On the crest of this backcountry ridge, trees grow out of boulders. This hill top has a hard cap rock that has resisted erosion thusly protecting the rocks below. This is ALL Hell Creek Sandstone. This leaves these relatively harder boulders for me to enjoy but trees must penetrate them. Close Far Perspectives are worthy of working I think …
The Cretaceous rocks are 66 million years old and that lichen can be 100 years or more old. Only rocks that are undisturbed have big lichen patches. Cattle pressure/wear from rubbing will destroy it. There are big areas of this boulder strewn surface covered with Sunburst Liichen (Xanthoria sp.), sometimes called pincushion lichen. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different species of Lichen that inhabit Wyoming. Differentiating them exactly is sort of a science all by itself. The cattle don’t like the footing on this hill top knob.
Lichenologists have to have work of some kind. Academia is the obvious job path. I suspect that there is a use for court testimony however the job prospects of a Lichenologist is about the same as a masters in biostratigraphy such as myself. Though interestingly, biostratigraphers do a lot of work with oil companies .. My general comment about Lichen nomenclature is that you need a bachelors of science in Biology (which I have) to look at the photos. The text about the lichen is a foreign language.😀😀.
I digress, Enjoying a sunset while walking around with several cameras in the remote backcountry is similar to a shooting gallery with a .22 but without the report. Lots of good stuff to shoot at. Just a click versus bang.
Brown Season twilight landscapes are always dark, some are more colorful than others. When the veil of clouds is heavy, the shade and hues become muted with the encroaching dusk. Unfettered light causes an entirely different result… here, browns are in full display. I spend a lot of time working twilight skies/landscapes and find them challenging to reproduce accurately. It would be very easy to turn up the sky colors but I’m trying really hard to be a photorealist. This is as close as I can get this to how I experienced the scene. I find that an infinite spectrum of variable twilight exists and are mostly “capturable” with the right gear.
A majority of photographers wouldn’t finish this image I’m thinking. Having said that, I’m all about subtle tones and hues that escape view by most. The cool air of the twilight, the movement of game in the distance, the quickening of the light fleeing the scene is always breathtaking to me. Huge long landscapes (40 miles) make for an appropriate venue for this end of a day capture.. All creatures great and small getting ready for the night are all in their own world. Anticipating the washing away of the brown by spring rains to expose the green that is forthcoming. Seasons change, days come and go, but the animals seen to survive the hardships with an ever optimistic outlook toward the next day and the next meal.
There are actually several models/makers of this and similar vaneless windmill that this one could be. I’m not sure which it is positively…
Windmill technology had been around since 200 BC in China. By the 11th century with big mills in Europe. To grind grain and drain swamps were their main use. The technology brought into Europe by the Crusaders returning home. By the 1700’s the industrial revolution using water and eventually steam power reduced their use considerably. (Notable exception for the dutch). But in the Early 1800’s the new settlers to the Great Plains of America had a use for the wind engines. The Emigrants from Europe brought wind power with them. The western frontier provided a crucible. Upon which the technology constantly proved it’s merit. Pumping water was it’s task.
In the American West, settlers used wind to do work and conquer the land that otherwise would be marginal without a water source for stock. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, small wind generated water wells were ubiquitous across the country. Almost as numerous as the mills were the companies manufacturing them great and small.
As rural electrification proceeded the number of Windmill’s declined starting in the 1930’s. We used a windmill in a remote pasture until 2006. We ran a water pipeline from an electric well about 2 miles to it. There is also a solar powered well on our ranch.
These little birds are difficult to get close to and never pose long for you to take your time setting your camera up. Now catching on at ground level is a tricky stunt to say the least. I won’t give away my secrets on this one but it’s a good story. You really can’t move much once it knows your there. These guys cue on movement and react usually with an escape maneuver. Once they sense danger, there is no stopping them. This is a telephoto capture NOT a game trail camera….
