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Islands in a Sea of Mist

Islands in a Sea of Mist
Islands in a Sea of Mist

Islands in a Sea of Mist

I set sail early enough under this sea to achieve the vantage point I knew was on the hill. The fog bank moved over my homestead a full hour before sunrise. A window in that cover to the stars gave me a good idea of how thick/tall the bank was. I jumped in my rig driving through this lavender pea soup. Not until I climbed enough ridge to get above they tops of the waves of clouds that were hugging the ground rolling in.

The “Islands” at 30 miles from my lens, were looking back at me. The Missouri Buttes were a big sign post to the wagon trains known to them as the “3 Sisters”. Remember that those 3 hills are all related volcanic necks. Made of hard rock. they stick up above the softer rock the volcanic neck melted through to the surface. Much sediment has been removed around this volcanic pipes now more than a 1000 feet in the air. They used to be miles deep. Everybody known about the Devils Tower (left off frame about 20 miles), but also part of the same “Volcanic neck” complex formed around the same time as the MIssouri Buttes. This is the Non tourist angle from the north east .. Devils tower had more time to cool slowly and the columns formed much better

Location: near Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana), (Crook County/Campbell Count line about 4 miles south of the Montana/Wyoming border. Looking south east.

Title: Islands in a Sea of Mist

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Missouri Buttes + Devil’s Tower

Missouri Buttes + Devil's Tower
Missouri Buttes + Devil's Tower

Missouri Buttes + Devil’s Tower

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 4 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 and cooled. We know this was deep as the column of rock in the Devils Tower cooled very slowly allowing the columns of rock the National Monument is famous for. Being our nations first national Monument is the moniker that Devil’s Tower and surround area carry. Wyoming and all that

Being 40 miles away from the tow and the buttes somewhat closer, this becomes a terribly long shot to actually be able to resolve the columns on the tower. There is SOME columnar jointing in the Missouri Buttes. Emplaced closely in time and space does not say they were coterminous in their eruptions. . We don’t know their exact schedule.

Phenolitic Porphyry is the name of the rock. It cooled into big 6 foot in diameter crystals up the length of the tower. I used one of several possibilities all related to volcanic activity to describe the tower as volcanic necks. There are multiple configurations and possible variations in this discussion I won’t get into here but feel free to google devils tower origin to discover more.

Location: The Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming, Trail Creek Road, NE Campbell Country

Title: Missouri Buttes + Devil’s Tower

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Crescent Moon Over Deer

Crescent Moon Over Deer
Crescent Moon Over Deer

Crescent Moon Over Deer

Scenery such as this under the crescent moon takes my breath away. Surrounded by the quickening of the sunrise projecting it’s pink light. The ice so suspended in the atmosphere reflects those long traveled photons back to my light traps. This is termed Alpenglow. “Belt of Venus” variety. Cameras do no justice to the cool air on your face, the quiet of the remoteness, the sense of being the only human for miles in all directions. This photo location is about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. It’s 50 miles to anywhere with a population over 10. There are WAY more deer per square mile up here than people.

On a road trip up here in the winter high country consists of slick roads followed by short jaunts off the gravel. Two tracks roads are unpredictable as to snow depth so I tread carefully getting off road. Stuck in the snow is not something I’ve ever been. It’s not my plan to ever do so. I carry a LOT of survival gear, a good radio, folks generally know where I’m going ahead of time.

With the Ford F-150 Raptor I’m driving now, I’m feel much more secure but that is probably a trap eh? … It’s got at least 6 inches more ground clearance than my old jeep. (famous last words) So I’ll keep being choosy upon my trails and stick to the smart choices depending on the weather I guess…

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

Title: Crescent Moon Over Deer

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Alpenglow Frosty Backcountry Drive

Alpenglow Frosty Backcountry Drive
Alpenglow Frosty Backcountry Drive

Alpenglow Frosty Backcountry Drive

When I try to read the morning as to whether or not to go out, I get about 70 percent good choices. This was a good morning. Once I decide to go out 30 minutes or so before sunrise, I have to decide where to go. I usually try to follow the light so I chose to take a road trip. There are few places up high that are accessible in the winter (sometimes more accessible than others).

