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Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Lighting Under a Mesocyclone
Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (vehicle) seems somehow logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea 🤔 ⛈. Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list.

Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I actually flinch for, is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that particular photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. 📸

Photographic Musings:

There are two ways of doing this. If it is very dark, set your camera on a stabile tripod in a dry area. Take 25 second time exposures at ISO 200 and f11 to start with… You will have to tweek some to see what comes out. Or use an external “lightning trigger” to snap the camera as the bolt touches off. Set your camera near or at ISO 200 F11 and 1/4 second. Your setting s may vary but now too far out. The trick here to get a full frame (not a crop) image was to watch the storm and figure out where the bolts were consistently hitting. Then you just point the camera into that area and wait. Turn on some tunes…..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Lighting Under a Mesocyclone

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Hilltop Backcountry Skittles Fall

Hilltop Backcountry Skittles Fall
Hilltop Backcountry Skittles Fall

Hilltop Backcountry Skittles Fall

I watched the TV commercials very carefully. Just like the internet, it was on TV so it must be true….🤔

Based on Media Learning: I’m pretty sure that there is a BIG pile of “Skittles™” behind that hill top. The shafts of tasty fruity candy falling from the sky will definitely liven things up. That’s a lot easier than milking a Giraffe for the same candy. (If you know what I’m talking about, I’m worried about you 😜. ) I actually do like skittles. There might be a few too many there for just little me to deal with. I wonder how long they will keep? We only get 14 inches of precip a year… Imagine if all those melted into one big lump…. Skittles Butte…😜 😜 📸 So many strange phenomena these days

Back to my “Normal” programming…

IF I was on that hill top, I’d be looking at a full rainbow. This far back, I only get one bit of one leg. The lighting was VERY late in the day. Tall Rainbows are late or early (low sun). Really wide rainbows low to the ground are high sun mid-day rainbows. This sheet rainbow is simply one leg of what would be a HUGE rainbow if there were rain drops higher. Being surrounded by rain in an airplane is the best way to see a completely circular rainbow. I’ve never seen a completely circular rainbow let alone photograph one.

If I would have driven quickly up to that ridge top I would have left a muddy track so I stayed where I was. Knowing where to drive up here is a big deal as “Gumbo” is about in random places. Gumbo” which is Bentonitic Clay turns to slick mud that will stick a D-10 Bulldozer. I generally don’t drive off known trail after a rainstorm. That way I avoid having to use my trucks winch and ground anchor to get out of the mud… I’ve never gotten stuck….soooooo close though lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Hilltop Backcountry Skittles Fall

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Mammatus Over Parks Ranch

Mammatus Over Parks Ranch
Mammatus Over Parks Ranch

Mammatus Over Parks Ranch

Old Ranch Houses from the 1900’s aren’t usually so well preserved. Nor were there many built this nicely and large. That is a very large pre-electricity structure in this country.

Located at the head of a local Drainage. Multiple artesian lakes surround the Historic ranch fed from the Fox Hill Aquifer 300 feet below. Cracks deep into the ground feed water to the surface, lakes form. A land of plenty and a wonderful place in the world as far as I can see. Caretakers live there with the ranch also being part of a much larger Cattle Ranchers Association. No one has given me a comprehensive oral history recap on the family. I have heard members Parks family started out driving a big herd of sheep up here from Sheridan, crosses 3 big rivers along the way, lost someone to a river crossing. Came up to Wyotana. They did very well building this house along with outbuildings and barn.

Sometime in the past the sounds of livestock sounds on this land changed from baaaa to moooo. Several Generations of several families have inhabited the old ranch house. Some people I’ve talked to have lived there. Some of those lived on my place as well. Small community around here. It’s still an interesting place inside with wonderful old oak woodwork. livable, good place to bunk. Dated to the 1950’s inside and out. Locally Obtained wood must have all been felled/cut within a few miles . Notable exception to the oak molding lol.

Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mammatus Over Parks Ranch

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Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster
Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Just to give you an idea of scale of this image, that white roof is the size of a regulation football field. That building is our stock barn next to my homesteads compound. (I call that our “infield”). This was taken using a 12 mm (very wide angle) lens to take in about 100 degree slice of sky. The top of the photo is essentially straight up. In other words, this is a big wide/tall view of about 1/3rd of the sky. This was right over us and worse moving in.

This was a mean one. The actively rolling Jump rope hoop on the right center was rotating nicely. It reminds me of a “Smoke ring” for some reason. Seeing obvious rotation is always an adrenaline rush. Then the rush for cover….

After the fact…checking my Davis Pro II weather stations (2) data on the actual stations showed two different high wind speeds. Station 1 was high wind of 79mph with Station 2 coming in at 84mph.

