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Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider
Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider

The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread species. It ranges to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here…. We are precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂

This image was captured early this summer and the cottonwoods were leafing. I can only see one nest currently. As I often loose track of them as the trees fill in with leaves . Thusly the cover over the nests keeps the privacy curtain up rather well. Not much assistance to me but I’m sure the birds like it.

Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up here and I don’t see them skinny lol. They usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and head out. I can’t really see them after mid may when the Cottonwood trees they nest in leaf out. Their nests are 50 feet up the big mature trees over a lake here on the ranch. The rookery is adjacent to a tall hill such that I can get at the tree top level about 200 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the portfolio with this image. I have many more to do.

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

Title: Heron Hang Glider

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Ephemeral Reflections Backcountry Pond

Ephemeral Reflections Backcountry Pond
Ephemeral Reflections Backcountry Pond

Ephemeral Reflections Backcountry Pond

Every capture I post is my memory of a moment in space time that will remain in our digital universe. Anything posted on the internet will probably survive us all. Digital memory is forever assuming a massive solar EMP doesn’t throw us back to the 1880’s. In a sense this image and most of my work is preserved as long as the internet remains a viable domain. Eventually Artificial Intelligence will know everything all of us have ever posted on the internet. Kind o scary huh? AI combined with the development pressure of Covid -19 will make it happen very fast too.

So I had myself a mirrored pond on a rare becalmed evening up here. This spot is exactly on the Montana/ Wyoming border. 45 degrees North Latitude is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole.🤔👀📷 (There are new people reading this lolol).

I made this an action shot. Driving my F-150 Raptor into the pond generated a large train of ripples slowly expanding outwards from the disturbance. The resultant ripple crests were a perfect mirror train to repeat the suns ever expanding reflections as they approach the lens.

These high land ponds are ephermeral, drying with the onset of summer. The sandstone rocks under them soaking up the water slowly replenishing the local “water table”. Water is still in this pond as this posts.

About this photo:

The Dynamic Range in this photo is incredible. I’m using a Sony Alpha 7R4 which has 15 stops dynamic range. I’d like to have a few more of these cameras lol. The dark lower part of this picture has very few artifacts from the WIDE range from straight into the sun to almost pure black but you can see the details in both ends of the lights dynamism.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Ephemeral Reflections Backcountry Pond

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Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond
Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

Taken about 12 days ago from this post, narrative written 8 days ago.. Such is my work flow these days. Present future and past reflections a this remote wetlands echo back to us in time and space. A Cottonwood Tree covered dam built many decades ago. A spring fed pond is home to many a gorgeous vista. It will have many more. Each sunset/sunrise is a new pallet of color for me to explore.

I have so many choices of where to pursue the limited time I have to chase the light. Because the wind was dead calm at the homestead. The flags were slag. I thought that a trip a few miles into the backcountry to get to this place would worth the investment of time and gas. .

“Backcountry” …. I’ve defined the term before and for all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…

This little “Heaven on Earth” is 2 miles of bumpy two track dirt/grass road from the nearest county road. That county road is crushed red scoria (“Clinker”) gravel. Generally local gravel travel over well maintained roads is a dusty pleasure. I point out that these roads are fodder for “Clever Girl”. She eats them up. 🤔👀

So… upon gaining the county gravel, it is 14 miles of curvey / hilly 1.5 lane road to the closest asphalt paved two lane highway. . It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away. 2 people per square mile density in this area while there are several hundred cows in the same area. Cattle Country with Dinosaur Bones. …. There certainly are more remote areas of North America but not a lot of difference from those to the lifestyle of living in the “backcountry”.

This spot is about 200 yards from the Montana/Wyoming Border and it has a bit of both states in the image as do most of my photos.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

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Happy Herons Pair Diptych

Happy Herons Pair Diptych
Happy Herons Pair Diptych

Happy Herons Pair Diptych

These birds are masters of their domain. This is 50 feet up at the top branches of a Cottonwood Tree. This Pair has set up shop with the left bird returning from a hunting trip. For a shoreline wading bird, these guys handle the high tree life roost without a miss. The nest is just off frame right. I am lucky to have the topography such that I can get to their height across a lake from their nesting site. I am about 150 yards out for this capture.

