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Sunrise Ridge in the Borderlands

Sunrise Ridge in the Borderlands
Sunrise Ridge in the Borderlands

Sunrise Ridge in the Borderlands

Driving out to remote backcountry ridges up here in the borderlands is often the best part of the day. I’m taking roads with no other traffic to go to smaller two track trails with less traffic. ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ‘€ Then I usually have to climb up on a ridge to get a view of the horizon . I live in a world of parallel ridges. Deep dissected gullies divide the high ground into distinct highways around the area. You generally try to travel the topographic lines around a hill side. Going into the valley and back up isn’t necessarily an option in this steep country. That far ridge sits 200 feet above the bottom of the gully between us. There is an old saying up in this country of: “you can’t get there from here”.

Now “You can’t get here from there” is a ubiquitous saying around Wyoming. Most places settlements / communities have only one way in and at most 2. The roads around here are always iffy. While that ridge is a few miles out, it would take me 30 minutes to get on it because of the above statement.

This morning was a fully involved Civil Twilight Sky. I saw this forming up really early and bolted for the backcountry. Took me about 20 minutes to get to this point. I worked the whole morning as it was a magnificent sunrise. I don’t see many this involved.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunrise Ridge in the Borderlands

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Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise

Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise
Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise

Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise

Driving two track roads during Nautical twilight up high in the backcountry is easier when there is only this much snow on the ridges. It still takes me 10 to 15 minutes to drive up to this location I call sunrise ridge. By the time I arrive, it’s already into Civil Twilight with maybe 15 minutes to go till sunrise. THe sky starts to light up, the air is crisp, the smell of sage and pine are rife. There is little wind this morning which is uncommon. I start to feel the sunrise coming on. It’s something you can feel akin to a quickening. ๐Ÿ‘€

This was taken over a month ago in early December. We had lighter snow then than now. There is 6 inches flat everywhere on the ridgetops at the moment. You have to be very careful going off the ridge tops. The snow that use to cover them has been blown of to the sides. There hasn’t been much drifting yet this winter and I have a new truck now with excellent capabilities so it should be a productive winter up on the ride tops.

Looking up this hill for proper perspective, the lower yellow band is bright alpenglow. The red from rays of the sun that made it through the gauntlet of hundreds of miles of atmospheres and moisture. The cloud bottoms were wave troughs dropping into the light and turning red as a result. As bright as the highlights are, the over all scene was dark. This you can see by the darkness of the foreground where I was sitting.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise

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Yucca Ridge Sunset

Yucca Ridge Sunset
Yucca Ridge Sunset

Yucca Ridge Sunset

Working the shadow line of parallel ridges with telephoto lenses has it’s rewards. I find that it’s the simple compositions that carry the most interest as complex misleads the view. Detail yes, but the time and space moment should place you in that continuum in your mind. The human eye might be able to resolve this but only for the briefest of moments. The reflexive look away followed by the ghost of the bright scene on your retina. A quick though of eye damage, you blink and a minute later your vision is back. . 

Yucca make for big speed bumps in the backcountry. Some of the clumps can get 2 feet high. In the winter they catch a snow drift behind the clumps big time. It looks like a sand dune field after a good snow and blow in the backcountry where Yucca is about. 

I look at a lot of sunsets but seldom do I do much looking at the sun. Without the benefit of a mirrorless camera set up I’d be blind by now. I watch scenes like this develop live on video. The setting changes I make to the camera show up in real time as I spin the adjustment dials. With a mirrorless camera in my hands, I know what the image is going to look like before I click the shutter. Compare to a standard DSLR where you click and then see what you did on the back LCD. Just my 2 cents on that debate. 

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

Title: Yucca Ridge Sunset

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Grass Stand Sun Filter

Grass Stand Sun Filter
Grass Stand Sun Filter

Grass Stand Sun Filter (or Summer Sunset Through the Grassโ€ฆ..)

Yellow gradient to red but there were some low clouds messing up a perfect gradient. It’s hard to fight mother nature but I like the yellow and transitional orange in this. Stepping JUST over a ridge line with a long lenses camera is at sunset becomes habit. I work parallel ridgelines all the time looking for close / far perspectives such as this.

The sun is SOOOO bright you couldn’t look at this scene with the human eye. I’m about 150 yards back from this grassy ridge with around 400mm involved. I work the shadow line on the far ridge. Distance is your friend with this kind of shot. Maximum F-stop settings (high numbers) give you a deep field of focus. Ifs your first priority to get the grass AND the background in focus. Good thing, it’s a bright scene and the High f-stop makes your aperture a pin hole. Go higher if you can. Then I mentioned, distance from the foreground object is key. You have to be far enough back to get the grass AND the sun focused at the same time.

As I type this, we are going into a cold snap you will have experienced by the time you read the post. I build these posts about a week ahead on average. I post 6 different images everyday on FB along with the story or lesson for the narrative.

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

Title: Grass Stand Sun Filter

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Perspective Grassy Crimson Sunset

Perspective Grassy Crimson Sunset
Perspective Grassy Crimson Sunset

Perspective Grassy Crimson Sunset

So I’m up on a high ridge for twilight. The sun is down for 5 minutes and the clouds are lighting up with a still blue sky above. I was driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV that has 2 bright LED lightbars on the front. I sat down right up against the front bumper in the grass. I brought a 12 mm wide lens but I cropped the image down to the center since the edges were all dark. Only the center was bright enough to recover. I only expose the highlight properly and worry about the dark later. This actually came out much better than it could have.

