During the Fall Equinox (on Sept 22nd during 2020) Smoke Pall over the skies from the fires to the west.
Around the Equinox, the east / west trending fences have a tendency to fall into order with the universe. For all intents and purposes, this fence line is directly on the Montana / Wyoming border . Montana on the left and Wyoming on the right. Looking East at Sunrise. Ive done many fence perspectives straight on with the fencline. Getting above it so far was an act of crushing perspective with a long lens from a far away hill. Looking over this west slope of a local divide between upper drainage courses.
Many of my photo’s have parts of both states in them. Either a Wyoming ground with Montana Sky or visa-versa. Here the sun looks over all that ground. It is having a great deal of trouble getting it’s light to the ground. The Pall of Smoke this particular day (this has set in for a few months I’m thinking ) was different than each day before it. The strange “filtered light” feeling reminds me of watching a total solar eclipse.
You might note the “Hump Gate” mid-fence. It’s a Cattle gate I designed to put on the ground without having to dig a hole under it. Cattle don’t cross it but ATV’s zip right over it. Idle minds are problematic in my world lol.
Deep in the backcountry sits this deep gully system. It is a magical place with artesian springs, little evidence of humans dinosaur fossils literally visible on a few rock outcrops about. Well there are a few pits around. Removed most of those fossils I’m aware of. These small pits will be poor evidence I was here but in a mere 20 years. Those will fill small holes will, collapse/fill, naturalize as it were.
80 years ago in the early 1930’s, there was a log cabin on a small homestead not 500 yards from this location. The ranch was visited several times by one of the now adult (elderly woman). That 80+ years ago grew up here. Situated there, a wonderful dinosaur fossil site. Just below their old homestead it was. Less than 200 feet away,
I can’t believe the kids didn’t notice teeth, claws and bones. They are coming out in various spots (Microsites) sand down in the “wash”/gully. Being adjacent to the house make me think that they just didn’t randomly notice. Hard to believe that 3 kids didn’t play down in that gully in the sand. Now If I had seen a tooth laying in the sand as a kid….Who knows what I’d been doing now. I found a fossil sea shell on a gravel pile in Illinois at age 5. I became a geologist as a result of that experience. “Oh look mommy what I found”…. I have found WONDERFUL big teeth down there on the surface. 👀. Looking is fine, it is better to see.
Rife with stories now lost to history is this backcountry. The woman mentioned above brought her extended family up 2 times over 10 years. . I led her to the old remnants of the cabin safely as it’s about 3 miles of two track roads to get there. The metal/glass “dump” over the gully bank edge remains in testament to their existence. The great grand kids got to rummage around and pick up parts of their family history. Old glass bottles, car parts from the 20’s along with general debris that were just too broken to fix remain. Old broken stove parts and even a partially standing sod roofed root cellar/storm shelter. Each part tells a story of acquisition, use and finally deposition of the item. Lives past put into perspective.
Down in the gullies where everything eventually travels to the sea.
Best seen full screen as the bolt is extensive. The charge goes from the two points where the difference in electrical potential charge is greatest. Sometimes that is ground to cloud. Sometimes cloud to ground. The last possibility is cloud to cloud. This of course is the latter. When I think of lighting, it’s cloud to ground but I see many of each type in the limited storm chasing I do. I way prefer cloud to cloud from a safety standpoint lol. Hopefully there isn’t cloud to Raptor…..
I tend to see these cattle in this hollow when storms come through as I watch storms from this hill top often. The road up there isn’t a mud problem as others are. The type of soil is better drained sandy material. I don’t like to drive on ground that will rut and work rain storms lol. Those cows though… I think there is some instinct that says clear out of the rest of the square mile pasture and congregate there during a storm. I’m not sure of the instinct that drives them here. I’m not even sure of the instinct that drives me here lolol.
So lightning heats up the air to around 50,000 degrees F. That’s about 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun. When the differences in charges between the clouds in this case overcame the insulative ability of the air, a flash happens. Quickly… Like the close to the speed of light fast.