Blue Herons eat a pile of fish…. but its diet also includes frogs and other amphibians, reptiles, insects, and even small mammals if they are in striking distance. While it’s pointy dagger like beak has developed for catching prey, an unusual tongue also helps. No teeth in that mouth though their avian dinosaurian ancestors certainly had teeth lining that mouth cavity. The hunting behavior was handed down generation after generation though and these guys are exemplar walking metaphors to dinosaurs. Some did survive the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous after all… The avian dinosaurs 🤔

Herons whole anatomy is all about fishing along wetland edges though. They even have specially adapted neck vertebra/muscles that enable them strike like a rattler at prey but they don’t usually catch and release lolol. I note that catch and release is a human invention not seen in nature unless you consider cat’s playing games with their prey……

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

Title: Happy Herons Pair Diptych

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Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly
Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare.

Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic Period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.

There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly

Title: Red Dragon Fly

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Heron High Jinx Landing

Heron High Jinx Landing
Heron High Jinx Landing

Heron High Jinx Landing

The Cotton Wood Trees are freshly leafing. Still some cold days to come and the Cottonwoods flowers were out a week ago. About to test the thinest branches at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree. These birds are roughly 5 pound, 5 foot tall fully grown Great Blue Herons. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing. You can see the wind due to the flowers all blowing from right to left. A 15 – 20 mph gusty wind was blowing. The branches were moving left to right. Sometimes dramatically from the wind that afternoon.

This female had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery. In this pretty high gusty winds, she had to land on a moving target. She nailed the landing as she was essentially levitating not moving and just dropping inches a second. These Avian Dinosaurian descendants are AMAZING masters of the sky. This a shift change with a neighbor watching..

I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building a nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. Identification is usually because the male carries sticks to the nest and I’ve never seen a female do so. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together.

I’ve seen them land and take off in all wind situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down as delicately as spider silk in the breeze. It’s amazing to watch a fine motor skill control stall speed in the single mph digits.

Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Heron High Jinx Landing

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Heron Egg Sitting Swap

Heron Egg Sitting Swap
Heron Egg Sitting Swap

Heron Egg Sitting Swap

The Cottonwood Trees were not even leafing yet. The trees flowers were out. The thinest branches are tested at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree. These birds weigh 5 pounds and grow 5 foot tall. Names “Great Blue Heron”. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing. This Male had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. The Female got to leave with the male settling in to sit on the eggs. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery.

These guys are AMAZING masters of the sky. I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building your nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together.

I’ve seen them land and take off in all situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down like a single feather. He had to land on a moving target with a slight wind. This landing was “nailed”. He was essentially levitating not moving and just dropping inches a second. Taken right at touchdown. What grace !

Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Heron Egg Sitting Swap

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Windmill Fairbanks-Morris Circa 1870

Windmill Fairbanks-Morris Circa 1870
Windmill Fairbanks-Morris Circa 1870

Windmill Fairbanks-Morris Circa 1870 (I think)

There are actually several models/makers of this and similar vaneless windmill that this one could be. I’m not sure which it is positively…

Windmill technology had been around since 200 BC in China. By the 11th century with big mills in Europe. To grind grain and drain swamps were their main use. The technology brought into Europe by the Crusaders returning home. By the 1700’s the industrial revolution using water and eventually steam power reduced their use considerably. (Notable exception for the dutch). But in the Early 1800’s the new settlers to the Great Plains of America had a use for the wind engines. The Emigrants from Europe brought wind power with them. The western frontier provided a crucible. Upon which the technology constantly proved it’s merit. Pumping water was it’s task.

In the American West, settlers used wind to do work and conquer the land that otherwise would be marginal without a water source for stock. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, small wind generated water wells were ubiquitous across the country. Almost as numerous as the mills were the companies manufacturing them great and small.

As rural electrification proceeded the number of Windmill’s declined starting in the 1930’s. We used a windmill in a remote pasture until 2006. We ran a water pipeline from an electric well about 2 miles to it. There is also a solar powered well on our ranch.

Location: Northeastern Wyoming (Wyotana)

Title: Windmill Fairbanks-Morris Circa 1870

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Great Blue Heron Wingspan

Great Blue Heron Wingspan
Great Blue Heron Wingspan

Great Blue Heron Wingspan

Spring time, the trees are just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I’m busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well.

Earlier last season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot. Earlier this season before leaves are in the way, I am able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction.

They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. They are sitting on eggs currently It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings.

These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes long the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas.

I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀. Northern Wyoming/Southern Montana is certainly known as/located in their breeding areas.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Great Blue Heron Wingspan

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Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset
Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wonderful Golden Hour Sunset that night….

The science of this pond.