Photographic Musings:

Close / Far perspectives under low light are rather tricky to capture. It’s takes a basic understanding of the requirement to use Manual mode on your camera to catch an image like this. High F-stop numbers, Long shutter speeds (tricky with moving grass), and perhaps a higher ISO to add a little camera sensitivity. Your priority here is depth of focus field. To get close grass AND the sky in focus at the same time requires you to use that requirement as your first priority. F-stop is the baby here. The other two settings are to get enough light to compensate for the high Fstop (very small hole in your lens to let light through). You have to realize that fstop is a double edge sword.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective Grassy Crimson Sunset

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BigHorn Mountains Twilight Portrait

BigHorn Mountains Twilight Portrait
BigHorn Mountains Twilight Portrait

BigHorn Mountains Twilight Portrait

View from up on Ridge one here on ranch. The window to the Big Horns is IFFY this time of year from this far away. My truck/tripod is 130 miles out for this capture off the highest point around the place. The timing on this was mid-Civil Twilight

Full Screen is a good choice for this. Twilight over the BigHorns this night was so obviously gorgeous. I had to resort to a short time exposure to catch it. The timing on this sunset is very late in Civil Twilight.

Civil Twilight after sunset ends about 28 minutes after the sun goes down 8 degrees under the horizon. It’s usually the best time to get those crimson and yellow skies. The yellow is Alpenglow. Atmospheric Ice causes this phenomena caused by refracted light passing through. Only the red wavelengths which have survived through hundreds of miles of atmosphere light the cloud deck.

The long lenses I use crush the perspective of distance. I’m almost always using telephotos to bring in just the BigHorn Mountains filing the whole frame. It takes about a 800 mm long focal length to fill the camera frame side to side with the tallest part of the range. The black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out. The clouds behind the range are around 200 miles out I would suspect. The distance is hard to put into proper frame. Those 13000 feet high mountains appear smaller than the thumb on my outstretched arm from here.

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

BigHorn Mountains Twilight Portrait

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Savanna Tree High Backcountry

Savanna Tree High Backcountry
Savanna Tree High Backcountry

Savanna Tree High Backcountry

I took this a week ago as this posts with quite a Twilight Behind a Lone Tree on a Remote Ridge. This one of about a dozen favorite lone trees of mine being on a very high ridge that is approachable from both sides at least on foot from this side AND I can get far enough away to fit it all in to the frame. These are all requirements for me to get this kind of capture. Topography and astronomy has to coincide with Botany. That’s a lot of coincidence lol.

Twilight skies are notoriously color boosted by many artists. I would suggest to you that if anything, the real show was actually much more vivid in person. I stopped a bit light on saturation finalizing this as I’d like it to be photorealistic to what I experienced. It was beautiful. It’s easy to be enamoured with silhouettes of lone trees against an active twilight sky show. I keep them real though and will tell you if I seriously mess with color. It’s seldom I mess with the highlights of an image. My tendency is to bring hidden detail out of the shadow in the digital darkroom. . I did none of that with this image for the silhouette effect. It is pretty much as raw out of the camera.

This capture has the triangle formed by the clouds and the hill slope. Geometry formed in an image is always a bonus “hero”. Every photo needs a few heros. Hero’s defined here as something that draws the eye, brings forth a memory, or is just a nice series of colors or gradients. Something attractive.

Location: Ridge 1, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Savanna Tree High Backcountry

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Big Horn Layers of Fire

Big Horn Layers of Fire
Big Horn Layers of Fire

Big Horn Layers of Fire

Twilight to me is a night sky in this case, late civil twilight. The 13000 foot high peaks at 130 miles out from my lens. This is a 2 second time exposure and it was very dark out. Once the sun goes down, there is still an hour and a half sky show through the three twilights. You just need a good tripod and time exposures to see the show sometimes. I have photographed many of these from start to finish. This week has been incredible.

Civil Twilight begins about 28 minutes before sunrise or ends 28 minutes after sunset. It is that period from when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon. On clear days you can do normal outside activities that require light. That solar elevation angle below the horizon defines each twilight phase. CIvil Twilight is by far the brightest of the three twilights.

Nautical Twilight starts when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon technically. Both the Horizon AND brighter stars/planets are visible in this twilight. It is the “middle” of the three twilights. At the beginning of Nautical twilight, it’s about one hour to sunrise. Rule of thumb which varies with your position on the globe, is 28 minutes each twilight.

In Astronomical Twilight, If you live in the city, you have probably never noticed astronomic twilight. The are NO shimmers of daylight at the beginning of Astronomic Twilight a full hour and a half before sunrise. . Away from the lights of population centers, we see Astronomic Twilight regularly where there is just a slight greying of the black totally dark sky mid night. It gets as dark here on our ranch in remote northeastern Wyoming as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Big Horn Layers of Fire

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Sunrise Crimson Portrait

Sunrise Crimson Portrait
Sunrise Crimson Portrait

Sunrise Crimson Portrait

Using a 1600mm telephoto, I bring horizons 40 miles out, up close and personal. The sun here is stationary and actually behind the horizon. This is NOT entirely line of site. The Atmospheric lens is bending the light around the curve of the planet. You see it setting and rising earlier at it’s rise. It sets later at sunset due to this. The Suns Disk actually is below the horizon here totally. It’s an interesting effect of the bending of light around the curve of the planet.

