Traveling the high ridges one tends to get tunnel vision. You look where your going not necessarily where you’ve been. Occasionally, I will stop and just take a photo of where I just traveled from. It’s a long way back that way…
Snow diamonds falling in the crisp mountain air here is startling to see live and fairly hard to capture adequately digitally. Seeing them on the ground is about the only way to see them. The intensity of the sun detracts from the intensity of the reflections off those hexagonal ice plates. Those fall like parachutes often out of almost clear skies when the moisture is wrung out of the air mass by the cooling. The plates I’ve seen falling like feathers before with blue skies around. They lay flat and act like mirrors on the otherwise crusted snow pack.
I’m pretty sure if I got a flat tire up here that AAA would show up like Bill Murray in “Ground Hog Day” with a jack. Maybe not…. 70 miles to the nearest 4 way stop light…. Fortunately I have really good tires now and really don’t expect to pop a tire any more. Having said that driving long distances in areas where there aren’t many people traveling by is potentially wrought with hazard.
If you don’t have the ability to get yourself out of trouble, best not go there. At any one time I could pull over and set up camp right here, I wouldn’t like it but I’d survive lolol. A minus 10 rated bag at minus 10 is still not enough in my experience lol. I also carry a radio (2) and spare batteries lolol. It does get back to the base from about anywhere I drive up here.
Just NEVER leave your vehicle if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere in winter. Start yanking insulation out of your seats to keep warm with if you have to. Always have survival gear suitable to your environment.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
The Corriente” Breed was brought into the America’s as early as 1493. These are a breed of Criollo cattle all descended from that old lineage. They are all to an animal tough, fast, self sufficient, and will paw at the snow and find grass in the winter. These are relatively small cattle compared to the modern beef cow. They almost went extinct with the introduction of bigger breeds. American Ropers and Doggers Know all about them. You know who you are 👀
Big Bulls are 1000 pounds, big cows weigh in at 800 pounds. Yearlings are around 400 pounds in both sexes. Qualities: Corriente” are Great Sports Cattle, These guys are supposedly easy to tame. They are lean beef and good eating. Small Herds are easy to keep. Hardy as heck, they actually require less food and water than other beef brands. Good cows to have a small herd of. They don’t take much diesel fuel to keep alive. 🤔🤔☑️
Musings on Narratives:
I write like Trump talks. Chain of consciousness plus I type very fast. Believe it or not, there is a technical reason to have long narratives on your post if your a budding professional photographer as myself. Google will take note of you more/better and place you higher on search results. There are all sorts of technical things I do in my narratives to attract google. The saying is: If your not on the first or second page of google, your not going to be found. 300 words plus it is minimum per image I post.
I am currently posting 5 images a day each taking over an hour to do. That’s around 1700 words I write each day. I’m not sure who’s going to compile it into book but I hope it’s not me lolol. I’m sure a few books have already narrated in my postings and I have them all in a pile I can access.. Easy to assemble by sorting pages. The pages are out there already lolol.
I LOVE shares by the way ❤️ They are the nicest compliment you can give an artist on FaceBook short of buying his/her art lol.
Close / Far perspectives lend themselves to clear skies. The details up close are of course my subject with the sunset only being an extra “hero” of the image. The totality of these landscapes in this country is staggering in their vastness and variety. Every hill crest has an entirely new world just over the top. All the hill sides are different in the angle and orientation of the vegetation living or laying. I keep a map in my head of the snags (fallen trees) that sparsely litter the hills. Treed pastures are prime hunting grounds for me photographically. The joy of being a landscape artists is I don’t have to pay models or deal with crying moving toddlers. No diaper changes mid shoot up here.
The “Golden Hour” (said with reverence) is that time of the day and hour after sunrise or and hour before sunset. The distance through the atmosphere that the light travels get greater the higher the horizon rises. Of course the sun doesn’t set, the horizon actually rises to cover the sun. Remember that things are as they are, not as you have been told or casually think about them.
I always try to keep narratives in the perspective that I’m trying to capture. Understanding how things work is key to working those things with cameras or any other way for that fact.. Knowledge is power and gives you the ability to anticipate outcomes of what ever process your involved with. Having done this a few times, makes the next one usually turns out a little better using the knowledge you have acquired in the past. Paying dues of course is the key to acquiring that knowledge.
Simple perspectives are my stock and trade. I have tried to make an art out of using the things that nature provides for me to photograph. There are so many little area of zen popping up everywhere I glance. The problem of course is there are so many and so little time so I just concentrate on the obvious stuff. Trying not to stand on my head or bend in a direction my design specifications don’t conform to. Fortunately this process involves a lot of walking on uneven ground carrying some camera weight up top. It keeps me in shape but more important it keeps me connected to the earth. Walking about is how I hunt dinosaurs in this country. Watching the earth is what I do.
