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Morning Meadowlark Making Song

Morning Meadowlark Making Song
Morning Meadowlark Making Song

Morning Meadowlark Making Song

I find Meadowlarks a difficult critter to photograph. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item.

The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.

This guy was very tolerant of my Ford Raptor as it approached. I stopped literally about 20 feet away. Typically, they will fly but he stood at his “post”. At that close distance, with an 1200 mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. All meadowlarks are “flighty”.

As a group they they have been back in this country for 4 weeks as of this post in mid May. This is a bit early based on what I’ve observed the last 2 decades here.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Morning Meadowlark Making Song

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Meadowlark Posing for the Camera

Meadowlark Posing for the Camera
Meadowlark Posing for the Camera

Meadowlark Posing for the Camera

Meadowlarks were named by Audubon noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though. They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry near my homestead. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots as this.

The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore.

This guy is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him. He was very tolerant of my Vehicle as it approached. I slowed to a stop about 20 feet away. I’m not usually so lucky…. At that distance, with an 1200mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a backcountry wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Genernally not during Meadowlark season lolol 😜

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

Title: Meadowlark Posing for the Camera

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Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline
Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

It took me this long to get to this buried in a “to do” folder lolol. With “Turtle Butte” looking on at the scene. Me maneuvering around trying to get the angle on this totally ice covered landscape. Each twig, each sprig of grass was covered. The sunrise was “dramatic” to say the least with the “Wheel of the Year” Spinning under my feet.

I try to be in tune with the cycles of the Sun and the Earth. It is part of the job up here to connect on an intellectual level with the physics, “the Calculus” and the rest of the science of the scene. I am VERY earth centric and live with the sunsets and sunrises by necessity of chasing the light.

Opportunity tends to flitter away as it is prone to. I try my best to be aware of the sun’s progression north and south. Awareness of what’s coming can guide you to those hidden areas of celestial magic that present themselves.

On the horizons during it’s annual migration back and forth, the equinox aligns the rising and setting sun with an east west orientation. Here a straight east – west barbed wire fence creates a visual tunnel to take your eye to the focal point of the image. The sun or it’s reflection in the ice. . The old cedar post has seen many generations of cowboys and fence mending folks on ATV or pickup truck.

Close far perspective:

Frost on the wire…I totally am into close detail in the foreground in low light.. I get so excited about such simple things anymore. It’s the result of living in this remote place I keep saying. Humans are generalists when they look at a scene. I tend to look at separate components of an image for their own merit and attempt to combine multiple components when ever possible in my work. Multiple “heros” are always my pursuit for a better composition. 📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

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MeadowLark on a Wire

MeadowLark on a Wire
MeadowLark on a Wire

MeadowLark on a Wire

Meadowlarks named amazingly by Audubon himself. Noting them “neglected” by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them as well. The melodic enchanting song is a constant here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. A lot of grass is growing up here along with the afiliated insect population. These guys thrive in this environment.

The Species is the “State Bird” of 6 Western States!. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me. Wyoming was the 6th and last state back in 1927 to grant it that honor. Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and Wyoming are the list.

They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots. I’m often listening to their song driving along slowly around my place. I have found that if I pull up to a bird as close as I dare in my vehicle, if it didn’t fly, it probably won’t until you move your vehicle at all. If you move just a little they are outta here…. 😜 I can count on one hand the number of Meadowlarks that let me move to get a better shot once I had come to a stop. This was one.

This was a very windy day thus the sporty feather-do hair cut and the “cow lick” on his shoulder. It was a 30/20 day. 30 degrees F and 20 MPH winds that morning. He was happy anyway…… First Meadowlark I worked this year. Early bird…

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

Title: MeadowLark on a Wire

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Looking into the Furnace

Looking into the Furnace
Looking into the Furnace

Looking into the Furnace

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.

Title: Looking into the Furnace

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Perspective Meadowlark Fence Line

Perspective Meadowlark Fence Line
Perspective Meadowlark Fence Line

Perspective Meadowlark Fence Line

T-posts generally set right posts a “ROD” apart make a barbed wire fence to “spec”. A Rod consists of 16.5 feet from end to end. The right at 50 feet of fence line here is in a perspective that makes it look a LOT shorter. That is literally 50 feet of fence 👀👀📸

As I pointed the long telescopic lens at the fence line, it lineup. I noticed the Meadowlark was still there. I had stopped to take him, reached down to grab the 3 foot lens used here. . Clicking away Icaught this. I think the Meadowlark was as surprised as I was.

