Driving two track roads during Nautical twilight up high in the backcountry is easier when there is no snow or mud on the ridges. It still takes me 10 to 15 minutes to drive up to this location I call sunrise ridge. By the time I arrived this morning, it was still Nautical Twilight with maybe 30 minutes to go till sunrise. The sky starts to light up quickly from here on. , the air is crisp, the smell of sage and pine are rife.
There is little wind this morning which is uncommon. I start to feel the sunrise coming on. It’s something you can feel akin to a quickening. 👀
This was taken in early May. Dry year so far but mud is my current nemesis because I loath to leave tracks. I have a new vehicle now with excellent capabilities so I should be a productive spring up on the ridge tops. Looking up this hill for proper perspective, no lower yellow band yet. The yellow hasn’t made it this far yet.. The red from rays of the sun that made it through the gauntlet of hundreds of miles of atmospheres and moisture. The cloud bottoms were wave troughs dropping into the light and turning red as a result. As bright as the highlights are, the over all scene was dark. This you can see by the darkness of the foreground where I was sitting. It’s below the camera’s threshold of Dynamic Range. My eye’s could see landscape here. Not the camera though… 👀👀📸
Spring time thunderstorms moving through the area are much appreciated in giving us a little more moisture for the apparently soon to be dry summer so typical of Wyotana. Our annual precipitation amounts are BARELY above desert at 14 inches per year. Not this day though 😀
This happened May 13th late in the afternoon as a series of smaller storms moved through the area. This thunder storm went on into South Dakota and grew as it went but wasn’t particularly violent. It was however strong enough to dump enough hail to cover the ground off in the distance under the “rainbow”. I didn’t think there is supposed to be a bucket o hail at the end of the rainbow but something with a bit more glitter. “Clever Girl” got slushed on but fortunately the hail was a bit further east. This capture looking almost straight east along the Montana / Wyoming border. I’ve been known to move my position to avoid hail a time or two. It’s usually not a huge area that get’s hailed on but reading the storm isn’t necessarily straight forward as I’m not “Bill Paxton” in the 1996 movie Tornado.
The Rainbow is right at 5 miles away from my viewpoint. The first tree on the right is at least 1/2 mile out. Telephotos CRUSH perspective jumping over lots of ground before you get to the “foreground” of the frame lol.
Both states in this VERY wide image. This is what I call a “fully involved” sky. This is the back edge of a HUGE Mesocyclone Spinning above. It is easily over a 100 mile diameter storm.
While Montana Claims the “Big Sky” moniker, Wyoming certainly shares it. Our ranch is in both states and MOST of my images have both states well represented in the capture. I’m one of the few photographers that can legitimately post an image in both states Facebook forums lolol.
This might be acalled a sunset” but in fact it is now in Civil Twilight. A full 4 minutes after the sun actually set. I consider this a night sky but others disagree.
Twilight is my favorite time of the day. I photographically work almost every morning but clear sky cloudless mornings. There are SOOOO many cloudless gradient twilight images in my portfolio. Certainly I don’t need many more.
Going out in the twilight before sunrise into the backcountry is alway interesting. I often run into still bedded deer, most of which don’t care that I’m driving by, stop, take a photo and move on… I get some of my best wildlife photography done coming back from working morning twilights. I’ve done this many hundreds of times. Over a career if you pay your dues, you get lucky with random encounters starting to add up. You need to have the right gear and ability to work in morning golden hour light. Twilight low light is a whole different group of settings lolol. The transition from twilight to sunlight or in reverse is rapid.
(May 2020, third/last supermoon of the year) I was fortunate to have worked them all. This month I only had one opportunity to work it against the landscape. I have 4 quality images from this month’s full moon which is about par for the course. Without a doubt this image is the best one I have obtained from this combination.
This one is somewhat similar to others I’ve taken and I’ve shot this tree many times as it’s only a mile from my driveway. However the burgundy (muted pink light) alpenglow, details in the dark and the dynamic range of this one makes my heart pitty pat… 📸📸
I’ve taken a few photos of this tree in front of various astronomic occurrences. It is indeed a lone tree on that position about 1000 yards away from where I took this image.
Photographing images like this a combination of finding the right position in x/y space, timing and distance is z, and that position moves with the speed of the moon. This makes using Tripods very difficult as you have a moving target. Maybe a monopod. This however was handheld. Distance is your friend here from that Lone tree.
