This one almost slipped through my fingers. I had it finished about 3 weeks ago and had positioned it for publishing. It fell through the cracks. Yup, we’ve had smoke for roughly the last month. So if you think I’ve published a LOT of smokey scenes lately you are correct. The color making it through the Pall is unparalleled in my experience. Every terminator crossing of late has been smoked to various degrees. This year certainly has had some highlights.
The fence line on the right is the Wyoming/Montana border. Exactly 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator at 45 degrees north latitude. Both states are in the photos. I’m often in one state or the other taking captures across that imaginary line. We are actually only a hundred miles from the exact geographic center of North America just over in South Dakota. It’s fairly hard to get further from fresh ocean seafood. It’s the one thing I miss living up here. The Red Lobster in Rapid City is a supply chain miracle lolol.
I am standing right under the Blue Herons nesting/rookery here on ranch. The line of Cottonwoods on the dam here provide them a high mostly covered nesting site. It was a tough year weather wise on them with a wind storm blowing down several nests. Then the big hail storm….. Then another wind storm….. I suspect they will be back.
Random things happen all the time. Who would have thought I’d come upon two yearlings (1.5 year old buck anyway) playing hide and seek in the woods. They both carefully backed in behind the old pine to hide from me… Not seeing each other figured they were safe… What happened after this I leave to your imagination but I suspect someone or both got a startle when they bumped. I know but I’m not telling 🙂 I unfortunately did not get much more on camera as they weren’t cooperating with my mental wishes.
Back to my normal programming.
Well the twilight was spectacular anyway as par for the course of late. Magnificent skies are the rule rather than the exception when wispy clouds are overhead and there is a lot of smoke in the air. Long traveled sunshine colored the clouds with only the finest of displays that night.
Finding two deer on a ridge in front of the show was cool. Having them pose for me, priceless. The two caught in my cameras stare were frozen in time. Click. Who can argue with photographic evidence of hide and seek play lolol.
If you stay under a large Mesocyclone long enough, your going to see some interesting things. This bolt was just ahead of a large rain shaft as the storm moved right to left. The dog leg in the precipitation shaft show a pretty huge change of direction. Winds can do very unusual things around these monster clouds. The light environment was basically pitch black post sunset but the flash bulb was adequate to the chore. I have to use a 25 second time exposure to do this kind of work. Wind is never an asset in that work. 🙂
The reason I like this is you can see the point of impact. It hit what I call “ridge 2” about 3 miles to my south of my position. I’m sure it hit a tree seeing the sparks. Fortunately it did rain which would put out any grass fires. I have seen trees burn for days internally after a strike. I have put out several of them. You could pour 1000 gallons of water on a burning tree and not put it out. It usually is nessary to tear it up to really put out an internally burning Pine tree. Most of the time the lighting runs down the outer bark blowing away chunks of the tree in the process. I see a LOT of lightning scars on the old growth timber along the ridge lines. Most trees survive the strikes. Some certainly don’t….
Those with Pareidolia (seeing faces in random scenes / patterns ish), will have a big smile from this one. I saw this cloud band and moved a mile to line this up just with this saddle lol. The outcome was as expected. The big smile above has a guys face on the right side too. It reminds me of the T-shirt “Forrest Gump” gave to the guy while running. He got splattered with Shi* running and wiped off with a t-shirt handing it to the soon to be seller of the “Shi* Happens” emoticon eventually lol. Epic movie…
The weather system that donated this to me was quite a doozy. This was early in that timeline and we were this dark around 6pm. Well before sunset. Having said that it was dark as heck where I was. A big down draft and associated hail shaft was incoming. I was trying to get out of the way. Pausing a few seconds to line this up and take the image, I moved out. “Clever Girl” purrs when the turbo’s kick in. 45 mph speed limit on the backcountry gravel. You definitely take your life in your hands exceeding the speed limit much up here. I’ve seen Deer and Pronghorn appear out of nowhere right in front of your rig. Never had a speeding ticket or a moving violation in my life. But I’ve smacked into few animals against my will.
So the storm chased me for a change and eventually caught me on the edge of the hail shaft. I was definitely dumped on by marble sized hail shortly after this capture. Probably 2 inches of rain resulting in all the drainages to earn their ephemeral ranking.