The thick atmosphere hundreds of miles thick only allows the longest red rays through. Yellow is a component of the sky this late in the sunrise as well. A quick transition to real line of site viewing occurs. Usually somewhere around 10 minutes after sunrise. The actual position of the sun eventually catches up to it’s apparent position. Again caused by the lessening refraction of that atmospheric lens that thins as the sun apparently rises higher.

Crimson close ups within big sky shows are not rare, they are beautiful however. Some are also better than others. This one is a good oneโ€ฆ. You have to remember that this is a very small area of the sky. Hold your thumb out at an arms length and you would cover the entire area of this frame with it. Telephoto lenses crush perspective. The higher the magnification, the mountains in the foreground seem larger, but the sun which is already proportionally the same size, seems huge by comparison. It’s an optical illusion/perspective crush. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ“ธ

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

Title: Sunrise Crimson Portrait

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Windmill’s Green Spring Morning

Windmill's Green Spring Morning
Windmill's Green Spring Morning

Windmill’s Green Spring Morning

I needed to finish this image as I sort of need the dose of green. Image 5 of 6 for Windmill Wednesday. All Windmills All day ๐Ÿ™‚

Windmill Junkies Unite: ๐Ÿค˜

The red gravel country road winds around our homestead. It USED to run right through our current compound but the country decided to run the road around the house thus all the curves up here. (Thank GOD) I’ve seen days without tracks in the snow on our road. Most winters, we get stranded by the drifts up here. Only oil trucks and a few local ranchers travel this road surrounded entirely by our ranch for 3 miles across 2 states.

With the green season above, there are three seasons up here. White season or simply “the snowy time”. Brown Season hereby defined as ground with no snow. And green season, when there is no snow and just a little brown. Last year was a VERY rare long green season when AUGUST had green grass. Almost unheard of up here in the borderlands. This was certainly the most wet year in my 20 year memory on this ground.

I consider winters here easy. I spent a decade in Jackson Hole Wyoming dealing with 6 feet of snow flat every year in the back yard. We do get some good snows with WINDS here on the border. Jackson Hole is not overly windy. We have WAY more drifting than Jackson did. I used to snow blow a foot of powder snow a couple of times a month. Snow seldom drifted like it does here.. Jackson Wins the snow amounts hands down over here in the borderlands. We win here with the amount of wind. Jackson is Colder of course.

I’ve lived 30 years in Wyoming this year. I first came here as a student of geology 40 years ago in 1980.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Windmill’s Green Spring Morning

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Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow
Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

From 6 months ago, this rare summer Alpenglow twilight silhouetted this Angus Mother. Summer Alpenglow isn’t too common. This effect is due to atmospheric Ice acting as a projector screen. The projector is only capable of illuminating the ice with hard to stop red light. Dust and Ice in the atmosphere filter out all other colors but the red frequencies. All between the sun and the camera. In the real world, the horizon rises to cover the sun. Being down a while, a lot of air is between my lens/the projector screen here. The decimated shorter wavelengths are not available to refract off the suspended atmospheric ice for my cameras to harvest. They are after all, only photon gathering devices ๐Ÿ“ท

How could you tell this is a summer Alpenglow versus a winter alpenglow? Well all the flies buzzing around this poor gal sort of give it away.๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜œ. I haven’t seen insects in a few months except for down in my greenhouse. We are pretty deep into winter currently here in Wyotana. Flies are a perpetual summer plague for cattle around the world. It’s a good thing the cattle are there as those flies could all be coming after us lololol.

Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

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Playful Western Sky Show

Playful Western Sky Show
Playful Western Sky Show

Playful Western Sky Show

This is such a wonderful play of colors on this sunset, I thought it worthy of Christmas Eve. I’ve photographed well over a thousand sunsets going into twilight. This one ranks right up there. I often start in the golden hour then staying up on the ridges through the maximum twilight. I’ve gotten many images of this period after sunset. Often heading home from working catching photons. Not many twilights I see are this vibrant. Within this cacophony of colors, every color of the rainbow is displayed .

Lots of dust and moisture in the air effect western sunsets. I’ve never experienced better sunsets than I’ve seen here on the Montana/Wyoming border. Montana is to the far right and Wyoming is to the left on this image. As seen from my ranch, the little Mountain range on the horizon is the Big Horn Range. A 50mm lens took this scene.. Your eyes see the world in a very similar way to a 50mm lens. Typically, I often post close ups of the peaks from this distance. This is the way that your eyes would see the scene. The mountains really do look that small. Your thumb held out at an arms length would cover the 13,000 foot tall peaks over 130 miles distant from my lens.

