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First Morning Drink on Tap

First Morning Drink on Tap
First Morning Drink on Tap

First Morning Drink on Tap

The very first of the mornings light skimmed off the high hill tops and ridges. I like to be just on the far side of a ridge for the sky show. Here I caught a calf Black Angus enter the rear door of the cafeteria’s milk spigot. Between the green grass (rocket fuel) and all that raw milk makes them live wires. You never know which way they are going to jump in the spring.

I get a lot of comments regarding the conical pyramidal shaped hill. I often do satire narratives where they turn magicially into volcanos or the rare “American” pyramid. I’m sorry that the truth is way less interesting. Sadly they are just piles of different layers of sandstones and mudstones. Deposted during the late Cretaceous, these layers are world famous.. This is when the dinosaurs were crawling around these sands I’m standing on. Blanketed in the Hell Creek/Lance formation, we never know what we are going to find. . Known from the end of the dinosaur era. They are indeed occasionally fossilferous. I’ve found good sized bones in the grass before (rare but several times). There are indeed dinosaur fossils up here. We earned Bliss Dinosaur Ranch as a name. p

But this is a land of many uses. We raise a lot of grass and cattle up here. I raise some dinosaurs now and then of course. We’ve had a nationally released video of 4 wheel drive activity we’ve done up here. (2008 Petersons 4 wheel drive and offroad’s Ultimate Adventure Video was partially filmed here). We have had a major rifle shoot here every year for 18 years now. Oil has been extracted back in the 1960’s so the place was mineral rich. Open spaces are still open. You would be hard pressed to find much evidence of the 1960’s oil production. There are several pipelines for oil, gas and CO2 crossing nearby. This place makes many things happen.

Title: First Morning Drink on Tap

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Windmill Crescent Moon Filter

Windmill Crescent Moon Filter
Windmill Crescent Moon Filter

Windmill Crescent Moon Filter

Way outside a normal photographic challenge. I come up with these ideas, show up to the time and place. Then I have to figure out how to capture such a low light event. 🤔📷

This was a 1/15th second time exposure as it was very dark out for this. The wind was BARELY moving the windmill’s sail. The camera is about 400 yards from the windmill’s blurred fan (in the camera). The moon was 200+ thousand miles out and only about 3 percent illuminated. The morning sky was full of a dark brown ice glow starting into alpenglow.

A big 600 mm fast lenses will do wonderful captures if you can keep them still enough. Any wind on a big camera lens in this amount of light is a tough photographic environment. A shot timer in the camera is a good thing (or a remote shutter switch). It takes a second or two for a really big lens to settle down motion induced by the click. The Montana/Wyoming borderlands I frequent are mostly high ridges. The wind is actually higher up here than down at more reasonable altitudes. Truly this is a tough photographic environment to catch such a low light moment in space and time.

To catch a blurred windmill sail as well as a dim crescent in the same photo….. Taking photos in very low light at distance is an interesting game. If you get a chance to try this with your gear, start at a 1/15th second time exposure. Go longer if you need if your tripod mounting the camera.

Artistically I was compositing two nested arcs in the same image. I believe this was about 1 hour before sunrise. Taken during either late astronomic twilight or earliest nautical twilight. There was just a slight glow in the sky, just enough to eek this image out.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Windmill Crescent Moon Filter

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Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal
Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item.

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

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Cowboy Peace Offering

Cowboy Peace Offering
Cowboy Peace Offering

A Cowboy Peace Offering is for the long run

Just before the horizon rose to cover the sun

Only then is the cowboys work almost done.

Putting his horse away is just one

Of Several chores left undone

When or when do they have time for fun?

Frank Bliss (2019)

I don’t do much poetry but that may change as I get images like this that push me that way. I’ve been watching cowboys up here for two decades. I am definitely NOT a cowboy. I do however respect the heck out of the profession. If you think you know what hard work is, try putting up a mile of barbed wire fence mid summer. How about hay bales…ever picked those up? . Have you ever had to get an injured calf away from it’s angry mother to treat it? Does anyone out there think working outside all day, driving stock, fixing water sources and dealing with horses is easy? I’ve done a little of all those things. Has anybody here chased a 2K pound bull with a 500 pound ATV by bumping his rump with it? I will personally confirm to you that crash bars are a good thing for a 4 wheeler on a ranch.

I know many people that have been cowboys all their lives. This is cattle country up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands. Part of the American Redoubt we are. The cowboy lifestyle as far as I can tell is as good an existence as any I’ve experienced in my 9 professional careers I’ve had during my life.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Cowboy Peace Offering

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Bad Horn Day

Bad Horn Day
Bad Horn Day

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

Shed Horn Sheath.