Generally Meadowlarks are singing fools. If they aren’t actively hunting insects (slim picking this spring so far), they are yelling at the top of their lungs. I’ve pursued them for years. I’m pretty sure I’ve worn out a set of brake pads slowing down / stopping to try to capture their images. I have literally hundreds of attempts to photograph them where all I accomplished was to stop my forward momentum to the next photo location lolol.. Off they fly if you give them ANY reason to.
I will continue to hit the brakes when I sense their presence. Driving backroads often will give you long sections of fences to hunt meadowlarks. Having said that, places to perch are rare in the backcountry. Preferred locations with a view in mid prairie are well populated with these guys. Deep spring snows will place a premium on those perch locations. I find the morning after a good snow the best time to find them competing for places to alight.
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.
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.
The intersection of Parks Rd and Trail Creek about 4 miles south of the Montana / Wyoming border is in the distance. I’m about a mile from that crossroads for this shot. The Pronghorn as a matter of principle decided to cross in front of me. They do this to show off. I was pursuing the rainbow the road was leading to. Of course rainbows are tough to catch up to since they move as you move lolol. BUT I find that there are rainbows images and then there are rainbow IMAGES.
Gravel Wyotana backcountry roads are always exciting in what you will come across. I had stopped to to capture the rainbow lining up with the road of course. I saw this Pronghorn, anticipated her path and waited patiently as she took her sweet time wandering across. There is a HUGE network of gravel backcountry roads in this country. The closest asphalt road to that intersection is about 9 miles to the right (looking south east here). The setting sun was REALLY low on the horizon for this capture as I initially working the sunset of course. I randomly run into animal encounters regularly in this country. More pronghorn per square mile than people here.
There is no hurrying mother nature or for that fact, mother Pronghorn (pregnant this time of year of course). Besides the fat belly, you can tell Pronghorn sex by looking for a black cheek patch which this gal doesn’t have. The males have a big black splotch under their ears / behind their eyes.
Taken 8 days ago as this posts, the snow is melted, the 60 degree days of late spring have won. The mud season has relented for this morning and I was able to ascend to a high ridge. All without damaging the two track trail along the journey. The sun rose at 6AM for this capture. My itinerary for this trip up to the local roof of the world started 1/2 hour before at 5:30. I usually leave early to get most of Civil Twilight in my photographic timeline. Working the ridge all the wayThis particular morning was a 700+ image morning. I worked 12 scenes over all that will end up as final finished prints in my portfolio. From Twilight, to sunrise, to meadowlarks, deer and Pronghorn all morning. This timeline ended up with a rainbow from the storms incoming from the west this day.
I was working out of my Ford Raptors drivers window as the wind was kicking up. There was a bit of buffeting of the camera ongoing but with this much light, a little camera movement isn’t much of an issue lol. I don’t like to have a heater on as the heat waves against the cold outside can significantly distort the image coming into your camera. I try to keep the vehicle at ambient temperature unless that is just stupid to the mission. I’ve seen a few days like that at -20 or 100 plus outside. I find my tolerance of distorted images increases at those envelope edges. Perhaps it’s just old age creeping up and I’m getting wussy… 😜👅
Chasing LIghtning is not for the faint at heart. Being in a vehicle “reduces” your exposure. It’s also possible for the vehicle to be struck. This can destroy the vehicles wiring or it’s computer. You also don’t want to be touching metal when that goes down lolol. I’ve been very close to bolts before. This one was REACHING out my direction lolol. It’s miles long.
I was driving up in Montana where my son and I watched a bolt hit the dirt 30 feet off the road on the drivers side. It hit in front of us so we had a clear view of it. I can still see the outline. The truck was all closed up so the sound was muffled. I’ve heard some pretty loud bolts but with a window open… a close bolt is going to leave some “ringing” in my ears lolol.