The Amount of Smoke in the air should not be underestimated here. When I get stepped gradients around the sun, there is literally a visual tunnel / window your looking at suspended in the sky. LOTS of Smoke… This is the scene exactly as I saw it. The colors are spot on. It shows the prodigious accumulated plume from of hundreds of forest fires to our west all the way to the Pacific Coast. The southwest/west is in a Mega-drought of sorts and has been for two decades. Megadroughts happen, and have happened several times in the past. This all before man became responsible for climate.
Researchers in the “southwest” compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other historic drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record. I haven’t read this study personally but this is from the abstract.
The paper, presented in the journal “Science” reveals the south-western US has been suffering from a 20-year “megadrought” – a period of very severe aridity that is starving rivers, stoking fires, emptying reservoirs and constraining water supplies to the municipalities of the region. Explosive Population growth and river diversion for agriculture as well as human use certainly looks to be a future problem. Millions depend on rainfall in the South Western United States.
Way up in northeastern Wyoming, our ranch is mid-continent 100 miles from the geographic center of North America. None the less the Drought monitor map has tongues reaching right up from the Southwest to this corner of Wyoming. We are definitely “enjoying” a serious lack of precipitation. Unless a Mesocyclone or two happened to run directly over you this summer. You’ve had a rough year growing grass. (our main crop).
This is the Sun…not the Moon. During the forest fire smoke Month of August 2020, I had “SOME” opportunity to play with the subdued / occluded sun under otherwise clear skies. Of course the smoke moderated the intensity of the light. That REALLY helped with the technical issues of taking a blurred windmill against a still very bright object. It’s easier to do with lens filters on the camera (Neutral Density) but I don’t use anything in front of my lenses 99.9 percent of the time. This is raw in the camera stuff.
There is a lens artifact in the sail of the windmill pointing from the sun to towards the center of the spinning dish. I left it in the image as I liked it lol. Lens artifacts are a result of light bouncing around inside the lens. Usually a lot of light. I’ve fought them before being too intense glaring out the whole image. The subdued sun makes all this possible.
The lighting through this smoke pall reminds me seriously of the total eclipse a few years back. I watched that total eclipse in Douglas Wyoming. There was an odd shading at first followed by a progressive “dusky” feeling. Life under this pall beside the breathing issues, is very similar to that odd eclipselighting both in illumination value and overall feeling.
The Smoke images keep coming up to bat. I get up hours before sunrise as I don’t need a lot of sleep. I typically nap most days to catch up. It’s what you have to do photographically working both sunrise and sunset in the summer. So with all the smoke from western forest fires I was assured colorful horizon crossings. I still walk out a few times before I head out to check the sunrise lighting. The hail storm in July KILLED my sunrise camera which see’s the eastern horizon. I can’t see the horizon from my homestead. So it’s a lot of instinct on whether to go out for several hours or not. If I go out in the morning, I’m making use of what light is worthy of your time and mine.
So the smoke is a very effective light filter here letting in this peach flavored light during a cloud banded sunrise. I pay very close attention to the scene as I take it to reproduce it effectively. The landscape detail was recovered in the digital darkroom as as a matter or course, I expose only the highlights correctly. Usually that leaves a very dark or silhouette landscape. This halfie (rare for me) was such a good landscape ladder that I thought it warranted a little extra room. Thusly framed the composition accordingly. Most of my compositions are in the camera. Rarely do I crop to any significant degree in the digital darkroom.
There are more smokey sunrise images in my “to finish folder”. Perhaps a dozen I really like. The will slowly mingle into my workflow as I get to them.
It had just hailed about an inch of marble sized ice stones from the sky. Heavy rain accompanied the hail shafts. This is a remote meadow near the Montana / Wyoming border. A series of large storms moved through the area. It’s the heaviest rain I’ve personally been in all year. I’m sure it dumped 2 inches of water plus the hail. ALL the local stream were running which is a rare event. I don’t think this particular drenching under this Mesocyclone was particularly unusual but for the drenching. I’ve seen 4 inches and hour before and this one only gave us a couple of inches in the 1/2 hour it lasted.
So all this hail ice is laying covering the surface of the ground up the hill. The sun hits it, evaporation and sublimation (google the latter) occurs and a cloud of cold saturated air off the ice flows down hill like so much water. It ran in rivers from every hill to every adjacent low area in this valley. This is the fog lake resultant in a wide low pasture being fed by dozens of smaller fog rivulets. The low angle lighting adding to the frames unusual nature. Oh yeah, there’s a rainbow up there too lol.
