. This one qualifies plus the close focus. 📸
Barn Cat Yawning About Winter is a true story. He’s bored (and maybe a little starved for O2 since he just wok up) lolol.
It was about -2 out (about a week ago as this posts) and this cat was already bored by the cold. Three of them were sleeping up along this south facing decking and inside of about a 6 inch snow free area. The sun was “warm”, the 10mph (way minus wind was blocked by the deck. Our group of 6 barn cats (oilfield kitten rescue) are all neutered, tame and vet checked/medicated.
We take very good care of them so don’t worry about the temps up here. All of them have gone through -30 before in many previous Wyoming Winters. They are 6 years old.
A fairly famous scientist, Carl Linnaeus named the domestic cat Felis catus within the scientific naming system. Carl Linnaeus (1707 –1778), AKA with his ennoblement title as Carl von Linné , was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalized binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. The system we use today. So he got all the easy stuff done first lololol.
All animals are scientifically names (and thus grouped with other similar creatures) within his naming system. It’s a good google if your into scientific names to find out they SYSTEM. . It’s one of my weaknesses but I do know the language of paleontology . I take to scientific names like the proverbial peas to carrots….as long as it’s a fossil 😜 Paleontology students are given this assignment somewhere along the road in their education. Good to know.
If someone asked you to go take a photo of a yawning cat….. good luck with that🤔. Doing so might take a while for you to get it. I just randomly was in the right place at the right time with a long lens on a camera ready to click. I caught a few more sleeping cats on the snow with this session. (they could go in a nice warm barn but the sun was too inviting). Stay tuned 📸
Location: Front Deck, Homestead Compound, Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
WIth these Frosty ComTower Guy Wires being covered by 1/8th inch of ice, they had a sag in them but not too muchmuch. I have seen them much more heavily loaded. This tower has been on this ridgetop for over a decade now. There was a LOT of thought that went into this connections.
Engineering is not my forte but I’ve had to dabble at times. I’m a ham Radio Operator plus our business band so we need a com tower lol. This is 1 of the three cable connection points that holds up the 60 foot tall structure on a tall ridge. It sees other towers in the area which enable us and others to get broadband up here. Our internet is pretty fast at times. (at times being the key phrase lol) .
There is an 8 foot long dead man 4inch diameter pipe. Thus is attached well the Rod that comes out of the ground attaching to the turnbuckles. The cables are all triple clamped of course. Look carefully at the rod as it comes out of the ground. There are spikes welded to it.
Those Points at the base dissipate static. This takes some potential away from the tower itself. Everything is thermite welded copper connections, lightning there instead of the taller tower that has smooth edges. Sharp point metal attract lightning. These are the points of ionization /static build up dicharge. They are a good start to a plasma ionized air channel to a lightning bolt. There is a ring and a “star” of recycled copper water pipe buried several feet deep as a ground plain and a grounding network.
This system has been in a lightning rich area high on an exposed ridge with a 60 foot tower of steel pointing straight up to the sky. For over a decade, I’ve never lost any Equipment to lightning up there so far. The building there is a faraday cage literally. Lightning has stayed out of there to date.
For me to get to this location, I have to leave about an hour before sunrise “Windmill Shack Orange Alpenglow”. It is well down into Crook Country Wyoming about 40 miles towards Devil’s Tower. If that hill weren’t in the way, you could see the big thing.
Normally I would just drive up there. This isn’t my ground and I’m not big on trespassing on others ground. This shot was from the country road It is now filed in my “Wyoming/Montana backroads folder. All of the backcountry roads up here are gravel with an occasional Concrete/asphalt highway cutting across no mans land. It’s about 40 miles in any direction from this spot to a Wyoming State paved road. It’s all county road department maintained here.
There are some rough areas of course to get here. But if it’s frozen, the mud is no longer a problem but for deeper than your tires ruts lolol. Driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee where taller pickups leave tire grooves is always exciting. I’m still waiting for my now officially issued VIN number model year 2020 Ford F150 to be built. It should change the height at which I take images sometimes lol.
I get lost in reconstructing past lives and events, the comings and goings of old homesteads. This wasn’t much more than a cowboy bunk house with a wood stove for the “hands”. You had water with the windmill and 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.
This is very big country open back country with many square miles of grass attached to any particular ranch. This is a steel windmill which is more expensive than building the wood towers was. This water pump is still standing though. It looks to be in working conditions.
Here the local Wyoming Roaming Road Block was down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands. These are Pronghorn Bucks still with antlers (not for long) and does mixed. They are on the move migrating down to that remote grassland to winter over the rough Wyoming Winter.
As this was taken, I was on the road to Gillette from my ranch for a ‘day trip”. It’s about 25 gravel road miles to this spot. Then another 12 miles of gravel before I run into concrete in the form of St. Rt. 59 (Wyoming) .
The Thundbasin National Grasslands are huge chunks (several spread around a few states) of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with very few inholdings by private land holders. These ‘reserves” are hundreds of square miles of just an occasional power line and stock well or solar well. Of course there is the obligatory oil well facility but these guys don’t care about buildings. Usually geothermally warm water is the only running water and there is a few of those sources around here. They are oasis’s in the winter for wildlife living near them.
I’ve seen many very large herds of Pronghorn roaming just off one of the few maintained roads out there. Vehicle traffic is prohibited within the national grasslands. The only way to get miles back and up high is to horseback or walk in. I gave up horses a decade ago and walking more than a few miles backcountry with 20 pounds or so of gear gets pretty old pretty fast in the winter I have found. Reminds me of deer hunting when I was way younger. I’ll stick to the roads down in this country lol.
Location:25 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Campbell County Wyoming.