OK, This is a confusing image to me. As a fairly astute observer of things, I’d like to think I can explain what I see. Or at least I’ve come close enough for government work a time or two lol. This one is an enigma to me and has left me scratching my head to nail it the causation for this down.
I’ll present my thoughts. You can decide what you think or add a second alternative.
Looks like: Rain is falling in shafts being blown by wind to the right. These rain shafts are being illuminated by Crepuscular Rays from an downward angle from the right to the left. This made a classic screen door or rectilinear pattern here. I was quite amazed at this rare sky. So many things have to come together to make this happen. Oddball for sure.
Crepuscular Rays are a mix of shadow and light. The irregular cloud shapes make irregular shadows. Those clouds block the light in places reaching the already formed rain shafts. The light appears divergent from the sun’s position. They form only when the sun is positioned behind an irregularly shaped cloud or mountain which lets the rays of the sun pass through a cloud in bands. They don’t always happen at sunset. This was mid-afternoon and off schedule for the phenomena which tend to happen at sunrise or sunset.
I’m sure your all tired of “Smokey Sunsets / Sunrises by now. I sure as heck am. Except for the amazing sky thing, this is getting old. Snow is coming to the high country of Wyoming and Montana as I type… About a week before this published. Still early September for that storm. It hopefully will shut down a few fires to clear up the air a little. Some individuals with lung ailments are not enjoying this month much….
If there were snow storms incoming I’d be taking photos of it as long as there is light. I have to admit that I’ve seen phenomena that were new to me through the smoke palls. This particular image is a front moving from right to left with the smokey air to the right. The Clear air is to the left. The bank of clouds blocking the sun are forming in advance of the air mass shadowing the sun and providing a projector screen to show the light shafts above.
IT was actually pretty bright out. Cameras have trouble with dark detail when looking into very bright light. Sometimes I can tease out that landscape. This capture didn’t have enough data there to deal with in the digital darkroom. Creating artifacts is not my job… I could actually see landscape detail averting my eyes away from the sun. I was playing the same game with my eyes as was the camera. Dynamic Range of your eyes is better than your camera by the way. Your a better generalist than the camera is. That camera can looking into the furnace though with out any discernable repercussions. Not so much with your eyes lol.
Another name is “Crown” Sky. This is the second image I’ve posted from this timeline. This is the widest lens I have. The top of the frame is past straight up (over 90 degrees tall). These “Crepuscular Rays are actually over my head from the horizon. This is a first for me. I’ve never seen one this big before. It literally covered 1/2 of the sky. I figure this is about 1/4th of the sky as it continued over head quite a way.
Unfortunately there were no “Anticrepuscular” rays on the other side of the sky associated with this or I would have done the whole sky as a mosaic dome with 5 or 6 images from this lens. Still this was an awe inspiring display to witness. It lasted a good 1/2 hour too so it’s not like I don’t have options regarding image choices lol. Several hundred clicks were heard in proximity to this event from my place.
The different images each reflect the constantly changing dance of clouds blocking the rays. It’s not rays lighting up the sky, it’s shadows not lighting up part of the sky you note as distinctive. Without the shadow of the cloud tops, you would be looking at a uniformly illuminated smoke screen. That acting like a projector screen from that bright bulb. Otherwise, everything would be lit up . This is all about shadows of that big cloud above the sun.
I get a few “Cathedral” Skies every year. This happened a week before this is published. Assuming you haven’t just returned from two weeks of Spelunking deep under a rock somewhere, we are living under a Pall of Smoke from western fires. Most of the west is enjoying unhealthy air qualities, and high temperatures. Low humidities, dry lightning strikes and a drought year long term continue to press the US.
This was not a short sky show either. 1/2 an hour… forever for me. I went into a how often do I see such a thing and started really accumulating clicks at a serious pace. The image changed by the minute with the rays changing / morphing as the clouds moved. The “Crepuscular” rays slicing through the heavy smoke above highlighting it with white unfiltered light above. Red Light traveling through miles of atmosphere making a shaft spreading below the sun.
