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High Plains Dawn Act 1

High Plains Dawn Act 1
High Plains Dawn Act 1

High Plains Dawn Act 1

There are nice twilights and then there are ones like this one. It’s almost Art if it wasn’t absolutely real as I saw the event. The Golden Alpenglow derived from the ice in the air, was resultant from suspended ice in the air. The longest day of the summer (Solstice) and ice was acting as a projector screen. Filtering some of the light passing through to spotlight the sun’s long traveled red rays on the cloud deck above. This dramatic opening act was just a preview of the sunrise to come. Sometimes these morning shows last well over an hour…. This one was around that. One hour is FOREVER in my world…. 😜

The air at my back was moving with a definite chill. Mid-June is an odd time to have to wear a good jacket but at 5:30 AM with a breeze, dress for the part. I have found this location that I call Sunrise Ridge). Such is “Fairly” easy to get to. It’s about a mile of bumpy two track roads. The journey takes me past several Game Trail Cameras thusly I had ulterior motives. Some mornings as this are so beautiful for so long I end up with 8 or 9 hundred images for the timeline. I’m sure I surpassed 1000 with the various camera/lens combinations I used to study this drama. The longer the show, the more clicking that occurs amazingly. 😃

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

Title: High Plains Dawn Act 1

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Lavender Sunset Backshow

Lavender Sunset Backshow
Lavender Sunset Backshow

Lavender Sunset Backshow

During sunset a few days ago, I habitually turned around during a very colorful sunset. After picking my jaw off the dirt…. Looking over your shoulder can often be well worth your time. Certainly true in bear country but up here during sunset, the back shows can be as impressive as the sunset. The scene was dark so is the image.

I’ve very interested in trying to get the colors scheme accurate to the scene I experienced live. This one is very blue/cyan to my normal published image because that is the actual color of the sky at that moment. I was shocked that it wasn’t just grey with tinged pink clouds, but the cyan was there. I made a mental note of it. It was a rare color in my experience. The drift from day to dusk twilight was a colorcast experience on this evening. This sky was complex all around the periphery of my viewpoint. More or less the whole atmospheric dome above me was worthy of photography that evening. I was happy to comply working it with 3 different camera/lens combinations on a rotating basis lol.

Oh, the repeating cloud pattern on the horizon is a series of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. They are a fairly rare phenomenon, where a cloud produces a billowing breaking wave pattern. They occur when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams, causing winds to blow faster at the upper level than at the lower levels. Filed under rare weather phenomena lol.

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

Title: Lavender Sunset Backshow

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Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby
Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Driving toward the Montana / Wyoming border to work a high spot for a veiled sunset. Rapidly developing, light conditions change by the second. I’m trying to get somewhere to photograph the “sunsets” timeline when I saw this developing. From inside my truck on a remote county road at sunset, a meadowlark was enjoying the sunset. Famous for their vocalizations, they are a challenge to just get a photo of in my experience. Lining one up with a veiled sun is a bucket list item. Now if I can only get an American Eagle to do this….. 🤔 😀 📸

In small bird photography, there is a goal of eyebrow close, feather detail photos. Then there is having celestial objects cooperate AND cloud cover just so to let the shape without all the glare into the frame. Being hard to get close to is the game, getting sol to cooperate is just amazingly cool in my world. But then I like to point cameras into the sun. (Disclaimer: Professional Mirrorless Cameras that can take it. No DSLR’s please….

It is very hard to get finished images without a rim around the silhouette of some other color. It’s a diffraction artifact from a high f-stop setting. . This amazing capture has no trace of a color rim. Sharp as heck. I’m still trying to figure that one out. If I do I’ll share it with you. Color rims around objects against bright light is a problem I’ve been trying to solve for years. I have a clue… perhaps… 👀 🤔

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

Title: Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

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Graphic Sunrise Smoke Signals