Hoar frost covered this ridge that morning. Covering the left side of all the pines. Covered were any objects that disrupted air flow. The down wind side of the trees had little to no Hoar frost. Taken 5 minutes Pre-sunrise, this Alpenglow Back Show was a sight to behold for me. I don’t see many “Belt of Venus” this intense. Ice as a projector screen becomes efficient with so much of it in the atmosphere. The colorcast in the snow testifies to the reflected lights intensity. I don’t post much colorcast snow if it didn’t actually exist at the time. I mostly produce images in a “Blue Snow Free Zone”.

If you haven’t already, look up the term “Belt of Venus” as it is a fixture up here in the Winter. In season, almost every visible sun/horizon crossing up here has some pink alpenglow in the backshow. I’ve even seen it during the summer as well but for some reason, there seems to be less ice in the air during the summer.🤔😜 When there is ice, it usually falls as hail lolol.

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

Alpenglow Frosty Backcountry Drive

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Belt of Venus Framed

Belt of Venus Framed
Belt of Venus Framed

Belt of Venus Framed

It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridgetops. The main show over my shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this backshow is Pink. This pink back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise, you miss this show. Several image from this particular morning made it through the “sieve” I use to determine which photo to work on.

Alpenglow is the result ice in the air lighting up with the bright first pink starting about 40 minutes before sunrise… and then gradients to other nearly pure primary colors to Lavender at times up high. The Blue Line UNDER the Pink is the Shadow of the earths horizon. As the sun rises that blue band shrinks eventually disappearing just as the sun rises. The red/pink will often work down on the “Red Hills in the distance enhancing their already red rocks (Clinker) with the extra colorcast.

The hoar frost covering any exposed surface made for a winter wonderlands for a photographer with time before sunrise. Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.

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

Title: Belt of Venus Framed

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Missouri Buttes Photo Session

Missouri Buttes Photo Session
Missouri Buttes Photo Session

Missouri Buttes Photo Session

I have to drive about 10 miles to get to this location viewing the Devils Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck Complex. You have to arrive well before twilight to set up.

Devils Tower was the nations first National Monument. The “Three Sisters” as they were known to the wagon train pioneers, are related to the Devil’s Tower. Related in space and time and are all remnants of ancient volcanic neck. Exposed by eroding the material away from above. Formerly deeply buried, these volcanic necks have been exposed. The “Little Missouri River” washed away thousands of feet of sediment down to the Gulf of Mexico a little at a time. RIvers very slowly but surely move miles of thicknesses of sediment to expose structures of very deep origin.

The 3 Missouri Buttes the real name) is about 30 miles drive from my cameras vantage. The tower is closer to 45 miles out. View from the Northwest (the side the tourists NEVER see).

Alpenglow in the summer as this shot is rare. There has been a LOT of the Pink Belt of Venus in the skies of Wyoming this winter. Not sure why more than normal though. The “Belt of Venus” caused by by atmospheric Ice reflecting back the only light making the journey to it. Only the red wavelengths make it through the hundreds of miles of atmosphere and the hundred back to my cameras. The more ice, the redder the display becomes.

Location: Trail Creek Road, Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming. (Wyotana)

Title: Missouri Buttes Photo Session

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Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn
Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn

I’ve been on this spot many times. It is not easy to gain access to Midwinter. I have discovered that gaining elevation is a necessity required to acquire views such as this. 400 feet higher up here than where I live on the lower lip of this ridge. This rare back-lighting effect (colorcast) is accurately produced here exactly as I experienced it. The Red “Belt of Venus” in the sky background is from the same color light reflected in the atmospheric ice. The White Snow acting like a projector screen. I see a few of these a year historically. The snow and the hoar frost created “Pine Noodles” out of the needles. Witnessing and understanding what is happening below the surface are two different things however 🤔📷.

The snowstorm began at nightfall but ceased at mid-night. Bedded down were all the animals. The crisp wet morning accented the twilight. It might take half an hour of pre-sun travel to gain access this high remote ridge. There are no maintained roads up here off the county road. Busting drifts you can’t see is always a challenge…. Stuck describes a situation my 15 year partner Jeep Grand Cherokee I just traded in has never been. They ride like a board sadly under these backcountry two track roads. New ride 🙂

The Lone Tree and a few of it’s children surrounding the old soldier. These trees live in some very harsh conditions. They are almost all twisted grain under that bark from the high winds at the ridge.