Being very earth centric, I’ve spent my whole life considering geologic processes. Most are unaware of them and “blissfully” so. As a student of paleoenvironmental analysis, I see below this landscape and imagine the world that laid the sediment that eventually became those boulders. Clues in the rocks tell me books of information by their presence/characteristics. Geologists see past the beautiful sunset (enjoy those too). We imagine what processes leading to that rocks formation. I have a 3 D map in my head of the orientation of the rock layers under my feet. A useful thing to keep handy at times ….
It is somewhat complex to figure out what processes worked the sands these rocks are made of. That Hell Creek/Lance formation sand was deposited 66 +million years ago according to MANY scientists…. That’s 48.3 billion sunsets/sunrises. Actually numbers like that easily flow into my understanding of things when I imagine the inside structure of the earth, processes that occur now occurred then as well. You might say the perspective I have goes a bit under the surface of what I “look at”. Time is a 4th dimension to me. I don’t just look for fossils here, I look at the rocks to see if they are likely to have fossil in them first…..
Speaking of time, enjoy the snowy sunset and the Close/ Far Perspective.
Sun Trapped by Windmill (Headline of the news story).
A tad bit of Satire if you don’t mind …. (It’s an old narrative if your new to my world 🙂 )
Windmill Wednesday: Windmill Junkies Unite: 😜🤘
Crushing Perspective with Telephoto lenses is a very good pastime. I find that certain objects lend themselves to Close/Far work which of course is quite challenging to line up just so…… “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill here lends himself more than not to photography. He sites pretty well, much better than most kids anyway. The durn sun is always moving. It worked it’s way from the “trap” by slipping out the back door…….😜
Sneaky has his job on the ranch pumping air into a barnyard pond to keep it freezing in the winter and destratified plus the O2 thing. He is an aquarium pump lolol. Just a really small duck pond. He’s close enough to my house to be the first thing I run by on my way out to backcountry photo locations I visit.
So Sneaky is a notorious photobomber of some ill repute. He is always popping into my landscapes as I obviously have no control over his actions. Only Timber slows him down as he gets tangled… He only lets me live here as he’ll be here long after I’m gone. Sneaky is quite a character, I’ve seen him hang around those innocent Mule Deer and Pronghorn. He lives of course near a running water hydrant so the local wildlife is usually negotiating deals between the various characters that live around here through him. His deal is all about publicity.📸📸
As I am variously locked out of the backcountry by snow amounts and drifting, I tend to drive the backroads on mornings that are likely to light up. I saw the perspective, skidded to a stop, reversed and set up. I was trying to get that sunpillar centered within the visual tunnel created by the tractor tire. That tire is a “marker” as in, “drive 2 miles past the tractor tire” kind of directions. Some rancher planted this because it was easier than burying it completely. Fill up the inside with dirt and you stop the mosquito trap. It turned into a handy marker.
If I see an old “No Hunting” sign, I’ll stop just for that. Add a Tractor tire to that scene and you definitely got my attention. They on cue a sun pillar lined up precisely with the row of telephone poles running off in the distance. I don’t make this stuff up, I just capture the photons from it. Mother nature and ranchers got together here conspiring to make this composition. Neither party knew what they were ultimately up to I would speculate 😜😜👀📸
Sun Pillars are the result of falling hexagonal plates of ice all oriented flat as that is how they free fall. Like little parachutes they orient and reflect light off the gathering sunrise. The cumulative effect reflects light while the surrounding moisture absorbs it. Sun pillars can form above or below the sun itself. Here the sun is JUST below/behind the horizon. I don’t see a genuine purple sky too much but this one was real. Note no Purple snow.
I originally took this as a landscape during the golden hour. It is the backshow right at sunset with an excessive red/yellow color cast lighting. Everything was deeply red or yellow shaded. This is the improved version having reduced the color cast quite a bit lolol. I reproduce things here the way I experienced them. Not how the camera records it since the technology seldom get’s it right. When you get up on the ridge tops, you see the really red light saturate everything just as the sun sets. This scene was one of those situations where I was glad I turned around. I had to reset my cameras shutter speed from 1/8000th point at the sun to 1/60th of a second with the turn though lolol.
That day ending had it’s own character as each is unique of course. The chill was there but the snow had melted during the day leaving some muddy places. Snow in the shadows is where I drive then on the frozen ground to avoid tracking up the soil saturated with snow melt. The soil frozen below the melt prevents it from soaking is turning 300 year old turf into mushy soup that a foot print will destroy. I try very hard not to tear up the ground here. There is way too much human disturbed ground around the country. Smart travel in the backcountry helps a little at a time.
