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Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond
Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Reflections Backcountry Artesian Pond

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Polarized Light Feather Filter

Polarized Light Feather Filter
Polarized Light Feather Filter

Polarized Light Feather Filter

The science of this is a little complex but here it goes. The light source is the late day setting sun but bouncing off my back Ford Raptors hood…you know…glare..😎 That bounce is important though in getting the photo as it effects the light…

The reason you guys buy polarized sun glasses is due to that reflection. When sunlight hits the hood, the light bounces off with a majority of it being horizontally polarized. Mostly all those reflected light waves are in the same plane, not a bunch of randomly oriented waves. The sunglasses you buy are plastic lenses with all vertical lines which only allow in light that is vertically polarized. This blocks all the glare horizontally oriented.

SO that is called “Crossed Polarizers”. A double filter as it were. Take two pairs of polarized sunglasses and cross them at 90 degrees and try to look through them…. They go totally black.

NOW put something between the source of the polarized light (either the hood or the first pair of sunglasses). I used here a delicate transparent feather that will pass light…. It bends/ refracts light a little bit out of that horizontal plane so some of it makes it through the second filter this side of the feather. So you see the colors as a direct result of a single polarizing filter on my lens (hand held and rotated), the camera on a tripod and pre focused. F22, ISO 300 and 1/100th to get your camera close .. It was very bright but the filter cut out 80 percent of the light but you can change that by rotating the back filter…. . 90mm macro.

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

Title: Polarized Light Feather Filter

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Taking Life In Stride

Taking Life In Stride
Taking Life In Stride

Taking Life In Stride

As I surprised her as I came up out of a valley. To the table top of this broad ridge I was traveling. This deer wasn’t familiar with my Ford F-150 Raptor . It is suprisingly stealthy for carrying a 470 HP power plant on board. The low and throaty moping sound is now familiar to close deer groups. I pass many everyday that hang out near my homestead. I would be hard pressed to make those deer familiar with me to even look up from grazing upon my proper approach. This girl became definitely intimidated by my presence (through no action of my own I point out lolol). She bolted like I threw something at her, clearing the fence efficiently.

Deer can jump 8 feet high but I find 6 feet more realistic . I have an 8 foot electric fence surrounding my Homesteads Compound surrounding about 10 acres. All of the ranches human, dog, duck, chicken and cats live inside that area. The rest of the critters get the remaining 3490 acres to wander. Before I put up our deer “resistant” fence, many thousands of dollars of attempted landscape projects were devoured with passion. The only deer that have penetrated our defenses in the last several years have been shown the gate they came in on. They are quickly detected by the dogs which don’t leave the compound lol. Now the young deer don’t know the green grass paradise right over the wire. Thusly there isn’t as much pressure to penetrate the barrier now.

I strongly suggest electric fence to keep deer out of your homestead . Particularly when surrounded by herds of deer that water on your stock tanks lolol.

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

Title: Taking Life In Stride

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Perspective Snaggy Backcountry Furniture

Perspective Snaggy Backcountry Furniture
Perspective Snaggy Backcountry Furniture

Perspective Snaggy Backcountry Furniture

An old fallen soldier of the high ridges here in Wyotana bares the effects of the harsh local climate. Wood exposed to the weather will last many decades in this low precipitation climate. Rot is slowed due to our area receiving only 14 inches of precipitation average per year including snow melt. The twisted pines we grow up high are shaped by the wind. (Backcountry Furniture is what you sit on while exploring miles of these ridges to rest.)

A landslide killed this tree. Thus displacing the whole slope it was on. Roots separated from their tips by the movement of the earth and the rotational falling of the tree. Wind/Weather exposed the root ball . The washing away of the sediment originally encasing it probably took decades. The steep and treacherous hillside it is on discourages cattle from rubbing against the tree scratching themselves . All the while the pressure from cattle destroys fragile structures. There are several excellent “prairie drift wood” Snags on this hillside.

Close / Far Perspectives are always a challenge for me to see the possibilities until I get there. Sometimes I can see a photographic opportunity from across the valley. For this genera of photography I have to put myself into the point of view of a mouse. Balancing the composition, and knowing your equipments minimum focal length. I’m utilizing a WIDE 10mm full frame lens for this which is necessary to the perspective. I note just a bit of lens distortion in the corners from the german optics….

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

Title: Perspective Snaggy Backcountry Furniture

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Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit
Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Taken after sunset, the LOW angle long wavelength sunlight is still reaching the curved boundary under that reflective bumpy “projector screen”. The landscape is in total shadow from a storm low on the horizon over my shoulder at sunset. This storm is around 100 mile across and called a “Mesocylone”. I’m parked under the huge trailing apron of it. While not terribly common, Mammatus clouds are often very dramatic particularly with just the right light…📷 An affiliation with storms that produce extreme weather has been noted over the years. Hail isn’t usually far away with these olympic athletes of cloud types.

