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Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset
Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Twilight is a time to look around. There is no better spot for this Breeding / Nesting Upland Sandpiper to watch the sunset. Hanging out on a fence brace with a view was a good choice I’m thinking. Topography was such I couldn’t get the larger twilight show behind the grass. I still liked the composition. I’m going to have to get a taller truck though lol.. Time for that 2 inch lift kit perhaps.

I liked the symmetry of the brace with the asymmetry of the angles by the wire versus clouds all interacting. The Peachy Creme Soda color is one of my favorite hues for an Alpenglow pallet choice by mother nature. I never know what she is going to pick but I do know that Alpenglow is one of my favorite sky phenomena. (Google it if you know know what it is).

This was taken in early July with the sky color attributed to ice reflecting the predominate color surviving the sunlights trip through the low atmosphere. Such low angle light is always tweeked by the shorter wavelengths being absorbed during the journey. No or few blues/ greens and indigos make it reflected back to my lens.

Photographic Musing:

Close far perspectives are a challenge in low light. If your trying to do images like this, you need high F-stop setting. That will close off light which makes the other two settings important. Long exposures are your friend. High ISO will get you the photo but it will be grainy. . Manual mode is all about balance.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

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Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

Sunrise at the Summer Solstice
Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

I sense the turning of the wheel again. Living here for 2 decades now, makes me ponder those that came before me. Loving the land as I do all.

There are so many ranch stories from any one particular spot that will never be told or known by the public or for that fact history. Some epic, standard stuff sure and most were. But stories of sweat, toil and hard work by generations of cowboys and cowgirls in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana.

I look around at all the fence posts set deep in the ground on my ranch, I just shake my head in astonishment at the work. If anyone hasn’t hand dug a post hole, raise your hand, you know who you are. This is true cowboy country. There is a huge cattle culture in this place complete with the uniforms for such.

The both counties my ranch spans have WAY more cattle than people living in an area the size of a small state. Ranches can get large up here, not as big as some of the historic ones though. There are still a few 100000 acre outfits (outfits as they call ranches locally 🙂

This IH/Deering Seed Drill was certainly used in the 1920’s and 30’s maybe into the 40’s. There are several old homesteads from the 20’s (ish) within 3 miles of my place that I know about. Somewhere back then, the owner parked this complex machine meant to drop seeds with some precision into a prepared field. It was the last work it did…

Planting Hybrid Grass seed was it’s primary job. I’m not sure what pulled it, maybe both horses early on and then the rancher got a tractor or a WWII surplus Jeep and pulled it with that. Many surplus Jeeps worked fields here in the west during the 40’s and 50’s. So many stories not told…. I even find fragments of historic leather harness “tack” for horse teams here along with the iron skeletons of old 2 seat carriages and abandoned buck wagons here on ranch. (The black-smithed iron is fantastic.)

There is about 110 years of European man living on this remote ranch in the borderlands. Over that century, many residents threw broken items “over the bank” and out of mind. So the steep/deep gullies near old collapsed sod houses are prime hunting ground for iron antiques, glass bottles etc left over from previous lives. There are even a handful of car/truck skeletons from the 1920’s around and even some in the backcountry. I have a “Small” eclectic collection of select ranch artifacts carefully spread about in rock gardens around here. Interesting stuff for sure, pretty rusty all.. 📸

Round and round the Wheel It Comes…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunrise at the Summer Solstice

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Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

Moon over Massive Mesocyclone
Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

I had gone on a backcountry road trip of about 15 miles to find a place around this storm which was blocking my view of the rising Strawberry moon. I understand the Algonquins tribe named it as the June moon corresponds to the picking of the wild strawberry crop. In Europe they are a bit more flowery with the “Rose” moon chosen for the moon moniker. Also called the “Hot Moon, the Honey Moon and the derivative of honey, the Mead Moon. Cheese with Honey I’m guessing lolol. It was probably about time for some Mead after the long winter this moon harkens the end of.

Seeing the Full moon this month was a good time for philosophy and thoughts of normalcy as the return of the season. I get very “reflective” introspectively about “cycles”. I’ve been at this place before a few times circling around our star. I recognizes processes and natures schemes for it’s perpetual engine to continue unabated. The machinations of our population makes little difference to those certainties provided by natures processes. All that is ongoing around is is insignificant in the scheme of the world around us. It’s somehow settling to have those processes continue in front of my eyes like the clock work that they are. The geologists in me tries terribly hard to be in tune with those little things. It’s makes understanding the bigger things that are so complex, possible. It takes a compilation of the little things to comprehend. Nature is easy, it’s human nature that is the tough one. IT’s the humans that the uncertainly. 😔📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

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Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands
Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands

These guys are sandpipers with obscenely long bills. Since the male and female Curlews look pretty much alike with minor differences in the bill I’m not qualified to call. What I like about these guys is that they are grasshopper eating machines in the summer. They over winters in wetland marshes and other shore line estuaries. It couldn’t get much further away from the ocean as we are only a few hundred miles away from the geographic center of North America. They like this highland grassy ridge to breed and set their nests in.