Milling about, generally moving a bit to the north, the group was grazing a little. generally they were uneasy but I don’t think it was me they were upset about. I find that groups of these guys are the definition of jumpy lol. This perspective is through a long lens camera sideways. I’m well outside their “line in the sand” that get’s them nervous. I was stopped, engine off. Watching them for about 5 minutes at this point. It was more like they were waiting for something to happen. Maybe me moving on… hard to know.
That last ridge is known as “The Red Hills”. This was taken a few weeks ago as this posts. Still at the very beginning of some lighter smokey days. It got WAY worse later the next day. The normally crystal clear view to the “Red Hill’ turned to haze by the massive fires out west.
Visibility was 10 miles tonight as I worked the smokey sunset again driving ridges in the backcountry. It’s getting close to dense fog kind of visual occlusion as I type this. The air is just plain unhealthy. I’m not sure if “Clever Girl” even likes it. Might have to change the air filter sooner driving around in this forest fire soup. The sun disappeared tonight long before it hit the horizon. The surface smoke totally obscuring the solar disk. It was last seen around “Sneaky Pete” tonight.
Of course this is very dark. It looked like a refrigerator bulb across the yard. ONLY the red through yellow wavelengths were making it. Not many of those either. This reminded me of the Eclipse we witnessed down at Douglas Wyoming a few years back. The way the subdued lighting had everything awake but on hold. Almost like a pause before the curtain opens for the screen play to follow.
We’ve had smoke for two weeks now and I’ve worked every terminator crossing (look that up if you don’t know it) during that interval. Except this AM as I type this. A small cloud system came in and blocked my eastern view with nothing but a gray slate screen. Sort of like the internet was down in the denial. I was so used to getting up and about, shock to my system…. The nights are very short in the summer. It’s a good thing I don’t need much more than 4 hours of sleep. (as long as I get a nap during the day lol).
I’ve spent a good deal of time doing photography these days. This intense a smoke pall for so long is fortunately a rare event this severe. This plume(s) is equal or in excess of any I’ve experienced in my 20 years living in Wyotana. It’s been an interesting “disaster” year all around now with twin hurricanes landfalling on the Gulf Coast. I did some post-graduate marine biology teaching down at the Gulf Coast Marine Lab in Ocean Springs Mississippi. Those guy are getting clobbered as I type this. (Shaking head side to side).
Having unhealthy levels of forest fire smoke in the air isn’t a good thing generally. EXCEPT for the effect it has on light. I have been working every sunset and sunrise with a “box-o-cameras” since the smoke pall started a week ago. Taken 6 days ago.. (my current click to publish interval) This is one of the first of the SMOKEY timeline to make it’s way to your computer via a whole host of intermediate steps lol. I’d take a photo of a non-smokey sky but I’ve seen things this week that are new to me. That’s saying something as I do this a bit lolol. This is very hard core pollution by mother nature.
The stand of old growth trees remembers the smell in the air from fires to the west. During the 1930’s, this stand survived the “Fire that burned till the snows fell” up in this country. All around this area lie old snags that have not decayed in the intervening 90 years. The area between there and where I stand used to all be heavy pine forested before that fire. Remnants of trunks are everywhere. One has to be careful driving off trail here (private land all). Your likely to take out suspension driving in high grass. A low stump can make you walk miles back to the house lolol. (well there is the radio)…
The old growth trees all have lost their bottom branches. It’s hard to burn those upper branches with such a long trunk above the grass fires.
Ranch Life is full of spur of the moment photo opportunities. Meanwhile down in the barnyard, after the chickens and ducks have had their fill of the grain I reluctantly give them. It was early smokey morning red light that day. The sun was fairly high just emerging from the smoke pall that morning..
I hate to feed yard birds too much so they will hunt bugs (their job). This image of course are the wildling beggars that come in from all over every morning to clean up the mess left behind by the domestics.
I have never caught 5 Meadowlarks all flying in the same frame. (I’ve tried). The “one” on the left is actually two. There are some Juvenile Red Wing Blackbirds about with one dead center flying. All mixed with adult Red Wings… It was a feast for the wild birds short on grain in this drought year plus water is 50 feet away. I understand why they show up here. My domestic birds have been fed here for 15 years every day. I suppose that sets up a series of expectation by local wildlife. Particularly that which can fly over our deer resistant fences.
