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Coyote About to Pounce

Coyote About to Pounce
Coyote About to Pounce

Coyote About to Pounce

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.

18 x 18 inches square aspect.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote About to Pounce

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Windmill Riding the Storm Out

Windmill Riding the Storm Out
Windmill Riding the Storm Out

Windmill Riding the Storm Out

Windmill Junkies Unite: but don’t let your mothers know you look at stuff like this 🤘🤘.

This 100 year old AERMOTOR Windmill has been providing water to cattle in this remote part of our ranch. It’s several miles to the nearest power line from here. About a decade ago we ran a water pipeline about two miles from one of our wells to this site. We used the existing tanks of course. The windmill was working last time we used it. It needs a new drive rod connecting the motor to the pump head. Undoubtedly, the leathers replaced in the pump, a little grease….. It would run no question in my mind.

6 months out of season when I post this Jan 8th but remember today is Windmill Wednesday. I’m going to have windmills every post all day today. There will only be one or two in some forums and other places on the internet will have all 6… . This is entry number 1 for the morning at 6 AM (ish). I’m going to start doing SOME thematic days as they CAN occur (meaning I have 6 images of the same type like Windmills).

I do miss the big storms that roll by in the summer. I don’t miss so much the ones that roll over us lolol. Rain is rain though. I’d rather not have it as 5 inch softball sized hail though. I just got a new truck lololol. We actually had to have every roof on the ranch replaced in 2008. We do get some rough storms.

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

Title: Windmill Riding the Storm Out

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A Little Static Discharge

A Little Static Discharge
A Little Static Discharge

A Little Static Discharge

I bit out of season… I need summer

Chasing LIghtning is not for the faint at heart. Being in a vehicle “reduces” your exposure. It’s also possible for the vehicle to be struck. This can destroy the vehicles wiring or it’s computer. You also don’t want to be touching metal when that goes down lolol. I’ve been very close to bolts before.

I was driving up in Montana where my son and I watched a bolt hit the dirt 30 feet off the road on the drivers side. It hit in front of us so we had a clear view of it. I can still see the outline. The truck was all closed up so the sound was muffled. I’ve heard some pretty loud bolts but with a window open… a close bolt is going to leave some “ringing” in my ears lolol.

I usually work scenes like this with 2 cameras sitting on the cars passenger window on clamp tripods. Using Lightning Triggers allow you to set your camera to click with the bolt. My Sony Mirrorless respond within a few milli-seconds to the initial start of the flash. I usually use about 1/4 second exposure which you adjust to the brightest part of the image. (expose the highlights properly). If you set the ISO too high, you will have the bolts too bright which tends to grow them larger than they are. This is about as perfect an exposure as you can get for as dark as it was for this scene.

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

Title: A Little Static Discharge

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Red Hills Ridge Rising

Red Hills Ridge Rising
Red Hills Ridge Rising

Red Hills Ridge Rising

Musings: How I worked this Scene

This is tough capture that your not going to get on your cell phone lol. Let me set the stage for this stage play beyond most of your picture taking experiences.

To have this melodrama unfold in your mind, please understand that that silhouetted ridge is 40 miles from my camera. The sun a bit further. With the prodigious size of the optics, a significant wind cross section can be a factor moving your camera about. Not so much for this bright light capture. Shutter speed will dampen that motion. You need to use a fast shutter 1/2000th sec or higher so as not to gather too much light. Also LOW ISO numbers (camera sensitivity).

The most important thing is setting your camera to a HIGH a f-stop number as you lens will go. If you don’t, this WILL cook your camera’s sensor if your not working through a pin hole sized aperture. Talk about a bright scene….. The human eye has no right to be looking into such a harsh environment. (Disclaimer below)

Working from a high ridge helps get above the hazier air (at times) closer to the ground out of the picture. It improves the angle. Position is everything. Now I’d love to have a cell tower or a building for scale. Alas, there are not many up in this country with no cell service lol. Those are full sized trees and they are really REALLY far away👀 3200mm lens involved in this. Tripod for sure lol.

I remind you that it’s not the sun that is setting/falling here. We live on a spinning ball with the horizon actually doing the rising thusly slowly covering the face of the sun. The “Sun Slit” under the thick cloud deck above was just a sliver. Only allowing this fleeting scene to penetrate the space between the cloud with the opaque earth.

Disclaimer: Do not point your camera at the sun without knowing that DSLR’s have a direct light path that can and will blind you if you watch the sun through it. I use mirrorless full frame technology and watch scenes on video. No direct light path AND

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Hills Ridge Rising

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Fog Bank Rolling In

Fog Bank Rolling In
Fog Bank Rolling In

Fog Bank Rolling In : a little summer green for your Winter doldrums..

The cloud bank on top of this landscape ladder is a layer literally hugging and slowly flowing over that back ridge. It appeared obvious that it would eventually get to us. The back cloud bank is the 4000 feet tall Red Hill’s under the slowly moving blanket. If I’d had a time lapse on my rig, (I didn’t have mine with me 😔). I never worry about the little things though lol. That morning was sunny and clear but when this eventually rolled over us, the day went totally grey.

The whiter layer of clouds, the leading edge still trapped in the LIttle Powder River Valley 400 feet below. It took about an hour for it to climb the hundreds of feet up the ridge to my position from the valley. Lots of Rungs on this landscape ladder.

I’ll be configuring my new backcountry photography vehicle all week. Hopefully I can get back in the field more after removing all my photo gear from my old Jeep Grand Cherokee’s cubby holes last month. My new Ford F-150 Raptor has a big more storage than the jeep. The new rig is more purpose build for backcountry photography/access. It’s very agile and should be able to go anywhere I need it to up here in the borderlands. It’s longer than my last rigs so I’ll try not to high center it. I’ve never been stuck up here in 2 decades…. yet. 😜

Composite. This is a really wide angle three telephoto image composite (left, center, right). Triplet.

3:1 Aspect to 60 inches

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

Title: Fog Bank Rolling In

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Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill Trapped Sunset
Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill weekday, Windmill Junkies Unite. 🤘

I just realized I hadn’t posted a windmill for some time. All you junkies out there might be having a little withdrawal. So I thought I’d throw this in as a post. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill has jumped over the setting sun with intent to keep it under his control. Little does he know that the wise old sun will just sneak out the back door lolol. Just a snippit of the continuing adventures of the “Pete” Brothers for their loyal followers. Don’t let your mother know you look at things like this… Just saying 😜😀

When the air is full of light snow and other ice AND you can see the sun, hang on. You never know what kind of atmospheric effects your going to get. I go up the hill sometime just hoping the sun will come below the snowing cloud deck. With this much moisture in the air, only the red light makes it through all the ice. This was a while ago when we had fresh snow. Currently there is ice everywhere on the ground from a few warm days. Thick crusts with slick surfaces. The footing is treacherous.

We just missed a big storm this week which went to our south and east. I’d like to see some more snow but I suppose I should be careful what I ask for up here. We need some more snow however. Moisture in any form up here is usually a good thing. The timing however in the spring isn’t always good during calving season though 😔

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

Windmill Trapped Sunset

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Wyoming Wind on Ice

Wyoming Wind on Ice
Wyoming Wind on Ice

Wyoming Wind on Ice

Good New Years Morning to all. Welcome 2020. It’s going to be an interesting year.

On this wonderful morning I noticed the breeze here had left some physical evidence of it’s direction and magnitude. The sunrise off frame was hard to ignore but I got distracted. The rustic nature of this metal building was hard to ignore in this light. The winds the day before while the sun was warming the ice on the roof. Icicles grow when the air is cold but the roof is warm either from within or from without. I can see clearly that the wind was not only steady but quite cold. The sun at 4000 feet is still amazingly strong even in mid-winter. Day time melting or even “Sublimation” (your google word of the day) occurs. These sun induced phase changes from snow in an of themselves will ablate the snow cover significantly during just a short time.

The old building tells many stories. Several generations of additions/ are apparent. The weather has taken it’s toll on the windows. It’s a good thing on a ranch to have a few extra gates sitting around. Many things have been stored within this shelter on the prairie. This abandoned building stands alone against the elements certainly here in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana. 4000 foot in elevation, NO trees around it, nothing to block the winds across the plains. Who knows what this building has seen. No one is telling. 🤔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wyoming Wind on Ice

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Round Up Stormy Afternoon

Round Up Stormy Afternoon
Round Up Stormy Afternoon

Round Up Stormy Afternoon

Late summer of 2019 it was time to run “the herd” through a crowding pen and sort calves from mothers. Some vaccinations ensued. Lots of “hunting / gathering required to collect the cattle. Collecting a herd of calves and cows from the square mile pasture takes maneuverability. These are real cowboys horses and good workers all.

The weather that after noon was a bit sporty to say the least. The little cumulonimbus storm off in the distance was one of several that went through the area that evening. Just as the last cow was released, everyone retreated to our large barn for tailgate food while it was hailing outside. A good time was had by all except a few calves that got branded that day. This is a ranch after all. During the year the ranch has over 200 cow calf pairs grazing the various pastures. The big pastures are around a square mile here. Other ranches that are bigger have bigger pastures lol.

Rotating pasture ground is important to manage the grass. We do have dedicated crop areas but we are a dry land ranch with no irrigation. Just the massive (not) 14 inches average rain we get a year. Most of that being from snow fall accumulation. This year 2019 was phenomenally a wet/cool year. We had the lowest forest fire risk ever. I didn’t even fill up my fire truck all summer.

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

Title: Round Up Stormy Afternoon

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Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt
Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

I know, it’s out of season in Wyoming, not so much down south at the moment though. Be careful down there. As the cold air moves over us, the arctic blast does BIG storms in LA, MS, AL, GA….. Be careful out there and prayers for those effected by the storms.

In this complex summer image, I set the camera up at the mirror to reflect the sky slit 90 degrees left frame….Flash….. Can you find the Deering Seeder? This was a HUGE mesocyclone that hadn’t even reached us yet. We were just under it’s leading edge here. That shelf cloud is an indication that it’s about to get sporty. The 80 mph winds this brought with it did some damage. The big hail missed us though. That big white roof is our big barn which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field under that roof. It’s an old roping area under there.

This storm donated quite a few lightning photos. I usually work storms like this up on the ridges definitely in a car. The car doesn’t make you immune to the strikes but it helps. Your not going to get killed by ground current if your not touching metal is the plan. Not that the bolt couldn’t hit the camera. I’ve been pretty close to some strikes before and it will wake you up. Looking forward to working it with the new vehicle with no moon roof. I ordered it WITHOUT a sunroof (a several thousand dollar options that will probably leak). More metal overhead is a good thing I’m thinking lolol.

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

Title: Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

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RockyPoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store
Rockypoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store

Clarence Reece built a two story building in 1907. This became the General Store for the area (Rockypoint Wyoming which is in the North Eastern Corner of Wyoming). Just north west of Devils Tower which you can see from here about 35 miles away. Run by various local characters over the years, the store changed hands a dozen times. It closed finally in the Mid- 1950’s.

These timbers, cut 112 years ago, are the last remains of a building that served a whole community. These merchants who weekly at least, dealt with terrible dirt roads bought a lot of freight through these doors over time. Imagine if you will the old time gasoline pump with the glass top. An ranch kid attendant with a rag in his pocket took care of the windows and checked the oil.

I can’t imagine all the horse team trips to Gillette to hit the railroad in the early 1900’s. Gillette would be a two day trip via buck freight wagon I’m pretty sure from Rockypoint Wyoming. Camping on the trail, no weather forecasts or radio. These folks 100 years ago were tough hombres.

The community dance hall / community center became ground zero of local / national political discussions of course lol. Dances too but the roads could keep the band away. I’m sure they did best they could.

I own the back 1/2 of the Rockypoint 1940’s dance hall. It is a good structure that I resurfaced when I moved here in 2000 and it remains as a shop building.

Location/ Title : Rocky point Wyoming

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Woven Wire Hoar Frost

Woven Wire Hoar Frost
Woven Wire Hoar Frost

Woven Wire Hoar Frost

The sub-zero morning I took this up on a high ridge, the Hoar frost covered ANYTHING that was exposed to the wind. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. I have many images yet to finish from that morning.

Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow is as deep as the backcountry is big with just a few plowed paths to provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top.

Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a very early morning session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here. The highest ridges are 4000 feet in elevation. With valley fog being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions.

Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. The low angle light was still very spotty. I had to find a “Slit” through the trees to catch this. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. Millions of them actually. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔

Title: Woven Wire Hoar Frost

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Perspective Snowy Snaggy Sunset

Perspective Snowy Snaggy Sunset
Perspective Snowy Snaggy Sunset

Perspective Snowy Snaggy Sunset

Under veiled sun about 30 minutes to sunset, the flat light from the suspended ice in the air provides the atmosphere for this capture. Close/Far perspectives with these old fallen sentinels of the high ridges are well worth pursuing. They provide the artist with textures and lines leading off toward a distant focal point. Drawing the minds eye deeper into the image, the fallen tree lays waiting for the night.

This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana . The location several miles into the backcountry of this 4000 foot in elevation ridge. In this area, occurred a fire that burned all summer during the 1930’s. That fire didn’t go out until the snows fell in the fall. This obviously changed the landscape from a heavily forested pine grove into a more open landscape. Prior to human habitation, wildfires were always burning unchecked across North America. Then it got worse because native Americans did a LOT of burning to open up the deep woodlands. A grassland/forest mix is good for the wildlife. And they knew it. Pretty much right up until maybe 100 years ago.🤔

Wildfire is natures way of controlling the build up of forest floor litter. The old trees do fine in the smaller grass fires under them. Many pine cones open releasing their seeds due to the fires. Fires are responsible for trimming back woods creating grasslands. Trees like this if hit by lightning will burn for days. If there is a LOT of fuel, it get’s pretty spicy in the grasslands.

There are “Islands” of Old Growth Trees, one right over my right shoulder that I was walking in . It is getting very difficult to get up on this ridge these days. I have to plow usually. Drifting is ALWAYS an issue up on the ridges. I actually have built the road up to this ridge top but there is no build road along the ridge.. Just two track trails……. I’m pretty careful. That’s all about knowing where not to go driving backcountry ridges in mid winter….. 🌲🤔📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective Snowy Snaggy Sunset

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Christmas Crown Sky Cathedral

Christmas Crown Sky Cathedral
Christmas Crown Sky Cathedral

Christmas Crown Sky Cathedral

6 months ago during the summer solstice of 2019, a BIG 100 mile across mesocyclone moved over us right at sunset. Of course “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill jumped into the photo as he is a terrible attention hog. I have no control over his actions. Windmill Wednesday AND Christmas Wednesday. , Windmill Junkies Unite 🤘

Satire:

I do understand through a third party that “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill wishes all of his fans a very very Merry Christmas. He has this insecurity problem where he wants to solve through fame and fortune acquired via his exposure in pictures. So he rushes into my images. His brother “Re-Pete” I’m sure also has Christmas wishes but he couldn’t be present at this photo taking session. He was over the hill out at his hangout during this storm.. Hard to get a family together portrait of the two brothers. They can’t move easily through the timber. I suspect they haven’t seen each other for a long time. I’ll have to see if I can arrange a digital family reunion someday…. 😜

I’m not sure what his New Year resolution. I’m pretty sure it has to involve photobombing more and injecting himself into my landscapes.

My new years resolution is to catch more skies like this and finally get all these images I’ve got stored away up on my web gallery. That will take a “while”. I consider it job security.

From all of us at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, all of it’s creatures mythical and otherwise , Merry Christmas and a Happy/Safe New Year. 2020 is going to be an interesting year to be alive.

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

Title: Christmas Crown Sky Cathedral

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Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Lightning Highlights the Windmill
Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Setting up and sitting for night time exposures catching huge million amp plasma channels creates a lot of adrenaline (fun). There is enough amperage to melt sand in those bolts. You only do this from inside a “Faraday Cage” . Lock yourself in a metal drum, isolate yourself from the metal to become safe even if the drum is directly struck.

It has been my observation that anything you do any activity a LOT. Your going to get injured doing it, Having a metal vehicle surrounding you is a good thing while taking photos like this. Think about it. Your on a ridge line, high up in a metal truck watching bolts flash 360 around you. I’ve been very close to strikes before. I can’t say that I’ve ever been hit doing this. I watched a bolt hit a few hundred feet away driving up in Montana one day. Traveling I was driving along a rural road. Hard to miss the bolt strike the bare grassy field just off the road to my left.

• The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Just because your in a truck, doesn’t mean your safe. It does moderate the extra risk statistically. Please keep your hands away from metal contact. Lock your trays in the upright and locked position…… Even so… The lightning can also serious damage your vehicle’s electrical system (which would really suck).

When you order a new vehicle to do precisely this… You really don’t need a sunroof over your head. lolololol 😜👀⛈ They cost more and lighning can travel right through glass.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Lightning Highlights the Windmill

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Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Foggy Fence Line Sunrise
Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Up above the ground clouds, these high backcountry ridge tops make for an awesome sunrise over the top. I’m several hundred feet higher than the valley floor The heavier, cooler air settles in the valley. Moisture condenses and the “Golden Hour” light against a blue sky grabbed my attention. The rustic/rural nature of this image is only matched by the sites remoteness.

I took this image from right at the highest point around locally. This captures elevation is around 4100 feet. The lowest point in Wyoming is On the Belle Fource River at 3099 feet. That location is about 70 miles east of this location. Gannet Peak in the Wind River Mountains is the highest point in Wyoming at 13,804 feet with several peaks just below that elevation. I live at 3780 feet in elevation. I have lived for a decade at 6200 feet at the foot of the Teton Range. The winters are MUCH milder down here except for the winds….

Having put a few fences in, I will tell you that that line of posts and wire was a lot of work. Ranches have tremendous infra-structure in the numerous miles of fences to rotate stock from pasture to pasture. I think we have about 30 miles of fencing in or around out ground. Just having one big pasture is a bad plan. You want to be able to rotate your stock animals from pasture to pasture. Water sources central ideally in those pastures. Generations of ranchers have figured out that works best. Fences also help prevent mixing of different ranchers cow herds togethers. Not only is there a property reason for them, they allow good grass management practices based on an areas attributes and deficiencies.

Location: Near the Bliss Dinoaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

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Landscape Morning Fog Banks

Landscape Morning Fog Banks
Landscape Morning Fog Banks

Landscape Morning Fog Banks

Some would call this a cloud bank, however if you look closely, it extends all the way to the ground. It was slowly heading our direction reaching us within an hour of this capture. The morning was beautiful, calm, clear overhead with a clear sky sunrise to my right. The approach of this cloud bank obscured the sun for the rest of the day.

This location has a wonderful view toward the northwest over the Montana border (I’m standing in Wyoming). There is a natural frame here (or 10) on this ridge. It is only a few miles from my homestead and a relatively “easy” drive to get up the hill. This time of year snow drifts about. I suffer long periods where I am denied access to locations up on this ridge. The view without that cloud bank is about 60 miles, with about 6. I have more images with this cloud bank literally rolling in at ground level.

I definitely consider myself a landscape photographer. As an artist, I actually photograph very few people (as I don’t see a lot of people here). I think in 20 years of running around the backcountry here I’ve run into 3 different people I didn’t expect to see randomly. All had a good reason to be there. (Pipeline inspectors and local ranchers looking for lost bulls). The pipeline people call me now first as they should. The ranchers have free access.

Not that I will turn down offers by local wildlife to pose for me. Then there are the always the famous photobombing Windmills known as the “Pete” brothers. I have no control over their actions. Fortunately, windmills get tangled up moving through timber. These high forested ridges are Windmill Free Zones. 😜📷

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Landscape Morning Fog Banks.