They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing calls. They will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. Entertaining if your a photographer as catching them in not easy tracking with a long lens. Challenging is what I call it. I often find them driving along the two track trails as I’m on the flats below the higher ridges. Mostly a flat field grassy nesting bird rather than preferring a hillside with a view as I’ve seen them.

I understand that across their range, the numbers of this amusing bird are dropping with the reduction in natural grass land turned to mono-crop agricultural uses. They of course use wild non – tilled prairie to nest and feed during the summer months. A classic case of reduce the habitat and reduce the numbers. 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Curlew in the Grass Lands

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Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake
Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

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Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody
Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.

The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.

Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

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Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider
Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider

The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread species. It ranges to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here…. We are precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂

This image was captured early this summer and the cottonwoods were leafing. I can only see one nest currently. As I often loose track of them as the trees fill in with leaves . Thusly the cover over the nests keeps the privacy curtain up rather well. Not much assistance to me but I’m sure the birds like it.

Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up here and I don’t see them skinny lol. They usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and head out. I can’t really see them after mid may when the Cottonwood trees they nest in leaf out. Their nests are 50 feet up the big mature trees over a lake here on the ranch. The rookery is adjacent to a tall hill such that I can get at the tree top level about 200 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the portfolio with this image. I have many more to do.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Heron Hang Glider

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Back in the Wind Break

Back in the Wind Break
Back in the Wind Break

Back in the Wind Break

Planted in the 1940’s we believe, this windbreak was mostly an open range horse pasture when we moved into our homestead. This is now our back yard. As a windbreak goes, this keeps the snow windward side of it and out of the immediate back yard. IT works fairly well to subdue the biting north winds coming in behind our homestead. This is a monster area to mow horses trimming most things edible down. Now that is our job.

Seems most ranches have a small fenced in area around the house that is safe from animals grazing. That place is where the ranch wife does all the gardening. I have over the decades built a 230 rods long buck rail / electric fence hybrid fence that has been very effective at keeping deer/cattle out of our 10 acre yard. The cattle were easy. The deer not so much. I’ve seen them walk over cattle gates and crawl under fences. Whitetail are the worst lolol. 10 acres may seem a big yard but there are a dozen buildings here and 47,000 square feet under roof. This deer resistant area is 1/300th of the area that the Ranch borders though. I didn’t take much away from the deer but I sure have better landscapes around my homestead now.

At any rate, this small forest is 100 feet off my back door here at the homestead. It is often beautifully lit up with long early morning shadows such as this. Time to mow….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Back in the Wind Break

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Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky
Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

Wyotana is a mystical place somewhere near the border of Wyoming and Montana. That demarkation line between the two American Redoubt states is 360 miles long. I consider the “Zone” of Wyotana is about 10 miles wide. That makes a total 3600 square miles in this exotic land. That included area is 3 times larger than Rhode Island. Largely unknown, it includes parts of Yellowstone is mostly remote containing some of the most Mountainous country in the US. This is Cowboy Country from the east border of South Dakota west. All the way to the Yellow park boundary on the west.

Wild Wonderful Wyoming and Big Sky Montana have a few cultural differences. These largely result from Montana having more larger population centers. Their population derived from more migrants exiting huge cities on the coast. Wyoming is more rural with mostly rural local populations. There are HUGE areas of Montana is very similar culturally to HUGE areas of Wyoming. The oil industry and blue collar hydrocarbon guys come and go but a rancher is a rancher on both sides of the border. Our ranch IS in both states by the way lolol. Living in a remote rural ranching community on either side of the border is an entirely different existence from living near population. I’ve operated in both environments and way prefer the “long drive to town”.

Oh, the photo… taken 10 days before it posts as a side show to the main sunrise to the left of frame. I love complex skies with spring Alpenglow… 5:15 AM for this capture. My summer nights are getting shorter until the summer solstice….. Tough schedule to work both sunset and sunrise….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands.