The barnyard is fenced in well. We mostly keep predators out with low electric wires. Our cats go through it but they have lived here for years. They know the best places.
Good Morning… Right at the crack of dawn, all the colors of this land are popping. From the grey of the Bentonitic soil under a thin coating of grass in front. To the unique blue of the sage brush 50 yards out. Sage being one of the most important keys I use to match camera color values versus reality. I pay very close attention to the hues of the grass in a particular light. Getting colors as rich as this is a matter of timing. As the horizon falls away enough to expose the sun (we’re the ones that are spinning remember), the light was perfect. A reasonably balance of the rainbow was just starting to appear. I find in Twilight captures, there is perfect time for this. A few minutes on either side and the light is gone or not there yet.
Knowing when to leave a scene is a developed skill. I could click away at this sky but it’s going to wash out in seconds from the fully engaged glare of our sun. This is the time when I turn around to check out the back show in the skies over my shoulder here. This was a complex weather system involving some sporty weather the evening before. It’s usually a good bet the next morning after storms move though.
Sometimes it takes me a while to get to some of these backcountry locations I shoot mornings from. I can’t see the eastern horizon from my homestead so travel is always involved. Sunsets are way easier lol. I can work from my porch sometimes, driveway others lol. This was about a mile east but 400 feet higher than my driveway. The ridges here are all more or less parallel to one another in this upper drainage. Having said that we are at 4000 feet roughly which is LOW in Wyotana. The LOWEST spot in Wyoming is 3099 feet not far from here. The LOWEST topography in Montana is 1820 feet. 🤔
If you don’t think one is dangerous and the other isn’t, you need to live up here a while. It would change your opinion. Two things that can mess up your day are in this image lol. You might have to look closer to see the 5 deer and one bedded Pronghorn. The thunderhead (Mesocyclone) Anvil is about 80 miles distant from the Bull. The sub-irrigated field still green even this late in the year.
Bulls are of course known to be temper-mental. I find generally they are lazy unless there is a Cow involved. In which case 1800 pounds of moving muscle on the hoof is a lot of hamburger to flip on the grill. This is the sized animal that if it decides to screw with you, your best bet is to start turning faster than he can lol. It’s your only hope lol. Being on a good cattle horse is a whole different experience of course.
The Huge Mesocyclone off in the distance is known to be temper-mental. Their bad behavior is due to the heating of the land by the sun during the day. The rising warm humid ground air coming into contact with cooler air aloft causing cloud growth. Like the bull, you can never predict what they are going to do.
Both will run right over you if you get in their way :(.
Watching the Photographer take a photo of the landscape, these two Mule Deer Doe’s were minding their own business. I come along and interrupt their grazing for a minute. Not my intent of course since I was minding my own business too. Driving in the backcountry I randomly run into small groups of creatures great and small. This time, I was more interested in the long landscape in front of me. But consider them and the tree they bracket, as a nice lower border to this composition. Bonus lol. This was a 10 layer landscape ladder just laid out for my enjoyment and now hopefully yours.
“Landscape ladders” are such captures with layer after layer of different color/texture/distance or topography. It’s easy to find a lot of intersecting angles in a landscape but layer on top of layer is desirable to me anyway lol. Of course this is a “Close / Far perspective taken
Late day Golden Hour Lighting predictably gave this image a markedly red colorcast as was true to the scene. I take great care to get the main sun colors properly weighted toward the longer wavelengths when appropriate. I’ve more or less categorized they types of evening light in my own head how. It is just a matter of verbalizing it now lol. I find that knowing and teaching are two different animals.
The August Full Moon Setting over two ridges and a cloud band. I’m low down in the drainage looking upward over parallel ridges. The first a mile out. The second ridge is about 7 miles out with the cloud bank further down range. The moon is a bit further out there past that. So thus a 4 layers landscape. That cloud bank was rising rapidly to cover the moons face.
The very early daylight or late twilight depending on which second this was taken. Very close to sunrise. This was the last image from this timeline. As soon as the clouds rose to cover the moons face, I was done. IT was a very subdued color with an obvious bias toward a red colorcast. All of the color on the clouds also hitting the light parts of the landscapes in the foreground. To the best of my ability, this is exactly as I saw it. Such subtle tones are rare at sunrise or sunset where intensity is usually the result. Only during twilight or smokey days do I see such lighting.
