All of my wildlife encounters are random. I’m usually going somewhere on the ranch. As such I always travel backcountry with a box of cameras. I normally only have two cameras when I travel light. I have found that having instant options is a good thing. But then you have to know WHICH camera to grab for a particular scene… 🤔 Rule number one of photography is: “Have a camera with you. “
Killdeers nest on dry ground but you can sure find them wading around like they own the swamp. This Killdeer is hunting for goodies to eat certainly in the marsh. It paused looked, picked a target and beak to the water went for his intended target. Spearing or grabbing a worm along with some mud mixed with cow poop. My camera machine gunning images as it successfully “hunts”. Sucks to be the worm. 😜
The vast majority of Killdeer that live up here don’t get to enjoy water sports very much or so it seems. This is only about a 5 acre lake and adjacent wetland area. Considered a shorebird, this Ringed Plover is actually living up to their reputation. Most of them around “these parts” nest/hunt out on the open grassland / ranch land. Seeds and getting water from isolated stock tanks seems to work just fine for them. They are going to have an easy year with all the grasshoppers eating vegetation up. This has truly been a year to “take a Mulligan”.
Nesting up here they get a lot of elbow room in the grasslands. Technically the Killdeer is a shorebird of which I have many water’s edge photos of adults like this. But they are unusual in that they many times will nest far from shore. The chicks hatching from their relatively large eggs are born with their boots on. The babies are out of the nest as soon as their partially developed feathers dry. Soon they are out of the nest running around. The babies are well worth pursuing with a long lens. What a hoot they are. 😀
The wind was very low but the 30 second time lapse here showed clearly any water movement with the slight blur. It was pitch black with the only light being the Comet Neowise and the star field to the north. I couldn’t have set up my tripod close to this pond if I wanted to. It’s hard to find standing water high enough these days to do this. I had to travel to make this happen. I worked this comet for 3 hours this night traveling backcountry under “fairly” low light conditions lolol.
You can clearly see the ion trail tail pointing directly away from the sun . THe chunky particle trial is leaning off to the right on the outside of the race track orbit it’s on. It will be back in about 7000 years so you better enjoy it now lol. By the time this posts it will no longer be naked eye. Binocs will work though.
Coincidentally I lined up the light pollution from the town of Broadus Montana 45 miles distant on the horizon. This kind of photography is WAY outside my normal operational envelope. It is REALLY dark out here. I essentially can not see ANYTHING in the camera eyepiece when I do this. Mirrorless cameras do this a little sloppily yet and I’m tempted to use an old DSLR for kicks to compare. Time exposures are tough on so many levels.
The night was a partially cloudy evening with mid-layer patches of stratus clouds. The air was cool but NO wind makes mother nature say “find a pond” to me. When I get lucky, the sun drops below the layer of clouds. Then it can happen that nature provides me with a color pallet that says “take my photo” lolol.. Conveniently a rare windless Wyotana last light of the day moment was spent down by this local pond with a view. I particularly enjoy fully involved skies but sometimes the mosquitos push my limits. Out comes a small can of DEET (Off™) I keep handy in “Clever Girl” for such excursions. I don’t like it anywhere near optics/lenses though. Yuck…
Spring time is a good time for new angles for me to work photographically. The sun pushes North every sunset. Landscape features I use for compositions here in the backcountry are changed in their relationship to the light everday. An infinite variety of subjects over the 5 square miles of this small ranch.
The sun will start setting more to the south each night starting the Summer Solstice June 20th 3:44PM MST, the sun will continue to set to the left from this view point from June 20th till next December. Moving completely off frame with it progression to the south. This is a very wide capture at 130 degrees wide showing the whole sky that night.
Taken about 12 days ago from this post, narrative written 8 days ago.. Such is my work flow these days. Present future and past reflections a this remote wetlands echo back to us in time and space. A Cottonwood Tree covered dam built many decades ago. A spring fed pond is home to many a gorgeous vista. It will have many more. Each sunset/sunrise is a new pallet of color for me to explore.
I have so many choices of where to pursue the limited time I have to chase the light. Because the wind was dead calm at the homestead. The flags were slag. I thought that a trip a few miles into the backcountry to get to this place would worth the investment of time and gas. .
“Backcountry” …. I’ve defined the term before and for all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…
This little “Heaven on Earth” is 2 miles of bumpy two track dirt/grass road from the nearest county road. That county road is crushed red scoria (“Clinker”) gravel. Generally local gravel travel over well maintained roads is a dusty pleasure. I point out that these roads are fodder for “Clever Girl”. She eats them up. 🤔👀
So… upon gaining the county gravel, it is 14 miles of curvey / hilly 1.5 lane road to the closest asphalt paved two lane highway. . It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away. 2 people per square mile density in this area while there are several hundred cows in the same area. Cattle Country with Dinosaur Bones. …. There certainly are more remote areas of North America but not a lot of difference from those to the lifestyle of living in the “backcountry”.