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Bad Horn Day

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Bliss Ranch Rock Garden

Bliss Ranch Rock Garden
Bliss Ranch Rock Garden

The very small piece of one Bliss Ranch Rock Garden shown here, thins found by a life long hunter of “treasures”. . Things collected off the ranch for my yard living on the Montana/Wyoming border. Two decades I’ve been riding around on this ranch very systematically searching the land for Dinosaur Fossils. I am an opportunist that will pick up about anything not a piece of wood and I have a few of those lolol. I generally built pretty big rock gardens full of ranch finds as needed. Lots of outdoor dinosaur fossils about even. Petrified wood, minerals from Wyoming are all around the place.

Found deep in the backcountry this hammer was.. It appears blacksmith made from a piece of good rock pick steel. This was very well mated to a standard piece of galvanized pipe. Probably 1950’s or so. . Cattle skulls are ubiquitous in deep ranch country as we live in. As we discover them, deer skulls/antlers are located then put in a rock garden.

. It’s a common western ranch tradition to collect deer bone or skulls.

I tend to get thematic with rock gardens. Some of them are quite big, full of river cobbles imported by semi truck from the Big Horn Mountains. A quarry near Buffalo Wyoming is the source of the cobbles in the garden. I’ve found quite a bit of Epidote in this. A beautiful green semi-precious minteral. Wonderful for making cabochons from. I love finding nice material by the semi load. I collect petrified wood in Gillette in various parking lots all the time. City Cobble Collecting is ALMOST as good as the treasures found on this ranch lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title Bliss Ranch Rock Garden

 

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Cow’s Bad Hair Day

Cow's Bad Hair Day
Cow's Bad Hair Day

Cow’s Bad Hair Day is one of those captures that just makes me roll my eyes lol. I’m pretty sure she was miserable about this 😔

TheSticky Seeds, widely known as “Burdock” (Arctium) seed clusters.

Claim to Fame:

The inventor claims Velcro was conceived from observing the seeds “hook” like design combined with it’s “adhesive” qualities. The hook’s at the perimeter of the seed cluster attaches to hair, clothing and even feathers. Some birds getting into Burdocks, totally covered in burrs.

It “Symbolizes” Abundance I understand.

Burdock has world wide distribution (not surprising). It’s a great dispersal strategy which lends seeds to travel lol. It is however, a VERY good plant to know about. It is a common food in the orient utilizing the tap root of young plants as a vegetable. Soak the shreaded roots for 10 minutes. This will cause it to loose a slight muddy taste. Known at ‘gobo” in Japan, I have eaten it before in several different pork dishes and soups. The tap roots resemble a carrot in shape. It has lots of fiber also a good source of calcium, potassium and various amino acids.

Burdock beer was common back in the middle ages. Known as hedgerow mead it is still a flavor. In the United Kingdom, “Dandilion and Burdock” is a popular soft drink even today.. Historically used as a “bittering agent in beer prior to the introduction of hops in beer for this purpose.

Medicinal Uses. Pregnant women might want to avoid Burdock. Believed to increase lactation, so…. Careful too as it can cause contact dermititus in some and in more sensitive individuals, allergic reactions .

Traditional Herbalists, who consider the dried roots and seeds useful. (Chinese traditional medicine) both of which are used as treatments for many Ailments. Often used as a diurietic (makes you pee/loose water), and a diaphoretic (makes you sweat). I’m pretty sure there are volumes written about this plant on line. Googling this might be a good thing. 😃

Location: Near the Burdock Patch, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Cow’s Bad Hair Day

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Sunset Ridge Deer Herd

Sunset Ridge Deer Herd
Sunset Ridge Deer Herd

Sunset Ridge Deer Herd is just 6 members of the 20 plus deer grouping. Strung across this ridge line in 3 groups.. The herds are gathering for the winter. Security in numbers is their goal. I’m seeing fewer and fewer individual deer walking around, replaced by small herds to larger groups.

This is ridge is known to me as “Sunset RIdge”. It’s a wonderful place to take sunrise and sunset photos. It’s located just over the border in Montana with Wyoming Skies in the background. I have spent many hours up there and I was heading there to shoot the sky show. There were many deer spread out across the ridge. I decided just to take their images against the blue sky with golden hour glow to the landscape. Long shadows add so much to an image.

These deer will stick together all winter. There will be a buck in “general charge” but mostly I suspect an “alpha” female will lead them around the place foraging. In my observations, bucks are lazy and tend to watch a lot rather than boss. It’s the does that have the squabbles most of the year. The bucks like to sit back in the reclining chair. They do take time to eat but aren’t that social with the does. The does have probably figured out what getting too friendly with a buck leads to. I’m sure they don’t want anything to do with that at this point after the rut….

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Ridge Deer Herd

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MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect
MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

This a view northeast from my Communication tower hill in Wyoming. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. The Hill in between is rIght directly on the Montana/Wyoming border. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, sustained 30mph winds are howling at 20 degrees. 20/30 days are chilly.

High Contrast Landscapes lens themselves to a wide treatment. The peaks are about 10 miles distant. This is a very wide image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. TheMontana/Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before.