Meadowlarks are very active this early in the red light. The sun had been up for about 5 minutes while I was moving between locations. I was headed back as the sun was climbing into the blue sky over my shoulder. Click on machine gun setting which works will that time of morning with all that bright light. (This was a well side illuminated fortunately. The best cameras can’t resolve this much difference in illumination between objects.

Meadowlarks are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I ca see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. They are the state bird for several states in this region.

This Image is a 2×3 aspect to 36 inches.

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

Title : Perspective Meadowlark Fence Line

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Perspective Bracing and Wired

Perspective Bracing and Wired
Perspective Bracing and Wired

Perspective Bracing and Wired

During these winter days with obscured/veiled suns and sunslits, I consider Perspectives with Wide Angle Lenses as my activity for the day. Interesting lighting speaks for itself but up close and personal is better.

Deeply weathered fence brace wood just grabs attention promoting my “deep focus” love of this particular lens. This brace there far in excess of the 2 decades I’ve been driving by it lol. .These corner braces carry a huge amount of tension with the barbed wire humming in the wind they are so tight. I’ve heard that many times up here…fences humming in the wind. Keep that wire tight !!!. Lot’s o tension on the bottom of that left post. Building braces well utilized, on all fences, is a science here.. Warm Season brings more fencing practice every year.

We have about 30 miles of 3-4 strand fence on my relatively small ranch alone. Some of the Big Ranches have people that only fix fences on the payroll. It takes a pretty tough hombre’ to string barbed wire without tangling yourself up in it lolol. It is work that will keep you in shape. The snow up here varies by the day this early in the winter. Somedays it all mostly melts and others it’s covering everything. Two track roads will be un-passible shortly due to mud. I choose not to damage the ranches roads with my 5700 pound vehicle.

Favorite ridge line look out spots will be snow drifted in. Photographic necessity requires me to plow some of my two tracks to allow me to get up on “ridge one”. I am at the top of the first of 5 ridge east of my homestead. From the top of which there is a 180 mile across horizon to horizon view. The high ridges are snow lined lightly on the windswept top of which, I can usually drive quite a ways to if it’s not muddy.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Perspective Bracing and Wired

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Meadowlark Silhouette Singing in Twilight

Meadowlark Silhouette Singing in Twilight
Meadowlark Silhouette Singing in Twilight

Meadowlark Silhouette Singing in Twilight

I often have to leave very early in the morning to get into position to work a sunrise photographically. The etherial glow I see sometimes in Civil Twilight is a difficult to capture relative to any other object. Thusly all things silhouette. This simple Meadowlark Singing so early might at the onset seem easy to do. Meadowlarks are flighty. Encounters I have with them are all random. If you drive up on one and manage to stop your vehicle without him flying, luck be with you.

My advice is. If you manage to get stopped/ point a telephoto at a Meadowlark. Don’t move your vehicle. If you do, it will fly with a 99.6 percent reliability. (Remember that 83.8326 % of all statistics are made up at the moment)😜👀 Fairly tolerant Meadowlarks are, seeing you, watching you slow down and come to a stop. So WHERE you stop is fairly important. If you go too close they will of course fly.

Musings on difficult photographic environments:

Photographing a silhouette require there to be a subject AND actual light behind that subject. This Twilight wispy sky was not being generous with it’s photons of yet. My cameras (Sony Alpha 7 R series) are low light monsters but there are limitations in the technology. Taking a photo in a dark environment of things that move like a singing bird is usually silly to try. I got lucky with this guy un-blurred as he was moving while singing a lot lol. Razor edge settings. I hate High ISO (camera sensitivity) so I used a very fast f4- 600mm telephoto wide open at 50 yards or there about.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Silhouette Singing in Twilight

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Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Red Tailed Hawk Attack
Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Yet another capture from the network of 28 game trail cameras I maintain up here in the borderlands. Captured at the moment of the hawk strike. I’m thinking this was a bit hard on the “other bird”. (unidentified unlucky bird) while it was sitting on the post. Imagine just minding your own business. Suddenly, it was hit from behind/above. This is the definition of a bad day I’m thinking🤔👀📸

I’m not a hawk expert. The distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I’m betting this is a red tail’ed hawk I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). Catching an image like this with a regular camera is highly unlikely . I have never witnessed a hawk attack on another bird anywhere any time in my travels. I’m out in the backcountry all the time. I suspect my presence or the activity of the vehicle I’m in precludes any raptors taking game around me.