A lowly pond deep in the backcountry flats below the ridge my ranch is situated on. About 300 feet lower than my homestead where the Artesian Waters from rocks 250 feet underground. This water works it’s way to the surface via cracks…faults… My homestead gets water from the same formational source. But it only rises from it’s source 500 feet deep in my wells to 250 feet up the pipe. Down low topographically though, there are quite a few ponds up on this particular area as the Fox Hill Formation below is a wonderful Aquifer under pressure from up dip of the formation. Geographically, this unit stretches from Alberta to northern Colorado with analogues/ similar depositional environments further south. The western interior sea during the latest Dinosaur Era (Cretaceous) provided the barrier islands/beach for this grey sandstone with shale interbeds to accumulate.

Fox Hill Formation is a MAJOR source of ground water around big cities. BUT the water from the Fox Hill is typically diluted. IT takes purer water as it is very high in total dissolved solids (TDS). Drinking high TDS water is a good way to get kidney stones. We use reverse osmosis filters for all our drinking water. The animals drinking this are on their own and generally do OK. I did have a wonderful 7 year old quarter horse die of a kidney stone. The complications probably from drinking this water. Most animals do fine.

As the Fox Hill unit is dipping about 50 feet per mile toward the west (towards setting sun). This means that to the east it is higher giving a “hydrologic head” . The miles to the east the formation is physically a lot higher. So if you have a water bearing sandstone higher than you. Plus a crack between it and the surface, you get “spring fed ponds”. Artesian simply means that water is flowing from underground. The water flows upward to the surface because the water bearing sand is WAY above this location miles to the east. Just because water is “Artesian”, doesn’t mean it’s safe or much good to drink. It just means it’s flowing on the surface…

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

Title: Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

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Heron Pair Building Nest

Heron Pair Building Nest
Heron Pair Building Nest

Heron Pair Building Nest

With a pink “Belt of Venus” twilight sky behind, the Male Great Blue Heron brings the sticks to it’s mate. The female builds the next and this is a brand new nest for 2020. There are at least 6 other nests in this treeline for these 5x5x5 birds. (5 foot tall, 5 foot wingspan, and 5 pounds). They are basically dinosaurs without teeth and tail in this paleontologists opinion. Tough light to freeze a flying flapping bird…

Spring time, the trees are just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I’m busy searching this tree line for the Raptor and Owl Nests as well. Earlier last season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot.

I am able to see clearly all 7 nests in this “rookery” at this early date. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction. They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings. The leaves will obfuscate most of the nests from my long lenses (150 yards across a lake and 50 feet up this Cottonwood)

These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes long the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀. Northern Wyoming/Southern Montana is certainly known as/located in their breeding areas.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Heron Pair Building Nest

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Wooden Windmill Bathed in Twilight

Wooden Windmill Bathed in Twilight
Wooden Windmill Bathed in Twilight

Wooden Windmill Bathed in Twilight

Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘🤘📸 Don’t let your mother know you look at stuff like this…. 👀

A wooden Tower Windmill WAAAAAY out in the middle of Nowhere in the Backcountry. It’s about 20 miles from my homestead to work this one. Gravel Roads lead close to this but I have to leave the highway to get this close. It’s a LONG walk with camera gear…

WOW, I see a lot of lit up twilight skies in my work (that is what I do lol) . This was a good one…A real color scheme as I experienced the scene. This lighter/softer twilight not as intense as some but soothing none the less. Everyone needs some purple in their lives at least once a week. I actually don’t see real purple very much, the gradient between the red and the blue made it. Mixing colors on the sky’s pallet.

My photographic technique is to properly expose the highlights and worry about the shadow details later. The skies gradient from yellow to red to purple in amazing to experience live thusly stealing my total attention. Taken by a 60mm lens, this give the appearance of “SLIGHTLY” zoomed in. Resulting that the Big Horns do not look quite that large as they are in real life/naked eye. Those “hills” on the far right frame are 130 miles from the camera. They are also 13,000 feet tall ranking aside some of the highest mountains in Wyoming.