The rainbow is just barely visible if you zoom in and use your peripheral vision. It stands out then. It wasn’t raining but it was humid from all the sublimation and evaporation from the melt. Rare clear sky rainbow……
Late January is when this image was taken. The sun is slowly moving north each place and time it sets. Each night it will get closer and closer from my vantage point to the Range. Still north of the sun’s setting current locations are the Big Horns Mountains. They will for the next month come closer and closer to the sun setting in that big notch. Only once or twice in the last 20 years has the weather window cooperated with that occurring. Naturally this is all from my vantage point. I live/work across the 130 mile wide Powder River Basin. It lays between me and the 13,000 feet high Big Horn Range (the last ridge).
The ice in the crisp air was thick at sunset. Including the sun into the image would have been too much for the scene that presented itself to me. The landscape ladder that was resultant from the powerful gradients thus created by mother nature. It’s all very difficult to catch with our current technology. The cameras don’t yet have the dynamic range necessary to capture this scene without the negative space lower right. Don’t get me wrong. I actually like that dark space. Someday cameras will be up to the task without bracketing exposures and having to composite HDR.
If you are new to my narratives, I live up on and around the Montana / Wyoming border. Most of my work it north of Gillette Wyoming to Broadus Montana. We have a 50 mile view to the east from the first of 5 ridges I have easy backcountry access to that I hunt light on. I actively work both sides of the border virtually daily. As a landscape artist I primarily work light but if some of the wildlife locals jump into my frames I will allow it. Some of my narratives are years old and have taken on a life of their own. Please excuse my occasional forays into wild imaginings and fantasies both mine and more classical.
Here Wiley Coyote’s cousin Willey takes a second to look back just to make sure that was a camera lens I was pointing at him. I have years of long range shooting precision rifles under my belt. I’ve been shooting guns a lot longer than I’ve been shooting with cameras lolol. As a ranch owner, I share the general irritation at seeing a coyote hanging around my ground (or anybody elses). A lot of livestock has been killed by coyotes.
I think on an intellectual level, they generally get a bad rap as mostly they eat mice and voles. They will occasionally eat the face off calves while they are being born. Lambs are a favorite snack. Road Runners are too hard to find around here except the local grade school who’s sports team goes by that moniker. So what I’m saying is, this guy is lucky that last look back wasn’t his actual last look back. It’s pretty hard to get a rifle into play after using a long lensed camera. It think the camera+lens is longer…. It might be a consideration that it’s illegal to shoot from a country road except with the camera. Also shooting a suppressed rifle from a county road would be a federal crime since any criminal act committed with a National Firearms Act registered device (like a suppressor/silencer) becomes a federal felony instantly. Needless to say, this guy walked away. It’s all in the details folks….
Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands on Trail Creek Road.
The Lone Tree sees a sunset and a sunrise each day. Sometimes clouds trap all the light, the actors of the stage show have no spot to perform in. Sometimes dramatic plays happen overhead taking over an hour from start to finish. I have a tough job watching entire sunsets and sunrises as they mutate from second to second. I might take 800 photos of a particular sunrise as this. 3 or 4 images from the twilight will be finished. More images from after sunrise of this morning with different frames were equally as dramatic.
Skies as above are rare but the high ridges I work have their share. Dozens of decades under the trees “belt” , it’s perspective far exceeds our own limited memory of our travels. The complexity of our thought the tree can not conceive, but the perspective it has is beyond our comprehension.
Being a tree it has ultimately a figurative and literal connection to the land lol. I would like to think it is deeper than that. Much more connectivity between living things and the environment than we give them credit for occurs I feel. Even disconnected to nature by nurture human/me, can feel things happening an orderly manner here in the highlands. It’s probably my own psyche settling into the cycles, the yearly natural event of this place in space and time.
A tripod can come in handy in this lower light civil twilight sky. Long exposures are hard to do without them….
There are only one or two mornings a month that I can get this kind of full moon scene. For the moon to be up full falling into the Belt of Venus (Pinkish Alpenglow). The lightI pick my spots based up on a few basic requirements. In this case I needed several “heros” in the image. Black cows in shadow are going to be silhouettes no matter what the camera. What is a western vista without a couple of longhorn cattle on board? My perception of distance was peeked at this scene. Click. The full moon Setting over the Red Hills 40 miles distant. Hit by the same red light blushing the Belt of Venus above them.