Taken with one of my widest lenses. A 12 mm full frame Sony G series. The resultant image is well over 90 degrees wide and very tall. This is a major contender for the Largest Crepuscular display I’ve personally ever seen in my travels. It was a very unusual meteorlogic situation. Certainly an irreproducible set of circumstances. I’ll never get another chance like this in my lifetime I suspect. I took several hundred images on several cameras. There are many variations on this theme. Some are amazing like this one.
From near the pass to Rockypoint Wyoming, looking West towards the Bighorns . You can actually see the distant range 130 miles distant on the horizon. You have to know what you are looking for on the full screen version of this to see them.
Rain Showers were migrating through the valley in front of me. Deep but irregular edged broken clouds ahead of a blowy mist from the rain just off frame is responsible. It was sprinkling where the extremely bright spot lightings on the left, appeared like an ghosted version of a badly edited image. They are legitimate though with this image being very true to life that late afternoon here in the high grounds.
I just love images where there are no fences, houses, power lines. My preference is for having no artifacts in my landscapes from human machinations of our environment. I see just a smidgen of graveled county road off the distance low left frame durn it.. Of course the close / far perspective rule is in operation. (Photographic Rule #24: always have a close object in your long landcapes).
Spot lighting in a Wyotana sky is not a rare thing but the extent of this 360 degree crown sky was quite the attention grabber to this photographer. This scene is produced here as I experienced it though my eyes. I saw more detail in the trees than does this level of dynamic range in the technology I use. Having said that… This is a WAY wide dynamic range capture from the brightest bright to the darkest dark. That is what a really good camera can do if you drive it properly. Your equipment will make a difference in your photography I point out. This was what I consider a tough photographic environment to operate in. Enormous variations of light intensities is hard for current camera tech to deal with.
An irregularly shaped cloud cooperated here in this unusual lighting display put on for me here in late June 2020. It had been sprinkling all day with dark evil looking but harmless clouds. Lots of moisture in the air…. My biggest fear is lightning at the moment as this country is dry for the year. Missed the water that day. Fortunately, by means of compensation, the weather provided me this spot lit stage . The 10 miles to the first dark ridge in deep shadow was the hard part to capture with it being quite dark versus the ultra bright clouds. A cameras ability to bring out the dynamic range of a photo is something you want to buy into if your looking for a camera.
This display is an inverted downward “crown sky” (as I call them on my gallery). They are fairly rare while the more typical upward pointed rays at sunset more often are seen. I MIGHT see one a year this well developed. All the water vapor/moisture in the air along with actual precipitation acted to reflect the light to my lens. Of course I have many versions of this and will finish 3 maybe 4 of them. I’ve seen a few of this kind of show over the years. I suspect I could count the number of Crepuscular displays so complete I’ve captured to around a dozen.
Jagged Clouds are responsible for passing light. It’s the wide perspective of that light streaming through the gaps in the clouds that lends it’s fan shaped view to the observer. The phenomena makes it appear as if the sun is a mile or two above the cloud deck. Just follow the angles lolol. I assure you, the sun is a “few” miles up above the clouds. 😜
I call this kind of sunset with divergent crepuscular rays a “Crown Sky”. The rays reminding me of a royal crown but it is also suggestive of a massive cathedral with a starburst at the focal point. I really don’t see too many of these. Considering the nature the particular environmental conditions necessary to create this.
OK here’s how it work. The light from the sun is passing under the lowest cloud bank just on top of the white disk. That light is stopped by the shape of the puffy bottom of the cloud surface. This creates shadows on the clouds/ice toward the camera. The “Rays’ you are seeing are the opposite of the shadow lineson the foreground of the effect. The lit up parts of the rays are illuminated by the light passing under that lower cloud bank. So that clouds bumpy surface profile is reflecting off the cloud deck. As a final “nice tough” here of course also has to be some falling ice crystals (hexagonal plates falling oriented like parachutes) to light up to really make it pop like this. So several things have to be happening at just the right time for this phenomena to occur.