This one easily spans 3 states in my part Wyoming/Montana with South Dakota about 80 miles east. We are not sure exactly what is going on in this kind of cloud morphology. I will tell you that cloud boundaries form where two different air masses meet. Like oil floating in water, the density interface gets all visually 3D on us. Localized micro currents of flow scours into the air mass below like ripples in water. I think the the boys at “Skunk Works” would call it turbulence. Most planes divert around these atom bomb energy storms for good reason. You don’t want to fly through one for sure.

The water and air interface is one where two states of matter mix. The relative density differing the two substances create that obvious boundary. Gravity is doing the sorting. Cloud/clear air boundaries are not that different. Ripples and moving air channels / flow channels both vertical and horizontal within these Mesocyclones are chaotically complex apparently lolol.

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

Title: Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

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Pronghorn Bucks Crossing Swords

Pronghorn Bucks Crossing Swords
Pronghorn Bucks Crossing Swords

Pronghorn Bucks Crossing Swords

These 3 younger bucks got caught working out for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Fall Pronghorn Rut. Taking turns with male aggression. It’s a single elimination tournament with winner taking all in the long run.

These Bucks actually get along pretty well in the “Boys Club” they hang in most of the year. But this is as close to a full blown organized training session I’ve seen this year. Getting ready for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, annual Pronghorn all male review for a party of just the Does. Hot and heavy in the fall, it’s a yearly thing up here… So turns the wheel of life. 🤘📸

So on an overcast tuesday HIGH up on a backcountry Ridge was a small dojo formed for the purpose of working out and getting “tuned” for the battles to come. These guys were not not yet playing for keeps. The bigger bucks usually take it easy on the smaller males training/ramping up to the rut. It can really be violent when big Pronghorn Bucks cross swords. It’s all fun and game until someone puts out an eye!.

. Probably 4 year olds. This of course is a game trail camera capture from late in the fall (Fall was on a Tuesday this year). From this location in the past, dozens of various wonderful candid captures of both deer and Pronghorn occurred. All the Pronghorn are off ranch at the moment.

They all migrated over a month ago from about 30 miles south from the Thunderbasin National Grassland. Pronghorn herds numbering in the hundreds with thousands in the larger Grassland area where they overwinter. I once had a Old Pronghorn Buck I named “Grunt” that stayed over winter several years but he’s not here for the last 2 years. . He either migrated with the others or in in much higher and greener pastures by his passing. I miss him as I could get very close to him as he was tolerant of me as a pronghorn can be tolerant. Grunt was a nice buck too. 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Pronghorn Bucks Crossing Swords

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Powder River Training Complex

Powder River Training Complex
Powder River Training Complex

Powder River Training Complex

We live under the Powder River Flight Training Complex. It’s a huge area of South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming used by the U.S. Airforce to work out their rigs. A couple of times a year I see strange contrails during sunrise and sunset. Usually it’s without a long lens camera ready to rock in my hands. 🤔 (Rule one of photography is “Have a camera handy”.

These planes do a variety of maneuvers to train the crews that fly towards the sound of war… Obviously this plane (in clouds?) did a downward spiral at altitude only to recover still well about the hard deck. I’ve had a lot of encounters with the monster pieces of technology while living here. This capture is an unusual one every for living in the shadow of military activity over my place now and again. Ellsworth AFB is located just outside of Box Elder, South Dakota but think Rapid City. Without a doubt military is the largest employer in the region. Statistics show it the second largest employer in the state of South Dakota.

“Providing rapid, decisive and sustainable combat air power and expeditionary combat support, the 28th Bomb wing is assigned to 12th Air Force under Air Combat Command. As home to the B-1B, the 28th Bomb Wing provides operational support in many areas.” Hu Raaaa Tip of the Spear. 🤘

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

Title: Powder River Training Complex

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Happy Herons Pair Diptych

Happy Herons Pair Diptych
Happy Herons Pair Diptych

Happy Herons Pair Diptych

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

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

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

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

Title: Happy Herons Pair Diptych

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Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through
Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long.

They make ultimate IMAX™ wide theatre screen for the filtered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector over my shoulder with this being the backshow at sunset. 📸

Having passed right over us last summer (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across.

The colors are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere. Colors ranging from red (bottom) to yellow (top). A slit window color cast the top of the cloud with the bottom in the shadow of another storm. Reddish light reflections are from the longest traveled surviving light rays. Those red rays travel through the most atmosphere. Projected on the cloud. Then a quick 75 miles bounce back to my camera. (Orange is a mix of red+yellow) The higher you go, the more yellow the light that makes it through then finally to the white wisps in the blue at the top of the cloud.