I try my best to find tight frames for the moon. It’s surprisingly hard. I couldn’t step back any closure to them as their temperment is my master in that. I do respect these mostly wild cattle. Operationally, I often drive or walk the “shadow” line on parallel ridges of the moon or sun to find an interesting “Close” object to get in focus with the moon. I’ve worked parallel ridges for miles while the moon or sun rises or sets, I’m on that line. The moon/sky considered an infinite focus in this camera calculus. Getting closer things precisely focused with background is a function of distance and f-stop. F-stop is the aperture (pupil) size of your lens. Higher numbers is small pupil, lower f-stop number are a bigger pupil (aperture). Manual Mode…. Distance from the cattle is your friend to keep them in the same focal frame as infinite.
High F-stop number give you deep focal fields . A double edged sword high f-stop. High f-stop also steals light which is in short enough supply in this lighting.. Get too close and you’ll never be able to focus both objects. The timing/lighting for this sort of capture is of very short duration. A few minutes, once a month at most. All the moon has to do, in close far perspective with almost anything, will be a great shot out of the gate. Enjoy the pursuit. This is one of my favorite Close far perspectives. Getting in focus grass against the moon in low light is sort of a difficult thing to do.
Alright, I understand this image dated in Bliss Oklahoma back around 1907 and not in Wyoming/Mt, it’s part of our past though…. . MANY of the cowpokes standing around in this image are famous as heck with some from Wyoming. For instance, Bill Cody’s show proper shut down in 191. Those performers certainly performed at the 101 before and after that date. There are several famous Wyoming born bred cowboys in this image. Miller Brothers show had a 34 year run to follow. They first performed in 1905. Several members of Cody’s troupe are in this un-signed image.
Let me start by saying, the 101 earned most of its notoriety from the Wild West shows that it staged. 80,000 people attended their grand opening day. Geronimo, Buffalo Bill (himself) , Tom, Mix (FAMOUS TV cowboy) were all involved. They seasonally employed 2-3 thousand people.
Several entertainers who continued their careers in the fledgling motion-picture industry had connections with the 101. They included Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Mabel Normand, and Buck Jones. The Millers leased equipment and loaned employees to the Bison 101 Film Company, which produced Western films in California. The road show continued. They even recruited stars such as boxing champion Jess Willard. In 1916 the production combined with Buffalo Bill Cody and toured as “Buffalo Bill (Himself) and 101 Ranch Wild West Combined, with the Military Pageant Preparedness.” Tex Ritter, Bill Pickett and Ed “Hoot” Gibson were star performers as well.
I obtained this original in Cody Wyoming back in 1995. I’ve never seen it elsewhere. Thought I should get it on the FB archive and off site.
Location: Original photo currently resides at Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands behind UV resistant glass.
Windmill Wednesday, Windmill Junkies Unite :🤘📷 Don’t let your mother know you look at subversive material like this….🤔😜
Veiled sunsets make it much easier for me to point a long camera lens at the sun. The glare blocking ability of clouds combined here with a photobombing windmill effectively reduced the stress on my gear. This night was a pretty one. Veiled suns are by far the best background for me to take a landscape with… If I could only keep “Re Pete” from moving into my scenes. I have no control over these windmills actions.. 😜😜📸 Attention hogs all how they work into my landscapes.
Silhouettes of trees which are much closer than the windmill which by the way is a tad close than the sun is. This windmill hangs out about 3 miles away from my homestead and is a rare shot in the winter. I don’t get over in that country much particularly now that mud season is “spotty” with days being above freezing and nights crisping up. Morning is way less muddy than evening. I way prefer winter weather in the high 20’s than the low thirties. I will not drive a pickup truck over saturated old Prairie. Ruts are damage to turf that has existed for several hundred years at least. The roads are almost as bad at the moment but at 32 degrees, it’s snowing as I type this.
Looking westward across the 40 mile wide Little Powder River Valley , a cloud bank will snuff out the light within minutes. I am often sent home early with no “photos in the can” by cloud banks shrouding the horizon. When I head off road to climb up ridges chasing light, the mid-winter wins sometimes. This night I went up hill. Over 300 square miles of landscape presents here, all covered by this snow blanket. We get most of our 14 inches a year of precipitation during the winter.
You will note how effectively Yucca plants have a tendency toward collecting their own stash of water. The result of this is to soak the ground around them. The Yucca is a great plant up here providing food to the deer all year long. Deer from both species eat the seed pods from Yucca which grow in significant quantities up here. Yucca flowers are edible too I ‘ve seen ungulates take advantage of them every year. The deer grow fat on them. Already eaten, mostly deer have consumed the seed pods. By Mid-Winter, the deer have consumed much of the food reserves on this ridge. They have moved on to other pastures. Typically they head to sheltered gullies with water near by.