This one was a tough one to get right. As an avowed photorealist, I try REALLY hard to reproduce here the scene I saw there. The scene was somewhat dark as the sun was Just being exposed by the falling horizon. A slight ridge to the east blocks out the earliest light, I was in shadow taking the photos being a LOT lower than that far butte.
Some of the coolest pink lighting the next morning after the same color pink moon 7. The same conditions filtering the light occurred in the same air mass as the night before for. I noted the unusual pink color in a recent post with that colored moon rising. Next morning, there it was again. This is not the first time I’ve seen the same atmospheric conditions cause similar photographs from evening to the next morning. This pink that is literally touching the horizon closely matches the color of moon in that timeline the previous night. I will never forget that color. Surprised me it did lol.
To facilitate a long dark drive up on the ridges to get a good view of the east horizon, I have to prepare and travel early. I generally do not work perfectly clear sky sunrises but I can see colors like this very early. The recent hail storm messed up my sunrise camera beyond repair. It totally destroyed it’s protective housing. Then it got flooded. . A replacement for it and a few others is yet to be ordered. I now have some insurance money to replace that tool in my tool chest. It enables me to see over “Ridge One” before sunrise and get a better idea on whether to go our or now. It’s a fairly high priority item for me to work on after all the damage as I used to use it literally every morning.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana) (The left side of the photo is Montana, the right side is Wyoming).
When one of these Mesocylcones moves over you, the understanding of how insignificant our concerns are compared to the scale of a storm such as this. This storm was 80 miles to our north and certainly covered parts of 3 states. I’m taking the photo from Wyoming looking northeast toward Ekalaka Montana not far from the triple border area of Montana/South Dakota/North Dakota.. That is very close to the exact geographic center of the North American Continent coincidentally.🤔 (Factoid out of the blue).
I had followed this storm around a while working the light here just as the last gasps of the light of day skiffs off the hill tops. A complex cloud system 360 degrees surrounding me made for an interesting evening. Focusing here on the “backshow” of the main show over my left shoulder. Looking here to the northeast near Rockypoint Wyoming. I’m pretty sure a lot of people saw this show about 10 days before this posts. My current time from click to publishing is around that interval this summer.
I photograph a lot of weather systems these days. I couldn’t ask for a better time of day with the lighting that night. Note the top of the storm is white with blue sky. That is unfiltered light. The lower part of the storm is illuminated by the same red light skiffing off the hilltops. The late “Golden Hour” red colorcast is related to the “Belt of Venus” alpenglow colors but the cloud is the projecting screen. In true “Belt of Venus” colorcast the projector screen is ice in the atmosphere not clouds. It’s the same type of light though, all filtered of it’s shorter wavelengths of indio blue and green. Only orange through red survive to be reflected to my lenses. The colors here are true to the scene I saw. It got a LOT redder later in this timeline. The lower in the cloud, the longer through the atmosphere the light had to travel. Stay tuned for those later images. Brilliant orange stuff… 📷
Location: The Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming, 10 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
When looking at a bright Crimson Sunset, one has to take it in perspective. Look how large the sun is relative to how you normally see it. This is zoomed WAY into just a little small area of the sky. Which by the way, is a big area of sky if you were out there under it lolol. So perspective is important to understanding these images. Hold your thumb out at an arms length toward the horizon. Your thumb would cover this entire frame. Postage stamp sized at arm’s length.
Skies banded are best. Or something close to best. I’m all about color, cloud and landscape gradients. I chase them incessantly. Both in the real world and in my dreams. The perfect banded sunset would be a bucket list item. The term perfect of course is up for debate.
You couldn’t look at this for more than a glance. The mirrorless cameras looks well into the bright Not as well into the dark without a time exposure. I think the same is true of the human mind.🤔
Our eyes however aren’t good at the really dark or really bright either. They are generalists sensors we use to deal with most of the events in our world. Apparently there was no survival benefit in our developmental past to look directly at the sun. This is why we invented hats with brims and sunglasses. Now why we don’t have night vision like canids or feline is a good question. In a weapons race, humans gave up an edge there to be functional generalists. 📷
Those of us that see images in clouds might pay attention to this wonderful western Sunset. A lamb is passing under the “Eye of Sauron” sunset. Wyotana (both states are in the photo) has some very impressive sky shows. I work over 400 of them a year and have for several years now. Having seen many of them gives me an interesting perspective that few having on terminator crossings. (Look it up on Google if you don’t know).