This storm did indeed do some damage and I got down to that big roof to ride out the storm under. It blew a plexiglass window out of the frame in that building, cartwheeled a previously nice calf shed over a fence, (damaged it), and tipped over 2 long empty above ground gasoline tanks on stands. We get high winds all the time so damage to trees was minimal around the house. Having said that, I have seen several broken pines out in the backcountry showing fresh damage. When you have full grown pine trees snapping, it’s classified as a “Stiff” Wyotana breeze. 😜📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana) May 2020

Title: Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

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Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree
Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Finding a Huge Mesocyclone Spinning 50 miles+ off in the distance, I’m thinking “Perspective” 📸 So I had a “Far Object’. This little Spinning top of a storm with the energy of the atom bomb spread out over it’s lifetime. This is just the right 1/3rd of the storm. I easily could have made a triptych out of the total storm. Over an hour after this capture, I was chasing this storm and indeed took a very wide composite image of the sunset projecting red on this storm. Both daylight AND twilight captures of this storm are now in my portfolio. 

These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as potential monsters if they roll over you. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long. Yes tornadic activity can occur out of them. Hail is also a HUGE threat. 

They make ultimate IMAX™ wide theatre screen for the filtered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector over my shoulder with this being the backshow more mid-day . 📸 Having passed right over us. This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across. Still Blue with white clouds, the twilight colors later in any sunset timeline are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

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Storm over Parks Ranch

Storm over Parks Ranch
Storm over Parks Ranch

Storm over Parks Ranch

Storms with personalities journey through our lands. Some have a sour disposition, others benign. This one was showing off with a very intricate set of flow lines in the storm. Bands of moving air rushing to the up draft built into these huge spinning tops called Mesocyclones. They range in size from embryonic newbies only a few miles across to pure monsters at 100+ miles in diameter. Slowly rotating along the way. The big ones spawn all sorts of problems here on the high plains. Tornados come out of these when well developed. Lots of rotation built into the systems.

The worst of this storm was a little behind this display but this was pretty nifty I thought. The swirling soup that was this storm did produce some small slushy hail with associated gusty winds at my location. Nothing spectacular for this country and NO lightning I could capture. That of course, is what I was waiting for to photograph. This is a very wide rectilinear 10mm lens on a full frame camera. This lens scrunches things on the edge just a little. I corrected for this best I could.

This capture taken across the front yard of the Historic Parks Ranch’s original Homestead. Built around 1900, it is an amazing huge structure. Dated to the 1950’s last remodel. Made of locally obtained wood. Best spot in the watershed for a ranch with a half -dozen nice spring fed lakes around there. Caretakers live on site. Hunters sleep there in the fall.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Storm over Parks Ranch

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Lightning Following Rain Shaft

Lightning Following Rain Shaft
Lightning Following Rain Shaft

Lightning Following Rain Shaft

Having watched several bolts flash out of this rain shaft, I dutifully pointed a long lens at the spot. Tracked it a ways and the Lightning trigger clicked the camera automatically. Sometimes I have been lucky observing repeat performances with bolts originating out of the same spot of the sky. Even as the storm system moves across the landscape, the lighting source moves with it on the timeline. I have various experiences watching the same point in the storm launch bolts along the storms path. I’ve worked well over 100 storms to date for lightning.

Photographic Musings.

Lightning bolts last a half a second sometimes so longer exposures up to that long work nicely curing the daylight hourse. Your other two manual settings are subject to what your doing and the ambient light level so any of my “Shared” settings won’t help. I will tell you that I like to set my ISO around 320 for daylight lightning under deep clouds. Shutter speed will change depending on how much wind is blowing. Long shutter speeds and a shaking vehicle don’t work well together. If your just taking a 2D sky as above, depth of focus is irrelevant. Low fstop of about f6 and a Lower ISO would be better. If your taking a landscape and want the foreground in focus, it’s important to have a higher F-stop as that gives you depth of focus from close to far. But it takes away light which has to be made up for with camera sensitivity (ISO).

Good Luck and be safe if your playing this game.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Lightning Following Rain Shaft

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Rainbow Road to the Storm

Rainbow Road to the Storm
Rainbow Road to the Storm

Rainbow Road to the Storm

This road actually does lead to right about where that rainbow touches down in a round about way. I followed this storm for some time. It’s actually a double rainbow but you have to look. The orders of colors reverse themselves in a double rainbow. This is all about the composition though having the rainbow is a nice spiff eh? 😀 📷

There are literally thousands of miles of backcountry county roads here. County road surface upkeep is highly variable from place to place. Some roads in this area are better maintained than others lolol. The quality of the roads certainly depends on how much revenue flows to the Road and Bridge Dept. in the particular county your driving through. Within 15 miles of my ranch I can drive into 2 different states and 4 counties. (2 in each state). Each has it’s own road department and quirks of road quality.. I haveexperience on my own ranch buying gravel for driveways. A single semi pulling a trailer full of gravel is expensive. Delivered to my place is around 900 dollars. Most of the expense is the distance. Imagine how many truck fulls of gravel it took to cover thousands of miles of roads here in the backcountry.

This is a road that is indeed very well maintained. Advice to the wise planning on driving off the Interstate onto the back road system of Wyotana. Have Tire repair kits, good spare(s) lots of steel in your sidewalls of your tires, lots of gas, supplies for a week and generally a hard map, GPS and satellite phone in your kit. Go nowhere without several days of water in your vehicle. That is if you get off the highways. You need to add a lot more defensive gear these days to drive on the Interstates lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Rainbow Road to the Storm

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Portrait of Devils Tower

Portrait of Devils Tower
Portrait of Devils Tower

Portrait of Devils Tower

That 5112 foot tall Devil’s Tower National Monument is standing 1267 feet high above the surrounding ground. There is an intervening ridge JUST covering the base from this spot. The high ground looks pretty close. Those columns of phenolytic porphyry are pretty distant/ big and stand out in this well lit Tower and shadowed landscape. The summer rain dump behind the tower is the reflecting color of the light reaching the suspended ice from the sun. That all reflected back to my lens.