If it’s going to be winter, I wish it would freeze the backcountry ground. As I type this it’s been staying around freezing and just above for weeks. Mud in the backcountry completely blocks me from access as I don’t want to rut up my two track trails.
This is a must to take full screen. The Pronghorn’s are well camo’d in this image with huge alluvial fan deposits in the distance. Those sediments eventually turning into those rocks were transported from the Big Horn Mountains 130 miles back over my shoulder.. OF course I’m standing where there used to be rocks like that but erosion has removed them. Those layers were at one time continuous all the way back. Now rivers have cut big valleys in the apron of the mountains. Geologists regard things in a strange way 😜👀
So for this shot I was traveling from my ranch to Gillette Wyoming. , I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is a long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states. They wander quite a bit and there are sometime I see nothing but grass and scenery. Half of the time. No cell phone service and no AAA up here…. Just saying 😀
The Thunderbasin Grasslands are indeed a remote area. The closest stop light is about 40 miles. There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. There might be a few water and a few oil wells out there. They actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
This view from the Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming to the Southeast across northern Crook County Wyoming. I’m actually standing in Campbell County with the camera. The sky was fully involved in a wonderful twilight sky snow.
Well you know those distant Mountains as Devils Tower (left) and the three Missouri Buttes (right). 4 ancient volcanos throats exposed by erosion remain elevated over the surrounding debris plains. The volcanos fed by these conduits didn’t erupt all at the same time precisely but were in the same general geologic time frame of a few million years. They are certainly all related and in the same volcanic “field”. Devils tower is 35 miles out from this spot…
Eruptions supplied by these pipes which occurred far above on ground that is no longer up there. Erosion removed a LOT of material that used to be above the Tower and the buttes. Deeply buried these rocks were originally. The harder rock making up the Eventually the pressure in the original volcanic system dropped to the point where it was not pushing magma up the pipes. Insulated by the surrounding rock, the magma froze slowly in place. Because of that insulation and the slow cooling, the rock (Phonolitic Porphyry) was able to “crystallize” and freeze into columns. Known for it’s columns, the Devil’s Tower has it’s status as our nations first national monument. The Missouri buttes only have SOME columns. Not as many or as well formed. So they are not considered monument worth lolol.
Location: Near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
As hay is cut, it will soon dry in the field. This hay dump rake would gather the dry hay. As the wheels rotate forward, the rake lifts up and dumps the load of hay into narrow rows called “windrows”. This rake can be raised for travel back and forth from the field. This kind of rake was invented back in the 1870’s and was mostly pulled by horses. It replaced hand raking. Gasoline Machinations took off in the 30’s. I suspect some of these older rakes were pulled behind WW2 surplus jeeps for a time.
Hay ultimately must then be gathered into rows, called windrows. This allows for easier loading onto a wagon. The cutting back in the early days of the 1800’s was performed with a scythe and then gathering with a hand rake. This rake was a BIG improvement over that process.
It was the invention of a mower in the 1850s brought with it a demand for a suitable rake. In the 1870s the dump rake that gathered the dry hay from the swath and deposited it into a windrow. Later, a power-lift device was included so that a simple trip lever could be used to raise the teeth using the power of the wheels. These older systems were outdated in the 1940’s. A combined raking and baling machine came into general use as the older equipment was replaced.
Here is a Unique rainbow. I see a lot of variations on the classic arched colorful rainbows. There are doubles, very rare triples and quads, complete circles and regular arches. This one definitely stands out in my mind. When I climb up on the high ridges, I’m never sure what I’m going to find. When rain comes over us I start getting ready to go up hill. IF the sun comes out, there are always rainbows but their presentation is always in doubt.
This one certainly didn’t disappoint. What is going on? Well “Spotlighting” is a situation where clouds block all but individual shafts of light. Like a spotlight on a theatre production stage. With enough moisture in the air, even the individual shafts can be visible. They usually go unnoticed on their own. You can clearly see the shaft coming in from the upper left. They are pointing directly at “W” Butte 30 miles distant from my cameras location in Wyoming.
Shooting across the Wyoming / Montana border here up into Montana. “W” butte is a well known Landmark and a wonderful site for the communication tower that is there. I personally have never seen this phenomena before and I see a LOT of rainbows. I never know what I’m going to find when I go up into the backcountry. The 180 mile across horizon to horizon Sky doesn’t hide it’s secrets from me very much 🤔👀📸
Deep Winter up here in the highland ridges of the Wyoming / Montana borderlands is intense. Particularly intense getting up on some of these ridges lolol. We are currently a little low on snow. I’m not going to say something stupid like we need “more snow”. That would be inviting catastrophe lolol. Up here in the hills (versus down in that valley 400 feet lower) is a bit more harsh. I was told when I moved here by the locals that this place was nick named “Little Siberia”.