This is an unusual capture of this Pronghorn Buck was relaxed so much. He bedded down as I was machine gunning his movements with a very fast camera. Rapid fire pictures are something I do from time to time. Picking and choosing shots is tricky and you do miss things now and then lol. I’d way prefer to “nuke em’ from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”. (Classic Reference”). Rapid fire cameras that can take 50 high resolution photos in just a few seconds are miracles of technology. They do use up some disc space though lol.
Nice Horns ! This Young buck is still growing his horns larger even this late in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. All others don’t lol. They shed that sheath yearly. I seldom find them… They don’t shed them here, they migrate south and drop them in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers are made of bone. Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . The horn composed of a slender/flattened blade of bone grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. Retained the core is. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter.
This was the last of the last light of the day making it’s way to the storm. I was using time exposures AND a lightning trigger to make my life easier catching both phenomena in the same frame. Mostly rare Red Rainbows are only formed by the long traveled “Belt of Venus” pink light. Hundreds of miles travel through the low blanket of air surrounding the earth prevents longer light wavelengths from passing. To quote a literary Grey Wizard (at that time) “You Shall Not Pass” (classical reference).
This one was just a quick 50,000 amp or so discharge in the hills back to my southeast. I always go up those hills the next morning to look around. I have to verify there isn’t a fire smoldering in a log somewhere.
This storm system was late in the day for me to see this much. I mentioned time exposure but it was only about 2 seconds. Camera work is all about balancing light between the three settings you need to understand in manual mode. Shutter speed you have control of as one of them. A longer shutter gives you more light to play with. It was very windy at this capture with the truck (my tripod) was shaking. Much over a few seconds was impossible. Faster shutters than 1/2 second and you might miss some of lightning with often ripples through clouds over 1/2 second.
Planting Skittles™ for the future, this old antique friend of mine is blessed with a monster view. He can see in many directions on that high ridge. Here I am below his position looking up to the skittles seeds falling from the heavens. Now the old Deering Seeder has a seed box filled with the tasty candy seeds. Maybe I can hook my Raptor to this. Thusly zip around the ranch planting a crop for the rare unicorns that hang around Wyotana. BTW, I’ve seen WAY more Jackalopes than I have Unicorns up here. I have yet to get a less than blurry game trail camera for either. Always in a hurry at night they are.
Back to my normal programming.
Close far perspectives with long lens telephotos are a matter of recognizing that distance is your friend. Everything in focus with a telephoto…… You can get both foreground AND background with a telephoto in the same focal plain. But you need to be back about (lets say) 80 yards per 100 mm focal length back from your foreground object. Your distances will vary. Depending on how high your f-stop will adjust in your particular lens and your total focal length of your lens. This perspective is a 1200mm lens at about 650 yards from the seeder. Topography of course controls your ability to magically have the rain bow in the proper position And be able to get far enough away to get the illusion all in focus.
So your down in deep grass hiding from the Photographer in the scary big black truck. But that truck is very patient so it might be time to get outta Dodge. A quick squat to load those leg muscles and a push off for the launch. That is one clue. Figuring out where creatures are going to be, the direction they are using to ‘escape’, is the other half of the game here. As many times as I’ve tried it’s pretty hit or miss (mostly miss) following a fast bird with a 28 inch long lens. Literally an anticipatory click with a little reaction time built in based on that last second squat. Using the machine gun setting on these modern cameras take 10 images a second (or more), there is at least a chance to get a take off.
Meadowlarks are known for the melodious tendencies. Being Bright, Yellow and gorgeous probably has something to do with the following factoid. The western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming, Only the Northern Cardinal has more states under it’s “belt” at seven. Not bad for a singing relative of an avian dinosaur. You know dinosaurs didn’t all go extinct at the end of the Cretaceous right? There are many flying around among us but they lost their tail and teeth along the way. Other than that, they are very close anatomically to various dinosaurian lineages.
It takes 1/2000th second or faster to freeze these guys wings in ice. I like working them at 1/1000th of a second to get a little motion blur on the wings. Both ways are OK but you need a lot of light to freeze small bird wings on take off.
I find the Moon to be quite a character of note here in the highlands. Seems I’m always finding him sitting down on the job. OK, give it a short break before the climb. I’m sure he belongs to some union giving him 5 minutes ever 30 minutes for a rest. He obviously is not a rancher.