Title: Wyotana Twilight Morning Sky

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3 Deer in the Air

3 Deer in the Air
3 Deer in the Air

3 Deer in the Air

Satire:

The Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Synchronized Fence Jumping competition (BDRSFJC) is well under way. Last fall we had the tri-outs for the follow up event in the spring. This spring event is much larger usually and involves more animal diversity than the late fall meet. I give the deer in the foreground a 9.5 for form. 9.2 for jumping together…

This group doesn’t quite have the synchronize part figured out yet and doubtfully will make the final cut. Boy are these guys shedding with tuffs of hair falling off each one. Shaggy to say the least. Perfectly healthy.

BDRSFJC is an all “Ungulate” (google the last term) event. I expect some Whitetail to try out but their team failed to show up YET AGAIN !!!. Some creatures just can’t keep to a schedule. This is the second time this year they Whitetails have bailed from a major try out. Now the Pronghorns don’t even like jumping over fences. I read where they can jump 14 feet high but my memory fails sometimes, that might be wrong. 👅

Back to my normal (ish) programming:

I have around 100 good images of deer jumping over fences. This MIGHT be the only triple deer in the air I have in my portfolio. I don’t recall clicking on another with 3 in the air at the same time. I do have a couple of double captures.

I’m considering putting in a synchronized swim tryout down by the lake. We’ll see if those whitetail show up for that.. 😜📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: 3 Deer in the Air

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Flying Flag in Alpenglow

Flying Flag in Alpenglow
Flying Flag in Alpenglow

Flying Flag in Alpenglow

Rarely do I have architectural elements in my images. Under Alpenglow saturated refractive ice filled sky, the football field sized roof sets the stage for this three part drama. We need a little patriotism these days….

Muddled has been the origin of the starts and stripes.. Accounts handed down orally over several generations. Mostly from the descendants of Betsy Ross. Congress onJune 14, 1777 took time from it’s busy schedule. It passed a resolution stating : “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white”. That “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Still to this day, no one knows who designed the flag. No one know why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Rumor is Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776.

George Washington personally requested her design the flag. Again, this is hearsay. Obviously nothing is hunting it was it never varies its routine. (bad plan generally) Coming home from a long night out working the light with a box of cameras is always full of adventure. I never know what to expect. Wyoming winds are unpredictable so there is a variable you can’t control. Luckily this was/is not much of a problem that night. It’s generally fairly windy in this country. An 80 dollar 5×8 flag usually last me about 4 months before it get’s “Worn out”. 3×2 aspect to 3 feet.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Flying Flag in Alpenglow

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Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm
Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm

This unusual sky happened about 10 days ago on a stormy eventing in mid March 2020. I had been working this sky for several hours photographically due to the wondrous storm clouds moving through the area. As a grand final act of the stage show that evening, a distant storm cloud decided to make a flashlight beam out of the suns blanket. The edge of that ‘little cloud” on the far right horizon blocked and quartered the sun nicely BEFORE it was actually down. It enabled just an amazing sliver of bright sun to cut the ice in the air with it’s light. All the while that light was color casted orange by passing the hundreds of miles long gauntlet of dust and ice in the air.

This “spotlight” beam passing through the atmospheric ice was indeed a worth show to see and capture. I particularly like the lighter blue’s gradient to the darker indigo above. This is a hint of the extreme wide angle lens I was using to capture this 130 degree wide vistas. The top of the photo is nearly straight up. It is difficult to get a proper prospective without a foreground object. The camera was looking south on the left frame to northwest on the right frame. In other words, it’s a huge chunk of the sky. (10 mm full frame lens)I am constantly wow’d by sky show performances up here. I was lucky to have experienced this night.

There are many more capture of the storms moving through that evening that were/are very good captures indeed. They will slowly make it into my workflow. 2’x3′ image aspect

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch,Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spotlight on the Storm

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Bumble Bees are Back

Bumble Bees are Back
Bumble Bees are Back

Bumble Bees are Back

Getting eyebrow close with a big macro lens is always an exercise in “damn the torpedos”. When ever I dive into a flower rich environment to catch bees in action, I run the risk of pissing some body off lol. To date I have never been stung. I’ve had a couple of wasps dive bomb me though. Probably because I was too close to the entrance of their rock nest (cave). I spend hours every month of the summer chasing these guys. I have some new technology this year so we will see how they come out.

I’ll do my best to give you macro fans a slow but steady flow of the little guys this summer. The limitations of the optics are such that deep focus fields in these macro images is not easy to achieve. There is a fine balance between getting closer and getting focus. It depends on what your wanting to do technically.