This spot is about 200 yards from the Montana/Wyoming Border and it has a bit of both states in the image as do most of my photos.
It took me about 10 minutes to drive up this close once I crested the nearby hill exposing my self. . When I approach this area, I slowly encroach in steps. It’s comparable to imitating a grazing animal. The Raptor is pretty quiet. Particularly when compared to my previous clinking rattleing Jeep Grand Cherokee. This new rig is also very Black, dark and stealthy in it’s appearance. Lots of black animals walking around the hills (angus cattle). So my new rig is working very well to integrate into the scheme of things up here.
The various creatures on ranch will become accustomed to that new Ford F-150 Raptor with time. I also worked a herd of deer this same evening getting very close for this early in the season.
The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of nesting season. I have only seen 8 Herons actively nesting so far. There may be some others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 7 nests in the trees across the lake from where this guy stands here. (one newly built this year) The male here did just fly up to the nest greeting it’s mate with a 3 Musketeers sword/beak swish caught here. They didn’t care about my approach and were fine in my rear view mirror when I backed up and away to change the scene. (got enough photos lolol).
The Great Blue Heron is also know as Ardea herodias by hobbiests and professionals alike. This gal was shore wading out 150 yards out, the sun was setting. You know, a classic wetland scene. Really not common up in this high dry ridge country….. Seeing a Heron out on the ranch is rare unless you go to where they hang out. They are not known for hanging out on the high dry ridges of the grasslands. Fortunately we have several small lakes on the ranch. This lake is a spring fed OLD man made lake dammed up around the turn of the century. Early cattle drives watered here even before the dam was built.
These are BIG birds weighing in at 4.5 – 5.5 pounds, stand 5 foot tall with a 5 foot wingspan….. They are AMAZING circus performers. Being total masters of their environment, they have superpowers!📸 I observed this one through a 1200mm 28 inch long lenses while I was on an adjacent shore across the lake. Watched it for about 20 minutes, finally it took off tired of watching me I suspect lol. The light was fading fast, I’m trying to get detailed shots of a still bird so the camera settings were not quite fast enough to totally freeze in ice the wing tips. Getting at lake level while a spooky bird watches but doesn’t fly way is a good thing :). The rules of Physics and technological limitations again demonstrate they are my masters. (along with topography if you follow my narratives 😜. )
A little wind that night but it was spotty. The sky show was muted at first.
This capture was well worth of hazardous pay. The particular camera rig I use for this kind of work is about a 5500 dollar outfit. (lens and camera body). When you literally touch the water with the camera, there is this reflexive pucker of certain gastro-intestinal muscles that occurs. I instinctively pull back from such threats to beloved gear. I had Goretex™ lined boots on as I did wade in a bit for this. Never got wet feet though. I’m not sure when putting electronic gear this close to destruction bothers me but it does lolol. 🤔📸
The sky this night actually went full involvement with this sun a little later on in the time line and those images will be posted as I finish them. I actually spent a lot of time with a nearby herd of buck deer all but one sans antlers (a stag) this night.. I left here shortly after this. Worked them for 10 minutes and proceeded back to here for the rest of this show off this reflecting mirror.
Yet another Blue Image from me. I have done 3 in the last week which is virtually unheard of. Not sure if it’s a mood thing or not but it’s definitely happening.
Be safe all and enjoy all the TV time.
Gear (Sony Alpha 7R4, Sony 28-135 G series lens. ).
The ephemeral wetlands of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, entertain many reflections every day but you have to be there at the right time to capture those photons that are worth catching…. The winds were somewhere else as the water here was mirrored as smooth as it gets. Dead calm air is quite unusual up in this high ridge line country. The ice floating on the surface of this rapidly depleting due to the warmth… Melt water pond will be here but a few more weeks. This water level is quickly dropping soaking into the Hell Creek Formation sands underlaying this spot.. There is NO snow left to melt up the hill from it. Nothing to feed it further so I’m expecting it to disappear shortly.