Heck, It’s a LOT of work to climb up with all that cheese to the zenith of it’s orbit. Think of the huge mass that has to be “lifted” over our heads. Yet Again, I caught it sitting down on the job, playing “king of the hill”. This is not the first time I have images of this kind of on the job sitting around. Who am I to question how the moon does his job.
I bet there is quite a view up there. This being a telephoto image of a hill top 400 feet higher than my location on and adjacent ridge. This can be mountain goat country. If there were only mountain goats that lived here. Instead I have celestial objects summiting hillocks holding prime overlook territory.
Wyotana is indeed a magical place. There are many ways to look at any scene, each angle has it’s own story.
Factoid. To determine if it is a rising or a setting moon. :
If the three small craters at 2 oclock are pointing up, it’s a rising moon. If those lined up three craters point to 3 o’clock, then the moon image is a setting moon.
When I had this Glover moth over for a stay in my refrigerator for a night (I caught him by a porch light, zip locked eventually cooled him down to 34 degrees). The next day was sunny, bright/blue, warm with scents of various blooms in the air. I definitely put him on these flowers in one of the homesteads many naturalized gardens. . He was happy to hang on though. Being torpid/cool and slow from that stay in my fridge, he was enjoying the heck out of the warming sun. Giving me precious time….
This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently. Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. They are interested in reproduction not ingestion lol.
This one was hanging out on this flower one summer morning. Being chilled from the refrigerator, the Glover Moth had no interest in flying away at first. (He did in about 15 minutes. Forever in my world for a photographic subject actually sits for me. Better, lets me move them from place to place to find the right frame. Here is a thick bundle of columbine in our gardens against a blue sky of my choosing.
That Moth’s antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜 I see several of these guys each spring. Running into them around the ranch headquarters compound I find them near the lights in the cool nights here. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS. My “Catch and Release” approach with an over night in a fridge simply slows them down for the night and lets me have a much longer “encounter” with any buy you can catch. Just don’t take them below freezing overnight.🤔📸 Way nicer than Ether and a pin. Lots of photography done that way 😔
The Beautiful White Tail Buck was walking down a steep trail 10 feet from where I planted a quality 30 megapixel Game Camera. For some reason this camera take wonderful images in this forested gully time and time again. I wouldn’t move it for anything lol. It has given me more fine images than any other game trail camera in my arsenal. I looked through over 9000 images to find the several dozen good images in the timeline. Several thousand were of grass and trees blowing in the winds up here. Even in a sheltered treed gully, 30 mph sustained winds for hours can rack up several shots a minute lolol. Moving vegetation will trigger the game camera.
This location has seen Foxes, Coyotes, Mule Deer, Whitetail as here, skunks, porcupine, raccoons and Bobcats captured on the automatically triggered cameras. I currently am running a network of 29 cameras which I maintain and check periodically. “Periodically” being the key word as it might take me up to 6 months to get back to a camera at times. This one was out there for two months without checking it. The grass grew during the time I planted the camera and the time this image was taken lol. This trail cam has been the best performer of the group. Location, Location, Location is the key in Game Trail Cameras. It’s one of the few things you have any control of with the automatic system.
The semi-arid region of the border region between these two great states is “blessed”. All it’s share of winds falling off the high country is standard here. Yellowstone is 7000+ feet on the plateau. The BigHorn Mountains are 13000 feet. They wring the moisture out of our air often. Air flows freely off the Rocky Mountain highlands to our west with a 12 mph average windspeed on an exposed location.
When the air is moving by you at 35 mph or more, your being buffeted certainly. This fellow for what ever reason, turned at right angles to the breeze. It might be a result of picking the wrong branch lol. Normal Meadowlark behavior is to face aerodynamically face into the wind. Seldom do I see a bird fighting it this for long.
I personally find it hard enough to work a steady camera inside a vehicle on a windy day. So the truck is “lurching” too and fro with the gusty daily breeze around here. Imagine a branch moving back and forth 3 or 4 inches in various oscillatory motions. The birds seem to go through all sorts of gymnastics under the onslaught of the atmospheric tide. The weather has been “changeable” here bouts of late. Many a weather front with significant pressure difference exacerbate this high countries tendency toward a good breeze anyway.
The feathers are certainly kerfluffeled. It was a warm breeze that day. 87 degrees if I remember correctly (IIRC). 👀 T-shirt weather is a nice change up here..
That HUGE butte in silhouette(called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border 35 miles distant. I’m standing in Wyoming. You can actually see the communications towers that are up there. An 18 inch wide tower at 35 miles is what is called “resolution”. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Really high end camera backs give you very high megapixel count plus high dynamic range. The higher the megapixel count, the bigger you can print the image.
I seldom see naturally totally oversaturated clouds without me setting my camera incorrectly but the sky really was this color. I mention that because it’s looks very harlequin and un natural/odd to me. This is indeed what was down range of my lens that morning. I work very hard to get scenes to be a reproduction of what I experienced live real time. Looking back and forth between my video screen and the actual scene on almost every landscape/sunrise image is a good habit.
My process is to expose ONLY the highlights properly so as not to loose detail in them. I can worry about shadow detail in the digital darkroom. Interestingly, there was no detail in those crimsons back/bottom clouds to begin with. Nature doing the oversaturation is not that common in my experience. These cameras can usually look right through it to the detail hidden in the saturated area. IT wasn’t there to see from where I was…
Meadowlarks were named by Audubon noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though. They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. This is the second image I’ve published from this timeline.
They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots which this is. I’ve discovered that, you can slow down and stop with a meadowlark usually not moving (your in a car), but if you move any after you stop, they will fly away. You get one chance set up lolol.
Getting any bird landing is not easy but getting small birds like Meadowlarks at the moment of touchdown is a matter of luck in my opinion. Even if you know where they are landing, it’s a crap shoot to point a long lens at any particular part of a branch. Rapid fire Machine gun shutters yes but you have to react quickly to trigger the “shutter”. (Mirrorless cameras have an “E-shutter). I shot this whole timeline with a 1/1000th second exposure. Longer is a bad blur risk in contrast, faster takes a LOT of light. It’s a trade off under the conditions I was shooting in. IF you want to freeze those wings, small birds and bumble bees….1/4000. Then you suffer from having to turn up your ISO to compensate (camera sensitivity.).
Catching a Meadowlark at all is an accomplishment as I’ve never seen them lining up outside my studio for portraits, yet… With the right negotiation skills I’m sure “Sneaky Pete” the windmill could make it happen by promising to make them famous. As far as I know, that deal has not been cut yet. (years long narrative if you don’t understand). At any rate I’m always tickled when one of these singers performs for me. The estimate is about 20 percent of the Meadowlarks I see, let me get within good photo distance from them. All of my encounters are random as I travel about our ranch here in Wyotana.
So I’m coming back from a high ridge. I placed a cut branch a few years ago on a ridge with a view. It is conveniently located within excellent telephoto range from a trail I travel often. Usually I go out to photograph when the light looks interesting to me. If that changes I’ll return back for the trip to the homestead. Several miles of two track roads later I approach this. Stopping, turning off the Raptor, and wait. From the surrounding acreage, Meadowlarks came and went over the next hour. I was happy to facilitate their becoming “famous” 😜
What was really nifty about this was the wind was blowing at least 30 mph. It made for some interesting postures. The photographs of which will slowly work their way into my published work flow.
It has been a very dry year starting about January and we are well below normal at our location. I was sorry to see this as I climbed up to a local high point looking from Wyoming to Montana across the border. This old seeder has been a star of many a close / far perspective in my portfolio. You have to admire it’s view (in all directions). That far ridge of mountains is about 50 miles distant from the antique planter as is the forest / range fire burning on the back side of the Red Hills.
So I wonder in the scheme of things how this seeder has avoided being burned on the range during it’s tenure on site. There have been significant grass fires. Some burned free until the first snows in the country. More so at the beginning of the last century than later through the 1940’s. Locals have fought grass and timber fires for generations. I have fought my share and spent days driving the ranches M813 Military 5 ton truck outfitted with 1000 gallon of water with a couple of 1.5 inch hoses off the fire pump. I primarily do the driving these days. Mostly grass fires under my belt. My fire rig fits poorly between trees lolol. I’ll do tanker duty though for the smaller rancher rigs on pickup truck. Done that a few times.