I’ve seen these rays pointing upward like this capture as well as in a down facing divergent crown. I watch a lot of sunset/sunrises and I’d say these occur at a 1 in 500 rate or so. I have a handful of Crown Sky Captures over my travels.
This Crown Sky during mid-civil twilight (about 15 minutes after the sun went down that night) is a pretty rare sky event. I’ve only been able to photograph a half dozen crown skies this good in 30 years. This is the second from mid -twilight with the sun well below the horizon by a few sun diameters by the time this was taken.
It was dark. I didn’t enhance the colors, this is a time exposure of about 3 seconds which tends to enrich colors a bit. I adjusted them to where I remembered them. This is a night sky after all… I will work a “promising” sunset from early Golden Hour to late Civil Twilight. Longer if the sky show lasts longer. Reverse that for morning / sunrise. Sometimes I work from my yard, other times I’m way out in the backcountry. Hard to know what the skies are going to do.
The light rays reaching toward the heavens. Scientists call them Crepuscular Rays. Those photons bounce off ice in the atmosphere. The travel to my camera lens. Within the camera’s sensor, they are dutifully recoded but only as a series of 1’s and 0’s. All by the computer in the camera. There a variety of software programs (filters if you will) effect the digital signal in various ways determined by a programmer overseas. If you select automatic, those are the guys doing the camera adjustments not you. . Try manual mode sometimes…… You do the work…. Only three main things to learn….. Just saying. (ISO, F-STOP and Shutter Speed)
The light rays reaching toward the heavens. Scientists call them Crepuscular Rays. Those photons bounce off ice in the atmosphere. The travel to my camera lens. Within the camera’s sensor, they are dutifully recoded but only as a series of 1’s and 0’s. All by the computer in the camera. There a variety of software programs (filters if you will) effect the digital signal in various ways determined by a programmer overseas. If you select automatic, those are the guys doing the camera adjustments. Try manual mode sometimes…… Only three main things to learn….. Just saying.
When ever I try to capture a fairly bright sun, I actually use no lens filter in front of this or any other of my sun shots for several years now. I use mirrorless camera gear that shows me the image on a video screen. This prevents me from being blinded doing this twice a day when I’m working photography a week at a time. DSLR cameras in contrast to Mirrorless Cameras have a direct path for light to your eye. Yup, you can blind yourself doing this once.
With the right gear rated to do this, turn down your ISO to 100 or lower if your camera will go lower), turn your fstop to the highest number of the lens your using has. (this closes the “pupil of the lens to a pin point). A LOW F-stop will open up the lens and you’ll have overexposure PLUS the tree will be out of focus). High f-stop numbers give you a long depth of focus. As well high f-stop reduces light. (sort of important looking into the furnace).
The last of the three things you adjust in manual mode is Shutter speed. This last setting is your variable with the first two setting taking priority in getting this image. It may take everything your camera has for a fast shutter say 1/3000ths of a second. My Sony Alphas will hit 1/8000th of a second for a LOT less light.
Many consumer entry level cameras don’t have enough dynamic range built in. The ability to shut down light enough is part of that.. Then you use a screw on glass filter in front of the lens. Called Neutral Density filters, available at any camera shop for your lens. Coming in different degrees of darkness, they cut down light. In my experience, they give you ghosts to deal with in the image. This is why I don’t use them..
Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes is literally a photobomb in real life.
