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Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets
Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

Filed under things I see traveling parallel ridges. Driving in the backcountry and finding views like this is a reward in and of itself. I see things that are hard to capture that I’ve never been able to get just photorealistic as I saw it. This one was hard. High contrasts are such that the differences in dynamic range become difficult to record.

This backcountry is beautiful under MOST conditions. This night was quite special though. There are so many places to explore, it’s literally endless with so many nooks and crannies that you would need horses and nothing but decades to explore. I’ve lived here 20 years looking for new and old things just about daily. I find human artifacts as well as Cretaceous age fossils in this country.

Living in Dinosaur fossil bone country is also a place you can by accident find treasures in the grass. I have literally run across dinosaur backbones (centrum) laying in the grass as a “rock”. This grass is all covering Mounts of Hell Creek/Lance Rock Formations (Cretaceous). Fossils are not every where or everybody would have lots of fossils. There might be an acre total of fossiliferous ground in 5 or 6 square miles. Dinosaur fossils are in the Hell Creek Lance but are still very uncommon finds. The ranch collection currently has around 10K specimens in it recovered from the private deeded ground up here.

Dlsclaimer. You can only collect vertebrate fossils on private deeded ground. BLM, state, tribal lands are all forbidden locations to collect or even possess vertebrate fossil material. I’m not an attorney so look on the Bureau of Land Management website for specifics.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Backlighting and Backcountry Sunsets

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Perspective: Twisted Pine Sun Down

Perspective: Twisted Pine Sun Down
Perspective: Twisted Pine Sun Down

Perspective: Twisted Pine Sun Down during the golden hour this fall evening. I actively pursue close/far focus opportunities when ever I see them.

The landscape here on the high ridges looking to the south west, has 130 mile long landscape to the far ridges. Wood lasts a LONG time in this dry climate. We only get 14 inches of precipitation a year on average in this area. We probably accumulated 20 this year. This is the first year in my 20 years here that it was green in August and even in September.

Every season seemed to be a month late in 2019. Winter ended late. We had Lilacs blooming on the 4th of July at least a month late. I’ve noticed that the deer rut was even late by several weeks. It only got to 100 degrees F once this year if memory serves me right. July and August were not nearly as hot as normal so so it seemed to me. Global warming didn’t happen here this year. Far from it. I suspect it’s going to be a LONG cold wet winter. This belief is based on the fact that it already has been a long cold wet winter. It’s just Dec 1 too so this cold/wet/icy stuff might be around for a while.

We call these high ridges that we inhabit, “Little Siberia” which is appropriate as we usually have snow when others around us living lower don’t. We get some good winds up this high. I’ve had a recorded 78mph gust here back in 2012 I think. We get 60mph winds several times a summer. It’s natures way of tree trimming in the backcountry.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective: Twisted Pine Sun Down

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Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter

Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter
Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter

Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter is a capture that I put myself into the mind of a mouse to compose. I find that compared to scale of the backcountry here in the borderlands, I’m a mouse anyway😋 Everything is proportional which is the game with photography. This is about 2 miles into the backcountry. I know of another one that I can walk under and stay very dry. The Hell Creek/Lance formation this ledge is a part of, is not known for large caves. That’s limestone that dissolves away to make caves. This is sandstone so we get Rock Ledge Shelters here.

You can’t build a fire under one of these safely though. Many a person has been killed by rocks falling from above a fire build under a rock ledge shelter. The rock expands from the heat and a dead fall trap ensues. It will keep you dry and out of the wind though, pull up some leaves and pine needles and relax.

Photographic Musings.

Angles and leading lines. I am always thinking compositions when I click the shutter. Sure you focus (last thing). You worry about your settings. (With a mirrorless camera you see what your getting BEFORE you take the photo BTW). The Proportions of 1/3rds, and a “hero” which here is the sunstar. This defraction star is light bouncing around in the lens off of the edges of the aperture (the pupil) of the lens. The aperture is known as f-stop.

You need to learn that fstop is a double edged sword. Turning it up high like this (F22) gives you very deep fields of focus from up close to infinite. The sword part is where you really shut the lens down to light (pin point pupil). A LOW fstop nubmer (f2.8 say) will give you a very narrow field of focus say the grass but not the sky. A blurry background is good sometimes but not in my landscape perpectives. By nature they are close/far focus as it’s all about the close details. The background is important yes but its the detail I’m after.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming?Montana

Title: Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter

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Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset

Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset
Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Perspective Backcountry Ridge Sunset.

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Volcanic Necks Framed and Braced

Volcanic Necks Framed and Braced
Volcanic Necks Framed and Braced

Volcanic Necks Framed and Braced is the real deal lol.

That is a fence brace, it frames, rustically here, 4 exhumed volcanic necks from the of Northeastern corner of Wyoming. The three on the right are of course the Missouri Buttes and the one furthest left is a little known place called Devil’s Tower National Monument. These 4 piles of hard rock that resisted erosion that removed all . This view is covering about 35 miles of landscape from this ridge.

This country is big. The high ground looks pretty close but those mounds of phenolytic porphyry are pretty big. These bumps on the landscape used to be buried by thousands of feet of sediments surrounding them and supporting hard rock volcanic neck up thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The soft sediments were removed all by the action of the Little Missouri River and the Belle Fourche River Drainage providing the bulk of that work locally. The soft rock is removed while the harder material makes mountains. That’s pretty much the way it works all over the planet.

From a strictly rustic standpoint, there is a lot of engineering that went into that brace. All those force vectors resolving to shunt all the tension into the ground. They are elegant in their design. The cowboy/fence builder will always use what is handy to act as a lever on that diagonal wire. Diverse items as cow bones, pipes, sticks, boards and anything else laying around is used. What ever you use is going to be there a while lolol.

We have quite a bit of snow at the moment….for early November. I would expect a very long winter as it’s already been a very long winter and it’s still just starting. Live up in hight the Wyotana borderlands can be chilly at times lolol. Never a lack of things to take photos of though 📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Volcanic Necks Framed and Braced

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A Windmill in Winter Wonder Land

A Windmill in a Winter Wonder Land
A Windmill in Winter Wonder Land

Here the oldest windmill on the ranch “Re Pete” is in one of my winter landscapes again. I don’t know the exact year he was installed but I think 1920’s. This brand (AEROTOR) was first built in 1888.


This was from a 10 days ago as it posts… Early snow this year, it’s going to be a long solar minimum. Take it from a geologist that that he sun is the furnace that drives our climates (note the s).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.