I didn’t have to use my fire truck last year. The year before was a few times. One summer was horrible in my past here for local fires. We were up the hills after thunderstorms to look for plumes and knock down the fire fast. This summer is tender dry with not much falling as I type this. Some weather is coming through the region so we will see how the dice roll.
Finding a Huge Mesocyclone Spinning 50 miles+ off in the distance, I’m thinking “Perspective” 📸 So I had a “Far Object’. This little Spinning top of a storm with the energy of the atom bomb spread out over it’s lifetime. This is just the right 1/3rd of the storm. I easily could have made a triptych out of the total storm. Over an hour after this capture, I was chasing this storm and indeed took a very wide composite image of the sunset projecting red on this storm. Both daylight AND twilight captures of this storm are now in my portfolio.
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 potential monsters if they roll over you. 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. Yes tornadic activity can occur out of them. Hail is also a HUGE threat.
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 more mid-day . 📸 Having passed right over us. This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across. Still Blue with white clouds, the twilight colors later in any sunset timeline are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere.
The stripe of orange/yellow colored ice under the Crimson Cloud Deck is what the sun light is passing through. A fully involved twilight sky is the result of that red/orange light making it through to the underside of a cloud deck This image was taken near the border line of Montana / Wyoming. The Butte actually sits directly on the border which coincidentally is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole. Some bright guy in the past decided that a kilometer would be based on the distance from the Equator to the North Pole. That distance is 10,000 kilometers between the geographic characteristics 90 degrees apart on the globe. There is actually a difference in distance to the south versus the north pole from the equator. There are several related discussions but that is something you’ll need to google for yourself 👀🤔😀
I must climb several hundred feet of topography to get this eastern view. It’s a several mile drive over two track roads. This spring time image from from May of 2020. With the drying out of my trails, I have much better access to the ranch’s high ground. The views are spectacular up there. I consider the east west view from certain high points around here to be 180 miles from horizon to horizon. Those spots however are not very easy to get to 1/2 hour before the sun rises lolol. The Big Sky of Montana merges seamlessly with the Wonderful Wyoming Skies right over my place.
I had gone on a backcountry road trip of about 15 miles to find a place around this storm which was blocking my view of the rising Strawberry moon. I understand the Algonquins tribe named it as the June moon corresponds to the picking of the wild strawberry crop. In Europe they are a bit more flowery with the “Rose” moon chosen for the moon moniker. Also called the “Hot Moon, the Honey Moon and the derivative of honey, the Mead Moon. Cheese with Honey I’m guessing lolol. It was probably about time for some Mead after the long winter this moon harkens the end of.
Seeing the Full moon this month was a good time for philosophy and thoughts of normalcy as the return of the season. I get very “reflective” introspectively about “cycles”. I’ve been at this place before a few times circling around our star. I recognizes processes and natures schemes for it’s perpetual engine to continue unabated. The machinations of our population makes little difference to those certainties provided by natures processes. All that is ongoing around is is insignificant in the scheme of the world around us. It’s somehow settling to have those processes continue in front of my eyes like the clock work that they are. The geologists in me tries terribly hard to be in tune with those little things. It’s makes understanding the bigger things that are so complex, possible. It takes a compilation of the little things to comprehend. Nature is easy, it’s human nature that is the tough one. IT’s the humans that the uncertainly. 😔📷
These guys are sandpipers with obscenely long bills. Since the male and female Curlews look pretty much alike with minor differences in the bill I’m not qualified to call. What I like about these guys is that they are grasshopper eating machines in the summer. They over winters in wetland marshes and other shore line estuaries. It couldn’t get much further away from the ocean as we are only a few hundred miles away from the geographic center of North America. They like this highland grassy ridge to breed and set their nests in.
They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing calls. They will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. Entertaining if your a photographer as catching them in not easy tracking with a long lens. Challenging is what I call it. I often find them driving along the two track trails as I’m on the flats below the higher ridges. Mostly a flat field grassy nesting bird rather than preferring a hillside with a view as I’ve seen them.