This 40 mile landscape overlooks the Trail Creek Drainage. Off in the distance to the Little Powder River Drainage. The Mountain Ridge on the horizon is a reference point here. The camera is at the same elevation as the saddles between the peaks in the distance. This is a BIG valley / river drainage. The Big Horn Mountains had filled that big valley between the far hills with where I stand here.. The “Little Powder River, a 20 foot wide river most of the time removed all that sediment here to there….. Humm.. The “Alluvial Fans” (google this) from the Big Horn Mountains washed up to our doorsteps from 130 miles distant. Those have been bisected and removed by that little river. It’s drainage fingers cover a large area too. This is just a dry environment. This geomorphological process has taken a while.

Our ranch literally sits on the geologic inflection point between the Black Hills Uplift to our east and the Powder River Basin west (this view) The range distant to the horizon earned it name, the “Red Hills”. (I wonder why?)😜 Morning Red LIght is always illuminating those peaks for me.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Light Crack of Dawn

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B1B Lancer Circling Flags

B1B Lancer Circling Flags
B1B Lancer Circling Flags

B1B Lancer Circling Flags

Being under the US Air Forces Powder River Training Complex has it’s benefits. I could hear the roar from inside the house. The B!B is many things but it isn’t quiet. B1B’s can be faster than the sound (probably close to light speed) but I haven’t heard a sonic boom for the 20 years I’ve lived here. If nothing else the Air Force is polite. There is nothing like maybe 100,000 horse power flying overhead. I’ve had the fly 500 feet off the deck directly over head. It’s a real punch in the adrenal gland.

I’m thinking someone forgot their extra Skoal can in their locker then had to head back. In training, they are probably stacking spirals to gain altitude.. The sky was perfect to preserved the trail through the big strategic bomber moves pretty quickly. I’m thinking he pulled some “G’s” around that pretty tight loop at 450 knots. 🤔

Strategically these fellows have a low radar cross-section to make detection considerably more difficult. Their ability to fly lower and faster than the B52, while carrying a larger payload makes this a heck of a plane. Advanced electronic countermeasures to enhance survivability makes it a two way trip.

This guy is out of 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. They have a fairly large around of southeastern Montana and North Eastern Wyoming along with a Bunch of the Dakota’s as fly over. We unfortunately had one crash about 50 miles from here about 5 years back.

Using a WIDE angle fisheye lens I corrected significantly for lens distortion. There is still a little down angle on the log ranch lodge but it corrected fairly well.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: B1B Lancer Circling Flags

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Horsey Belt of Venus

Horsey Belt of Venus
Horsey Belt of Venus

Horsey Belt of Venus

MOON MONDAY 3PM offer… Moon photos all day today. This is number 4.

These two jokers were hanging out where I was driving just as the moon Full December moon was setting. The pink”Belt of Venus” was pervasive in the back show that morning. Alpenglow like the Belt of Venus is a result of LOT of atmospheric ice. The pink is the light that made it over the horizon, the blue like under it is the shadow of the eastern horizon on the western atmospheric ice screen. There are not many days of the month you can catch this and then the sky has to be clear enough to see the moon down that low to the horizon. As the western horizon moves upwards, the blue will disappear along with the full moon setting in due time.

Yet another low light (civil twilight) Close / Far perspective out of a 23-135 Sony G series lens. Some lenses do this kind of thing better than others but a medium zoom of about 70mm was my pick here. High F-stop for deep focal depth of field. Camera sensitivity and speed you set to light conditions with ideally lower iso and faster shutter if you can get away with it. Riding the razor blade of light balance. F stop is your priority here unless the horses are moving. If they are moving your going to have to make your shutter speed faster and turn up your camera sensitivity to compensate for the less light due to a faster speed/shorter exposure. It’s always those three settings working your camera in manual mode. Your camera on automatic is not going to take this image.