Siberia eh? While I haven’t found a fossil mammoth on ranch, I did pull a Pleistocene Elk out of the ground. Well the back 1/2 of a 6 foot all at the hip elk with toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the ankle bone etc. All the way to the third vertebra in front of the pelvis. The tail, all the little leg bones were all articulated. It wasn’t in the Hell Creek / Lance formation bedrock but in the relatively loose Pleistocene loess/sands overlaying the Cretaceous bedrock up here. IT was about 10 feet below ground level at it’s location in a deep gully. There are other “more recent” individual bones I’ve found out of the more recent Pleistocene but not many.
The Pleistocene epoch was from 2.6 to about 11,000 years ago when it ended after the last ice age. We were in the Holocene right up until we started making plastics. The first indication of micro-plastics in the geologic records starts the Anthropocene. Epoch. The start of the industrial revolution is technically the start.
Meadowlark All Ruffled Up ( a bit out of season but surely welcome. I’m tired of the ice/mud this year ).
Taken under EARLY morning yellow sunlight adding a colorcast to the entire image. I was just digging the Orange Lichen on the post. It takes a long time (decades) for that much to grow. The old cedar post could be 114 years old as it’s fairly close to the homestead. There are a lot of very old posts in the backcountry. We have 30 miles of fence that I have done some repairs on a time or two. 😜
The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.
This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.
I see lots of things on the “way up the hill” to photograph sunsets. Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill photobombed my divergent shadow landscape yet again! (exasperated look on my face). He hangs out (mostly) about 1/4 mile up that hill I often travel to. I’m not sure how he manages to get into my landscapes but he seems to. I have no control over his actions…. 👀
Stories about “Sneaky Pete’s” accomplishments have spread far and wide. He has his legend and then there is actually living in the neighborhood with the guy. What happened here is he got a BIG idea about a Wind/Solar Hybrid invention and I think he was trying to communicate the specifics to me. I’m not good at translating him being much better with deer translations of stories than “windmillian”. Tough to communicate with him, he speaks faster or slower depending on the wind speed and that throws off my cadence…. 🤔😜😜📷 I have so much to learn…. I speak geology not Windmill…..
He is such an attention hound. In fairness though he is known as a skillful negotiator with the deer. He’s helped me before with various “deals” with the various herds to get them to sit for me I’m sure of it.😀
Windmill Weekend, Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘🤘😜
Back to my normal programming ….
So I was actually surprised by this capture. I technically was working those aforementioned divergent shadows with a high f-stop on a wide angle lens. The high contrast environment lends itself for a good perspective image. “Sneaky Pete” provides scale for the foreground which was my interest. Winter in Wyotana..
The 3 Missouri Buttes (the real name) is about 30 miles drive from my cameras vantage. The wagon train pioneers called them the “Three Sisters”. They were a major sign post along the way to all places west. The tower is closer to 45 miles out. View to the southeast (the side the tourists NEVER see). That is all northwestern Crook County.
The weather during this sunset over my shoulder was a tad snowy. Those were all falling ice plates (Diamond Dust). The next morning I went up on that pass and worked that fresh snow as well. Lots of good captures on this timeline). Taken up on the pass to Rockypoint Wyoming (Trail Creek Road). The view is to the southeast. This is off the beaten path a tad lolol.
The Exposed Volcanic Necks in this image are all related in space and time. Once deeply buried volcanic conduits to the surface. Each of the 3 (actually 4 but you can only see the 4th from above), peaks stands eroded at the surface. These pipes carried magma to the surface as lava/ash in four volcanos popping off at the surface . The rock we see here froze solid in that neck cooling slowly being insulated by the surrounding rocks. . We know this was deep as the columns of rock in the Devils Tower nearby cooled VERY slowly. This allowing the columns to crystallize in the eroded tower that the National Monument is famous for. Lots of material around them washed down the river to expose those necks. All that sand/mud is sitting in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment.
Location: about 10 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana)
Living up on a high ridge allows for local streams / drainage incise (cut down) and make deep gullies. This dam was built some time in the last 100 years. I have heard no oral history of it’s timeline. This is on State Land adjacent to my ranch. A pretty good sized lake sits just above this first ridge. The lake pictured here is a wet area below that lake. Soaking water through the sands leaking onto this ground. The water level in the ground is high here. Traveling through this backcountry is a challenge to say the least ….