This nearly full March Worm Moon that evening a few weeks ago was a beautiful sight rising just a few minutes before sunset. I worked it with 4 cameras/lenses over about 30 minutes. I have a few photos to finish from the “sitting” lol. The “Golden Hour” lighting tinting everything an orange hue that is classic for the timing of the sunset ongoing over my left shoulder. The sky show there is a subject for another post another day. Seeing the full moon while the sun is still up only occurs for a few days a month, perhaps 4 chances during the month.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, (pretty much directly ON the Montana/Wyoming border, the 45 parallel, precisely 1/2 way between the north pole and the equator. Exactly🤔
Simple is usually better. I seldom do blue sunsets but here is a recent result. Something got into me here. It’s probably just me. A perfect calm water mirror present is unusual needing camera attention in my world. I would have liked to off set the sun. The composition destined to center the bright eye. The “Butterfly” on it’s side became apparent to me in the camera. I collect all sorts of frames on this timeline . This one survived the selection process to finish the image. It’s pretty rare up here to have glass flat water considering the 12 mph average wind speed enjoyed locally.
Any particular image that I post here is written for my eventual hard copy books. Amazingly, not every morning/evening sky in Wyotana is a fully involved brilliant Crimson/Yellow . Most are subdued and more like this. The Melt Water Pond here hosted the markedly subdued evening. The sun just popping out from under that dark cloud. When I invest rare spare time into travels to locations like this, I leave often when there is an obscured sun. I find being able to “read” the sky to as the future movement of large cloud bands / banks to be a useful skill. The sun slit here happened JUST in time to provide me with ample photons to acquire this image. A minute or two later, the horizon rose to cover that bright disk. The twilight show afterwards was a fairly subdued stage show as well.
This image is looking straight down. Just on the edge of a cut Coal Mine Equipment Tire. This tire is 10 feet across and holds maybe 800 – 1000 gallons of water for my stock. It’s indestructible of course. That tread cleat on the top is 10 inches across. These are 2 to 3 inch feathers which make them pretty big around these parts. With the right weather conditions, many unusual things happen up here.
New these tires cost maybe 12 grand or more new. I bought one repurposed for a stock tank recently installed for 700 bucks. One side wall is removed. Cut off with some effort and a water jet I believe. Delivered by semi-truck, he thick rubber tire is laid down on prepared ground. Hopefully near a pipeline spigot. Powdered concrete under the center drain PVC pipe already in place. This seals the tank upon filling the first time. These tanks will last maybe a century so they are a one time installation for me. They would be virtually impossible to hurt. Your truck would bounce off of them if you ran into it. Might break the seal lolol. Occasionally one will spring a leak, just drop some powdered concrete over the hole and fill it up with water will usually patch it.
Repurposing is a ranching tradition. When an object is useful, it will be stored on ranch for decades. I have used many iron pieces from 100 years ago in various welding projects lol..
I was checking stock tanks the other day. We had just enjoyed 4 days of overcast foggy AND windy conditions, all below freezing. There was a lot of moisture in the air freezing on what ever it contacted. Where ever there are disruptions in air flow, Hoar frost forms under these conditions. These are 3 inch long feathers which rank among the largest I’ve seen before in person. The tank water is flowing ground water. It’s 50 degrees versus the 20 degrees or lower of the surrounding colder dry air. You can watch the water vapor stir off the top surface of the tank in calm wind.
Here it attached to the thick rubber Equipment tire’s cut edge. These Coal Mine Truck Tires wore out, time to repurpose. Cost maybe 12 grand or more new. I bought one recently installed for 700 bucks. The thick rubber tire is laid down on prepared ground. Powdered concrete under the center drain PVC pipe already in place. This seals the tank upon filling the first time. These tanks will last a century and are a one time installation for me. They would be virtually impossible to hurt. Your truck would bounce off of them if you ran into it. Might break the seal lolol. Occasionally one will spring a leak, just drop some powdered concrete over the hole and fill it up with water will usually patch it. Repurposing is a ranching tradition.
Long Red, Orange and Yellow wavelengths survived the gauntlet of the atmospheric filters present. This lake looks HUGE but I assure you it’s a perspective trick of angle and light. It is a small melt water pond on ranch probably 50 feet across but that is irrelevant to the illusion. If it were not windy that night, this would have been a very nice mirror. I know the bottom here and have driven into this pond before to work it from the center. This is an ephemeral pond that will dry up in the summer. The bottom is firm thick grass.
Reflections from lakes are always darker than the skies they are reflecting. Rippled water presents a smaller surface to reflect the available light so windy surfaces are even more dark. The dynamic range of these Sony Alpha 7 series never fail to amaze me and I’ve used them for 2 years now. I put a lot of clicks on camera bodies lol. Hard use up here in the backcountry. Lots of dust /environmental exposure plus wear and tear.
This location is for all intents and purposes, directly on the Montana/Wyoming border looking almost straight west. As this posts the sun is setting closer and closer to straight west each night until the March 19 at 9:50 PM MST. It will set at 270 degrees that day but just a tad earlier lol. I will be working long east west fence lines for the next few weeks with out a doubt. The sun will be at the end of east/west roads as well. There are so many opportunities over the next week folks, pay attention to sunset and sunrise and where those “leading lines” lead to.
I find that you are where you are when the sun goes down. I tend to levitate to reflective scenes but this I live on a “dryland” ranch. We don’t have any running water except during a big rain. Then we have flash floods lolol. Limited to the gullies fortunately. We did have a 4 inch rain in about an hour during which shin high water was running around the back of my house. So we do get some water dumps now and then. Forest fires up wind veil the sunsets as this and give the whole world an eclipsed feeling. 🤔👀
This lake however is a spring fed pond with artesian water rising from about 600 feet down. There is a fault or flaw in the seal over the widely spread Fox Hill Aquifer which enables water to trickle up from that source through all the intervening rocks . Hell Creek Formation sits on top of Fox Hill and has layers of Bentonitic Clay which would stop water from rising without some structural insufficiency breaking those shaley/clay seals. In other words, the Artisian water source under this has a crack it’s following up to the surface.
Geology is self explanatory if you can read the book. The Cretaceous Fox Hill Formation was the Beach for the Dinosaurs… The space between the sandy terrestrial river deposits and the epicontinental ocean just east of here in the Cretaceous. I envision Dinosaurs laying on beach chairs with little umbrellas in their drinks. I’ve never found a fossil umbrella though. Actually the Fox Hill is exposed at the surface about 14 miles to the east of my ranch. It is mostly un-fossiliferous as one would expect from a higher beach energy washed sand (a little argillaceous). I’ve never found a fossil in it. It’s a regional Aquifer stretching from Canada to Colorado and has a LOT of water connate in the formation. It’s good to know that the water we drink has been down underground for a “while” 😀
I live up on the high ridges of the Borderlands. About 300 feet lower from my place, this goes one. We’re all in trouble for floods to reach my door. Our homestead sits at 3700 feet. This flooded spot on the Montana border is 3419 feet above mean sea level. The Lowest spot in Wyoming is 3099 feet above mean sea level on the Belle Fourche River. My communication tower is 4013 feet or about 300 feet above my house. . A lot of water runs past this point in the right season.
This from last year showing the result of a quick warm up in March. The snow pack last year was greater at the same time than this year I observe. Drainage funneling down to choke points of course is a recipe for high water. Upstream here covers an area 50 miles long and 40 miles wide in some places. It’s several thousand square miles in the drainage of the “Little Powder River”. That’s a lot of ground with a couple of feet of snow melted down to 6 inches of well packed firn (granular snow) .
The local term is, “the river is coming down”. Now as a geologist, I think of the river coming down as referring to the water level declining. But this colloquial use means the water level is going up. All that water up stream is “Coming down”. I had never heard before I moved up here. Anyone else use this as a term for rising flood waters?
I count 17 Pronghorn Mixed males and females all jammed up against this fence line. They of course were waiting patiently in line for the one little hole under it. Pronghorn just don’t like jumping over the fence. I didn’t push them which would have forced them to jump in panic but that isn’t good photography practice. You won’t get this close next time if you do stupid things like pressuring wild animals. It’s also illegal…
The two males here (black cheek patch) have already lost their horns after the rut as is typical. I always have someone tell me that Pronghorn don’t loose their horns yearly. They shed an outer sheath without a question and regrow it in each year. They actually DO shed their horns. Do the google search if you have a doubt. 😜
Pronghorn are NOT Antelopes either. They are more closely related to giraffes than they are Antelope. They evolved during the last million years or so to be the fasted land animal in North America. The Megafauna extinction after the last ice age killed off many of the big cats that inhabited these grasslands prior to 12 thousand years ago. That extinction left us with just the mountain lion and wolves to predate these speedsters. I see these animals reach 50 mph virtually every day during the summer. but they are a bit south of my place in the winter. Down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands.
Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderline (Wyotana)
Sunrise Through the Knothole. IT was a crisp cold morning, I was out collecting chips from Game Trail Cameras. I was also working the sunrise as opportunities presented themselves. i went for a walk along the shore or this small lake. The sun was just emerging as the horizon dropped away exposing the nuclear furnace. (Remember, the sun doesn’t move, the earth’s horizon drops away exposing the sun.).
Driftwood can be knot holed and this piece was big enough to stick my camera accompanied with a a wide lens attached. I’m honestly not sure which side of the border this is on as it’s pretty much on the border lol. I didn’t have my GPS with me. I usually reserve that device for fossil hunts where landownership and exact location is a bit.
Thinking like a mouse looking through a window, I take images of natural portholes/windows as I see them. It’s the close/far focus thing that is hard to do photographically. On manual mode, if deep focus is your Priority with your image, think immediately of turning UP your F-stop number. High f-stop numbers set your aperture (the pupil size of your camera) very pinpoint. As small a hole in the lens as possible. This give you the deepest focus (thickness of the zone of focus). Low f-stop numbers give you shallow focus. Maybe a nose is in focus but not your ears. It lets in LOTS of light going big pupil (low f-stop) but you have fuzzy backgrounds. If full image (close/far) focus is what your after, then high f-stop numbers are your playground.
Once you learn F-stop is a double edge sword either taking or giving light, it also effects focal depth. The other two settings are adjusted after f-stop to compensate and balance your light equation. If you learn nothing else from this, learn f-stop means focus depth.
This is the latest Pronghorn Punk look here at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. THe adults try to talk to the kids. Then some older guy with a punk doo like this walks by and ruins it for the adults. The kids all want to look like this guy. Particularly in bad weather it seems. Add some freezing rain and voila, intant Pronghorn Punk.
I’m working hard on getting a collection of “looking over the shoulder” images from Pronghorn and Deer. It isn’t an easy perspective for me to get and I’m tickled when they come out this well. From the perspective of a doe standing right next to him from this capture. Placement of these game trail cameras is EVERYTHING. About 1 degree lower angle, it would have cut off the horn. I use what ever is at hand to adjust the angles on the cameras. Typically they attach to a post with a strap. Uses a stick or rock to keep it pointing where you want it to. In reality, the pointing is the only control you have over the game trail camera. Everything else is set/built by the programmers.
I’ve said numerous times that Game trail camera images are problematic to me. This one is 2feet by 3 feet at full resolution. So they do take some pretty high quality images. They all to a one however, need a LOT of fine detailed work to fix the problems built into the images by the cameras.
This male looks nothings like the female (sexually dimorphic). The female looks like a long billed sparrow. This male was down on the waters edge hoping along this piece of driftwood. Eye for insects and small critters. They are Polygynous with the male floating among several females and the females have been known to “roam” as well. The Males are aggressive toward any intruders to their nest. Every male I’ve ever seen was the dictionary definition of brash.
They are WIDELY distributed with around 20 subspecies. Their primary diet is bugs and berries. In my barnyard pond, they seem to be mostly waiting for pickings left over by the ducks and chickens. Known to go right through normal chainlink. This to get access to the inside of my chicken coup. Another section of finer chicken wire took control of that invasion route. Nuking them from orbit might be the only option. They seem to really want to get into the grain in the chicken roost for some reason.
These guys are in the same family (Icteridae) which includes the Baltimore Oriole and the Eastern Meadowlark. Our birds have no doubt migrated to southern climates. October 1st was the first day of winter (early) . I did not notice large flocks this year but I saw some last years. Random distribution I suspect.
)rotected under the Mgratratory Bird Treaty Act, Red Wings are in trouble . Populations of Red Wings are currently in decline. Standard stuff..habitat distruction, miccro plastics normal climate variations or what ever is causeing the decline.
Just so long as we all know the bird needs to be helped not destroyed.
Pronghorn Families Morning Drink was a routine for this family unit this summer. I’d see them right around the same time every morning on the game trail cameras surrounding that stock tank. Game trail cameras can take very good photos If the conditions are right with proper placement. Placement is about the only thing you can really control. I will never move this camera as it has taken dozens of WONDERFUL images of the grassland wildlings drinking. I’m waiting for an eagle to alight here. It will happen sooner or later.
This was from about a month ago now. There are no Pronghornon my ranch at the moment to my knowledge. They have all moved south to the Thunderbasin National Grasslands 30 miles down the road. Pronghorn gather there from all around making up herds of hundreds that wander the huge expanse of pretty much open grasslands. Just a few oil wells and stock tanks dot the landscape. There is no vehicular traffic off the main roads allowed there. It is one of America’s Serengeti plains. You drive through there and encounter Pronghorn roadblocks of many hundreds of these animals crossing the county gravel road.
Pretty much the only large creatures to winter over up here on the remote borderland ridges, are cattle and mule deer. The WhiteTail move down to more reliable water even though we supply it. They tend to be in the valleys for the season not up here.
This farm pond 3.5 miles out into the backcountry of my remote ranch is never easy to get to in the daylight. Two track ranch roads depending on how wet the ground is are always fun to negotiate :). I put 3500 miles on my ATV up here last year for example. All backcountry photography related with a tad of ranching thrown in.