I set sail early enough under this sea to achieve the vantage point I knew was on the hill. The fog bank moved over my homestead a full hour before sunrise. A window in that cover to the stars gave me a good idea of how thick/tall the bank was. I jumped in my rig driving through this lavender pea soup. Not until I climbed enough ridge to get above they tops of the waves of clouds that were hugging the ground rolling in.
The “Islands” at 30 miles from my lens, were looking back at me. The Missouri Buttes were a big sign post to the wagon trains known to them as the “3 Sisters”. Remember that those 3 hills are all related volcanic necks. Made of hard rock. they stick up above the softer rock the volcanic neck melted through to the surface. Much sediment has been removed around this volcanic pipes now more than a 1000 feet in the air. They used to be miles deep. Everybody known about the Devils Tower (left off frame about 20 miles), but also part of the same “Volcanic neck” complex formed around the same time as the MIssouri Buttes. This is the Non tourist angle from the north east .. Devils tower had more time to cool slowly and the columns formed much better
Location: near Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana), (Crook County/Campbell Count line about 4 miles south of the Montana/Wyoming border. Looking south east.
The Exposed Volcanic Necks in this image are all related in space and time. Once deeply buried volcanic conduits to the surface. Each of the 4 peaks stands eroded at the surface. These pipes carried magma to the surface as lava/ash in four volcanos popping off at the surface . The rock we see here froze solid in that neck and cooled. We know this was deep as the column of rock in the Devils Tower cooled very slowly allowing the columns of rock the National Monument is famous for. Being our nations first national Monument is the moniker that Devil’s Tower and surround area carry. Wyoming and all that
Being 40 miles away from the tow and the buttes somewhat closer, this becomes a terribly long shot to actually be able to resolve the columns on the tower. There is SOME columnar jointing in the Missouri Buttes. Emplaced closely in time and space does not say they were coterminous in their eruptions. . We don’t know their exact schedule.
Phenolitic Porphyry is the name of the rock. It cooled into big 6 foot in diameter crystals up the length of the tower. I used one of several possibilities all related to volcanic activity to describe the tower as volcanic necks. There are multiple configurations and possible variations in this discussion I won’t get into here but feel free to google devils tower origin to discover more.
Location: The Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming, Trail Creek Road, NE Campbell Country
Scenery such as this under the crescent moon takes my breath away. Surrounded by the quickening of the sunrise projecting it’s pink light. The ice so suspended in the atmosphere reflects those long traveled photons back to my light traps. This is termed Alpenglow. “Belt of Venus” variety. Cameras do no justice to the cool air on your face, the quiet of the remoteness, the sense of being the only human for miles in all directions. This photo location is about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. It’s 50 miles to anywhere with a population over 10. There are WAY more deer per square mile up here than people.
On a road trip up here in the winter high country consists of slick roads followed by short jaunts off the gravel. Two tracks roads are unpredictable as to snow depth so I tread carefully getting off road. Stuck in the snow is not something I’ve ever been. It’s not my plan to ever do so. I carry a LOT of survival gear, a good radio, folks generally know where I’m going ahead of time.
With the Ford F-150 Raptor I’m driving now, I’m feel much more secure but that is probably a trap eh? … It’s got at least 6 inches more ground clearance than my old jeep. (famous last words) So I’ll keep being choosy upon my trails and stick to the smart choices depending on the weather I guess…
Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)
When I try to read the morning as to whether or not to go out, I get about 70 percent good choices. This was a good morning. Once I decide to go out 30 minutes or so before sunrise, I have to decide where to go. I usually try to follow the light so I chose to take a road trip. There are few places up high that are accessible in the winter (sometimes more accessible than others).
Hoar frost covered this ridge that morning. Covering the left side of all the pines. Covered were any objects that disrupted air flow. The down wind side of the trees had little to no Hoar frost. Taken 5 minutes Pre-sunrise, this Alpenglow Back Show was a sight to behold for me. I don’t see many “Belt of Venus” this intense. Ice as a projector screen becomes efficient with so much of it in the atmosphere. The colorcast in the snow testifies to the reflected lights intensity. I don’t post much colorcast snow if it didn’t actually exist at the time. I mostly produce images in a “Blue Snow Free Zone”.