This smooth gradient from bottom to top is the classic gamut of colors from virtually every sunset. As here you just normally can’t see all of it lolol. Red was hidden by the shadows. It was really quite dark where I was as the lighting was off to my side looking a little to the north at sunset.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Mesocyclone Monster Moving Through

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Sun Slit Islands of Light

Sun Slit Islands of Light
Sun Slit Islands of Light

Sun Slit Islands of Light

A little Science this PM..

This silhouette “halfie” (almost) caught my attention for the extreme stepped gradient around the sun. I call these bow waves and don’t see them live real time very often. They are in reality natural diffraction artifacts from the thin slit in the clouds that the sun light is passing through. Ripples…. When light (or electromagnetic waves) passes through a thin slit shaped window, lightwaves ripple like water. The Physics of this moment should not be discounted. The slit was very thin, precisely what one needs for this natures “experiment”. The mind of the guy that figured this stuff out (Huygen) was right up there with the best. “Huygen diffraction” would be a good google search for you for continuing education on this. Constructive/Distructive interference of waves is the discussion which is lengthly. I’d never get it past my grammer checker (Nazi SS training in that program trying to explain all that) lololol.

So the bow wave here is literally Ripples around the Island of Light that the Sun’s Disk represents in this metaphor. Capturing ripples of light that are natural is hard and fairly rare. Note: I could do this in the digital darkroom very easily but this one is the real thing. Not a digital color shadow radius artifact. The whole discussion lies about the cloud “slit” which is the initiator of the diffraction process that provides this variable gradient around the sun. If you have a gradient like this with a complete sun, it’s the result of an artifact within the digital dark room treatment the artist (at that point) is using on his previously raw photo. (unedited photo=raw photo out of the camera). This capture is entirely unedited or I would have had landscape detail down in that black negative space.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Sun Slit Islands of Light

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Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly
Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Red Dragon Fly

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Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow
Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

Hail shafts coming out of the back of a small Mesocyclone passing JUST to our north. We got a little water from it but not nearly enough. You can clearly see the hail standing on the ground in the distance plus it is actively falling lit up from the sun appearing over shoulders. All rainbows are on the opposite side of the sky as the sun. The Higher the sun, the Lower the rainbow will be to the ground. Sunset Rainbows are the tallest on land with rainbows from an airplanes point of view are complete circles.

I worked this for lighting but alas it didn’t happen where it was detectable to the triggers that set my camera off. IT was too faint for it to detect in the sun I suspect.

I took this off the drivers window of “Clever Girl” (2020 Ford F-150 Raptor) for 1500 miles so far. Got her Dec 31, 1919. All but 400 miles are from driving on this ranch mostly covering two track trails 5 to 10 miles at a time. This is up on a saddle of the first ridge east of my Homestead (Ridge 1). Most rigs never see off road. Mine seldom sees the road 😜🤘..

This is a very wide angle image well over 90 degrees wide. Southwest to North east right edge of frame to left. The hail is on hills 8 miles distant (Ridge 5). Working parallel Ridges is a good thing 👀📷

You can see we are greening up nicely with this being 10 days old by the time you see it posted here.

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

Title: Hail and the Mid-day Rainbow

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BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT
BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

I used to do stupid things like go up in the back yard to watch a rain/thunder storm come in at midnight. This was indeed less intelligent than my IQ would indicate my choices might be. Apparently somewhat risk adverse at the time, I was actually driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which while it has a metal roll cage, had a plastic roof. This bolt woke me right up and could have put me right to sleep lol.

Doing a LOT of lightning shots every summer, I ordered “Clever Girl” (my Ford F-150 Raptor) from the factory WITHOUT a sunroof for a reason. IT’s always good to have metal between you and the storm.

Isolated from ground currents probably in the vehicle on rubber…Better than being on foot…. Having said that… I would not like to be under or even closer to that bolt. It felt like an artillery shell being launched. That along with the benefit of being blinded at the same time. Flash bang less than 1 second…

The old “Steel Yard” on the ranch is actually Over that hill. It consists about 1/4 acre of various antique farm implement parts and pieces with a lot of metallic objects. It is roughly 1/4 mile past that ridge line. I suspect the bolt hit a sharp edge there as moist drainage is also over there. I suspect that is where the ground currents went as I noted the sudden lack of Jack Rabbits down there after that too.