The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. THe ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formatoin and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).

Title: MudHills Snowy Evening 2:1 Aspect

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Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections
Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections 2:1 Aspect

This male looks nothings like the female (sexually dimorphic). The female looks like a long billed sparrow. This male was down on the waters edge hoping along this piece of driftwood. Eye for insects and small critters. They are Polygynous with the male floating among several females and the females have been known to “roam” as well. The Males are aggressive toward any intruders to their nest. Every male I’ve ever seen was the dictionary definition of brash.

They are WIDELY distributed with around 20 subspecies. Their primary diet is bugs and berries. In my barnyard pond, they seem to be mostly waiting for pickings left over by the ducks and chickens. Known to go right through normal chainlink. This to get access to the inside of my chicken coup. Another section of finer chicken wire took control of that invasion route. Nuking them from orbit might be the only option. They seem to really want to get into the grain in the chicken roost for some reason.

These guys are in the same family (Icteridae) which includes the Baltimore Oriole and the Eastern Meadowlark. Our birds have no doubt migrated to southern climates. October 1st was the first day of winter (early) . I did not notice large flocks this year but I saw some last years. Random distribution I suspect.

)rotected under the Mgratratory Bird Treaty Act, Red Wings are in trouble . Populations of Red Wings are currently in decline. Standard stuff..habitat distruction, miccro plastics normal climate variations or what ever is causeing the decline.

Just so long as we all know the bird needs to be helped not destroyed.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Wing Reflections

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Corriente’ Longhorn Family Portrait

Corriente' Longhorn Family Portrait
Corriente' Longhorn Family Portrait

Corriente’ Longhorn Family Portrait (Sport Cattle….sort of like sport cars)😜

This is a mother and her last two children. Mom who is 6 is center, son at 6 months is left, daugher at a 1.6 years just right. The two gals are still on ranch with the little steer going off to be roped.

Roping Cattle is a big local “sport” activity in this region. These young Corriente’ (spanish breed) are really good for practice on a cowboy/girl skill from horseback. These cattle are fast and have shorter horns. They are ALL athletes versus an Angus bred for bulk. Many ranches have some if they are active cattle operations with real cowboys. The “Sport ” of roping is part of most rodeos and is an actual skill used in cattle ranching. Practice makes perfect.

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 tiny 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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title Corriente’ Longhorn Family Portrait

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Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset
Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset is a capture

I was driving to check some game trail cameras at a nearby wildlife funnel. I saw the parents bolt for my presence. We surprised each other as I only check cameras when I’m in an area which might be several weeks. This image is a regular camera issue . I think it took me about 2 minutes to have a 360 degree game trail camera on the location. I have some excellent images of the the parents tending their eggs. The Game Trail Cameras worked without me bothering them. I have a few finished images of that apparently that I have yet to revisit but I’ll get there lolol.

There was NO hatch of this nest. . The parents were obviously disturbed by something. They left the eggs. (not by me as the trail camera watched them for a month tending eggs. ). Suddenly, they were gone. The eggs scattered. I don’t know what happened to them. I do have a pretty good series of very close images from them with the eggs. Several other animals apparently took advantage of the nest after that. I have blurry photos. The night a raccoon found them was the last. It’s hard to know why the clutch didn’t hatch and the parents departed. 😔

These wetlands are on ranch. They are spring fed, as such in 20 years I’ve never seen this pond dry up. Built by a dam on the old local section of the “Montana to Texas Cattle Trail”. A LOT of cattle have drunk water from this pond. The trains started hauling cattle..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Canada Goose Nest Sunset

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Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head

Moon Resting on Wolf's Head
Moon Resting on Wolf's Head

Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head Butte is one of my favorite Moon “Cradle” capture.

Satire: I’ve found that the Moon will often take just a second to rest on a comfortable spot before the effort to rise to it’s zenith. Some of these buttes have what I call “Moon cradles” where the moon can settle down for a moment. Fortunately, it never sits there for long. 😜😜

Back to my normal programming.

Getting terrestrial objects in focus along with the moon…. Be still my heart. It’s a hobby of mine within my larger photographic world catching the moon resting on things. I do get some requests for information on how to do this.

Photographic Musings:

In a nutshell, you need a 400 -600mm lens, distance, timing, topography and a full moon. Distance from the foreground object is your friend. So is a HIGH f-stop number (f22 or higher). High f-stop gives you a deep field of focus that extends foreground object to infinity (moon). Being the double edged sword that f-stop is, by turning it up, you reduce the already low light level in the camera. A short 3 second time exposure if you have a tripod would be nice to compensate. Longer exposure means more light into the camera.. I did this handheld at about 1/30th second. Your ISO (camera sensitivity) is your wildcard. Change it to get an image as rule one is get the image…damn the graininess (which high ISO will give you). There are only three things you have to adjust to use your camera on manual mode after all.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Moon Resting on Wolf’s Head Butte

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Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun
Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun

A vastly under appreciated species, the Common Grackle, isn’t that common up here. THey appear black from a distance but an up close image will show a glossy purple heads over a bronze iridescent body. What an amazing plumage.