If you haven’t already, look up the term “Belt of Venus” as it is a fixture up here in the Winter. In season, almost every visible sun/horizon crossing up here has some pink alpenglow in the backshow. I’ve even seen it during the summer as well but for some reason, there seems to be less ice in the air during the summer.🤔😜 When there is ice, it usually falls as hail lolol.
It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridgetops. The main show over my shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this backshow is Pink. This pink back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise, you miss this show. Several image from this particular morning made it through the “sieve” I use to determine which photo to work on.
Alpenglow is the result ice in the air lighting up with the bright first pink starting about 40 minutes before sunrise… and then gradients to other nearly pure primary colors to Lavender at times up high. The Blue Line UNDER the Pink is the Shadow of the earths horizon. As the sun rises that blue band shrinks eventually disappearing just as the sun rises. The red/pink will often work down on the “Red Hills in the distance enhancing their already red rocks (Clinker) with the extra colorcast.
The hoar frost covering any exposed surface made for a winter wonderlands for a photographer with time before sunrise. Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.
I have to drive about 10 miles to get to this location viewing the Devils Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck Complex. You have to arrive well before twilight to set up.
Devils Tower was the nations first National Monument. The “Three Sisters” as they were known to the wagon train pioneers, are related to the Devil’s Tower. Related in space and time and are all remnants of ancient volcanic neck. Exposed by eroding the material away from above. Formerly deeply buried, these volcanic necks have been exposed. The “Little Missouri River” washed away thousands of feet of sediment down to the Gulf of Mexico a little at a time. RIvers very slowly but surely move miles of thicknesses of sediment to expose structures of very deep origin.
The 3 Missouri Buttes the real name) is about 30 miles drive from my cameras vantage. The tower is closer to 45 miles out. View from the Northwest (the side the tourists NEVER see).
Alpenglow in the summer as this shot is rare. There has been a LOT of the Pink Belt of Venus in the skies of Wyoming this winter. Not sure why more than normal though. The “Belt of Venus” caused by by atmospheric Ice reflecting back the only light making the journey to it. Only the red wavelengths make it through the hundreds of miles of atmosphere and the hundred back to my cameras. The more ice, the redder the display becomes.
Location: Trail Creek Road, Pass at Rockypoint Wyoming. (Wyotana)
This is one of those RARE times when the colorcast from the twilight was so intensely orange, that the reflections on the snow was very noticeable. I’m a photorealist who preaches against “blue snow”. I maintain the practice of maintaining a blue snow free zone in my gallery, except when it was really blue.
So much of the blue snow you see in forum photos is bad color correction or improper setting for white balance in your camera. I’ve always argued that blue snow doesn’t exist in nature but for a few, very few mornings like this extreme one. This color is as I experienced it. I could easily drop out the bark blue in the snow and make it white but that isn’t how it was. Early morning colorcast twilight is the only times I have ever seen this phenomena. Even then, I’ve only seen this one other time 2 winters ago. That time the colorcast was WAY red. This one is a very pervasive colorcast covering every object in it’s glow.
I do sunrises and sunsets almost every day photographically. This twilight was a rare one indeed. This is a view looking to the south east from near the Montana/Wyoming border. This is very far northeastern Wyoming.
Remember that those 4 hills are all related volcanic necks. Being made of hard rock, they stick up above the softer rock the volcanic neck melted through to the surface. Much sediment has been removed around this volcanic pipes now more than a 1000 feet in the air. They used to be miles deep. Everybody known about the Devils Tower but also part of the same “Volcanic neck” complex formed around the same time as the MIssouri Buttes. This is the Non tourist angle from the north east .. Devils tower had more time to cool slowly and the columns formed much better
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
Swallowtail on Pink Lilacs is from last spring of course. I see so much snow these days I’m ready for some of those warm days. It’s just December too lolol.