I usually work scenes like this with 2 cameras sitting on the cars passenger window on clamp tripods. Using Lightning Triggers allow you to set your camera to click with the bolt. My Sony Mirrorless respond within a few milli-seconds to the initial start of the flash. I usually use about 1/4second or longer time exposure which you adjust to the brightest part of the image. (expose the highlights properly). If you set the ISO too high, you will have the bolts too bright which tends to grow them larger than they are. This is about as perfect an exposure as you can get for as dark as it was for this scene. 📸
Taken a few days ago. This is a VERY bright scene but the sun was indeed markedly yellow and the sky orange around the glare of the sun placed in the same focal plane as this tree. If you hold your thumb out at the end of your outstretched arm, it would cover this image area. Positioned where I thought the bulb should screw into this rare backcountry lamp post. When taking such images, shutting down the camera to light is a necessity. The lens is an 28 inch long 600 mm optic. I’m working hand held for this kind of capture. About 300 yards distant from the snag. The sun is out a bit further. 🤔
Being so bright a scene, it had some interesting light effects on the sensor and diffraction effects are rife. The particulates in the air as well as the clouds below it’s line of sight enabling only the longest red rays access to me. The bright yellow light from the sun overwhelmed and diffracted around the branches. though. Makes it look like it on this side of the tree lolol.
I never know how these are going to come out when taking photos way outside the sane photographic envelope looking into the sun as this capture. Settings you must consider looking it a scene is a fast shutter so going freehand is easy. You need ISO low low numbers and fstop as high as you need to enable both snag/sun to be in the same focal field.. The higher f – stop will give you a deep depth of field but will tend to cause those diffraction effects where the light wraps around and hides the branches.
No this is not just outside Sanford and Son’s and no fake heart attacks here (Do you know the classical reference?)
So Game Trail Cameras play an important role in my understanding of game and predator patterns of movement. I have discovered that every canid that goes by this stick either pees on it or chews on it lolol. Apparently it is a community boundary between Coyotes and Red Foxes. I see Coyotes coming in from the east and these guys from the south. There may be some overlap in their territories but I suspect the two different species are NOT the best of friends. Top of that stick is definitely chewed on by many animals.
These Remote auto cameras definitely clue me in to behavior that I would normally have NO chance in capturing. I could sit down in this gully in a regular wildlife blind for days without any activity with a regular camera. Not that I have anything better to do on any particular day lolol. I think I’ll let the auto cameras do the work. These two were definitely on the hunt though. They just had to pay homage to the marks other left behind as a matter of due course I’m thinking.. 👀😜
Night images via Infra-Red flash are all to capture grainier than daylight images. The quality is more like a well printed newspaper than a high quality/resolution capture from a 5 thousand dollar camera rig. They may be grainy but they sure are Candid!. This is an 18 inch by 18 inch aspect final📸📸📸
Alpenglow occurs both before and after sunset. You see different colors with time as the sun light moves has to plow through progressively longer paths through the atmosphere. As the horizon draws closer to the sun, the colors that survive the trip are longer wavelengths like red and orange. Rich crimson is the result of only the longest wavelengths making it through that smoke, dust, moisture laden longest path where the light is actually bent around the globe a bit. Yellow skies like this are late results of a clear sky sunrise. Yellow is the last gasp of the twilight deeper colors. Blue Sky isn’t far away. (This is a VERY small area of the sky and the close ridge is 5 miles out)
Alpenglow as this exists because suspended atmospheric ice acts as a projection screen dominating the skies in the winter. What you see here is the result of illuminated/ lit up suspended small ice crystals shining yellow. That is the dominate color for this length of travel through the atmosphere. Just a few minutes before, this was red as these stage shows constantly change the set of the play.
Don’t forget: When the moon or the sun is ON the horizon, it is in reality below the actual line of sight. Hiding behind the earth. It’s image curves around the globe a little due to the atmospheric lensing. Only orange/red light makes it through that gauntlet giving us twilight colors.