We are on the western edge of their distribution and they are migratory here and elsewhere. This means they are protected as are all migrating birds except for game birds in season by federal law. Don’t shoot black birds boys :(. Actually there are some of this genus (3 species) that are not that common.

They certainly are iridescent however. Here taken in direct bright morning sun. It was down in the grass “borrowing” some of my chickens/ducks feed here in the barnyard. Nothing like being on the wing and finding a free meal out in the middle of nowhere. I get a lot of freeloaders here in my barnyard. I think I’m feeding most of a flock of Sharp Tailed Grouse this winter by their proximity in the trees to my feeding area lolol.

This male Grackle would dominate a seed bird feeder (which I don’t do besides my barn fowls as I have barn/ranch cats). I don’t see them in large flocks but once or twice a year. Usually it’s individuals like this fellow. They are raucous in their chattering. Bullies and thieves mostly but I suspect they play a big part in our food web. There are a lot of blackbirds therefore they have an impact in the scheme of things or so it would seem. 🤔📷.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Grackle in the Sun

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Corriente’ Longhorn Licker

Corriente' Longhorn Licker
Corriente' Longhorn Licker

Corriente’ Longhorn Licker was actually caught frame to frame edge in the camera lol.

This gal must have had a prickly pear cactus needle or something bitter she ate. This went on for a while as such I did have time to get the aim down. Not a crop, up to 2×3 feet.

Taken on a wonderful spring golden hour morning. Many calves were being born that month. The air was crisp, I was in an open Polaris Ranger. I was driving two track trails in the backcountry. (way off “road”). This small herd of pure bred mom’s we keep were off by themselves in cow paradise. Green Rocket fuel to eat, Lick blocks at the water hole for vitamins, lots of water around, moderate temps. They had an easy year as a group.

It’s easy to travel into the backcountry in the spring. I’m a landscape artist that is always looking of perspective and composition. You become a slave to lighting. If I see it and it’s interesting, I’ll bother to point a camera at it lol. I feel that you experience something deeper catching it in a good camera. I get to relive each experience working on the image in the digital darkroom for 10 minutes average. Then I write a 300 word or so narrative to accompany each image.

My Narratives… side note:

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 professional photographer. 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 post 6 a day. That’s around 2000 words I write each day. I’m not sure who’s going to compile it into books but I’m pretty sure there are a few books already written. Easy to assemble by sorting pages. The pages are out there already lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Corriente’ Longhorn Licker

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Spring Time for a Wagon’s Autumn

Spring Time for a Wagon's Autumn
Spring Time for a Wagon's Autumn

Spring Time for a Wagon’s Autumn

The closest “General Store” to this old buck board wagon was 15 miles. I wonder how many times this wagon was used to drive back and forth across the backcountry all the way to Biddle Montana or to Rocky POint Wyoming. They were about equidistant from our ranch headquarters.

A drive to supplies from here in a modern Car at 60 mph car is about 20 minutes. to drive the 15 miles to Biddle Montana. There has been a “General Store” there since the first settlers moved in. There were dozens and dozens of smaller ranches settled in the early 1900’s. When little chunks of land were available for settling.

Wagons like this were the main way that good made their way from civilization to the backcountry. A couple of good carriage horses should be able to convey a carriage 20-30 miles in an 8 hour day.. Carriage horses trotted but horse pulling loaded couldn’t travel as far. Trotting wasn’t an option with a heavy load of flour, beans and oils. Don’t forget cattle supplies and machine parts for fixing broken farm equipment. This wagon made many day long round trips from dawn to dusk. Probably 12-15 hours. Rough on the team plus rough under the Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana) weather.

Weather up here is dangerously changeable. I’ve seen it drop 40 degrees in 24 hours. Dust storms, wind storms and worse lightning storms. (a place called “Lightning Flats” is 20 miles east of here lolol) You and your cargo is at the mercy of the elements. I’m trying to image getting a winters supplies of food (months anyway) in this wagon.

Heck, the supplies themselves where hauled to the general store from the rail head by horse and wagon. Early trucks certainly started up hauling that 50 miles as the technology because affordable and available. The roads then were not concrete stretching across the country. Those roads were rutted 2 track roads. Most of which were originally game trails following the easiest path.

This place is a living museum. I’m always finding old technology discarded here. Old plows, discs and a long list of old grass machines found in the “bone yards”

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Spring Time for a Wagon’s Autumn

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BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns
BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns is a capture from earlier this summer. The peach colored alpenglow and purple mountain hues really accent the rich green of the pasture. This was a very good year for grass. It was hugging the hill here. It was as high as the cattle down in the fertile washes.