Photographic Musings:

With ALL Macro shots, light is your friend. The more, the better. Putting your camera on manual and adjusting to f22 (for deep focus) makes a pin hole in the lens reducing light tremendously. So the more light you have to begin with, the better your image is going to look. Adjusting higher ISO (camera sensitivity) is your only way to get more out of the light you get from a pin hole. You can’t do a time exposure of a moving bee so 1/250th is your floor and I often take images at 1/3000 to freeze wings. Bright sun is always best…📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Bumble Bees are Back

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Perspective BoneYard Wooden Wagon

Perspective BoneYard Wooden Wagon
Perspective BoneYard Wooden Wagon

Perspective BoneYard Wooden Wagon

Oh the stories this old Buck Wagon would tell if it could only communicate. This ranch settled in 1906, apparently everyone stayed in tents for the first 3 years. So goes the lore. I wonder how many trips to “town” carrying freight this old truck of the day made.

History tells us settlers purchased sugar more often than any other single product. Sugar used in cooking and baking certainly, but large quantities of it were necessary for preserving fresh seasonal produce in the days before refrigeration. Salt too. Canned goods were certainly purchased in some quantity. Women who used canned goods were often looked down upon . Judged by those 90 percent of the others that did their own canning at home. Other complained cans gave the food a “tinny” taste. Salt, feed for the stock, fabrics for the gals and blue jeans for the men were all passengers on these worn wheels.

I understand that this particular region far away from the next closest “big town” That would be Gillette Wyoming. In 1891, Gillette was founded. The coming of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was the start.. Called “Donkey City” or “RockPile” at the time, Gillette I’m sure was quite a place. Population of the 70 mile distant town in 1910 was 511 souls. A trip 70 miles by open wagon would take a few days with overnights on the trail. Meanwhile up in Wyotana, 2 “General” stores were located right at 15 miles distant. Facilitating the trip with a team of horses the rancher did. All strapped to the front of this old buck wagon. Certainly it would be a long day trip on the open wagon.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Perspective BoneYard Wooden Wagon

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Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

Early Twilight Crimson Skyline
Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

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… 👀👀📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Early Twilight Crimson Skyline

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Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts
Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

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Deer Jumping Across Wire

Deer Jumping Across Wire
Deer Jumping Across Wire

Deer Jumping Across Wire

Here we are at the 20th annual fence jumping try outs here at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. It has become an annual affair since I moved here. We have a good attendance at the event. Jumpers high and last minute crawlers rule the field. Being a tight new fence, most chose over as their path.

They weren’t panic’d, Taking their time, waiting patiently one, then the next. All walked away when all had cleared the obstacle. These same deer have seen my rigs all year and could care less if I was there as long as I stay in the vehicle lolol. A few minutes later the sun would have been setting behind where they were but alas the timing was not to be.

They don’t like the human form much..🤔 I’m trying to decide who “Won” the height title over the timeline of all of them jumping, I think the deer in this image wins…. The smaller deer left of the jumper likely to got a rash from the last jump. She was very hesitant to go and balked several times lolol.

Big Male Mule Deer go to 330 pounds and the females go to 200 pounds. The are actually indigenous to North America and are known by those distinctive “Mule” shaped ears. The hear extremely well with those big ears. I suspect they use their sense of smell way more though to detect danger. These guys are herbivores so they are survivors of what ever killed all the MegaFauna during the Pleistocene 11000 years ago.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch about 50 feet from the Montana/Wyoming border

Title: Deer Jumping Across Wire

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Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

Twilight Under A Mesocyclone
Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

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Lone Tree Moon Silhouette

Lone Tree Moon Silhouette
Lone Tree Moon Silhouette

Lone Tree Moon Silhouette

(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

Title: Lone Tree Moon Silhouette

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Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset
Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset

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?

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Muted Layers of Sunset

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Vulture Culture Barnyard Overlook

Vulture Culture Barnyard Overlook
Vulture Culture Barnyard Overlook

Vulture Culture Barnyard Overlook

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.

Title: Vulture Culture Barnyard Overlook

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Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset
Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

Wonderful Golden Hour Sunset that night….

The science of this pond.

A lowly pond deep in the backcountry flats below the ridge my ranch is situated on. About 300 feet lower than my homestead where the Artesian Waters from rocks 250 feet underground. This water works it’s way to the surface via cracks…faults… My homestead gets water from the same formational source. But it only rises from it’s source 500 feet deep in my wells to 250 feet up the pipe. Down low topographically though, there are quite a few ponds up on this particular area as the Fox Hill Formation below is a wonderful Aquifer under pressure from up dip of the formation. Geographically, this unit stretches from Alberta to northern Colorado with analogues/ similar depositional environments further south. The western interior sea during the latest Dinosaur Era (Cretaceous) provided the barrier islands/beach for this grey sandstone with shale interbeds to accumulate.