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

Title: Wooden Windmill Bathed in Twilight

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Duck Walking on Water

Duck Walking on Water
Duck Walking on Water

Duck Walking on Water

Jesus Duck to say the least. I’m not sure if much besides his feet are actually in the water. Humans can’t do that lolol. I’m pretty sure he / she was showing off for the two ducks just on shore that were watching this impressive display. I’ve seen ducks do this only a few times. The opportunity to catch one on camera was a pretty rare event I’m thinking….I’m tickled anyway… 😜📸

This was taken last summer as evident by the grassy shores and green reeds bokeh’d in the foreground of the frame. Shooting a long telephoto I sat in my portable blind (my old Jeep Grandcherokee last summer since replaced with a Ford F-150 Raptor). I spent about an hour watching this scene clicking away at the ducks in the water waiting for the Great Blue Herons (my actual targets for this photosession) on this lake. When the Herons show up, I’m generally not pointing at the water very much. The Heron’s nest 50 feet up the Cottonwood trees, the ducks not so much.

Ducks get my attention during the lull in other activities typically. I was focused on this guy swimming only 50 feet away…. It decided to do his Jesus thing and I machine gunned the camera catching this moment in Space and Time. It’s the small things that I really enjoy. I still consider myself as a Landscape Photographer. I am however, an opportunist and fairly quick on the draw with these long lenses.

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

Title: Duck Walking on Water

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Dock of the Lake

Dock of the Lake
Dock of the Lake

Dock of the Lake

With all dues to Otis Redding…

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes
Watchin’ the ships roll in
Then I watch ’em roll away againI’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide, roll away
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Looks like nothin’s gonna change
Everything seems to stay the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the sameI’m sittin’ here restin’ my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
This two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home
Now I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay

This capture is at the entrance to our dock on a small pond on ranch. IT’s a floating dock so the widely variable lake level is always a few inches below the top of the dock. I love my floating dock on this pond. If Im’ not hanging out there with cameras, the ducks often sit on it, leaving gifts for me to step in and collect eggs on occasionally. It was a little frosty this morning with the leaves in the foreground bearing evidence of the chill overnight.

The Herringbone skies were inviting to the photographer in me. The close / far perspective in the frame speaks volumes with the safety rope, the posts, the leaf litter, are all telling a story. Each story adds to the other to make up the book of this moment in space and time.

Title: Dock of the Lake

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Reflections Sun Pillar

Reflections Sun Pillar
Reflections Sun Pillar

Reflections Sun Pillar

I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well but not usually in a lake. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere of course . A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling like parachutes hexagonal 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 pretty big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about twice the angle of your normal vision.

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 are required for this to occur. The crystals, flat 6 sided plates all. These 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 a pillar 5-10 degrees pillar is not unusual. This is silly tall. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 degrees. This is a very big image wide and high. (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 ).

I arrived at this remote location about 5 minutes too late to get the sun on the lake. Mapped in my head now… 👀📸.

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

Title: Reflections Sun Pillar

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Wonderful Winter Wetlands

Wonderful Winter Wetlands
Wonderful Winter Wetlands

Wonderful Winter Wetlands

The mist over the water in this remote backcountry wetland was wafting slowly with the below freezing breeze above. This mid-spring Wyotana wetland capture was taken right as the sun cracked over the far ridge to the east shadowing this ground about 15 minutes longer than sunrise. Sunrise time depends on if the horizon is above you topographically or not lolol.

A snowy/frosty/blowy storm came through after a week of thawing weather melted most ice on local ponds. Rime Snow coated most exposed objects but the mist from the water definitely hoar frosted the far trees totally. Wind blowing that mist that refroze on the trees in the distance. I probably should have taken a walk over to those trees with a few good cameras but the aforementioned breeze with below freezing weather dissuaded me. Wind Chill cutting through the cracks in my cold armor is always a consideration in cold weather.

I see much wildlife in and around these lakes but they were no where to be seen this frosty morning. I suspect they were bedded down somewhere close by staying out of the cold breeze. Sheltered (lower) areas like this are an oasis from the blowing and drifting usually. The trees and topography “helping” with the natural wind break. A source of open water in places due to the spring fed nature of the lakes, many local animals winter over here.

Spring in Wyotana is a fleeting season. I think it was on a thursday last year. Winter usually lasts until May 15, then it’s green season. Green season is variable depending on the rains of course but Spring…. it’s usually about a day long. 🤔😜📷

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

Title: Wonderful Winter Wetlands

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Blue Heron Sunset

Blue Heron Sunset
Blue Heron Sunset

Blue Heron Sunset

The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of their nesting season on Ranch. I have only seen 4 Herons so far but it’s early. We expect 5+ inchesnow/single digits over the weekend (a week ago as this posts). The Ranch has “left the light on” for others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 6 nests in the trees across the lake from my camera where this mated pair is building a nest. The third is probably waiting for a mate that is out hunting.