That was a very hard core strike from the incoming storm. It was time to go inside which I did post hast having learned my lesson. I’m much more careful now days but working on your porch is about the same thing as the Polaris with the fiberglass window into the metal roof overhead. Inside a vehicle or inside a house with a proper grounding ring around it. Never touch metal in your vehicles during a storm….

Photographic Musings:

This is a 25 second time exposure in pitch black around midnight. Long time exposures at night have unintended consequences. Red and blue colors make pink with both colors being enhanced. The silly long exposure at least with my Sony Alphas give me these hues. I can’t see the real scene of a long exposure on the screen of the Sony to argue with it. This is just a close estimate by the camera of the scene. I just saw a flash… What colors are put out by lightning? All colors…..there was some ambient light from our ranch pole lights too messing the colors up….

Why time exposure? You get multiple bolts with a 25 second or so exposure, ISO 125, f4 to start with… Work from there moving your f stop up a click each shot to adjust to the ambient light conditions as necessary. Review the images for results and pick your poison for the duration of the storm.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch ,Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: BIG SCARY LIGHTNING BOLT

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French Poodle or Gorilla ?

French Poodle or Gorilla ?
French Poodle or Gorilla ?

French Poodle or Gorilla ?

If you look at the left side of this and let your imagination go… a french poodle begging… On the right side, a Gorilla looking fierce. Or if you want to really let your imagination go. I see 11 other faces in that rising cumulous cloud. (soon to be a thunderstorm as there was a LOT of lift in the air that day. Many of these thermals grew into big storms that hit to our east. .

Seeing faces in clouds or other natural scenes is termed: Pareidolia. Historically this tendency diagnosed one with psychotic symptoms/ “abnormal”. Now we are teaching computers to do it for facial recognition purposes. Making familiar patterns out of random data is a common “affliction”. It’s not just clouds of course. Hearing hidden messages in music is a similar effect. Any pattern the human mind creates out of literally random data is symptomatic.

Of course the state of medical/psychological science has improved a tad from those early days. I consider them sprits in the sky. This was caught glancing back behind me to the south won a warm evening is a good habit. Many photographers get tunnel vision working sunsets and forget to glance around. The back shows are often better than the main sunset if your chasing light like I do. I suffer horribly from this mental disease seeing faces and animals in almost every scene I look at. Some days it’s worse than others though lolol. 😜👀📸

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

Title: French Poodle or Gorilla ?

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WhiteTail Doe Tree Frame

WhiteTail Doe Tree Frame
WhiteTail Doe Tree Frame

WhiteTail Doe Tree Frame

During the early spring, Whitetail turn a wonderful light tan color. The shedding of their winter fur is mostly over here but she still have some divots in her coat. A silky light tan to white look is the rule for healthy animals.

I actually don’t see a lot of Whitetail up here. I’m not that fond of them as they chase the larger Mule Deer Away when they move in. The Mule Deer are MUCH larger and less spooky. IF one has to hunt for any reason, most (certain me) would prefer to take a Mule Deer for the same priced tag…. We don’t have BlackTail Deer up here like you left coast residents.

I seldom can get close to them. I caught this one driving by her in the backcountry. Then she had to cooperate lolol. I’m not able to track over time these guys like I can follow the growing Mule deer. Whitetail are MUCH more shy in my experience. Quick to run from you as well. Having only a few second. Having Cameras generally pre-set up for wildlife photography is a good thing BTW…. . This was very early in the morning just a few minutes after the sun cleared the high ridge over my right shoulder. The shadows were very long and the unfettered sun was quite bright.

This is a long lens telephoto shot of course. I haven’t worked out a deal with them to sit for 55mm portrait lenses to date. I’ve heard that “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is working on that diplomatically…… (years long narrative if your now lost). 😜📷

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

Title: WhiteTail Doe Tree Frame

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Eagles Perch Alpenglow Evening

Eagles Perch Alpenglow Evening
Eagles Perch Alpenglow Evening

Eagles Perch Alpenglow Evening

Literally playing “King of the Hill”, this American Eagle had quite a view. This hillock is one of the higher Buttes about (erosional remnant sometimes called “Monadnock” which is a good google word for the morning). Several hundred feet above the surrounding terrain is a good spot to look for game without all that effort of flying etc.. I’m going to have to take a climb up there as this is a hill I haven’t been up yet. It’s a little scramble to climb sandstone buttes and not without some challenge. I might put a game trail camera up there just for kicks… See what flies by…

I saw the “silhouette” of the bird from a LONG way out. Way out in the hilly backcountry, it took me about 10 minutes to get THIS close. All the while this sharp eyed bird was watching me bounce around the backcountry well away from the closest “smooth” two track trail….

