Meadowlark All Ruffled Up ( a bit out of season but surely welcome. I’m tired of the ice/mud this year ).
Taken under EARLY morning yellow sunlight adding a colorcast to the entire image. I was just digging the Orange Lichen on the post. It takes a long time (decades) for that much to grow. The old cedar post could be 114 years old as it’s fairly close to the homestead. There are a lot of very old posts in the backcountry. We have 30 miles of fence that I have done some repairs on a time or two. 😜
The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.
This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.
Trees growing out of boulders are always a photographic target . Particularly with a LOT trees growing out of boulders. On the crest of this backcountry ridge, is a hard cap rock that has resisted erosion thusly protecting the rocks below. This is ALL Hell Creek Sandstone. This leaves these relatively harder boulders for me to enjoy. They are 66 million years old and that lichen can be 100 years or more old. Only rocks that are undisturbed have big lichen patches. Cattle pressure/wear from rubbing will destroy it.
There are big areas of this boulder strewn surface covered with Sunburst Liichen (Xanthoria sp.), sometimes called pincushion lichen. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different species of Lichen that inhabit Wyoming and differentiating them exactly is sort of a science all by itself. Lichenologists have to have work of some kind. Achidemia is the obvious job path. I suspect that there is a use for court testimony however the job prospects of a Lichenologist is about the same as a masters in biostratigraphy such as myself. Though interestingly, biostratigraphers do a lot of work with oil companies .. My general comment about Lichen nomenclature is that you need a bachelors of science in Biology (which I have) to look at the photos. The text about the lichen is a foreign language.😀😀.
Enjoying a sunset while walking around with several cameras in the remote backcountry is similar to a shooting gallery with a .22 but without the report. Lots of good stuff to shoot at. Just a click versus bang. BTW, I do carry a firearm in the backcountry. add a few more pounds. You never know exactly what your going to run into. A 10mm 1911 pistol with a 5 inch barrel is good for 300 yards… (work on that one for a while). This was taken this fall and it was pretty chilly.
Picking a spot for perspective images is often a matter of thinking like a mouse. Using the camera to see reality from that mouses Perspective is what I’m always trying to do with a good sky. Close/Far captures are always a challenge. You have to have the right lighting though. Shadowss are every bit as important as the light. Keeping balance is of importance.
The Backcountry is full of old married trees. Trees that have lived together and will only divorce with their demise. The pines here have wondrully tecture bark. Add that to the perspective, the wonderful sky. that sunset dominates the background.
This was mid fall. The grass this year stayed green through August. This is the first time in two decades of living here that the seasons were so far off. We had more rain than normal and it was regular. It’s not unusual to go a month between showers in the summer. Fires everywhere this year but here. We got very lucky. Lilac were blooming on the 4th of July. As far as I can tell, everything is a month late. Well except for winter which started October 1’st this year. Fall was on a Tuesday I remember..
I spent the morning (before I typed this) clearing over a foot of snow off some two track roads. I’m blocked off now from most of my paths up on the ridges. I need to get up high Big Sky shots and back to trees like this. ” Winter is coming”. (Classical Refrence” This is the first time I’ve plowed up on ridge one. I suspect it will not be the last. More images like this incoming as I rework my portfolio📷👀
I took this Perspective C Shaped Tree last summer. The tree is certainly an odd ball, suffered an injury early on but survived. Perspective here makes it look Huge but I’m standing about 10 feet from the tree. It was and I emphasize was a large branch. Looooong shadows here…. 👀📷
This image taken last summer. Somehow this branch “blew up” and is in a dozen pieces. I drove by this remote spot about 3.5 miles away from my house in the backcountry. . So this well be the last image of this interesting tree. We had a few high winds (high 70’s at least) this year. One of those blows probably torqued this non-typical tree to bits.
This is about 1/4 mile from some wonderful dinosaur micro-site digs that have given me quite a few Cretaceous age Dinosaurian fossils. Lots of teeth in this ground. It’s just a matter of finding them. All the vegetation is growing on Cretaceous River Sands.
Across that treed gully was a 1930 homestead that a family lived WAY back here off the county road. The father died in the 30’s of an acute appendix attack during the winter. No way to get him out in time. There are many remnants of their life around. Frames of model T trucks, old stoves, metal bedsprings, a host of metallic grace the landscape. The remains of that residence are scattered by time but the easiest search is down the sides of the closest gully to the old homesteads. There was always a place homesteaders threw non- combustable/non-reparable over the bank.
Mud Hills Across the Border into Montana was captured early summer 2019. Traveling to these remote overlooks is 1/2 the gift of photography.
I don’t travel without cameras. Particularly when out on a photographic excursion where I’m actively “Hunting for the Wild Photon”. The Hillside where I’ standing on is precisely 1/2 way between the equator and the North Pole. A long walk either way lolol. Its exactly 5,000,000 (Five Million) meters from this hillside to either point. Some well connected person in history decided 1 meter would be 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the north Pole to the Equator. You can covert 10 million meters into Ten Thousand Kilometers though.
I haven’t looked it up but I’d be curious if that measurement has changed much over the centuries. Our ability to be more precise in our measurements surely change earlier estimations before satellite GPS. Of course there is some side discussions here related to geology that I’ll save for another post later lol.
Geology Factoids: The Mud Hills in the Distance are younger than the rocks I’m standing on. They are Tertiary Fort Union Formation sediments. hich are mostly alluvial sediments sourced from the Big Horns after those mountains rose. This the Mud Hills (I wonder how they got their name) may have some fossils like alligators, fish, birds, rays, fresh water clams and other invertebrates. They would not be abundant and have random occurrences up the section. The rocks I’m standing on are Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance formations. The random fossil beds here have DInosaur remains in them where the rocks above a certain point, don’t. Humm 🤔
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Title: Mud Hills Across the Border
Golden Hour Sunset on Snow. When the sun is so low, slowly working left of the BigHorn Mountains here, the light is quite golden.
You would be blinded looking into this scene but the ability to shut the camera down to light changes the game.
This is an overlook across 130 miles of landscape in north central Wyoming. Looking west into the scene that the pioneers saw at the end of a long day of travel. Custer was around here, Native Americans were all over this place for thousands of years. The history here is long, many have crossed that land but daily I walk places where no human has been before.
We are up high on the ridges where there is not much running water. We find TeePee Rings, a few artifacts, stone tools, even a couple of metal ornaments (rare). There actually exists one of the very RARE Documented Clovis Man Habitation site within 10 miles of my ranch. It’s not on my land however. Those same pre-historic folks walked around the post’ glacial landscape burning/slashing/hunting/driving game for a living. I have no doubt they were walking here to some of our artesian spring locations.
When the pioneers got here, they built dams below those artesian wells and formed lakes. The natives didn’t have that option and it can be a long way between water holes when you have deer bladder canteens to carry your water for the day…
Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry can be a very contrasty thing after a storm. This vista surprised me coming up over the ridge behind the camera. I instantly stopped of course and started composing the final frame. What dramatic contrast…. I honestly don’t see this very much this pronounced. That was a very interesting (if not cold at -2F) morning up on that ridge. It always is after a storm and the cold. That is BIG country back there.
I call this phenomena spotlighting for obvious reasons. There is about 4-6 inches of standing snow up on the ridges and I’m still driving about in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have a new vehicle incoming if Ford will put it in production lololol. (We have a vin now 🙂 ) Winter is coming though and I’m going to have to get plowing some snow to get up in this country. This particular spot is about a mile up a long hill to get to. Roughtly the same distance to the far ridge in the shadows with trees on it. The far right side of that ridge (ridge 4) is a full 2 tiles out. Distances are deceiving out here. The closest ranch house in that direction is about 10 miles of hills and gullies that have to be driven around. That would mean about 20 miles of driving lololol.
All of this ground in this image is underlain by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Dinosaur Fossil Bearing Sandstone. This is prime country to find dinosaurs. I found a partial Triceratops just left of the frame around the corner or a hill so I have some basis for saying this lol.
Perspective: Snag to Sunrise is a view right as the sun was coming up over the hill. The grass was just starting to highlight, the air was very crisp at -2 degrees. I tend to work wide lenses in really cold weather. They do better with a shivering photographer I think. Long lenses don’t like the shake lolol.
It had snowed about 4 inches but the 1/8th inch of ice that covered everything was problematic walking around the uneven slopes. The footing was treacherous as seeing sticks under the snow was not a sure thing. THe reason they call fallen logs snag, is that they snag you walking near them lolol.
Perspectives that go from closest focus (12 inches with this lens) to infinity are a challenge to compose. Having the snag as a leading line is an easy choice but the ice covered snag was sure novel to me. I worked this hillside through this entire sunrise…. until I got a tad chilled and then headed back to the Jeep. A few dozen good captures came from that morning. Winter has sure come early this year.
I can still get up on the ridges though and today (a week ago as this posts) is 50 degrees and muddy. We get a bit of a warm snap before it get’s serious lolol. I figure by late November this year we’re going to have a foot flat +and it won’t melt till late February. Winter is long here in the borderlands on the high ridges.
Here the local Wyoming Roaming Road Block was down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands. These are Pronghorn Bucks still with antlers (not for long) and does mixed. They are on the move migrating down to that remote grassland to winter over the rough Wyoming Winter.
As this was taken, I was on the road to Gillette from my ranch for a ‘day trip”. It’s about 25 gravel road miles to this spot. Then another 12 miles of gravel before I run into concrete in the form of St. Rt. 59 (Wyoming) .
The Thundbasin National Grasslands are huge chunks (several spread around a few states) of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with very few inholdings by private land holders. These ‘reserves” are hundreds of square miles of just an occasional power line and stock well or solar well. Of course there is the obligatory oil well facility but these guys don’t care about buildings. Usually geothermally warm water is the only running water and there is a few of those sources around here. They are oasis’s in the winter for wildlife living near them.
I’ve seen many very large herds of Pronghorn roaming just off one of the few maintained roads out there. Vehicle traffic is prohibited within the national grasslands. The only way to get miles back and up high is to horseback or walk in. I gave up horses a decade ago and walking more than a few miles backcountry with 20 pounds or so of gear gets pretty old pretty fast in the winter I have found. Reminds me of deer hunting when I was way younger. I’ll stick to the roads down in this country lol.
Location:25 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Campbell County Wyoming.
Yellow Alpenglow Backcountry Morning was taken at a crisp 20 degrees.
From this over look of about 4 miles, you can see one of my favorite areas to work the borderlands This beautiful country has topography conducive to lining up compositions. You can move up as a sun or a moon moves down against a horizon. I have a LONG sunset because I follow the suns shadow across the landscape to get repeat attempts at a sunset with different frames.
I know this ground like the back of my hand. I”ve spent many whole days in the backcountry doing either dinosaur, photos or artifact hunting (I’m an opportunist artifact hunter). I will pick them up if I see them. Remember it is illegal to collect artifacts OR vertebrate remains on Federal, State or Tribal Ground. Check the BLM website for specifics. These activities can only be done on private ground.
All of this ground is underlain by Hell Creek Formation which is dinosaur fossil bearing sandstone. I have literally found vertebra in the grass up here. But the grass makes it hard to find fossils and I have to work around that by looking in the gullies and being systematic. I’ve found croc teeth up here randomly keeping my eye to the ground. Antlers are also a prize in the backcountry to find. I’m very systematic in covering ground as I search new places. I’ve looked/walked about 1/2 the ranch VERY well over 20 years. I’ve also done a general survey around the area and unlikely areas to find fossils on the ranch. There are still places up here I haven’t looked at for cool stuff but I’m gradually covering carefully most of the ranch. (this is a big place).
Using really Wide lenses attempts to fit everything into the frame. Here a Sony Alpha 7RII is wearing a 10 mm lens. It sees well over 120 degrees wide or tall (1/3rd of a complete circle). So your looking at roughly a fourth of the whole sky/vista)Reach for the Sky is what this old growth Jack Pine grove is doing. Small grass fires don’t bother these trees much. They do get hit by lightning quite a bit as many of these old soldiers have scars from shocking encounters.
Wide lenses add a little distortion to an image on the edges. I can correct for this in the digital darkroom but just a bit of perspective is a good thing . 👁👁When ever I get a veiled southwestern sunset, I head for this ridgeline. Known on ranch (and here in my narratives) as “Ridge 1” . It runs for about 6 miles across the landscape. Fortunately for me, it is parallel to 5 other north/south trending ridges that allow me to work terrain. I am able to find little areas of Zen up there.
Ridgeline Photography : Mini Course
Using a veiled sun as a focal point under a cathedral ceiling is an easy landscape subject lol. Usually I’m moving from place to place looking for a confluence of angles and alignments in the landscape. I stop, get the “shot” and move on looking for another “alignment”.. Sunset doesn’t last forever. Knowing when to leave and move on is 1/2 of this game. Objects that create “Leading Lines” that draw your eye (like the trees pointing to the cathedral) or an angled hillside and tree line setting up a “wedge” or a triangle in the image. All pointing to the sun main “hero” of the image (the sun).
A good image needs “heros” (plural) to not be just a “snapshot”. Lots of “heros” in this image. Composition, using the characteristics of your lenses (using that distortion to add appeal to the image) The sun, the sky the trees, each is it’s own interest in the image.
Getting to a favorite overlook for catching a Twilight Moment in the Backcountry in the Wyoming/Montana Borderlands is an exercise in driving remote two track roads in the dark dark lol. I might take 10 or 20 minutes to get into position for a shot like this pre-sunrise usually in late Nautical Twilight where stars are visible early on. (Do you know your twilights??)
Eastern Skies almost always have better twilight shows than western skies as there is usually more ice in the atmosphere by my observations. Others may disagree.🤣This is in mid Civil Twilight which starts 28 (ish) minutes before actual sunrise. Nautical Twilight just ended and Astronomic Twilight (when the stars just disappear) has been over for a 1/2 hour. IT takes about an hour for the sun to rise during which time, the horizon is falling away from covering the sun for the night. Remember it’s not the sun that’s moving, I remind you that it is the earth that is rotating and the horizon is literally falling when you look to the east about 4 inches during the time it takes a rifle bullet to reach 1000 yards out.
This Backcountry show starts in pitch black as deep as the North Atlantic Ocean (according to NOAA) with little dribs of color smattering through the needles. The “volume” is turned up on the color wheel as the timeline progresses. Such Sky Shows are a pleasure to watch from beginning to end and I have done many many hundreds in totality. I’m pretty sure time isn’t taken off your lifeline for time spent watching sunrises and sunsets.
This is a 2 second time exposure as it is. No wind, dead calm or the pine needles would be a blur. I consider this a night sky…
Satire: I’d like to imagine this Hunter’s Moon here was rising off it’s resting place in the remote backcountry of the Wy:Mt borderlands. It’s a lot of work rising all that cheese to it’s zenith at the top of the sky. I think a good rest before a climb is always in order don’t you?🤣
The moon never stays long resting as I photograph it all the time being lazy on things. If it stayed too long thought, the tide charts would be all messed up. I catch the moon doing all sorts of anthropomorphic things in my images. You just have to think about it😎
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Catching a close up of a bedded Pronghorn Doe is not as easy as you think lol. Usually if you surprise a Pronghorn, the fastest land animal in North America will show you her white A** while getting out of Dodge.
I’m pretty careful how I approach Pronghorn and it doesn’t always matter. Once they are aware of you, they tend to move off even when they are used to you with notable exceptions lol.
Fall was on a Tuesday this year and looked like this. The next day it was covered in snow. It was still green in the valleys and local wet areas. This is the “greenest” I’ve ever seen it here.
Winter has come early with 4 inches of wet stuff on the ground as I post this. You’ll see this image a week later on the 18th when it comes up in the que.
Location, standing in Wyoming and shooting north into Montana…. Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
“Reflections Grassy Knob Lake” is a study I did of this interesting shape (use of negative space) within the overall environment of rippled/reflected Nautical Twilight Sky off a lake on the Montana/Wyoming borderline. There was enough wind to ripple and the sky was starting to blaze. Click
As I move about in the backcountry here in the borderlans…I often see little areas of Zen like this almost everywhere but the hard part is capturing the scene in my photon capture boxes..🤔