The group obviously weren’t worried about my truck as the three were mostly motionless for 20 minutes all through my maneuvering. Left them still standing like this as I backed up to leave. I drove away as the sun disappeared. It seems they just don’t care about my Black Ford Raptor. I have not been much of a concern to these birds. Many local wildlife are already familiar/tolerant to my 3 month old rig. Many see it at least 2 times a day on average.

Natural behavior occurs while I’m in this rig. I just drive around like I’m a grazing animal. Stop, Start, turn, sit a minute. The truck is all black and only a little smelly/noisy. Just like a Black Angus cow :). Going really Slow in a factory “Baja truck”…. only in America.. 😜🤘📸

Photographic Musings:

I approach groups of animals living here on the huge grasslands with respect. If I scare them, I don’t get to photograph them. Of course most wild animals sense your approach early. At my crossing some pre-determined line in the sand, most bolt. Learning where that line in the sand is becomes pertinent towards the pursuit of the image.

I find stopping well back, take a few photos, figure out the light, get your settings up for a quick exit shot, then move. I usually readjust my settings for quality, get the composition set and click. Then go back to settings for speed (faster shutter, more ISO and or bigger aperture/fstop.). Move closer….rinse and repeat until you get the shot. (you might think this is “tough” light to work…. You would be right).

Most of the time with really long fixed (non-zoomable) lenses, I fill the frame, get the shot and leave without causing the animals to move. (Pronghorn excepted since they move regardless). 😜

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

Title: Blue Heron Sunset

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Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Raptor Dive Bombing Heron
Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Photobombing Hawk. This image is so deep it almost looks almost fake to me but I swear I did NOTHING to this other than some shadow work to bring out some hidden details under the birds wings. The edge detail on those birds is just SPOT on focus as fine as I have ever seen at this 150 – 200 yard distance. The trees behind were blurred (bokeh) as I relented F-stop/depth of focus for gaining shutter speed here. I gained sharpness doing so in the zone that is in focus. The lighting was early morning hard right over my shoulder. I’m thinking the “field of focus’ is maybe 4 feet deep at this distance. The 3-D appearance of this stunned me in it’s depth. Closing speed has got to be 100 MPH. Both birds were cruising with the hawk veering away the last second!

Calling this unlikely would be an understatement lol. I was tracking the Heron with a partner of his across the tree line. 50 feet high Cottonwoods house their nests. A 1200 mm lens, 28 inches long resting on my trucks glass. (lens is padded) I saw them incoming a ways off . Fortunately I had a few seconds to “spin the dials” in anticipation of a 1/2000th sec shutter speed. (see above for some more camera on manual mode hints) So I got lucky on the light. I was “machine gunning” the camera rapid fire. I also caught this raptors partner diving in as well but it is well out of focus in that capture. A total of 3 hawks dove at this Heron Pair that had already claimed a nesting spot on the trees. They are all building nests at the moment down at the ranches wetlands.

Raptor War: This week I found a Red Tailed Hawks body at the base of the tree the Heron’s nest in. Photo of such on my web gallery. It lays there still as it’s illegal to collect any piece part or even a feather of a Raptor or most other migratory non game birds. (Fed Laws) I’ve seen Herons there every year for 20 years.

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

Title: Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

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Blue Heron Mated Pair

Blue Heron Mated Pair
Blue Heron Mated Pair

Blue Heron Mated Pair

These two could have cared less I was slowly moving in their general direction. They are just starting to build their next with the male bringing sticks to the female. She is the construction engineer of the two. He’s the classic hunter / gatherer. I believe these two killed a Red Tail Hawk I found under their nesting area a few weeks old carcass. Both flew off this AM from the harrassment. So I went to tend to a game trail camera along that tree line. Thusly I drove under the trees in my Black pickup. Screeches above… I watched from a terrible vantage an acrobatic chase routine of Herons getting bombed by 3 Red Tailed Hawks located in this treeline. I’ve seen all sorts of aggressive behavior and posturing between the two different species fighting for the good nesting spots. Raptor/Heron Wars!

I believe these guys more or less consider my truck just a noisy/smelly Black Angus Cow playing Sirus XM 56 most of the time. What’s good about my Ford Raptor is that when I’m moving it runs normally. When I stop, it shuts off to save gas. It is by far the coolest thing they could have built into the truck for photographers.. The vibration from running engines has ruined more than a few images of mine over the years. The Auto-off feature is WONDERFUL. If you take your foot off the brake, it starts before you can hit the gas. It’s all effectively way more quiet by far than my old Trail Friend a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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

Title: Blue Heron Mated Pair

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Blue Heron Launch Paddy

Blue Heron Launch Paddy
Blue Heron Launch Paddy

Blue Heron Launch Paddy

Well, sort of a Paddy lol.

The Great Blue Heron is also know as Ardea herodias by hobbiests and professionals alike. This gal was shore wading out 150 yards out, the sun was setting. You know, a classic wetland scene. Really not common up in this high dry ridge country….. Seeing a Heron out on the ranch is rare unless you go to where they hang out. They are not known for hanging out on the high dry ridges of the grasslands. Fortunately we have several small lakes on the ranch. This lake is a spring fed OLD man made lake dammed up around the turn of the century. Early cattle drives watered here even before the dam was built.

These are BIG birds weighing in at 4.5 – 5.5 pounds, stand 5 foot tall with a 5 foot wingspan….. They are AMAZING circus performers. Being total masters of their environment, they have superpowers!📸 I observed this one through a 1200mm 28 inch long lenses while I was on an adjacent shore across the lake. Watched it for about 20 minutes, finally it took off tired of watching me I suspect lol. The light was fading fast, I’m trying to get detailed shots of a still bird so the camera settings were not quite fast enough to totally freeze in ice the wing tips. Getting at lake level while a spooky bird watches but doesn’t fly way is a good thing :). The rules of Physics and technological limitations again demonstrate they are my masters. (along with topography if you follow my narratives 😜. )

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

Title: Blue Heron Launch Paddy

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Ripples Caught in Space and Time

Ripples Caught in Space and Time
Ripples Caught in Space and Time

Ripples Caught in Space and Time

Every capture I post is my memory of a moment in space time that will remain in our digital universe. Anything posted on the internet will probably survive us all. Digital memory is forever assuming a massive solar EMP doesn’t throw us back to the 1880’s. In a sense this image and most of my work is preserved as long as the internet remains a viable domain. Eventually Artificial Intelligence will know everything all of us have ever posted on the internet. Kind o scary huh? AI combined with the development pressure of Covid -19 will make it happen very fast too.

So I had myself a mirrored pond on a rare becalmed evening up here. This spot is exactly on the Montana/ Wyoming border. 45 degrees North Latitude is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole.🤔👀📷 (There are new people reading this lolol).

I made this an action shot. Driving my F-150 Raptor into the pond generated a large train of ripples slowly expanding outwards from the disturbance. The resultant ripple crests were a perfect mirror train to repeat the suns ever expanding reflections as they approach the lens.

These high land ponds are ephermeral, drying with the onset of summer. The sandstone rocks under them soaking up the water slowly replenishing the local “water table”. Water is still in this pond as this posts.

About this photo:

The Dynamic Range in this photo is incredible. I’m using a Sony Alpha 7R4 which has 15 stops dynamic range. I’d like to have a few more of these cameras lol. The dark lower part of this picture has very few artifacts from the WIDE range from straight into the sun to almost pure black but you can see the details in both ends of the lights dynamism.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Ripples Caught in Space and Time

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Blue Heron Wetland Reflections

Blue Heron Wetland Reflections
Blue Heron Wetland Reflections

Blue Heron Wetland Reflections

The lighting during the “Golden Hour” is usually markedly rediish/orange. The distance traveled by that light through the atmosphere is a path that drops the longer wavelengths to the side. I actually drove up in my mobile photo studio (my Ford Raptor) and never had to get out of that portable blind. It took me about 10 minutes to drive up once I crested the hill.

When I approach this area, I slowly encroach in steps. It’s comparable to imitating a grazing animal. The Raptor is pretty quiet. Particularly when compared to my previous Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is also very Black, dark and stealthy in it’s appearance. Lots of black animals walking around the hills (angus cattle). So my new rig is working very well to integrate into the scheme of things up here. The various creatures on ranch become accustomed to that truck with time. I also worked a herd of deer this same evening getting very close for this early in the season.

This particular trip into the backcountry was the first one this spring with Pronghorn AND meadowlarks seen and photographed. The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of nesting season. I have only seen this ONE Heron so far and expect the others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 6 nests in the trees across the lake from where this guy stands here. He did fly up to the nest which my truck was parked near. (to look across the lake at this bird). He obviously wasn’t worried about my truck as he was motionless for 20 minutes all through my approach till when I backed up and away to change the scene. (got enough photos lolol).

