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Sunset Through Frosty Pines

Sunset Through Frosty Pines
Sunset Through Frosty Pines

Sunset Through Frosty Pines

This is a capture initiated by the -2 degree evening, the icy air and the lighting. The later of which was JUST settling down over the ridge with less than a minute left in the day.

Photographic Musings:

Topographically, I’m working just over the lip of that higher ridge. Opportunities like this after photographing that sun coming up over a ridge 1 mile out are important parts of the timeline. I move quickly to transition to working a closer ridge several hundred yards out as the sun climbs. A sunset for me is a period of moving from place to place to take advantage of the terrain. It is very important to know WHERE to and WHEN to move to the next shot. Extending your time working the “Golden Hour” is the result. You only have so much time to “Work the Light”.

Shadow line:

I work “Parallel” ridges because I’m very mobile to look for interesting leading lines and angles into the light. Here I saw this long line of smaller pines covered in ice from freezing fog the night before. (the night I’m typing this the same weather is occurring and I’ll be up on the ridges for sure ). There was an 1/8th inch of ice on everything that was exposed to the wind. So a vibrant landscape with an interesting weather event… (a hero as every photo needs a hero). But working that shadow line is the game.

The glare from the sun is quite a hard thing to deal with. I am literally looking into the sun with this camera with a white ground reflecting light plus the ice. The trees are my cellulose filter in front of my lens. Regardless, I had to turn my camera to HIGH F-stop, LOW ISO and your shutter speed is used to balance the equation. If you don’t want a sun star, go f-11 mid range. You adjust either with a neutral density filter in front of your lens (I hate them), or higher shutter speeds. Many consumer cameras don’t have 1/8000th shutter like the higher end models do to compensate . So faster shutter speed to reduce light into the camera may not be as much of an option depending on your equipment. Be careful pointing your camera into the sun.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Sunset Through Frosty Pines

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Sharpie On A Stick

Sharpie On A Stick
Sharpie On A Stick

Sharpie On A Stick

This was a capture from 30 feet away with a LONG 1200mm fast lens. The Prairie Sharp Tailed Grouse was about 16 feet up. . . It was about 3 degrees F at the time. .…I’ve never seen them eat those seeds before so I’m trying to figure out when perch where he did. There are better trees still with fruit on them in the yard. 😵

I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 10 others were hanging out nearby. There is a much larger flock hanging around this year. He was with a smaller division of that group. All the good images I will get of grouse this year will be from inside of my vehicle. If Sharp Tailed Grouse see a human, they take off for a good distance. I understand they can fly for several miles at a time. From up here on the ridges, they could glide for 20 miles lololol. These guys are plump prairie Chickens.

The native Americans called them Fire Chickens because they would take advantage of burnt out areas moving in very quickly to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. They are plump birds for sure lolol. At least it doesn’t make their tail look fat ……. cue top hat rif…

They really don’t occur in the east or much bast Wisconsin OR west of the continental divide. They are quite a large grouse with the characteristic pointy tail. The purple cheek bags the males puff out in breeding season is spectacular. I will get to that one too ….

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

Title: Sharpie On A Stick

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Hoar Frost Red Light

Hoar Frost Red Light
Hoar Frost Red Light

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Hoar Frost Red Light

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Grass Sunlight Filter

Grass Sunlight Filter
Grass Sunlight Filter

Grass Sunlight Filter

Our here in the high ridges of the borderlands of Montana / Wyoming there are millions of acres of grasslands. This was a wonderful veiled sky with a diffuse sun and a dense cloud deck above. The combination of the two required a foreground for the image to suit me.

To use the head of a shoot of grass to grace a veiled sunset is not a new effort but is always a worthy target. Grass contains such an elegant form. Smooth curves abound. Over the years I have found that “you are where you are during the final minutes of sunset”. My mind wanders to the “filter materials at hand” for this kind of Close / Far perspective. When your in the middle of a square mile of pasture land, you have to act fact with a wonderful sky as behind this shoot and use a seed head.

I am generally soured on using glass filters in front of my cameras while shooting into the sun. I WAY prefer to use “cellulose” filters to reduce the glare from the furnace above. Here I’m letting this stand of grass moderate the amounts of light coming into the camera. Even a few percent help. Any photo is a light balancing act inside the camera. You onlyhave just three settings to play with . I suggest to you that it would be good to learn to use that camera on Manual Mode finally. (If you don’t already know how). I am happy to keep talking about HOW I take my photos for you guys to follow along. Ask if you have a question. 🤔📷

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

Title: Grass Sunlight Filter

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Belt of Venus Framed

Belt of Venus Framed
Belt of Venus Framed

Belt of Venus Framed

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.

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

Title: Belt of Venus Framed

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Pine Noodle Sun Rise

Pine Noodle Sun Rise
Pine Noodle Sun Rise

Pine Noodle Sun Rise

This 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 “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit.

The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly pink color cast. Usually this is most obvious on the sky opposite the sunrise. The “Belt of Venus” which is a very pink Alpenglow phenomena reflecting said pink light back. Pine Needles coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This pink color cast is not that common on local vegetation and is usually only perceptible on the atmospheric ice.

Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.

2:1 aspect meant to be a duplex. (2-20×20 frames)

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Pine Noodle Sun Rise

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Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn
Red Light Crack of Dawn

Red Light Crack of Dawn

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Light Crack of Dawn

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RockyPoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store
Rockypoint General Store

Rockypoint General Store

Clarence Reece built a two story building in 1907. This became the General Store for the area (Rockypoint Wyoming which is in the North Eastern Corner of Wyoming). Just north west of Devils Tower which you can see from here about 35 miles away. Run by various local characters over the years, the store changed hands a dozen times. It closed finally in the Mid- 1950’s.

These timbers, cut 112 years ago, are the last remains of a building that served a whole community. These merchants who weekly at least, dealt with terrible dirt roads bought a lot of freight through these doors over time. Imagine if you will the old time gasoline pump with the glass top. An ranch kid attendant with a rag in his pocket took care of the windows and checked the oil.

I can’t imagine all the horse team trips to Gillette to hit the railroad in the early 1900’s. Gillette would be a two day trip via buck freight wagon I’m pretty sure from Rockypoint Wyoming. Camping on the trail, no weather forecasts or radio. These folks 100 years ago were tough hombres.

The community dance hall / community center became ground zero of local / national political discussions of course lol. Dances too but the roads could keep the band away. I’m sure they did best they could.

I own the back 1/2 of the Rockypoint 1940’s dance hall. It is a good structure that I resurfaced when I moved here in 2000 and it remains as a shop building.

Location/ Title : Rocky point Wyoming

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Sharp Tail Grouse Incoming

Sharp Tail Grouse Incoming
Sharp Tail Grouse Incoming

Sharp Tail Grouse Incoming

Catching one coming in is harder than catching on leaving. Trust me on this 🤔📷

Duck when you hear a flock of about 100 of these guys (Sharpies) flying 10 feet over your head. There is a Large group around our compound that mob us about daily now days. These Sharp Tail Grouse are mooches off my barnyard and there i a pretty big flock that hangs out and about the place. My ducks finish feeding time leaving little behind. Amazingly, there always seems to be a flock of these guys sitting watching for an opening to come in for easy pickings. They are indeed flighty if they see human movement.

It was -10 degrees F when I took this image a few weeks ago as this posts. A fairly good sized flock was hanging out in the side yard. A few were nice enough to post for me in bright sunlight when I happened to have a 1200 mm lens with me. Up close and personal is of course the best way to see this wonderful feather patterns. Good camo too … The wind was blowing directly at his rear.

I’ve worked these guys in 30 below windchill and they just hunker down. As a species they seem to weather the storm quite well. Ranging up to Alaska , (The borderlands or Alaska….. humm, close call with Alaska being a bit harsher environment lol. . As far as I can tell, they care not about snow.

They are heavy birds and fall into powder drifts readily lol. They are fairly plump birds which I consider flying boats. One hitting you would ruin your day. They have come close to me before ..

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Sharp Tail Grouse Incoming

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Woven Wire Hoar Frost

Woven Wire Hoar Frost
Woven Wire Hoar Frost

Woven Wire Hoar Frost

The sub-zero morning I took this up on a high ridge, the Hoar frost covered ANYTHING that was exposed to the wind. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. I have many images yet to finish from that morning.

Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow is as deep as the backcountry is big with just a few plowed paths to provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top.

Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a very early morning session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here. The highest ridges are 4000 feet in elevation. With valley fog being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions.

Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. The low angle light was still very spotty. I had to find a “Slit” through the trees to catch this. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. Millions of them actually. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔

Title: Woven Wire Hoar Frost

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Frosty Milk on Tap

Frosty Milk on Tap
Frosty Milk on Tap

Frosty Milk on Tap

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.

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

Title: Frosty Milk on Tap

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Divergent Light Rays Perspective

Divergent Light Rays Perspective
Divergent Light Rays Perspective

Divergent Light Rays Perspective

The forest creates areas of interest by the way the vegetation effects the light. Light alleys, tunnels, vertical lines accentuated by pine “noodles” complicated the scene. In this forest, the only thing not covered by hoar frost was I. Anything near this spot was pretty much everything was reflective white. This effectively magnifies the brightness of the scene. Human eyes can not stand this level of light in the real world.

Photographic Musings:

I love REALLY wide angle lenses. Taken with a 10mm rectilinear lens. Taken in 2×3 aspect on a full frame camera. .

(back to english)

As the light wraps around the camera, similarly, the lens sees widely around the camera to see past what your eyes would normally see. Your peripheral vision has nothing on this lens. The perspective here wraps around you. It causes you peer into the center. Hundreds of leading lines in this image. Each line leading your eye toward the light. The joy of a good mirrorless camera is you can actually look at a video screen. Because you DON’T have a direct light path to your eye. Even a scene this bright will not blind you. Live real time not after the shot. Do NOT try this with a DSLR camera as the direct light path to your eye could blind you.

It was about 6 degrees and a freezing fog had moved across this ridge top all night. The resultant hoar frost was monumental in it’s effects. I have Many wonderful images from this ridge / morning. A little chilly with the humidity in the air lol.

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

Title: Divergent Light Rays Perspective

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Frosted Christmas Wreaths

Frosted Christmas Wreaths
Frosted Christmas Wreaths

Frosted Christmas Wreaths

We get some tremendous frosts here in “Little Siberia”. That is the nickname the previous family that lived here passed on to us. When it’s raining in the valleys, we usually have the snow line right around the edge of our ground. Of course mid winter everybody had snow and this year is no exception. There are advantages to living up on a high ridge (views). But living above the snow line is always interesting when weather moves through.

I’m mostly locked out of the backcountry due to snow already in late December. Deeper drifts keep me closer to the house and on the roads. I do occasionally plow a path up on the ridge tops which usually don’t have deep snow. The wind pushes it off the east and southern slopes leaving a path of thinner snow pack at the ridge top. You only have to watch out for Yucca plants which will trap their own drifts which can be huge. I’ve never been stuck back here that I had to dig myself out YET. I’ve been lucky

This has been an exceptional year for moisture in all forms. Normally we only get 14 inches but I’ve counted 20 inches myself this year There is about an inch of water sitting on the ground in the form of snow. We still have a probable last week of December to go. We need a few dozen snows like this to keep up the moisture for next year.

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

Title: Frosted Christmas Wreaths

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Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge
Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

Winter leaves a few nice scenes to offer me out in the backcountry. I have so many choices where to point my cameras. There are certain basic photographics principles one wants to follow. I am always trying to adhere to those rules. There is a strong rule of thirds here both horizonally and vertically. The old masters discovered visual tunnels of which I’m always on the lookout for. Framed here by the totally frosted pine “noodled” tree. The Visual tunnel to the mountains 40 miles distant is just above center. Every thing I saw through the eyepiece of my camera said “Click”. So I clicked lol.

Those are the “Red Hills” off in the distance. We actually have more snowthan in this image as I type this. Even the grass is coated with ice in this capture. Any surface that was exposed to the wind had freezing fog stick to it’s surface. Coating everything.

This beautiful hillside that I’m standing on is very close to precisely 1/2 way between the equator and the North Pole. A long walk either way lolol. Its exactly 5,000,000 (Five Million) meters from this hillside to either point. Some well connected person in history decided 1 meter would be 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the north Pole to the Equator. You can covert 10 million meters into Ten Thousand Kilometers though. 45 degrees north latitude precisely. This also corresponds to the line that IS the Montana / Wyoming border.

2×3 aspect to 36 inches.

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

Landscape: Snowy Borderline Ridge

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Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan
Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan

While Sharp Tailed Grouse don’t migrate, it’s always a good idea to check your directions. 🤗

I have SOOOO many of these guys hanging around it’s actually kind of humorous. I’ve lived here for 20 years with this year having the largest population of of the “Sharpies” I’ve ever seen. I watched a flock of at least 100 of these behemoths. I consider them flying boats. They don’t look to me like they should be able to fly but I’ve seen them glide at least a half mile before. I will get the flock on camera this winter. Snippits so far is the rule….

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 about 8 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. Uniquely American birds that survived the extinction at the end of the Ice Age. 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.

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: Checking Your Flight Plan

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Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker's Dozen Sharp Tailed Grouse
Baker's Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse is a capture of 13 Fat little Prairie Chickens feeding on Flowering Crab Apples, taken from my front deck 2x3aspect to 3 feetBakers Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Talk about a great puzzle!. This one would be just nuts…

As the winter goes on, the Sharpie flocks gradually move in on the main homestead. They attack the peripheral Flowering Crab Trees in our gardens further out first. Then the gradually get used to me moving around. Then they don’t even care if I’m around fairly close by. . The crab “apples” are smaller than cherries in this particular tree.

I never go out with a camera given time looking like a human shape. I love bulky hoods and cloths/coats that hide my human shape. A moving lump scares these guys a lot less than a moving human. It was 7 degrees the early morning I took this and I was working them a while. Spotted them inside and I just took my time getting into position for this. I very slowly opened the outside door of which they could plainly see me. Moving maybe 3 feet a minute with an 8 pound lens and camera to get behind a porch column was necessar. I rested the camera on the column of course and tried to hide my movement behind it.

This is a 1200 mm telephoto image from about 40 feet distance from my camera lens.

There are indeed 13 grouse in this image. Feel free to count them. I’ve done it a few times very carefully and I’m seeing 13. There were a LOT more in the tree. I couldn’t get the detail I wanted and have the shot wider. The local Sharp Tail Flock around our homestead is at LEAST 100 individuals at the moment. I’ve never seen this many birds winter up here before. It was a VERY good grass year so I will stick with that as a reason.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse.

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Perspective Grass Tuft Tunnel

Perspective Grass Tuft Tunnel
Perspective Grass Tuft Tunnel

Perspective Grass Tuft Tunnel

The joy of this time of year is the variety in the seasons. I would miss seasons if I were to move to a more tropical climate. Snow is both a curse and a blessing in several ways each.

We get more of our yearly precipitation (water equivalent) in the form of snow. This year might be an exception as we have a very wet summer. This winter is starting early and wet so far. We got a foot of snow on December 1. Winter Started October 1 this year with a good 4-5 inch first snow.

Back in 1999, I moved topographically down to my ranch at 4000 feet from Jackson Hole up at 6200 feet. In Jackson Hole, your distance from the Teton Range dictated how many feet flat you would have in your backyard in mid-January. We averaged 6 feet flat in our back yard there. I had an ATV with a snow blower on the front for the asphalt drive I had then. In Jackson, when it snowed I cleaned our drive way before I went to work at 7AM. That ATV was agile and fun with the snow blower taken off for summer. I had a smaller yard there.

20 years later:

I have about 2 miles of various trails I clear until I can’t anymore mid winter. My driveway is about 1/4 mile and we have a gravel surface big enough to turn semi-trucks around on. I clean it with a Case Skid Steer™. (“Bobcat” so to speak). It has a heater, chains on solid filled wheels, it’s hard to stop. a 5 foot packed drift will stop it but it won’t bury it. It could back out I’m pretty sure. We get some pretty good drifts up on the lee side of ridges and often clumps of Yucca will trap LARGE snow drifts.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Perspective Grass Tuft Tunnel

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Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows
Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

This image was captured just as the horizon dropped exposing the relatively stationary sun. Everybody always says the sun rises but it’s really the horizon falling away. OK. It was a “sunrise” bone chilling cold sunrise. At -2F any wind amplifies the experience from a sweat shirt to full arctic gear. In dead calm air, -2 might as well be 50. I dress in layers.

Working in really cold conditions with cameras:

I’ve been up here in an open vehicle at -20 before so this was pretty comfortable relatively. Riding around with a box of 4 or 5 camera/lens in an open ATV in that temp is something I don’t like to do now.

For this capture, I was walking around from place to place for quite a while. Drove up there in my jeep. Usually my right had is my weak link. I wear “Red Head” Mitten/fingerless gloves. They are better than other gloves I’ve seen advertised for photographers and do a pretty good job. I always carry two pair. If they get wet, it’s time to change them. But you CAN work the delicate controls of a camera with them on.

I even had my Jeep to retreat to . I prefer not to let my cameras get so cold so having them in a heated car has it’s advantages.

Working out of a car window in the cold:

You have to watch shooting cameras out of a heated car into very cold air. You can get distortion similar to a mirage that I’ve actually seen live and watched it distorting the image on the cameras monitor. The warm air and the cold air mixing makes a little distorting lens just for your annoyance. With a long lens the distortion caused by this interface CAN be significant. Each situation is different. I try to keep air flowing into the drivers window versus warm air flowing out. It’s a huge difference with long lenses.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Backcountry Sunrise Long Shadows

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Golden Hour Sunset on Snow

Golden Hour Sunset on Snow
Golden Hour Sunset

Golden Hour Sunset on Snow. When the sun is so low, slowly working left of the BigHorn Mountains here, the light is quite golden.

You would be blinded looking into this scene but the ability to shut the camera down to light changes the game.

This is an overlook across 130 miles of landscape in north central Wyoming. Looking west into the scene that the pioneers saw at the end of a long day of travel. Custer was around here, Native Americans were all over this place for thousands of years. The history here is long, many have crossed that land but daily I walk places where no human has been before.

We are up high on the ridges where there is not much running water. We find TeePee Rings, a few artifacts, stone tools, even a couple of metal ornaments (rare). There actually exists one of the very RARE Documented Clovis Man Habitation site within 10 miles of my ranch. It’s not on my land however. Those same pre-historic folks walked around the post’ glacial landscape burning/slashing/hunting/driving game for a living. I have no doubt they were walking here to some of our artesian spring locations.

When the pioneers got here, they built dams below those artesian wells and formed lakes. The natives didn’t have that option and it can be a long way between water holes when you have deer bladder canteens to carry your water for the day…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title Golden Hour Sunset on Snow

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Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha
Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Happy Thanksgiving from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. “Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha”

These two missed attending dinner today as I had a camera not a shotgun (in my hand anyway 🙂 ) This capture show 2 wild turkeys coming in for a landing in a hoar frosted environment. I’ve raised small flocks of turkeys and even the “tame” males have attitude to deal with. These guys are a force to be reckoned with if you ever get cornered by one with an agenda. 😜

Short Narrative for Thanksgiving lolol. Enjoy your time with family and friends. God Bless

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

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Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough
Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough is a capture initiated by the -2 degree morning, the icy air and the lighting. The later of which was JUST coming over the ridge but about 15 minutes after sunrise.

Photographic Musings:

Topographically, I’m working just over the lip of that higher ridge. Opportunities like this after photographing that sun coming up over a ridge 20 miles out are important parts of the timeline. I move quickly to transition to working a closer ridge several hundred yards out as the sun climbs. A sunrise is a period of moving from place to place to take advantage of the terrain. It is very important to know WHERE to and WHEN to move to the next shot. Extending your time working the “Golden Hour” is the result. You only have so much time to “Work the Light”.

Shadow line:

I work “Parallel” ridges because I’m very mobile to look for interesting leading lines and angles. Here I saw this long pine bough covered in ice from freezing fog the night before. (the night I’m typing this the same weather is occurring and I’ll be up on the ridges for sure ). There was an 1/8th inch of ice on everything that was exposed to the wind. So a vibrant landscape with an interesting weather event… (a hero as every photo needs a hero). But working that shadow line is the game.

The glare from the sun is quite a hard thing to deal with. I am literally looking into the sun with this camera with a white ground reflecting light plus the ice. You’ve GOT to turn your camera to HIGH F-stop, LOW ISO and your shutter speed is used to balance the equation. If you don’t want a sun star, go f-11 mid range. You adjust either with a neutral density filter in front of your lens (I hate them), or higher shutter speeds. Many consumer cameras don’t have 1/8000th shutter like the higher end models do to compensate . So faster shutter speed to reduce light into the camera may not be as much of an option depending on your equipment.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Perspective: Pine Noodles Bough

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Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail
Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail was a capture from 30 feet away with a LONG 1200mm fast lens. Sitting on a copper plate that protects the top of our main gate posts (18 inches in diameter) and 16 feet high. . It was about -2 at the time. . Frost on the copper… I would think the copper would be cold to stand on but what do I know? 😵

I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 50 others were hanging out nearby. There is a very large flock hanging around this year. All the good images I will get this year will be from inside of my vehicle. If Sharp Tailed Grouse see a human, they take off for a good distance. I understand they can fly for several miles at a time. From up here on the ridges, they could glide for 20 miles lololol. These guys are plump prairie Chickens.

The native Americans called them Fire Chickens because they would take advantage of burnt out areas moving in very quickly to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. They are plump birds for sure lolol. At least it doesn’t make their tail look fat ……. cue top hat rif…

They really don’t occur in the east or much bast Wisconsin OR west of the continental divide. They are quite a large grouse with the characteristic pointy tail. The purple cheek bags the males puff out in breeding season is spectacular. I will get to that one too ….

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

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Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise

Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise
Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise

Miles into the backcountry, it was a chilly -2 degrees F. The ridge with the cloud veil blocking the blinding sun. This Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise is a backcountry very wide angle image taken about ten days ago as this posts. A lot of this snow has melted since the image was taken. A few days of autumn return but with mud…

There was an 1/8th inch of ice covering most of the north side of trees, the sun rising to the south west was just starting to light up the ice that was coating the grass. The Pine Noodles (Needles covered with ice) were a subject all by themselves this morning of worth light. This square aspect image is full resolution to 18 inches by 18 inches.

The is a very nice little ridge line being the uppermost reaches of the drainage. This particular ridge separates Trail Creek (Wyoming) and Ranch Creek (Montana). I usually work ridges in the early winter leading to road work only in the late winter. Snow depth will deny access to the ridges without me plowing snow over two track paths in the backcountry. I start going on road trips late winter when conditions look photogenic. The two tracks are drifted over badly is the rule. Deep snow is problematic from my viewpoint.

I am trading off my Jeep for a taller vehicle (F-150) some of my viewpoints might change lolololol. Hopefully I will be able to get through a big higher snow with this new rig due sometime this century I understand …..😃

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise

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Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles
Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

Satire: This young punk pine tree was sure that getting his needles “noodled” would upset his adult mentors. The 1/8th inch of ice sure gave him a frosty “do”. I suspect he was about ready to go hang out down in the gully where he could watch things move down drainage at a geologic pace. It’s not a very exciting place to grow up out in the backcountry.😉

Back to my normal programming…

SO it was -2, I was walking a high ridge, the pines were all ‘noodled’ on the north side of the tree. . The sun has been up for maybe 20 minutes so thusly is just cresting the ridge. The crisp air is moving and seeping into my gloves/mittens which are almost always my limiting factor. I’ve worked up here with -30 wind-chills many times. I’ve had various cameras (mostly old used Canon 5D’s) freeze up at those temps. . Rapid temperature changes aren’t good for anything but you don’t want to keep your cameras cold either.

“Winter is Coming” (If you don’t know the classic reference by now, you need to read a few books lolol). I actually enjoyed the audiotapes of “game of thrones” tremendously while building things in my shops.

In reality it’s been here since Oct 1 and the day before was fall. (fall was on a tuesday this year). Oct 1 is when winter started up here which continue till April anyway. Winter does bring certain photographic opportunities however and I enjoy the crisp cold. It’s easy down here at 4000 feet after living at 6200 feet in Jackson Hole for a decade. Warm here but MUCH windier here in the borderlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective: Frosty Pine Noodles

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Perspective: Snag to Sunrise

Perspective: Snag to Sunrise
Perspective: Snag to Sunrise

Perspective: Snag to Sunrise is a view right as the sun was coming up over the hill. The grass was just starting to highlight, the air was very crisp at -2 degrees. I tend to work wide lenses in really cold weather. They do better with a shivering photographer I think. Long lenses don’t like the shake lolol.

It had snowed about 4 inches but the 1/8th inch of ice that covered everything was problematic walking around the uneven slopes. The footing was treacherous as seeing sticks under the snow was not a sure thing. THe reason they call fallen logs snag, is that they snag you walking near them lolol.

Perspectives that go from closest focus (12 inches with this lens) to infinity are a challenge to compose. Having the snag as a leading line is an easy choice but the ice covered snag was sure novel to me. I worked this hillside through this entire sunrise…. until I got a tad chilled and then headed back to the Jeep. A few dozen good captures came from that morning. Winter has sure come early this year.

I can still get up on the ridges though and today (a week ago as this posts) is 50 degrees and muddy. We get a bit of a warm snap before it get’s serious lolol. I figure by late November this year we’re going to have a foot flat +and it won’t melt till late February. Winter is long here in the borderlands on the high ridges.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective: Snag to Sunrise

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Perspective “Brace Yourself”

Perspective "Brace Yourself"
Perspective "Brace Yourself"

Perspective “Brace Yourself” looks cold….It was indeed quite chily when I took this. -2F with a good breeze is chilly in my book.. Taken a few miles into the backcountry off the main gravel road.. Traveling ranch Two track trails to the spot.. There was 1/8th inch of ice on virtually everything, . Ground under the snow, grass, barbed wire and posts all were laden with a coating of the storms warmer beginnings..

This was a good snow because I was actually noticing I was driving through deeper snow up on the ridges. Most snows so far this winter have been relatively minor in their effect on my travels… No blowing snow off the ridges in this snowy iteration. It wasn’t a particular windy storm. Thus there are no drifts to deal with, however, there is deeper snow on the ridge line which CAN build up if there is a crust. This makes it more difficult later (sadly). . It seems 5 inches of flat snow with ice under it starts getting problematic climbing steep backcountry hills.😜. I have slid backwards down many a long hill in the snowy backcountry…. denied access!!! 😫

So as the Winter progresses, the cold brings to mind a late November from 2000 that was -30 for well over a week straight. I mean all day for a week at -30F degrees was a long week here on the ranch. As I recall, I was driving back and forth from Jackson Hole to my Ranch north of Gillette (almost 500 miles) during that week . I definitely respect November weather in Wyoming.

I will plow the main two track up to this ridge this winter. It’s a several mile job with a skidsteer with tire chains. That takes a while if it drifts over and I will eventually be locked off the ridge by drifts working across my previously plowed paths.

I love lots of angles in photos. This one qualifies plus the close focus. 📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective “Brace Yourself”

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From Under the Snag

From Under the Snag
From Under the Snag

Looking From Under a Snag, I see the world from an entirely different perspective. There is a feeling somehow of security even though there is a ton of wood over your head being held up by rotten broken branches. What could go wrong there?😜

This is a very busy photo with all sorts of of things going on. Enjoy the looking. I ought to put a “where’s waldo” in some of these images lolol.

It was cold near zero when this was taken a week ago as this posts. “Winter is Coming” and in reality has come here to the borderlands. Fall was on a Tuesday this year it has been confirmed. ❄️

The sunset here was a clear sky orange/yellow alpenglow show which almost always pushes me toward snags to work wide lenses….Grab that 12 – 24mm or sometimes like this I have a 10mm wide angle full frame lens. I use it when ever I get a chance. It is very wide.

Perspectives and clear skies seems to go together… Cloudy complex skies detract from the detail up close. I feel that detail is the point of the photo myself but your opinion may differ lol.

RegardingFallen logs: “Snags” each has it’s own character and personality I find out. Some are masculine and rugged like this one. Others are more curvy and feminine with a grace that is hard to describe. Orientations change from tree to tree, opportunity emerges as I drive by on the ridge tops. I see the possibilities as I go though sometimes I get on a mission for a particular tree.

Here the trees were all frosted with 1/8th of an inch of ice, 4 inches of snow sticking to everything. The air is full of ice turning the sunset orange and yellow. This little shelter under this tree has provided an expedient rain shelter for many a small animal as it’s roots make quite a cover. I find deer beds all around this area as the big tree also provides a windbreak . Such a shelter is a rare thing on these wind blown slopes. Soon this fairly recent tree fall will be rife with woodpecker holes. Thusly then to graduate to full fledged “wildlife tree”.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: From Under the Snag

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Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal

Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal
Dinosaur Vertebra Nerve Canal

Looking through a Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal in this “Centrum” (vertebra without it’s external processes)

I saw this centrum sitting about in my outdoor rock pile lightly frosted and saw the possibilities lol. The top view is something that not many have seen. The hole is big enough to get your thumb in.

This vertebra was from the lower back area of a Hadrosaur (duckbill) dinosaur. It was found sitting on the surface in the grass at one of my sites. Sometimes all I have to do is walk around and pick stuff up lol. The neural canal was the first information super-highway. Long before fiber optics lolol.

Cretaceous Dinosaurs here in “Cretaceous Country.” Jurassic Park is way older. The End of the Cretaceous was the end of the rule of the dinosaurs over the earth. Those rocks are exposed here on ranch… The Hell Creek/Lance formations here are upper most Cretaceous sands deposited by huge sweeping rivers choked with sand. Bones were like wood then (and as big as branches mostly). Lots of small fossils too are present. Fossils of anything else that was in and around the water are discoverable along with the dinosaur stuff.

Everybody came down to drink sooner or later and was predated. The bones eventually got into the water and covered by fine grained sands and muds pretty quickly. The rivers were dumping sands by the boatload so the soon to be fossil got covered deeply quickly.

The missing processes are a result of being transported by the rivers. Any particular bone might have been buried, then re-excavated by the rivers moving back and forth meandering across the lands. We were just slightly north of the equator at the time. The continent was rotated about 90 degrees from how it is now.

Rule 1 of geology: Processes we observe today, were the same as in the past and will be in the future. Seems logical but some argue with this for what ever reason. I’m good with that.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal

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Frost Feather

Frost Feather
Frost Feather

This Frost Feather was actually on the bottom of a very well insulated window taken from the inside out with a flashlight doing the highlighting. Dark as pitch outside. COLD AS HECK…

Seeing this as it was small…

This was a TINY 1/2 inch growth which was just screaming to take it’s photo as frost is so Fractal in it’s design by the master architect of such things. Window frost forms as a pane of glass is exposed to sub-freezing temperatures on the outside freezing the relatively moist air on the inside.  Water vapor from the air condenses as frost on the inside surface of the window.  The picture above demonstrates a patch of window frost about the size of U.S. Quarter Coin. .  Window frost often makes elaborate patterns as the crystal growth is strongly influenced by the window surface because scratches, residual soap, cleaning streaks, etc., can all modify the way the crystals nucleate and grow.

Damage?

Window frost was more common in the before about the 1970’s, when houses still had single-pane windows.  Snow used to actively blow in the windows of the 1970s ranch house we first moved into up here lol. The newer double-pane windows are working far better insulators and thus not so cold on the inside surfaces. Frost can cause damage because as it melts, it transfers moisture to whatever is next to it. If that’s a wooden window, it can discolor varnish and crack paint or even damage the wood. Frost can also melt off single-paned windows and seep down into a wall. resulting in damage of one kind or another.

If moisture is not handled swiftly and completely, mold can begin to grow. Keep it warm and dry inside to avoid the frost. A dehumidifier will help. But the best way is to replace older inefficient windows with double or triple layer windows. Boy they make some nice ones these day lolol. (Ours are 20 years old and one just lost a seal 😖. ).

We had a lot of moisture/rain/snow today. Wet year overall so far.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Frost Feather18 x 18 inch square aspect.

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Frosty Shoulder From the Doe to the Bucks Advances

Frosty Shoulder From the Doe to the Bucks Advances
Frosty Shoulder From the Doe to the Bucks Advances

A frosty response from the Doe to the Bucks Advances. Hunting season is wrapping down and Mule Deer Rutting season will be on us shortly.. But not just yet lolol. Once the hunters leave, the deer will settle down and think about being seen instead of hiding in the hollows while the noisy stinky humans tramp around looking for the rare deaf noseless deer to shoot. Occasionally the two cross paths though which is as it should be.🤣

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.