The commonality we all have with roads leading off into the distance brings back memories of “going over the pass”. Every time I crest a hill I never know what I’m going to see.
Taken early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. . I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy cloud gradient already on a remote high ridge. A fully involved sky is a treasure but this morning was a treasure chest with all the rare colorcast it led to later in the sky show.
Civil Twilight begins about 28 minutes before sunrise or ends 28 minutes after sunset. It is that period from when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon. On clear days you can do normal outside activities that require light. That solar elevation angle below the horizon defines each twilight phase. CIvil Twilight is by far the brightest of the three twilights.
Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you usually have to gain altitude to do so. Much easier on the roadways than back on the snowy ridges. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation. Everything else is lower in this area. The lower streams are 3600 feet. We are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). How easy it is to gain altitude depends on where you are going of course but winter makes this much more relevant a discussion. Climbing up backcountry two track trails is usually hazardous at best lolol. This complicated with snow blowing around. Being able to read snow drifts is a good skill in this country. This was a stressless busy morning for sure.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)
Looking Northwest overlooking a 50 mile wide valley during the golden hour. The snow was not quite a foot deep. The ridge line road has better summer sunsets to the north west. The low angled sun cutting across the bath. The Day only has minutes left. Setting up for the sunset will take a minute. Interested I am in the lines and the shades of this Golden Hour. Long shadows stretch nearly to infinity at this late hour of the day. My ford has 13 inches under the lowest part of the drive train. A foot of snow is not even close to a problem. Now if it was drifting…… That’s a whole another problem.
A few days before, plowing this road helped this morning. Easy driving is a good thing. Winter this year has not been harsh YET. (Bad Luck saying such things). This really improves my time on target and make the ride much smoother. Bumpy snow and ice is always less than desirable. Now surfaces like this can be icy but not so here. Shoe Chains are a viable option in this country. There are some places on this ridge where I can see the Bear Lodge Mountains 100 miles to the east AND the Big Horn Mountains 140 miles to the west. That is a 240 mile horizon to horizon. I think that is under Websters under the definition of BIG Sky. Wyoming Shares the big sky with Montana, just not the slogan lol. I live in Wyotana so there is no difference for me. lol.
I occasionally go on long morning drives after a fresh snow to see what I can see. I will drive a big loop maybe 30-40 miles working what ever I come across that interests me. Mostly untapped by photographers the back roads of Wyoming are. . There are a few of us up here but not many doing this full time.
So I had drive a big round trip circuit and was just about back. Now this is a “major” local artery. It’s a Gravel Road but it’s usually a fairly busy road. Here it is on a Sunday morning at 9AM with no tracks but my own. I was surprised by it. The road I live on is often untracked most weekends unless I drive over it. You don’t want to break down out here. No cell phone service and no body coming by since the night before say 18 hours at least. There are some very remote parts of Wyotana I cruise about where I would expect that but not so much here.
Snow Diamonds (Diamond Dust)
All Blue Sky morning it was Diamond Dusting. Can it really snow on a cloudless, sunny day? It can if it’s diamond dust. It was pretty light so ore like Mother Nature’s tinsel than snow, this weather bonus is caused by millions of tiny ice crystals that form near the ground. As they float slowly in the air (much like household dust) they reflect the sunlight, which makes them sparkle like diamonds! A very similar phenomena is responsible for sun pillars both below and above the sun. Here those ice crystal plates fell all the way to the ground.
You see them on the road as bright sparkles.
Location :Trail Creek Road , 9 miles east from Rt’s 59, . Northeastern Wyoming, Campbell Country looking west up into Montana.
Morning Alpenglow Rockypoint Wyoming (side show of twilight just before sunrise left of frame)
Rockypoint Wyoming is a good 12 mile drive over good gravel roads from my residence. That takes me about 18 minutes from my driveway it drive below the speed limit. I have found that I’m a rediculously careful driver. The police driving course I took and subsequent on the street work, watching speeders and turn signal stops all day,. I was also an EMT for 17 years. Saw a lot of the result of bad triving. Sometime Days at a time in a small town in Ohio lol. I digress…
So I’m driving by this intersection, I see, and locked up the “antilock” brakes. With less than ideal traction, there was a spasmodic response of deceleration. The car slowed jerking to a stop. I backed up, rolled the window down to verify what I was seeing. It was pretty cold at the time and setting up a tripod is of course the came.
I carry my cameras in a modified beverage crate with plush sheepskin over it. I take a box of 5 or 6 cameras out each time I’m working a sunrise / sunset.
Having that crate seat belted in as well as any baby. Each camera has it’s own lens set up for different situations of course. I avoid having to deal with changing lenses to get just the right optic to bare. Changing lenses is very easy but it introduces dust into your camera when you are working in an already dusty environment. I’d rather change lenses in my house next to a HEPA filter.
Location: Rockypoint Wyoming, about 10 miles south of Montana in Crook County Wyoming by a few feet, Campbell county behind me.
The morning was cold but we are having a lack of snow at the moment. That could change by the time this posts lolol. At any rate, here the rear view mirror is reflecting the sunrise side of the sky and the main frame shows the Belt of Venus, the pink variety of Alpenglow.
A Backcountry drive in the borderlands:
Backcountry Gravel Roads this time of year are easy driving without snow depth. There are thousands of miles ofI took this back when I still had my Jeep Grand Cherokee which was limited in it’s off road activities mid-late winter. I’d go off on two trail tracks with my new rig to work at the moment but working roads has it’s advantages. You get to use the road itself as a leading line for the eye. It invokes memories of similar drives you have done. Or better gives you insight to a world you haven’t experienced. The high Wyotana skies are vibrant with pink to orange to yellow hues most mornings not overcast entirely. Some mornings as this a saturated with the hues.
The Orange sunrise behind is covered in other photos from this drive but the perspective that the rear view mirror gives you is worth the effort.
Quick Photographic thought.
Have fun with your high fstop when you try this as there are 3 layers of close/far focus issues plus it’s low light so your sucking wind for light to start with. Shutter speed has to be long to compensate, . Hard NOT to over expose the moon and see anything else in the frame. Your riding a knife edge on these.
This post on December 21’st during the solstice was taken a week ago. This is just about as far to the south that the sun will set from this location. I’ve never found a location to take the sunset behind the Missouri Buttes (right side of the horizon in the distance. I’ve looked too. The forth bump just to the left of the buttes is the Devil’s Tower (Bear Butte). This angle is from a neighbors driveway up on the highest ridge around.
Maintaining a “Blue Snow Free Zone is something I advocate since it rarely exists in nature. I’ve examined this very discussion quite seriously from my point of view/history in color work as a background. I concede a single exception under certain conditions in early morning twilight or late evening twiligh. From a brightly projected sky like this, you can get a blue/purple tint to the normally grey shadows in the snow. I have only photographed one other twilight that has enough color from the twilight sky to suffuse into the snow cover. That one was two winters ago and was a dark Crimson not orange like this. Needless to say, the “colorcast” here was extreme and I consider this a very rare twilight color combination.
My new Ford F150, all black and shiny, should be my ride by the time this posts. My point of view and angles will change several feet higher. I’m not sure of all the ramifications of this, but I’m pretty sure I’m in for a better ride with this F-150 Raptor. My jeep has about 6 inches of suspension travel, the Raptor has 14 inches. I’m seriously looking forward to getting it under me. As I type this, my Jeep Grand Cherokee is cleaned out of all my stuff and is ready to “go to town”. I won’t use it again except the trip to town for the trade. That Jeep and I have been together for 14 years.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
This gravel road is headed up into the clouds. Some of this is the perspective CRUSH by the telephoto lens of course. IT really is a steep section of road. It was snowing just up over the lip of the hill. The ridges around here are a whole different environment than the surrounding lower country. We live up in the higher ground where it almost always snows a little more.
We call our place “Little Siberia”. 1: the label was handed down by the previous residents. 2: it always has snow here when the valley has just rain.
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).
Here the local Wyoming Roaming Road Block was down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands. These are Pronghorn Bucks still with antlers (not for long) and does mixed. They are on the move migrating down to that remote grassland to winter over the rough Wyoming Winter.
As this was taken, I was on the road to Gillette from my ranch for a ‘day trip”. It’s about 25 gravel road miles to this spot. Then another 12 miles of gravel before I run into concrete in the form of St. Rt. 59 (Wyoming) .
The Thundbasin National Grasslands are huge chunks (several spread around a few states) of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with very few inholdings by private land holders. These ‘reserves” are hundreds of square miles of just an occasional power line and stock well or solar well. Of course there is the obligatory oil well facility but these guys don’t care about buildings. Usually geothermally warm water is the only running water and there is a few of those sources around here. They are oasis’s in the winter for wildlife living near them.
I’ve seen many very large herds of Pronghorn roaming just off one of the few maintained roads out there. Vehicle traffic is prohibited within the national grasslands. The only way to get miles back and up high is to horseback or walk in. I gave up horses a decade ago and walking more than a few miles backcountry with 20 pounds or so of gear gets pretty old pretty fast in the winter I have found. Reminds me of deer hunting when I was way younger. I’ll stick to the roads down in this country lol.
Location:25 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Campbell County Wyoming.
When your on the local “main road and yourDriving into the Western Sunset on the Backroads of Wyomint and Montana was taken on the Equinox when the sun set straight to the west at 270 degrees corrected for magnetic declination. This section of road is by coincidence also straight east and west. The horizon is 50 miles out and the sun is a minute from being covered by the rising horizon. (You know the sun is not setting but the horizon is rising about 4 inches the time it takes a rifle bullet to travel 1000 yards….. It only take around 3 minutes for the sun to be covered by the horizon once it touches the sun. This varies with the season because the tilt of the earth’s polar axis with the solar ecliptic
It’s starting to get icy more often. As I type this we’re in the middle of a snowy period. Winter is coming (contemporary reference)
Location, close to the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Father/Son Talk..”Son, someday all this will be yours”. In the mean time ever vigilant mom watches their back while they have some quality family time right on the crest of a blind hill way on a remote county road. I stopped way back knowing I didn’t want to interrupt that family conference so I waited patiently…. figured I might as well take a photo….😂
This photo is of course an imaginary Pronghorn Family as the affiliation of the doe with the Buck is very transitory lol. The fawn will stay with the doe through the winter and weaned before the birth of her current bun in her oven. There were other does about too so he’s definitely not monogamous…..
The Pronghorn rut is over at this time so most of that business is taken care of by now. It’s time for them to migrate about 20 miles to the south. The Thunderbasin Natural Grasslands is a miniature version of the Serengeti Plain here in north eastern Wyoming. (Fewer Big Cats) Not so much in the summer but in the winter there are LARGE herds of Pronghorn that move there from a pretty big surrounding area to winter over the brutal conditions that we enjoy about this region.
Back Country Gravel Travel and Sunset over the Big Horn Mountains. I was driving back from Gillette and went the long way around by Recluse Wyoming. Elk Creek Road is a long High path with big views of the surrounding lower ground. Those are indeed the Big Horn Mountains about 90 miles out from the camera. I’m about 40 miles west from my ranch at this location.
The air was pretty still and the dust from my passing hung in the air. This actually is a major source of particulates in the countries air. All the dirt roads add up. Still a mongolian dust storm puts out more I suspect lolol. The last dust bloom on the left was about 4 miles out. Location: Northern Campbell Country Wyoming. Backcountry 14 miles from Recluse Wyoming.
Pronghorn tend to flag me down and usually seeing a car coming is enough to scatter the group. These guys were pretty casual and RIGHT on a crest in the road. This spot is voted most likely to have a bad wreck on it. You just can’t see what’s on the other side. This is part of the county road on my ranch so we pretty much drive in the grass going over it. I’ve met car/trucks RIGHT at the top and we don’t get much traffic here (like 5 or 6 cars a day). “Backroads Wyoming”. Filed under things I see about the place….
At both equinoxes, the Road Alighment of this East/West road is perfect to the setting sun. Any good east west road will do but this one has a 60 mile horizon looking over the Trail Creek/Little Powder River Drainages in the northern Wyoming/Montana borderlands.