Alpenglow is the result of atmospheric ice refracting light. The purples hues also come due to ice. All with lots of help from the the red light that make it through that hundreds of miles thick filter. I find peach colored alpenglow is not that common. I very carefully exposed that sky to match what I saw. Bear in mind that the cattle are 300-400 yards out. The first blue ridge is 40 miles out. The Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant from my lens. I had to find just the right spot in the 3D topography out here to line this up.

Both those were Bulls (at that time lololol). Now they are steers……… Nothing is certain up here but Winter and brown season lol. This picture hopefully will take you back to that early summer day.

This is a very long 800mm lens. With an 800 from here, I can just fit the main peaks of the BigHorns in the frame from this distance. You need to use a pretty high f-stop to get this deep a focus. Distance from the closest object is your friend in this kind of image. Deep focal fields come at the expense of loosing light. Your already in a low light environment in twilight. Tripods help a LOT.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Longhorns

BigHorn Longhorns is a capture from earlier this summer. The peach colored alpenglow and purple mountain hues really accent the rich green of the pasture. This was a very good year for grass. It was hugging the hill here. It was as high as the cattle down in the fertile washes.

A result of atmospheric ice suspended in the atmosphere, Alpenglow colors the scene. The purples hues come with help from the the red light that make it through that hundreds of miles thick filter. I find peach is not that common. I very carefully exposed that sky to match what I saw. Bear in mind that the cattle are 300-400 yards out. The first blue ridge is 40 miles out. The Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant from my lens. I had to find just the right spot in the 3D topography out here to line this up.

Both those were Bulls (at that time lololol). Now they are steers……… Nothing is certain up here but Winter and brown season lol. This picture hopefully will take you back to that early summer day. Tired of the cold I already am.

Our Corriente’ herd has intermingled with the angus this winter. They will mooch when they can . Bossy to a cow, they know how to use their horns. IF they want through a fence, they pretty much walk through it. Fortunately, the old cows in the herd pretty much keep everyone close by. THey mingle with the angus but they know they are “better” in their mind. 😜

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: BigHorn Longhorns

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Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect
Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Taking a Great Blue Herons profile from the same elevation is a pretty low probability encounter. I use my Jeep as a portable blind. Adjacent to the 50 foot tall Cottonwood Trees, exists a steep grassy hill that reaches over 50 feet above the trees. The higher you go, the further you are away from the Heron Rookery. This required a long lens to reach out and touch this guy.

Sort of the “drone” point of view but I don’t fly the things lol. I’ve never captured an image before where you could see the top AND the bottom of a heron’s wings at flight. (I take a lot of Blue Hero). I find photographers shoot what’s in front of them…..Kinda like some hunters… I would really have liked to have this shot from the other side. The longer I work this site, the more likely this will happen again. Good photography is a function of being there and paying your dues. There are of course, some technical considerations for a long range shot. 📷 I used an 800mm telephoto lens for this image.

Photographed in the late spring. (spring was on a Friday in 2019) Swing seasons between white and brown are usually one day long in this high ridge line prairie country. Spring weather would be welcome with a storm due as I type this narrative.

The ranch wetlands these birds nest on are wonderful places for biologic productivity. The Cottonwood trees they roost in grow on a many decade old dam across a spring fed pond. That pond is also runoff catchment for several square miles but the runoff is all grassy, broad and not gully like. It’s wonderful hay country there. The pond is a nice several acre puddle. There are a series of water sources in the area so the birds to fly away to hunt as well.

Great Blue Herons are big up to 5 pound birds. That is a 5 foot wingspan across this 40×20 inch image.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

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Rose Bells Pasque Flower

Rose Bells Pasque Flower
Rose Bells Pasque Flower

Rose Bells Pasque Flower during sunset.(Geum triflorum) I believe. Everyone needs some purple in their live once a week.

These late spring/early summer blooms are only found in deep woods on eastern forested slopes. It’s harder to find them along the edge of these groves of trees. There is no other way to wait until the late afternoon and take advantage of the lowest sun to highlight it’s fuzz. These are not very large flowers being about 6 inches total in height. Just above the spring clumps of grass under the thick blanket of pines.

It’s easy to miss them as they are not found in quantity but usually ones and twos. Of course you have to go belly down to get this angle, be on a steep hillside, wait for Alpenglow to start. Then there is the camera settings lolol. Looking into a bright glare with a camera is it’s own little world of adjustments. I am very fond of using cellulose filters as above to handle the excess glare. I’ll use transmitted light to achieve the exposure. This might as well be an x-ray of this bloom as its so bright and the flower so delicate. They remind me of fuzzy tissue paper. They are quite soft.

This flower is not to be confused with Prairie Smoke which has long purple tendrils. Pasque Sun Filter. The plant is indeed darker purple without all that transmitted light flowing through the petals. The net effect is to lighten the actual flower color.
The Blurry area behind my in focus field is called “Bokeh”. You should google this word if you don’t know it already. (Assignment). There should be a test later.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Rose Bells Pasque Flower

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Orb Weaver Winter Spider

Orb Weaver Winter Spider
Orb Weaver Winter Spider

Orb Weaver Winter Spider: Captured December 1, 2019. ….. Inside…..