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

Title: Blue Heron Wetland Reflections

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Warbler and Turtles Sunning

Warbler and Turtles Sunning
Warbler and Turtles Sunning

Warbler and Turtles Sunning . (I have a big backyard)

First of all this is a game trail camera capture from last summer.. I have several 360 degree cameras that sense all around them for heat movement. I set this up on a landing under a tree to take pictures about 90 degrees to this. The heat of the Golden Warbler’s body triggered the camera and caught in freeze frame the turtle race ongoing on the log behind the grass curtain. The Male Warbler with Chestnut colored patches on his chest is not a particularly common bird up here. I caught this one several times with this camera though. I run a network of 29 game trail cameras spring through the early winter months. I have quite a few to gather after the winter isolation. Most will be out of batteries for various reasons. I do get interesting images from them. 🤔👀📸

That is a bunch of Western Painted Turtles sunning. This year I’m walking through there with a machete before I plant that camera. The grass is obfuscating to the turtles but I will get them next time lolol.

I saw the first Pronghorn on ranch for the spring this evening on the way to this pond. I took images of an early arrival Great Blue Heron this evening that will take a week to publish on line. A week is my minimum turn around generally these days. The time of same day “take the image” and “post the images’ has long since passed lololol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Warbler and Turtles Sunning

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Reflections Melt Water

Reflections Melt Water
Reflections Melt Water

Reflections Melt Water

A little wind that night but it was spotty. The sky show was muted at first.

This capture was well worth of hazardous pay. The particular camera rig I use for this kind of work is about a 5500 dollar outfit. (lens and camera body). When you literally touch the water with the camera, there is this reflexive pucker of certain gastro-intestinal muscles that occurs. I instinctively pull back from such threats to beloved gear. I had Goretex™ lined boots on as I did wade in a bit for this. Never got wet feet though. I’m not sure when putting electronic gear this close to destruction bothers me but it does lolol. 🤔📸

The sky this night actually went full involvement with this sun a little later on in the time line and those images will be posted as I finish them. I actually spent a lot of time with a nearby herd of buck deer all but one sans antlers (a stag) this night.. I left here shortly after this. Worked them for 10 minutes and proceeded back to here for the rest of this show off this reflecting mirror.

Yet another Blue Image from me. I have done 3 in the last week which is virtually unheard of. Not sure if it’s a mood thing or not but it’s definitely happening.

Be safe all and enjoy all the TV time.

Gear (Sony Alpha 7R4, Sony 28-135 G series lens. ).

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

Title: Reflections Melt Water

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Blue Reflections at Sunset

Blue Reflections at Sunset
Blue Reflections at Sunset

Blue Reflections at Sunset

Blue is a rare color scheme from my cameras. I don’t work blue skies very often mid day . Most nights around the solstice (as here) are brightly colored. IT was an odd night. But the wind was dead calm. I thought that a trip a few miles into the backcountry to get to this place would worth the trip.

Backcountry…. I use the term all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…

This pond is 2 miles of bumpy two track road from the county road passing through a seriously hard wire gate to pass through. Tight bastard it is… The nearest county road is gravel, it is 14 miles then to the closest paved road. It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way flashing red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away. This spot is right at about 200 yards from the Montana/Wyoming Border and it has a bit of both states in the Image as do most of my photos.

The Dam was built by cowboys probably 100 years ago. Located directly on the Miles City to Newcastle Cattle Drive Route, many a herd over nighted at this spot historically. Wetlands are rare this high up the ridge. The crack in the earth that that lets the aquifer leak into this puddle is hundreds of feet deep into the Fox Hill Formation (The Beach sand of the Dinosaurs). I’m still looking for a fossil beach umbrella…..😜

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Blue Reflections at Sunset

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Reflections Moon Icy Pond

Reflections Moon Icy Pond
Reflections Moon Icy Pond

Reflections Moon Icy Pond

The ephemeral wetlands of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, entertain many reflections every day but you have to be there at the right time to capture those photons that are worth catching…. The winds were somewhere else as the water here was mirrored as smooth as it gets. Dead calm air is quite unusual up in this high ridge line country. The ice floating on the surface of this rapidly depleting due to the warmth… Melt water pond will be here but a few more weeks. This water level is quickly dropping soaking into the Hell Creek Formation sands underlaying this spot.. There is NO snow left to melt up the hill from it. Nothing to feed it further so I’m expecting it to disappear shortly.