Graphic Sunrise Smoke Signals
Graphic Sunrise Smoke Signals

Graphic Sunrise Smoke Signals

Let me start by saying that I did nothing to the colors in this image. I also did no shadows/highlight work to this. Essentially it is a raw image from the camera. It’s naturally colored exactly as it occurred as I saw it in the lens. Of a VERY small part of the sky on the horizon. The 1200 mm lens I’m using to take this images a postage stamp sized area at arm’s length of the horizon here. The ridge here is 40 miles distant from my camera. Full sized pine trees top the ridge which is effectively the horizon. I suspect the total ridge line captured here is a mile long in the frame. Attracted I was to this capture by two things. :

So the first thing to stand out to me in this beside the Harlequin color scheme are the tremendous shadows of the apparent printing in the sky. I’m still trying to read what it says as it looks as much like a block of text as any cloud formation I’ve seen in my travels. Then there are the shadows of the “letters” in the clouds which are making letters themselves. The condition called Pareidolia : seeing shapes of common things / people / faces in clouds. I love graphic presentations by mother nature. There is a message there in text in my humble opinion. We’re just not smart enough to understand it. … I thought I was seeing smoke signals….

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

Title: Graphic Sunrise Smoke Signals

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Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients
Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients

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.

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

Title: Spring Twilight Color Gradients

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Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying
Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying

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.

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

Title: Kestrel Falcon Flying

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Pregnant Mule Deer Doe

Pregnant Mule Deer Doe
Pregnant Mule Deer Doe

Pregnant Mule Deer Doe

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 ☺️

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

Title: Pregnant Mule Deer Doe

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Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion
Turtle Butte Volcano Illusion

Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

Exactly on the Wyoming / Montana border, this Volcano simmers at behest of forces beyond our control. This of course is a satire and illusion of a volcano created naturally by a confluence of events and my position.

I love the long distance perspective of a properly involved deck of clouds colorcast by Alpenglow. These are real colors not unknown in this remote high country. The 180 mile long cloud deck positioned above a clear icy window to the sun. Our “volcano”, called Lookout Butte has a commanding view from the top as it’s name suggests. Being an “Insulberg” (google this), it has few characteristics resembling a Cinder Cone Volcano but for it’s shape. All form and no substance passing for an event of geologic significance in this fleeting moment. The chances of a thick layer of clouds across the sky lining up with the top is not terribly high so I cheat and move. The levers my ability to get just the right angle. The ability to move quickly from place to place is really useful for this kind of opportunistic photography. 👀

I don’t always work sunrise, but when I do, I always like a simulated volcano going off in the photo.😜. Illuminated by a dynamic gradient of long traveled cinema quality light, the actors of the stage show have a huge projection screen to perform under. Sometimes dramatic plays happen overhead taking over an hour from start to finish. I have a tough job watching entire sunsets and sunrises as they mutate from second to second.🕺 This show was the directors cut. 📸

I might take 800 photos of a particular sunrise as this. Maybe 2 or 3 images from the twilight will be finished. All the images from the timeline that morning but with different frames were equally as dramatic. Skies as above are rare but the high ridges I work have their share.

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

Title: Lookout Butte Volcano Illusion

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Turtle Butte Borderlands

Turtle Butte Borderlands
Turtle Butte Borderlands

Turtle Butte Borderlands

Twilight Over the Borderlandsis a capture standing on the Montana/Wyoming border. That line is 45 degrees north Latitude exactly, which runs right through that hill. EXACTLY 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator.

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Turtle Butte Borderlands

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Early Morning BigHorn Light

Early Morning BigHorn Light
Early Morning BigHorn Light

Early Morning BigHorn Light

This area of the sky is the size of your thumb at an arms length on the horizon. The BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover that morning was climbing up the back of the peaks. Those clouds well past the 130 mile distant 13,000 feet high PreCambrian Cored, uplifted Mountain Range. Parts of Montana and Wyoming in this photo.

It was to cover the highest ones within a few minutes of this photon trap. The sun was JUST rising over my shoulder. I was standing in the long shadow of the ridge I live on.

Getting to see weather move over those high ridges is a rare treat from this far away. These huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide “Orogeny”. (Google Word of the day) Cloud peak is 13,175 feet. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east toward my camera. This deep basin is called the Powder River Basin.

The Powder River basin is a major source of clean burning coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns.