I understand that across their range, the numbers of this amusing bird are dropping with the reduction in natural grass land turned to mono-crop agricultural uses. They of course use wild non – tilled prairie to nest and feed during the summer months. A classic case of reduce the habitat and reduce the numbers. 😔
The night was a partially cloudy evening with mid-layer patches of stratus clouds. The air was cool but NO wind makes mother nature say “find a pond” to me. When I get lucky, the sun drops below the layer of clouds. Then it can happen that nature provides me with a color pallet that says “take my photo” lolol.. Conveniently a rare windless Wyotana last light of the day moment was spent down by this local pond with a view. I particularly enjoy fully involved skies but sometimes the mosquitos push my limits. Out comes a small can of DEET (Off™) I keep handy in “Clever Girl” for such excursions. I don’t like it anywhere near optics/lenses though. Yuck…
Spring time is a good time for new angles for me to work photographically. The sun pushes North every sunset. Landscape features I use for compositions here in the backcountry are changed in their relationship to the light everday. An infinite variety of subjects over the 5 square miles of this small ranch.
The sun will start setting more to the south each night starting the Summer Solstice June 20th 3:44PM MST, the sun will continue to set to the left from this view point from June 20th till next December. Moving completely off frame with it progression to the south. This is a very wide capture at 130 degrees wide showing the whole sky that night.
The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.
The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.
Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.
I traveled 30 miles one way to get to this windmill standing agains a late afternoon landscape. Of course I have a whole timeline of this backcountry Wyoming gravel road trip from start to near finish as this was. I left back for home a few minutes after this shot. There was landscape I wanted to be in front of at sunset.
Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting or mud doing on since you may not see another traveler this week. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. This is 30 miles west from Devils tower with it’s related volcanic neck’s of the “3 sisters” (Missouri Buttes)
The sail of the Aermotor Wind Engine has a ding at thop. What does it take to bend a windmill vein…? One heck of a hail stone anyway…. That windmill has seen a local ranch house inhabited then abandoned nearby. It’s in rough shape. The mountains (Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower (far left light butte) seem to have not changed very much over it’s shoulder. What lighting 👀 📷 Golden Hour in the middle of nowhere. This from the road.
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) (Looking south east in northern Crook County Wyoming
The smallest of the North American Falcons, the Kestrel is elusive to photograph in my world. I might see one singularly in a years work. Usually at a distance and seldom at rest. They have an uncanny ability to hoover with their head motionless. All the while scanning the ground below for any prey movement.
They are not very large at only a foot tall. Somewhere between a robin and a crow in size. They are the most common falcon in North America as well as the smallest . They are aerial acrobats though with the ability to hoover with their head motionless. None the less they are so small buffeting in the high winds here on the high ridges is visible. The vertical slashes on the face are shared by the sexes but the blue/slate wings and brown “cap” head markings are distinguishing in the males.
Kestrel eat a broad range of grasshopper sized bugs up to mice, bats, songbirds and even smaller snakes or frogs. Opportunistic hunters they are. I have seen them hunt before but are elusive to photograph being quite small. I was very fortunate to come up over a ridge top to find this guy sitting on a snowy branch. He spent about a minute and a half after we surprised each other observing me. I immediately stopped on seeing him. It was windy so he might not have heard me as he was up wind. It only took me a few seconds to bring this long lens to the task. I clicked a few images carefully checking focus each time and off he flew off after game. I lost him after that.
Taken VERY early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. Those tree branches are very close for a telephoto perspective. I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy feathery cloud color gradient already on a remote high ridge.
Getting around in the backcountry during early twilight: Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you have to gain altitude to do so. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation here. Everything else locally is lower. Having said that, we are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). I have to leave considerably before sunrise to get up to an eagles view location as this.. I extend my horizon to 50 miles to the east if I climb the right peaks. This ridge named by me as “Sunrise Ridge” but usually because I’m taking pictures of the sunrise OVER this ridge. Not FROM this ridge as this captured moment in space time presents. IT’s a way’s out from my homestead driving 2 track roads in the dark. I have excellent lights on my F-150 Raptor though.
