This beautiful portrait of a 10 mile long landscape was taken early this spring. The winding red gravel county road gives you a sense of access but this is big country. There are many two track ‘roads’ through out this remote backcountry. Literally thousands of miles of travel between the fences separating pastures several square miles in area. Open a fence and keep going. Making sure you close it behind you if it was closed to start with.
Off in the distance is a linear feature in the landscape. Manmade. That is a trace of a CO2 Sequestration line. It was laid near here a decade ago. Excess CO2 is from Wyoming being used to inject back into the periphery of a big local oil field. The peripherally injected CO2 pressures the oil to migrate to the center of the oil field where wells pick up the oil. Then the CO2 is just left in place permanently sequestered deep underground. It sounds like a great idea on many levels but there are of course issues that are not for this forum.
That linear scar is hundreds of miles long across Wyoming and Montana. It was an invasive process for any local having HUGE equipment and crew daily for a month or so interrupting normal ranch operation. Lots of traffic for the duration of the project. Having said all that, the vegetation is well maintained by the company several times a year killing off noxious weeds that take over freshly disturbed ground. That is a 36 inch high pressure line. A lot of CO2 from the oil wells, natural gas wells and coal scrubbing gets put in there never to be seen again.
Compositions dominate my thinking with the scenes I visit daily. LONG shadows completely crossing the flat road tells the early hour. The Whitetail Deer Doe having watered across the road is now on her way back to her feeding grounds. I love the tension created by curves in the landscape even man made ones. With the deer as the off set focal point, I felt this is how the frame should exist.
This image is in late may when the still pregnant. I suspect this is the doe that had twins I photographed just recently. Generally if they are tolerant enough to let me photograph them once, a second time is way more likely to occur. I will never chase them off by my actions and usually drive away leaving them effectively unbothered by my big black smelly noisy pickup. I have found that if I scare or chase animals, I will not ever get close to them again. I’m very patient with them these days. The wildlings are slowly getting used to my presence.
I haven’t seen many Mule deer this year. Mostly Whitetail which is not necessarily a good thing. When Whitetail move in, Mule Deer usually move out. Mule deer are much easier to photograph. More importantly they are a better game animal. A LOT of people feed themselves with Mule deer up here stocking their freezers for the long winters. It takes 2 Whitetail to give you the meat of a good Mule Deer. (Hail, Grasshoppers, global Pandemic, economic depression and NOW Whitetails are pushing out the Mule Deer???? I mean COME ON……. 😜 )
This young female Pronghorn caught in the act clearly levitating above the county road. No wonder they are the fastest land animal in North America. They have been “clocked” at 61 miles per hour I’ve heard. I’ve seen them run next to me around 50 mph over uneven ground. Running smoother over than that my rig on the maintained county gravel road. Here I managed to catch her actually crossing that road in front of my rig.
Anticipating well known animal behavior is not rocket science. Pronghorn have often been seen having the option to run away from your truck back into the “fields” but run in front of your vehicle instead. Here I “banked” on that activity (clearly today “banked” doesn’t have the value it used to but I digress). Sure enough, I stop to aim the camera, spin the dials while the trucks suspension dampens down….4,3,2,1 click.
Photographic Musings: Photography is all about balancing the amount of light coming into your camera.
Close to the camera, High Speed Animals Running laterally to you are necessary to follow/ track. So you must be free handed typically. That is a learned skill. Keeping the critter in your eyepiece with a 2 foot long lens is like looking through a 2 foot long pipe. I can’t teach you that, but I can tell you that if you don’t have a lot of shutter speed, your going to get a blur as a 50mph thing blows past. I would hope you have 1/2000ths of a second or shorter exposures to freeze it in space and time.. That’s one of three settings in manual mode to get this kind of image.
Second setting is F-stop, It’s always better to have lots of light with high speed work. Lower F-stop # =more light but it thins your “depth of focus field” (google that) You note the only thing in focus in the Pronghorn. A low F-stop number gives me more light to account/balance the light I lost
ISO, camera sensitivity… Final adjustment that you use to balance to actually get the right amount of light to get the exposure you desire. More ISO means more visual noise and grain on the image. Lower numbers like 100 give you the best grain but take away light from your camera. Higher numbers make it so the camera digitally enhances the light that does make it through the aperture (F-stop) and the short exposure time. A three way teeter totter of light.
This road actually does lead to right about where that rainbow touches down in a round about way. I followed this storm for some time. It’s actually a double rainbow but you have to look. The orders of colors reverse themselves in a double rainbow. This is all about the composition though having the rainbow is a nice spiff eh? 😀 📷
There are literally thousands of miles of backcountry county roads here. County road surface upkeep is highly variable from place to place. Some roads in this area are better maintained than others lolol. The quality of the roads certainly depends on how much revenue flows to the Road and Bridge Dept. in the particular county your driving through. Within 15 miles of my ranch I can drive into 2 different states and 4 counties. (2 in each state). Each has it’s own road department and quirks of road quality.. I haveexperience on my own ranch buying gravel for driveways. A single semi pulling a trailer full of gravel is expensive. Delivered to my place is around 900 dollars. Most of the expense is the distance. Imagine how many truck fulls of gravel it took to cover thousands of miles of roads here in the backcountry.
This is a road that is indeed very well maintained. Advice to the wise planning on driving off the Interstate onto the back road system of Wyotana. Have Tire repair kits, good spare(s) lots of steel in your sidewalls of your tires, lots of gas, supplies for a week and generally a hard map, GPS and satellite phone in your kit. Go nowhere without several days of water in your vehicle. That is if you get off the highways. You need to add a lot more defensive gear these days to drive on the Interstates lolol.
TWO Big Storms rumble across the high prairie land of Wyotana. The wedge on the left is closer, smaller and in the partial shadow of another storm between it and the sun. The right storm is really huge and ‘muscular” for your “garden variety” of giant storm moving across the high plains. The close storm is 40 miles out obscuring the Devil’s Tower from my view. The larger storm is well over 100 miles out over in South Dakota across that state line. These storms have energy equal to an atom bomb that they expend over their lifespan.
Closed to me the window to the horizon rising early June 2020 Strawberry Moon. These two monsters spinning like tops in the way being effective a keeping me out. By this point in this 30 mile road trip, I was getting impatient for the extra 1/2 hour it took for the moon to rise over that cloud bank.
In full disclosure, this is two very wide images individually stitched side by side inside of the digital darkroom. A real scene though. It is over 160 degrees wide almost 1/2 of the sky. These were really quite a scene. This is of course, the reason I followed the storms out on the road. Waiting just for this moment. The colors are as I experienced them with lighter / whiter clouds at the top and the “Belt of Venus” sunset light projected onto the storms sides.
I love the lighting on this red gravel road in remote Wyotana. Golden hour a week or so back…
The High country here in my part of Wyotana has rare arteries of easy gravel travel sparsely dispersed. One path often looks like another. It’s often hard to get there from here. Turning east on a local gravel road may end up taking you north so driving by dead reckoning might live up to its name. I have a name for tourists using GPS as their only source of direction finding. IT’s called “Death by GPS”. I’ve had GPS in several vehicles tell me to turn in places that lead to nowhere. I don’t trust GPS very much without some secondary information confirming the computer… Being led into a Cul-de-sac is not ideal for cross country travel in my experience. With all the visitors planning backcountry trips….
True Local Story: A semi-truck driver from urban Illinois was following his GPS around the backcountry. He went by my place and took a turn into a 100 square mile cul-de-sac into the backcountry to our west. Well it was summer time, 95 degrees, mid-day, sunny. He high centered his rig trying to turn around 5 miles into the middle of nowhere. Stuck He had little water and had to walk almost 2 hours to get to the first shade shelter which had no water. By the time he got to the first ranch and found a hose with some shade, it was a close call. He missed a solar well on my property by about 800 yards. It took him 6 hours to get a ride. He was SOOOOO lucky. As I say, Death by GPS….
No one knew he was there. You need to know your route, use a compass, plus the compass in your head, make sure you are expected at your destination and someone knows where you intend to go. Try not to deviate from that plan. Have days of fluids too…. Just some advice from a long term Wyotana backcountry geologist/explorer. It’s hard to argue with hard paper maps.
Location:, near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Hiding a major inflexion point in earths history…..
Reading earths book: Musings.
When the Bolide (google this) struck the earth at the End of the Cretaceous, it spread a thin layer of Iridium (an element) rich dust all over the globe. This impact occurred down in Yucatan Mexico. The rocks that make up this ridge/pass are from that moment in time. There the “K/T” iridium layer exists somewhere.
Now what does a geologist/photographer do with a hill like this…. The Bolide) Crashed into the earth, killing the dinosaurs, and many other animal groups on the planet. Huge upheavals in food chains ensued. Major extinctions do that of course and here we are. Our ancestors survived the conflagration. I traced the Rock Formation that is dinosaur bearing (Hell Creek/Lance formations) to end on this hill. The type of rock changes and SOMEWHERE in the photo, is that 4 inch thick layer of debris from that major impact. You can only tell exactly where it is from taking detailed samples up the rock section then running them through a mass spectrometer . One just looks for the Iridium spike (Iridium as an element is common in outer space but rare on earth. The impactor vaporized enriching the surface in that rare element.
The number of fossils and the diversity seems to be slowly declining near the top of the section but I don’t have HARD numbers on this. Don’t discount the pizza oven effect from the Bolides ejecta reentering the atmosphere. Massive tsunami’s hit further south. I’m sure this area got cooked. Later a blast wave plough through at the speed of sound. Anything that wasn’t under water, in a burrow or somehow hidden was killed outright on this hemisphere. The climates changed markedly and initiated a failure of major populations of animals to successfully reproduce. Ultimately it’s the inability to reproduce that causes extinction. No matter what the cause.