As the solstice is tomorrow, I thought I’d show you what a Bighorn Mountain sideshow looks like with a far northern sunset. The sun is WAY off to the right of the frame. The landscape ladder here climbing off to the 130 mile distant 13000 foot tall peaks leaves me speechless more times than not. Now this is a very long lens which crushes perspective. The second furthest ridge is 40 miles away from the ridge I’m standing on. My elevation is about the same as the saddle on that second to last ridge. The red layered badlands are only 10 miles distant.
Those red banded layer hills are all Tullock Formation. The rocks exposed on the surface all the way back to the Bighorns have been carried there. A complex process by rivers of the past. These moving eroded by the elements, sediments off the peaks. All running down slope from those world class hills. At one time there was a smooth ramp all the way to the peaks to my feet. It was a smooth slope that huge alluvial fans were deposited off the Bighorns. The middle of those alluvial fan stack are dissected at right angles by the Big Horn, the Powder and the Little Powder Rivers.
The rocks I stand on are older Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstones with their share of Dinosaurian fossils. (Hell Creek/ Lance Formations) These older sandstones are dipping toward the Bighorn’s Powder River Basin being downwarped with the formation of that regional structure. About a mile off my ranch’s west boundary, the alluvial fans overlapped the Cretaceous River Sands. The dinosaur fossil bearing rocks diving deep off toward the mountains.
Layers of Landscape to the first big ridge stretch for 40 miles in the distance. The Alpenglow illuminated BigHorn Mountains are saturated in an orange color cast projecting off of the deeper snow cover of the slopes. There are still spotty snow in the low and sheltered northern slopes and the deeper slopes of the 130 mile distant peaks. 1200 mm telephoto.
This of course is a time exposure as it were. I consider anything longer than 1/4 second a time exposure best done on a tripod or some support. You can take photos like this free handed but your ISO is going to have to be so high that you’ll get grain on your image. A minimum handheld speed with a long lens is about 1/100th. With a telephoto your going to have to compensate for the lack of light somehow as they are not a fast lens. Turning up camera sensitivity? This will unfortunately give you larger grain to your image and add noise to the color. It will however bring an image in.
The first rule of photography is get the shot. The second rule is get it right !. Longer time exposures give your camera a chance to gather light the easy way. You always want as LOW and ISO as you can get away with. Low light images like this look wonderful if done on a tripod. Not so much hand held. I use a clamp on my car window with my favorite tripod head on it that mates to my cameras. Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
The Big Horn Mountains 60 miles to the west supplied the sediment of this exposed section of Tullock Formation (Fm). Tullock Fm. consists of alluvial fan and swamp deposits all the way back to the mountains. Sediments washing off the newly risen peaks were filling up the coterminously formed sedimentary basin (Powder River Basin). The huge coal mines we have here are mining the coal formed in those swamps at the base of the Proto-BigHorn Mountains. Those mountains were much higher when they were young plus the basin was deeper.
Huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted and correspondingly downwarped during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide Orogeny. Cloud peak is 13,175 feet and is visible in this image. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east. This Basin called the Powder River Basin. This basin the major source of coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.
My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns. Dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. . These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. Major Mountain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from the continental wide compression.. Huge were the forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks to clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed just about to my front door.
Understanding the geology here takes many books to read, its a long list and growing 🤔😀📷
Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, WYoming/Montana borderlands
This is a must to take full screen. The Pronghorn’s are well camo’d in this image with huge alluvial fan deposits in the distance. Those sediments eventually turning into those rocks were transported from the Big Horn Mountains 130 miles back over my shoulder.. OF course I’m standing where there used to be rocks like that but erosion has removed them. Those layers were at one time continuous all the way back. Now rivers have cut big valleys in the apron of the mountains. Geologists regard things in a strange way 😜👀
So for this shot I was traveling from my ranch to Gillette Wyoming. , I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is a long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states. They wander quite a bit and there are sometime I see nothing but grass and scenery. Half of the time. No cell phone service and no AAA up here…. Just saying 😀
The Thunderbasin Grasslands are indeed a remote area. The closest stop light is about 40 miles. There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. There might be a few water and a few oil wells out there. They actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill is doing what he does best, get into my landscapes. I have no control over his actions…..😎 (years old narrative).🤣
The window to the Big Horn Mountains from my ranch has 130 miles of atmosphere between my high ridge location and those 13,000 foot high peaks… I see them maybe once a week. It was windy but this is still a 1/15th second time exposure in order to blur the windmill sail.
This was a missed post so I manually posted this this AM. I’m not sure how I screwed it up but here I am working live and not a week out lolol.
Thunder Basin National Grasslands (The only shaft of light I saw ALL hat Day. )
I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming. Driving toward my ranch, I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. This road skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states.
There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. Right side of the fence is reserve, left side is private ground. There might be a few water and oil wells out there but they actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
I get the best Hoar Frost images from those geothermal ponds in the deep winter. It is a good 1/2 gravel road drive to the closest of those ponds though so I’ll only work them photographically a few times a year. If it’s -10 or lower, I’m heading that way for sunrises. Mostly those ponds are on the north side of this grassland complex. Gotta love vandalism of shooting signs. Shooting signs which cost hundreds to make, is senseless and a waste of good ammo. It’s also vandalism. 😞
Bolt Striking the Red Hills is a MASSIVE strike. That ridge is 40 miles distant from my Telephoto lens which was trained where the last bolt struck. Quite often bolts will strike very close to the previous ones. I look for patterns and focus on that area.
I do use lightning triggers on my cameras. These are boxes that automatically sense lightning by the pattern of flashes they generate. They Trigger my Sony’s in mere microseconds. I endorse no particular brand as the several I’ve tried all have their issues but “generally” work. None are “cheap” but then again, look what you get for your efforts. I might only get 1 in 20 bolts I try to get manually without time exposures. These are 1/4 second exposures at other settings that bring in the landscape.
In pitch dark, you just set the camera on a tripod, remotely trigger it or timer the shutter at about 25 seconds at let the lightning display. This technique is the best way to get multiple bolts. This capture however was a single discharge with multiple plasma channels reaching down. This is the kind of bolt that will start fires. Forested ground is particularly easy to burn. That ridge often has a fire call during dry electrical storms that pass through now and then.
We have a local rancher that helps as a Range Officer at our Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship in 2018 that had to leave the event. All because of a lightning strike near his ranch up in those very hills. The response of several departments along with hundreds of men saved his homestead. Unfortunately some of his ranch burned.. The grass will grow back greener the next year, I’ve seen it.
Layered BigHorn Mountain Landscape: It’s mid-November and a HUGE hay crop was everywhere in this country. Still picking them up this late in the year. Boy there are still a lot of haybales to move. I caught the a hydraulically equipped hay truck stopped long enough to take this 1 second exposure. They had been at this all day and it was pretty dark and were still hauling. There were hundreds to pick up this year.
This of course is a time exposure as it were. I consider anything longer than 1/4 second a time exposure best done on a tripod or some support. You can take photos like this free handed but your ISO is going to have to be so high that you’ll get grain on your image. A minimum handheld speed is about 1/100th with a telephoto so your going to have to compensate for the lack of light somehow. Turning up camera sensitivity? This will unfortunately give you larger grain to your image and add noise to the color. It will however bring an image in. The first rule of photography is get the shot. The second rule is get it right !.
Longer time exposures give your camera a chance to gather light the easy way. You always want as LOW and ISO as you can get away with. Low light images like this look wonderful if done on a tripod. Not so much hand held. I use a clamp on my car window with my favorite tripod head on it that mates to my cameras.
Surface Geology north of Ucross View to the BigHorns
What a wonderful glacial terrain. The geologist in me sees all sorts of evidence of past glaciers in this valley. Dozens and dozens of “signs”. First of course is the obvious proximity to a 13,000 foot mountain chain. In the last 1/2 million years we have had 5 glaciations advance and retreat in North America (world wide too). We are in an interglacial period at the moment and a mild one fortunately for us. Warm is good, cold means famine historically.
If you look at the valley floor in this scene, note the bumpy nature of the terrain. Each of those bumps is a pile of gravel with all sorts of geomorphological names depending on their shape and relationship to the glacier that was running through this valley. They are all water sorted gravels in various kinds of shapes and sizes. The gravel piles were mostly formed as the glacier receded and left it’s gravel load behind as the ice melted. The geomorphologists out there call glacial gravel “Boulder Clay” because that is pretty much what it is. Boulders and smaller all mixed up.
The rounded mound in the foreground caught my attention. I think (as I didn’t walk out there) that it is bedrock based on the vegetation change at the top. Those upper layers were very hard and resisted the erosion that removed all around it protecting the softer material below. The aforementioned glacier looks like it rode over it giving it that rounded mound like appearance. Classic.
The view from my Driveway of the Big Horn Mountains behind the Veil of a big cloud bank in the Powder River Basin. That ridge is about 40 miles out from my position and the peaks of the 13,000 feet high Big Horns are 130 miles out from my viewpoint.
This is actually a side show to the sunset on going off the right side of this frame.
We are as high elevation wise as the first black ridge (the Red Hills) and generally have the same weather as the high grounds around us. The lower areas down in the valley often has rain where we get snow. We call this place.. “Little Siberia” and that designation has been handed down to us from the previous owners of this ranch decades ago lol. The name still applies. But we have the views😄
As I type this, we are 4 degrees (oct 29th) at 5:14AM. … It’s October NOT November yet. Winter is coming (for a classic reference).
This wide 3:1 Aspect Ratio Panorama of the Big Horn Mountains on the day of Autumn 2019. Autumn was on a Tuesday this year.
This is a long telephoto composite of 3 very high resolution images stitched together in the digital darkroom seamlessly as the scene actually was. This image is the “state of my art”. It’s high resolution to 60 x 20 inches lol.
There is no sign of mans impact in this image except for the few fence posts you can see. This was captured on a road trip to Sheridan I took last week. It was 119 miles of backcountry gravel roads and two lane Wyoming highways over about 3 hours. Not that I stopped to take a photo now and then or anything….. It was a classic Wyoming, it’s hard to get from here to there trip.
Cool backroad Wyoming burbs of Ucross, Spotted Horse, Clearmont, Recluse and Leiter are the “Big Towns” along the way. WONDERFUL drive on 14/16 going into Sheridan from the east if you ever get a chance to go that way.
I took a trip to Sheridan Wyoming and it was Wagons West to the Bighorns. It’s about 40 miles of mostly maintained gravel roads and another 70 of two lane backcountry Wyoming Highways to get there from here. It’s an extra hour to go to Gillette and over by Interstate to there.
The Autumn Colors are in full bloom now though I’m too low and dry here for the Aspens to be quaking about. They are mostly up the “hill” a bit.
This whole landscape taken yesterday (a week ago as this posts)) is today totally covered with snow.
I’m not going that way anytime soon now lol.
Location about 20 miles from Sheridan on Rt 14/16 heading west
This 8 layer landscape ladder of the Big Horn Mountains Riding 13000 feet above sea level as seen from my ranch 130 miles away. I’m up on the Montana/Wyoming border to the northeast of the highest parts of the ranch. I get a good weather window to see these weekly but not many of those are this good. This was an 800mm rested telephoto shot from a high ridge. The grass is about 1/4 mile out, the first treed ridge (the Red Hills) is 40 miles out for an idea of scale here.
I took a trip to Sheridan last week by the time you see the images….. Many good photos from that journey all backcountry for the 119 miles (3 hours) trip on gravel. You can’t easily get there from here by highway.