The Dark Orange Alpenglow is caused by ice that like a gel filter on a theatrical stage, colors all behind it. This is the cause of the color reflected of those feathery wisps of a cloud deck. Photography from the remainder of this timeline was equally as good. Eventually, most twilights gradually taper to a blue morning as the suns light was higher and less filtered by the atmosphere. Blue light invades, shadows ignite with detail and dynamic range. This was early in twilight, about 20 minutes before sunrise that May morning.
It’s green spring grass contrasted with Snow on the 130 mile distant peaks. This image is taken from my driveway here on the MT/WY border. Clearly “Nipple” butte stands 10 miles distant. The treed ridge is 40 miles out with the trees at the top of that ridge being the same elevation I stand/live. The 13000 foot high peaks of the Bighorn Mountain Chain reach far above that but well over the curvature of the horizon at it’s base. . Even further out than the range the bank of clouds stands perhaps 200 miles out from my camera.
Anything over 100 miles is a long photograph. Particularly through the low earth’s atmosphere. It take extraordinarily clear air to get detailed images of the Bighorn Mountains from this distance. To get images of the clouds well past it… That is a silly far shot. Now I take images of astronomical objects millions of miles away but only through 300 miles of atmosphere. MOST of that atmosphere is in the bottom 10 miles of the blanket. About equivalent to where Nipple Butte is….
TO find the distance to your “horizon, take the height of above the surface of your view point divide that by 0.5736 , then take the square root of that number and you have the distance to the horizon from your viewpoint. If your 6 feet tall the horizon is about 3 miles away. Works very well on flat ground… up here where there might be a few ridges around, it depends on topography too lolol.
Living high on parallel ridges in the remote backcountry of Wyoming / Montana borderlands, sometimes provides Epiphany moments for my realization. Webster defines Epiphany as: Epiphany and revelation have many similarities in meaning; one sense of epiphany is “a revealing scene or moment,” . One’s sense of revelation is “something that is revealed.” However, epiphany may also mean “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” a sense not shared by revelation.
Seeing scenes such as this post sunset / dusk after glow of the day re-affirms my personal deep connections with the earth. Being somewhat earth “centric” as a lifelong geologist, my roots run deep into what is going on around me. I see processes integral in the turning of the wheel ongoing at all times. Those processes operate in the background without most being aware of them. Trust me on this…
I have observed that most inhabitants of large population centers have lost much of that connection with the land. Wisdom is, it takes three generations away from the earth connection to loose all functional knowledge of it. Survival skills acquired by generations our progenitors thusly lost to time. Those that came before us, possessed deep understandings of the turning wheel. This knowledge became largely abandoned as a result of high technology. Gathering food is now just a trip to the store. Thusly, now dis-used in urban society. Attributes disused become lost with time. Thus lost the connection to the earth and thus with ourselves as a result. 😔
It may come to pass that we like this twilight, remain as an afterglow of our passing. If this is our fate to be a beautiful afterglow, how could this be a better revelation? Or perhaps this is an Epiphany? 🤔 📸
I’ve seen a lot of various looks from Mule Deer before. Few this precious as from this doe. It is obvious her look was annoyance with me. I’m patient though and tend to wait out such attitude. It wasn’t long before she was back grazing with the group around her exhibiting normal deer behavior. They more or less are accepting my Black Ford Raptor as just another Big Smelly Black Angus moving across the Prairie. I seldom scare the local wildlife or push them intentionally. I have found that if you pressure wildlife, they will run from you next time you see them. So for me to get really close to the wild inhabitants of Wyotana, I have to be very respectful of personal space.
Most of the Does are VERY pregnant this time of year. The wheel of life is turning seemingly with a quickening in the late spring. The quantity of newborns born at one time assures a new generations. Deer have a few predators up here but human’s riding their machinations account for the majority of deer fatalities. In the two decades I’ve driven extensively in deer/pronghorn country, only a few over a dozen deer have been “hit” by our families cars. Less than one a year average. We have never filed an insurance claim from a deer impact.