This should give many of you an entirely different perspective of the close ups of the Big Horn Mountains than I normally post. Good long telephoto lenses will do wonderful work if you have them. Buy them generationally as lenses last a long time. It’s camera backs that are throw away after a few years. I actually have to repair several cameras a year as I wear out the controls literally. If you work on manual all the time, your spinning exposures and fstops every photo virtually.

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

Title: Playful Western Sky Show

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Windmill and Smoke Sun Filter

Windmill and Smoke Sun Filter
Windmill and Smoke Sun Filter

Windmill and Smoke Sun Filter

Forest Fires hundreds of miles away accentuate and attenuated this image. Various levels of smoke from burning forests give western photographers opportunities. I am not ashamed to take advantage of it though my heart goes out to those that the fires impact. I’ve physically fought my share of grass fires living surrounded by a sea of grass. Fires used to burn here from their start to the first snows putting them out. I’ve seen some tremendous sunsets as a benefit to natures actions cleaning up the dead fall that we have allowed to accumulate to dangerous levels.

I’ve said many times before that I don’t use glass filters in front of my lenses. When shooting directly into the sun, the best filters have lefts a ghost of the sun in my images. Offset artifacts are not generally welcome to a photographer that tries really hard to be a photorealist. I will occasionally wander using lens reflections/flares in my work, but not here lol. ๐Ÿ“ท

Big Long Telephoto lenses have a tendency to CRUSH perspective like a compressed accordion . Getting topography, Windmill and Sun all to line up at the same time while at the same elevation as the sailโ€ฆ..not that regular an occurrence lol. I know the topography I work pretty well after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the sun is going to rise is a matter of looking it up on google. Get a compass, a map (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up.

I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE it is going to take place though. ๐Ÿ˜„

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

Title: Windmill and Smoke Sun Filter

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Crimson BigHorn Mountain Ridge

Crimson BigHorn Mountain Ridge
Crimson BigHorn Mountain Ridge

Crimson BigHorn Mountain Ridge

The Crimson Twilight show this sunset was spectacular. A full sized screen is a nice thing to bring this too. The Section of the BigHorn Mountain from this location is 140 miles distant and is near Buffalo Wyoming. I’m standing across the border in Montana. It was pretty muddy up on the pass road to Alzeda Montana from Ranch Creek. I wouldn’t suggest that route to anyone at the moment. Once it freezes it’s going to be deeply rutted certainly. That is always a tough road to choose or not. 

But…. I got this shot anyway. It took me a 1/2 hour to wash off my Jeep. The mud was 4 inches deep many times…. I had to take a front wheel off to get the rock that was stuck between a brake rotor and a brake shield from…..well mud and rocks lolol. I was noisily scraping around for a few days hoping it would just fall out but nooooooo. Not a chance that would happen. I can’t see this portion of the Big Horns from anywhere on my ranch. This pass is higher but 10 miles further back from the peaks. 

This particular sky was a magnificent during the after sunset show. The large eye shaped cloud would be a good image to mirror. It would look like a masked bandit. I’m always looking for images to mirror as they can make very good Halloween Images if done properly. 

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. 

Title: Crimson BigHorn Mountain Ridge

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Twilight Over Turtle Butte

Twilight Over Turtle Butte
Twilight Over Turtle Butte

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Twilight over Turtle Butte

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Twilight Over the BigHorns

Twilight Over the BigHorns
Twilight Over the BigHorns

Full Screen is a good choice for this. . Twilight over the BigHorns was so obviously gorgeous. I had to resort to a time exposure to catch it. The timing on this sunset is very late in Civil Twilight. I was returning home from a Photographic Road trip. My driveway offered this view as I returned to base.

Civil Twilight after sunset ends about 28 minutes after the sun goes down 8 degrees under the horizon. It’s usually the best time to get those crimson and yellow skies. The yellow is Alpenglow. Atmospheric Ice causes this phenomena caused by refracted light passing through. Only the red wavelengths which have survived through hundreds of miles of atmosphere light the cloud deck.

The Big Horns of course are 130 miles from my camera at this location. The long lenses I use crush the perspective. The black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out. The clouds behind the range are around 200 miles out I would suspect. The distance is hard to put into proper frame. Those 13000 feet high mountains appear smaller than the thumb on my outstretched arm from here.

Photographic Musings focusing on :

Shutter speed:

When I don’t get detail in the landscape, you can assume that the lighting was pretty dim. I use very sensitive gear and this late, handheld camera work is silly to attempt. This is a 2 second time exposure. A rested camera at 1/15 th of a second is pretty tough to keep from blurring. 2 seconds you HAVE to have either a timer to initiate the shutter and a tripod/sandbag or your going to blur. I say if it’s 55mm and smaller that 1/50th is fine and stable unless your taking photos of moving things. The longer the lens, the more ANY movement will tend to blur. WIth a 800mm lens, if I’m working handheld at less than 1/200th of a second is rare and a rested camera.

My rules of Thumb for Handheld cameras shutter speed. (manual mode) all times are in fractions of a secondl You MIGHT get away with less and slower speeds blurring things intentionally is a valid photo technic. I’ve done that slow setting for a blur numerous times intentionally with bees and other fliers. Freeze the body but blur the wings composition sort of imageโ€ฆ

Sitting still subject: 1/50th or faster..

Walking human 1/200th.