I was of course amazed at the lighting coming from that mornings veiled Sky. Shooting the veiled sun strong enough for silhouettes to form fools the observer to thinking this wasn’t a very bright sky. I’m shutting down the camera to light (high fstop, low ISO, and fast shutter). By Looking at the furnace in the sky, we need a fast shutter. Convenient if a couple of really fast hawks come flying by. 🤔
So I’ve got that camera/long lens set up pointed from about 300 yards back from the Windmill. The trees are Full sized old grown Pines at 30 to 40 feet high but they are 500 yards distant up a slight ridge. Telephoto lenses crush perspective distance. This is a long focal depth of field because of the higher f-stop setting I chose. High fstop takes away excess light AND gives you deep focal fields. (from the windmill to infinity here).
Looking through the eyepiece at the time with fingers on the setting options (3 only in manual mode to learn about). . I had it all focused and as the birds moved through the focus field they lit up on the video screen. The camera highlights things that have high contrast with their backgrounds. This shows focus areas. An advantage of quality mirrorless cameras is that they can tell you things. What you see is what you get with them.
HEre’s another rare crepuscular Ray display. I took this a week ago (as this posts) on a trip to Gillette while in the the county road down middle of the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. My nephew was driving and had sunglasses on and saw this. I was easily able to get it on camera as this 360 degree around Ray display was fairly obvious once you eliminated the glare.
It’s caused by a lot of atmospheric ice that is lighting up from the spotlights coming through the cloud cover and my perspective at the time. I’ve never seen this before in many years of photographing skies.
These Evil Halloween Eyes from a rising sun I took a week ago as this posts. I’m always on the lookout for the Great Pumpkin Rising.🎃 I caught him here just sticking his nose over the hill top. Particularly at this time of year when all the supernatural creatures are out and about roaming the backcountry just waiting for an unsuspecting photographer to wander by… As if all the photobombing windmills were not enough for me to deal with……😜
The Sun was down below the horizon, this is a night sky, the spot lights from the sun’s down angle illuminating and lighting up the atmospheric ice suspended in the air…. It gave me this effect and several others interesting images as the clouds changed over the timeline. This is a ridge 40 miles out so a pretty small part of the sky which was pretty dark. These sky shows each have their own personality, sometimes several bi-polar sunset/sunrises hit me in a row lol. . I try and like to think I can read a sky like the actor Bill Paxton’s character in the movie “Twister” except I try to predict good or bad sunrise/sunset ahead of time to figure out what to do instead of where to chase the tornado as in that B movie lolol. More likely one of my many Delusions… yup 😄
Share freely with the season. It’s a natural photo not a digital concoction I swear. This stuff really happens… I just set my gear and click …..📸
“Twilight Reflections Off an Old Friend” is my way of saying good bye to my 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee which has earned a badge as a backcountry Wyoming Road Warrior . I’m trading it “in” for a “Smoother” riding backcountry rig as the Jeep and the ATV has been rough on me as the wear and tear is problematic..
I drove 3500 miles on my bumpy UTV and Jeep last year in the Backcountry driving on equally bumpy two track roads. I feel like I’ve been working in the mines for 20 years sometimes lol. It’s time for an upgrade. I’m still driving my Jeep until the new truck arrives properly configured for what I do….2020 model…first new car in a long time….
My old friend the jeep could travel anywhere my Polaris Ranger Crew could navigate. I literally never had to put it in low range with that Hemi 5.7 V8 under the hood. It is quick and agile…and is a bumpy jeep lololol….. I’m pretty sure this longer and wider Ford Pickup can’t go down some of my well beaten paths due to the width……But 99 percent of where I go to do photography it can reach without doing any damage to the ground or me …..(more importantly at this point). I can walk the rest. I don’t like driving heavy vehicles off the two track roads anyway. I’m keeping on clicking !! Just changing my ride after 14 years. It’s my daily driver and is already sold sorry, the dealer is letting me drive it till the new truck arrives. (Smart dealer).
Oh, the twilight was amazing that morning and this is a VERY wide 10mm lens of at least 120 degrees wide. This was a huge sky! It was a few weeks ago by the time this image posts…. (I use autoposting software but answer replies in Facebook in real time. )