The whole game was trying to get into position to take the sun RIGHT behind the bird setting on the peak. The sun was actually above the bird just off frame. IF I could have maneuvered for another few minutes, he would have been in the crosshairs between sun and my lens. No such luck as he flew away seconds after this capture. I’m not sure why he flew but I wasn’t being subtle trying to get into the right position. I always stop in intervals while approaching wildlife. Get the shot, move a little closer, get the next shot, rinse and repeat.

The spring Alpenglow was rife with orange gradients. The suspended ice in the air is responsible for the orange color. If you haven’t experienced a deep orange late evening sky before, you need to spend some time up here in the winter… I was miles out into the backcountry minutes before sunset. It was a long clear sky sunset drive back…….

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

Title: Eagles Perch Alpenglow Evening

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All Work and No Play

All Work and No Play
All Work and No Play

All Work and No Play

Makes Frank a Dull Boy of course. I was cruising the back woods of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch and came upon these two titans fighting for dinner. One wanting dinner and the other not wanting to be dinner. Not to be one to intrude on important negotiations, I just too the image.

Since Triceratops is found in the fossil record at over 50 percent of the fossil content and T-rex only at 3 percent, conclusions: There were 15 times the number of Triceratops walking around than there were T-rex. We don’t know for sure if Triceratops herded as a group. A group/row of nose, brow and shield horns were formidable but not a match for the speed and power of the bird like predator.

I say bird like because T-rex was a member of the dinosaurian raptorian group. You may remember Velociraptor from Jurassic Park the movie. T-rex is related to the “Avian Dinosaurs” in many ways. They are often drawn now with feathers in patches by educated paleontologic artists. Bone structure, the way the bones fit together, their respiratory system are all very very very birdlike…

Dinosaurs didn’t die out at the end of the Cretaceous as is widely believed. The avian dinosaur lived on slowly loosing tail and teeth developing into those familiar birds flying about our skies. Occasionally those repressed gene will express itself and say a hen will get teeth. The tail is in the chickens genes too. It’s a matter of proper timing during embryonic development. Any doubt, just watch a Great Blue Heron Hunt….

We actually do have dinosaurs up here but they aren’t moving very fast. The Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance formation(s) are dinosaur fossil rich. Not JUST dinosaur here of course. There are fossils of snails, clams, amphibians, fish, crocs, alligators, turtles and even a few small mammals represented in these old terrestrial river sands. Currently the ranch collection holds in excess of 10K fossil specimens.

(Note just so you know, Grass during the dinosaur era was JUST developing in India first during the Cretaceous. It spread around the world but not untill later. They didn’t have bamboo forests)…

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

Title: All Work and No Play

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Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

Early Twilight Crimson Skyline
Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

Driving two track roads during Nautical twilight up high in the backcountry is easier when there is no snow or mud on the ridges. It still takes me 10 to 15 minutes to drive up to this location I call sunrise ridge. By the time I arrived this morning, it was still Nautical Twilight with maybe 30 minutes to go till sunrise. The sky starts to light up quickly from here on. , the air is crisp, the smell of sage and pine are rife.

There is little wind this morning which is uncommon. I start to feel the sunrise coming on. It’s something you can feel akin to a quickening. 👀

This was taken in early May. Dry year so far but mud is my current nemesis because I loath to leave tracks. I have a new vehicle now with excellent capabilities so I should be a productive spring up on the ridge tops. Looking up this hill for proper perspective, no lower yellow band yet. The yellow hasn’t made it this far yet.. The red from rays of the sun that made it through the gauntlet of hundreds of miles of atmospheres and moisture. The cloud bottoms were wave troughs dropping into the light and turning red as a result. As bright as the highlights are, the over all scene was dark. This you can see by the darkness of the foreground where I was sitting. It’s below the camera’s threshold of Dynamic Range. My eye’s could see landscape here. Not the camera though… 👀👀📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

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What Doesn’t Kill You

What Doesn't Kill You
What Doesn't Kill You

What Doesn’t Kill You

It’s an old saying but it might make you stronger sometimes but not this time I’m thinking. Bent trees CANT be as strong lolol. This tree LITERALLY is L shaped. Obviously sometime during it’s early growth something stomped on it. It actually does 2 – 90 degree angles and fits very nicely into my slowly growing collection of natural Letters . It’s a good L, will do for an O in a pinch lolol.

We are starting to get some green grass but nothing long yet except my yard. We are on mowing number 2 for the year and it needs it badly currently. This is pretty far out in the backcountry but I do know where it is and will return under different lighting.

The old masters would often do the same image over and over until they got it where they wanted. It was harder to travel back in the 1700’s and those painters were pretty much stuck where they were. Many would paint a dozen images of the same architectural wonder of the old world. All reflecting different lighting and weather treatments as part of their work. I’m going to go back here for sure.