Mitten Butte, the pyramidal shaped butte sitting right frame . It is not a volcano though we have some volcanic necks in this country (Devil’s tower and Missouri Buttes). Formed because of a resistant to erosion cap rock protects all the rocks under it. There is about 400 feet between this drainage low area to the tip of that hill. 40 stories of topographic relief here. Following this deep gully up stream is indeed an interesting 4 wheel drive as that country is BIG back there. Lots of ups and downs and few straight paths. You have to drive the “topo lines” a lot of the time and go way around things. It’s 10 miles to the nearest ranch in that direction. This is very much hard to travel across this scar in the hillside.
I often drive up into remote topographic cul-de-sacs. I’ll start out, go into an area to travel through, but the ground is such that “you can’t get there from here”. lolol.
Morning Alpenglow Rockypoint Wyoming (side show of twilight just before sunrise left of frame)
Rockypoint Wyoming is a good 12 mile drive over good gravel roads from my residence. That takes me about 18 minutes from my driveway it drive below the speed limit. I have found that I’m a rediculously careful driver. The police driving course I took and subsequent on the street work, watching speeders and turn signal stops all day,. I was also an EMT for 17 years. Saw a lot of the result of bad triving. Sometime Days at a time in a small town in Ohio lol. I digress…
So I’m driving by this intersection, I see, and locked up the “antilock” brakes. With less than ideal traction, there was a spasmodic response of deceleration. The car slowed jerking to a stop. I backed up, rolled the window down to verify what I was seeing. It was pretty cold at the time and setting up a tripod is of course the came.
I carry my cameras in a modified beverage crate with plush sheepskin over it. I take a box of 5 or 6 cameras out each time I’m working a sunrise / sunset.
Having that crate seat belted in as well as any baby. Each camera has it’s own lens set up for different situations of course. I avoid having to deal with changing lenses to get just the right optic to bare. Changing lenses is very easy but it introduces dust into your camera when you are working in an already dusty environment. I’d rather change lenses in my house next to a HEPA filter.
Location: Rockypoint Wyoming, about 10 miles south of Montana in Crook County Wyoming by a few feet, Campbell county behind me.
Watching families of deer grow up is a pass time sub hobby of mine. This doe and her 4 month old fawn is moving along a grassy hill on a parallel ridge to me. They feel safe with me as I’m pretty much just another grazing animal. The group of deer these two belong to are well known to me. IT’s much harder to tell the girls apart than the guys. A three year old doe looks pretty much like a four year old doe. A year difference in the males will be really obvious. Anter size, shape and neck girth are usually unique in the males. The older battle tested males have torn recognizable ears unique to the individual.
My tracking of deer individuals is of course informal and spotty. I don’t necessarily see the same group every day. I do recognize groups though as they move around the ranch from haunt to haunt. There are certain places that each group will tend to hang at. Not reliably but tendency comes to mind. The exception is their daily trek to water which deer being a creature of habit, cooperate in the summer. I’m out more of course in the summer. NIt’s not necessary to
Deer have a gestation of around 200 days, this is not quite rut when this photo was taken so I’ve giving him 120 days since birth. This is probably a yearling doe as older does usually have twins.
With Up hill Perspectives pointing into the sun out there, I’m never lacking a subject in this area lol. Lots of snags (fallen trees) around the highland backcountry ranch land I work are about. They provide cover for smaller creatures as rabbits, mice etc. Some are big enough to provide rain cover under them. All sizes and shapes, ages and orientations are there for me to play with.
Only 3 settings to adjust in Manual Mode… F-stop, ISO and Shutter speed. Here is F-stop.
Close / Far work is good if you can get it 👀😜 Remember that depth of focus means the ability to have the close object in focus AND have the background in focus. The Manual Mode setting you use to be able to do this is F-Stop (aperture size). Large Fstop numbers are a small pin hole in your lens and gives you DEEEEEEP fields of focus. Small Fstop numbers would have blurred anything past the grass with a narrow depth of focus.
Being a double edged sword, F-stop will simultaneously shut off light as you turn up the numbers setting higher. A higher F-stop number = A smaller hole in your lens gives you good focus but steals light. A larger hole in your lens lets in a lot of light but you have no dept of focus. F-stop is the hard one to understand. Now all you have to do is figure out how to adjust the f-stop in Manual mode in your individual camera. It’s usually a thumb adjustment.
Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire (6 months out of season, remember these guys?)
These 6 inch long one ounce birds don’t make much noise in my experience but a little in the morning. Hard to describe. They are fairly small Thrushes with a round head outline and straight thin bills. Sky blue is how I describe the color but are a bit darker on the wings and tail but with a light patch under the tail and it’s stomach. These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. This guy was jumping around this Yucca Flower frond as seen and zipping about and then back to this place.