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

Title: Horsey Belt of Venus

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B1B Lancer Strategic Bomber

B1B Lancer Strategic Bomber
B1B Lancer Strategic Bomber

B1B Lancer Strategic Bomber

This 200 million dollar, international range, multi-role, long range bomber, built to combat targets across the world. They overfly our ranch irregularly (which I truly appreciate pilots!). We are that BIG white barn over the Montana/Wyoming border, you know it as an easy landmark. Sunset and Sunrise is a good time lolol. Come on over twice, let me get my camera out and my shoes on….😂😂

This happened just as the sun was going down over my shoulder causing a vibrant “Belt of Veuns” back show. I was photographing the sunset standing literally in the middle of nowhere when this big jet flew over at 450 knots or so.

Stratigically these fellows have a low radar cross-section to make detection considerably more difficult.
Ability to fly lower and faster than the B52, while carrying a larger payload makes this a heck of a plane. Advanced electronic countermeasures to enhance survivability makes it a two way trip.

Here this plane has it’s wings forward. This is a higher lift configuration. Usually used for fast tactical takeoffs and landings from airfields under attack. If he was interested in opening it up. Just sub light speed, the wings would be swept to the rear. There is nothing like maybe 100,000 horse power flying overhead.

This guy is out of 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. They have a fairly large around of southeastern Montana and North Eastern Wyoming along with a Bunch of the Dakota’s as fly over. We unfortunately had one crash about 50 miles from here.

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

Title: B1B Lancer Strategic Bomber

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Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show
Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show is that moment in space and time when the red light of the ice filtered morning sun, touches the far mountains. As far as backshows go, this is a good example of that variety of Alpenglow. (Belt of Venus). The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. The low angle sunlight is red due to the longer wavelengths being able to penetrate the haze better.

The best Alpenglow displays are early winter based on my experience. Atmospheric ice requires temps obviously below freezing and at 4000 feet in elevation, that isn’t that hard to do. I’ve seen good Alpenglow mid-summer. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. When the sunlight is just touching the hills in the distance, I am in the shade of the ridge 10 miles distant from my perspective. Topography allows some interesting opportunities.

I strongly recommend googling “Belt of Venus” to further your knowledge of this wonderful phenomena. Often the sunward side of the sky show your watching isn’t the highlight (pun intended) of the moment. Make sure you turn around and check the sky. This was easy as I was still in the shade and waiting for the sun to come up over that ridge behind my position. I had a three mile drive on two track roads to get to this location. My jeep has no trouble on these old cow trails. (Except it beats me up).

Awaiting a new ride. According to the Ford Website, the 2020 Ford Truck is “In Production” at the moment being assembled. The last truck I purchased new was in 1999.

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

Title “Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show”.

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“Belt of Venus” NE Wyoming

"Belt of Venus" NE Wyoming
"Belt of Venus" NE Wyoming

Here I have posted a very well developed “Belt of Venus” . NE Wyoming version. Lots of Ice in the air…..Backshow from the sun that just went down over my shoulder.

This is the view from the Pass at RockyPoint Wyoming showing the 4 volcanic necks. The debris from them being eroded (sediments) are draping off them making an apron of debris to the relatively hard peaks. The Devil’s Tower (left) is the best known volcanic neck in this complex

. The other three peaks were emplace around the same time as the towers rocks were cooling in the deeply buried neck of an ancient volcano.

“Belt of Venus” NE Wyoming

The Missouri Buttes AKA the Three sisters are in fact 4 buttes. Hard to see all 4 unless your on the top of Devils Tower though or in a plane. Two of the buttes rise slightly lower topographically than the Tower, while the remaining two are actually higher. Devil’s Tower was formed from the same type of rock type as the Missouri Buttes. Rocks there are classified as “phonolite porphyry” by geologists.

There is some agreement among geologist (rare thing lol) that these volcanic necks were from the same intrusion of magma. That event created the hard magmatic origin rocks that obviously later resisted erosion better than the surrounding sediments. Thus they stick out of the surrounding landscape that washed away.