Araneus diadematus (Cross Orb Weaver) I believe is the correct ID. I am certainly not a spider specialist however they are photogenic.

We have been under winter/cold fall conditions outside since October first. So I’m looking out the front window and notice this little home invader. It had set up shop having built a pretty good web overnight. We were sleeping of course. It had a plan to get all the bugs in here.

This is a defensive posture as he was less than thrilled with a tripod and very bright lens was put in his face. Earlier, he REALLY didn’t like the high intensity UV light I put him under to see how he looked under UV. I was disappointed in it’s appearance under UV light. I resorted to plain old LED light of a Surefire Flashlight. (About 1000 lumen.) t’s not like flies were busy getting trapped in his web. It was 30 degrees outside so he wasn’t going anywhere. Best photographic subject ever trapped with no way out lolol. I actually ended up putting him down in my Walipini Aquaponic Greenhouse (the only one in Wyoming we think still). Hopefully he’ll say on ground level (there is a 20 foot back wall) and I’ll have more of this guy.

I actually have this guy as a baby spider. I took a family photo. A few thousand of these little guys hatched out about 30 feet from this spot. They spread to the wind. This one stuck by close enough to make it in the door somehow before winter and has been hanging low ever since. It will survive the winter. I doubt there is another of it’s species in my greenhouse so probably it won’t reproduce. There are plenty of things to eat down there though. Spiders keep crickets down so I don’t mind having a few harmless ones out.

I keep a Black Widow under glass down there to feed crickets to though :). She’s a big one. I’ll get her on film soon I’m thinking😀

You guys on “PhotoAssignment”, you can hear my wife (and some of you) scream! 😋

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (front picture window inside!)

Title: Orb Weaver Winter Spider

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Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies
Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies with golden Alpenglow behind these two species cooperating so closely. There are several images in this timeline still to be finished.

The Bird Is a Magpie, a fairly common bird here in the borderlands of Montana and Wyoming. We live on the high ridges with a mix of wildlife, deer, pronghorn, some lions and coyotes with the occasional wolf and bear. I seldom see such a big bird interact with deer but have seen this before.

The lighting was bright from behind and there was a lot of fog/moisture in the air. All the brightness was amplified by the Projector Screen the fog became. The Golden Alpenglow and mist behind him made it necessary to silhouette him. The camera couldn’t do any better. There is no way to accurately bring out the detail in the deer or birds body. So I left them as the camera saw them.

A symbiotic relationship between magpies and deer doesn’t seem logical but here they are. Somehow the deer, jumpy as heck, knows to allow these raucous birds to land and pick away. I’m pretty sure the ticks are torn away and not gently pried out like they should be. It has to be taught from parent to fawn somehow. I had never witnessed this before this timeline and I have several more similar captures, one with a deer and several birds on her. Crazy stuff you see only once or twice in a lifetime.

Magpies are cool birds. Lewis and Clark reported that they came into their tents to steel food. They used to follow hunters to clean up the “leavings” from hunts. They are mostly a western bird with our place being centered in their distribution.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies 2-1 Aspect Ratio

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Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice

Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice
Coyote Prowling on Ice

Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice is an unexpected Game Trail Camera Capture. I have 4 good shots of this guy walking by here on 4 different days. (so far).

There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans.

This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀. I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.

I’ve always thought that Coyotes were “Wiley”. Hunting on thin Ice isn’t the brightest things I’ve ever seen.. This particular lake isn’t frozen at all at the moment as I type this…. That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.

I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks.

2×3 aspect up to 36 inches wide.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice

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Bolt Striking the Red Hills

Bolt Striking the Red Hills
Bolt Striking the Red Hills

Bolt Striking the Red Hills is a MASSIVE strike. That ridge is 40 miles distant from my Telephoto lens which was trained where the last bolt struck. Quite often bolts will strike very close to the previous ones. I look for patterns and focus on that area.

I do use lightning triggers on my cameras. These are boxes that automatically sense lightning by the pattern of flashes they generate. They Trigger my Sony’s in mere microseconds. I endorse no particular brand as the several I’ve tried all have their issues but “generally” work. None are “cheap” but then again, look what you get for your efforts. I might only get 1 in 20 bolts I try to get manually without time exposures. These are 1/4 second exposures at other settings that bring in the landscape.

In pitch dark, you just set the camera on a tripod, remotely trigger it or timer the shutter at about 25 seconds at let the lightning display. This technique is the best way to get multiple bolts. This capture however was a single discharge with multiple plasma channels reaching down. This is the kind of bolt that will start fires. Forested ground is particularly easy to burn. That ridge often has a fire call during dry electrical storms that pass through now and then.