Practicing this kind of photography has found me on my butt more times than any other tripping over sage. The moon is constantly moving, I’m usually on some parallel ridge walking forwards (as the moon is rising and to the left a bit while looking through a 2 foot long lens (tube) and not at my feet with sage brush around on uneven ground.Bear with me as capturing this kind of image is a “sub-hobby” of mine within the general photography that I do. I find it a serious challenge to get terrestrial objects in the same focal plane as the moon or the sun in twilight or darker conditions. Just like this. This composition is a tough one to capture in this low light/long focal field combination. 📸
2×3 aspect to 3 feet. Rested 1200 mm lens on “Clever Girl’s” drivers window.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
I photographically work hundreds of sunrise and sunset landscapes every year. Having seen most variations of that theme, I’m always looking for rare variations. By definition each sky show is unique with attributes usually pleasing to the eye. This deep complex sky caught my attention out of the pile of “to do” images waiting for attention. This capture I absolutely adore.
It’s REALLY HARD to be an accurate photorealistic artist reproducing images as I recall / experienced the scene. I see SO many tweeked / over colorized images posted on the photography forums. When you see electric blues and pure oversaturated colors, you should just keep scrolling past them in my humble opinion. I very RARELY see deep electric blue skies in the real world for example.
These muted colors with the deep red layers buried far behind the cloud deck covering the “Red Hills (the ridges name). I could have easily intensified those layers in the digital dark room. This would have turned this into a deep crimson and the yellow would be canary detail less yellow with very blue clouds below. That is some artists stock and trade. Take a photo, bring it into photoshop and turn up the “volume” on the color sliders. It’s a cheap and unsophisticated way to get attention.
The camera technology I use is totally inadequate to accomplish what my eye sees. They don’t have the dynamic range human eyes do. To compensate for this, I reproduce these scenes precisely the way that nature presented them to me. I actually can see the scene live real time in my lens as I adjust the dials. Thusly I am able to A/B that scene with what is in the sky at the time. They still take work to fix…..I have been an art director of 9 other graphic artists and print buyer of many many publications. I would NEVER buy for publication or print an impossibly colored nature scene. (Hint to those artists out there that like using color enhancing slider controls). To do it right is MUCH harder and way more professional. The other professionals instantly know cheap tricks…
Would you rather see nature or some digital dark room mutation?
So my wife Patty was gardening here at the homestead when she heard a ‘Lot of Flapping”…. It was a surprise to see this huge vulture directly overhead. I’m pretty sure this was a rest stop on it’s way. It wasn’t particularly interesting in moving. So Patty walks across the yard, comes inside where I was cleaning up a bit. She mentions to me that a “vultures are circling” and I need to grab a camera….
Never being one to refuse an offer from my wife to get out of a cleaning job. I figured the bird had departed before bringing a camera to into play. As I stepped out the side door, it was certainly checking me out. Now when a Vulture is considering the possibilities….. a bit disconcerting…. The light was terrible being totally overcast. It wasn’t that bright which in and of itself is problematic. Hand held tight telephoto shots prefer good lighting. Leaning against a deck post I rest the camera and spin some dials. I took about 15 images just to eliminate the blurring from my moving the camera. I think I got 2 sharp images out of the batch. Having gotten the capture, I was lucky enough to go back to my cleaning chores lolol.
Turkey Vultures feed exclusively on carrion though I suspect this one was checking out all the nesting ducks about the barnyard stationary in their egg sitting. Having the best sense of smell of any bird, they can detect carrion over a mile away. All have featherless heads to keep the carrion from fouling the feathers.. Adults as here have a bright red head. Juveniles have a head that is blackish in color. These are not to be confused for the smaller black vulture. I’ve observed them riding thermals in large flocks before. That visual spectacle referred to as “kettling.”
Nesting by laying two egg under a rock overhang but on bare rock. Nesting starts in Wyoming as late as the first part of July. Both parents incubate and care for the defenseless young for a period of 9 to 11 weeks. They feed them through regurgitation. Regurgitation is also used by both adults and juveniles as a defense mechanism. This is one of the less pleasant defense strategies in the animal kingdom I’m thinking. No other animal hunts turkey vultures to any degree. I understand they are taken on a very rare occasion by larger raptors such as eagles, and young or eggs may be consumed by predators Feeding on decomposing flesh (and the willingness to use it in defense) apparently has its benefits.
Location: in our backyard… Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
I walk miles in the backcountry as it keeps me in shape. Well it might be the 20 pounds of gear I’m hauling on deer trails😜…. I have to do something to make up for the computer time I sit on my tail lolol. Working parallel ridges with riding or walking a shadow line is the way to set up compositions that I’m using here. Look for opportunities to walk and follow shadow lines. Here in the backcountry I run into random opportunities to use the landscape for illusion and crushing perspective. Here I actually walked to the ridge top to work this visual tunnel.
There is SO much going on here. Looking through a tunnel but what to what light at the end lol ?…. The far horizon which indeed is a climbing ridge towards the sun. Perhaps grassy ridge I’m on that dominates the layers game or the far horizon. Wow, this is busy with the close and far thing too. Gotta love yellow late afternoon Alpenglow…
I am fortunate to use technology that lets me evaluate the wonder of such scenes. I see live real time images as this in my view finder. Mirrorless cameras are WONDERFUL that way. You couldn’t even look at your focus with a DSLR camera without risking your eyesight. Bright scenes and DSLR are not usually good friends.. If you don’t know the difference between the two camera types, it’s time to do some homework. Particularly if your considering a purchase. I now consider DLSR cameras as the “Beta Max” of the current production camera world.📸
I was following this group for a while. They were not terribly concerned. The herd was moving from grazing pasture to a water tank about a mile distant from where they were feeding. I find they tend not to wander too far from their water. This “gang” is about 1/3rd males, 1/3 pregnant females and 1/3 yearlings. All of the males are just now in velvet with fairly new antler buds coming in. The largest set of antlers in this group is about 4 inches long. Those horns will grow rapidly over the next month or two.
There were a few more stragglers spread out behind the group off frame with 20 total in this group. Only 15 in the frame as my telephoto will only pull back so far. I’m thinking this was 300 yards out as I recall the scene from my position of being left behind by a fenceline I couldn’t cross. The sun had JUST popped over the ridge. The shadows were very long and what stood out more than the deer to me was their shadows. If this were only on snow lolol. (better shadows but I’d sure like the extra water going into a dry year already 😔.)
The Deer herd up in the late fall just after rut through mid spring which is just now happening. Then they break up into smaller groups soon. Finally small groups does with fawns. Boys Clubs of buck only buddies form quickly. Only to regroup again later in the fall again. It’s all a cycle over and over again. I’ve watched this numerous times over the years… Rinse and Repeat.
Complex cloud systems have been moving through the area this late brown season (early spring) capture from late April. The day was exciting with actual lightning (first of the year). I dug around and found the 2 lightning triggers I use and worked this storm. They were last used last August (ish) , one of them was on, still had battery… (stored in the dark). 👀
I “Think” that those are Anti-crepuscular rays cross cutting into rain/sleet/hail shafts falling from this sporty little storm. I find the back side of isolated afternoon storms are WAY more interesting than the front side. I seldom chase storms but I sure as heck did last night follow a rainbow right as dusk. It will take a week for those images to find their way forward into my workflow.. Love the face peering up and right above the main shaft.
So This weather is very summer like so I’m declaring officially that “Spring Came and Went” on a Friday this year. Last year it was on a Tuesday. Brown season ends pretty much now though we are still in danger of frost for another two weeks as this posts. These storms made it quite muddy, the grass will grow but I don’t get into the backcountry when it is muddy as much. This is not necessarily convenient to the working of light that appears randomly and not always when the two tracks roads are passable. I washed about 200 pounds of mud off my Ford Raptor Last night and that was from the main roads…..👅📸
I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well but not usually in a lake. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere of course . A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling like parachutes hexagonal plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is pretty big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about twice the angle of your normal vision.
The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. Big oriented plates of ice at a high angle are required for this to occur. The crystals, flat 6 sided plates all. These fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that a pillar 5-10 degrees pillar is not unusual. This is silly tall. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 degrees. This is a very big image wide and high. (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).
I arrived at this remote location about 5 minutes too late to get the sun on the lake. Mapped in my head now… 👀📸.
That HUGE butte (called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border. The fore ground is in Wyoming. That mile wide Butte (in Montana) is at least 15 miles BEHIND that 400 foot tall old growth treed ridge. That ridge is 15 miles from where I’m standing for this capture. You can see the communications towers that are up there. They are 1 foot wide over the 150000 feet to those towers. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Taken golden hour as the sun was setting shortly over my shoulder. Long Shadows and Long lenses… be still my heart…❤️
So about 30 miles distant from my camera stands the epicenter of what was at one time one of the largest ranches in the Country. That ranch named the “W” Butte Ranch, was said you couldn’t see the end of the ranch from the top of that butte. I suspect that is not true. My ground was never part of that ranch to my knowledge. I’ve only seen/have deeds back to 1906 though. I’m not sure before that, pretty sure gov’t had it.
Custer certainly saw that Butte on his travels through this high country ridge/stream valley country.. He sure didn’t see it on his way back from the “Little BigHorn” though…. he was distracted it seems. I’m still trying to figure out where the 7th’s calvary’s pay (in gold) was stashed during that journey. Such speculation can drive people wild. What they ignore in their madness is that the treasure in this country is the land itself. ⚒🤔☯
Sometimes I actually have time during an encounter with wildlife to compose the image. The Ying and the Yang of this stood out “Biggly”. This gal was 50 feet above me and about 200 yards out. She was walking slowly unafraid of my presence. Then she paused and surveyed all that lay before her. This high ridge has AMAZING views off to where she is looking. I have to think that she is aware and appreciative of the vista I share with her daily. I believe to the depths of my soul that I have seen deer watch the sunset right along with me. Enjoying the whole show. I’m usually trying to get them between me and the sun lol. Occasionally I’m trying to be between them and the sun. Either way, I’m always maneuvering for the “angle” lolol. 📸
Certainly she is quite aware of her environment. Enhanced smell, excellent hearing with those big mule shaped ears with eagle eyes/excellent night vision. I’ve watched deer carefully as my photographic OCD brings me into close proximity with them regularly. They have “watched” me too lol. There is a certain amount of familiarity the local deer herds have to me and my vehicles. They are still wild have no misconception about that. They just think of me as another creature out here that has never done them any harm. A good photographer will never scare or ‘push’ the animals. You won’t get another chance to take their photo later if you do.
The highlights around everything is the result of a fine coating of Hoar Frost and Rime Snow. Everything facing or exposed to the wind was covered that morning. Fog covered the valley floor below this high ridge overlook.
It’s always a challenge to capture one of the moments when a tree hangs a lightbulb down from it’s heights to light it’s way in the dark. Humans have flashlights. Trees… well…🤔😜 Those Ent’s are getting high tech….
Perhaps this capture is more symbolic of the tree plugging into our furnace for all things that keep it alive. Energy flows freely in this image. Heat transfer makes everything possible. For without that furnace we would be in a cold place on a frozen rock. All life relies on this warmth. Have hope though… if the sun suddenly disappeared in a senior Sci-Fi moment, there would still be microbes surviving deep in the earth. Warmth from below, geothermal and chemical energy providing the basics for life even then. I’m not so sure sentient life would do very well under that scenario. I might be wrong…
Bright as heck scene. IT’s hard to get much more detail out of the shadows with out technology with a higher dynamic range than I have. Right now I’m working with have the ability to resolve 15 fstops of dynamic Range . Most cameras have 12 f-stops or less. The human eye has 21. D.R. is the ability to see the brightest lights AND the darkest darks at the same time in the camera. It’s easy to adjust most cameras to do either, but not both.
The mist over the water in this remote backcountry wetland was wafting slowly with the below freezing breeze above. This mid-spring Wyotana wetland capture was taken right as the sun cracked over the far ridge to the east shadowing this ground about 15 minutes longer than sunrise. Sunrise time depends on if the horizon is above you topographically or not lolol.
A snowy/frosty/blowy storm came through after a week of thawing weather melted most ice on local ponds. Rime Snow coated most exposed objects but the mist from the water definitely hoar frosted the far trees totally. Wind blowing that mist that refroze on the trees in the distance. I probably should have taken a walk over to those trees with a few good cameras but the aforementioned breeze with below freezing weather dissuaded me. Wind Chill cutting through the cracks in my cold armor is always a consideration in cold weather.
I see much wildlife in and around these lakes but they were no where to be seen this frosty morning. I suspect they were bedded down somewhere close by staying out of the cold breeze. Sheltered (lower) areas like this are an oasis from the blowing and drifting usually. The trees and topography “helping” with the natural wind break. A source of open water in places due to the spring fed nature of the lakes, many local animals winter over here.
Spring in Wyotana is a fleeting season. I think it was on a thursday last year. Winter usually lasts until May 15, then it’s green season. Green season is variable depending on the rains of course but Spring…. it’s usually about a day long. 🤔😜📷
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Alpenglow behind the circa 1920’s Aermotor water engine. The reflected highlights on that vane sure got my attention. I’m always looking for pattern and highlight popping in my cameras viewfinder. This was remarkable to see live. It’s really hard to explain how deeply these quality cameras draw you into the image as it’s being composed.
This wind generator served this portion of the ranch for generations until I ran a water pipeline over a mile to the tanks around this mill. This old soldier worked right up until the time we turned it off in 2006. To get it running, I’d have to pull the pipe and replace the leathers on the actual pump part down well. Climb the tower to lubricate everything, and replace the down the tower wooden pump rod. About 5 or 6 hours work with the right tools. A good truck winch, a pully at the top of the tower and a couple of pipe wrenches will do it.
Sunset from the point of view of a 100 year old windmill. (Re Pete). This old fellow is on our ranch about 3 miles into the backcountry via two track roads. I usually work my way out to this guy’s hangout where he gleefully “photobombs” my landscapes…. (It’s a years old narrative if you don’t understand lolol).
Aermotor windmills account for the bulk of windmills out there. The company started way back in the 1888 with 24 sold the first year. By 1892, 20000 had been sold lolol. The company still exists. They also sold a LOT of steel fire “look out towers” for fire watch and being a lightning target lololol.
This 18 inch square aspect capture is of the “Ideal” family of course. Papa behind his velvet covered antlers just starting to grow in the early spring. Momma next (with a bun in the oven). Last but not least is Junior, a yearling doe a splitting image of her mother but smaller. Yup, they see me but they went back to grazing in the fresh green rocket fuel (grass).. I had to make a noise to get them all to look up. After a few times, they ignore that lolol. By mid-late summer I’ll be working them from inside the herd. 📷📷
This small group and a few other spent the winter together near our homestead. They take advantage of the water troughs we keep open all year to stay up in this high ridge line ranch. It’s dry up here in the winter with little open or flowing water for their use. We keep 4 watering tanks open all winter up here for anyone that comes by.
All my deer encounters are random. They never know when I’m heading out and I don’t know where they are hanging out. They have a pretty good range this time of year. Quickly they can move a mile from where they were a mere 5 or 6 minutes before. Many of the deer that live around here recognize my vehicles. Certainly the vehicle is a mobile blind albeit a noisy/smelly one. No human form presents itself to the wildlife so by mid spring, they become accustomed to the black truck that moves like a Black Angus, appearing to be a grazer. If ever you decide to try to skirt deer or Pronghorn, you will figure out quickly that won’t work lol. Just approach like your eating grass, move a little, eat some more, rinse and repeat.
You will probably find where the Deer’s line in the sand is that way.
I run a network of 29 game trail cameras. About 8 of them were inaccessible to me from December 2019 until mid-April 2020. In other words I have thousands of images to go through. This is one such image of a thickly Winter Coated Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes is the scientific genus and species to this largest of the true foxes. The species is not unique to Wyotana occurring across the entire Northern Hemisphere. It is not endangered with a stable population. Looks about 30 pounds to me at 18 inches tall. Beautiful Animal that I’ve only seen a few times in the wild. They tend to be elusive and wary of humans.
Foxes are known for their intelligence with a smattering of cunning in their reputation. Loners and solitary hunters all feeing on small game. They are omnivorous however not being above fruit and vegi’s with a side of fish, and an earth worm garnish.
I place Game Trail Cameras in locations where I believe the wildlings wander and congregate. The only control of these cameras I have besides some general settings are where I put them. This particular spot is more or less of a natural wildlife funnel. I’ve seen this foxes prey walk on this same trail too. Raccoons and probably skunks are on the dinner list though the latter is questionable I suppose lolol. Porcupines are a tough sell but I’m sure the mouse population is a target. Pickings are slim in the last half of the winter up here in the high country of the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. Competition is fierce and unrelenting.
Talk about complex/busy 📸 Anyone see the little “crab” formed by nature?
I see an amazing amount of order within this chaos. There is an inherent depth to this capture. I was standing on my Black Ford’s Winch Bumper to angle straight down on it’s hood . This JUST as the sun was rising. I watched shaft of sun came through the trees lighting up the hood. After I tripped over my jaw I grabbed a macro lens from the front seat of aforementioned portable photographic studio. (my truck). I had just carried the 25 pound “Box o cameras” outside to populate my passenger seat with. I was on the way out a little late that morning. Sometimes I think one is late for some reason in your timeline.
Sequence of events for your minds eye:
The previous night the hood warm from the engine, melted some ice into drops. Those drops FLASH FROZE in the 15 degree air. Next a dusting of well formed snow flakes dusted the surface of the highly reflective waxed black paint under the flakes. Then frost began to grown into 1/4 inch feathers. As the golden rays of the bright unfettered sun hit them, the golden sheen was unmistakable. I didn’t notice the blue flakes in the eyepiece for some reason in my mind but the camera sure saw them. I think it was the fact I was balancing on that bumper lip 3 feet off the ground looking through a tube. What could go wrong😜.
I’ll allow blue snow into my images when it is against a reflective black background lolol. (Inside Joke).
The minute I saw this scene I knew I could capture the moody nature of the stage show unfolding in front of me. I love low light color when it comes out from it’s hiding place. There are so many areas of zen up here to anticipate and pursue. Even in flat light….
The sky leading up to this was mostly overcast. It is a bad bet/ use of time to go out with cameras. Each time I go to take pictures these days, I put myself further behind finishing the rest of my portfolio. If your new to my work, I’m only about 3700 portfolio images yet to finalize to current standards. I’m one page at a time, 4 a day building and posting “Pages” for several eventual books. Each Image I produce/post has at least a 250 word narrative. 1300 + finished pages contained within that web based “book” currently on line . 👀 I try to keep busy. lolol.
It’s easy to work with skies that are textured and complex but flat grey presents a serious challenge. To bring the colors that were vibrant in the flat light into a mechanical/electronic contrivance is a complex task lol. Several computer algorithms process images inside the camera even though I only use manual settings. I haven’t used anything auto on my cameras for years. I really don’t even know how to use those features except in theory. No auto focus, no auto light balance, no enhancements. Conversions of file formats occur automatically with the digital process from camera to computer.
When I drive out into the backcountry up to the high ridgelines, I never know what I’m going to find. The Rime snow coated all the grasses and fences that morning. I really didn’t notice it until the sun came up enough to highlight all the ice. The roughly 1/8th inch coating made for a late winter sunrise scene worthy of my time getting up the ridge lol.
The sun wasn’t very warming that morning. There was a good breeze from the left that cut through my cold weather armor. Wyotana here with both states in the image. I’m standing in Wyoming looking to the north east with the sun rising on the spring equinox (straight east). Here in Early April, we still have a month of winter weather possible. Last year was cold till the end of May. We had lilacs blooming on the 4th of July for you gardeners to compare with your seasons.
I miss chasing bees with cameras and finding Preying Mantis sitting for me swaying back and forth like a breeze. It has been a LONG winter. The seasons will change but the seclusion in this remote part of the earth is comforting in these troubled times. I hope this finds you all safe and secure in your homes. We have a 1 person per square mile population density in this country. Ranches are 5 to 10 miles away from most places but it’s still 70 miles from the nearest stop light here.
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. ).
A remote backcountry gravel road leading up to the sky in the distance sets the stage for this Sky show that morning. Actually I had worked this sunrise over that hill with a box o’ cameras for the previous 2 hours. It was an AWESOME twilight leading up to this “don’t forget to look back” shot. I was heading back home when this vista appeared in my mirror. 📷
Late Winter up here in the borderlands of Wyotana harbors a problematic lands use discussion. My access to the backcountry pretty much limited. I only allow myself on county roads for general photography this time of year. I don’t want to RUT up the trails. UGGG to people that do it. The spotty snow is interesting but the fact that it is melting makes MUD. Mud will keep me out of the backcountry. There are areas of very slick when wet Bentonite. Bentonite is known as GUMBO and will stick a loader with tire chains never to be recovered in this country. You don’t want to wander onto ground you don’t know about as you might not drive out. I’ve found areas that I was very lucky to get out before so I avoid it now. IT’s VERY soft at the moment …..😔
The red crushed “clinker” roads we have here are best photographed wet as it darkens/reddens them. They do add some character to the image. The clouds this particular AM were all subject to under lighting while the sun was effectively filtered to my camera by the thick cloud band obscuring those fleeing photons. I’d say I’m a mile from the crest of the hill.
It was a little windy for a reflective shot perhaps but this gibbous moon setting into a early morning setting moon backshow caught my attention. It made it through the “To Finish” Sieve I mentally put my images through.
I know the grassy bottom of this small melt water pond and it stays very firm even driving across it when it is full. The pond is ephemeral which means it dries up seasonally and has a good firm soil profile developed. I had JUST pulled up to the rippled mirror surface of this lake in my truck. The wind driven ripples were moving smoothly across the glass surface. The scene was subdued and very blue. Blue images are not my most common production but I liked this one. I’ve been accused of being Blue Blind before lolol.
Finding a pond high enough on a ridge that you can see the horizon around here is the tough part. For all intents and purposes this pond is about as high up as they get around here. IT’s also essentially directly on the Montana/Wyoming border lol. PLUS it has a thin bank to the horizon which is even more specific and desirable of a reflecting surface. . This place has a lot of topography so the particular combination of requirements is pretty rare up here. Even better, it’s only about 500 feet off the local county road which is rare for a photographic “attraction” up here. I normally have to drive miles of two track trails to get to an interesting subject lolol. No complaints on my end.
It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridge tops. The main sunrise show over my right shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this back show is Lavender/Pink/Orange. This back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise. You miss this show if you don’t look behind once in a while … Several image from this particular morning timeline 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 this rare Lavender at times up high.
The red/pink will often work down on the tree top tips as the surviving red rays project off the ice on them. 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%. T
he 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 2.5 inches long.
A Month from now they return… Spring time 2019, the trees were just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I was busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well. These are big 5 pound 5 foot tall birds if you’ve never seen them before.
Earlier that season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot. Earlier that season before leaves were in the way, I was able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction.
They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings. These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes along the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀.
Going up this hill leads to this 1930’s IH Deering Seed Drill (seeder). That Antique has been sitting here for a LONG time and has seem more weather, sunsets, sunrises than any of us left alive today. An old soldier survivor of wind, rain, hail, and worst of all, cattle rubbing against it. It has BIG views in all directions. (Change up seasonally eh? )
Pretty Frosty in this capture lolol. This is the result of 4 days of freezing fog. Days of below freezing in March 2020. Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of this ridge is a favorite summer lightning observation high point. Of course to photo lightning, you want to be in a metal vehicle high on a ridge right?? 🙃
This is also the “Closest” high point to my driveway. I can see the east y horizon from here. I CAN’T see the east horizon from my house. It’s about a mile from my front door to this spot. The two track to here isn’t easily snowed over by drifts so I use this hill some in the winter to see what’s going on.
Winter has a dramatic effect on where I can and am willing to travel. I haven’t had to walk back yet. The new Ford Raptor is pretty capable but snow is snow. This winter is not over yet. There are a lot of snows between now and when it will get warmer. lolol. We will have our share of 1 foot dumps this winter I’m sure.
What are the chances of finding a heart in the barbed wire miles from anywhere?
Perspectives such as this, require a very close/far focus. That is not an easy task in fairly dark environments such as this. Catching a virtually veiled twilight took considerations for the conditions. . The horizon dropping, exposing the sun with time. It’s civil Twilight still.. (Astronomic, Nautical and Civil are the three twilights) I consider this a tough photographic environment certainly.
I do like working perspectives in low light. It’s working several problems at once in the cameras Manual mode. Such activities are an exercise in balance of the three major camera settings you have ANY control of. (white balance excluded). Twilight is by far the best time of the day for photography. Not many are up seeing what is going on most mornings.
I’ve seen few aurora but I’ve seen so many twilight sky shows . Just about every possible situation short of some ultra rare phenomena. I will testify that twilight is the most varied color, capable of the full rainbow of possibilities. Only the bright greens of aurora have I not seen from twilight. Oxygen excited by the sun at 60 -120 miles high is that green at 557 nanometer wavelength. There is little of that hue in any twilight that I have ever seen😜
Twilight gives me a huge variety of scenes, the play of low angle light, leads one to take the work if you can get it lolol. This was not a cooperative sky as that sun slit closed up thusly closing down the sky show that morning. Sometimes I drive for backcountry miles only to get a few minutes of good light. Such are the dues you pay if you play the game of photon collecting.
This 2-1/2 inch wing span butterfly heard that all the store shelves lacked cold remedies/immunity builders. They were all bought out. So he went right to the source here with this Echinacea. 😜👀🤔
Callippe fritillary butterfly doing butterfly things. All upon an Echinacea augustiflolia (cone flower) is a common event up here. There are millions of both during the correct time of year about this ground. While the adults get around, The caterpillars eat pretty much eat violet leaves. There are a lot of wild violets around. Endangered are a rare subspecies of this butterfly. I don’t know if this one is in that column. We have a few of these I see around. Literally the ranch has millions of Echinacea plants. They are native/common/widespread “in these parts”.
This prolific prairie plant is one of the most used and popular herbs worldwide. It has many medicinal benefits. Roots/ upper parts use in extracts, teas, tinctures or tablets make it to the store shelves. There is a veritable arsenal of active compounds in the plant. Studies have attached the use of echinacea to a reduction in inflammation, lower and an improved systemic immunity overall. Be careful what you take Echinacea with as is good advice for all medicinal plants. DO your research.
All available Over The Counter of course. A good source of “Anti-oxidants”. There are a few studies showing Echinacea use with a reduction in the likely hood of catching colds. Noted are claims of effects on other VIRUSES. Claims are that it will shorten the duration of a cold 1.5 days. (Colds are Corona Viruses just saying) Other researchers say this link is unclear. “Test tube studies” indicate it has properties lending itself to lowering blood sugar level. This might be of interest to type II diabetics. Whispered in the corridors of Walgreens™ nationwide are claims of reducing anxiety.. The anti-Inflammatory properties might be of interest to you osteo-arthritus practitioners out there. You know who you are 😔👀
Pine trees, once they loose their bark to weathering and decay, show their grain. This snag might be 50 years dead stil standing by habit after it stood here for several hundred years living. This hillside that it is on protects it from as much cattle pressure (rubbing/scratching) as it would get on a valley floor. The spiral grain is the tree being twisted by the winds pushing unequally on the sunny side versus the less dense shady side of the tree. The winds will gradually turn the tree into a corkscrew. Inexorable force over a long time is the reason for the spiral growth. I point out that the ground UNDER the tree has worn away on this slope which is testimony to the rate of erosion of Cretaceous age sand off this 45 degree slope. .
Nature does many things we don’t think about unless we look below the trees skin (bark) to it’s structure. I know of quite a few of these trees. Usually they are broken up pretty badly. This one is “well preserved”. I’ve tried this angle a few time. It’s pretty difficult to get the close far perspective to work on this hill slope.. I still needed a sense of the 40 foot long snag. I did have to wait until the sun went behind that little cloud to take the edge off the lighting. This was still pretty early a few minutes after sunrise. Blocked mostly from the sun I usually work with doing perspectives. This cloud comes along and makes it all possible 😜📷
Strawberry flower just lost it’s petals (fertilized), Mantis Egg Sac lower right and a precocious hatchling first to appear…. I’m thinking he is just under a quarter inch long.
There should be a few more of these Praying Mantis Eggs about. IF I see any more hatchlings I’ll photograph them of course. I have to get about 1 inch away to get this kind of capture. Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 This was taken down in my aquaponic Greenhouse where it never gets below 65 degrees all winter. Taken about a week before this posts.
Mantis are part of a huge order of some 2400 species under that umbrella worldwide. This is a native Wyoming/Montana species. I believe this is the 6th generation of hatches I’ve had down in that artificial environment here mid winter. Thrilled he was to see my lens coming at him lolol.
Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 They are constantly moving back and forth to imitate plants swaying in the breeze. They usually don’t stick around in any one place very long on their rounds. I don’t see many of these out in our gardens but as here in a Green House , this is their 6th generation now of Mantis babies under that roof. About every 8 months or so I have a hatch take off down there. I bought some egg 4 years ago + and they are still going supporting themselves in that 40 x15 by 20 foot tall under grade “Wyoming Walipi”. That means it’s an underground green house and is all aquaponic using no soil, just water (except for some orchids where I have some Hydroton™ nuggets involved.)