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Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet
Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

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Sun Slit Across the Valley

Sun Slit Across the Valley
Sun Slit Across the Valley

Sun Slit Across the Valley

I watch the sky both morning pre-dawn and pre-sunset to see if the photons emitted are worth capturing. I am always interested in layered landscapes. The series of parallel Ridges here frange from a few miles out to 40 miles for the large ridge. The biggest ridge you CAN”T see is the ridge that is cutting off the bottom of the sun. That ridge is called the Big Horn Mountains. Even though you can’t see the ridge, it stops the sunlight dead in it’s tracks. When the sun sets at this spot, it always sets above the first tall ridge (the Red Hills) as the ridge behind is a light blocker whether you can see it or not.

This is a dark capture as the sun was heavily veiled in this capture. There was so much moisture in the air as this was a day before the Dec 1 Storm Came through. Anybody else notice Oct1 and Dec1 were both big storms?? Maybe it’s just me lolol.

As I type this at 3:40 in the afternoon, 40 minutes till sunset, the scenario for sundown seems to be coming to something like this. A sunslit can be wonderful if it lights up the cloud deck above the “slit”. I will make a decision within 15 minutes of whether to go out or not. It depends on what I’m seeing as it takes me over an hour to shoot a BASIC sunset from 1/2 hour before to 1/2 after. Extended shows can run 2 hours. Me committing to 2 hours of photography when I have about 4000 images to refinish seems silly but new material is important somehow lolol.

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

Title: Sun Slit Across the Valley

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BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder
BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

This view of a BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder was taken a week ago as this posts. Th grassy remote ridgetop I was on, gives way to the Little Powder RIver Valley. The next ridge is the Red Hills backed by the 13000 foot high peaks of the core of the BigHorn Mountain Uplift. The Powder RIver Basin between the Mountains any my ranch pretty much ends at my ranch. I’m living right on the edge between the Wyoming Black Hills and the Powder River basin. Just west of my ranch, dinosaur fossil Bearing rock that is older than the Big Horn Uplift dive under the sediments worn off the BigHorn Mountains.

Our Ranch is as high topograpically above the Little Powder River Valley Floor as the dark 40 mile distant ridge. It allows me to see the peaks at this 130 mile distance. Weather windows to the BigHorns have been plentiful this year unlike previous ones. The sun is currently setting well south of these peaks from my vantage point at the moment. I won’t see it set over the big V notch until next spring again. The sun will continue to set a little more south each day until December 21’st. Then t starts to rise and set a little further north each day until the Summer Solstice.

I try to be very in tune to such things as my daily photographic activities take into account moon rise, sunsets with the time of year. Angles of sunrise and sunset are critical to where I go these days. Weather has the greatest impact of course.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Mountains Landscape Ladder

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Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever
Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Sun pillars are shafts of light. Ice reflected spotlights as it were shooting generally 90 degrees up or down to the horizon. This is BY FAR the tallest pillar I’ve ever seen.

I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere. A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is REALLY big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about 1/2 again the angle than your normal vision at 55mm.

The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. Big oriented plates of ice at a high angle were required for this particular phenomena. The crystals are all flat 6 sided plates that fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that 5-10 degrees tall is not unusual. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).

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

Title: Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

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Bad Horn Day

Bad Horn Day
Bad Horn Day

Bad Horn Day for sure. So how do you have to sleep to get that “Cow LIck” or is that Pronghorn? Might be chilly out for this shot… (-2F). I love it when I get a Pronghorns breath. Frosty!

Shed Horn Sheath.

That appears to be a pretty sharp point on his right horn. I doubt it grew that way. I suppose he might have broken it off or is shedding the sheath (most likely). He actually might do some damage with that horn if he ever get’s big enough physically to be a “contender” in the rut. You know it’s all fun and games until someone puts out an eye. Designed to lock up in a fight, horns shape is sort of standardized. . Having said all that, this is a late migrator working his way down to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. The Pronghorn “herd up” about 30 miles south of my place for the winter. Those grasslands are part of the American Serengeti. down there. They have been over the rut for weeks now.

I have never found a full sized shed Pronghorn sheath. I have only found one SMALL example. I’d like to think I have a pretty sharp eye for things left on the ground having been a dinosaur/fossil hunter all my life. Patterns and shapes stand out in my mind like a starburst against the black sky. They disintegrate pretty fast I suspect.

I’m always looking down with my eye’s to the ground and I walk in the backcountry a LOT. Most folks don’t know the males do in fact shed their horns. This Pronghorn buck still has one to go. The Horns will grow back pretty quickly in the spring.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Bad Horn Day

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Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

Wooden Windmill Orange Hour
Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wooden Windmill Orange Hour

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Coyote on Razors Edge

Coyote on Razors Edge
Coyote on Razors Edge

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.

18 x 18 inches square aspect.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote on Razors Edge

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Pronghorn In a Snow Storm

Pronghorn In a Snow Storm
Pronghorn In a Snow Storm

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Pronghorn in a Snow Storm

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Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough
Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

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.

Photographic Musings:

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”.

Shadow line:

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

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Coyote On Thin Ice

Coyote On Thin Ice
Coyote On Thin Ice

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…..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Coyote on Thin Ice

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BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover
BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

From My viewpoint at 130 miles out. This area of the sky is the size of your thumb at an arms length on the horizon. The BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover that night was climbing up the back of the peaks. It was to cover the highest ones within a few minutes of this image collection. I had a visual window to the peaks that lasted at most a few minutes. The sun was still over head and this was very bright and hard to see. The lighting was high overhead and slightly oblique to the images. It’s a tough photographic environment lol.

Getting to see weather move over these 13,000 feet high ridges is a rare treat from this far away.

These huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide Orogeny. Cloud peak is 13,175 feet and is visible in this image. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east. This Basin called the Powder River Basin. This basin the major source of coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.

My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns. Dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. . These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. Major Mountain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from the continental wide compression.. Huge were the forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks to clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed just about to my front door.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover

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Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry

Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry
Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry

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Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground

Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground
Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground

Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground is a 2 feet x 3 feet image in full size. Now I know this is out of season but I am redoing my portfolio to current standards and I’m reposting some from this last summer. I think it’s an interesting break from the early winter weather we’ve been having.

It was raining at the time about 10 minutes after sunset. This was our version of twilight that late summer 2019 evening. I was in my Jeep Grand Cherokee on a large flat ridge top right in the middle of lightning flashes all around me. One of the better places to be during a lightning storm is in a car. That is as long as your not touching metal. It also helps if you don’t have long camera lenses sticking outside your open window….. oh wait lolol..

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 lolol.

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

Title: Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground

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Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise

Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise
Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise

Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise is a perspective at -2 degrees F. There was a breeze and I don’t care how you dress, something gets cold lolol.

Photographic musings:

For some reason, I’m drawn to perspectives under icy sunrises. Focus close requirement(1) plus a sun show far (2)is my goal. Putting them in the same focal field is top on my list for planning this capture.

These two “priorities” fortunately compliment each other while in your Manual Mode camera settings. High light gives you the ability to set your widest lens to it’s highest fstop setting f-22 (ish). This cuts back light considerably which you need . It also lets you focus on things 10 inches in front of this particular wide lens AND have the background in focus. I always pay attention when I’m buying lenses to look for ones with the shortest distance to focus close. (macro) but if you want to do this, you need a wide angle say 12-24mm lens with a close focus.

Shutter speed 1/100 – 1/400 depending on your light conditions and ISO (camera sensitivity) is low like ISO 100 or ISO 200. This was a very bright light environment in the distance but just. The sun was just clearing the ridge.

The right gloves for cold work. There are many brands but I use:

The joy of -2 degrees is that the gear doesn’t like it, but my fingers take the brunt of the cold abuse. They don’t operate the equipment as well either if chiled.. I wear glove/mittens by “Red Head” that have the ability to open up your fingers. Fine detailed adjustments on a camera take more tactile feedback than through a glove sometimes. Finding your location on your camera body is the biggest problem. I find it is always better to have warm fingers and have quicker control of the camera bodies settings oddly enough lol. “Red Head Mittens” have been used by this photographer down to a -20 windchill with good results. I was tougher then though……

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise