Boys will be boys. They didn’t need a reason to lock horns because their hormones were kicking in. Rut was in late November/early December this year up here in the borderlands. They were, as they say, preoccupied and din’t care much about my presence during this tussle.
These two are the best of friends. Thick as thieves they are. About 5 minutes earlier, they wereresting in the shade of the afternoon together lol. This image was taken about 4 weeks before the rut really started and it was still good natured. They really were working on building up their necks. Those necks will swell considerably the close to the rut they get.
Biologists say that a big Bucks neck can swell up much larger than these boys have currently. From the spring, they can swell up to 50 percent larger of a circumference adding more muscle mass. This is all related of course to the Rut which is the annual fight to breed. They live in a world of scents and hormones floating in the air from the does in the group.
I have followed these two around for several years. These 3 year olds have known me since the beginning seeing me out on the ranch land taking photos of their childhood and parents. Now they are starting to really accept me as a another grazing animal. I slowly over time carefully approach deer. They are aware of old vehicles and how I approach. I drive like I’m grazing stopping and stopping. No I have a new truck so this will be interesting. No hurry. Might take me 1/2 an hour to get up this close without changing natural behavior. I’ve actually worked inside of deer herd boundaries before. I didn’t get a chance to do that this year for what ever reason. Everything has to line up just so for a good day of grazing with the Mule Deer. Running late.
Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron (The ultimate wide theatre screen for the filetered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector lolol.😜🤔📸
Having passed right over us last summer (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 150 miles across. It served as a projector screen right at sunset. These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long.
The colors are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere. Colors ranging from red (bottom) to yellow (top). Big Clouds like this are Projections screens for the colors that make their way through the atmospheric filter. The Red Light reflections are from the longest traveled surviving light rays. Those red rays travel through the most atmosphere to be projected on the cloud. Then a quick 75 miles bounce back to my camera. The higher you go, the more yellow the light that makes it through then finally to the white at the top of the cloud only slightly yellowed light. This smooth gradient from bottom to top is the classic gamut of colors from virtually every sunset. You just normally can’t see all of it lolol.
It was really quite dark where I was as the lighting was off to my side looking a little to the north at sunset.
Perspective Wounded Tree (I love trees growing out of rocks. ❤️📸
Wide landscapes are one of my many photographic pursuits and I enjoy using veiled skies better than clear blues. Getting high up topographically on a remote backcountry ridge, miles from the next closest human is usually a good start for a memory. The span of space/time has been bridged. It’s hard to argue with hundreds of square miles of un-molested ground. When ever I travel back east, I have trouble finding 50 square feet of ground that hasn’t been effected by human machinations. Cleared ground is the rule there not the rare exception. The population density of this 128 square mile zip code is 124 voters last I heard. That’s one voter per square mile on average lololol.
I am standing in Montana for this image shooting across the Wyoming border.. Wyoming Skies over Montana ground. This is many miles from the nearest ranch house. Not many have ever seen this view but myself, a few other ranchers maybe, and you. Ranchers don’t do a lot of sight seeing up in this country. If they do, it is a by product of course of looking for loner steers and cows out on the range. These are BIG pastures up here. Several square miles of pasture ground is not unusual to have a fence around.
Some nights out I drive for a few hours from place to place, roost to higher roost. Five miles travel as the bird flies can be 10 miles by land. There are no asphalt roads up here. Maintained gravel is the country road system, State roads are concrete and asphalt. The closest asphalt to this location is about 15 miles. Its’ a long way via two track roads to make it there. The country roads are a much faster way to travel. There are 10’s of thousands of miles on two track roads in backcountry Wyoming. Matched only by the number of miles of roads UNDERGROUND in all the deep
I see a variety of scenes driving the backcountry.
These 2 Mule Deer Bucks caught in a late twilight Silhouette were up watching the sun go gown with me. They were ridge lined and I was able to maneuver way below them about 200 yards out and Click….
I know this these two pretty well as they are brothers born a year apart I’ve watched grow up. There is a 2.5 year old on the right, a 3.5 year old on the left and a 4.5 year old in the center. It’s all about the antlers lol. These boys They are pretty used to me being around but they are still quite wild. They don’t come down to greet me you might say but I can get pretty close if the conditions are right….. As long as I stay in my vehicle anyway.
Next year the bigger of the two will probably be a serious challenge for the other itinerate bucks that wander through. There is a whole little deer melodrama playing out pretty much all year but you really have to watch and pay attention to see it happening. These guys start small and work their way up the ladder to eventually run a small herd of gals.
Yes there is a little pac man on the right center side of frame reaching over the lip… Sort of a Kilroy was here cloud….
Great Horned Owl Hunting …. Familiar here in the borderlands.
OK, you might ask how do I know this owl was hunting?. Well he is sitting 40 feet in the air above my barnyard well after dusk. 43…. err soon 42 domestic ducks hang out there. This is on top of the big light pole that lights the barnyard. I heard him and got on my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which has two very bright LED light bars that are adjustable. So I slowly moved up to a comfortable distance (for me) and started working the scene. He was rather happy with his roost. I eventually walked all the way around him clicking all the time. It’s all handheld and it was very dark but most of the images are wonderful.
A Great Horned Owl is a big bird with plenty of presence. They can live 15 years in the wild and have up to a 5 foot wingspan. The predators body can be up to 25 inches long and they weigh as much as a blue heron at 5 pounds. They are all about claws and beaks though they have some of the best disruptive Camo colors/pattern I’ve ever seen. These guys are easy to recognize due to their “plumicorns” which are feather tuffs resembling horns. . They are not ears. I understand they are the most common own in the Americas. They range from the Arctic to South America.
Interestingly, the male Great Horned Owl is Smaller than the Female but has a much lower pitched call than his mate. “Hoo, H’ Hoos”!
Waning Crescent Moon January (Moon followers Unite)
Different phases and faces of that celestial neighbor constantly present themselves to me during the day and twilight but I find myself not going out much in the winter after dark. I let my mastiffs do my wandering around the homestead at night.
When I do get out I after nautical twilight at night or before Civil Twilight in the morning. Usually I am completely focused on twilight. Some rare astronomic events have me peaking outside at cloud cover in the middle of the night. I really don’t sleep much but I do photography all day which makes my circuit breaker to pop sometime during the evening lol. I’m either on camera or on computer finishing these days. I get my chores done on ranch too. Take care of a greenhouse and a flock of 80 birds, 6 cats and my personal Mastiffs. I’ve been feeding haybales to our corraled/captured herd of Corriente for a few weeks. 34 longhorn cattle go through a 1200 pound bail of hay in 2 days.
I digress…. The “Waning” part of Waning Moon gets smaller each night until the “New Moon” where the moon is entirely in shadow. I do have some captures of just that 2 illuminated percent crescent. This moon will evolve over the next few nights into that sliver. This is a 4 picture composite of the face of the moon in real color through a 3200mm refractor optic. Handheld actually on the roof of a vehicle rested.
Location: Over the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).
Grass Stand Sun Filter (or Summer Sunset Through the Grass…..)
Yellow gradient to red but there were some low clouds messing up a perfect gradient. It’s hard to fight mother nature but I like the yellow and transitional orange in this. Stepping JUST over a ridge line with a long lenses camera is at sunset becomes habit. I work parallel ridgelines all the time looking for close / far perspectives such as this.
The sun is SOOOO bright you couldn’t look at this scene with the human eye. I’m about 150 yards back from this grassy ridge with around 400mm involved. I work the shadow line on the far ridge. Distance is your friend with this kind of shot. Maximum F-stop settings (high numbers) give you a deep field of focus. Ifs your first priority to get the grass AND the background in focus. Good thing, it’s a bright scene and the High f-stop makes your aperture a pin hole. Go higher if you can. Then I mentioned, distance from the foreground object is key. You have to be far enough back to get the grass AND the sun focused at the same time.
As I type this, we are going into a cold snap you will have experienced by the time you read the post. I build these posts about a week ahead on average. I post 6 different images everyday on FB along with the story or lesson for the narrative.
Ranchers work hard in the summer often cutting several square mile fields of grass. The result is to gather hundreds of these 1200 pound Bales into piles. “Hay stacks” literally or more precisely, Stacked Round Bales. . I’ve seen some fairy prodigious heaps of grass before. Large Tractors with grapple buckets pile these three high. There is a LOT of hay in this “stack”. Several local ranchers (you know who you are) just raise grass, some just cattle and most raise both. There are not a lot of sheep herders up here in the high country that I’ve noticed. I know there are sheep operations around the area but most of the ones I know are down in the river valleys.
This was late in the year and the sun was far right of this almost perfect east/west trending Hay Stack. As the winter fades, the sun will slowly rise further and further to the left. Each day it moves a little more to the north as we orbit around the sun.
The green biodegradable netting around the hay is cut away before feeding the bale. We currently have our Herd of 34 corriente corralled and I’m feeding bales. Feeding a bale every 2-3 days, the Corriente Longhorns patiently wait for me to pull it off the bale. I always have to turn my back on them to do it so some day I may get got. 👀😵 Once I’m gone, all heck breaks loose and the pecking order slowly takes over. Everybody eventually gets their fill lol.
Hoar Frost Red Light (Full Screen is really a nice way to view with this image).