The terminator moves over us at 1000 mph twice per day. (The world is 24,960 miles in circumference) It takes 24 hours for one full rotation. That’s roughly 1000 mph that we are traveling in a fairly tight circle of 6917 miles in diameter. Traveling so fast in a circle it’s amazing we don’t fly off this big ball. There has to be SOME outward force eh? lolol.
This is a view west across the Little Powder River Valley from up on the west side of the Pass to Rockypoint Wyoming on Trail Creek Road. It’s 40 miles to the mountain ridges in the distance. There is a lot to be said for gaining elevation. This is about 10 miles from my homestead and roughly 3 miles south of Montana where I stand.
It’s amazing how the sky at the top can still be blue with the alpenglow popping out in the lower atmosphere. The light bathing those high clouds is still blue and unfiltered by the low/thick atmosphere. IT’s a classic Rule of thirds color ladder too lol. Laid out like a tic tac toe game. Just super-impose the game over the image to see what I mean. 📸
I like to end most days with a photo of a sunset. This is from about 10 days before the image actually publishes on line. I am currently that far ahead in setting up my post. I hope you enjoy the evening. Be safe all.
Well if you see figures/shapes/forms in clouds, this image is fodder for your imagination. I’ve got several anthropomorphic figures floating around in my head from this image. I saw it at the time and thought it worthy of your time. Primarily I can imagine a woman on her elbows crawling but you might go with a lamb or some other figure. Whats nifty about this tendency is that no one really constructs the same vision inside their head. The next person is always going to see something different. The snake eye in the upper right just caught my eye too. Maybe it’s a rabbit: lolol.
This is a Photo taken across the 40 miles of the Little Powder River Valley from Wyoming into Montana. I’m sitting on the west side of the pass on Trail Creek Road in Wyoming. The border is 4 miles to my right.
What a long afternoon of photography this day ended with. Near the end of this timeline, I had been out for 3 hours following a Mesocyclone across the landscape. No rainbows this day though. Only lightning and serious weather to deal with to our south. The sun stayed away till the end.
Location: The Pass on Trail Creek Road To Rockypoint Wyoming USA.
Finding this landscape was a long ride. Getting up these ridges can be a chore, other places you can drive right up. It’s all about the perspective of the height of the hill. The 40+ miles wide Little Powder River valley is off in the distance. The Wyoming / Montana border is between myself and the sun at the moment. Both states being in the photo. The Wyotana area has it’s own character with a mixing of the two state cultures. No difference across the line.
The land is big and unpopulated here. An average of a little over 1 person a square mile I believe is about right. I seldom see lights other than car lights across a valley this wide. Pole lights are few and far in between. I thought the reflective lakes were a nice touch of mother nature to throw into this. Those are both spring fed artesian lakes. My ranch mostly covers the ridge right of the right lake. This location is about 300 feet higher than my ranch’s average altitude. I have a hill that is 50 feet lower than this spot but the view is entirely different as you might suspect lol.
I thought I’d end the day with an end of the day image. This was just about the last image I took that timeline. That was the end of a 3 hour photo session on the backroads of Wyotana.
I worked the storm that led to this photo for almost 3 hours. “Devils Tower” here is Hail Covered White. This was taken about 10 days ago when Crook County Wyoming made national News with it’s weather. I doubt more than a few dozen people saw this phenomena from this direction or at all… Sun only lit it up for a few minutes while I was working this storm over volcanic neck complex with several long lenses. I have never seen the Tower covered in hail before. I believe this is as white as I’ve ever seen it. The storm that dropped all this ice clearly visible on the three Missouri Buttes too was a big one. It ran east to west about 20 miles south of where I was observing it from.
I’m just starting to work this timeline finishing the images and writing appropriate narratives for each. Lots of lightning captures from this storm. This capture is at the end of the timeline.
Remember these posts are all book pages in my eventual coffee table book. Currently it’s over 1800 pages long about life and times up here in Wyotana. Admittedly the tower and the Buttes are all Wyoming. I’m standing about 4 miles south of Montana in northernmost Wyoming. I consider about 10 miles either side of the border (Wyotana).
Bear in mind this in early August, not winter. It was 80 degrees when I took this. An ice covered national monument is always an interesting image I think lolol. At the time I actually said “WoW out loud. Slathered with hail appears to be the towers fate . I hope no one was on the trail walking around it. If so they saw it up close and personal. All the while “slathered” too lol.. Hopefully no one was hurt. Hostile Environment sometimes up here. 📷
Location Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming, Trail Creek Road, Campbell County Wyoming.