We have a local rancher that helps as a Range Officer at our Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship in 2018 that had to leave the event. All because of a lightning strike near his ranch up in those very hills. The response of several departments along with hundreds of men saved his homestead. Unfortunately some of his ranch burned.. The grass will grow back greener the next year, I’ve seen it.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Bolt Striking the Red Hills

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Sunset Across the Border

Sunset Across the Border
Sunset Across the Border

Sunset Across the Border starts in Wyoming where I stand. The Prairie Dog Hills on the Horizon in the Montana side of this sky show.

The Horizon Rising to cover the suns face occurs with finality in the backcountry. This spot is several miles out into the grasslands. When the sun goes down, it gets very dark very quickly. Particularly so on moonless or cloudy nights. Dark as Pitch. In fact as Dark as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA’s website that discusses such things.

Twilight landscapes are one of my favorite things to pursue. Landscape details out of the dark are worth learning how to extract from your data file on an image. The information is usually in there but just hidden in the black in your cameras raw file. I pay very close attention to the highlights exposing them correctly to the actual scene then retrieve the details in the dark later.

I always travel with a tritium illuminated compass. There is a very real phenomena called “Death by GPS”. I only use them for land owner Identification. I would never travel back here with one. There was a semi-truck driver that had to walk out of the backcountry up here because he followed his GPS. He high centered his truck trying to turn around. 95 degree day, he had a bad time but managed to find a ranch with a hose and got cooled down after a 6 mile walk with very little water. Compasses used properly don’t usually lie.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Across the Border

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Double X Golden Hour

Double X Golden Hour
Double X Golden Hour

Double X Golden Hour is filed under “Things I see traveling the backcountry”.

I drive many miles of two track roads up here in the borderlands. I see patterns rather easily and noticed this on the way past a nice long stand of Cottonwood Trees. Cottonwoods tend to grow where it is wet. They can be a clue to find water.

As a wood goes, Cotton wood is sort of a weed. It is used for shipping crates, pallets, along with other cheap wood products. It’s too wet, rots quickly and splits terribly. These attributes keep it from being a good firewood. The 3 species of Cottonwood trees are huge, growing 50 up to 160 feet high. I’ve never burned it but I understand it stinks and is very prone to creosote up your chimney . It does grow VERY fast and sucks water out of ponds. They tend to be weedy on dams locally. They stabilize the dam but they also suck up the water growing quickly in the moist conditions.

The sky show ongoing around and behind the X’s was pretty impressive that night. The color back there is actually the grassland behind the trees being out of focus (bokeh). This golden hour was living up to it’s name through out it’s extant that evening. This was taken later in the autumn. By then, the Cottonwoods have lost all their leaves after a few hard freezes.

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

Title: Double X Golden Hour

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Heron Catching Some Wind

Heron Catching Some Wind
Heron Catching Some Wind
A Great

A Great Blue Heron Catching Some Wind was this bird way of starting to take off. Spreading it’s wings you could see the branch lift as the weight is lessened on it. These birds are masters of their domain. This is 50 feet up at the top branches of a Cottonwood Tree.

For a shoreline wading bird, these guys handle the high tree life roost without a miss. They make their living eating frogs, small mammals, fish and anything else they can catch around their realm. These guys are widespread in our Hemisphere from the Galapagos to most of North America. They breed up here though. They like places where there isn’t much human activity. Where they set up their rookery is quite a ways off an already remote county road. Isolated they are from humans up here.

Not many people ever notice the rust colored feathers on their wings leading edges. Also of note are their chest feathers. The birds actively shread them to make a powder that soaks up all the fish and oils from the wetlands.

I’ve spent many hours sitting and watching these birds. After the nest is built, mostly they hunt/sit on eggs. The male will bring the female the sticks and the female does the engineering. Both parents feed the young and share the 4 weeks of egg sitting. I’ve had a pretty good window on several of the nests all breeding season in 2019. I have quite a few images to finish from these encounters still. Job security I suppose😀

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Heron Catching Some Wind

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Twilight Over Turtle Butte

Twilight Over Turtle Butte
Twilight Over Turtle Butte

Twilight Over Turtle Butte is a capture from the Montana/Wyoming border. That line is 45 degrees north Latitude exactly, which runs right through that hill.

Its called turtle butte for two reasons. First, the cap rock from the correct angle looks very much as a turtle silhouette. Second, I have found fossil turtle fragments there. Some of them the size of your palm. These fossils are significant only by their presence. They are not valuable in and of themselves. The whole fossil assemblage taken as a whole is the significant scientific information. I have found some fairly nice turtle fossils in this “general area” but not much on that hill. There have been scattered dinosaur chunky chunks but alas, no amazing finds there. This is VERY big country to walk around in and cover any significant ground.

Up here in the borderlands I find a variety of things just walking or driving around. We actively hunt deer antlers as running over them will potentially flatten your ATV’s tire. Native American stone and metal artifacts have been found on our ranch. We note the presence of several teepee rings near natural seeps and springs on the ranch. There were no big “villages” up this high up on the ridges.