I’m at a loss for trying to figure out how this happened. The tree is at least 50 years old but it’s hard to know without a ring count I suppose. I’ve never seen this extreme adaptation to injury by a tree before.

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

Title: What Doesn’t Kill You

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Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts
Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Spring time thunderstorms moving through the area are much appreciated in giving us a little more moisture for the apparently soon to be dry summer so typical of Wyotana. Our annual precipitation amounts are BARELY above desert at 14 inches per year. Not this day though 😀

This happened May 13th late in the afternoon as a series of smaller storms moved through the area. This thunder storm went on into South Dakota and grew as it went but wasn’t particularly violent. It was however strong enough to dump enough hail to cover the ground off in the distance under the “rainbow”. I didn’t think there is supposed to be a bucket o hail at the end of the rainbow but something with a bit more glitter. “Clever Girl” got slushed on but fortunately the hail was a bit further east. This capture looking almost straight east along the Montana / Wyoming border. I’ve been known to move my position to avoid hail a time or two. It’s usually not a huge area that get’s hailed on but reading the storm isn’t necessarily straight forward as I’m not “Bill Paxton” in the 1996 movie Tornado.

The Rainbow is right at 5 miles away from my viewpoint. The first tree on the right is at least 1/2 mile out. Telephotos CRUSH perspective jumping over lots of ground before you get to the “foreground” of the frame lol.

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

Title: Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

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Aquaponic Walipini Grown Orchids

Aquaponic Walipini Grown Orchids
Aquaponic Walipini Grown Orchids

Aquaponic Walipini Grown Orchids

Orchids are growing like wildfire but I have to manually water them as they like to dry out between waterings. Soggy orchids may or may not like what your doing submerging roots. I will confirm they REALLY like the water quality that I give them from my 2000 gallon aquaponic grow system they sit upon. Manually watered living in Hydroton Pellets that drain inside of leaky cups. Several hundred pounds of fish are constantly fertilizing the water. Bacteria convert the waste ammonia to plant fertilizer. This water is very suitable for plants. The 150 square feet of grow area will support a MONSTER amount of vegetation. I have limits growing down in this underground greenhouse. How much time I spend on it restricts how much / efficiently I use the space.

(I’m sorry we don’t do public tours but I do Face Book posts on my personal page regarding this topic occasionally).

I only have about 20 Orchid plants I’ve propagated over the years. They are an afterthought of raising vegi’s down in the Walipini as such taking up valuable room. But there have to be some diversions in chores…. (This is the only Wyoming Walipini we know about. I’d love to know if anyone else is growing 10 feet below grade using earth for insulation and thermal mass for heat retention. )

I have quite a bit of Vanilla bean growing now. That will accumulate over the next decade and I should have a significant crop of vanilla bean before too long. I haven’t seen them bloom yet, they are all in a growing mode currently. Since they grow up the back wall… It’s a matter of time in this WONDERFUL grow environment. This system has been running for 5.5 years at this time constantly/continually.

A Walipini defined : an earth sheltered cold frame green house. If you haven’t encountered the term before. I don’t use any dirt with plants down there. Just water as my media to grow about anything I can get to sprout in that environment (so far).

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

Title: Aquaponic Walipini Grown Orchids

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Red Hills Twilight Landscape

Red Hills Twilight Landscape
Red Hills Twilight Landscape

Red Hills Twilight Landscape

Brown Season twilight landscapes are always dark, some are more colorful than others. When the veil of clouds is heavy, the shade and hues become muted with the encroaching dusk. Unfettered light causes an entirely different result… here, browns are in full display. I spend a lot of time working twilight skies/landscapes and find them challenging to reproduce accurately. It would be very easy to turn up the sky colors but I’m trying really hard to be a photorealist. This is as close as I can get this to how I experienced the scene. I find that an infinite spectrum of variable twilight exists and are mostly “capturable” with the right gear.

A majority of photographers wouldn’t finish this image I’m thinking. Having said that, I’m all about subtle tones and hues that escape view by most. The cool air of the twilight, the movement of game in the distance, the quickening of the light fleeing the scene is always breathtaking to me. Huge long landscapes (40 miles) make for an appropriate venue for this end of a day capture.. All creatures great and small getting ready for the night are all in their own world. Anticipating the washing away of the brown by spring rains to expose the green that is forthcoming. Seasons change, days come and go, but the animals seen to survive the hardships with an ever optimistic outlook toward the next day and the next meal.