Musings on working ridges with cameras. :
I am always looking for Layers of ridges. A “Landscape Ladder” so to speak. Working the high ridge country here on the Montana / Wyoming border is wonderful for finding such “ladders”. Parallel Ridges aligned at right angles to the sunrise and sunset creates unlimited opportunity way to work shadow lines photographically. You can usually find dozens of worthy sunsets and sunrises captures on the ridges following/moving along that shadow line. Many interesting foreground objects magically appear that way. Those are useful in the close part of the close/far perspective (the goal) . Start an hour before the event is my suggestion.
This method of working the landscape works very well for moon perspectives I find. Moving along that shadow line, on an opposite ridge, I’m able to maneuver down topography for a sunrise and up for a sunset. One can follow the sun/moon up/down over the “event” by changing my position. Ridges let me work the moon (for example) for an hour instead of 5 minutes that I would have on flat ground. It helps to be very agile getting about too. Cover more ground, get more captures.
It really was pink for this Moon Rise. Caught the Egg Moon at the moment of lift off from the horizon. This Mountain ridge is 10 miles out from my camera. This moon rise was 94 degrees east on the compass. (corrected for magnetic declination of course). You see magnetic north is not the same as geographic north. There are 8 degrees 44 minutes difference here at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. If you use a compass and don’t correct it for Polar Wandering of the magnetic pole, your navigation is off a bit. Makes a big difference the further you go lol.
The tendency to crush perspective is a property of long focal length lenses. This 1200 mm is about 28 inches long. It is looking at an area of that distant ridge that is about the size of a postage stamp at arms length. The distant stamp would cover the moon and the ridge in this photo more or less. This really zooms up on the ridge. The moon too but the relatively closer ridge, is disproportionally enlarges. If I were to jump into a car and drive 5 more miles back, the moon would still look this big but the ridge would look a lot smaller by comparison. The relatively smaller ridge with the moon about the same size would be the result. The moon appears to grow as I move further away from the ridge.
I’m always saying I work “Parallel Ridges” photographically but actually showing parallel ridges isn’t easy. These long shadows during this late golden hour moment accentuate the topography in this landscape. The coloration was natural in this low light civil twilight sky. Atmospheric Ice will do this. It’s called “Alpenglow” if you haven’t googled that before. …
Autumn is in full effect for this country. Most of the ranches trees are behind me but this treed gully provides some foreground color in this image. A lot of grasses have a reddish hue to them as well as the various deciduous trees in the valley.
There is a lot of ground covered in this frame. 40 miles out to the far ridge which part of the Red Hills up in Montana. I’m on what I call Ridge one which is about 1 mile inside of Wyoming. I really enjoy working this country with cameras. There are infinite angles and slopes to work ridge lines to properly corral light into your camera. Wild life encounters set off the experience. I never know what I’m going to run into up here. This is a land of many uses.
Your actually looking across 2 good sized river valleys. Ranch creek is the first big valley in the distance. Ranch Creek eventually feeds the Little Powder River which resides in the second valley. These small rivers removed all that sediment between the tallest peaks. The ground used to reach between the peaks and filled in all that valley area. Little rivers do LOTS of erosion over a LOT of time by a LITTLE at a time. 🤔⚒
I went to Gillette two weeks ago (now as this posts) to deliver ammunition to a local gun store. (as I build such under Federal License) Heading back from ONLY the gun store and a fast food joint….. Any how I had a stash of McDonalds Double Cheese burgers (perfect for freezer implantation for later) in the back seat under a coat. (Somethings you don’t want to go through a global pandemic without ). All warm and snug there there were .
.So I had the bright Idea of taking a backroad loop I had never been on before on the way home. It’s was a 50+ mile addition to my 70 mile trip home (burgers were fine). They were still pretty warm as the down coat was effective as an insulator. That and the back seat heat vent driving with the windows open lolol. I digress….
So I’m driving along in undiscovered country with ranch names I’ve heard of but never seen before. Most roads in this country parallel drainage. Certainly crossing small creeks presented engineers with various problems. I was going 45 (which is the gravel road speed limit). Driving past the small groups of Pronghorn and mule deer . I didn’t see any White Tail or Elk on this drive. Moving along to actually cover a lot of ground. Saw this…I tried to lock up all 4 wheels but the antilock breaks got in the way again. I’m a purist and really enjoy simple cars with real feedback but that’s another narrative…..
Anyway, this scene stood out like a diamond in a very late brown season rough. The old roadway paralleled the existing road for hundreds of feed only to cross at this point. SOMEONE was the last personal to drive a vehicle over that thing. A student of water flow and drainage, I imagine , how many spring floods or flash floods from a summer thunderstorm this old infrastructure project has stood up to. Still here!
Routing: Random… Basically, drive 30 miles north of Gillette. Turn right at Weston… drive 30 miles out of my way, turn left 30 miles, turn left 30 miles…. (Basically my itinerary for this trip) lolol.
Location: Heald Road, Campbell County Wyoming. 30 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana)
The peaks in the distance, known as the Red Hills reach 40 miles out from the camera. Most folks out east would call them Mountains. We live basically at the same elevation (4000 ft) as the ridge tops on those hills. The “Little Powder River” Basin lays between myself and the Red Hills in the distance.. Part of the right side of that ridge is in Montana while I’m standing in and looking at 1/2 a Wyoming , 1/2 a Montana scene. This Gibbous Moon captured here in the process of heading for the horizon/setting. Remember it’s not the moon that’s moving. It’s the horizon/you. I chase the moon from time to time. Sunrise over my shoulder was an amazing show that morning… Nice snow for an Early April.
The full moon that morning was too late setting that day for me to nab it’s photons while in the Belt of Venus. 😔 The “Belt of Venus has dissipated with the blue wavelengths finally making it through to the atmospheric Ice clearly suspended in the low atmosphere here. That icy haze was rich pink red 20 minutes earlier before the sunrise. that morning. The time lines from a really good sunrise/sunset might run 2 hours long for me. I might take 800 -1000 images during that two hours. Out of those, maybe 4 or 5 will make it into my work flow.
A magical “Belt of Venus” evening up in the eastern Sky. . The sunset was 10 minutes past behind my shoulder as the blue stripe on the far horizon shows. That blue is the shadow of the western/opposite horizon blocking the long red light from the sun just over the lip. The pink projected onto the Ice suspended in the atmosphere are the reflections from the long wavelengths make it to my camera lens.
This ground is relatively easy to get to in the summer and fall as it’s on a local county road lol. This was taken spring 2019 as the snow pack started to melt into ponds as which provided the mirror for this capture. .
Close / Far perspectives are a complex photographic challenge for all of you. An automatic setting on your camera is not going to do this image.
I’ve gone through the technical basics a few times. I would entertain questions below for photographic solutions to your working on manual mode aversion. (Kind of like fear of swimming). You just have to jump in and turn that top dial to M. Then you figure out which control wheel controls each of the three settings you change in manual mode. ISO (Camera Sensitivity), f-stop (size of the aperture/pupil in the lens), finally Shutter Speed.
You only need to understand those three things to run on Manual mode. Their relationship to each other and how messing with one, requires you to mess with the others. Just a tad to compensate the amount of light coming into the camera. Your riding a three way light teeter totter trying to balance those settings.
This mood setting Blue image posted only 24 hours after my last blue image……. Starting a trend perhaps…… I was just musing that a moody blue scene was rare in my portfolio. . I’ve even been accused of being blue blind by more than one individual. Having said that, I try really hard to be photorealistic in what I do. I do consider myself a landscape photographer. This doesn’t mean I’m not biased in my pursuit of crimson skies with silhouetted land. I am biased in my choices. . I way disproportionally post fully engaged complex skies. Obviously simple was better here.