Erosional Remnants:

Geologists think magmatic injection, lead to these erosional remnants (mountains). All these peaks rocks were formed during closely related volcanic timelines it appears. Although some columnar jointing is evident in the Little Missouri Buttes, they lack the distinctive appearance and magnificent grandeur of Devils Tower which cooled over a longer period of time allow the giant columnar crystals of Dark Porphyry. These eroded exposed volcanic necks dominate the landscape with their presence here in the NorthEastern Corner of the state. This is almost entirely in Crook County but I’m standing in Campbell County Wyoming.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title “Belt of Venus” NE Wyoming

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Moon Rising: Lone Tree

Moon Rising: Lone Tree
Moon Behind the Lone Tree on the Ridge

Photographing Moor Rising: Lone Tree is a combination of finding the right position in x/y space, timing and distance is z, and that position moves with the speed of the moon which makes using Tripods very difficult. Maybe a monopod….This was handheld. Distance is your friend here from that Lone tree. I’m about 600 yards out from it for this shot. This is a full sized image not a crop. Doing this kind of photography has found me on my butt more times than any other. The moon is constantly moving, I’m usually on some parallel ridge walking forwards (as the moon is rising and to the left a bit while looking through a 2 foot long lens (tube) and not at my feet with sage brush around on uneven ground.

Capturing this kind of image is a “sub-hobby” of mine within the general photography that I do. I find it a seriously fun challenge to get terrestrial objects in the same focal plane as the moon or the sun in twilight or darker conditions. It’s a good skill to hone for when the right situation presents itself.. Like this 📸

You have to get working that camera on Manual if you want to do this kind of work lol. Cell phone cameras need not apply and won’t do this without an external lens of some rigged hook up….lolol Lots of fstop, then all you have to do is adjust the other two parameters left, ISO (camera sensitiviey) and Shutter speed. I’ve covered that many times elsewhere so I won’t do it again here 📸 Suffice to say, distance is your friend here and lots of lens to do this.

. 2×3 aspect to 3 feet tall from a 1200 mm telephoto lens. Full frame not a crop.

Have a great day all, be safe in all you do… 😀


Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming Montana borderlands

Moon Rising: Lone Tree

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The Big Horn Mountains Bathed in “Belt of Venus” Alpenglow

The Big Horn Mountains Bathed in "Belt of Venus" Alpenglow
The Big Horn Mountains Bathed in "Belt of Venus" Alpenglow

When many focus on the sun rise , I usually turn around several times during a photoshoot as the back show can be better sometimes.
Here the Big Horn Mountains are bathed in the “Belt of Venus” variety of Alpenglow. Just a tick of sun now hitting the high peaks to the left on the “Red Hills”… (their real name)…..It pays to turn around now and then lol…
This landscape stretches 130 miles to the peaks across the Powder River Sedimentary Basin (where 30 percent of the electricity generated in the US is powered by the coal from here. ) The Red Hills are 35 miles out at this site.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Pink “Belt of Venus” Alpenglow Crack of Dawn on the “Red Hills”

Pink "Belt of Venus" Alpenglow Crack of Dawn on the "Red Hills"
Pink "Belt of Venus" Alpenglow Crack of Dawn on the "Red Hills"

In taking this image Pink “Belt of Venus” Alpenglow Crack of Dawn on the “Red Hills”, I was at around the same elevation as the saddle to the left of the peak off in the “Red Hills” 40 miles away from the camera.

I wonder why they call them the “Red Hills”? hummm.🤔

The Science of this.

The Light Stuff: The Pink Alpenglow known as “The Belt of Venus” is literally the back show of a sunrise over my shoulder that was s a stunning clear sky yellow Alpenglow scene saturated by an orange and yellow gradient sunrise THROUGH the atmospheric ice present. You’ve seen other photos of that in the wetlands around here just recently posted this morning perhaps elsewhere. This is the back show where only the longer more penetrative red/pink rays of light make it through to the relatively light grey atmospheric ice present and reflects even more red. The red rocks on the hills are also adding to the effect of just the tip of the Mountain is exposed to the sun over the shadow of the horizon behind me. Technically the sun has risen for some places and not for others.

Geology: That 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 here 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? 🤔 Cobbles only move during floods. Quartz cobbles are common down in the river valley where they eventually make their way. Being harder they resist erosion, being heavy, they don’t travel very fast and tend to concentrate in the river down there. Quartzite cobbles up here in pure fine grained sandstone country are rare. When I find them, they are affiliated with Dinosaur Bone Deposits and are probably “gastroliths” or stomach stones (like chickens swallowing gravel). Dinosaurs moved literally small boulders around in their stomachs and left them here mixed in randomly where you find dinosaur bones. the same river concentrated both just like it does gold.

This has been an alpenglow day……3 posts in a row anyway… Change up is in order I think📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands