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Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline
Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

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

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

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

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

Close far perspective:

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Equinox Sunrise East Fenceline

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Wonderful Winter Wetlands

Wonderful Winter Wetlands
Wonderful Winter Wetlands

Wonderful Winter Wetlands

The mist over the water in this remote backcountry wetland was wafting slowly with the below freezing breeze above. This mid-spring Wyotana wetland capture was taken right as the sun cracked over the far ridge to the east shadowing this ground about 15 minutes longer than sunrise. Sunrise time depends on if the horizon is above you topographically or not lolol.

A snowy/frosty/blowy storm came through after a week of thawing weather melted most ice on local ponds. Rime Snow coated most exposed objects but the mist from the water definitely hoar frosted the far trees totally. Wind blowing that mist that refroze on the trees in the distance. I probably should have taken a walk over to those trees with a few good cameras but the aforementioned breeze with below freezing weather dissuaded me. Wind Chill cutting through the cracks in my cold armor is always a consideration in cold weather.

I see much wildlife in and around these lakes but they were no where to be seen this frosty morning. I suspect they were bedded down somewhere close by staying out of the cold breeze. Sheltered (lower) areas like this are an oasis from the blowing and drifting usually. The trees and topography “helping” with the natural wind break. A source of open water in places due to the spring fed nature of the lakes, many local animals winter over here.

Spring in Wyotana is a fleeting season. I think it was on a thursday last year. Winter usually lasts until May 15, then it’s green season. Green season is variable depending on the rains of course but Spring…. it’s usually about a day long. 🤔😜📷

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

Title: Wonderful Winter Wetlands

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RoadRunner Just Off Frame

RoadRunner Just Off Frame
RoadRunner Just Off Frame

RoadRunner Just Off Frame

I’ve pretty fast with a long lens but keeping ahead of these canids is a job best left to the Road Runners. Occasionally I catch them with great lenses/cameras, other times I catch them with a game trail camera. The best game trail cameras I use are in the 200 dollar range. The best Sony Mirrorless with a 28 inch long 1200 mm lens is in the 6000 dollar range. Both cameras take images of what is in front of them if the operator knows how to set them up, quickly I point out, and get the shot. One might get this either way. Humm, I wonder which system took this image? Under the right conditions, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.

Quality of game trail cameras is not the subject of this post as much as this hunting coyote is. I know he is hunting because he is awake. Generally they wake up with a “Coyote Breakfast”. Such menu is widely understood as a Coyote relieving himself next to a tree. No actual food for breakfast involved usually for such a creature. They are always chasing road runners fictionally but it real life, it’s all about the next meal. They do chase the original fast food….. Mostly mice and small mammals but they do get into trouble with ranchers and growers of any livestock. Baby livestock is a favorite snack for a pack of these guys.

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

Title: RoadRunner Just Off Frame

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Coyote Hunting the Shoreline

Coyote Hunting the Shoreline
Coyote Hunting the Shoreline

Coyote Hunting the Shoreline .(Game Trail Camera Capture)

There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans. This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀.

I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.

I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks. 2×3 aspect up to 36 inches wide.

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

Title: Coyote Hunting the Shoreline

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Belt of Venus Street

Belt of Venus Street
Belt of Venus Street

Belt of Venus Street

It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridge tops. The main sunrise show over my right shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this back show is Lavender/Pink/Orange. This back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise. You miss this show if you don’t look behind once in a while … Several image from this particular morning timeline 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 this rare Lavender at times up high. 

The red/pink will often work down on the tree top tips as the surviving red rays project off the ice on them. 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%. T

he 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 2.5 inches long. 

Location: Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana). 

TItle: Belt of Venus Street

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Frosty Hoar Frost Feathers

Frosty Hoar Frost Feathers
Frosty Hoar Frost Feathers

Frosty Hoar Frost Feathers

This image is looking straight down. Just on the edge of a cut Coal Mine Equipment Tire. This tire is 10 feet across and holds maybe 800 – 1000 gallons of water for my stock. It’s indestructible of course. That tread cleat on the top is 10 inches across. These are 2 to 3 inch feathers which make them pretty big around these parts. With the right weather conditions, many unusual things happen up here.

New these tires cost maybe 12 grand or more new. I bought one repurposed for a stock tank recently installed for 700 bucks. One side wall is removed. Cut off with some effort and a water jet I believe. Delivered by semi-truck, he thick rubber tire is laid down on prepared ground. Hopefully near a pipeline spigot. Powdered concrete under the center drain PVC pipe already in place. This seals the tank upon filling the first time. These tanks will last maybe a century so they are a one time installation for me. They would be virtually impossible to hurt. Your truck would bounce off of them if you ran into it. Might break the seal lolol. Occasionally one will spring a leak, just drop some powdered concrete over the hole and fill it up with water will usually patch it.

Repurposing is a ranching tradition. When an object is useful, it will be stored on ranch for decades. I have used many iron pieces from 100 years ago in various welding projects lol..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Frosty Hoar Frost Feathers

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Tire Tank Frost Feathers

Tire Tank Frost Feathers
Tire Tank Frost Feathers

Tire Tank Frost Feathers

I was checking stock tanks the other day. We had just enjoyed 4 days of overcast foggy AND windy conditions, all below freezing. There was a lot of moisture in the air freezing on what ever it contacted. Where ever there are disruptions in air flow, Hoar frost forms under these conditions. These are 3 inch long feathers which rank among the largest I’ve seen before in person. The tank water is flowing ground water. It’s 50 degrees versus the 20 degrees or lower of the surrounding colder dry air. You can watch the water vapor stir off the top surface of the tank in calm wind.

Here it attached to the thick rubber Equipment tire’s cut edge. These Coal Mine Truck Tires wore out, time to repurpose. Cost maybe 12 grand or more new. I bought one recently installed for 700 bucks. The thick rubber tire is laid down on prepared ground. Powdered concrete under the center drain PVC pipe already in place. This seals the tank upon filling the first time. These tanks will last a century and are a one time installation for me. They would be virtually impossible to hurt. Your truck would bounce off of them if you ran into it. Might break the seal lolol. Occasionally one will spring a leak, just drop some powdered concrete over the hole and fill it up with water will usually patch it. Repurposing is a ranching tradition.

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

Title: Tire Tank Frost Feathers

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Snowflakes Over Human Hair

Snowflakes Over Human Hair
Snowflakes Over Human Hair

Snowflakes Over Human Hair

Fibers in general will catch flakes and often hold them ideally vertically for me. I get into enough Photo-yoga without having to block light to get over horizontal flakes. I can’t think of a better media for this work as it won’t melt the snowflakes. The fibers area wonderful insulator.

Photographic musings:

Just before I started typing this narrative, I was outside with this coat looking for that perfect flake while enjoying a near zero windchill. The gear I use is variable depending on the lighting as I work from several Macro lenses. Each lens you should EVER buy should be a generational purchase. Don’t skimp on your optics… Macro Lens is the search term…

I have lenses I’m still using I bought in the 1990’s and use several e-bay acquired 1970’s lenses say weekly… They made gooooood glass in the 70’s and camera adaptors can put a nikon lens on a canon camera for example easily. On the other hand, I consider camera backs a disposable item after the repair cost exceeds a new camera. I wear a camera back out about every 1/2 year. They are worth less and less each new model that comes out. I haven’t worn one out to the point of not being able to repair one though just yet. What’s good about Sony is that you CAN get them fixed.

Environmental stress destroys complex delicate electronics, LOTS of manual settings, I beat up the settings wheels. They wear out. There is a lot of grit in the atmosphere/environment here too. I find that cameras in this extreme environment stop working in some manner in the 50-100k click mark. I easily take that many photos and more but spread that 8 cameras currently. I send one in about every 2 months or so lolol. I’m surrently back to 7 functioning workhorses for the next month or so.

Being short on cameras is sort of a handy-cap the way I do things these days sadly. Rapaired, they come back like new if History is a guide. If your able to afford it, having cameras and lenses covering all different focal lengths is HIGHLY desirable. I ALWAYS take 5 or 6 cameras and lens combinations with me while working to make what I do. You can sure take good photos with one camera body with multiple lenses though.

Problem is you have to change lenses during a shoot. No one has enough time during a sunset to be changing lenses. For an example: last night I worked 5 cameras for a half an hour last night as the Sun set directly over the Bighorn Mountains. Every camera has dozens or hundreds of images of that event. Changing lenses also introduces dirt and dust into your camera. You can buy cleaning kits on amazon. Not that hard to do. Get the right sized swab kit though…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Snowflakes Over Human Hair

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Homestead Reflections Melt Water

Homestead Reflections Melt Water
Homestead Reflections Melt Water

Homestead Reflections Melt Water

Veiled Sun begun, the waters of life in it’s various forms all in this capture. Vapor, Liquid and Solid all co-exist under the moderating winter up here on the high ridges. Phase change occurring live real time in this “Action” photo lolol.

Currently we are loosing snow pack and the ponds are filling. Not all melts as much snow directly sublimates (google this) in this dry climate. Melting of course accounts for much snow pack depletion in the spring.

Here it undergoes a temporary pause on a long trek to the sea. Melt water ponded up in our front yard along it’s normal course through our homestead’s compound. The snow pack preventing normal contours from flowing water to the water ways on the ranch. Remaining still is about a foot of snow covering the ground. This after a long period of 50 degree days in Late February / Early March 2020. We are low on snow this year locally. I’d like to see a few more feet till early May but at 4 inches at a time from 30 degree windless storms. I’m sure I’ll get that wish…. 😜😜👀

Living up on a high ridge mean we often have snow when at lower elevations there is no coverage currently. Drop 500 feet off our plateau to the adjacent lower drainage is instructive to the paucity of accumulated frozen precipitation this year. This situation is what I call mud / ice season, sort of a sub category of white season. Green Season is 2 months away yet. Last freeze is mid-may. The mud effectively keeps me out of the backcountry 😔📷

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

Title: Homestead Reflections Melt Water

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Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

Frosty Frame Backcountry Road
Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

Frosty Frame Backcountry Road 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 6 minutes after sunrise.

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 yellow color cast. Usually this is most obvious on the White projector screen that this snow is. Alpenglow in the main show is bright yellow light and depending on the timeline, changes from pink to yellow shortly after sunrise. . This color cast is not that un 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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

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Echinacea Cone Flower Macro

Echinacea Cone Flower Macro
Echinacea Cone Flower Macro

Echinacea Cone Flower Macro

(Need some Reds and Pinks in our lives once a week. Posted Feb 2020 MidWinter).

We might own nearly a million plants of this species.: Echinacea angustifolia, the narrow-leaved Coneflower on our ranch. They certainly provide the local butterflies a feast during their bloom. This prolific prairie plant is one of the most used and popular herbs worldwide. It has many medicinal benefits. Roots/ upper parts use in extracts, teas, tinctures or tablets make it to the store shelves. There is a veritable arsenal of active compounds in the plant. Studies have attached the use of echinacea to a reduction in inflammation, lower and an improved systemic immunity overall. All availble Over The Counter of course. A good source of “Anti-oxidants”.

There are a few studies showing Echinacea use with a reduction in the likely hood of catching colds . Noted are claims of effects on other viruses. Claims are that it will shorten the duration of a cold 1.5 days. Other say this link is unclear. It is claimed by “test tube studies” to have properties, lending itself to lowering blood sugar level. This might be of interest to type II diabetics. A good bet is claims of relieving anxiety are whispered in the corridors of Walgreens™ nationwide. The anti-Inflammatory properties might be of interest to you osteo-arthritus practitioners out there. You know who you are 😔👀

They are quite a hardy plant living freely out in the backcountry. Widely distributed here in the high country. Ubiquitous anywhere out of the boundaries of our monoculture yards . Some of our gardens have clumps of it blooming in the spring. . Emplaced decades ago in this old homestead we inhabit.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana Borderlands

Title: Echinacea Cone Flower Macro

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Snow Melt Flooding

Snow Melt Flooding
Snow Melt Flooding

Snow Melt Flooding

I live up on the high ridges of the Borderlands. About 300 feet lower from my place, this goes one. We’re all in trouble for floods to reach my door. Our homestead sits at 3700 feet. This flooded spot on the Montana border is 3419 feet above mean sea level. The Lowest spot in Wyoming is 3099 feet above mean sea level on the Belle Fourche River. My communication tower is 4013 feet or about 300 feet above my house. . A lot of water runs past this point in the right season.

This from last year showing the result of a quick warm up in March. The snow pack last year was greater at the same time than this year I observe. Drainage funneling down to choke points of course is a recipe for high water. Upstream here covers an area 50 miles long and 40 miles wide in some places. It’s several thousand square miles in the drainage of the “Little Powder River”. That’s a lot of ground with a couple of feet of snow melted down to 6 inches of well packed firn (granular snow) .

The local term is, “the river is coming down”. Now as a geologist, I think of the river coming down as referring to the water level declining. But this colloquial use means the water level is going up. All that water up stream is “Coming down”. I had never heard before I moved up here. Anyone else use this as a term for rising flood waters?

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

Title: Snow Melt Flooding

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Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands
Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands
Iridescent Clouds Over We

Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

This capture was a scene that we as humans could not have looked into. Our eyes have MUCH more dynamic range than the best cameras. It was so bright it would blind you in short order. The camera however has the ability to shut off light significantly. By properly adjusting your 3 setting options in Manual Mode you can see images like this much more than I used to think.

Years ago I used to think this color in clouds was a rare phenomena. Now I know that I just never saw it because I never looked into the brightness. I believe that iridescent clouds as a phenomena is not that uncommon. We just can’t normally see it for all the glare plus our defensive glance away.

This was indeed a very bright scene. Again I emphasize if I don’t have color and detail in the shadows, the camera couldn’t see it. This is because of the cameras inability to see a great dynamic range as our eyes do. I’ll give the camera credit for the ability to look into the furnace like this. This was a perfect sky for this kind of light sculpting.

The wetlands here are holding this ice in reserve. As it warms in the spring, the water trapped with in will start working it’s way down the Mississippi River. The catfish and what ever else that is living under the foot thick ice here waits for the melt. Everything is on hold till green season.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

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Winter Blues and Granular Snow

Winter Blues and Granular Snow
Winter Blues and Granular Snow

Winter Blues and Granular Snow

Deep Winter up here in the highland ridges of the Wyoming / Montana borderlands is intense. Particularly intense getting up on some of these ridges lolol. We are currently a little low on snow. I’m not going to say something stupid like we need “more snow”. That would be inviting catastrophe lolol. Up here in the hills (versus down in that valley 400 feet lower) is a bit more harsh. I was told when I moved here by the locals that this place was nick named “Little Siberia”.

Geologic Musings.

Siberia eh? While I haven’t found a fossil mammoth on ranch, I did pull a Pleistocene Elk out of the ground. Well the back 1/2 of a 6 foot all at the hip elk with toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the ankle bone etc. All the way to the third vertebra in front of the pelvis. The tail, all the little leg bones were all articulated. It wasn’t in the Hell Creek / Lance formation bedrock but in the relatively loose Pleistocene loess/sands overlaying the Cretaceous bedrock up here. IT was about 10 feet below ground level at it’s location in a deep gully. There are other “more recent” individual bones I’ve found out of the more recent Pleistocene but not many.

The Pleistocene epoch was from 2.6 to about 11,000 years ago when it ended after the last ice age. We were in the Holocene right up until we started making plastics. The first indication of micro-plastics in the geologic records starts the Anthropocene. Epoch. The start of the industrial revolution is technically the start.

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

Title: Winter Blues and Granular Snow

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Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds

Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds
Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds

Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds (A MUST for Full Screen)

Ducks were EVERYWHERE taking off that morning for parts unknown but likely south of here. The Cattle Hang here because the rancher feeds them nearby AND there is liquid water. The fog while freezing is still warmer than the air surrounding this microclimate.

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.

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

Title: Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds

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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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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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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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Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill Trapped Sunset
Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill Trapped Sunset

Windmill weekday, Windmill Junkies Unite. 🤘

I just realized I hadn’t posted a windmill for some time. All you junkies out there might be having a little withdrawal. So I thought I’d throw this in as a post. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill has jumped over the setting sun with intent to keep it under his control. Little does he know that the wise old sun will just sneak out the back door lolol. Just a snippit of the continuing adventures of the “Pete” Brothers for their loyal followers. Don’t let your mother know you look at things like this… Just saying 😜😀

When the air is full of light snow and other ice AND you can see the sun, hang on. You never know what kind of atmospheric effects your going to get. I go up the hill sometime just hoping the sun will come below the snowing cloud deck. With this much moisture in the air, only the red light makes it through all the ice. This was a while ago when we had fresh snow. Currently there is ice everywhere on the ground from a few warm days. Thick crusts with slick surfaces. The footing is treacherous.

We just missed a big storm this week which went to our south and east. I’d like to see some more snow but I suppose I should be careful what I ask for up here. We need some more snow however. Moisture in any form up here is usually a good thing. The timing however in the spring isn’t always good during calving season though 😔

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

Windmill Trapped Sunset

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Wyoming Wind on Ice

Wyoming Wind on Ice
Wyoming Wind on Ice

Wyoming Wind on Ice

Good New Years Morning to all. Welcome 2020. It’s going to be an interesting year.

On this wonderful morning I noticed the breeze here had left some physical evidence of it’s direction and magnitude. The sunrise off frame was hard to ignore but I got distracted. The rustic nature of this metal building was hard to ignore in this light. The winds the day before while the sun was warming the ice on the roof. Icicles grow when the air is cold but the roof is warm either from within or from without. I can see clearly that the wind was not only steady but quite cold. The sun at 4000 feet is still amazingly strong even in mid-winter. Day time melting or even “Sublimation” (your google word of the day) occurs. These sun induced phase changes from snow in an of themselves will ablate the snow cover significantly during just a short time.

The old building tells many stories. Several generations of additions/ are apparent. The weather has taken it’s toll on the windows. It’s a good thing on a ranch to have a few extra gates sitting around. Many things have been stored within this shelter on the prairie. This abandoned building stands alone against the elements certainly here in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana. 4000 foot in elevation, NO trees around it, nothing to block the winds across the plains. Who knows what this building has seen. No one is telling. 🤔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wyoming Wind on Ice

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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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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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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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Reflections: Ice Covered Night

Reflections: Ice Covered Night
Reflections: Ice Covered Night

Reflections: Ice Covered Night

It was around 11pm and my Mastiff’s wanted out. It was the beginning of a 24 hour snow but it was still rain at this point. The drizzle covered anything exposed. That is a 400 watt LED stadium light. It is as bright as the sun versus the total black here in the backcountry. According to nasa, when it’s dark here, it’s as dark as the north Atlantic Ocean. I can see lights effecting the sky from towns hundreds of miles away. Particularly if I go up high and look around. (Billings, Gillette, Sheridan for starters). You can’t see the actual city lights but you do see the glow in the sky on the horizon. The cities light pollute the local “seeing” and not at all here, 70 miles from the nearest town.

I don’t do much dark night photography these days. I’m not sure why but I do need some sleep sometimes.

Photographic Musings:

I did this without a tripod as I was only hunting for the highlights in this image.. Negative space here is as important in the composition. I wanted to razor edge the settings. So you need light in the camera AND a fairly deep focus. Compromise. ISO 1000 for sure. (or a tripod) and minimum handheld shutter speed of 1/50th. That only leaves f-stop to set. . If your far enough away, you’ll have some leeway in f-stop. F-stop primarily going to be set low numbers here to gather light, damn the reduced focus depth of field as a result of the low f-stop setting.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Reflections: Ice Covered Night

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Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show
Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show is that moment in space and time when the red light of the ice filtered morning sun, touches the far mountains. As far as backshows go, this is a good example of that variety of Alpenglow. (Belt of Venus). The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. The low angle sunlight is red due to the longer wavelengths being able to penetrate the haze better.

The best Alpenglow displays are early winter based on my experience. Atmospheric ice requires temps obviously below freezing and at 4000 feet in elevation, that isn’t that hard to do. I’ve seen good Alpenglow mid-summer. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. When the sunlight is just touching the hills in the distance, I am in the shade of the ridge 10 miles distant from my perspective. Topography allows some interesting opportunities.

I strongly recommend googling “Belt of Venus” to further your knowledge of this wonderful phenomena. Often the sunward side of the sky show your watching isn’t the highlight (pun intended) of the moment. Make sure you turn around and check the sky. This was easy as I was still in the shade and waiting for the sun to come up over that ridge behind my position. I had a three mile drive on two track roads to get to this location. My jeep has no trouble on these old cow trails. (Except it beats me up).

Awaiting a new ride. According to the Ford Website, the 2020 Ford Truck is “In Production” at the moment being assembled. The last truck I purchased new was in 1999.

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

Title “Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show”.

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Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever
Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

Sun pillars are shafts of light. Ice reflected spotlights as it were shooting generally 90 degrees up or down to the horizon. This is BY FAR the tallest pillar I’ve ever seen.

I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere. A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is REALLY big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about 1/2 again the angle than your normal vision at 55mm.

The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. Big oriented plates of ice at a high angle were required for this particular phenomena. The crystals are all flat 6 sided plates that fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that 5-10 degrees tall is not unusual. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).

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

Title: Biggest Sun Pillar Ever

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Echinacea on Ice

Echinacea on Ice
Echinacea on Ice

Echinacea on Ice

This silhouette on ice is in full disclose a left/right mirror of the left side of this flower head. Limited by reality I am not within my digital darkroom. I took the silhouette against this wonderful orange Alpenglow sky. The seed head hides the sun totally.

As I said this is ART. IT looked strangely incomplete and unbalanced. I simply mirrored the other side to make an ice world of reflections on the seed head. There is a cross and some face figures inside of the dark area if you are prone to seeing anthropomorphic images in random data. (seeing faces in clouds etc). ART yes but just the totality of the image. Not the left half… When I combined the left 1/2 of the image with it’s mirror was the moment art was committed.

Sun reflections through the ice are in the dozens in this capture . I can’t imagine a better cellulose filter to reduce the light of that bright bright sun . Be still my hear as I definitely like highlights and miniature sun images lol. My cameras work best with moderate amounts of light. Using natural filters like this seed pod is a favorite topic of mine. Conveniently there was ice the night before 😃📷 Without that seed pod in the way, the sun would have overpowered the camera at the settings I used for this capture.

Note: Will all the photorealism I do, if I don’t play a little now and then, I start making mistakes.

2×3 Aspect to 36 inches wide

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Echinacea on Ice

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Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice

Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice
Coyote Prowling on Ice

Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice is an unexpected Game Trail Camera Capture. I have 4 good shots of this guy walking by here on 4 different days. (so far).

There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans.

This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀. I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.

I’ve always thought that Coyotes were “Wiley”. Hunting on thin Ice isn’t the brightest things I’ve ever seen.. This particular lake isn’t frozen at all at the moment as I type this…. That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.

I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks.

2×3 aspect up to 36 inches wide.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice

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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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Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset

Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset
Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset

Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset is a capture miles into the wilderness of the Wyoming/Montana border lands. I am always looking for frames and compositions, play of light and shadows.

The pine trees were coated with a thin layer of ice on the windward side and ALL the grass was coated. I found a spot where the light was funneling in through that break in the trees. The Sky was incredible but alas this kind of show is fleeting. I only have a few minutes before it darkens up and everything goes to bed for the night.

Many deer bed down on this ridge and I’m always walking upon their “melted” spots in the snow along the rim of the hill. They usually are bedded on the down wind side of the hill. I’m thinking I need a game trail camera or two down in those bedding spots. Sunsets like this don’t happen every day, some are boring, some are clear sky but now and again, I get lucky. The skyshow turns on and I get a few minutes to work intensively. Lots of operational tempo ongoing during that final 15 minutes of the horizon rising to the sun to cover it.

The show is not over usually with the sunset. But it is hard to predict what will happen to any particular sky. I try my best, I’ve come home before with a WONDERFUL twilight show that suddenly developed while I was coming off the ridge lolol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset.