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Hail on Volcanic Necks

Hail on Volcanic Necks
Hail on Volcanic Necks

Hail on Volcanic Necks

Let me say right off this is a 60″ x 20 ” triptych image of the Devils Tower and the Missouri Buttes Volcanic Field. It was taken during 85 degree F weather in the LATE golden hour lighting. The storm that laid down this large swath of hail made national news in early August 2020. Bikers were certainly driving around the tower on the far side. This side of the 1000 foot high devils tower is “Slathered” with hail and Ice.

The atmospheric moisture between where I stand and the 35 mile distance to the tower is thick. It is mostly precipitation drifting off the rear of the huge mesocyclone just passed though this country. It was Pounding western South Dakota as I was taking this image. This is just the trailing edge still hanging over Wyoming. I followed this storm for 3 hours working the range of photographic activities you might expect of such a big customer as this storm.

I’ve never even seen this in winter before. I’ve worked this scenery a hundred times or more. How do you coat the steep (vertical) sides of a Dark Rock National Monument totally white? Just add a few inches of a few inch across hail and all sorts of things can happen lolol.

Location: The pass at Rockypoint Wyoming (Trail Creek Rd) on the Border of Campbell Co, Crook county being a few miles south of the Montana border.

Title: Hail on Volcanic Necks

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Wyotana Hail Stones

Wyotana Hail Stones
Wyotana Hail Stones

Wyotana Hail Stones

These balls of ice (I have big hands) fell in all sizes for over 1/2 an hour in early July. I’ve been juggling replacing vehicles and settling insurance claims. It’s hard to keep up with all the paperwork and the immediate damage repair even a month later. Life on the great plains …🤘

Our ranch had a stripe of hail damage about a mile wide move right over the homestead. Though we had a hail event in 2008 that resulted in a low 6 figure dollar claim, this one is much worse. . It took over a year to repair all the damage in 08. I’d estimate this storm twice the damage with inflation and current costs.

My M813 Military Truck only had damage to the cheap accessory mirrors. All the military glass survived uncracked. No dents in that truck yet lol. I had two antique jeeps under roof but every other vehicle suffered damage including a very nice 1994 Jeep ZJ. Dented for sure. . It caught us off guard. I was up the hill taking photos and had just returned. There was no indication to me anything but a rain shaft was incoming until it was too late to act. Take cover and enjoy the show.

We have found no dead animals from this event here. Several surrounding ranches were also pelted with these balls and equally as damaged in this area. I’m aware of 3 homesteads effected it might be a bit more. That’s unusual for a low population density area. It’ was a big Mesocyclone. It just chose to send the big stuff at us. I’ve seen bigger but not many for as long a hail assault. MILLIONS of ball peen hammers hit the 47,000 square feed of metal roof we have over our buildings. I filmed these guys crashing through the porch roof. (skylights of fiberglass panels between metal sheets. ). Needless to say, it’s a long story lol. We are all fine and thank you for your best wishes in advance.

We will recover. Been here done this. YES the Raptor took roof dents. I didn’t buy a sunroof for a reason. Just a broken mirror, a cowling and about 200 top/rear dents. New vehicle this year…. Liberating, I don’t have to worry about dents now 👅. It will be repaired.

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

Title: Wyotana Hail Stones

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Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass
Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

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.

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

Title: Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

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Pink Rising Sturgeon Moon

Pink Rising Sturgeon Moon
Pink Rising Sturgeon Moon

Pink Rising Sturgeon Moon

I have not seen too many pink full moons but this one was REALLLLLLY pink at it’s first rising. It slowly turned to a very orange orange as it rose. I have one or two images where there is a pink to orange gradient barely visible on the lunar disk. I photographed the whole timeline from just cracking the horizon to clearing the trees in many different ‘zooms”. It was truly a startling color to me at the time.

That color is frozen in my memory until I die as I’ve not seen the phenomena before this way saturated naturally. I made sure to finish the image photo-realistically accurate as I can here. The hard work for me on this capture were the details on the landscape and in the trees. The moon was “easy”.

Technically the sun was “up” above the horizon behind me for this. It was however cloistered and obscured behind a significant cloud bank. When the moon rose, the sun had about 13 minutes before it set. I continued to move around the ranch and shoot close far perspectives for the next hour or so. This month will be only this night’s work as tonight a storm moved through and obscured night 2 of the Sturgeon August 2020 moon rise from my vantage point.

I had actually worked myself into a precarious position on this cliff to get these captures. I ran out of topography to get where the composition needed to be. This is a close as I could get lol. It doesn’t look like much but I only had bare minimum equipment to get this view. I had to climb to get the angle on where the moon was to rise.

I had some bright idea of getting those old growth trees on the horizon. Since the closest trees are about 1/2 a mile out, the close far perspective doesn’t do the location justice. I had crawled up on the steep side of the tall butte I call “Lookout Butte” which you pretty much have to scramble climb up. It was pretty windy at the time which is always helpful trying to get a long lens camera still. I was pretty much resting cameras on rocks about 1/2 of the time lol.

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

Title: Pink Rising Sturgeon Moon

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Catbird on a Montana Agate

Catbird on a Montana Agate
Catbird on a Montana Agate

Catbird on a Montana Agate

I’ve been observing this 10 inch version of the “mimmic thush” . Slate grey exactly this color, it is easily recognized by it’s “mew” sounds. Supposedly that is how it got it’s name.

As far as I can tell this one is totally fearless of the ranches barn cats. It goes over to make a big racket at the sleeping cats who now want nothing to do with it. I think the “Catbird” has found a way to deactivate the prey drive in a cat. He is in and out of the thicket, is VERY quick. I suspect the cats don’t have a chance, they know it and are just ignoring the non-dinner.

This particular bird is just slightly interested in complaining about my presence. Now and again I’ll be unloading cameras in the morning, over it comes to fuss at me. Well It was fussing while I was using a 1200 mm lens handheld at 18 feet. He is VERY bold and forward in his need to be present. A force to be reckoned with in his own mind I’m sure.

This is NOT a crop but a full frame image. Normally the background would be green in this image based on it’s location. At the moment it’s remarkably brown after the hail storm three weeks ago denuded the area behind. All brown now ….

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

Title: Catbird on a Montana Agate

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Forest Fire Sunset Show

Forest Fire Sunset Show
Forest Fire Sunset Show

Forest Fire Sunset Show

This happened 8 days ago as this posts. One of the first pictures I took in this timeline. I’m thinking I have about 18 images I’m going to finish eventually from this event. I was perfectly positioned by a coincidence of cosmic proportions lol. Of the 360 degrees on the compass, the sun setting behind a forest fire …. I’ve never seen such from this angle sun passing through. It isn’t something I’ve ever experienced.

For you Pariedolia sufferers, there is an angry Micky mouse trying to eat a landing bat for sure.😜 That pall of smoke TOTALLY blocked the sun behind it. The eventual play of light from this event was spectacular as you will see as the captures from this timeline make it into my workflow. Heck, this is pretty much a unique vision. ….

That is the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Homestead on the lower left of the frame. It makes a good scale for the HUGE WIDE image above. This was from my 10mm widest lens I own kind of optic. The top of the frame is past the zenith of the sky and the width is something like 130 degrees . That fire is Straight West of my ranch so Montana is literally on the right with Wyoming on the left. I’m standing in Wyoming for this capture but not by much (100 yards or so)

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

Title: Forest Fire Sunset Show

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Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Watching Prairie Fire
Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Weekday: Windmill Junkies Unite, (you know who you are). 🤘🤘

Perspective photographs properly done mess with your sense of depth. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is “Milling” his fate at the scary scene unfolding “just over the hill”. He can’t see whats coming. I can just sense his aprehension. These big fires out here can be devastating. Most ranches have some way to fight fires. Usually a “quick reaction” truck. Perhaps a wagon pulled behind a pickup with a sprayer rig on board. Several thousands dollars of equipment to safely fight a serious prairie fire.

I’ve lived up here on the border 20 years and have fought dozens of range fires.. I’ve lost track and they all blend together going back that far. Each and every fire was a community experience with familiar local faces. There will be 6 or 7 more finished images from this timeline.

Fortunately for us, this particular smoke plume was over 40 miles distant. We can’t travel very far in our big lumbering fire truck. For those fires we do show up at, we try to make a difference with the 1000 gallons of water we can carry. I’m in the process to fit my Raptor with a 100 gallon bladder tank. Quick reaction is good too. This HUGE forest fire distant started with one spark (lightning) and was small for a while. They it got big quickly. If some rancher had enough water and got to it with the first smoke, it would have been controlled. We had our ranches fire under control in about 3 hours. We were on it about 20 minutes after I first saw it.

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

Title: Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

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Milky Way Over Gillette

Milky Way Over Gillette
Milky Way Over Gillette

Milky Way Over Gillette

There are infinite possible stories about this 25 second time exposure with a very wide 12mm lens. I cropped the darker sides off to give it a square aspect to 18″.

According to NASA, this location (if we turn off our compounds lights which are the blue Stadium LED’s we use for our place) is as dark as the North Atlantic Ocean. Certainly ranking up there for dark skies here at only 4000 feet. The Milky Way spiral arms exist every night. Even above you folks living lower or near population. It’s amazing our eyes can discern most of this but the sensitivity of these modern cameras is just tremendous. It just takes a lot of shutter time to catch it.

As you might have assumed, the twin Blue Glows over my signature are our ranch compound lights as seen from two miles away and over the high ridge between us. The orange glow is a proper exposure of the light pollution from Gillette Wyoming. What an interesting perspective from so far away. I’m parked in Montana with Gillette being some 60 crow miles south of me. The light pollution of all the sodium lights there causes the flow. It’s very faint but the longer exposures will bring out colors well. For those that like star colors, many are in this shot. The Comet Neowise was way over my shoulder at the same time naked eye visible.

You can clearly locate yourself with this one. Sagittarius the Teapot is the low constellation down in the light pollution. Just pouring some tea I think. Jupiter is the bright Planet. Saturn is the less bright planet to it’s left. On the full sized file I have you can clearly see the moons around Jupiter. This reduced resolution social media .jpg has nothing on the 200 times bigger original file. There is just a SLIGHT star motion track on this pushing the envelope for the lens I was using.

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

Title: Milky Way Over Gillette

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Red Rainbows Rare Appearance

Red Rainbows Rare Appearance
Red Rainbows Rare Appearance

Red Rainbows Rare Appearance

Technically this is a backshow of a spotlighting veiled sunset passing Belt of Venus Pink light. Such being refracted back as a red rainbow. The lower dark blue shadow through the curtain of precipitation, is the shadow of the horizon. I am in that shadow as is the ground going up the hill. (The sun had set and the only light was from other twilight lit clouds) . So this 2 second time exposure shows the dark landscape as you would suspect after sunset. Photorealist photographers are like that lol . The pink light spotlighting is above the horizon line on this east view. The rain curtain acts as a projector screen with the rainbow aligning with the 22 degree arc from the center of the rainbow.

Of course you know all rainbows could be complete circles if viewed from the air…. I’ve never seen one except by others. I don’t fly very well with an overactive inner ear.

SO, a very specific sequence of event have to occur for a red rainbow to form. A regular rainbow with a standard ROYGBIV light color spread. Therefore the water droplets there have a full spectrum of light to refract back at you. Each light color bending a little differently than the one adjacent on the chart. This spreads out the white light into it’s individual hues into the rainbow.

At this late point of the night, only pink light survives the long gauntlet through the atmosphere at the earths surface. The low angle light being without most of its GVIB portion of the spectrum. With only red light to refract, you get a red rainbow. The timing of the precipitation falling has to coincide with the exact timing of the sunset to get these. This is by far the best red rainbow I’ve ever seen even in others photos. I’m sure they are out there.

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

Title: Red Rainbows Rare Appearance

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Rainbow with a Bite

Rainbow with a Bite
Rainbow with a Bite

Rainbow with a Bite

This was the last of the last light of the day making it’s way to the storm. I was using time exposures AND a lightning trigger to make my life easier catching both phenomena in the same frame. Mostly rare Red Rainbows are only formed by the long traveled “Belt of Venus” pink light. Hundreds of miles travel through the low blanket of air surrounding the earth prevents longer light wavelengths from passing. To quote a literary Grey Wizard (at that time) “You Shall Not Pass” (classical reference).

This one was just a quick 50,000 amp or so discharge in the hills back to my southeast. I always go up those hills the next morning to look around. I have to verify there isn’t a fire smoldering in a log somewhere.

Photographic Musings:

This storm system was late in the day for me to see this much. I mentioned time exposure but it was only about 2 seconds. Camera work is all about balancing light between the three settings you need to understand in manual mode. Shutter speed you have control of as one of them. A longer shutter gives you more light to play with. It was very windy at this capture with the truck (my tripod) was shaking. Much over a few seconds was impossible. Faster shutters than 1/2 second and you might miss some of lightning with often ripples through clouds over 1/2 second.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Rainbow with a Bite

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Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Shelf Cloud Snaking North
Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Sometimes little ephermeral ponds for even mid-summer. Late that particular afternoon a line of storms was moving to my left and this Shelf cloud was putting on a show. 

Shelf clouds are not to be confused with wall clouds which are typically symptoms of a severe often rotating individual cell. This one was at least 60 miles long from my perspective continuing well back over my head almost to the horizon. I have the components for a really really really Tall image, maybe 12 to 2 in this width. Needless to say this was very impressive to be under. I wasn’t in the best place for a close far to using what I had….. 

Must be good water😂 the cattle have been drinking it right? I think that water is mostly melted hail. Lots of water is collected over the 80 acre drainage that feeds this little water hole. Couldn’t be anything living in that I’m sure…….? 👀 It’s a dry summer. The grass here was just trampled by a hard hail storm July 5th. Late in the afternoon, it flattened pretty much everything that didn’t have a woody stem. Most trees were heavily cut up by the up to 3 inch stones. The dry year grass crop with was terrible to start with. It is all flat now along the strip of the hail path. I really do respect this weather up here. It’s all business when it’s active. . Crop insurance is an important consideration in any business plan. 

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

Title: Shelf Cloud Snaking North

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Lightning and Rainbows

Lightning and Rainbows
Lightning and Rainbows

Lightning and Rainbows

In another 15 minutes this would have been a red rainbow. Considered Rare as they only happen RIGHT at sunset. I know this as it did in fact turn red later but for at this click was still orange. The sun was setting over my right shoulder. It was partially obscured by various clouds at various sections of the timeline here. This series of storms like a train trailing cars ran just to our east giving me wonderful views of the activity sunlit by the colored light. That light reflecting off the storm back to my optics. The long waves surviving the low angle ridge through the curved atmospheric lens.

The sunset ongoing over my right shoulder was in fact quite a good show. It takes a good main show to give me enough light to see the back show during storms. Only a very complex atmosphere could give me the proper conditions for this unusual capture. That is my communications tower just to the right of the bolt. It has been hit hundreds of times. Ummm… working from up there takes larger stones than I have to be up there in a serious electrical storm. I’ve spent a few episodes up there. Grounded all that gear is. Talk about a target lolol.

It is my understanding that Lightning AND Rainbows in the same photo are also unusual as the conditions that cause each are unusual together. I don’t have a lot of the two of them dancing in my portfolio. This storm train provided me with many examples. Before this timeline I may have had one or two in my lifetime. It’s probably just me, I miss things all the time lolol.

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

Title: Lightning and Rainbows

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Seeding Morning Rainbows

Seeding Morning Rainbows
Seeding Morning Rainbows

Seeding Morning Rainbows

Planting Skittles™ for the future, this old antique friend of mine is blessed with a monster view. He can see in many directions on that high ridge. Here I am below his position looking up to the skittles seeds falling from the heavens. Now the old Deering Seeder has a seed box filled with the tasty candy seeds. Maybe I can hook my Raptor to this. Thusly zip around the ranch planting a crop for the rare unicorns that hang around Wyotana. BTW, I’ve seen WAY more Jackalopes than I have Unicorns up here. I have yet to get a less than blurry game trail camera for either. Always in a hurry at night they are.

Back to my normal programming.

Photographic Musings:

Close far perspectives with long lens telephotos are a matter of recognizing that distance is your friend. Everything in focus with a telephoto…… You can get both foreground AND background with a telephoto in the same focal plain. But you need to be back about (lets say) 80 yards per 100 mm focal length back from your foreground object. Your distances will vary. Depending on how high your f-stop will adjust in your particular lens and your total focal length of your lens. This perspective is a 1200mm lens at about 650 yards from the seeder. Topography of course controls your ability to magically have the rain bow in the proper position And be able to get far enough away to get the illusion all in focus.

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

Title: Seeding Morning Rainbows

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Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Pronghorn Mother With Twins
Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Boy this was tough lighting. When the late “Golden Hour” afternoon long traveled photons arrive, there is a tendency for them to be skewed significantly toward the reddish side of the spectrum. The fur colors of Pronghorn I’ve looked at very carefully over the years considering what different colorcast light does to it. This image runs the gamut literally.

Pronghorn fawns seem to be darker than their mother in every situation I’ve ever seen. This is about as red/tan as they EVER are. Even under this red light. Granted I’m just looking at my local population so it’s not a controlled observation. Pronghorn are generally very lightly colored tan. Darker animals are usually made that way by the photo editor boosting the color of the rest of the image. This brings along the coat to the color of a deer. I’ve seen some lighting turn them darker. Shade versus sunlight is another factor. In this image, it was the color of the sunlight that made it hard for me (the photo finisher) to get the animals to look the right color. If I let the raw image through un-edited they would have been VERY red.

All these Pronghorn are females. Males have dark cheek patches. There is still a lot of grass out on the prairie but there are a LOT of grasshoppers happily consuming already dry, headed out stunted grass.

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

Title: Pronghorn Mother With Twins

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Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff
Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

So your down in deep grass hiding from the Photographer in the scary big black truck. But that truck is very patient so it might be time to get outta Dodge. A quick squat to load those leg muscles and a push off for the launch. That is one clue. Figuring out where creatures are going to be, the direction they are using to ‘escape’, is the other half of the game here. As many times as I’ve tried it’s pretty hit or miss (mostly miss) following a fast bird with a 28 inch long lens. Literally an anticipatory click with a little reaction time built in based on that last second squat. Using the machine gun setting on these modern cameras take 10 images a second (or more), there is at least a chance to get a take off.

Meadowlarks are known for the melodious tendencies. Being Bright, Yellow and gorgeous probably has something to do with the following factoid. The western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming, Only the Northern Cardinal has more states under it’s “belt” at seven. Not bad for a singing relative of an avian dinosaur. You know dinosaurs didn’t all go extinct at the end of the Cretaceous right? There are many flying around among us but they lost their tail and teeth along the way. Other than that, they are very close anatomically to various dinosaurian lineages.

It takes 1/2000th second or faster to freeze these guys wings in ice. I like working them at 1/1000th of a second to get a little motion blur on the wings. Both ways are OK but you need a lot of light to freeze small bird wings on take off.

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

Title: Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

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Moon Tree Surfing

Moon Tree Surfing
Moon Tree Surfing

Moon Tree Surfing

I call this Moon/Tree Surfing. Actually it’s me riding the moons “Shadow line” on the opposite parallel ridge. The higher ridge between me and the moon gives me a 500 yard distant foreground with the moon somewhat further behind that. I will drive along these ridges looking for places where the moon thinks he’s not being seen. Unsuspecting…. So I catch him carefully resting on the local vegetation as here. He’s just lifting off as he saw me. He certainly doesn’t need some high plains paparazzi posting his photo in the “Post” sitting down on the job. I me he has a strict schedule to keep and many things rely on the Moon’s time keeper.

From a strictly technical viewpoint, I get to do this kind of daylight illuminated foreground and the moon behind only once a month on average.. Some months the window is closed entirely by weather. Clouds do a good job obscuring what I know is going on behind them. Fortunately this was a very clear evening of July 3rd. The moon appeared full for two sunsets (3rd and 4th) plus a sunrise between. It was definitely a weekend to photograph the moon if you have the gear and the inclination. The air has been clear lately to boot making the “Seeing” on the moon’s surface good enough maybe to get out my big lenses from storage. Humm… 🤔

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

Title: Moon Tree Surfing

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Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging
Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

These big moths are really way more attractive on their pink underside than their dorsal olive tan pattern. Their legs and antenna are white as can be. Without a doubt they are a gardeners/ranchers friend as they lay their eggs on “Leafy Spurge”, a noxious weed. These big moths are active in the day sucking nectar and trying to find some Leafy Spurge. They lay their eggs on the noxious weed with the larva destroying the plant as they grow. Devouring it as they develop as it were.

This moth was introduced (foreign species) into Western Canada years ago. They apparently are spreading with no ill effects noted to the rest of our biosphere so far. Just larva eating Spurge and some nectar use by the adults which competes with other native species of course.

The color scheme here was too obvious to ignore. I adore right primary colors surrounding a “plain jane” subject. Garden plants with big moths flying about is a target rich environment for sure. The hard part is getting them to stay put long enough to capture the scene. Their big bugs which are quick and zip around when warm. They are impossibly hard to photograph well without cooling them down. Usually you can catch them in my experience but it takes some luck. Funny I’ve seen so many of them this year. Wish they ate grasshoppers 😜 📷

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

Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

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A Bug in Her Ear

A Bug in Her Ear
A Bug in Her Ear

A Bug in Her Ear

I was watching this pretty Doe finally surrounded by the herd this summer. I’m thinking 40 feet away with the animal filling the frame. It’s taken a while but I’m now getting the local herds to accept me as just another animal. By the end of the summer I’ll be taking “eyelash shots”.

So I’m seeing a bee fly around as a highlight on my videoscreen (a white flash generated by my camera). This was followed by a surprised look on the Mule Deer’s face. You could tell she was puzzled for a second and then she started shaking her head. I have several good captures of this unusual pose/activity. I usually click the “happy” machine gun switch on the camera and a dozen frames a second fill up the cameras buffer. It will take 60 in a row before that buffer is full I have found out 📸 .

I’m not sure if she got it out right away but I was certainly glued to the screen. I’m thinking she either had it stuck in one of those ‘mule’ ears or if she got stung for some reason. This went on for maybe 30 seconds. Grazing started shortly after so no permanent damage occurred at least to this girl. The bee’s condition on the other hand is in doubt. One of the problem with big ears is they are a big target lolol.

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

Title: A Bug in Her Ear

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Badlands into Alluvial Fans

Badlands into Alluvial Fans
Badlands into Alluvial Fans

Badlands into Alluvial Fans

As Geologist who happens to be a landscape photographer, I tend to look a little deeper into which that my subjects might offer (on the surface anyway 😜 ). A little larger view might be useful. Wow.. Badlands are such austere landscapes..Love the corral panels

That little mountain is whats left of a continuous layer of sediment in layers that used to be connected all the way to the BigHorn Mountains. Streams off the BigHorns washed the sand, silt and clay there. The Little Powder River has removed all the sediment that used to fill those blind canyons. There used to exist hundreds of feed of sediment over where I stand here. One sand grain at a time, the sediments here move down toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is the ultimate sink where all sediment we stand on will eventually end up.

All of this mountain used to be part of the Big Horns. Down slope by streams the sediment was carried. Together making a big wedge/apron of sediment off the flanks of the BigHorn uplift. Those debris totally filled the local Powder River Basin. It was in a BIG local downwarp next to the up warp that is the Bighorns. Old Pre-cambrian at the core there. Coal Swamps in the Powder River basin (bathtub/low area).

So a geologic description of the image would talk about a 130 mile long Fanglomerate called the Tullock/Fort Union formation. All Younger than the Dinosaurs. Just a few miles away, I live on older rock that has remains of the Dinosaur dominated Fauna alive at the end of the Cretaceous. The rock in this image is younger by many many millions of years. No dinosaurs here, but might be a fossil alligator or turtle there though. Wyotana is geologically complex AND very interesting. Large scale forces having taken significant rolls in our landscape. Clues to such are everywhere but reading that book takes longer than “Dies the Fire”. (good read if you like the genre).

Location: Wyotana.

Title: Badlands into Alluvial Fans

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Crepuscular Rays from Above

Crepuscular Rays from Above
Crepuscular Rays from Above

Crepuscular Rays from Above

An irregularly shaped cloud cooperated here in this unusual lighting display put on for me here in late June 2020. It had been sprinkling all day with dark evil looking but harmless clouds. Lots of moisture in the air…. My biggest fear is lightning at the moment as this country is dry for the year. Missed the water that day. Fortunately, by means of compensation, the weather provided me this spot lit stage . The 10 miles to the first dark ridge in deep shadow was the hard part to capture with it being quite dark versus the ultra bright clouds. A cameras ability to bring out the dynamic range of a photo is something you want to buy into if your looking for a camera.

This display is an inverted downward “crown sky” (as I call them on my gallery). They are fairly rare while the more typical upward pointed rays at sunset more often are seen. I MIGHT see one a year this well developed. All the water vapor/moisture in the air along with actual precipitation acted to reflect the light to my lens. Of course I have many versions of this and will finish 3 maybe 4 of them. I’ve seen a few of this kind of show over the years. I suspect I could count the number of Crepuscular displays so complete I’ve captured to around a dozen.

Jagged Clouds are responsible for passing light. It’s the wide perspective of that light streaming through the gaps in the clouds that lends it’s fan shaped view to the observer. The phenomena makes it appear as if the sun is a mile or two above the cloud deck. Just follow the angles lolol. I assure you, the sun is a “few” miles up above the clouds. 😜

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

Title: Crepuscular Rays from Above

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WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet
WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

This is a Whitetail buck that was going to our water tanks along with the rest of his herd of 6 other bucks. A boys club as it were. By the time I got position on them (light), they were in deep brush with this one being the only one cooperatively posing for me. He wasn’t too worried as he kept on chewing the tasty morsel he had in his mouth. That’s pretty good for this jumpy species. Spring here is a land of plenty with a lot of lush green vegetation. The cellulose equivalent of jet fuel. 😜

Velvet refers to the skin covering the growing stubs of antler bone growth. That covering is rich in blood vessels supplying nutrients to the dividing cells. I believe this a 2 year old based on his body size so he may start looking better by late August. He is still growing.

I haven’t seen that many Mule Deer around the Homestead this spring. It’s starting to make me wonder where they are. There are been a lot of Pronghorn about. I’ve heard when the Whitetail move in, the Mule Deer Pack up and leave. I point out Mule deer are much better hunting / bigger / less skiddish etc. Whitetails running are one of the most beautiful images to witness live. This guy was just hanging out when I wandered by. Even they will get used to me if they keep a schedule by the water tanks.

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

Title: WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

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Mooning for You

Mooning for You
Mooning for You

Mooning for You

Mooning for You

I find the Moon to be quite a character of note here in the highlands. Seems I’m always finding him sitting down on the job. OK, give it a short break before the climb. I’m sure he belongs to some union giving him 5 minutes ever 30 minutes for a rest. He obviously is not a rancher.

Heck, It’s a LOT of work to climb up with all that cheese to the zenith of it’s orbit. Think of the huge mass that has to be “lifted” over our heads. Yet Again, I caught it sitting down on the job, playing “king of the hill”. This is not the first time I have images of this kind of on the job sitting around. Who am I to question how the moon does his job.

I bet there is quite a view up there. This being a telephoto image of a hill top 400 feet higher than my location on and adjacent ridge. This can be mountain goat country. If there were only mountain goats that lived here. Instead I have celestial objects summiting hillocks holding prime overlook territory.

Wyotana is indeed a magical place. There are many ways to look at any scene, each angle has it’s own story.

Factoid. To determine if it is a rising or a setting moon. :

If the three small craters at 2 oclock are pointing up, it’s a rising moon. If those lined up three craters point to 3 o’clock, then the moon image is a setting moon.

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

Title: Mooning for You

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Meadowlark Might Be Windy

Meadowlark Might Be Windy
Meadowlark Might Be Windy

Meadowlark Might Be Windy

The semi-arid region of the border region between these two great states is “blessed”. All it’s share of winds falling off the high country is standard here. Yellowstone is 7000+ feet on the plateau. The BigHorn Mountains are 13000 feet. They wring the moisture out of our air often. Air flows freely off the Rocky Mountain highlands to our west with a 12 mph average windspeed on an exposed location.

When the air is moving by you at 35 mph or more, your being buffeted certainly. This fellow for what ever reason, turned at right angles to the breeze. It might be a result of picking the wrong branch lol. Normal Meadowlark behavior is to face aerodynamically face into the wind. Seldom do I see a bird fighting it this for long.

I personally find it hard enough to work a steady camera inside a vehicle on a windy day. So the truck is “lurching” too and fro with the gusty daily breeze around here. Imagine a branch moving back and forth 3 or 4 inches in various oscillatory motions. The birds seem to go through all sorts of gymnastics under the onslaught of the atmospheric tide. The weather has been “changeable” here bouts of late. Many a weather front with significant pressure difference exacerbate this high countries tendency toward a good breeze anyway.

The feathers are certainly kerfluffeled. It was a warm breeze that day. 87 degrees if I remember correctly (IIRC). 👀 T-shirt weather is a nice change up here..

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

Title: Meadowlark Might Be Windy

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W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson
W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

That HUGE butte in silhouette(called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border 35 miles distant. I’m standing in Wyoming. You can actually see the communications towers that are up there. An 18 inch wide tower at 35 miles is what is called “resolution”. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Really high end camera backs give you very high megapixel count plus high dynamic range. The higher the megapixel count, the bigger you can print the image.

I seldom see naturally totally oversaturated clouds without me setting my camera incorrectly but the sky really was this color. I mention that because it’s looks very harlequin and un natural/odd to me. This is indeed what was down range of my lens that morning. I work very hard to get scenes to be a reproduction of what I experienced live real time. Looking back and forth between my video screen and the actual scene on almost every landscape/sunrise image is a good habit.

My process is to expose ONLY the highlights properly so as not to loose detail in them. I can worry about shadow detail in the digital darkroom. Interestingly, there was no detail in those crimsons back/bottom clouds to begin with. Nature doing the oversaturation is not that common in my experience. These cameras can usually look right through it to the detail hidden in the saturated area. IT wasn’t there to see from where I was…

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

Title: W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

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Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake
Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake

The Black Angus Cattle herd out on “open range” were “Watering up” late in the afternoon. This natural spring fed lake watered several hundred cattle at about 30 gallons or more a day per adult. They usually fill their tank then get up the hill to better grass. All here are cows and calves. I doubt there are any bulls in the mix just yet but it won’t be long before it’s that time again. 

This is about as green as it has gotten this year. Part of it is this particular area is drier than others but over all it is indeed going to drought. The water is good sweet water with a tad of the cow next to you flavor I suspect as cattle have a pretty tough stomach. If you drink that water though there might be some intestinal ramifications lol. 

I drink NO natural waters without ultra fine filtration. THe cheapest way to filter your water is one of the many “straw filters out there). They are inexpensive protection, just don’t let them freeze after their first use. Honestly I haven’t had to resort to using even a stock tank for the 20 years I lived here. I always bring adequate supply in the form of frozen water bottles in an ice chest. I stuff water bottles in every spare crevice of my ATV and truck. This is dry country, almost a desert at 14 inches of rain a year. Carry enough water for 3 days minimum with you is my advice. Being without water is a bad thing…

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

Title: Meanwhile Down By the Lake

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Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlark Touching Down
Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlarks were named by Audubon noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though. They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. This is the second image I’ve published from this timeline.

They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots which this is. I’ve discovered that, you can slow down and stop with a meadowlark usually not moving (your in a car), but if you move any after you stop, they will fly away. You get one chance set up lolol.

Photographic Musings:

Getting any bird landing is not easy but getting small birds like Meadowlarks at the moment of touchdown is a matter of luck in my opinion. Even if you know where they are landing, it’s a crap shoot to point a long lens at any particular part of a branch. Rapid fire Machine gun shutters yes but you have to react quickly to trigger the “shutter”. (Mirrorless cameras have an “E-shutter). I shot this whole timeline with a 1/1000th second exposure. Longer is a bad blur risk in contrast, faster takes a LOT of light. It’s a trade off under the conditions I was shooting in. IF you want to freeze those wings, small birds and bumble bees….1/4000. Then you suffer from having to turn up your ISO to compensate (camera sensitivity.).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Touching Down

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Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown
Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Catching a Meadowlark at all is an accomplishment as I’ve never seen them lining up outside my studio for portraits, yet… With the right negotiation skills I’m sure “Sneaky Pete” the windmill could make it happen by promising to make them famous. As far as I know, that deal has not been cut yet. (years long narrative if you don’t understand). At any rate I’m always tickled when one of these singers performs for me. The estimate is about 20 percent of the Meadowlarks I see, let me get within good photo distance from them. All of my encounters are random as I travel about our ranch here in Wyotana.

So I’m coming back from a high ridge. I placed a cut branch a few years ago on a ridge with a view. It is conveniently located within excellent telephoto range from a trail I travel often. Usually I go out to photograph when the light looks interesting to me. If that changes I’ll return back for the trip to the homestead. Several miles of two track roads later I approach this. Stopping, turning off the Raptor, and wait. From the surrounding acreage, Meadowlarks came and went over the next hour. I was happy to facilitate their becoming “famous” 😜

What was really nifty about this was the wind was blowing at least 30 mph. It made for some interesting postures. The photographs of which will slowly work their way into my published work flow.

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

Title: Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

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Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama
Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

This is landscape close/far perspective version of a similar image I have in portrait image aspect. It was taken at a different place in the timeline. These skies morph by the minute. I call this backcountry ridge “Sunset Ridge” for it’s awe inspiring views of the eastern horizon covering the Big Skies of BOTH Montana and Wyoming. There is even a little South AND North Dakota there in the lower Golden Alpenglow.

Created is a classic Alpenglow Gradient with a fully involved complex cloud deck. I watched this Saturday the 20th’s morning with 3PM Mountain time roughly being the actual solstice. That is when the sun was over directly head of the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north Latitude. This location is for all intents and purposes exactly at 45 degrees North Latitude. This was the longest day of the year.

It was a beautiful morning. Left early mid-nautical twilight as it takes a while to get to this spot. It’s a civilized drive with a little over a mile of fairly smooth two track trail. A few miles of county gravel to start. It was cool this am in the 40’s with a stiff breeze. This kind of capture is handheld walking a ridge line I could park “Clever Girl” within walking distance of.

I am NOT used to 40 degree windy weather. There is this thing called windchill that works it’s way into the “hoodie” I had on. Just for your minds eye, I am usually in full camo dress as if I was hunting wildlife. As technically I am with the cameras lol. I would rather blend in than not.

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

Title: Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

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Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough
Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

I’ve taken many photos of Meadowlarks over the years. Not so many flying up close like this. They are very fast fliers. Seems to me I always under estimate how much shutter speed is necessary to freeze their wings. Small birds and Bumblebees from now on will be 1/4000th of a second. (This was 1/1000th. (ISO 500, F8, 1200mm) I have images of dozens of birds launching/ taking off. I have maybe 5 or 6 of birds landing over my photographic career. Each of those I saw the birds incoming and was able to track it machine gunning the camera as fast as it will go. All my bird encounters are random out in the backcountry. I don’t feed birds except my barnyard flock.

In most photographic endeavors, more light is your friend…. Preferably bright sunlight. I had previously focused in this pine bough so I was just waiting for the bird to show up. Watching this same bird for 1/2 an hour come and go from this branch. I finally was able to bring one in. It’s like throwing darts in the dark through a really long lens which is required to get this kind of up close and personal shot.

Meadowlarks are abundant this year and I suspect all will be fat with grasshoppers. Unfortunately this is a grasshopper year too. There are enough grasshoppers to WAY over feed every bird in the area. We keep about 60 yard birds (ducks and chickens) in our barnyard. I’m feeding less so small herds of ducks are ranging around our yard to eat anything in site. The Meadowlarks will have a good year with easy pickings for their clutches.

What is a disadvantage to us (grasshopper) is a buffet to another species. Kind of like this business climate. I hope they eat themselves good an chubby. We are currently getting golden yolk free range chicken eggs that MIGHT taste a bit this year like grasshopper guts…… Could be wrong…. 😜

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

Title: Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

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Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show
Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

I call this backcountry ridge “Sunset Ridge” for it’s awe inspiring views of the eastern horizon covering the Big Skies of BOTH Montana and Wyoming. There is even a little South AND North Dakota there in the lower Golden Alpenglow. A classic Alpenglow Gradient with a fully involved complex cloud deck. I watched this Saturday the 20th’s morning with 3PM Mountain time roughly being the actual solstice. That is when the sun is over directly head of the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north Latitude. This location is for all intents and purposes exactly at 45 degrees North Latitude. This will be the longest day of the year. It was a beautiful morning.

Left early mid-nautical twilight as it takes a while to get to this spot. It’s a civilized drive with a little over a mile of fairly smooth two track trail. A few miles of county gravel to start. It was cool this am in the 40’s with a stiff breeze. This kind of capture is handheld walking a ridge line I could park “Clever Girl” within walking distance of. I am NOT used to 40 degree windy weather. There is this thing called windchill that works it’s way into the “hoodie” I had on. Just for your minds eye, I am usually in full camo dress as if I was hunting wildlife. As technically I am with the cameras lol. I would rather blend in than not.

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

Title: Summer Solstice Sunrise Show