RIght at sunrise when the light from the sun is colorcast markedly red, any scene with hoar frost reacts vividly. Here on this high ridge with an infinite view to the horizon 100 miles away. This, the same light that makes the Pink “Belt of Venus”. Also responsible for the Red lIghting on distant hills these long traveled rays. Ultimately reflected to my lens. All pink is sky images are reflecting this very light. Those long red rays are going through the most atmosphere. The really bound off the bright white frost flowers and crystals. Catching it digitally is another thing 📷🤔
This scene is produced here to the same colors I experienced that morning. It’s as close as I can do it. Note how the snow in the shadows is grey/white .(natural) While the sunlit pure white frost turns into a nearly fiber optic pink projector screen.
Exposed surfaces to the wind were coated here by 3/4 of an inch of hoar frost. The north side of trees, grass interrupted the air flow of moisture laden air. This changed the “Triple Point” (good google word along water vapor). The Hoar frost growth is ice forming simply by moist air flowing over objects where a SLIGHT pressure change from the turbulence causes deposition of the ice. It’s crystal growth live real time that I’ve watched happening real time during several trips up on the ridges. I have gone up in terrible foggy cold weather to work the flat light before a time or two lol.
Mirage Over the BigHorns (They don’t look like that)….
Fata Morgana = Complex Mirage
Often observed over large patches of snow/ice at low uniform temperature. Sounds like here lolol… A Fata Morgana is a pretty rare event in my experience. I’ve never seen this before but it can occur anywhere. There is no limitation for temperature though as they can occur on hot days. This was not a hot day lolol.
Fata Morgana is described as a very complex “superior” form of mirage. It will have three or more distorted erect and inverted images . All within the primary mirage. Changes of the constantly variable conditions of the atmosphere cause it to change form rapidly. A Fata Morgana may change in infinite ways within just a few seconds, Including changing to become a straightforward superior mirage. A superior mirage occurs when the air under the line of sight is colder than the air above it. This unusual arrangement is termed ” temperature inversion”. Warm air above cold air is the opposite of the normal temperature gradient of the atmosphere during the daytime. That obviously was the case here.
Seen from sea level to mountain tops, this phenomena has even been seen from aircraft. I’ve never ever experienced this in 20 years of living up here. Now the Big Horn Mountains are 130 miles distant. That is one long distance mirage. About 200 miles line of sight past the Big Horns are the Wind River Mountains. The strange slopes COULD be from the Wind River Slopes showing in the mirage. Alternately, the mirage COULD be Multiplying and stacking in several layers the slopes of the Big Horns themselves. (Educated Speculation at best).
“Atmospheric ducting” of light causes this. The lensing created by bending the light rays in an arc equal to the curvature of the earth. Proper Positioning is necessary to see this. Being JUST below or actually in the atmospheric duct is necessary to see the Fata Morgana Mirage.
It’s not magic using a 12 inch Meade LX 200 at 3200mm, I need to take 6 images of the moon to mosaic together a full image. This top 1/3rd of a D moon (first quarter). I took this in infra-red so the color is artificial. Infra-red comes out pretty and pink raw out of the camera. This is more like it was at the time I took it not far from the horizon. The seeing was good that night. That was the mystical part….
The joy of “Mirrorless” removable lens cameras is that you get what you see in the eyepiece (or backLCD) BEFORE you click the shutter. Working in manual mode on a Mirrorless, you instantly know what your settings are doing, you watch it live on the screen. This is NOT a DSLR camera routine where you approximate the settings, take a photo, check the image on the LCD. Then you reset your setting better….. Rinse and Repeat until you get the shot.
I wouldn’t even consider buying the best possible DSLR versus a 1500 dollar mirrorless removable lens camera. Not even close. Mirrorless allows you instant feed back to your actions. If you are gear shopping, I strongly suggest you find out about mirrorless camera bodies that take removable lenses. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. I use Sony Alpha 7R series extensively though I have a couple of consumer level Canon M series cameras. I’m currently using the smaller chip cameras (not full frame like the Sony) for astro/big telescope as this image.
Clear skies or totally veiled skies are both candidates for this kind of “Close / Far Perspective. I will walk the shadow line on parallel ridges to find those elusive little areas of Zen. There are a million of those little areas in a scene but you have to line up with one to actually see it. It all has to do with angles and your viewpoint.
This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana . The location several miles into the backcountry of this 4000 foot in elevation ridge. In this area, occurred a fire that burned all summer during the 1930’s. That fire didn’t go out until the snows fell in the fall. This obviously changed the landscape from a heavily forested pine grove into a more open landscape. Prior to human habitation, wildfires were always burning unchecked across North America. Then it got worse because native Americans did a LOT of burning to open up the deep woodlands. A grassland/forest mix is good for the wildlife. And they knew it. Pretty much right up until maybe 100 years ago.🤔
Wildfire is natures way of controlling the build up of forest floor litter. The old trees do fine in the smaller grass fires under them. Many pine cones open releasing their seeds due to the fires. Fires are responsible for trimming back woods creating grasslands. Trees like this if hit by lightning will burn for days. If there is a LOT of fuel, it get’s pretty spicy in the grasslands. The snow ultimate controls the burns in nature.