He was putting on a considerably good show for me in my portable blind (my jeep at the time) while I had just crested a hilltop in the backcountry. He was flitting around this Yucca like it was a toddler on a sugar high. I just by happenstance had an 800mm camera set up with me that I grabbed off the seat for the fairly close encounter. Several other Males were in the area pretty much just watching the aerobatic display I think as I was … amazed at it’s abilities. They hoover to catch bugs so they have mastered their environment for sure.
We are actually a little low at 4000 feet in elevation for them as they are found to 11000 feet up in the hills. The do like our grasslands though. Lots of bugs out there for them to eat…. Good habitat for most insect eaters.
The Big Horn Mountain Chain is one of the largest ranges in Wyoming. Two peaks exceed 13,000 feet in elevation. The far ridge under the twilight sky is a ways out at 130 miles from camera.
Nice buck… it was very low light. To freeze him in space and time, you need at least 1/200th second. It was very dark, you either give up Fstop (depth of focus) or ISO (camera sensitivity) I gave up f-stop and thusly the mountains in the distance are slightly out of focus. Getting a longer depth of focus is what Fstop does along with either letting in more light or taking it away with higher F-stop numbers.
I live and work higher in elevation that most of the ground between here and there. Obviously that is line of sight. That ground in between is called the “Powder River Basin”. Coal from here generates 30 percent of the electricity we use in the country. Wyoming is a HUGE clean coal producing state.
The coal formed there because the WAVE that the mountains and the adjacent basin make. (The earths crust was crushed east/west to make a wave). Erosion wore the much bigger mountains down to where they are today, filling up that basin with alluvial fan carried sediments. Traveling all the way to the edge of my ranch, those alluvial fans covered/filled up that sedimentary basin (think bathtub at the base of the mountains). Lots of swampy conditions in the topographic low area/basin occurred back in the Paleogene to allow coal formation. All the surface geology between my ranch and the mountains is all about things washing off the Big Horn Mountains.
I admire the strength and tenacity of a lone tree on a ridge. They are alone in their survival subject to the wild Wyotana weather. 80 mph winds here just about every year. Cold cold cold windchills. Drying winds with only 14 inches of precipitation a year.
The hardships for this tree have been ongoing for at least 100 years for this isolated survivor. Pine trees grow where their pine cone opened and released the fertile seed after a local grass fire triggered it. The heat causes the cones to release their seeds. I haven’t done a ring count but 100 years seems right for it’s size. Such can be deceiving though. Really big Pines here are hundreds of years old. By comparison, this is not a huge pine, about 30 feet high but very wide for it’s height. This shot was from across a canyon from a parallel ridge to the east. (behind me)
The Contrast of course is what this photo is all about. The lighting was diffuse so the sky wasn’t terribly interesting that day . Flat light can make for big contrasts between darker shades and mid-tones. The golden fields of grass ready to bale this last fall provide the backdrop for this old warrior of the ridges.
Many of the trees in this local area were burned in the late 1930’s by “fires that burned until the first snows fell. This tree is certainly remote on this hill with the closest other tree being several hundred feet distant. I believe this field has been cleared of sage early on. They did a lot of that clearing by hand. Horse and pulled single row plow back in 1906 when what was to become this ranch, was first settled.
Looking west During Sunrise instead of at the “main show”. I look over my left shoulder, the “Pink Belt of Venu”s variety of Alpenglow DOMINATES the back show.
I wonder why they call those mountains the “Red Hills” ? 🤔🤔 Humm…
The Science of this.
The Light Version:
The Pink Alpenglow known as “The Belt of Venus” is literally the back screen of live real IMAX theatre screen I live surround by. Only the longer more penetrative red/pink rays of light make it through all the atmosphere to the relatively light grey / opaque atmospheric ice present. Here the BOV is working it’s way down’ on the Red Hills. The ice refracts and reflects even more red back to my fancy photon capture boxes. The red rocks on the hills are also adding to the effect of just the debris apron up of the Mountain. It is exposed to the sun over the shadow of the horizon behind me as the red light moves down the peaks. Technically the sun has risen for some places and not for others. I am standing in deep shadow as is the 40 mile wide valley in front of me.
Between me and that ridge is the Little Powder River Valley with the Montana/Wyoming border somewhere in there. That little 6 foot wide river removed all the sediment between where I stand and those mountains all by itself. No kidding. I wonder how long that took a spring flood and yearly freeze thaw cycles to break up the bedrock so the river can haul sand/silt/clay most of the time? Geologic time is a difficult concept to grasp.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. Both Wyoming and Montana are in this image. Looking West.