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

Title: Red Hills Twilight Landscape

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Two Bucks Through Branches

Two Bucks Through Branches
Two Bucks Through Branches

Two Bucks Through Branches

Lining Deer UP from hundreds of yards away against the setting sun is an exercise in understanding topography. By working parallel ridges I get to stay hundreds of yards away from the casual deer. not alert the deer and am still able to get far enough away to catch a foreground object in focus for three layers of image here.

I only get to have the planets align like this a few times a year. I only had one opportunity this year to have deer pose for me in front of such a show. Images like this are infrequent in their occurrence for me to work. In reality this is going on all the time, there just isn’t anyone there to take the photo. Getting into the right position for this is a lucky event.

I have known these two bucks for a few years and because aware of their tendency to walk this ridge an hour before sunset. They were on their way from their grass pasture to the water hole on the other side. Almost every day these two walked this ridge like clockwork. Following the same trail daily These two are still around. I’m not sure exactly where yet as it’s early in the year and their antlers help me ID them sometimes…. The Backcountry is challenging to get back into at the moment. MUD!! I see them both on game trail cameras near the water holes we keep open. The closest running water which is some distance from this high ground.

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

Title: Two Bucks Through Branches

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Two Trees Trapping the Sun

Two Trees Trapping the Sun
Two Trees Trapping the Sun

Two Trees Trapping the Sun

When ever I point a really long lens directly into the sun, I’m going to get either Burnt Umber or Crimson colors. The latter was gifted to me here. You have to realize that no one knows what this would look like because you would be blinded to stare into such a scene. Using a 28 inch long lens to crush the perspective of about a mile distance from the tree pair. Shutting the camera down to light leads to all sorts of interesting effects. (mostly diffractions).

Obviously those two trees (Ents) were up to no good. Catching the sun like that trying to keep it all to themselves. Fortunately the sun had the state of mind to sneak out the back and disappear behind the ridge. The two didn’t have a clue how it got away but no matter how many times they try this, it never seems to slow down the sun very much. IT still rises more or less on time every day. Imagine if a whole forest did this at one time… think it might slow it down?

I work in a wondrous world of parallel ridges that when very mobile, allows me to find events like this to point my camera toward. By being able to move up and down topography quickly extends my ability to find such scenes. It is a truism that topography is my master. 10 feet lower, and the sun would be below the horizon, 20 feet higher and it wouldn’t be in the trees but above. Location, Location, Location…

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

Title: Two Trees Trapping the Sun

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Heron High Jinx Landing

Heron High Jinx Landing
Heron High Jinx Landing

Heron High Jinx Landing

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

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

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

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

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

Heron High Jinx Landing

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Three Angus and a Tree

Three Angus and a Tree
Three Angus and a Tree

Three Angus and a Tree

The lighting was so unusual I pulled up and pursued it as hard as I could. The heavily veiled sun was peaking through up the hill. But not where I was standing hundreds of yards away. The angles were unusual. I was sun shaded but bright spotlights shone through the veil. This high lighting the hillside. This sunrise was a nice variation of the many themes I have experienced. Lots of contrasts and highlights are a good thing lol.

There is a fossil site below that tree… I haven’t really dug much there, just scratching the surface. I know there is a caudal vertebra from some dinosaur sitting up there under the edge of a boulder about a foot from where I initially found it. It’s only a few inches across. There are also a few bone cross sections (outcrop with bones sticking out) under the cap rock. I don’t believe it is worth my time to dig there as it’s likely just a few random individual bones. They are likely NOT bones from the same individual. Bones soon to become fossils were washed into that spot by the Cretaceous Age rivers. (End of the Dinosaur Era). 53 percent of the fossil record is composed of pieces and parts of Triceratops… They were the cows of the day..

Everybody on two legs (theropods like T-rex) at them. The more things change, the more they remain the same. 2 legged creatures of today eat those modern day cows too.

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

Title: Three Angus and a Tree

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Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Tree Growing Out of a Boulder
Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Trees growing out of boulders are always a photographic target . Particularly with a LOT trees growing out of boulders. On the crest of this backcountry ridge, is a hard cap rock that has resisted erosion thusly protecting the rocks below.

This is ALL Hell Creek Sandstone. Differential erosion leaves these relatively harder boulders for me to enjoy. They are 66 million years old and that lichen can be 100 years or more old. Only rocks that are undisturbed have big lichen patches. Cattle pressure/wear from rubbing will destroy it. There are big areas of this boulder strewn surface covered with Sunburst Liichen (Xanthoria sp.), sometimes called pincushion lichen.

Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different species of Lichen that inhabit Wyoming and differentiating them exactly is sort of a science all by itself. Lichenologists have to have work of some kind. Academia is the obvious job path. I suspect that there is a use for court testimony however the job prospects of a Lichenologist is about the same as a masters in biostratigraphy such as myself. Though interestingly, biostratigraphers do a lot of work with oil companies .. My general comment about Lichen nomenclature is that you need a bachelors of science in Biology (which I have) to look at the photos or read the text. The text about the lichen is a foreign language.😀😀. I digress,

Enjoying a veiled sunset while walking around with several cameras in the remote backcountry is similar to a shooting gallery with a .22 but without the report or an occasional zinnnng…. . Lots of good stuff to shoot at. Just a click versus bang. BTW, I do carry a firearm in the backcountry. add a few more pounds. You never know exactly what your going to run into. A 10mm 1911 pistol with a 5 inch barrel is good for 300 yards… (work on that one for a while). This was taken this fall and it was pretty chilly.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

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Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

Parks Ranch Rain Shafts
Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

The Rain Shafts over the Barn on the Historic Parks Ranch in Northern Campbell County is classic. I used a telephoto shot about a mile out for the perspective across 40 miles of landscape with a 20 miles wide river valley between ridges here. The ridge in the shadows is only about 3 miles out . Weather over the far ridge. The ridge in the pink light is 40 miles out.

This is about 4 miles from our ranch. That direction is the closest drive I have to make to get to an asphalt road. The next closest paved highway is about 12 miles from here. These guys are my closest neighbor at around 4 miles from my homestead.. It’s 70 miles to the closest traffic 3 way light from here. The trip to those hills in the distance would take you an hour. I’ve had meeting I’ve driven to Casper to many time. (4 hours or so drive). Distances are big out here to go anywhere but where you are lol.

The Historic Parks Ranch is now part of a larger cattle association. It is managed under the Trail Creek Grazing Association. Old original buildings out here. In this remote backcountry were certainly built out of locally milled wood. The rough milled wood from cut from the local old grown pines. The original of homestead there is HUGE and finished around 1920 I understand. The 1950’s marked the last updates to the main house. Still utilized for hunters with year round caretakers living on site. That barn is classic.

Location: A few miles from The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Parks Ranch Rain Shafts

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Back Gate View North

Back Gate View North
Back Gate View North

Back Gate View North

This 1/2 miles of Campbell County road is the last of Wyoming going north as directly over the crest of the first hill, is the Montana border. The Valley in the Distance is the Ranch Creek Drainage which is the first watershed going into Montana. My closest neighbors live up there. We literally live in the last house north in Wyoming. End of the electric, end of the phone and the last internet source lol. There might be a few closer to the border but not many. We have land in both states, pay taxes in both, my son went to school in Montana but we live in Wyoming. By at least 3/4 of a mile. Most of my images have both states in them (Wyotana) .

In many ways we get the best of both worlds. There isn’t much difference in the landscape north or south from this vantage point. I am actually standing at our back yard fence for this telephoto capture. The hill on the left is several miles down the road with the far hills being about 10 miles distant. The Alpenglow sky from the sun that just set 15 minutes before to the left side of the frame is still barely lighting things up. The low light causes photographers to use tripods and long exposures to saturate their captures. I’m no exception here. A window clamp on my Raptors drivers side did the trick nicely. These are very very handy things to buy on amazon. Don’t buy a cheap one as you get what you pay for.

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

Title: Back Gate View North

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Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt
Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt

Yup, it was a little windy for this capture. The problem with time exposures (low light generally with a punctuated flash during the click) is that wind shakes everything. I was sitting in my vehicle with an open window with metallic objects sticking out. All while next to a tall metal object on a hill top. Perfect place to take lightning photos I’m thinking… What could possibly go wrong? 😀😜👀📸

SO: Windmill Wednesday… Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘 “Sneaky Pete” the windmill risking all to jump into my Lightning image. Hazardous work environment for the young guy.

Photographic Musings:

Blurring a windmill is easy even in a soft breeze. You just have to leave the shutter open long enough to allow the blades to move during the exposure. This is complimentary to lightning as the longer the shutter is open, the more likely it is that you’ll catch a bolt. I also use lightning triggers but they only initiate the click. It’s me that sets the camera up. Lightning I tend to close the camera down to light and do 5 second exposures with ISO and Fstop set dependant on ambient light. This storm was fairly dark so I used ISO 200, 5 seconds and f22. Your setting will vary. Wind will keep your shutter MUCH shorter than 5 seconds. More like .25 seconds. This is where those lightning trigger gadgets come in very handy. Set to ISO 100, 1/25th, F18 and start there with a trigger. Hope this helps… Lightning is tough trying to anticipate it. You might get 1 in 10 flashes If your very quick…

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

Title: Windy Windmill Lightning Bolt