Those long fans of sand/gravel/silt and clay, dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. The first two sets of ridges are all Tullock, as are the hills behind them out to the Mountain range. They are all made of sediment that traveled from the Big Horns when they were MUCH taller.

Major Mountain Chain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from continental wide compressional forces. Huge were those forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks weathering to sand and clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed all the way… well just about to my front door.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Early Morning BigHorn Light

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Pronghorn on Rattle Snake Ridge

Pronghorn on Rattle Snake Ridge
Pronghorn on Rattle Snake Ridge

Pronghorn on Rattle Snake Ridge

A lone Pronghorn doe grazing, from about 1/4 mile away on a parallel Ridge; I had just a little elevation over the historic sheep herders cairn on the right. This morning was one of long shadows. Only this part of the sky exposed to the sun, was photoworthy. The southern part of the view over my shoulder was all in dark shadow. Heavy storm clouds were on the eastern horizon. Those clouds blocking the sun behind. The mists further obfuscating the clear view that way. I turn my lenses off away from the rising sun to my right. All in order to catch the back show in all it’s 50 mile span of landscape.

This view, looking north into Montana with the foreground in Wyoming. Living on the border high on several ridge, I have extensive views in all directions. This is a dryland ranch meaning no running water year round. I do however have views to dream about (as I do dream in full color) on the right morning. This particular morning at 5:30 AM at sunrise was as good as they come. That is without invoking deities to improve the view.

These heavily dissected Cretaceous and early Tertiary terrestrial sands/muds between me and the farthest ridge have all been removed by little rivers. That whole basin, previously filled up to the brim with sediments in the past. However, one sand grain at a time this land has slowly been moving toward the Gulf of Mexico. These sediments making up the rocks here were on that very trip. But the Cretaceous Rivers carrying them got all choked up and dropped it’s load. Wait 66 million years….Those old sediments hardend, then re-eroded recently. That sand stationary until now when it resumes it’s journey on the the ocean. The ultimate sink. This just a way stop along the journey.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Pronghorn on Rattle Snake Ridge

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Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud
Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

I was watching this monster come in. It was coming right at us. Everybody on ranch had their car under that big white roof a mile distant from my camera. That roof is the size of a regulation foot ball field in it’s entirety. Built in 1964, it was the largest building in Campbell County Wyoming. It’s a pretty tough heavy metal framed building. That roof replaced in 2008. After a hail storm threw baseball sized ice chunks at us. That along with all the other roof tin on the ranch. Definition of “Big pile” of dented metal left over after that repair. I’m still using it for various projects.

I seriously respect hail in this country having seen it crash through car windows many times. I also respect the down drafts from big storms that have shelf clouds stretching 130+ degrees across the horizon. Taken with the widest lens in my tool kit. It’s not a panorama but a 10mm lens. Looking south west (right frame) and east left frame. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in with the gear I had. I don’t have a lens wider than 10mm for full frame Sony cameras. No one makes one.

I thought this storm might produce the golf ball sized hail it was known for from radio warnings. That missed us as it passed fortunately. Rapidly moving, it produced .3 tenths of an inch of sideways rain and 60+ mph winds but from where I stand, they were way higher say near 80. I had a calf shed cartwheel over a fence, a window blew in, two empty 500 gasoline tanks/ stands blew over. Found some things moved “quite a ways” here and there by the blow. I made it into that big shed before it hit but that is where I weathered the storm too lol.

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

Title: Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

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Cloud Mirror by Frank Bliss

Cloud Mirror by Frank Bliss
Cloud Mirror by Frank Bliss

Cloud Mirror by Frank Bliss

I spend a portion of the time spent examining scenes before me for candidates requiring a “Mirror/Mirror” treatment. As I suffer from Pareidolia badly. Seeing faces or familiar shapes in clouds or other random scenes is a genetic defect. I received this from both my parents. I have it so badly that I see 1/2 of a face. This controls compositions with the intent to use the 1/2 face to make a “whole’ face from. I have no control over this attribute of mine. This mental game was considered a psychosis historically. Not so much now… Honestly the tendency runs wild most of the time. I must admit. I’ve been known to cultivate such imaginings a time or two. 😜👀