There were hunting parties though during the summer. The winter restricts access to these high ridges. Where there was water, there was game. Humans have been walking around this country for 11000 years. There is a documented Clovis man site within a 20 mile circle of my place. (LOL, that narrows it down). I still walk places up here that no human has been on before. Certainly try to walk off trail when ever safely possible. You will cover better ground that way. Everyone walks the trail…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Twilight over Turtle Butte

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Mud Hills Across the Border

Mud Hills Across the Border
Mud Hills Across the Border

Mud Hills Across the Border into Montana was captured early summer 2019. Traveling to these remote overlooks is 1/2 the gift of photography.
I don’t travel without cameras. Particularly when out on a photographic excursion where I’m actively “Hunting for the Wild Photon”. The Hillside where I’ standing on is precisely 1/2 way between the equator and the North Pole. A long walk either way lolol. Its exactly 5,000,000 (Five Million) meters from this hillside to either point. Some well connected person in history decided 1 meter would be 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the north Pole to the Equator. You can covert 10 million meters into Ten Thousand Kilometers though.
Scattered musings:
I haven’t looked it up but I’d be curious if that measurement has changed much over the centuries. Our ability to be more precise in our measurements surely change earlier estimations before satellite GPS. Of course there is some side discussions here related to geology that I’ll save for another post later lol.
Geology Factoids: The Mud Hills in the Distance are younger than the rocks I’m standing on. They are Tertiary Fort Union Formation sediments. hich are mostly alluvial sediments sourced from the Big Horns after those mountains rose. This the Mud Hills (I wonder how they got their name) may have some fossils like alligators, fish, birds, rays, fresh water clams and other invertebrates. They would not be abundant and have random occurrences up the section. The rocks I’m standing on are Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance formations. The random fossil beds here have DInosaur remains in them where the rocks above a certain point, don’t. Humm 🤔
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Title: Mud Hills Across the Border

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Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows
Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

This image was captured just as the horizon dropped exposing the relatively stationary sun. Everybody always says the sun rises but it’s really the horizon falling away. OK. It was a “sunrise” bone chilling cold sunrise. At -2F any wind amplifies the experience from a sweat shirt to full arctic gear. In dead calm air, -2 might as well be 50. I dress in layers.

Working in really cold conditions with cameras:

I’ve been up here in an open vehicle at -20 before so this was pretty comfortable relatively. Riding around with a box of 4 or 5 camera/lens in an open ATV in that temp is something I don’t like to do now.

For this capture, I was walking around from place to place for quite a while. Drove up there in my jeep. Usually my right had is my weak link. I wear “Red Head” Mitten/fingerless gloves. They are better than other gloves I’ve seen advertised for photographers and do a pretty good job. I always carry two pair. If they get wet, it’s time to change them. But you CAN work the delicate controls of a camera with them on.

I even had my Jeep to retreat to . I prefer not to let my cameras get so cold so having them in a heated car has it’s advantages.

Working out of a car window in the cold:

You have to watch shooting cameras out of a heated car into very cold air. You can get distortion similar to a mirage that I’ve actually seen live and watched it distorting the image on the cameras monitor. The warm air and the cold air mixing makes a little distorting lens just for your annoyance. With a long lens the distortion caused by this interface CAN be significant. Each situation is different. I try to keep air flowing into the drivers window versus warm air flowing out. It’s a huge difference with long lenses.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

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Perspective: Hill Top Back Show

Perspective: Hill Top Back Show
Perspective: Hill Top Backshow

Perspective: Hill Top Back Show is a hill top/ridgeline view toward the rising moon to the east. I am standing within a few feet of the Montana/Wyoming border looking across it. The view is to the southeast. Trying to be alert to what is ongoing around you is a task. I move between shots quickly and cover a lot of ground doing photography in the backcountry. The big sky show that was going on behind me at this time was impressive to say the least. . However I make a point to turn around every few minutes just to see the show behind.
Perspectives can be deceptive. Those boulders are the size of pickup trucks lol. This is a very wide 2:1 aspect image up to 40 inches wide. Its hard to find spots like this where ALL the leading lines point to one place lol. The moon had just risen an hour before sunset that beautiful spring day.
With the weather turning decidedly brown season trending toward white season now. I considered this post carefully for a Friday night placement. THe other direction was beautiful. I instantly saw the perspective. These reflected photons needed gathering.📸
Science Factoid:
Remember that none of these objects emit their own light. Everything seen in this image is reflecting light originating from the sun. 🤔. These are all collected photons backscattered at me from the sun. A good scientist should consider thinking this way. “Things are the way they are. They are not the way you think. Certainly they are seldom the way you have been told.” My dad used to say that. I took him seriously. Some times He would have to tell me things twice…..three times lol… I usually pushed back a bit the first time lolol.
Location, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Title: Perspective: Hill Top Back Show