Game Trail Cameras captures are all problematic from a photo finishing aspect. I did my best to “fix” the inadequate technology. When they make a really good quality game trail camera, I’ll buy them. Until then, I’ll have to live with these photon traps as they are. I also have an image of him flying away with this hapless meal.

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

Title: Red Tailed Hawk Attack

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Up On a Backcountry Ridge

Up On a Backcountry Ridge
Up On a Backcountry Ridge

Up On a Backcountry Ridge

This kind of Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/4 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these coated pine needles “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. Add a fence for the far vanishing point due to the distance and we’re good to go 🤘

The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly yellow color cast on this particular morning. The Yellow light projected through the Alpenglow phenomena low on the horizon shows the color of light refracted by the ice suspended there. Transmitted to the local objects, pine needles and fences coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This yellow color cast is not that common on local vegetation. Usually it presents 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.

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

Title: Up On a Backcountry Ridge

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Frosty Fence Brace Sunrise

Frosty Fence Brace Sunrise
Frosty Fence Brace Sunrise


Frosty Fence Brace Sunrise

Textures in Twilight and sidelight. Using the headlights / LED lightbar of my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV from the side on the fence. The textures and shadow details would have remained muted without the extra light. A nice coating of first hoar frost then everything got coated in snow from a blow. Click!

This posted in late-January, we have had a marked lack of snow since about early November. Right now it’s ice season. I was in Gillette last night walking across a parking lot and I’d say it was actually an ice rink. Everything was wet during the day and within minutes of sunset, it turned to ice. I don’t get into town very much thankfully. We actually don’t have that problem living with gravel. The closest asphalt is 15 miles from this location. 

This location is about 2 miles from the nearest gravel road. Only two track trails covered in bumpy ice are access routes to the backcountry. There is usually no easy way up on the ridges this time of year typically. Right now if it’s not muddy, I can zip right up to the high country. Usually I’m plowing paths just to get on top. If I don’t mind the bumps, I’m good to go 🙂 If this mid-winter drought keeps up, we will be short going into the year as we get MOST of our moisture from the winter snows. Those snows are what fills up the lakes and ponds on the ranch. 

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

Title: Frosty Fence Brace Sunrise

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Meadowlark All Ruffled Up

Meadowlark All Ruffled Up
Meadowlark All Ruffled Up

Meadowlark All Ruffled Up ( a bit out of season but surely welcome. I’m tired of the ice/mud this year ).

Taken under EARLY morning yellow sunlight adding a colorcast to the entire image. I was just digging the Orange Lichen on the post. It takes a long time (decades) for that much to grow. The old cedar post could be 114 years old as it’s fairly close to the homestead. There are a lot of very old posts in the backcountry. We have 30 miles of fence that I have done some repairs on a time or two. 😜

The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.

This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark All Ruffled Up

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Oh Crap a Camera Lens

Oh Crap a Camera Lens
Oh Crap a Camera Lens

Oh Crap a Camera Lens If you had a “Crappy Old Year, this image is important. It’s going to get better after 😉

I’ve raised many parrots (I owned a pet shop in the 80’s). Working very closely with dozens of big birds before. I’ve been pooped on by the best. Big Birds Shoulder birds can really mess up a shirt … This meadowlark is not much different than those big birds but for it’s size. With this I’ve pretty much have all different obvious Meadowlark activities. Eating, sleeping, pooping and singing lolol. Most birds will do this move if they must right before they fly…

I’ve learned that all birds lift their tail and squat just a bit right before…. Note: If you have a parrot or other arm tamed bird on your arm, if the tail lifts, push it down with the other hand. They don’t/can’t “go” with the tail down. . So my timing only looks lucky. While this might be a bad example lol … anticipating a shot can save a lot of machine gunning with the camera. Storing photos is expensive if you do say 50 thousand 100 meg images some months.

Computer Tech Musings: So how do I keep track of and store that many 100 plus meg files? (How does a serious photographer deal with safe backups).

Finished photos are one thing (not as many of them). There are only a few thousand of those at 220 meg each lolol.. It’s The raw files streaming out of the 7 or 8 cameras I routinely use are huge files. There are also many. I like to keep the timeline so I have all the raw files for the last several years on demand. Older than a few years I have to connect external drives to the system.

I currently manage 50 TB of storage devices. Most storage drives I keep off line. All turned off to prevent any intrusion or loss. . I keep a monthly backup off site in a pile of 8 (currently) 4 TB SSD hard drives I keep adding finished work to. As they fill up, I add a new one to the pile and always have a pristine backup of the raw files and the they are kept in a fire safe.

Every image I finish is saved in three separate external hard drives as a last step. I’ve maintained professional graphic stations for 30 years. I’ve still got most of my graphics files available to me. Even those created decades ago available to me fairly quickly. Most of my old images, belonged to clients back in the day. Lots of them around. Can’t use them. But I’ve got a few of my own to work with

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

Title: Oh Crap a Camera Lens

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Perspective Sunset Lens Illusion

Perspective Sunset Lens Illusion
Perspective Sunset Lens Illusion

Perspective Sunset Lens Illusion

I present a Golden Hour Veiled Sunset set against a snowy corral / pasture pipe fence line. Smooth curves are everywhere and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t line up the sun with the gate precisely. Well I could but I wouldn’t have gotten all these curves / waves lololol. My OCD is amiss 😜. I’m always looking for unusual angles. The smooth curves of the snow banks combined with the fence’s waves here fall under oddball for sure.

Corrals built this way will last a while. That is 3 inch drilling well stem pipe interlocked and screwed / welded in place as the frame. The fence is all made of solid steel sucker rod from old oil wells. It’s an inch across and pretty tough as it is all thick solid iron. Not much gets through this kind of fence arrangement. I’m pretty sure it will last 1000 years in this low water / precipitation environment unless someone tears it down with heavy equipment and a torch .

Photographic Musings:

About 1/2 of this illusion is the actual topography / landscape here but the rest is all about a really wide lens. Wide lenses distort on the edges and by using a “tilt/shift” lens, you can manipulate the distortion by enhancing it or removing it. Much more on the left than the right of the frame. THe lens actually moves either side to side on the camera body. This moves the “Sweet spot” of a good lens right or left on the camera sensor. It also moves edge of lens distortion. Google “Tilt Shift Lens”

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

Perspective Sunset Lens Illusion

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Meadowlark’s Morning Song

Meadowlark's Morning Song
Meadowlark's Morning Song

Meadowlark’s Morning Song

As I travel across our ranch, the song these guys sing fill the air during the warmer months. I do miss them during the cold months. There is too much snow for them to cope with now. Most of the grass covered by the white blanket. We just had a 4 wheel drive 3/4 ton truck with a horse trailer attached get stuck in the snow.

This seems to be a popular post with all the decorations sitting on the top. When every you have many acres of birds with one tall post, it is going to be used as a perch. This one is well used or so it appears lol.

These guys are hit or miss approaching them. All of my Meadowlark Captures are random encounters as I drive around my ranch. I’m not putting out feeders as my cats would make short work of that plus I feed birds generally out in our barnyard when I feed my chickens. About 5 gallons of feed a day goes to my barnyard flock and about 1/2 a gallon to who ever else comes by lolol. There are a lot of freeloaders eating off that trough. I can’t blame them.

The Meadowlarks are mostly insect eaters and tend to head south with the weather. Seeing these guys is a sure sign of spring posted here a day after the solstice.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark’s Morning Song

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Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting
Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

A clandestine meeting down Yonder by the fence line was occurring when I interrupted it. I suspect it was a lively discussion of one meeting with two different opinions resultant from it. Just like humans do. There may be some territorial statement ongoing during this capture. That’s good hunting ground behind them. There is about a 100,000 mice and other small voles/prairie dogs/ rodents out there for the taking. Who looks where takes on a big meaning lol.

Yet another capture driving along remote backcountry roads up here in the borderlands. I saw these two Raptors talking 30 feet apart. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 20 feet deep and these birds are 30 feet apart lol. I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. On bird is definitely bigger than the other. I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure. The different sizes are an obfuscation.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). I see them….driving along a gravel road, stopping. Then getting out standing between the door and the car with a 2 foot long lens is a chore best accomplished with some haste. Doing so and not have the birds fly off is a whole different encounter. The chances that both birds would hold their ground on a vehicle incoming at 45 mph is small. 45 is the speed limit on most gravel backroads around here. Then have enough time during all that get a camera up and set properly in manual mode. . Elapsed time less than 20 seconds I would imagine.

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

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

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Pronghorn Fence Line Jam

Pronghorn Fence Line Jam
Pronghorn Fence Line Jam

Pronghorn Fence Line Jam

I count 17 Pronghorn Mixed males and females all jammed up against this fence line. They of course were waiting patiently in line for the one little hole under it. Pronghorn just don’t like jumping over the fence. I didn’t push them which would have forced them to jump in panic but that isn’t good photography practice. You won’t get this close next time if you do stupid things like pressuring wild animals. It’s also illegal…

The two males here (black cheek patch) have already lost their horns after the rut as is typical. I always have someone tell me that Pronghorn don’t loose their horns yearly. They shed an outer sheath without a question and regrow it in each year. They actually DO shed their horns. Do the google search if you have a doubt. 😜

Pronghorn are NOT Antelopes either. They are more closely related to giraffes than they are Antelope. They evolved during the last million years or so to be the fasted land animal in North America. The Megafauna extinction after the last ice age killed off many of the big cats that inhabited these grasslands prior to 12 thousand years ago. That extinction left us with just the mountain lion and wolves to predate these speedsters. I see these animals reach 50 mph virtually every day during the summer. but they are a bit south of my place in the winter. Down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands.

Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderline (Wyotana)

Title: Pronghorn Fence Line Jam

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Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Foggy Fence Line Sunrise
Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

Up above the ground clouds, these high backcountry ridge tops make for an awesome sunrise over the top. I’m several hundred feet higher than the valley floor The heavier, cooler air settles in the valley. Moisture condenses and the “Golden Hour” light against a blue sky grabbed my attention. The rustic/rural nature of this image is only matched by the sites remoteness.

I took this image from right at the highest point around locally. This captures elevation is around 4100 feet. The lowest point in Wyoming is On the Belle Fource River at 3099 feet. That location is about 70 miles east of this location. Gannet Peak in the Wind River Mountains is the highest point in Wyoming at 13,804 feet with several peaks just below that elevation. I live at 3780 feet in elevation. I have lived for a decade at 6200 feet at the foot of the Teton Range. The winters are MUCH milder down here except for the winds….

Having put a few fences in, I will tell you that that line of posts and wire was a lot of work. Ranches have tremendous infra-structure in the numerous miles of fences to rotate stock from pasture to pasture. I think we have about 30 miles of fencing in or around out ground. Just having one big pasture is a bad plan. You want to be able to rotate your stock animals from pasture to pasture. Water sources central ideally in those pastures. Generations of ranchers have figured out that works best. Fences also help prevent mixing of different ranchers cow herds togethers. Not only is there a property reason for them, they allow good grass management practices based on an areas attributes and deficiencies.

Location: Near the Bliss Dinoaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Foggy Fence Line Sunrise

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Birds Need Naps Too

Birds Need Naps Too
Birds Need Naps Too

Birds Need Naps Too

I approached the post he was occupying while in my Jeep. I stopped preeeeetty close to him. If you get lucky. You run upon a Meadowlark close while in your car, stop, don’t move any more. If you move after you stop, it will fly away. Every time but perhaps 2 in thousands of encounters I’ve had with these wonderful birds. So I sat there a while working different lenses. This isn’t a cropped image at all. After watching him for a few minutes, he literally closed his eyes and took about a 3 minute nap. I’d say 20 feet for the distance with a 800mm lens. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes

I have a few dozen images of it as this was not a blink. Having said that, even blinks are not that common with birds either. Photographing people is way worse. If you have 20 birds on a line, none of them will be blinking. Put 20 people on a line and about 5 of them will be blinking lololol. I believe the blink thing is a law of photography similar in complexity to the physics of lenses… 😜

Meadowlarks frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Birds Need Naps Too

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Brace Yourself Sunset

Brace Yourself Sunset
Brace Yourself Sunset

Brace Yourself Sunset

As I travel the backcountry, I see opportunity in common objects. If I had uncommon things (huge mountains, monuments etc), I’d certainly photograph them. Regular Ranch objects are what I’ve got so I will work the common things looking for little areas of zen hidden among the other visual noise. My job is to catch isolated moments in time and space. There were an infinite number of places to observe this sunset, I chose to get down on my knees and look through this window. You’ve got to get to where the photos are after all lolol.

Tilt/Shift Lenses Musings:

Images as this, formally framed edge to edge, are precisely aligned. This was done in the camera. Holding the camera such and using a “tilt shift” lens to align the posts BACK to parallel.

This type of lens literally moves sideways/up and down on your camera incrementally. You can “Shift” the lens one way or the other moving the image across your cameras sensor. This allows the compensation of the normal curvature induced by a wide angle lens. Typically with just a regular wide angle the posts would be distorted pointing toward the middle, not parallel. Using the tilt/shift lens you can compensate for that distortion giving you perfectly straight lines. So the camera term for the day is “Tilt/Shift lens. They are expensive, rarely usable up here but I’m working more and more images into my work flow. Some adaptors that do the tilt/shit function are available for various applications. This type of lens is something you get into when your tired of wide angle shots when the trees all bend in toward the top center. Stay tuned for more applications of this optical technology.

Brace Yourself Sunset

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Sunset Open Gate

Sunset Open Gate
Sunset Open Gate

Sunset Open Gate

The well known ranch rule is.: If the gate is open, leave it open. If the gate is closed, close it after you pass through.

I will leave gates open to allow easy passing of game through the fences. They don’t have to crawl under the wire or jump over it. This particular area is a busy summer area for game, not so much in the as winter water is more than a mile away. It has to be moving water of course to not be frozen in this environment. Dryland areas like this evacuate of all ungulates during the colder months of the year.

I usually put game trail cameras on open gates but I had just removed several from this spot due to the oncoming winter. Not only will it be difficult to tend to those cameras, they would capture almost nothing that time of year. I tend to keep them around those water sources that are kept open. We trickle a jet of high pressure water into 4, sometimes 5 stock tanks all winter. It keeps them open nicely and should provide some nice ice sculpture images this year. Wildlife hangs near the water for good reason. Trapped near an island water source surrounded by dry land with LOTS of food. It’s not a bad way to spend your winter if your an ungulate. The one thing we usually have enough of is deer fodder/food.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Open Gate

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Back Country Buck Rake

Back Country Buck Rake
Back Country Buck Rake

Back Country Buck Rake

Winter is bleak and the snow is deep in the hollows. The restless wind of the borderlands, the sun, the grass fires have all contributed to what lives on this landscape of Tertiary river sediments. All this ground is composed of debris carried by rivers about 130 miles across the Powder River basin ALL the way to the Big Horn Mountains. That is a big apron of sediment 130 miles out. My ranch is about 8 miles over that hill from this location.

There was a snowstorm coming in and I drove JUST ahead of the storms shadow for about 10 miles. I of course was snapping the wonderful lighting all along the way. I have this antique grass rake from this side and looking through it at the sun. All taken from the road via telephoto. I will never leave the right of way taking photos if it’s private land unless I have permission ahead of time.

A seat is missing from the top of the center support for it. This was certainly horse drawn at one time or another in it’s history. A pair of horses with harness ruled early farm life in this country. As technology advanced but even more importantly, because servicible here. A host of various machinery was used to pull farm implements. Some had actual tractors other bought army surplus crate Jeeps freshly returned from storage depot. All produced during World War II. Many a Willis pulled a hay rake during the late 40’s and early 50’s.

Location: About 8 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Back Country Buck Rake

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Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet
Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Not many Western Meadowlarks were singing the morning I got this capture. We are in their breeding area

It was not funny to the Meadowlarks as it was to me. This particular snow made it hard to find a place to alight. IT stuck to everything. Other birds occupied ALL perches in all directions. Worse: No one wanted to walk in the several inch thick sloppy wet snow. It was sticking to everything including the poor birds feet. A favorite perch were the electric wires around my compound.. There are other photos of that as well lol. There were many good captures this day.

Meadowlarks are insect and seed eaters. They are very well adapted to life up here in this remote grasslands up here on the high ridges. I’m sure they time their arrival or departure based on insect availability I suspect. They watch the weather pretty closely lol. The whole prairie was full of Meadowlarks this day and no shelter in this storm. The snow stuck to his feet made me feel better because I wasn’t the only one dealing with it lolol. There is companionship often formed in misery……..

Meadowlarks left this year around early October when winter started and heavier snows moved through. We’ve had a constant barrage of storms with just a bit of warmer relief since. 40 degrees and still is T-shirt weather in this country. We’ve already been below zero this year.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

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Happy Face and the Meadowlark

Happy Face and the Meadowlark
Happy Face and the Meadowlark

Happy Face and the Meadowlark

My target was the smiley face in the sunrise As I pointed the long telescopic lens at the fence brace to line it up I noticed the Meadowlark. I started snapping and caught this. I think the Meadowlark was as surprised as I was. Both of us saw the anthropomorphic image unfolding. Only we saw it and he didn’t have a camera.

Meadowlarks are very active this early. The sun had been up for about 1/2 and hour. I had been photographing the sunrise. I was headed back as the sun was climbing into a dark thick cloudbank. Looking back, I saw this lol. Backing up a little, I got in position. Click on machine gun setting which works will that time of morning with all that bright light. (This was a VERY bright scene. ). This accounts for the dark tones as the difference in dynamic range makes silhouettes out of things the human eye resolved. The best cameras can’t resolve this much difference in illumination between objects.

Meadowlarks are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I ca see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. This Image is a 2×3 aspect to 36 inches.

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

Title: Happy Face and the Meadowlark

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Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal
Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item.

The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.

This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

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Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse

Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse
Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse

Deep Deep Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse don’t go along too well. They tend to say out of the powder as they sink in and have short legs lolol. They usually have to fly out of the hole they make for themselves by landing in a controlled crash. In this image, there is only a few inches of snow next to our backyard fence. We see them in our compound all winter as they mooch grain off our ducks and Buff Orphington Chickens.

These Birds are known as the “fire grouse or fire bird” by native Americans. This is because they are reliant on natural brush fires to keep their habitat open. Their common name around here is “SHarpies” or certainly Sharp Tail. These birds are found only on the North American continent. . Geologically it is the last species of the Genus Tympanuchus. (Linnaeus named them AGAIN, boy was he busy) Apparently there are 7 subspecies one of which is extinct, the other 6 are extant. (extant versus extinct…. good to google if you don’t know).

Being one of the larger grouse, they are hard to sex visually. The males have yellow eye combs that are not conspicuous. During the spring they males puff up a pale violet air sacs on their neck. UP to 18 inches long (plump birds) In the early fall, Females Ring-necked Pheasants easily are mistaken for a female Sharpie. Watch for the length of the tail which the pheasant wins with the longer tail.

The They really don’t exist south of Wyoming/northern Nebraska ranging WAY north into Alaska through out central and northwestern Canada. I’m thinking they like the snow but I might be wrong[ They are year round residents of the Wyotana borderlands but I understand the continental divide is a boundary too them and they really don’t live west of there in the the US. Western most Montana doesn’t have them apparently.

Location; Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse.

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Perspective: Backcountry Brace

Perspective: Backcountry Brace
Perspective: Backcountry Brace

Perspective: Backcountry Brace

During these winter days with obscured/veiled suns, I consider Perspectives with Wide Angle Lenses as my activity for the day. Interesting lighting speaks for itself but up close and personal is better. The two rusty nails in the lower right corner of this just grab my “deep focus” love of this particular lens.

The bent rod on the far left is a BLM Benchmark that someone’s vehicle hit with and bent at this tight corner in the remote backcountry. It’s been there for the 20 years I’ve been driving by it lol. The rail has the Benchmark Wired to it.. Keeping the cattle from moving it was the purpose. 250 dollars to disturb lolol . I haven’t touched it😀

These corner braces carry a huge amount of tension with the barbed wire humming in the wind they are so tight. I’ve heard that many times up here…fences humming in the wind. Keep that wire tight !!!. Lot’s o tension on the bottom of that left post. Building braces well utilized, on all fences, is a science here.. Warm Season brings more fencing practic every year. We have about 30 miles of 3-4 strand fence on my ranch alone. Some of the big Ranches have people that only fix fences on the payroll. It takes a pretty tough hombre’ to string barbed wire without tangling yourself up in it lolol.

The snow up here varies by the day this early in the winter. Somedays it all mostly melts and others it’s covering everything. Two track roads will be unpassable shortly. My ridge line lookout spots will be snow drifted in. I’ve been known to plow some of my two tracks to allow me to get up on ridge one. The high ridges are snow light on the windswept top of which, I can usually drive quite a ways.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Perspective: Backcountry Brace

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Meadowlarks On Barbed Wire

Meadowlarks On Barbed Wire in the backcountry
Meadowlarks Down Yonder on the Fence Line

Meadowlarks On Barbed Wire: They were qctually named by Audubon himself noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though.
They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I cam see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. Meadowlarks on Barbed Wire is a 2×3 aspect image/

Approaching

These birds dont mind you coming to a stop when you see them. DON’t move once you stop because they will if you do . There are actually 3 birds here. One is flying off in the distance not counting the other one over the fence post on the far left distance lolol.

They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots. This image is a game trail camera shot. (I use very good Game Trail Cameras that are slowly migrating to the best places over time as I discover the locations that work best at different times of the year..Ninty percent of my encounters with Meadowlarks are at distance. Rarely one will let me into it’s “Personal Space” with my Jeep as a portable blind. This game Trail Camera got this from about 3 feet away with a wide lens. It’s a whole different perspective on these little guys than through a long telephoto lens.

There were a lot of these guys around until the End of October when It got cold enough all the insects were knocked down by the freeze. No bug, no food, and they fly south to better climates.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

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Blue Birds Migration Ready

Blue Birds Migration Ready
The Gathering: Blue Birds Grouping Before the Migration

This gathering of Mountain Blue Birds Migration Ready was caught the passing through of what looks to be a Common Flicker swooping in the middle of the flock and disrupting this gathering and scattering a few lol… Something had to set the camera off and usually its a warm body going through it’s infra-red detection grid.

Game Trail Camera Captures

Besides my Sony Alpha 7RII Pile, … I run a network of 26 Game Trail Cameras (for you new guys). For every “Great” photo from a Game Trail Camera like this I look through thousands of out of focus and over/underexposed images. Great ones do occasionally happen like this though lolol. My collecting SD cards from Game Trail Cameras and viewing the contents take up hours every week these days.

I find many good captures among the numerous random clicks they collect. Maybe 1 in 100 is a good image that I can fix and use here. This one is 1 in 2 or 3 thousand lolol. I actually do get multiple flocks of migrating birds on a regular basis toward the end of Autumn. Autumn was on a tuesday this year I remember all too well. Then it was winter and it’s stayed cold mostly for the last month. The Blue Birds have all headed south where there are live insects to hunt.

Each and every image from a game trail camera is problematic from a professional photo-finish standpoint and this one was no exception. Those images (to a one) take me a “bit” to “fix” before I would publish them and put my name on them. THere are all sort of .jpg artifacts and borders around high contrast areas that I have to go over very tediously to correct. Having said that, this is a full sized 2 feet by 3 feet image lol. Portrait aspect.

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

Blue Birds Migration Ready

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Sip Through the Wire

Sip Through the Barbed Wire
Sip through the Barbed Wire

When a calf slips under a fence into an adjacent pasture, a sip through the wire is in order lolol. It might take it a few days to find it’s way back to mom but it usually does on it’s own. If mom is bursting, and calf is hungry, wire isn’t a problem and a situation usually presents itself to relieve the pressure that’s building lol.

It was a beautiful morning that day and I was driving my Jeep across country following cattle trails to a remote high point to watch the sunrise. This photo was just one of those things I randomly run into as I travel from location to location. Some of my best images have occurred that way and I actively try to be ready for such encounters by having my cameras reset from pointing at the sun to pointing at the backshow 😎📸.

I’m not sure how and where and particularly why calves go through barbed wire away from their mom. Curiousity I suppose is their motivation. I try to be an observer of nature when ever possible but I only get snippits here and there of the real story. I see the end result all the time. The process leading up to that result is what I’m not usually in the loop for lolol. My dad used to say “things are as they are, not as they seem OR as you are told). I try to examine all things backcountry with this philosophy in mind. I run into things every day that I’ve never seen before let alone have an explanation for lolol.

It around 6 pm as this posts so be safe for the rest of the evening. Fricking dark at 5:30 and the time changes next Sunday……Boy is daylight savings time messed up !

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Sip through the Wire.