This is almost exactly on the Montana / Wyoming border with it pretty much running through that largest tree. That is 45˚ North Latitude as close as the civilian GPS I use, can locate. Well endowed our ranch is geographically. That major meridian runs through us for about 2 miles linear of the Montana/Wyoming border in our ranches boundaries. I have over the decades gotten a pretty good idea where it is at any one time and by landscape features. That invisible line is literally 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole (the Montana/Wyoming border too).🤔 We are also about 120 miles from the geographic center of the North American continent. You couldn’t get much further from an Ocean than this spot….literally lol. No local “Red Lobster”. We have to drive 150 miles to the closest one. 😔
To me the ultimate perspectives are the foggy ones. Shadows within frame set up by the sun presented themselves to me. Foggy sunrises are not a common thing up here in the high country. There is a lot of topography here. Differences in elevation a mile apart can be 3-400 feet in this backcountry. Big Long ridge tops tower over the surrounding drainage. In order to see the sun in this area, one has to be on a ridge top. Fog is not as common on ridges. When It is, I try to be there.
I’m trying to remember how many of this kind of photo I have…. errr,…. none but this one I think. Foggy shadows are rare in my world of backcountry ridges here in the highlands. I see fog in the valleys rarely, 5 or 6 times a year. More likely, the cloud deck moves down with no mercy over us with 100 yards visibility at a bright LED Bulb. Totally obscuring all but grey flat light.
I’ve been OVER a cloud deck like this only few times up here. I got lucky anticipating the clearing above the Inversion layer, I went outside and saw a few stars break through a small window. On that, I took a trip to the highest point I can drive to around and instantly was in the clear. This is one such time. There were just wisps of moisture pushing over the ridge top this unusual morning. It was fully overcast flat light down in the valleys lolol. 👀📸
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. The sunset is far right off frame looking from the Montana/Wyoming border to the southwest toward the range.
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. When the alpenglow colorcasts the snow on the Mountains, I get interested 👀📸.
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. Orange here is a mixture. 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.
These guys are sandpipers with obscenely long bills. Since the male and female Curlews look pretty much alike with minor differences in the bill I’m not qualified to call. What I like about these guys is that they are grasshopper eating machines in the summer. They over winters in wetland marshes and other shore line estuaries. It couldn’t get much further away from the ocean as we are only a few hundred miles away from the geographic center of North America. These guys are our largest shore bird in North America. (National Audubon).
They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing callsThey will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. I find them driving along the two track trails as I’m on the flats below the higher ridges. Mostly a flat field grassy nesting bird rather than preferring a hillside with a view as I’ve seen them.
This was a late spring snow storm from the spring of 2019. It caught everybody by surprise. Robins, Meadowlarks and Curlews were wading knee deep in the white stuff. Much to their collective dismay I’m sure. I understand that across their range, the numbers of this amusing bird are dropping with the reduction in natural grass land turned to mono-crop agricultural uses. They of course use wild non – tilled prairie to nest and feed during the summer months. A classic case of reduce the habitat and reduce the numbers. 😔
With the weather getting a little milder here late-winter, Crunching out through crusted snow becomes slippery at time. . Crusted snow is a hard surface on top of softer snow underneath. Occasionally ICE under it. I typically fall through somewherelol. This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana Abandoned many decades ago, this plow wheel (with the rest of the plow off right frame) was a very high technology gadget when it was forged. State of the art. They have changed a bit since with hydraulics and size, but the basic tool remains for the same task. Somethings are hard to improve on. A fine 1911 Pistol comes to mind instantly…. maybe it’s just me…
The contrasts present were staggering, the light blinding to the human eye. Those in and of themselves are unable to behold such a scene unaided by technology. The Icy surface intensifies the glare reflecting golden light into your vision. You instantly avert your eyes to avoid damaging them. Sunglasses would have been inadequate. You can not and should not peer directly at the sun with sunglasses or non-mirrorless cameras.