This nearly full March Worm Moon that evening a few weeks ago was a beautiful sight rising just a few minutes before sunset. I worked it with 4 cameras/lenses over about 30 minutes. I have a few photos to finish from the “sitting” lol. The “Golden Hour” lighting tinting everything an orange hue that is classic for the timing of the sunset ongoing over my left shoulder. The sky show there is a subject for another post another day. Seeing the full moon while the sun is still up only occurs for a few days a month, perhaps 4 chances during the month.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, (pretty much directly ON the Montana/Wyoming border, the 45 parallel, precisely 1/2 way between the north pole and the equator. Exactly🤔

TItle: Reflections Moon Icy Pond

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Reflections Butterfly Sunset

Reflections Butterfly Sunset
Reflections Butterfly Sunset

Reflections Butterfly Sunset

Simple is usually better. I seldom do blue sunsets but here is a recent result. Something got into me here. It’s probably just me. A perfect calm water mirror present is unusual needing camera attention in my world. I would have liked to off set the sun. The composition destined to center the bright eye. The “Butterfly” on it’s side became apparent to me in the camera. I collect all sorts of frames on this timeline . This one survived the selection process to finish the image. It’s pretty rare up here to have glass flat water considering the 12 mph average wind speed enjoyed locally.

Any particular image that I post here is written for my eventual hard copy books. Amazingly, not every morning/evening sky in Wyotana is a fully involved brilliant Crimson/Yellow . Most are subdued and more like this. The Melt Water Pond here hosted the markedly subdued evening. The sun just popping out from under that dark cloud. When I invest rare spare time into travels to locations like this, I leave often when there is an obscured sun. I find being able to “read” the sky to as the future movement of large cloud bands / banks to be a useful skill. The sun slit here happened JUST in time to provide me with ample photons to acquire this image. A minute or two later, the horizon rose to cover that bright disk. The twilight show afterwards was a fairly subdued stage show as well.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Reflections Butterfly Sunset

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Reflections Melt Water Moon

Reflections Melt Water Moon
Reflections Melt Water Moon

Reflections Melt Water Moon

It was a little windy for a reflective shot perhaps but this gibbous moon setting into a early morning setting moon backshow caught my attention. It made it through the “To Finish” Sieve I mentally put my images through.

I know the grassy bottom of this small melt water pond and it stays very firm even driving across it when it is full. The pond is ephemeral which means it dries up seasonally and has a good firm soil profile developed. I had JUST pulled up to the rippled mirror surface of this lake in my truck. The wind driven ripples were moving smoothly across the glass surface. The scene was subdued and very blue. Blue images are not my most common production but I liked this one. I’ve been accused of being Blue Blind before lolol.

Finding a pond high enough on a ridge that you can see the horizon around here is the tough part. For all intents and purposes this pond is about as high up as they get around here. IT’s also essentially directly on the Montana/Wyoming border lol. PLUS it has a thin bank to the horizon which is even more specific and desirable of a reflecting surface. . This place has a lot of topography so the particular combination of requirements is pretty rare up here. Even better, it’s only about 500 feet off the local county road which is rare for a photographic “attraction” up here. I normally have to drive miles of two track trails to get to an interesting subject lolol. No complaints on my end.

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

Title: Reflections Melt Water Moon

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Great Blue Heron Sunning

Great Blue Heron Sunning
Great Blue Heron Sunning

Great Blue Heron Sunning

A Month from now they return… Spring time 2019, the trees were just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I was busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well. These are big 5 pound 5 foot tall birds if you’ve never seen them before.

Earlier that season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot. Earlier that season before leaves were in the way, I was able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction.

They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings. These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes along the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀.

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

Title: Great Blue Heron Sunning

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Golden Warbler Foraging

Golden Warbler Foraging
Golden Warbler Foraging

Golden Warbler Foraging.
Part of the joy of my job is I get to see odd things occur now and then (OK, every day). I sometimes consider the other places I’ve lived during my travels. Then I compare them to the 20 years I’ve spent on this wondrous place. Not even close .
Magical things often appear in the wetlands in front of me. I am just a stenographer taking notes about the big stage productions in front of me. Click click of the keys of the steno machine or the camera. No difference in effect. The details are in the dark here for this fantasy image. Imagine the mood of that moment in time and space. You could hear thunder rumbling 24 miles out.
I can not record all that I see with my cameras. They possess superhuman sight much better than mine but their ability to see dynamic range is limited. It is for instance VERY hard and essentially impossible to take a stars photos behind the full unveiled moon. You could see it with your eye easily. Not so much cameras.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch,Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Title : Golden Warbler Foraging.