We have several Pink Lilacs as well as the standard purple. Swallowtails are a little flightly and are hard to get this close on without them heading for the next stop. Typically they fly out of reach. There were dozens of them swarming this bush along with a host of other species of insects. Finding one tolerant of you is a matter of ‘Becoming the bush” and don’t move too much. You have to be able to tolerate bees and other bugs flying around you though. Other than that, it’s not hard to so. Don’t wear perfumes as if you smell like a flower. Being stung in a bush is something that hasn’t happened yet. But merging into Lilac bushes and Hollyhock gardens has it’s risks.
Macro lens photography is a matter of getting close. REALLY CLOSE to your subject. I have half a dozen different macros good for different applications. This is a 90mm sony G series Macro lens at about 11 inches distance. I don’t autofocus anything ever so I’m actively focusing by moving my head back and forth fractions of an inch. A little bit of movement goes a LONG ways when your focus field depth is 1/8th inch thick. Set your focus and move your head lol. Handheld. Not a tripod.
The first known picture drawn by John White in 1587 of a north American butterfly was a swallowtail. This during Sir Walter Raleigh’s third Expedition to Virginia. That work is named Mamankanois that is believed to be a native word for butterfly in the day/area. I’m sure that it was shown to Queen Elizabeth who was the sponsor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s adventures in the America’s.
I took this image mid summer. I found this guy near a night light Soon he was popped him into a freezer bag. Refrigerate at 34 degrees for the day. When you take them out, they will hold on to thinks but will give you a bit more time to photograph them if they are cold. They warm up fast enough but will give you a few minutes anyway. I set this reddish brown fellow on a birch branch with sun exposure. The camera starts clicking away. Macro lenses will focus usually less than a foot away. Bright light is your friend for this kind of work.
To this day I don’t know who this guy is. I’ve never seen it in any google image and don’t know the systematics for moths. If you know who it is, I’d love to know.
I call it the “Muppit Moth” for lack of better terms to apply. He’s definitely a hoot with those eyes. What a proboscus too. Jimmy Durante had nothing on this guy. He has a degree of cuteness that doesn’t usually go along with insect close ups. I’d love to find another one. (Any body Remember Jimmy Durante??). The peach
After about 5 minutes of gradual warm up, it flew off to the sky. Never to be seen again. This is more or less my version of catch and release. This moment in space and time however did not get away from me. ….📷
Sunset Across the Border starts in Wyoming where I stand. The Prairie Dog Hills on the Horizon in the Montana side of this sky show.
The Horizon Rising to cover the suns face occurs with finality in the backcountry. This spot is several miles out into the grasslands. When the sun goes down, it gets very dark very quickly. Particularly so on moonless or cloudy nights. Dark as Pitch. In fact as Dark as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA’s website that discusses such things.
Twilight landscapes are one of my favorite things to pursue. Landscape details out of the dark are worth learning how to extract from your data file on an image. The information is usually in there but just hidden in the black in your cameras raw file. I pay very close attention to the highlights exposing them correctly to the actual scene then retrieve the details in the dark later.
I always travel with a tritium illuminated compass. There is a very real phenomena called “Death by GPS”. I only use them for land owner Identification. I would never travel back here with one. There was a semi-truck driver that had to walk out of the backcountry up here because he followed his GPS. He high centered his truck trying to turn around. 95 degree day, he had a bad time but managed to find a ranch with a hose and got cooled down after a 6 mile walk with very little water. Compasses used properly don’t usually lie.
This is the third image I finished from this photo session with a Gold Tachnid Fly. Tachnid Flies as a group are wonderful things to have in your garden. They kill major insect pests that destroy our crops. Kind of a big fly, really bristly and quite a vivid appearance highlights this Tachnid Fly Gardeners Friend #3.. This capture is by far the best of 3 in the series technically. Also artistically really from this time line of finished images. The Asters were post frost pollen providers here.
In an unusual manner, SOME species of Tachnids actually have their eggs develop in their bodies. Thus giving birth to live larva which they deposit readily in caterpillars and other crop eating insects. As a group they do a tremendous service to us in general. The adulst are around your garden to drink nectar through that have their ulterior motive for visiting your garden. They inject their larva (or just eggs under the skin so the larvae will slowly digest the host bug. Killing the host as it develops. (more on this later).
Sounds like an early Japanese Horror Film. Some species of Tachnids lay a live larva on a leaf and it will crawl around looking for a host to burrow into. Then it will eat and digest it slowly from the inside out. The larvae (of course) start on the least important parts of their host to keep it alive longer. Kind of like Cow birds and Cuckoos laying their eggs in another nest.
But these guys have the added feature of killing the host. Classy Lifestyle if I may say so. . Parasitic reproduction for sure but these are not animal carrion flies that carry disease about. As I’ve said, they are our friend. Good thing they only pick on other bugs that tend to eat our crops. The eat nectar, pollens and saps as an adult. This one is munching on pollen from the surviving asters after the first heavy frost. Not much else to eat out there.
The lens I used for this is a little odd being about 2 feet long. It is only an inch in diameter. It has LED lights at the end around the lens. They tend to be a bit yellow in general but yellow plus gold is vivid. . Being “Ultra macro” with a very deep focal field is rare. Getting the fly and mostly the flower in focus is an amazing performance . Even more so considering the “plus” size that these Flies are. He’s at least 1/2 inch long if not a tad larger. Getting this close to a fly feeding with a bright light….. Esier than without the bright light 🤔📸 or so I’ve noticed.
Here I have posted a very well developed “Belt of Venus” . NE Wyoming version. Lots of Ice in the air…..Backshow from the sun that just went down over my shoulder.
This is the view from the Pass at RockyPoint Wyoming showing the 4 volcanic necks. The debris from them being eroded (sediments) are draping off them making an apron of debris to the relatively hard peaks. The Devil’s Tower (left) is the best known volcanic neck in this complex
. The other three peaks were emplace around the same time as the towers rocks were cooling in the deeply buried neck of an ancient volcano.
“Belt of Venus” NE Wyoming
The Missouri Buttes AKA the Three sisters are in fact 4 buttes. Hard to see all 4 unless your on the top of Devils Tower though or in a plane. Two of the buttes rise slightly lower topographically than the Tower, while the remaining two are actually higher. Devil’s Tower was formed from the same type of rock type as the Missouri Buttes. Rocks there are classified as “phonolite porphyry” by geologists.
There is some agreement among geologist (rare thing lol) that these volcanic necks were from the same intrusion of magma. That event created the hard magmatic origin rocks that obviously later resisted erosion better than the surrounding sediments. Thus they stick out of the surrounding landscape that washed away.
Geologists think magmatic injection, lead to these erosional remnants (mountains). All these peaks rocks were formed during closely related volcanic timelines it appears. Although some columnar jointing is evident in the Little Missouri Buttes, they lack the distinctive appearance and magnificent grandeur of Devils Tower which cooled over a longer period of time allow the giant columnar crystals of Dark Porphyry. These eroded exposed volcanic necks dominate the landscape with their presence here in the NorthEastern Corner of the state. This is almost entirely in Crook County but I’m standing in Campbell County Wyoming.
Up Close and Personal: A Tachnid Fly is indeed a Gardeners friend. Hairy, spiny and without a peer, eyelash winner of the insect world. Guiness should be called (or sipped from a glass) in honor of this parasitic fly that lays eggs in other garden pests. They truly help farmers/gardeners and are a huge family of flies virtually every one of which is hairy as heck lolol. They are munching pollen here and the “Last Man Standing” as I was walking through the woods after several HARD (around 20 degrees) over night freezes “hoping” to find a macro lens subject to cooperate. In this inch across image area, there is a LOT going on. I find the macro lens a lens of discovery as much as just technical photography. The LED illuminated ring around lens I used for this is about one inch from the Fly. Patience and very slow determined “Photo-Yoga” movements are necessary to get this kind of capture. Sort of a slow dance for me now . This is great stuff up close… 📸
There were several of these guys feeding on a group of naturalized asters back in the windbreak woods behind our place. Everybody else (bugs) were absent/in hiding or killed by the freezes. Snowflakes will be my next target with this lens.
Asters of course are tough tough plants but they were on their last legs here too. Fall insect life and green leaves here in the WyoTana borderlands are winding down.
Into winter we slide with punctuated winter storm events being the rule until it gets really cold lolol (laughing maniacially). Maybe a little “Indian Summer” left in the early winter on the high plains.
In taking this image Pink “Belt of Venus” Alpenglow Crack of Dawn on the “Red Hills”, I was at around the same elevation as the saddle to the left of the peak off in the “Red Hills” 40 miles away from the camera.
I wonder why they call them the “Red Hills”? hummm.🤔
The Science of this.
The Light Stuff: The Pink Alpenglow known as “The Belt of Venus” is literally the back show of a sunrise over my shoulder that was s a stunning clear sky yellow Alpenglow scene saturated by an orange and yellow gradient sunrise THROUGH the atmospheric ice present. You’ve seen other photos of that in the wetlands around here just recently posted this morning perhaps elsewhere. This is the back show where only the longer more penetrative red/pink rays of light make it through to the relatively light grey atmospheric ice present and reflects even more red. The red rocks on the hills are also adding to the effect of just the tip of the Mountain is exposed to the sun over the shadow of the horizon behind me. Technically the sun has risen for some places and not for others.
Geology: That is the Little Powder River Valley with the Montana/Wyoming border somewhere in there. That little 6 foot wide river removed all the sediment between here and those mountains all by itself. No kidding. I wonder how long that took a spring flood and yearly freeze thaw cycles to break up the bedrock so the river can haul sand/silt/clay most of the time? 🤔 Cobbles only move during floods. Quartz cobbles are common down in the river valley where they eventually make their way. Being harder they resist erosion, being heavy, they don’t travel very fast and tend to concentrate in the river down there. Quartzite cobbles up here in pure fine grained sandstone country are rare. When I find them, they are affiliated with Dinosaur Bone Deposits and are probably “gastroliths” or stomach stones (like chickens swallowing gravel). Dinosaurs moved literally small boulders around in their stomachs and left them here mixed in randomly where you find dinosaur bones. the same river concentrated both just like it does gold.
This has been an alpenglow day……3 posts in a row anyway… Change up is in order I think📸
The “Reflections of a Purple Twilight Sky” is an unenhanced image from this last week I just got to. It takes me about a week now for a freshly captured image to make its way to FB via the autoposting que it’s waiting in. The skies have been VERY purple this fall. VERY. Location: Pretty much on the Montana/Wyoming border north of Gillette. Bliss Dinosaur Ranch
Windmills are excellent Lighting attractors so one of the best places to photograph lightning. Here I was in my Jeep, it was pitch black out, and the ambient light from our barnyard provided ample light for this 25 second time exposure. The camera was mounted on the car window and the 50 mile per hour gusts were wrecking havoc on shaking the car (camera). Lost a lot of images by blur that way.
Catching a Bumble Bee Fly By with a macro lens is sort of like catching a fly in chopsticks. It’s a very similar anticipation of where the bee is going to be. Notice I’m focusing in front of the flower. The focal depth is a plane about 1/2 inch thick so either side of that and the bee is out of focus (timing). Bees wings are very fast swinging a 90 degree arc at 230 beats a second. You need really bright sun to freeze this action with any camera.
In September, the Morning Weather at Sunrise can give me amazing Landscapes just at the end of twilight…. The back country provides my visual tunnels and leading lines, the 180 mile horizon to horizon sky here gives me the other half of the image, the lighting.
This is a “Wonder World” of Photographic subjects up here in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana
I was fighting Dew on the lens with this Pink “Belt of Venus” RIGHT at the Crack of Dawn. THere was a lot of dew on the grass and the light was very pink/red that morning. A side show to the sunrise ongoing to my left. Never forget to turn around lol.
I work well over 400 sunrises or sunsets a year these days. Some I miss, others I choose not to pursue. I’ve been known to sleep through a few rises but I don’t miss many sunsets. Just clouds in the way slow me down a bit. Grey flat light and I are like matter and anti-matter lolol.