New Mirrorless removable lens cameras have a significant ability to turn down the volume on the incoming light. None pass directly to your eyes. I see the scene on a video screen before I commit to take the image. I’m watching on TV effectively… Click… You’ll want to have a full frame mirrorless before attempting this. Disclaimer. Do not do this with a DLSR camera as there is a direct light path to your eye through the camera. This could EASILY blind you instantly. I only use Sony Alpha 7 R series mirrorless cameras which has no direct light path internally to your eye.
I was hoping the sun would set on the fenceline but my directions and timing were off a few degrees/seconds…. The sun will always appear to move from left to right as well as downward as it sets. 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. Wobbles during a long wobble cycle that averages around 40,000 years. (Based on good scientific work eh? 👁 )
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 with an advanced degree in Paleo stuff… . 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 Looking into the Furnace : 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 lens 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. 📸 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!👁 Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
This is actually a morning back show looking at clouds sitting over the Big Horn Mountains 70 miles behind the dark ridge (the Red Hills) which are 40 miles distant. The cloud resembles a mesocyclone incoming and it was a weather system rapidly moving in on us. The moon was soon to dive behind the approaching spring storm. A mix of rain/snow and sleet proceeded to move in shortly afterwards that morning.
The moon here is a Waning Gibbous JUST past the full March Supermoon known as the Worm Moon. March is the month birds start digging worms out of the ground thus the moniker.
The two antelope had just run across the road in front of my truck, the male with them was still on the other side of the road. Separated from their leader, they stopped and waited for him Click . As I moved he broke stance and ran right in front of my truck as a sign of disregard to my presence. I have found that as a matter of principle, if Pronghorn CAN run across your path, they WILL run across your path.
I’ve only hit ONE pronghorn in 20 years of driving these backroads of Wyoming. I would indicate that as a family we have hit 13 deer and 2 antelope in the same time. I have personally hit 4 of those deer. Total Damage in all those collision to my vehicle… A broken license plate bolt and a lot of car washes. I spend a LOT of money on really good vehicle bumpers. Saves my insurance company a bit as I have never had a claim on a vehicle. Does it lower my insurance???? Maybe….
Photographing images like this a combination of finding the right position in x/y space, timing and distance is z, and that position moves with the speed of the moon which makes using Tripods very difficult. Maybe a monopod….This was handheld.
Distance is your friend here from that Lone tree. I’m about 600 yards out from it for this shot. This is a full sized image not a crop. Doing this kind of photography has found me on my butt more times than any other. The moon is constantly moving, I’m usually on some parallel ridge walking forwards (as the moon is rising and to the left a bit while looking through a 2 foot long lens (tube) and not at my feet with sage brush around on uneven ground. I’m all about getting it behind and in focus with terrestrial objects. It’s always a good thing when this particular tree lines up with astronomic objects (sun moon). The moon is a little further behind.
Photographic Musings: The clouds were very thick and obscuring with the moon blinking in and out from behind the veil. I am as always, reactive to the light with only a bit of premonition to guide me to the next spot from here. Half the game of photography is knowing when you got the shot and it’s time to move on. Otherwise you spend too much time at the site and miss other opportunities. I move pretty rapidly from interesting situation/alignments of the sun or the moon by driving along parallel ridges. I work the “Shadow” line by driving it and “seeing” what develops as I move. The cool stuff to photograph as in “I know it when I see it”. There are times I see things that are virtually impossible to capture unfortunately. Working on those 😜👀📸📸
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Toward obtaining an image at -2 degrees F. There was a breeze and I don’t care how you dress, something gets cold lolol.
This Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/8 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly pink color cast. Usually this is most obvious on the sky opposite the sunrise. The “Belt of Venus” which is a very pink Alpenglow phenomena reflecting said pink light back. Pine Needles coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This pink color cast is not that common on local vegetation and is usually only perceptible on the atmospheric ice.
Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.
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. 📷
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 sail…..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. 😄
I pay a lot of attention to Close / Far perspectives when I am out with a box of cameras. So many choices, how about a telephoto at 800 mm at 150 yards out from the branch. Such lighting only possible by parking an off road LED light bar close to the branch in question and start walking down hill until you can get both objects in focus. There are equations to figure out your focal distances but it depends entirely on your f-stop setting and particular lens. The higher the fstop, the less light into your camera BUT you get a deeper depth of focus. (i.e. both objects at infinity).
Mostly, completely missed are a million of these moments in time depending on the angle and time you find yourself observing a particular scene at. Every different angle will give you an entirely different viewpoint. Steep slopes help align a low moving terrestrial object with a terrestrial object (hint). I’m always looking at angles and what I have to do to achieve the perspective I’m looking for. The ability to anticipate the way things WILL happen and being there with a camera in your hand is about 100 percent of the photography game. Time in important, knowing when to leave a scene is as important as anticipating a scene.
The rest of getting the photo is reliant of your positioning yourself before that time/space moment. My biggest limiting factor besides gravity is topography. If the moon is rising, I have to walk closer to the hill to keep the perspective. If I move forward about 20 feet, you can’t see the branch . Also If I move up 20 feet I’m suspended in mid air levitating above a small chasm. I wonder how many photographers have walked a little more back, a little more, and more. Only to find out that there wasn’t any ground there. 😔
I often find myself out in the middle of nowhere in the grass during sunset. Humm I wonder what’s around for filter material? 🤔🤔 Also discovered is the tendency toward you actually being where you are. A limiting factor certainly lolol. Photography is both planned AND accidental when it occurs. Rule one of getting a photograph:
RULE 1: Have a camera with you as much as possible. I don’t even like to go outside without one when I’m going to do ranch chores in the mud in the rain.☑️
I have a very limited amount of time to shoot sunsets. Depending on the sky, I choose what camera/lens combination I’m going to grab to “work” the scene unfolding in front of my eyes. A Clear Sky Sunset is an indication ahead of time to set up a “Close / Far perspective image. The Thistle globe of seeds was my sun filter to reduce / minimize the glare from the sun.
You need a HIGH f-stop number for the deep focus plus it’s reduction of light. ISO 100 (low ISO for bright light camera sensitivity), and use shutter speed to adjust for what ever lighting scenario/exposure levels you wish.
I use filters all the time. In this case, I used a “Cellulose” filter (the thistle seed globe about 5 inches across) Biggest one ever lol.
That old bright sun even here at sunset needs some moderation before those photons hit that digital chip in my Sony Alpha Cameras.
Just for the record, I haven’t put an actual glass filter on ANY of the 7 cameras I used daily for well over a year🙏
I traveled 180 miles to get to this windmill before sunrise and of course have a whole timeline of this trip but this was the best capture of the drive. I was doing a presentation to a committee for a donation to the our 501C3 fundraiser for wounded warriors we hold every July.
The butte behind was such a good background I was torn how to compose this and settles on this. I had to stay on the road as this was well fenced off plus it isn’t my ground so I tend to stay off working only from the road. There is plenty to do from the road I point out.
Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in southern Campbell Country. . . There is big backcountry down there south of Gillette. . Very few 7-11’s about but commerce / ranching happens here. It is genuine backcountry Wyoming.
Middle of the day with the sun behind me is a rare image for me lol. Mid summer and me getting away from the ranch is a rare thing. I often go on short road trips on Wyoming/Montana backroads and not see another vehicle. Breaking down is not an option up here without LOTS of survival supplies this time of year. Blankets, sleeping bags, food and basics are all on board. I do have a very good radio that communicates via repeater from 30 miles away if necessary. Not to worry.