Running anything 1/800th

Flying things/moving vehicles: 1/2000th

Bumble Bee Wings 1/4000th.

These are just a rule of thumb and you can sure get away a bit on either side of those numbers. Of course the faster your exposure and the less light will enter the camera over the shorter period of time. You will have to adjust for fast shutters by either turning up ISO or turning down the F-stop numbers (bigger aperture). There are only three things to adjust in manual mode after all. You just learned one of them. ๐Ÿ˜€

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Twilight over the BigHorns

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Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

This is a pull back as your eyes would see this scene at around what a 50mm lens sees of a Big Sunset Over the BigHorns Mountains. If you were on my ranch watching from 130 miles distant.

I’m almost always using telephotos to bring in just the BigHorn Mountains filing the whole frame. It takes about a 800 mm long focal length to fill the camera frame side to side with the tallest part of the range. I have many captures from this night worthy of finishing. I’m standing a few hundred yards north of the Montana/Wyoming border to take this so it’s across the state line.

This kind of sky show changes by the minute. Looking tightly into the setting sun is dramatically bright but the shadows add up and it’s actually pretty dark where I stand. The Camera shows me the scene on a video screen so I’m not going blind from this.

Exposure time is so important in getting the colors right. I see the actual image my camera is going to save BEFORE I click the shutter. So I can actually check the color of the sky in front of me and the camera Once you realize a high f-stop and low ISO are necessary to take this kind of image, shutter speed becomes your variable to match the colors in your viewfinder to the actual scene. (applies to mirrorless camera users not you DSLR guys).

The mountain chain in Silhouette to the right is part of the Red Hills at 40 miles out from the camera. That range is an erosional remnant of the sediment apron the BigHorn Mountains spread out this direction. There are no sediments from the Big Horn mountains “Fanglomerate” (google word of the day) that reach my ranch. It’s likely that those that did have been removed from above by erosion. Those distant mountains used to be a lot higher. Plus Powder River Basin between here and there was a lot deeper.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Big Sunset Over the BigHorns

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Lightning and the Seed Drill

Lightning and the Seed Drill
Lightning and the Seed Drill

The Lightning and the Seed Drill timeline started looking much further left than the camera points for this image. The head lights of my Jeep Grand Cherokee are what is highlighing the 1930’s IH Deering Seed Drill (seeder). That Antique has been sitting here for a LONG time and has seem more weather, sunsets, sunrises than any of us left alive today. An old soldier survivor of wind, rain, hail, and worst of all, cattle rubbing against it. It has BIG views in all directions. (Change up seasonally eh? )

Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (jeep) next to another metal object (seeded) seems logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea ๐Ÿค”โ›ˆ.

Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list. Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I’m actually afraid of is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits your car or just nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. ๐Ÿ“ธ

Photographic musings:

I find that the Sony alpha 7 cameras I use tend to record lightning with a slight purple tint. This is very common in lighting captures in my experience. This is a 10 second time exposure . . Other settings were ISO 200, f20 and it was quite dark under that cloud with only a faint sunslit. I used f20 so as not to overexpose the headlights on the seeder.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title:Lightning and the Seed Drill

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BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter

BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter
BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter

BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter is a good a filter for reducing light into my camera as any glass filter out thre. Here the air was clear, there was some gravel dust lit up in the valley at the bottom. There were high clouds in a thin layer.

The BigHorn Mountains are 130 miles from my ranch (and this is taken on ranch). I’ve been following this angle for several days moving about 1 mile and a half north each night for this precise alignment this week. A few nights I’ve had clouds in the way but this night was perfect.

There was not excessive moisture in the air for a change. Looking into the furnace like this is a very hostile light environment for most cameras. Don’t try this at home with a DLSR with a direct optic path to your eye. I look at this through video and am at no risk for blinding.

This is certainly a unique view and I’m not aware of others trying to do this at such a distance. The little black ridge at the bottom is 40 miles out (the “Red Hills”) The sky was cloudless but for a thin band as seen as my top frame for the image. What is amazing to me with this photo is the snow blowing up maybe 5000 feet off the peaks on the right.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch in Campbell County Wyoming and Powder River Montana, the Big Horns are in Sheridan County Wyoming. The sun is a bit further out there.

Title: BigHorn Mountain Sun Filter

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Sun Settling on the BigHorns

Sun Settling on the BigHorns
Sun Settling on the BigHorns

This is the first of 2 images I’ll post from this timeline . Remember that at sunset, the sun is actually moving sideways to the right but not quite as fast as the sun is dropping. (the horizon is actually rising). We are spinning on an axis that is tilted over 20 degrees to the Ecliptic so the sun travels at a 20 degree down angle as we spin. It me a few minutes to work out exactly where to be for this sunset. I’ll post the next image in this timeline of this Sun Settling on the BigHorns tomorrow.

Research/google the word “Ecliptic”. It is an important concept to be able to figure out opportunities as they “line up” lol. I traveled about a mile from my house for this one. I’ve been pursuing this all week. The weather window for my limited opportunity for this line up has been open all but 2 days so far. I have about another 3 or 4 days I can work this . There are so many good images from this totally nutty sky above the 13000 feet high mountain range.

I forgot to mention that I’m 130 miles distant from those peaks and that the range looks small in perspective to the sun. The sun doesn’t change size (get smaller very much as I drive to the east to get further from it. However the mountains will continue to get smaller until I can’t see them if I keep driving. (Make sense?) Further away, small mountains, sun is the same apparent size as long as I stay on the earth lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sun Settling on the BigHorns

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Sunset Across the BigHorn Mountains

Sunset Across the BigHorn Mountains
Sunset On the BigHorn Mountains

Sunset Across the 130 mile Distant BigHorn Mountains is one of quite a few BigHorn Range captures over most of last week. Amazing stuff ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ“ธ

Watching this alignment start up with the sun WAY left of the range less than a half hour before this. The sun will always move from left to right as well as downward. Of course it’s the horizon rising but you already know that. (The sun isn’t moving here, the earth is spinning) . The earth is tilted on it’s axis

Science Factoid:

That tilt is relative to the solar systems flat plane called the ecliptic. All the planets are circling the sun on that plane. The earths north/south axis Currently, the Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from the plane of its path/orbit around the sun. But this tilt changes/wobbles like a top. During the long wobble cycle that averages around 40,000 years. (Based on good scientific work eh? ๐Ÿ‘

The tilt of the axis varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. Because this tilt changes, the earth is exposed to differing amounts of energy from the furnace over that interval. Paleoclimatology is something I have dabbled in. I will tell you the sun is the driver of our climate so one would assume that global changes occur as the way you face the sun. Yup, the climate has been changing since it all started as a pool of molten rock accumulated in a gravity well lol.

SO back to this photo:

This time of year, sun sets dramatically from left to right as the horizon rises here. But it rises from left to right at sunrise. (The phrase to google here is Ecliptic solar system). So tracking this and watching it change by the minute was very impressive.

Photographic Musing:

Bright bright bright stuff. Shutting the camera down to light ALMOST taken with the len cap on (it’s that bright lolol) You only have 3 main things to set on your camera by working it on manual mode.

They are: “ISO” (Camera Sensitivity), f-stop (aperture or pupil size of the lens) and Shutter Speed in parts of a second (s). Figure out what is important to you (deep focus or freezing motion?). You set f-stop high for deep focal field . F-stop low for shallow depth of focus field. F-stop takes away light so high f-stop (small hole in the lens) is good for high light situations. Priority 1 taken care of.

Your next priority (2) is ISO (camera sensitivity). Low ISO is ALWAYS best because High ISO give you too much light AND a grainy appearance in the image. So LOW camera sensitivity (or slow ISO 100). High ISO is best for LOW LIGHT situation. Really HIGH ISO over 2000 is for the dark if you need it only. I consider ISO evil to go high with.

Last thing on the list is shutter speed which is your variable to adjust the total exposure. You adjust until you get the result you desire. On an older DSLR reflex type camera, you look at the image on the LCD on the back of the camera body AFTER you take the photo. With a Mirrorless Removable Lens Camera though, you get what you see on the screen INSIDE the camera, WHILE you are moving the dials the image reflects the changes you make. What you see is what you get. Instant feedback, MUCH easier for you to learn on. So if you made it this far in my text, and your looking at cameras, pick a mirrorless model, preferably a full frame/large sensor camera. Full Frame cameras have higher dynamic range than smaller sensor cameras. ๐Ÿ“ธ

Disclaimer:

Don’t USE a standard DSLR camera to take sun photos and YOUR camera may not be rated to take this heat. Large sensor cameras spread out that light and don’t melt like some smaller sensor cameras would here. More important, don’t blind yourself in a DSLR even trying this. Seriously!๐Ÿ‘

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sunset Across the BigHorn Mountains

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Complex Sunrise Big Sky

Complex Sunrise Big Sky
Complex Sunrise Big Sky

This Complex Sunrise Big Sky image is on the Wyoming/Montana border looking east. Both states in the image. This is a “fully involved” sky

While Montana Claims the “Big Sky” moniker, Wyoming certainly shares it. Our ranch is in both states and MOST of my images have both states well represented in the capture. I’m one of the few photographers that can legitimately post an image in both states Facebook forums lolol.

This is called a “Sunrise” but in fact it is still in Civil Twilight a full 15 minutes before the sun actually rose. This is still a night sky. Day starts when the horizon drops away from covering the sun. Twilight is my favorite time of the day. I photographically work almost every morning but clear sky cloudless mornings. There are SOOOO many cloudless gradient twilight images in my portfolio lolol. Certainly I don’t need many more.

Going out in the twilight before sunrise into the backcountry is alway interesting. I often run into still bedded deer, most of which don’t care that I’m driving by, stop, take a photo and move onโ€ฆ I get some of my best wildlife photography done coming back from working morning twilights. I’ve done this many hundreds of times. Over time, you get lucky and random encounters start to add up if you have the right gear and ability to work in morning golden hour light. Twilight low light is a whole different group of settings lolol. The transition from twilight to sunlight is rapid.

I have a lot of this same sky looking west taken the evening of this same day overlooking the Big Horn Mountains. You will see these as they get finished/posted.