Having discovered early on putting a custom made front bumper / crash bar/ deer bumper on any vehicle that will support it is necessary. Cars… no reason to put a 500+ pound chunk of steel on a Toyota lol. The pickups and SUV’s that we own are all graced with a significant steel front end. Hitting a deer at 60 mph or so is no fun certainly for the driver OR the deer. Bright bright bright headlights help too. Being able to see a 1300 pound Black Angus at night on a gravel road is a good thing if you are traveling. Cleaning a deer you hit at speed off your vehicle takes a while. Trust me on this. My son lost a passenger Mirror from swishing past a deer. They do hit you in the side sometimes ☺️
Reconstructing past lives and events grabs your minds eye coming upon an old homesteads and a windmill.
The comings and goings of old homesteads spark my imagination. There is a demolished homestead about 1/4 mile from this location. Pieces and parts of past lives past scattered about. They had their own hand dug well 35 feet deep and 4 feet wide about 200 feet from their house down in a deep gully. I filled in that hole when I first moved here. It was an “attractive nuisance” and 35 feet deep x 5 feet in diameter. Hand dug… Many settlers had to use the water at their windmill. I suspect an outhouse long since gone somewhere nearby downward of the prevailing wind but hopefully away from their water source.
This land has had cattle or sheep on it for 100 years and slightly more. That’s 5 generations of cowboys/herders that stayed the night or the summer in this treeless pasture. Finally when this wind engine was installed, being the only source of water for several miles around, the cowboys drank here too. This is very big country open back country. It’s remote and just plain challenging to get to in the winter.
This is a steel windmill which is more expensive than building the wood towers was. Wells were positioned centered in the pasture. This made it accessible to the entire area. A lot depended on the ground water geology to make the shallow wells work long term. (luck mostly early on). Don’t get me going on geology lolol.
I like to use negative space (the dark area) to divide up an image and provide a frame for the composition. Constantly living under the specter of the “Rule of Thirds”, I give into this old wisdom. This 2:1 image aspect diptych (meant to be 2 separated prints separated in the middle). Feeling a gravitational pull of the golden light flowing through the nature’s window frames. The golden hour Alspenglow sky provided under the low limbs of this tight to the ground pine was magnificent that morning.
I stopped in my tracks to put the camera in the shadow of the substantial trunk. I find it unusual for local large pines in this country to have low branches as the cattle tend to remove them. Rubbing Cattle Pressure is the cause. In places the cattle don’t roam very much, the trees might grow it’s branches that are close to the ground. Fires will usually take care of those…. So this tree has been growing a long time taking it easy with the threats it faces in it’s travels. Lightning, Wind and Bugs are the other nemesis that confront this old neighbor.
Compared to the tree, I cover WAY more ground than it does.😜 Humans are generalists, having covered much ground with many complexities. Trees are rather pretty much of a specifistic organism doing what little they do, they do very well. But only what they do… Having said that, I suspect that tree knows the ground it inhabits better than I do though. It shapes the environment under it tremendously. Trees are very much in tune to their world. How ever they perceive it. All these great creatures I photograph, both plant and animal all have their “senses . Humans have either 5, 9, 21, or 53 senses depending on which psychologist you talk to. I’m pretty sure plants have a few that we know nothing about. I probably have a few I don’t know about lololol.
All you Windmill junkies out there might be having a little withdrawal … I thought I’d throw this in as a post. Here “Re Pete” the windmill surveys his domain with an unusual mostly blue twilight morning sky. Being a control freak, “Re Pete” here is intent to keep things around him in line. Little does he know that the crafty old sun will just sneak up over the hill and spoil his mood. This image is just a snip of the continuing adventures of the “Pete” Brothers Windmills for you their loyal followers. (You know who you are😜 )
I usually work my way out to this guy’s hangout where he gleefully “photobombs” my landscapes…. (It’s a years old narrative if you don’t understand lolol). Aermotor windmills account for the bulk of the still standing windmills out there. The company started way back in the 1888 with 24 sold the first year. By 1892, 20000 had been sold lolol. The company still exists. They also sold a LOT of steel fire “look out towers” for fire watch and being a lightning target lololol.
This business is not for sissies here in the backcountry.
I’ve only dumped ONE camera and long lens out of a moving vehicle to date. It cost around a 1000 dollars to fix that camera back. I feel that was cheap. Particularly compared to buying a replacement camera. The lens undamaged. I was traveling about 15 mph at the time. Then watched the unit tumble end to end. It was very close to this spot lolol