It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridgetops. The main show over my shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this backshow is Pink. This pink back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise, you miss this show. Several image from this particular morning made it through the “sieve” I use to determine which photo to work on.
Alpenglow is the result ice in the air lighting up with the bright first pink starting about 40 minutes before sunrise… and then gradients to other nearly pure primary colors to Lavender at times up high. The Blue Line UNDER the Pink is the Shadow of the earths horizon. As the sun rises that blue band shrinks eventually disappearing just as the sun rises. The red/pink will often work down on the “Red Hills in the distance enhancing their already red rocks (Clinker) with the extra colorcast.
The hoar frost covering any exposed surface made for a winter wonderlands for a photographer with time before sunrise. 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.
I introduce: my new backcountry photo studio “Trail Worthy” workhorse. You locals will see me in this from now on. Please don’t shoot me…..All Black Ford with a camera or two sticking out the window…..Hopefully the animals will accept it….
I have been telling you all that I traded my 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. That jeep earned it’s “Trail Rated” badge. I’ve been driving it around the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch and surrounding backcountry for 15 years with it. It is now out of my hands. I will miss the old truck. I will not miss the ride quality of a Jeep though. This thing rides like a dream. 35 inch studded Goodrich snow tires for the winter up here. Lots of ice around.
Having said that, that bumpy ride of my youth has mutated to this purpose built specialty truck. This is a 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor. My old jeep had a 320 Horse Power Hemi motor in it and was “quick/agile. This new truck is heavier but has over 450 Horse Power so the power to weight is familiar to me. It is WAY more agile than that jeep however. It might have some potential high center issues due to it’s length but it has full length skid plate underneath. This reduces the possibility of catching grass on fire on the catalytic converter which hangs out over 1000 degrees. Lots of fires under trucks. I’m thinking not so much here. So many crawling features, so little space here.
The only thing the new rig can’t do is squeeze between one gate on my place that the old jeep cleared by inches on either side. This truck is 8 inches wider than a standard F-150. This makes it much harder to tip over. The 360 degree camera system is novel to me. Backing up is MUCH easier. Computer controlled 14 inch travel suspension….Versus maybe 8 inch with the jeep. WOW.
The biggest upgrade here besides the amazing technology incorporated into the system, is the ability for me to actually carry a passenger. I could never do this in my Jeep as it was always full of gear. Not so much as with the securable dry storage is huge with how I configured the bed. “decked”.
I’ve been peripherally involved with 4 wheel drive. I live off road and drive trails daily. I still own 3 Jeeps after selling off my 2005 Grand Cherokee so I wont be without a smaller ride….. The local 4 wheel Drive Club makes the drive up here every few years lol. If you wish, youtube up the 2008 Peterson’s 4 Wheel Drive and Off Road “Ultimate Adventure” video. (an annual video production with 17 professional/semi-pro rig touring one day and 4 wheeling the next for a week). We were stop number 3 I believe with still images from the event here making several Front covers of that magazine’s/media company’s main publication.
Stock Vehicles usually don’t impress me. I am impressed officially to date. It is my new best friend. I have many good memories with my old friend. The king is dead long live the new king! I hope this one lasts as well as the jeep did.
Location: Remote NorthEastern Wyoming/South Eastern Montana borderlands. near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.
The top flag speaks for its self in this borderlands windy day. The origin of the starts and stripes has been muddled. Accounts handed down orally over several generations. Mostly from the descendants of Betsy Ross. Congress onJune 14, 1777 took time from it’s busy schedule. It passed a resolution stating : “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white”. That “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
Still to this day, no one knows who designed the flag. No one know why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Rumor is Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776. George Washington personally requested her design the flag. Again, this is hearsay.
What the yellow flag that is hiding below is the flag I’ll talk about. I was kicked out of a 50,000 member forum for this flag in a photo. It happened to be part of a wonderful photo with a bunch of geese flying over head at night, lit flags, lit geese…. Me refusing to remove it because it has a “political bias”. Somehow the “Tea Party has tainted that flag after less than a decade . But I guess the 100 years plus of the KKK carrying around the stars and strips hasn’t rubbed off on her yet. Some people have no perspective. 12 other forums had no problems with it. Humm.
Toward that end of providing perspective:
In the fall of 1775, then commander in Chief George Washington Appointed Esik Hopkins as secretary of the newly forms U.S. Navy. Their job was to harass and capture English shipping supply lines. The first Commander used the coiled snake Gadsden flag on the mast of his flagship under the stars and stripes. Colonel Christopher Gadsden from North Carolina was one of 7 members of the “Marine Committee”. He presented the first yellow Gadsden flag to Commodore Hopkins . The first marine flag folks.
Hanging out in a “to do” folder this unidentified moth haunts me again. Many of you no doubt remember this guy from a much closer image I post of him. He has been seen by thousands of people and no one seems to be able to key him out and ID him. Here’s hoping someone will have a moment of recognition to a moth they saw 20 years ago.
Bug Photos are a favorite…
I had caught this fellow the night before hanging about a porch light. Then he was placed in an inflated gallon zip lock. Then into the fridge overnight. Next day I released the torpid 34 degree moth into a 60 degree environment. It had enough wits to hang on to the well lit tree branch I set him on. Between the sun and the ambient temperature, I had perhaps 2 minutes to shoot him. He did indeed flutter off in my typical catch and release program I run for my photographic volunteers. I haven’t seen many bugs since Oct 1 when winter started this year. . I think I too a photo of a Orb Weaver Spider on my front window inside my house since.
I’m about to photograph a Black Widow female I’ve kept alive. The crickets I grow in my green house’s front entry stairs. I just leave a little fish food around and they reproduce nicely all winter. The Black Widow is at least 6 months old here mid-winter. Her prison is a pyrex glass beaker on a shelf. She can not get away and I’m very careful with handling them. The biggest threat is to her not to me. They are fairly fragile. They break like an egg if you are not very careful and they are very fast. Stay tuned for that lol. .
While I admire the tenacity of this lone tree. Living with out the benefit of the group shelter from the incessant Wyoming/Montana winds. Here on the high ridges all things are buffeted by hurricane winds yearly. The slopes leading up to them will enhance and focus the wind at times worsening the situation. Having an unparalleled view is a benefit, of this old sentinels exposed existence.
If this tree is certainly 100 years old (probably 200+), it has seen a mininum of 36500 sunrises and 36500 sunsets. I’ve only photographed well over 1000 from start to finish during my photographic travels. I’ve seen virtually (almost) every shade on the pantone color swatch book in the natural sky. And many of those missing color representatives created by others using excessive “filters” to enhance their highlights posted on the internet.. Some of the colors I’ve seen created by others are certainly un-natural. ART. The use of that color slider control on the phone are definitely missing in nature lolololol. I try REALLY HARD to be a photorealist. Blue Snow is a classic example. I’ve seen blue snow twice in my life. Both circumstances were in EARLY Civil Twilight. I see it daily posted in the forums. Generally I live in a blue snow free zone.
The color gradients I see in this image are the Alpenglow equivalent of a rainbow. It’s sort of the wrong order of colors as a classic rainbow but there are refractions here going on. I have to get up to the ridges at least 1/2 an hour early. Getting into position this time of year is always in question and often in doubt. I’m on foot for this particular location for this shot. .
LOL, filed under things I see here on the ranch. As I drive around the ranch, most cattle this time of year are VERY tolerant of ranch vehicles. They learn to associate the running engine and the rig with feed or hay. When they get fed, it’s a noisy, smelly scary looking contraption unrolling a bale or two. There is a lot of grass in this field that is still accessible to them though. Keeping herds of cattle in the backcountry is hard work.
There are still bales to pick up this year. Cowboys are still in the process of being gathered even now in Early January where a tractor can reach them. Hay Tractors don’t care too much about snow until it gets several feet deep. We have to keep the cattle out of the pastures the bales are still in. Our small herd of 34 Corriente Longhorn is corralled right now with me feeding them a 1200 pound bale of hay every three days. This keeps them away from the hundreds of bales in their normal winter pasture. We’ll have this snafu fixed shortly. Tough to get it all the hay gathered before the snows.
This beautiful night was calm for the beasties on the plain. Both wild and domestic critters were enjoying the lack of wind that evening. Mid Winter up here in the Wyoming/Montana backcountry is harsh, long, not much sun. It’s COOOOLD when the wind blows. With no wind, I walk outside for quite a while in a t-shirt at zero. It’s so dry and if it’s still, you can’t feel the cold. I’ve heard it does get still up here occasionally. Just a rumor though…😜
I see this capture metaphorically as closing one eye to observe the view through this ocular shaped frame. Eyebrows above and a bright pupil from the sun rising behind a deep veil of clouds. The illusion was complete to me. The colors were marvelous. I worked this sunrise hard for about an hour from twilight to mid-golden hour.
When I’m walking around the backcountry, I try to see natural shapes that mimic familiar shapes. Commonly those are anthropomorphic reminding me of human attributes. Here I was looking through Natures eye actually feeling like I was looking through one 👀
This scene was spectacular for that imaging/seeing. I’m pretty much standing on the Montana/Wyoming border with “Turtle Butte” to the left. Several layers of trees constitute the rest of the frame. I call that hill “Turtle Butte” because it has a wonderful turtle silhouette on it’s top from the right angle. This late in the year, the sun is rising so far south, that angle is a few months around the corner.