Fox Hill Formation is a MAJOR source of ground water around big cities. BUT the water from the Fox Hill is typically diluted. IT takes purer water as it is very high in total dissolved solids (TDS). Drinking high TDS water is a good way to get kidney stones. We use reverse osmosis filters for all our drinking water. The animals drinking this are on their own and generally do OK. I did have a wonderful 7 year old quarter horse die of a kidney stone. The complications probably from drinking this water. Most animals do fine.

As the Fox Hill unit is dipping about 50 feet per mile toward the west (towards setting sun). This means that to the east it is higher giving a “hydrologic head” . The miles to the east the formation is physically a lot higher. So if you have a water bearing sandstone higher than you. Plus a crack between it and the surface, you get “spring fed ponds”. Artesian simply means that water is flowing from underground. The water flows upward to the surface because the water bearing sand is WAY above this location miles to the east. Just because water is “Artesian”, doesn’t mean it’s safe or much good to drink. It just means it’s flowing on the surface…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Wetland Backcountry Golden Sunset

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Five Deer Watching Sunset

Five Deer Watching Sunset
Five Deer Watching Sunset

Five Deer Watching Sunset

These 5 were caught in early twilight. These deer were up watching the sun go down with me. They were ridge lined and I was able to maneuver way below them about 100 yards out and Click…. I know this this grouppretty well as they are seen almost every sunset walking between their grazing area and one of my water troughs. We keep that water available all year (for the last 20).

They are pretty used to me being around but are still quite wild. They don’t come down to greet me you might say but I can get pretty close if the conditions are right….. As long as I stay in my vehicle anyway.

There is a whole little deer melodrama playing out pretty much all year but you really have to watch and pay attention to see it happening.

Photographic Musings:

Remember F-stop? It was very low light. To freeze them in space and time, you need at least 1/200th second for a walking deer. You either give up F-stop (depth of focus) or ISO (camera sensitivity) I gave up f-stop as the detail in the sky behind wasn’t critical….. Though it was sure impressively fully involved with the long wavelenths that made it through the atmosphere. Getting a longer depth of focus is what F-stop does along with either letting in more light or taking it away with higher F-stop numbers.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Five Deer Watching Sunset

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Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

Visual Tunnel Forest Frame
Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

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…

Musings:

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.📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

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Wyotana Mule Deer Train

Wyotana Mule Deer Train
Wyotana Mule Deer Train

Wyotana Mule Deer Train

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wyotana Mule Deer Train

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Spring Rain Showers Wyotana

Spring Rain Showers Wyotana
Spring Rain Showers Wyotana

Spring Rain Showers Wyotana

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…..👅📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spring Rain Showers Wyotana

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Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose
Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

With perfect light, these three cooperated for a “sitting” for my telephoto. I was sitting about 50 yards out from them in my Ford Raptor and was SLOWLY working my way toward them. I take images as I approach, stop, move a little closer, take some more and so on until I get the full frame image I was looking for. Now it always doesn’t work for me with Pronghorn being as spooky as animals come. The only way I can get this close is by working up to them.

Boy are they Pregnant each and all. Last year was a very good year for precipitation. I never had to start my fire truck (second time in 20 years). So I’m thinking that 2 out of three (right two) probably have twins in the oven. It’s still a while till they birth so I will be keeping my eye open for fawns in the grass when I travel before too long. Deer will birth sooner than the Pronghorn.

It’s that time of year of renewal up in the high country. The green grass is rocket fuel for many creatures. Must be wonderful after dried salads all winter for them. I don’t feel too sorry for Pronghorn since they eat a lot of sage brush lolo.. I suspect their diet is improving rapidly with the oncoming green. The brown season is waning. Long live the green season!☯

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

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Reflections Sun Pillar

Reflections Sun Pillar
Reflections Sun Pillar

Reflections Sun Pillar

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… 👀📸.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Reflections Sun Pillar

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“W” Butte Golden Hour

"W" Butte Golden Hour
"W" Butte Golden Hour

“W” Butte Golden Hour

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. ⚒🤔☯

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Montana/Wyoming borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: “W” Butte Golden Hour

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Backcountry Look Out Duty

Backcountry Look Out Duty
Backcountry Look Out Duty

Backcountry Look Out Duty

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Backcountry Look Out Duty