As the solstice is tomorrow, I thought I’d show you what a Bighorn Mountain sideshow looks like with a far northern sunset. The sun is WAY off to the right of the frame. The landscape ladder here climbing off to the 130 mile distant 13000 foot tall peaks leaves me speechless more times than not. Now this is a very long lens which crushes perspective. The second furthest ridge is 40 miles away from the ridge I’m standing on. My elevation is about the same as the saddle on that second to last ridge. The red layered badlands are only 10 miles distant.
Those red banded layer hills are all Tullock Formation. The rocks exposed on the surface all the way back to the Bighorns have been carried there. A complex process by rivers of the past. These moving eroded by the elements, sediments off the peaks. All running down slope from those world class hills. At one time there was a smooth ramp all the way to the peaks to my feet. It was a smooth slope that huge alluvial fans were deposited off the Bighorns. The middle of those alluvial fan stack are dissected at right angles by the Big Horn, the Powder and the Little Powder Rivers.
The rocks I stand on are older Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstones with their share of Dinosaurian fossils. (Hell Creek/ Lance Formations) These older sandstones are dipping toward the Bighorn’s Powder River Basin being downwarped with the formation of that regional structure. About a mile off my ranch’s west boundary, the alluvial fans overlapped the Cretaceous River Sands. The dinosaur fossil bearing rocks diving deep off toward the mountains.
View from up on Ridge one here on ranch. The window to the Big Horns is IFFY this time of year from this far away. My truck/tripod is 130 miles out for this capture off the highest point around the place. The timing on this was mid-Civil Twilight. The sunset is far right off frame looking from the Montana/Wyoming border to the southwest toward the range.
Full Screen is a good choice for this. Twilight over the BigHorns this night was so obviously gorgeous. I had to resort to a short time exposure to catch it. The timing on this sunset is very late in Civil Twilight. When the alpenglow colorcasts the snow on the Mountains, I get interested 👀📸.
Civil Twilight after sunset ends about 28 minutes after the sun goes down 8 degrees under the horizon. It’s usually the best time to get those crimson and yellow skies. Orange here is a mixture. Atmospheric Ice causes this phenomena caused by refracted light passing through. Only the red wavelengths which have survived through hundreds of miles of atmosphere light the cloud deck.
The long lenses I use crush the perspective of distance. I’m almost always using telephotos to bring in just the BigHorn Mountains filing the whole frame. It takes about a 800 mm long focal length to fill the camera frame side to side with the tallest part of the range. The black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out. The clouds behind the range are around 200 miles out I would suspect. The distance is hard to put into proper frame. Those 13000 feet high mountains appear smaller than the thumb on my outstretched arm from here.
Layers of Landscape to the first big ridge stretch for 40 miles in the distance. The Alpenglow illuminated BigHorn Mountains are saturated in an orange color cast projecting off of the deeper snow cover of the slopes. There are still spotty snow in the low and sheltered northern slopes and the deeper slopes of the 130 mile distant peaks. 1200 mm telephoto.
This of course is a time exposure as it were. I consider anything longer than 1/4 second a time exposure best done on a tripod or some support. You can take photos like this free handed but your ISO is going to have to be so high that you’ll get grain on your image. A minimum handheld speed with a long lens is about 1/100th. With a telephoto your going to have to compensate for the lack of light somehow as they are not a fast lens. Turning up camera sensitivity? This will unfortunately give you larger grain to your image and add noise to the color. It will however bring an image in.
The first rule of photography is get the shot. The second rule is get it right !. Longer time exposures give your camera a chance to gather light the easy way. You always want as LOW and ISO as you can get away with. Low light images like this look wonderful if done on a tripod. Not so much hand held. I use a clamp on my car window with my favorite tripod head on it that mates to my cameras. Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
This is one of the most intense smokey sunsets that I have ever captured. From the summer of 2018, I’m just now finalizing the image. I have a huge back log of about 4000 images that I’ve previous worked on and like a lot. Getting them all finished is job one around here until it isn’t.
I’m standardizing all my frame sizes to be consistent. These days I’m mostly finishing square and 3×2 aspects (landscape and portrait) with ventures into 2:1 diptychs and 3:1 triptychs multiple image scenes. I’m slowly building those “coffee table books”. I’ve got nearly 1200 finished images with 250 – 300 word (or more) narratives attached composed since September 21st 2019. Every day without fail since then I’ve put out an average of 5.7 photos and 2000 words. I’m not sure I can keep this up through the summer but I’ll give it my best.
The light environment here was quite dark with the sun still up. When only crimson hues make it through the gauntlet of smoke, soot, ash plus atmospheric conditions. In other words this was actually a very low light capture, you could easily look at the sun with your frail human optic sensors. This was more like 20 minutes after sunset with a dim moon looking at me instead of a setting sun.
I’ve seen this happen with ice in the air but never this intense. Smoke and other particulates are better at it but suspended atmospheric ice does a wonderful job trapping all the blues greens and yellows.
Mirage Over the BigHorns (They don’t look like that)….
Fata Morgana = Complex Mirage
Often observed over large patches of snow/ice at low uniform temperature. Sounds like here lolol… A Fata Morgana is a pretty rare event in my experience. I’ve never seen this before but it can occur anywhere. There is no limitation for temperature though as they can occur on hot days. This was not a hot day lolol.
Fata Morgana is described as a very complex “superior” form of mirage. It will have three or more distorted erect and inverted images . All within the primary mirage. Changes of the constantly variable conditions of the atmosphere cause it to change form rapidly. A Fata Morgana may change in infinite ways within just a few seconds, Including changing to become a straightforward superior mirage. A superior mirage occurs when the air under the line of sight is colder than the air above it. This unusual arrangement is termed ” temperature inversion”. Warm air above cold air is the opposite of the normal temperature gradient of the atmosphere during the daytime. That obviously was the case here.
Seen from sea level to mountain tops, this phenomena has even been seen from aircraft. I’ve never ever experienced this in 20 years of living up here. Now the Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant. That is one long distance mirage. About 200 miles line of sight past the Big Horns are the Wind River Mountains. The strange slopes COULD be from the Wind River Slopes showing in the mirage. Alternately, the mirage COULD be Multiplying and stacking in several layers the slopes of the Big Horns themselves. (Educated Speculation at best).
“Atmospheric ducting” of light causes this. The lensing created by bending the light rays in an arc equal to the curvature of the earth. Proper Positioning is necessary to see this. Being JUST below or actually in the atmospheric duct is necessary to see the Fata Morgana Mirage.
With forest fires way to our west this summer, some of the sunsets were seriously moderated by the smoke. Any particulates in the atmosphere will act as a defacto filter that reduces overall light along with a color filter. All colors but the red were effectively prevented from making it to my camera by the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Normally Yellow light would be a component of the lowest sun but not under these extreme conditions.
In all fairness, last summer was a better fire year “up here” though some local smaller fires broke out. We were wet all summer thank heavens. Unfortunately, places like California Burned but we were mostly out of the serious smoke from those events. I’ve seen HORRIBLE air quality here from forest fires west of us . We’ve had days where it was just plain unhealthy to go outside.
The only good part about the big unchecked fires brought on by mismanagement of the forest litter, is the wonderful photographs they bring on downrange of the fires. Having fought a few fires over the years, I will tell you they are terrifying. If you’ve ever seen a 200 year old 50 foot tall pine torch and was fighting that fire anyway, you might be my friend.
From all of us here at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Merry Christmas Eve, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year