Setting is the Trail Creek Drainage, 3700 feet elevation, grasslands with trees around the homesteads (ranch headquarters). Small ranches are 5 or so square miles with big ranches being 100 square miles in this region. Mixed terrain, grassland, woodland, river and lakes. A bit dry at 14 inches a year precipitation. 45 degrees north latitude or there about. Cattle Country big time with genuine lifetime long cowboys about with their stock trailers behind their pickups.
Ranches in this country have unusual things about their back yard. Using a long telephoto I crushed distance here. The homestead is about 2 miles distant from my camera. The Pronghorn Herd was about 1/2 of a mile out. This small gathering of Yard ornaments is a mixed batch. Fawns and Doe Pronghorn mix it up with the buck around somewhere grazing. He keeps them in line more or less until someone “more deserving” comes along for the job. They didn’t care about me. I was way outside their red line. They are jumpier as a group than they are singly by far.
The old Homestead has been remodeled and is very nice now. The original owner that lived there for decades just recently passed to an overlook position up on high. Loads of stories about that cowboy. He actually touched my son’s back with a brand by accident. It left a mark. Brandings get interesting sometimes lol. The wheel keeps spinning.
The folks running the place now store a “bit” of hay about as many cattle winter over on this range and get fed nearby. Bales are always of interest to local wildlife from small rodents to the Raptors and Canids that feed on them. I’ve seen numerous Red Fox around Hay Stacks in the past hunting mice. I could never sneak on on them though. They want nothing to do with a vehicle. You MIGHT get a long distance photo of a tail running away if your quick. Photographers that get eyebrow close fox photos have my respect lolol. (you know who you are 😜 )
Still early before sunrise. The pink clouds in the distance distract from the briefness of the moons remaining time aloft this morning. Going down….. My intent was to photograph this wonderful scene with the moon much lower. I decided to take this image as that misty ground haze would totally obscure the lunar disk before it touches down. (it did). The horizon rising to meet it’s apparent descent. As the earth rotates inexorably in harmony with the cosmic clockwork of the universe.
This old working ranch barn is well maintained and fairly original to it’s early design (in this country). Ranches here were settled around 1900. There were cattle drives though this country earlier than that. This area opened up when various land grant programs from the government. Dozens of families moved up into sod houses in the area. They made the paths, figured out how to get water, did some fencing with posts they cut. This area was opened up by horses pulling wagons for decades. It’s a long way to town from here. (Gillette). Probably a 4 or 5 day round trip for supplies at first. Camping on the trail was the rule of the day.
This structure is on the historic Parks Ranch to which we are a neighbor. The Parks were a class act around 1900 (and later). Taken around 5:30 AM that morning. Getting light but still twilight “Belt of Venus pink back lighting.
Meanwhile out on the grassy prairie…. with a view… the 30 mile distance to the Red Hills looks crushed to just a few miles by the telephoto “distance effect”. I’ve always said that telephoto lenses “CRUSH” perspective. It certainly does here. From where I stand. There are 5 ridges (drainages) between that “tallest” ridge in the distance. The perspective here is misleading though.
The 3700 feet elevation I’m standing at is right at the same height as the lowest saddle between the big peaks in the distance. (furthest ridge. The ground I’m standing on is sloping downward about 400 feet over the next 10 miles to the Little Powder River valley. The big ridge? I wonder Why it’s called the “Red Hills”. It might be their generally brownish red color certainly. I’ve seen it scarlet in the red tinted morning light at times.
Mostly this red is from an abundance of generally reddish “Clinker” rock. Clinker is natures ceramic. It is formed at the boundaries of underground coal seam fires. The century’s long burn fires the coals surrounding clay layers into a porous ceramic. Lewis and Clark thought it volcanic in origin. They were wrong on that one. Oh the wonders they experienced. I believe Jefferson enabled that group. If you don’t know the story, it’s well worth googling. History in general is valuable to understand so as not to repeat it’s mistakes.
This is a reasonable gathering of Pronghorn for this early in the season. They have their reasons I suspect. Oh wait, rut is slowly building. There is already a lot of banter going on within the herds. To this day I have not been able to work myself into the middle of a wild Pronghorn herd of this size. Deer yes, Pronghorn ….. no ☹️ . I’ve been close but never IN the herd surrounded by the animals doing natural things. I think they are collectively more paranoid than individually.