The Tower exposed from burial by thousands of feet of sediments, stands unsupported. Those rocks used to surround the tower. Supporting the hard rock volcanic neck up many thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The surrounding “softer” sediments were removed. All by the action of 2 rivers. Little Missouri River plus the Belle Fourche River Drainage. Those two drainages providing the bulk of that erosive work locally. The soft rock easily removed. While the harder material remains as mountains. Removal of material is how most mountains take their shape. Nature is a sculptor of magnificent skills. Those expressed by the breadth and majesty of it’s creations.

Devils Tower National Monument is about 40 from my vantage point on the Pass to Rocky Point Wyoming on Trail Creek Road. I’m standing Campbell County Wyoming.
This is the view that tourists never see as they are all on the other side of those hills. You can see South Dakota from this site on a very clear day…completely across Crook County Wyoming. That is a BIG county 80 miles wide anyway.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana border (Wyotana).

Title: Portrait of Devils Tower

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Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

Strawberry Moon Two Mesoyclones
Strawberry Moon Two Mesoyclones

Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

TWO Big Storms rumble across the high prairie land of Wyotana. The wedge on the left is closer, smaller and in the partial shadow of another storm between it and the sun. The right storm is really huge and ‘muscular” for your “garden variety” of giant storm moving across the high plains. The close storm is 40 miles out obscuring the Devil’s Tower from my view. The larger storm is well over 100 miles out over in South Dakota across that state line. These storms have energy equal to an atom bomb that they expend over their lifespan.

Closed to me the window to the horizon rising early June 2020 Strawberry Moon. These two monsters spinning like tops in the way being effective a keeping me out. By this point in this 30 mile road trip, I was getting impatient for the extra 1/2 hour it took for the moon to rise over that cloud bank.

In full disclosure, this is two very wide images individually stitched side by side inside of the digital darkroom. A real scene though. It is over 160 degrees wide almost 1/2 of the sky. These were really quite a scene. This is of course, the reason I followed the storms out on the road. Waiting just for this moment. The colors are as I experienced them with lighter / whiter clouds at the top and the “Belt of Venus” sunset light projected onto the storms sides.

60″x20″ image triptych

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Strawberry Moon Two Mesocyclones

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Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody
Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.

The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.

Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

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Pronghorn Talking About the Weather

Pronghorn Talking About the Weather
Pronghorn Talking About the Weather

Pronghorn Talking About the Weather

I’m a serious sufferer of pareidolia. (Seeing familiar shapes from random visual data) At least I am not alone as proven by the conversation of these two.

Now bear with me as my Pronghorn Lip Reading Skills are not what they should be. Here is how I translate it. These two gals are called (Left Doe is “Jane”, The Right Doe is named ” Doe” ) . Jane and Doe… 👀

The general topic of conversation was concerned about, “Seeing things in clouds”. “Doe” saw a Bear face. The bear, swallowed by a huge alligator from behind. (Now how do those guys know about Alligators ??) 🤔😜

“Jane” on the left was saying she was seeing a gorilla’s face in the growing storm cloud. “Doe” was all about the bear being eaten by the alligator. Lots of things live in those billowing cloud they agreed. The conversation went on with small talk about the weather being dry this spring. No big storms have dumped on fields this spring. Just little dribbles. Going to be a long brown season with some fires and other topics unique to pronghorn gossip. I’m not repeating the conversation about that “new Buck” on the block…… Rated “PG” this page.

Then suddenly, “Doe” said out of nowhere that Jane looked “fat”. “Jane” snapped back quickly “have you looked in a mirror lately?” Sneering away. Well needless to say the conversation went down hill from there as did the animals. Right down the hill to the left off frame at typically high speed. 😜📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pronghorn Talking About the Weather

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Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

Floaty Clouds Fully Involved
Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

I never know what to expect from a sunset. Each one takes on a life of it’s own. I am constantly receiving/interpreting cues from the environment about what appears to be happening. I only have a few minutes to decide where I want to set up for the show soon to arrive. There is a quickening of my pace around this time of the evening as the setting sun usually terminates the light

I’m fairly agile in my Ford F-150 Raptor and able to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly as it is more or less a Baja Capable photographic Studio. I’m able to get around on just about any terrain I don’t want to tear up. Ruining trails I am not so much into. We strictly stay off of muddy surfaces. I have well traveled two track trails leading to most high points. I only drive off trail on private ground I own as a matter of principle. Over 80 percent of my trucks current milage off road.

Never expected this iteration on an infinite series of themes. It’s one I don’t normally see with the “Floaty” clouds light up with the deck just above them dark and foreboding. The starred sun which is in and of it self, an artifact of the camera’s high f-stop setting (diffraction artifact). None the less, it adds geometry and order to the chaos of the clouds that evening.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Floaty Clouds Fully Involved

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Looking Into the Rainbow

Looking Into the Rainbow
Looking Into the Rainbow

Looking Into the Rainbow

Normally when you look at a rainbow off in the distance, it is actually way out there. Well if you get a 1200 mm lens and point it into the base of the rainbow, you might see something like this. That far ridge is at least 3 miles away with the closest trees at a mile. Telephoto images are notorious for having distance perspective crushed. You might think I’m standing at a normal 55mm just a few hundred feet from those closest trees. As I say… they are a mile out. Crushed is good for getting the proper look for this kind of perspective.

Rainbows are infinitely movable as you change your position to the sun. You can move a rainbow to align it over what you wish if there is enough rain shaft plus you are mobile. All rainbows are on the other side of the sky from the sun since they are a refracted light phenomena. If looking at the sun, you see a “rainbow” like phenomena like 22 degree halos and a host of others are on the sun side of the sky. The other side of the sky is strictly rainbows.

Photographic Musings: Manual Settings… Only three settings.

Distance is your friend. OK, another F-stop discussion…. High F-stop numbers take away a LOT of light from your light capture boxes. (camera). The higher the number, the smaller the hole in the lens for light to travel through. At the same time you make that hole smaller by turning up the F-stop number, you are thickening the “depth of field” focus depth. F-stop becomes a double edged sword. You can open up the aperture (turn down the f-stop number) and get a lot more light versus a pin hole at maximum F-stop setting. But you loose depth of field/focus depth) So Bigger hole in the lens= shallow depth of field but a lot of light. A smaller hole in the aperture means less light but it gives you the ability to focus on things close AND far at the same time. SO, you have to compensate for HIGH f stop numbers by adjusting the other two settings. Turning up camera sensitivity (ISO) boosts what little light that comes through a small hole in the lens. IT’s a double edge sword too though. More Camera Sensitivity (higher ISO) will give you a grainy image and introduce color noise. Speckles and big grain are not desirable so moderation is necessary. Lastly you have shutter speed. Slower than 100th of a second you risk blurring moving objects. Any movement from anything would blur under longer exposures. Rule of thumb is 1/100th for minimum handheld telephoto to 400mm (rested).

Location: Biss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Looking Into the Rainbow

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Belt of Venus across Mesocyclone

Belt of Venus across Mesocyclone
Belt of Venus across Mesocyclone

Belt of Venus across Mesocyclone

The sunset main show over my shoulder is usually yellow (ish) orange or red. This sunset backshow spread across a huge Mesocyclone storm is Pink. This pink band is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going behind you watching a sunset. More so up here in the high ridges of the Montana / Wyoming borderlands. It you don’t turn around now and then, you miss this show. This one was fairly hard to miss though lol. These storms can be 100 miles across. I’d estimate this one is about 100 miles distant from my camera. You can see a LONG ways from the tops of the ridges around this ranch.

Your actually seeing the pink band (red light) surviving the long trip through the earth’s curved atmospherics lens. The storm colorized by that most tortured light shows the gradients well. The Blue Line / Shadow UNDER the Pink is the Shadow of the earths horizon. As the sun sets in this time line, that blue band grows upward covering the storm as the sun drops further below the opposite horizon behind me. The top of the storm is still white as the light that high still has it’s blue components unfettered by the atmosphere. The storm is an ultimate projector screen for the light shone on it from our star. Color banding courtesy of mother nature. 👀🤘📷

Several image from this particular evening made it through the “sieve” I use to determine which photo to work on. They will work their way into my portfolio with time. I’m about 8 days from taking a photo to publishing the page with the narrative in my current work flow. During this spring I’ve been finishing 4 photos a day. I finished 6 a day most of the winter. I don’t think I can do that to my current standards this winter. We will see…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Belt of Venus across Mesocyclone

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Veiled Sunset Rattlesnake Ridge

Veiled Sunset Rattlesnake Ridge
Veiled Sunset Rattlesnake Ridge

Veiled Sunset Rattlesnake Ridge

One of my favorite antiques on the ranch is this 1920’s-1930’s Deering Seeder sitting on the toe of a high ridge. The Cretaceous Sandstones capping/covering this isolated plateau of Sage and Spanish Dagger are these hard layers and lenses of hardened sand. This hard sand/rock was cemented harder than the sandstone taken away by erosion around it. Harder due to differences in the “Diagenetic” processes that turned loose plastic sand to rock. Notice I didn’t say magic processes. Good google word for today… It’s the reason the ridge is there… Hard rock protects the softer sandstone below…

The hard cap rock this scene is built over was laid down by just one act of a 3 million year long stage show. At the End of the Reign of the Dinosaurs on the coastal slope (piedmont really) toward the Cretaceous Era “Inland Sea” Sea sediments are 900 feet down here. Above them, the Beach Sand above that marine sediment. That is named Fox Hill Formation. From the old beach is where we get our water. Above that (below me) is another 700 feet of River Sand (Hell Creek/Lance Formations) that many ancient rivers carried lazily here.

I say many because these watersheds with rivers miles wide.. (think anastomosing braided channels of dendritic sand choked channels on a massive scale. Similar to the amazon water shed. This was the last stage for the dinosaurs to live out their last moments. The coast was extant from Canada to northern New Mexico. All along the coast of that land a mere 66 million years before present.

There were untold millions of high water/flood events in the history of this land. Mountains long gone to our west fed vast quantities of sand worn from them by wind water and ice. Our Ranch lies on 14 mile wide strip of Hell Creek/Lance formation exposed on the surface. This exposed due to streams and rivers moving thousands of feet of sediment that used to be above us away. Cutting into these old beds at a slight angle. Youngest rocks west with Older to the east.

Then somebody came along and “dumped this 100 (ish) year old farm implement here giving me a subject in this remote environment. What are the chances lolol.

In my world, the past is the key to the present and the future. Integral within our processes of the present exists hand me down learning from the past. Geological process occur without our being aware of them or not. My point is understanding the past helps predict the future as well as interpreting the present.

Oh, My LED lightbar on “Clever Girl” added some flavor to this freshly rained upon dynamic sunset through a storm in the deep backcountry.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Veiled Sunset Rattlesnake Ridge

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Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud
Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

I was watching this monster come in. It was coming right at us. Everybody on ranch had their car under that big white roof a mile distant from my camera. That roof is the size of a regulation foot ball field in it’s entirety. Built in 1964, it was the largest building in Campbell County Wyoming. It’s a pretty tough heavy metal framed building. That roof replaced in 2008. After a hail storm threw baseball sized ice chunks at us. That along with all the other roof tin on the ranch. Definition of “Big pile” of dented metal left over after that repair. I’m still using it for various projects.

I seriously respect hail in this country having seen it crash through car windows many times. I also respect the down drafts from big storms that have shelf clouds stretching 130+ degrees across the horizon. Taken with the widest lens in my tool kit. It’s not a panorama but a 10mm lens. Looking south west (right frame) and east left frame. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in with the gear I had. I don’t have a lens wider than 10mm for full frame Sony cameras. No one makes one.

I thought this storm might produce the golf ball sized hail it was known for from radio warnings. That missed us as it passed fortunately. Rapidly moving, it produced .3 tenths of an inch of sideways rain and 60+ mph winds but from where I stand, they were way higher say near 80. I had a calf shed cartwheel over a fence, a window blew in, two empty 500 gasoline tanks/ stands blew over. Found some things moved “quite a ways” here and there by the blow. I made it into that big shed before it hit but that is where I weathered the storm too lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

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Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus
Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Driving under rapidly growing spring Mesocyclones is always an interesting time. This magnificent display of Mammatus billows coming out of the flow bands in this huge storm transcends normalcy. Though admittedly this still growing sporty “little” mesocyclone is a small one based on local standards of 100 miles across for big ones. It’ve seen them spanning the 3 states of Wyoming / Montana / South Dakota from my high ridges. It’s right at 90 miles to South Dakota east of my door step.

Monsters each and every one of these storms. They do spawn tornadic activity. I’ve only photographed one funnel up in this country over 20 years. They do occur in the county I live in. Straight line winds are aggressive at times. The average counties up here are bigger than a couple of US states. We are on the high plains weather wise… We only get one or two tornados a year within 150 miles of here as a general observation. You don’t want to be right under a mesocyclone that isn’t moving very fast because your gonna get wet there…

Big Spinning Mesocyclones are absolutely amazing storms to observe on the sunlit side. I’ve been known to follow but storm chasing is not my tendency. I’m usually running from them more than driving toward them.😜 I deeply respect hail in this country very much. We had base ball sized (3) inch hail hit the homestead in 2008. That left a few marks… Had to replace 44000 square feet of metal roof on the combined buildings here on ranch. I’m still using pieces of that old roofing for misc. projects. Works great for raised bed gardens.

This is a VERY wide image of 130 degrees or so with the top of the frame being straight up overhead. Mitten Butte in the distance center is the 300 foot tall monadnock for scale.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

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Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming
Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

This shelf cloud from a good sized mesocyclone moving through May 2020. I’m happy to say I only had one small formerly nice calf shed cartwheeled over a fence. As well as two empty standing gasoline tanks/stands blown over from this one. They have been standing for decades. Any hail missed us. I was however, pelted by horizontal rocks and gravel. Carried by the wind gust coming up the hill over the gravel road lower left frame. Looked like a sand storm coming at me.

I’m estimating conservatively it was a 60 mph direct down draft but it was probably 80 mph. My recording wind gauge is currently down waiting for a replacement moment as the winds here wear out the 120 dollar devices every 4 or 5 years. They are actually incoming next week so that will be fixed. I have recorded a 79mph wind on the ranch historically.

I’ve been an observer of weather for some time. The winds usually affiliated with this type of Arcus cloud CAN be pretty severe. I snapped this image along with a few more. Thought the better part of valor was to avoid the worst of it. “Clever Girl” is only 5 months old and has no hail dents yet. I heard golf ball sized hail in this…. didn’t get it. Only .3 inch of rain but we’ll take what we get.