SO, this is ART…. I re-emphasize the ART part…. If it wan’t ART I would have removed the dark blue (it’s a blue Monday post after all). I find that clouds are mostly grey expect near twilight lol. So I take a real photograph, and mirror it right to left (in this case). Color to taste and that’s all I did to this… 2 minutes maybe extra digital darkroom time over my normal 15 minutes. Nature comes up with the creatures that live in the “totem pole” that runs up the center where the mirrors merge. There are SEVERAL more faces buried in that area if you study it. Now if I could just figure out how to make a living with this

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

Title: Cloud Mirror by Frank Bliss

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Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus
Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Driving under rapidly growing spring Mesocyclones is always an interesting time. This magnificent display of Mammatus billows coming out of the flow bands in this huge storm transcends normalcy. Though admittedly this still growing sporty “little” mesocyclone is a small one based on local standards of 100 miles across for big ones. It’ve seen them spanning the 3 states of Wyoming / Montana / South Dakota from my high ridges. It’s right at 90 miles to South Dakota east of my door step.

Monsters each and every one of these storms. They do spawn tornadic activity. I’ve only photographed one funnel up in this country over 20 years. They do occur in the county I live in. Straight line winds are aggressive at times. The average counties up here are bigger than a couple of US states. We are on the high plains weather wise… We only get one or two tornados a year within 150 miles of here as a general observation. You don’t want to be right under a mesocyclone that isn’t moving very fast because your gonna get wet there…

Big Spinning Mesocyclones are absolutely amazing storms to observe on the sunlit side. I’ve been known to follow but storm chasing is not my tendency. I’m usually running from them more than driving toward them.😜 I deeply respect hail in this country very much. We had base ball sized (3) inch hail hit the homestead in 2008. That left a few marks… Had to replace 44000 square feet of metal roof on the combined buildings here on ranch. I’m still using pieces of that old roofing for misc. projects. Works great for raised bed gardens.

This is a VERY wide image of 130 degrees or so with the top of the frame being straight up overhead. Mitten Butte in the distance center is the 300 foot tall monadnock for scale.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

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Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming
Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

This shelf cloud from a good sized mesocyclone moving through May 2020. I’m happy to say I only had one small formerly nice calf shed cartwheeled over a fence. As well as two empty standing gasoline tanks/stands blown over from this one. They have been standing for decades. Any hail missed us. I was however, pelted by horizontal rocks and gravel. Carried by the wind gust coming up the hill over the gravel road lower left frame. Looked like a sand storm coming at me.

I’m estimating conservatively it was a 60 mph direct down draft but it was probably 80 mph. My recording wind gauge is currently down waiting for a replacement moment as the winds here wear out the 120 dollar devices every 4 or 5 years. They are actually incoming next week so that will be fixed. I have recorded a 79mph wind on the ranch historically.

I’ve been an observer of weather for some time. The winds usually affiliated with this type of Arcus cloud CAN be pretty severe. I snapped this image along with a few more. Thought the better part of valor was to avoid the worst of it. “Clever Girl” is only 5 months old and has no hail dents yet. I heard golf ball sized hail in this…. didn’t get it. Only .3 inch of rain but we’ll take what we get.

I thought it was pretty nifty this shelf has 3 horizontal rings looping around rotation clearly visible in this capture. The lightning bolt was a rare one in this storm as it really didn’t light up too much. There were some dangerous bolts. When my truck started getting seriously buffeted, I headed for the barn under that big white roof. I left that building’s white roof in the frame for a reason. It is a good scale. That is 1/2 of the roof of a building which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field. I’m almost a mile and 200 feet above that building at the click.

Sporty Storm 📸 3’x2′ Image aspect

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

Title: Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Shelf Cloud Incoming

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Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm
Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm

This unusual sky happened about 10 days ago on a stormy eventing in mid March 2020. I had been working this sky for several hours photographically due to the wondrous storm clouds moving through the area. As a grand final act of the stage show that evening, a distant storm cloud decided to make a flashlight beam out of the suns blanket. The edge of that ‘little cloud” on the far right horizon blocked and quartered the sun nicely BEFORE it was actually down. It enabled just an amazing sliver of bright sun to cut the ice in the air with it’s light. All the while that light was color casted orange by passing the hundreds of miles long gauntlet of dust and ice in the air.

This “spotlight” beam passing through the atmospheric ice was indeed a worth show to see and capture. I particularly like the lighter blue’s gradient to the darker indigo above. This is a hint of the extreme wide angle lens I was using to capture this 130 degree wide vistas. The top of the photo is nearly straight up. It is difficult to get a proper prospective without a foreground object. The camera was looking south on the left frame to northwest on the right frame. In other words, it’s a huge chunk of the sky. (10 mm full frame lens)I am constantly wow’d by sky show performances up here. I was lucky to have experienced this night.

There are many more capture of the storms moving through that evening that were/are very good captures indeed. They will slowly make it into my workflow. 2’x3′ image aspect

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

Title: Spotlight on the Storm

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Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus
Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Taken 10 days before it posts mid-may 2020. This is how long it takes me to get a “current” photo in to be published. That is if I bring it to the front of the line. I have to admit I have a bias for big Mammatus. (👀). When I say big you have to realize this storm is about 10 miles long. Admittedly this is a tiny storm for this country that occasionally has 100 mile across mesocyclones develop from these smaller storms. The shelf cloud off to the right was awesome in this storm.

This was one of a series of storms moving south to north along a line that evening. They all were just east of me along Parks/Garst Road up here in Wyotana. The little rainbow as you follow the red gravel road as it curves to the right, was a nice touch from the storm. Lightning? Not so much. The big views we have up on the high ridges gives up 50 to 180 mile long vistas to photograph and observe weather occurring from a distance. I followed this and it’s sister storms moving along the frontal boundary moving through our area. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of this barking dog.

As I type this, the wind blew well over 60 mph last night. Rained sideways for 20 minutes. It said .3 inch but this is suspect lol. I was up photographing the storm come up but got back to shelter before that one came through. I have yet to download the images from that event.

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

Title: Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

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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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Long Landscape to the BigHorns

Long Landscape to the BigHorns
Long Landscape to the BigHorns

Long Landscape to the BigHorns

Close far perspectives are always a favorite to bring to completion. Windmill Wednesday: Windmill Junkies Unite 🤘🤘

For me to publish this, I take an average of 1.5 hours per image. I then have to study that timeline to pick this photo. Then there is the small amount of digital darkroom time maybe 10 minutes.. then I have to write / type the accompanying narrative… I start at 250 words for an image. I could write 250 words about a clump of dirt these days after the last 6 months writing over 1500 narratives to accompany my portfolio images. Each post I publish on line, is an e-version of one page out of that eventual book. For now it’s all free reading lol.

So just ignore “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill. Any recognition by the public makes him insufferable. He’s been photobombing my landscapes for years up here in the high ridge lines of the Montana / Wyoming. The narrative is years long and “Sneaky” gets his share of recognition. Some fans instantly know him versus other less gregarious windmills. He is a notorious photobomber in the local tales of lore.

SOO, “Sneaky” here is the Close part. The 130 mile distant peaks of the 13,000 foot high BigHorn Mountains loom on the horizon the far…. The Windmill is 1/4 mile out, the first ridge 10 miles. The valley under the treed second ridge / mountain slope is the “Little Powder River Valley. Finally stand at 40 miles distant are the Red Hills, made of sediments from the BigHorns far distant. (Google Alluvial Fanglomerate).

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

Title: Long Landscape to the BigHorns

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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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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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Lenticular UFO Orange Twilight

Lenticular UFO Orange Twilight
Lenticular UFO Orange Twilight

Lenticular UFO Orange Twilight

Lenticular Clouds are actually not that common from my particular location. I don’t see them too often but here is a lenticular cloud “UFO” that is obviously re-entering the atmosphere. These saucer shaped clouds typically form where clam moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains. When this occurs, a series of large-scale standing waves can form above the mountain’s downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to or below the dew point, moisture in the air will condense to form clouds. Standing waves are lenticular shaped. As the moist air moves back down into the trough of the wave, the cloud may evaporate back into invisible vapor.

UFO talk of late… I feel neglected by ET. No body cares about the 45th parallel when they have the 37th to pay in. (That is a little factoid to follow up on if you don’t know about UFO’s and the 37th parallel…

As a trained observer of nature and science of at least 50 years of my adult life. I’ve never seen any scene in the sky that I could not explain to a reasonable satisfaction. Having extensively photographed sky scenes for many years. Even with quality equipment way back to 1986 and working Halley’s comet. I’ve NEVER seen a UFO. I feel terribly left out. 😔😔😜📸

Getting someone with a science background AND an extensive photographic history with gear in hand to experience a close encounter would be fun. I volunteer but I don’t do well with motion so supply dramamine for warp speed please.

Rest assured that if a UFO that I can’t account for or explain it’s movements, I will have a photo of it that isn’t blurry lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Lenticular UFO Orange Twilight

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Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky
Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

There are so many things this “look” like. I’ll just keep my Pareidolia mostly in check and limit my visualization of a rattle snake rattle rising from the plains and or a face looking left with quite a hair doo… Back to my “normal” programming…

Talk about uplifting… IT was a day full of isolated thunderstorms with this being the start of one. Just about every direction had a small storm dumping about. This Isolated thermal column seemed unusual to me and I’ve been watching clouds for a while. I usually take images of things that make my jaw drop. I had to yank a really wide lens into service to capture the whole thing. This image is over 110 degrees tall so the top is almost straight overhead to the zenith in the sky.

Working LONG focal length lens most of the time, I have to literally “step back” and look around me. If I don’t I miss many things that are often more interesting than what I’m trying to photograph. I had run up the east hill to see if there were any rainbows behind me (in this view). When rain shower move over the area and there is SOME sun, I’m watching for rainbows.

Chasing rainbows leads to photographing clouds sometimes but I’m not a stickler for being particular. If nature is showing off for me, I’m more than happy to capture her attributes. We need more of that rain

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

Title: Diamond Back Rattle in the Sky

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Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds

Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds
Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds

Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds

Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds for you Pareidolia “sufferers”. You know who you are lol?. The colorful flowing finned fish living in little pint sized fish bowls as most of us have had one time or the other. Most of you don’t know my wife and I owned the only pet shop in a good sized college town for 6 years… I’ve had fish since I was 12 years old non stop. I still run an aquaponic greenhouse with several hundred pounds of live Tilapia with 128 square feet of vegetables growing off of it lol. In other words, I have fish branded into my brain lol. I also detect several uses in mirroring this image around the 1/2 face in the lower clouds.

Sunsets in the backcountry fall into so many varieties I have to develop a way to catalogue them. The high white clouds are in unfiltered sunlight passing through very little atmosphere. The lower clouds are bathed in light that has traveled many miles through surface air. That filled with particulates and moisture. Only the longest red wavelengths at the base make it through the longest path through the thickest air. This is a pure red, yellow green, blue, darker blue twilight gradient. The sun is still up in this capture. The sun is highly obscured . It might as well be twilight lol.

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

Title: Siamese Fighting Fish in the Clouds

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Fully Involved Spring Sky

Fully Involved Spring Sky
Fully Involved Spring Sky

Fully Involved Spring Sky

The sun had JUST set and I had traveled about 5 miles south of my homestead to catch this. If I hadn’t adjusted my position, The whole show would have been hidden by the storm. In a reversal of roles, I became a storm “evader” instead of a storm “chaser”. 😜

We have had a good series of spring storms move through over the last week and I have been working them. I spent about 3 hours out in the backcountry yesterday. Most of that time was spent waiting for a particular storm event to occur. Once I have made it up to the ridge tops, I hate to loose my position so high up and head back to the house. As long as I don’t get poured on the two track roads are usually in good enough shape to head back and forth.. I have found out after many decades of 4×4 wheeling off road, that anybody can fall DOWN a hill. Most are not as talented progressing up a hill… Going up a wet/muddy hill is usually a recipe for redesigning landscape in the backcountry. I don’t see much point in that for the long term. Tearing up trails is generally not one of my favorite activities.. 👀🌲🌲🤘

At any rate, this was obviously worth traveling for in my mind. Skies totally lit as this are always worthy of my time in my humble opinion. Hopefully it was worth your’s.

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

Title: Fully Involved Spring Sky

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Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset
Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset

I photographically work hundreds of sunrise and sunset landscapes every year. Having seen most variations of that theme, I’m always looking for rare variations. By definition each sky show is unique with attributes usually pleasing to the eye. This deep complex sky caught my attention out of the pile of “to do” images waiting for attention. This capture I absolutely adore.

It’s REALLY HARD to be an accurate photorealistic artist reproducing images as I recall / experienced the scene. I see SO many tweeked / over colorized images posted on the photography forums. When you see electric blues and pure oversaturated colors, you should just keep scrolling past them in my humble opinion. I very RARELY see deep electric blue skies in the real world for example.

These muted colors with the deep red layers buried far behind the cloud deck covering the “Red Hills (the ridges name). I could have easily intensified those layers in the digital dark room. This would have turned this into a deep crimson and the yellow would be canary detail less yellow with very blue clouds below. That is some artists stock and trade. Take a photo, bring it into photoshop and turn up the “volume” on the color sliders. It’s a cheap and unsophisticated way to get attention.

The camera technology I use is totally inadequate to accomplish what my eye sees. They don’t have the dynamic range human eyes do. To compensate for this, I reproduce these scenes precisely the way that nature presented them to me. I actually can see the scene live real time in my lens as I adjust the dials. Thusly I am able to A/B that scene with what is in the sky at the time. They still take work to fix…..I have been an art director of 9 other graphic artists and print buyer of many many publications. I would NEVER buy for publication or print an impossibly colored nature scene. (Hint to those artists out there that like using color enhancing slider controls). To do it right is MUCH harder and way more professional. The other professionals instantly know cheap tricks…

Would you rather see nature or some digital dark room mutation?

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Muted Layers of Sunset

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Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset
Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wonderful Golden Hour Sunset that night….

The science of this pond.

A lowly pond deep in the backcountry flats below the ridge my ranch is situated on. About 300 feet lower than my homestead where the Artesian Waters from rocks 250 feet underground. This water works it’s way to the surface via cracks…faults… My homestead gets water from the same formational source. But it only rises from it’s source 500 feet deep in my wells to 250 feet up the pipe. Down low topographically though, there are quite a few ponds up on this particular area as the Fox Hill Formation below is a wonderful Aquifer under pressure from up dip of the formation. Geographically, this unit stretches from Alberta to northern Colorado with analogues/ similar depositional environments further south. The western interior sea during the latest Dinosaur Era (Cretaceous) provided the barrier islands/beach for this grey sandstone with shale interbeds to accumulate.

Fox Hill Formation is a MAJOR source of ground water around big cities. BUT the water from the Fox Hill is typically diluted. IT takes purer water as it is very high in total dissolved solids (TDS). Drinking high TDS water is a good way to get kidney stones. We use reverse osmosis filters for all our drinking water. The animals drinking this are on their own and generally do OK. I did have a wonderful 7 year old quarter horse die of a kidney stone. The complications probably from drinking this water. Most animals do fine.

As the Fox Hill unit is dipping about 50 feet per mile toward the west (towards setting sun). This means that to the east it is higher giving a “hydrologic head” . The miles to the east the formation is physically a lot higher. So if you have a water bearing sandstone higher than you. Plus a crack between it and the surface, you get “spring fed ponds”. Artesian simply means that water is flowing from underground. The water flows upward to the surface because the water bearing sand is WAY above this location miles to the east. Just because water is “Artesian”, doesn’t mean it’s safe or much good to drink. It just means it’s flowing on the surface…

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

Title: Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

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Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus Reflections of the Storm
Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus clouds tend to indicate that there’s a thunderstorm about. Certainly linked with heavy precipitation some where, mammatus are very impressive at times… Particularly when back lit by the sunset (slit) over my shoulder. That precipitation doesn’t always make it down to the surface before evaporating or sublimating. (Virga). Other times it dumps several inches…

The difficulty of getting enough warm air aloft means that a thunderstorm has to be rather strong before it can form huge mammatus. Often read as a harbinger of strong oncoming storms. I find they are usually a sign of one that has just passed. Aviators taught cumulonimbus cloud avoidance live longer. Particularly with Mammatus about. Notoriously, associated with severe weather, mammatus certainly mark turbulance.

While they look impressive, they have very little impact on life at the surface in my travels. . Mammatus are merely the messengers of their bigger, tougher clouds about the area. Having one pass over RIGHT as the sun passed under the cloud deck to the west

As mammatus clouds don’t usually do damage tohumans directly. They can occur around a very hazardous environment however. Scientists really don’t know much about them. While they’re not that uncommon, it’s difficult to get scientific data back about exactly what’s going on under the thunderstorm’s anvil. They certainly reflect a density change between the air below and the cloud itself. Puffy surfaces like that would indicate micro circular flow environment of trought troughs. It’s a 3D thing going on up there. Very complex as I visualize what is ongoing under there.

Meanwhile, their striking appearance and relative rarity make them good targets for conspiracy theorists. Some believe that they’re the result of weather modification programs. As most conspiracy theories, they don’t hold much water…. or maybe there is some “water” up there lolol I consider this one of the best capture of the species of cloud that I have done to date. Next summer is a whole new set of sky shows.

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

Title: Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

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“W” Butte at Sunset

"W" Butte at Sunset
"W" Butte at Sunset

“W” Butte at Sunset

That HUGE butte (called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border. The fore ground is in Wyoming. That mile wide Butte (in Montana) is at least 15 miles BEHIND that 400 foot tall old growth treed ridge. That ridge is 15 miles from where I’m standing for this capture. You can see the communications towers that are up there. They are 1 foot wide over the 150000 feet to those towers. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Taken golden hour as the sun was setting shortly over my shoulder. Long Shadows and Long lenses… be still my heart…❤️

So about 30 miles distant from my camera stands the epicenter of what was at one time one of the largest ranches in the Country. That ranch named the “W” Butte Ranch, was said you couldn’t see the end of the ranch from the top of that butte. I suspect that is not true. My ground was never part of that ranch to my knowledge. I’ve only seen/have deeds back to 1906 though. I’m not sure before that, pretty sure gov’t had it.

That butte is capped by the Fox Hill Sandstone. That formation was derived from the Beach Sand the Dinosaurs were sunning themselves on. I expect to find those little umbrellas in frosty mixed drinks as fossils there. I see a host of sun chairs and umbrellas on that beach. Ocean sediments are on the surface east of there. Terrestrial sediments to the west of that butte. All Cretaceous in age. All three environments (sea, beach, and land) occured coterminously. Those are just lateral environments as we have today. They did migrate with time and have a complex relationship underground based on the gradual movement of the land based (terrestrial sediments) laterally. The google word for this is “Faces Geology”. It’s a complex concept. Have fun with that.

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

Title: “W” Butte at Sunset

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Faces Art by Frank Bliss

Faces Art by Frank Bliss
Faces Art by Frank Bliss

Faces Art by Frank Bliss

This is ART… Did I mention this is art? Sometimes I take a few moments to be something other than a photorealistic Landscape Photographer. It keeps Frank from Being a dull boy with all work and no play figuring into my world 😜📸 Well over a dozen faces in this easily…

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. It’s not just clouds of course. 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. . Looking behind me to the eastern back show a bit after sunset on summers evening is a good habit.

Many photographers get tunnel vision and forget to glance around. The back shows are often better than the main sunset if your chasing light like I do. Taking many forms, these billowing clouds can be impressive. The shapes are random but usually fairly consistent in one way or another. I swear on a stack of geology books that I did Everything to this image in the digital darkroom lol. . It’s not a totally natural image.

However, If you look enough at clouds, you see some very odd things 🙂 I simply finished the faces of what I saw in this cloud system.

The hard part is being there with a camera (Rule 1 of Photography).

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

Title: Faces Art by Frank Bliss