This is an unusual capture of this Pronghorn Buck was relaxed so much. He bedded down as I was machine gunning his movements with a very fast camera. Rapid fire pictures are something I do from time to time. Picking and choosing shots is tricky and you do miss things now and then lol. I’d way prefer to “nuke em’ from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”. (Classic Reference”). Rapid fire cameras that can take 50 high resolution photos in just a few seconds are miracles of technology. They do use up some disc space though lol.
Nice Horns ! This Young buck is still growing his horns larger even this late in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. All others don’t lol. They shed that sheath yearly. I seldom find them… They don’t shed them here, they migrate south and drop them in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers are made of bone. Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . The horn composed of a slender/flattened blade of bone grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. Retained the core is. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter.
I figure as a landscape artist, I better capture one now and then. Even better present it here for your consideration. Thank you for your time this early morning. Enjoy the coffee
Have you ever taken a photo of just that certain “Golden Hour” light only to have it turn out perfect? Me neither lolol. Fortunately I have some basic knowledge of the digital dark room to get it pretty close to how I remember the moment. This image is very close to the original scene. Being a photorealist with OCD has its high AND low points lolol. The hardest part for me is getting the sage brush the right color. It has an unusual bluish hue that is definitely a unique shade.
The Sun here I intentionally composed into the Pine Tree to help filter out some of the unwanted light. Too hard to get this accurate color wash with such a bright light to compensate for. This let me focus more on the wonderful light that was illuminating the brown grass tops. There were many colors of green in the real scene that are all represented here. The Robins Egg Sky true to the moment. The white clouds at top frame still bathed in the white light of the sun unfettered by very much atmosphere up so high. The sun setting color gradient not as obvious unless you understand how and why these various colors are reflected to my lens.
From early June 2020 when it was still a little green…
During those 2 days a month that I get to have both the full Moon with the Sun coterminously in the sky, I “work” them photographically fairly hard. My operational tempo on nights like this is intense really. I have a rough map in my head where I want to go sometimes but making to where I need to be and when are two different things lol.
Here I was about 5 minutes late. I spent too much time at the last location. Knowing WHEN to leave a site and move on is paramount to productive backcountry photography. Conditions are fleeting, the sun was setting, the moon was climbing in the sky. I love this lone tree on this remote ridge. It has wonderful views (about 180 miles horizon to horizon from it’s ridge). Such dendritic shapes lend themselves to light filtering work. I suppose I’ll get a bill with model rates charged plus the overtime for the wait. Never keep your model waiting for you. 😜
When I get a Full moon rising at the horizon, I’m all about getting it behind and in focus with terrestrial objects. This is a sub-hobby with my larger professions of photography. Toward that end…. It’s always a good thing when this particular tree lines up with astronomic objects (sun moon). This particular old soldier up high on a ridge has faced the worst wind/weather this high country can throw at it. It is a true old soldier. The Lone Tree on a Ridge is about 1/4 miles out from the parallel ridge is was working in the dark for this capture. The moon is a “little” further behind the ridge.👀
I finally get to the top of the first ridge to our east. Reaching the top, a vision unfolded around me. The telephoto crushing the distances as I turn toward the apparent shooting star in the sky. The illusion of motion fancifully provided by a cloud bank. That alone shadowing the low atmospheric ice to the left. Thus providing the obvious shooting star the proper debris tail. I actually took some rare play time and made an Inverse color negative of this resembling a remarkable comet. I might work with that image as art down the road. Talk about a naked eye comet lololol. I suggest Ray Bans™. You might remember all the Comet NeoWise images lately on your newsfeed. Well this is Comet NotSoWise. I just love it when my lenses come across natural illusions.
I by experience expose the highlights correctly and dig the details in the shadows out within the digital dark room. If you expose the landscape properly, the highlights are WAY over exposed and there is no recovering image detail that is washed out… gone… It’s easy to take a photo of the sky just like it is but unless you have a way to differentially bring out the exposure in the dark areas, you have a dark silhouette for a landscape. No camera made today I can afford would take this raw. The highlights are exactly as the camera recorded them but the formerly black landscape had all this detail hidden within the data. A program like Photoshop™ and or Lightroom™ is a really important addition to your tool kit.