I thought it was pretty nifty this shelf has 3 horizontal rings looping around rotation clearly visible in this capture. The lightning bolt was a rare one in this storm as it really didn’t light up too much. There were some dangerous bolts. When my truck started getting seriously buffeted, I headed for the barn under that big white roof. I left that building’s white roof in the frame for a reason. It is a good scale. That is 1/2 of the roof of a building which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field. I’m almost a mile and 200 feet above that building at the click.

Sporty Storm 📸 3’x2′ Image aspect

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Shelf Cloud Incoming

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Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm
Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm

This unusual sky happened about 10 days ago on a stormy eventing in mid March 2020. I had been working this sky for several hours photographically due to the wondrous storm clouds moving through the area. As a grand final act of the stage show that evening, a distant storm cloud decided to make a flashlight beam out of the suns blanket. The edge of that ‘little cloud” on the far right horizon blocked and quartered the sun nicely BEFORE it was actually down. It enabled just an amazing sliver of bright sun to cut the ice in the air with it’s light. All the while that light was color casted orange by passing the hundreds of miles long gauntlet of dust and ice in the air.

This “spotlight” beam passing through the atmospheric ice was indeed a worth show to see and capture. I particularly like the lighter blue’s gradient to the darker indigo above. This is a hint of the extreme wide angle lens I was using to capture this 130 degree wide vistas. The top of the photo is nearly straight up. It is difficult to get a proper prospective without a foreground object. The camera was looking south on the left frame to northwest on the right frame. In other words, it’s a huge chunk of the sky. (10 mm full frame lens)I am constantly wow’d by sky show performances up here. I was lucky to have experienced this night.

There are many more capture of the storms moving through that evening that were/are very good captures indeed. They will slowly make it into my workflow. 2’x3′ image aspect

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch,Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spotlight on the Storm

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Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus
Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Taken 10 days before it posts mid-may 2020. This is how long it takes me to get a “current” photo in to be published. That is if I bring it to the front of the line. I have to admit I have a bias for big Mammatus. (👀). When I say big you have to realize this storm is about 10 miles long. Admittedly this is a tiny storm for this country that occasionally has 100 mile across mesocyclones develop from these smaller storms. The shelf cloud off to the right was awesome in this storm.

This was one of a series of storms moving south to north along a line that evening. They all were just east of me along Parks/Garst Road up here in Wyotana. The little rainbow as you follow the red gravel road as it curves to the right, was a nice touch from the storm. Lightning? Not so much. The big views we have up on the high ridges gives up 50 to 180 mile long vistas to photograph and observe weather occurring from a distance. I followed this and it’s sister storms moving along the frontal boundary moving through our area. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of this barking dog.

As I type this, the wind blew well over 60 mph last night. Rained sideways for 20 minutes. It said .3 inch but this is suspect lol. I was up photographing the storm come up but got back to shelter before that one came through. I have yet to download the images from that event.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

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Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit
Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Taken after sunset, the LOW angle long wavelength sunlight is still reaching the curved boundary under that reflective bumpy “projector screen”. The landscape is in total shadow from a storm low on the horizon over my shoulder at sunset. This storm is around 100 mile across and called a “Mesocylone”. I’m parked under the huge trailing apron of it. While not terribly common, Mammatus clouds are often very dramatic particularly with just the right light…📷 An affiliation with storms that produce extreme weather has been noted over the years. Hail isn’t usually far away with these olympic athletes of cloud types.

This one easily spans 3 states in my part Wyoming/Montana with South Dakota about 80 miles east. We are not sure exactly what is going on in this kind of cloud morphology. I will tell you that cloud boundaries form where two different air masses meet. Like oil floating in water, the density interface gets all visually 3D on us. Localized micro currents of flow scours into the air mass below like ripples in water. I think the the boys at “Skunk Works” would call it turbulence. Most planes divert around these atom bomb energy storms for good reason. You don’t want to fly through one for sure.

The water and air interface is one where two states of matter mix. The relative density differing the two substances create that obvious boundary. Gravity is doing the sorting. Cloud/clear air boundaries are not that different. Ripples and moving air channels / flow channels both vertical and horizontal within these Mesocyclones are chaotically complex apparently lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

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Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through
Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long.

They make ultimate IMAX™ wide theatre screen for the filtered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector over my shoulder with this being the backshow at sunset. 📸

Having passed right over us last summer (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across.

The colors are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere. Colors ranging from red (bottom) to yellow (top). A slit window color cast the top of the cloud with the bottom in the shadow of another storm. Reddish light reflections are from the longest traveled surviving light rays. Those red rays travel through the most atmosphere. Projected on the cloud. Then a quick 75 miles bounce back to my camera. (Orange is a mix of red+yellow) The higher you go, the more yellow the light that makes it through then finally to the white wisps in the blue at the top of the cloud.

This smooth gradient from bottom to top is the classic gamut of colors from virtually every sunset. As here you just normally can’t see all of it lolol. Red was hidden by the shadows. It was really quite dark where I was as the lighting was off to my side looking a little to the north at sunset.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

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Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow
Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail shafts coming out of the back of a small Mesocyclone passing JUST to our north. We got a little water from it but not nearly enough. You can clearly see the hail standing on the ground in the distance plus it is actively falling lit up from the sun appearing over shoulders. All rainbows are on the opposite side of the sky as the sun. The Higher the sun, the Lower the rainbow will be to the ground. Sunset Rainbows are the tallest on land with rainbows from an airplanes point of view are complete circles.

I worked this for lighting but alas it didn’t happen where it was detectable to the triggers that set my camera off. IT was too faint for it to detect in the sun I suspect.

I took this off the drivers window of “Clever Girl” (2020 Ford F-150 Raptor) for 1500 miles so far. Got her Dec 31, 1919. All but 400 miles are from driving on this ranch mostly covering two track trails 5 to 10 miles at a time. This is up on a saddle of the first ridge east of my Homestead (Ridge 1). Most rigs never see off road. Mine seldom sees the road 😜🤘..

This is a very wide angle image well over 90 degrees wide. Southwest to North east right edge of frame to left. The hail is on hills 8 miles distant (Ridge 5). Working parallel Ridges is a good thing 👀📷

You can see we are greening up nicely with this being 10 days old by the time you see it posted here.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

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BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT
BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

I used to do stupid things like go up in the back yard to watch a rain/thunder storm come in at midnight. This was indeed less intelligent than my IQ would indicate my choices might be. Apparently somewhat risk adverse at the time, I was actually driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which while it has a metal roll cage, had a plastic roof. This bolt woke me right up and could have put me right to sleep lol.

Doing a LOT of lightning shots every summer, I ordered “Clever Girl” (my Ford F-150 Raptor) from the factory WITHOUT a sunroof for a reason. IT’s always good to have metal between you and the storm.

Isolated from ground currents probably in the vehicle on rubber…Better than being on foot…. Having said that… I would not like to be under or even closer to that bolt. It felt like an artillery shell being launched. That along with the benefit of being blinded at the same time. Flash bang less than 1 second…

The old “Steel Yard” on the ranch is actually Over that hill. It consists about 1/4 acre of various antique farm implement parts and pieces with a lot of metallic objects. It is roughly 1/4 mile past that ridge line. I suspect the bolt hit a sharp edge there as moist drainage is also over there. I suspect that is where the ground currents went as I noted the sudden lack of Jack Rabbits down there after that too.

That was a very hard core strike from the incoming storm. It was time to go inside which I did post hast having learned my lesson. I’m much more careful now days but working on your porch is about the same thing as the Polaris with the fiberglass window into the metal roof overhead. Inside a vehicle or inside a house with a proper grounding ring around it. Never touch metal in your vehicles during a storm….

Photographic Musings:

This is a 25 second time exposure in pitch black around midnight. Long time exposures at night have unintended consequences. Red and blue colors make pink with both colors being enhanced. The silly long exposure at least with my Sony Alphas give me these hues. I can’t see the real scene of a long exposure on the screen of the Sony to argue with it. This is just a close estimate by the camera of the scene. I just saw a flash… What colors are put out by lightning? All colors…..there was some ambient light from our ranch pole lights too messing the colors up….

Why time exposure? You get multiple bolts with a 25 second or so exposure, ISO 125, f4 to start with… Work from there moving your f stop up a click each shot to adjust to the ambient light conditions as necessary. Review the images for results and pick your poison for the duration of the storm.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch ,Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

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Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

Parks Ranch Rain Shafts
Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

The Rain Shafts over the Barn on the Historic Parks Ranch in Northern Campbell County is classic. I used a telephoto shot about a mile out for the perspective across 40 miles of landscape with a 20 miles wide river valley between ridges here. The ridge in the shadows is only about 3 miles out . Weather over the far ridge. The ridge in the pink light is 40 miles out.

This is about 4 miles from our ranch. That direction is the closest drive I have to make to get to an asphalt road. The next closest paved highway is about 12 miles from here. These guys are my closest neighbor at around 4 miles from my homestead.. It’s 70 miles to the closest traffic 3 way light from here. The trip to those hills in the distance would take you an hour. I’ve had meeting I’ve driven to Casper to many time. (4 hours or so drive). Distances are big out here to go anywhere but where you are lol.

The Historic Parks Ranch is now part of a larger cattle association. It is managed under the Trail Creek Grazing Association. Old original buildings out here. In this remote backcountry were certainly built out of locally milled wood. The rough milled wood from cut from the local old grown pines. The original of homestead there is HUGE and finished around 1920 I understand. The 1950’s marked the last updates to the main house. Still utilized for hunters with year round caretakers living on site. That barn is classic.

Location: A few miles from The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

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Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt
Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Yup, it was a little windy for this capture. The problem with time exposures (low light generally with a punctuated flash during the click) is that wind shakes everything. I was sitting in my vehicle with an open window with metallic objects sticking out. All while next to a tall metal object on a hill top. Perfect place to take lightning photos I’m thinking… What could possibly go wrong? 😀😜👀📸

SO: Windmill Wednesday… Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘 “Sneaky Pete” the windmill risking all to jump into my Lightning image. Hazardous work environment for the young guy.

Photographic Musings:

Blurring a windmill is easy even in a soft breeze. You just have to leave the shutter open long enough to allow the blades to move during the exposure. This is complimentary to lightning as the longer the shutter is open, the more likely it is that you’ll catch a bolt. I also use lightning triggers but they only initiate the click. It’s me that sets the camera up. Lightning I tend to close the camera down to light and do 5 second exposures with ISO and Fstop set dependant on ambient light. This storm was fairly dark so I used ISO 200, 5 seconds and f22. Your setting will vary. Wind will keep your shutter MUCH shorter than 5 seconds. More like .25 seconds. This is where those lightning trigger gadgets come in very handy. Set to ISO 100, 1/25th, F18 and start there with a trigger. Hope this helps… Lightning is tough trying to anticipate it. You might get 1 in 10 flashes If your very quick…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

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Sunrise Snow Squall Filter

Sunrise Snow Squall Filter
Sunrise Snow Squall Filter

Sunrise Snow Squall Filter

This is the second finished capture of 3 from this sunrise stage show. The play started at 5:15 AM when I had a 5:36 appt at sunrise. There was very little indication at my homestead that this would be such a show. Taking in the information from a remote ridge lined camera I have looking east, I jumped into “Clever Girl” my Ford F-150 Raptor and started gaining altitude. A sunslit window to the light was showing…might have amounted to nothing…. I never know for sure if I’m wasting my time before I commit to an hour at least watching sky plays…

Our ranch is on a high ridge but I have to climb higher ridges to actually see sunrise. There is a 400 foot high series of parallel ridges to my east which effectively hides my east view. I see 130 miles to the west and 50 miles both north and south from my homestead. I see about 1000 yards east without climbing to the top of Ridge 1 to the east. The actual time AT my homestead I see the sun is about 1/2 hour later than what ever time the sun actually rises.

The Snow squall that was ongoing at the time (taken the first week of May). We are used to a late frost with the “last” frost being May 15th…This posting on May 20th, 2020… A very wet cold weather descended on us after this sunrise. Certainly the completely overcast (thickly so) cloud deck was quickly obscuring the solar disk at this capture. There was less than a minute of light left before the day turned to a gloomy lack of interesting light morning. Wet and rainy for a week thank god as we need the moisture.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunrise Snow Squall Filter

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Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky
Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

There are so many things this “look” like. I’ll just keep my Pareidolia mostly in check and limit my visualization of a rattle snake rattle rising from the plains and or a face looking left with quite a hair doo… Back to my “normal” programming…

Talk about uplifting… IT was a day full of isolated thunderstorms with this being the start of one. Just about every direction had a small storm dumping about. This Isolated thermal column seemed unusual to me and I’ve been watching clouds for a while. I usually take images of things that make my jaw drop. I had to yank a really wide lens into service to capture the whole thing. This image is over 110 degrees tall so the top is almost straight overhead to the zenith in the sky.

Working LONG focal length lens most of the time, I have to literally “step back” and look around me. If I don’t I miss many things that are often more interesting than what I’m trying to photograph. I had run up the east hill to see if there were any rainbows behind me (in this view). When rain shower move over the area and there is SOME sun, I’m watching for rainbows.

Chasing rainbows leads to photographing clouds sometimes but I’m not a stickler for being particular. If nature is showing off for me, I’m more than happy to capture her attributes. We need more of that rain

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

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Sunrise Through a Snow Squall

Sunrise Through a Snow Squall
Sunrise Through a Snow Squall

Sunrise Through a Snow Squall

I captured this in my photon traps RIGHT at sunrise May 11th, 5:36AM. Pre-Civil Twilight each morning I evaluate as to whether to take a box of cameras out into the backcountry. I take many sources of information into consideration. Sky above was over cast solid, it was deeply dark. You understand I can’t see the eastern horizon from my house due to a 400 foot tall ridge that way. Plus it was TOTALLY overcast and lightly snowing around 5:15 am. That’s pretty much a no go signal. 

Fortunately, I have a camera sitting up high on the ridge with an east view. This is a good thing sometimes. I don’t get color in it during early twilight but I can see the horizon. The sun slit of light with a cloud deck above was enticing. Up to the top… There were many good captures from this timeline. All those back at the homestead had any idea the morning was beautiful over the east ridge. 

I have to be timely to get a high enough position to line up another hill top over a mile away with a ridge behind over 6 miles out. The rising sun behind. This is just a thin slit of color on the horizon. A huge long lens looking through a snow squall filter made for a nifty morning. I am able to do this alignment two times a year from this location. Strongly controlled by topography, my angles for photography are. I’m slowly building a good map in my head where to be and when… 

So this was taken through a snow squall right at sunrise. The sun mostly unfettered and very bright for about 4 minutes. Sol was just starting to ascend into the cloud deck above as this was taken. Obscured by that cloud deck for the rest of the day. Snowed most the morning amounting to not much. . 

This was a phenomenal scene viewing through my optics. The human eye has no chance to see such a thing. IT would be blinding to watch. Only with technology can we reach our mind into such a furnace. Hold your thumb out at arms length. The thumb would easily cover the area of the sky that this whole image encompasses. 

If you look carefully/closely at the “glare” under the rising sun / falling horizon, you can see the individual snow flakes frozen in space and time. This is a case where I could see the phenomena better in my camera’s viewer than here on the final image. In the view port, areas that are in focus have white highlights on them which makes them stand out. 

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunrise Through a Snow Squall