Location: Standing directly On the “Wyoming with Montana” border, Bliss DInosaur Ranch,

Title: Complex Sunrise Big Sky

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Sun Pillar Over the BigHorns

Sun Pillar over the BigHorns
Sun Pillar over the BigHorns

This V-shaped Sun Pillar over the Bighorns northern ridges was magnificent from 130 miles distant.

The Ground Blizzard on the peaks must have been intense at the peaks for it to blow so obviously. Remember the area of the sky in this photo is smaller than a postage stamp at arms length. I look into really bright little areas of the sky with my gear. 130 mils is so far that the air between here and there becomes a serious deciding factor if I can see the range or not. It’s the ice in front high between the ranch and myself that is lit up by the sunlight pushing over the saddle between the peaks. The sun is actually down for this so this is a night shot ๐Ÿ˜Ž

LONG telephoto shots like this are deceiving. Hold a postage stamp out at arms length and look at the horizon. This image would fit into that stamp. A 1200mm looks at very small things on the horizon. The mountains in this image are ONLY 9,000 – 10,000 feet high at this northern section of the Big Horn Mountain Range. The Big Peaks are to the left of this frame. .

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Sun Pillar Over the BigHorns

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Distorted Sunrise Early Winter Ridgeline

Distorted Sunrise Early Winter Ridgeline
Distorted Sunrise Early Winter Ridgeline

This was taken on the morning of 11/06 (Wednesday) Exactly at sunrise. I don’t fully understand hoe this sun formed but I’ll give you my theory.. “Distorted Sunrise Early Winter Ridgeline” This was a new one to me.

FIrst of all the sky was lit up pretty well through about 15 minutes of late civil twilight. So I’m watching the clock having picked my spot based on compass direction and brightness. I would point out this is EXACTLY what I was seeing through the eyepiece. At the right place at the right time this blob rose that I could have easily looked at with my naked eye. This is not a particulary bright scene which is why there is so much definition in trees.

No glare at sunrise with a “sun” must be rare. I have this on two cameras at different magnifications and framing. I have only finished this one as of yet. This was a dark scene with little light for right at sunrise. Just color and not brightness if that makes sense.

Theory

The Distorted Sun is of course sending light through hundreds of miles of atmosphere, storms, clouds etc. We actually only see a line of sight sun when it’s up somewhere ABOVE the horizon, any sun touching the horizon is actually below the line of sight. The atmospheric lens bends the suns image around thee horizon to your eye well below the line of sight.

This sun is distorted the absolute heck out of it by that “air lens”. I have not in thousands of observed/photographed sunrises/sunsets seen anything like this before. This is by far a very odd blob for a sunrise. The “sun” disappeared into the cloud banks and more or less shut down this show. I had maybe 20 seconds to get two cameras involved.

I’ve seen very formal distortions in the suns image. Stretched with a vertical elongation or sawtoothed edges I’ve seen. MIrage of the suns edge from bending around the earths surface real time I’ve watched. But I’ve never seen a blob with such color and shape? Never in my career. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ (Shaking head).

Filed under weird things I see working “Wyotana Skies”.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Distorted Sunrise Early Winter Ridgeline

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Crimson Crack of Dawn

Crimson Crack of Dawn
Crimson Crack of Dawn

Crimson Crack of Dawn is literally just that:

When the sun starts rising, I’m working very long lenses looking at little postage stamp at arms length sized areas of the sky. The tree was hundreds of yards out from my position as getting it in focus was a priority. Distance from the foreground object is your friend.

If camera settings need to be known, looking into a really bright scene like this, LOWEST ISO number, Higher fstop number and really fast shutter speeds. Most camera users need a neutral density filter in front of the lens but I don’t need them with this Sony Alpha 7. I really don’t like them on my cameras as I often get ghost images in really bright off lens center axis photos. Never use em. Neutral Density filters reduce the over all light coming into your camera.

Set your priorities and start working in Manual Mode folks. You can’t take images like this without it.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Crimson Crack of Dawn

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Big Horn Mountain’s Sunset

Big Horn Mountain's Sunset
Big Horn Mountain's Sunset

Catching a Big Horn Mountain Sunset (Clear Sky)

I’ve been trying to get this shot for 20 years. It was bright to say the least. A totally unclouded alpenglow sky (atmospheric ice). The sun is 93 million miles out and the ranch is only 130 miles out from the Big Horn’s Ridge line. The black Ridge (known as the “Red Hills” at the bottom is 40 miles out from my camera lens. I’m at the same elevation as the Red Hills where I’m standing for this capture. “Big Horn Mountain’s Sunset”

Rare (ish) confluence of Events, Photographic musings:

Catching a sunset on a 13,000 (Thirteen Thousand) feet high ridge from 130 miles away is a matter of proper positioning, timing and gear. I had to travel 10 miles south to get this image, I set up on early on tripods two long lenses, (800 and 1200mm). *This image came from a new Sony Alpha 7R4 which gives me a 60 meg .jpg out of the camera) The sun will set in the notch on the left in two days from the same location. If I slowly move north to my ranch, I can delay the travel time down the range by changing the angle between the sun, the range and myself… I have never seen this until the other night. Close but not on the peaks.. 

Tough to get Weather Window to the distant peaks. 

Weather is the most unpredicatable variable. I get to see the Big Horns from my vantage point a few times a week. There is always be clear days… Having said that, I haven’t had a window to this angle of sunset through the weather (clouds) for this in 20 years of living here. Usually there are obscuring moisture, clouds, ice or otherwise no view exists of the Bighorns. This particular day was a VERY clear day all day. I have big long photos of several directions from one of the highest points around here. Behind me there was a WONDERFUL Belt of Venus (BOV) against the Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower Landscape. I did some time exposures of the pink BOV sky over that volcanic neck complex this evening after the sunset. Stay tuned for that. 

Equipment Suggestions:

A good quality 800mm lens (bigger than 800mm lenses at this distance make for multiple photo composites. This is a full sized 2×3 foot print from one image. . It would be bigger if it were composite as in a 2:1 aspect instead of a simple landscape 2×3. You might want some neutral density filters in front of your lenses unless your using a Sony Alpha or other similar large format sensors. I will testify for the Sony surviving direct sun images. I don’t profess to know how your camera will survive so best safe than sorry. Don’t let the sun burn a hole in your cameras sensor. . 

Color. It’s hard to know ahead of time (at the click) how an image is going to finish. This is a rediculous light environment for any camera. Under this much bright light and glare through atmospheric ice, it usually will finish in burnt umber, crimson or orange. This one did the crimson route. No one can look into this scene with the naked eye and tell me what it looks like as it would blind you. 15 f-stops of dynamic range on this Sony Alpha 7R4 camera back.. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜ฒ The human eye has 21. No filters in front of this lens. Zip. Most consumer cameras have 10, 11 maybe 12 fstops. 

Disclaimer: 

This was captured with a Mirrorless camera and I was looking at this scene on video so there is no direct light path to my eye. Do not try this with your equipment if it is a small sensor mirrorless camera not rated for this OR it is a standard DSLR that has a direct path to your eye from the sun. It will be the last thing you see in that eye with an 800mm telephoto gathering light and focusing it on your retina. ๐Ÿ˜Ž Protect your eye. Your photography will end if they do. Title “Big Horn Mountain’s Sunset”

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. 

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Satire: Volcano Goes Off On the MT/WY border

Satire: Volcano Goes Off On the MT/WY border
Satire: Volcano Goes Off On the Mt/Wy border

Satire: “Turtle Butte” came to life the other morning with a series of rumbles and tremors resulting in a discharge of smoke and no doubt all sorts of other volcanic debris. This particular butte, only 50 miles from the Devils Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck complex, sure looked convincing the other morning when I took this๐Ÿคฃ Could be a precursor to Yellowstone’s caldera popping like a teenagers face before a date.

Just a geologists musings๐Ÿ˜Ž with a photographers habits..๐Ÿ“ธ

Happy Halloween .

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. In fact turtle butte is precisely on the WY/MT border.

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Sunrise: Up Close and Personal

Sunrise: Up Close and Personal
Sunrise: Up Close and Personal

The Horizon is falling across the sun’s face here Up close and Personal. The sun is actually not rising here. Remember that during a sunrise, it’s not the sun that is moving, it’s the horizon that is falling relative to the fixed ball of nuclear fire. Professional long range ballisticians/shooters even compensate their aim at long distances for the horizon dropping or rising shooting straight east and or straight west over the flight time of the bullet.


The atmospheric lens consisting of hundreds of miles of low angle air density changes (inversions) and moving air current distort several things.
1: The sun is not actually line of sight here, it’s actually and physically BELOW the horizon because the aforementioned “lens” is bending the light around the globe to make it look like it’s above the horizon lol. It takes a few minutes for the actual line of sight and what you see to get back in sync. ๐Ÿค”
2: The edges of the sun (in the VERY sharp image) is sculpted by the “roiling” air. I often watch it live real time through the lens. Mirage in miniature along that normally very sharp edge.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Western Woodgrain Skies Through a Windmill “Filter”

Western Woodgrain Skies Through a Windmill "Filter"
Western Woodgrain Skies Through a Windmill "Filter"

“Western Woodgrain Skies through a Windmill Filter” is a 300 yard distant telephoto capture of “Sneaky Pete” the windmill who is notorious for Photobombing my landscapes and sunsets. He attracts lightning and otherwise gets in my way so just ignore him in the photos and enjoy the sunset๐Ÿ˜œ

Woodgrained skies are not that common but I’ve seen a few of them this month and as I type this, both sunrise and sunset today were similar to this. I have yet to download those images from my cameras lolol. I’m literally slammed with images to finish. That is a good thing though lol.

Have a great day and get that cup of coffee going !

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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The Horizon Rising Across the Suns Face

The Horizon Rising Across the Suns Face
The Horizon Rising Across the Suns Face

Here I caught an image of the Horizon Rising Across the Sun’s Face. You see the sun isn’t movingโ€ฆwe’re rotating and the western Horizon is literally moving in front of the sun’s disk.

The sun actually never sets, the horizon always rises though lololol.

My father always would say, “things are as they are, not as they seem”. I’ve always considered this when I’m confused by events I see unfold through my lenses.

This is a 1200mm telephoto image 2×3 aspect to 3 feet wide.

Have a great morning and be careful in what your doing ๐Ÿ™

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.