This is one of the last photos I will have obtained from my old Jeep Grand Cherokee I just traded in on a new truck. My angles will change with the new ta;;er vehicle. Modified is the way I see those little areas of Zen. By over 2 feet, my viewpoint should be elevated. Hopefully this vehicle will ride better, and go where ever it needs to. My Jeep would go anywhere my Polaris Ranger could more or less. It would just throw me around the cab doing so. A properly built Ford F-150 Raptor is a bit longer than either of the previously mentioned vehicles. The tendency to “high center” more easily is a characteristic of a long truck. By the time you read this, I will be driving it. First new vehicle in 15 years. Finding myself stuck is the backcountry has never happened to date.
During the early spring, Whitetail turn a wonderful light tan color. The shedding of their winter fur is mostly over and a silky look is the rule for healthy animals. I don’t see a lot of Whitetail up here. I seldom can get close to them. Automatic cameras managed and placed in the correct location is the start of this process. Then the deer have to cooperate lolol.
I’m not able to track over time these guys like I can follow the growing Mule deer. Whitetail are MUCH more shy in my experience. Quick to run from you as well.
The Game Trail Camera I used for this is one of the more expensive rigs I have in my arsenal. I don’t talk up or endorse any particular brand but this one take quite good images as far as saturation and color intensity. These kind of game trail camera captures are the exception and definitely not the rule. Having a camera in the same place for a long time can lead to a whole series of encounters. Placement is the only thing you really have control of. Most of the Game Trail Cameras you get only have three or 4 settings you have any effect on. They are more or less automatic cameras and your lucky to get 1 out of a hundred images of any use. This one is the exception to that un-written rule.
Perspective starts with “seeing” things from all angles. While climbing under this 100 year old Windmill requires agility lol. No choice but scrambling over panels meant to protect the structure from Cattle pressure. The sky was Robin’s Egg Blue pretty much horizon to horizon. I’m a victim of only being able to photograph what is in front of me….. Maybe in this case… what was over me lol.
Windmill Weekend (Windmill Junkies Unite). 🤛🤘 But don’t let your mother know you look at stuff like this.
I don’t take as many windmill photos in the winter now that snow is covering many of my paths. We had several inches of blowy snow yesterday up on the ridges.
From the point of view of this 100 year old windmill. (Re Pete), the sky is not constant. This old fellow is on our ranch about 3 miles into the backcountry via two track roads. I usually work my way out to this guy’s hangout where he gleefully “photobombs” my landscapes…. (It’s a years old narrative if you don’t understand lolol).
Aermotor windmills account for the bulk of windmills out there. The company started way back in the 1888 with 24 sold the first year. By 1892, 20000 had been sold lolol. The company still exists. They also sold a LOT of steel fire “look out towers” for fire watch and being a lightning target lololol.
Windmill Weekend (Windmill Junkies Unite). 🤛🤘 But don’t let your mother know you look at stuff like this.
I’ve been on this spot many times. It is not easy to gain access to Midwinter. I have discovered that gaining elevation is a necessity required to acquire views such as this. 400 feet higher up here than where I live on the lower lip of this ridge. This rare back-lighting effect (colorcast) is accurately produced here exactly as I experienced it. The Red “Belt of Venus” in the sky background is from the same color light reflected in the atmospheric ice. The White Snow acting like a projector screen. I see a few of these a year historically. The snow and the hoar frost created “Pine Noodles” out of the needles. Witnessing and understanding what is happening below the surface are two different things however 🤔📷.
The snowstorm began at nightfall but ceased at mid-night. Bedded down were all the animals. The crisp wet morning accented the twilight. It might take half an hour of pre-sun travel to gain access this high remote ridge. There are no maintained roads up here off the county road. Busting drifts you can’t see is always a challenge…. Stuck describes a situation my 15 year partner Jeep Grand Cherokee I just traded in has never been. They ride like a board sadly under these backcountry two track roads. New ride 🙂
The Lone Tree and a few of it’s children surrounding the old soldier. These trees live in some very harsh conditions. They are almost all twisted grain under that bark from the high winds at the ridge.
This 40 mile landscape overlooks the Trail Creek Drainage. Off in the distance to the Little Powder River Drainage. The Mountain Ridge on the horizon is a reference point here. The camera is at the same elevation as the saddles between the peaks in the distance. This is a BIG valley / river drainage. The Big Horn Mountains had filled that big valley between the far hills with where I stand here.. The “Little Powder River, a 20 foot wide river most of the time removed all that sediment here to there….. Humm.. The “Alluvial Fans” (google this) from the Big Horn Mountains washed up to our doorsteps from 130 miles distant. Those have been bisected and removed by that little river. It’s drainage fingers cover a large area too. This is just a dry environment. This geomorphological process has taken a while.
Our ranch literally sits on the geologic inflection point between the Black Hills Uplift to our east and the Powder River Basin west (this view) The range distant to the horizon earned it name, the “Red Hills”. (I wonder why?)😜 Morning Red LIght is always illuminating those peaks for me.
It was cold, it was foggy, it was frost that morning. These moms were bunching up to gain a little extra body warmth from their neighbors. Their breath was lighting up in the low angle light. Living in sub-zero weather that is actively hoar frosting has got to be challenging.
This was taken down at the geothermal lakes about 20 miles to my south. There is a deep oilfield (5000 feet) that a lot of HOT water comes up with the petroleum. The geothermal water separated from the oil is treated before it is released into the environment of course. The ponds that are resultant from the field seldom freeze even in the coldest weather. I’ve never seen those lakes freeze over and I’ve worked them for weeks of -20 F degrees weather. The water exits the processing plant at 140 degrees. Even miles downstream, the ponds fed by that run off aren’t freezing yet.
The fog that develops here rivals the geothermal steams that Yellowstone has but here in Cattle Country. This geothermal lake area is adjacent to the ThunderBasin National Grassland in Campbell/Crook County. The water is fine for stock and game to drink according to the EPA controlling the site. Each lake is a liquid water oasis in the middle of a frozen desert for the animals living there. Each lake is also an enormous producer of that fog with warm water under -20 air. The wildfowl that gather here most nights would amaze you. I’ve caught many wonderful images in this area. More to come this week as I’m working some images from this area currently.
A famous myth like the Phoenix, a magnificent creature of paradise, a land beyond the sun. . Fatigued from building it’s nest before the sun rise, you notice it’s obvious tiredness. The sun god began to carry the sun up from the horizon to it’s zenith, the Phoenix bends it’s neck back like a crane. It begins to sing a haunting cry that stops the sun in it’s tracks. So beautiful was the song, the sun god stopped to listen to his notes. Upon his resuming his journey, a spark falls from the sky igniting a fire that consumes the nest and the bird. But please avoid worry, it rose again from the ashes reborn young and renewed. 😜
Those crazy ancient greeks thought the Phoenix lived across the straights in Arabia. Living next to a well (paradise in Arabia apparently ), it bathed there every morning. (bird tea I’m thinking). That song stopped Apollo and his chariot in the sky (with the sun), the rest is history 🤔
We’ve seen destructions, creation, life, death along with learning that life in Paradise isn’t all it was meant to be lolol. The Phoenix lived a thousand years each rebirth cycle. Never destined to stay destroyed but to be reborn again. A lesson of time works into the story as well. There are several versions of the story, one where the bird self-immolates lol.
This is from a good Game Trail Camera sitting mostly on the ground. Catching a flock of what I think are cowbirds coming in to a water hole to drink. The only control you have over a Game Trail Camera is where you place it. Love the lens flares …..
😜You have to look pretty closely at the cow center frame to see the calf nursing on her Black Angus Mom. I just named the image that lol. This amazing landscape is the attraction to me. There are other cattle off in the distance to but the perspective and shadows…. be still my heart…. Backcountry Pasture on a “at the sunrise” dewy morning on a rolling landscape. The recipe is: low angle “Golden Hour” lighting passing through a lot of suspended moisture at right angles. This is however but a sideshow to the sunrise to the right of frame. I have to constantly remind myself to look around to see what otherwise would be missed. The cow/calf are in Wyoming pasture while the treed hills in the distance are in Montana.
This borderland country is a favorite backcountry haunt of mine. The view is amazing from this ridge in all directions All the ground in this image is a small portion of our overall ranch which is in both Montana and Wyoming. Yes we pay property taxes in both states (before anyone asks lol). My son went to High School in Montana. Had to drive 90 mile round trips daily. At age 13, he had a ‘hardship” license to drive the backcountry gravel 15 miles to the closest bus pick up spot Ranch Kids learn to drive very early.
I’ve got fossil “Micro-sites” on several locations in this image. The ground looks the same except there are fossils falling out of the sand if you dig it. 99 percent of the bedrock sand has nothing in it. Some spots are very fossiliferous. Hit or miss. I knew fossils were here when I bought the place, I just didn’t know where they were.
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)
This location is about a mile below a good sized oil field pumping 140 degree water out, treating it, holding it in ponds until it eventually freezes. With it having been below zero several times already, having an open body of water in the backcountry is an oasis. Particularly this time of year. (Imaged last week) A lot of wild birds stop by and over night here. Liquid water is always interesting to animals of all kinds in deep northern Wyoming / southern Montana winters. Numerous Geothermal ponds exist from deep oil wells in the areas surrounding my ranch but none directly on my place unfortunately.
I love geothermal pond areas for photographic trips in sub-zero weather as the steam generates huge hoar frost needles on virtually everything. The mists in the mornings can be amazing to watch the sunrise through. This is the kind of things I see driving backroads in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana.
As I noticed this, it stopped me from 45 mph and I backed up a ways to set up for it. The speed limit up here is 45 on the county back roads. It only took a few seconds to get back to the proper position for this frame. . I rarely pass another vehicle when I drive around the backcountry. Maybe one car every three or four days of work. Mostly that would be a local rancher either going to town or tending cattle.
This is one of those RARE times when the colorcast from the twilight was so intensely orange, that the reflections on the snow was very noticeable. I’m a photorealist who preaches against “blue snow”. I maintain the practice of maintaining a blue snow free zone in my gallery, except when it was really blue.
So much of the blue snow you see in forum photos is bad color correction or improper setting for white balance in your camera. I’ve always argued that blue snow doesn’t exist in nature but for a few, very few mornings like this extreme one. This color is as I experienced it. I could easily drop out the bark blue in the snow and make it white but that isn’t how it was. Early morning colorcast twilight is the only times I have ever seen this phenomena. Even then, I’ve only seen this one other time 2 winters ago. That time the colorcast was WAY red. This one is a very pervasive colorcast covering every object in it’s glow.
I do sunrises and sunsets almost every day photographically. This twilight was a rare one indeed. This is a view looking to the south east from near the Montana/Wyoming border. This is very far northeastern Wyoming.
Remember that those 4 hills are all related volcanic necks. Being made of hard rock, they stick up above the softer rock the volcanic neck melted through to the surface. Much sediment has been removed around this volcanic pipes now more than a 1000 feet in the air. They used to be miles deep. Everybody known about the Devils Tower but also part of the same “Volcanic neck” complex formed around the same time as the MIssouri Buttes. This is the Non tourist angle from the north east .. Devils tower had more time to cool slowly and the columns formed much better
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
This Game Trail Camera is a good clue that the Mule Deer Rut Starts pretty soon. I would really like to find this guy on a sunny day with a good pro-camera. These game trail camera images are hard to finish each and every one.. They do amazing work for being “Johnny on the Spot” automatic machines though. Now if they would just put a sony alpha body inside I’d pay good money for an automatic game camera that took photos the quality of say a good consumer level digital DSLR camera. I know right where to put it… 📷
This thick necked big antlered 12 point (6 ring hangers on each side how ever you want to classify him. He survived the hunting locally. I suspect he will father quite a few fawns shortly. I believe that rut is about 20 days late this year starting. The rest of the summer was a month late so I suspect they are also effected by the offset weather. This was indeed a very odd year weather wise. Lots of water = lots of grass but fortunately it all didn’t catch fire. There is a LOT of one hour fuel out there at the moment. The cattle are busy eating this all down as I type.
I have to go out and move these cameras today as cattle are back in this pasture. :(. I think there are 9 or 10 of them so it will take a while. I usually take my time but having cattle in with game trail cameras is a good way to get them gooey. Some of them are worth protecting lolol.
Coyote Up Close and Personal is a Game Trail Camera capture where the Ice was JUST a LITTLE too thin for him to cruise by here on the ice. I’d seen this coyote on several other days walking right on the ice. (Still one image to post with him pretty far out there lol.
I suppose he hunts the shore pretty regularly. My cameras have captured quite a few images of him. This lake freezes solid by mid-December. The only source of water is one of my stock tanks which I will keep open. This is quite a ways out into the backcountry. I have limited access to these locations in the winter. Snowmobiles only can get here. I’m not really big on using my cameras off of snowmobiles as the random flying around moisture and my rigs are not compatible.
Coyotes work hard for their meals. A “coyote breakfast”, defined as a cold pee in the corner is their typical morning meal. They don’t eat much else unless a roadrunner screws up…. mostly they eat field mice and rodents they catch. Coyotes as a group do predate ranchers stock. They will kill calves worth a couple thousand dollars each (eventually) without hesitation. Lambs are easy pickings if not protected by sheep dogs or Llamas.
As such they are pursued and shot by most ranchers. State trappers/hunters work overpopulated areas. Many organized hunts are scheduled around the area. Coyotes would cause ecosystem mayhem if not controlled. (a ranchers view point after living 20 years with them). They are not in the least bit endangered as they reproduce quite rapidly and are elusive usually. You just find the dead calf with it’s face chewed off. (sad).
Don’t get me wrong. These are beautiful animals. I admire them for their tenacity, their survival skills and their intrinsic beauty. They have a place in the ecosystem but like any predator, they need to be carefully managed. Stock predation is Wyoming Game and Fish’s business. They employ professional hunters to control Coyote numbers. If they get out of control both stock and other young wildlife suffer excessive population decline. Professional Wildlife managers generally get it close to right. (Some notable exceptions of course).