This area of the sky is the size of your thumb at an arms length on the horizon. The BigHorn Mountains Cloud Cover that morning was climbing up the back of the peaks. Those clouds well past the 130 mile distant 13,000 feet high PreCambrian Cored, uplifted Mountain Range. Parts of Montana and Wyoming in this photo.
It was to cover the highest ones within a few minutes of this photon trap. The sun was JUST rising over my shoulder. I was standing in the long shadow of the ridge I live on.
Getting to see weather move over those high ridges is a rare treat from this far away. These huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide “Orogeny”. (Google Word of the day) Cloud peak is 13,175 feet. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east toward my camera. This deep basin is called the Powder River Basin.
The Powder River basin is a major source of clean burning coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns.
Those long fans of sand/gravel/silt and clay, dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. The first two sets of ridges are all Tullock, as are the hills behind them out to the Mountain range. They are all made of sediment that traveled from the Big Horns when they were MUCH taller.
Major Mountain Chain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from continental wide compressional forces. Huge were those forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks weathering to sand and clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed all the way… well just about to my front door.
Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare.
Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.
During the Carboniferous geologic Period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.
There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly
To me the ultimate perspectives are the foggy ones. Shadows within frame set up by the sun presented themselves to me. Foggy sunrises are not a common thing up here in the high country. There is a lot of topography here. Differences in elevation a mile apart can be 3-400 feet in this backcountry. Big Long ridge tops tower over the surrounding drainage. In order to see the sun in this area, one has to be on a ridge top. Fog is not as common on ridges. When It is, I try to be there.
I’m trying to remember how many of this kind of photo I have…. errr,…. none but this one I think. Foggy shadows are rare in my world of backcountry ridges here in the highlands. I see fog in the valleys rarely, 5 or 6 times a year. More likely, the cloud deck moves down with no mercy over us with 100 yards visibility at a bright LED Bulb. Totally obscuring all but grey flat light.
I’ve been OVER a cloud deck like this only few times up here. I got lucky anticipating the clearing above the Inversion layer, I went outside and saw a few stars break through a small window. On that, I took a trip to the highest point I can drive to around and instantly was in the clear. This is one such time. There were just wisps of moisture pushing over the ridge top this unusual morning. It was fully overcast flat light down in the valleys lolol. 👀📸
The chill of the upcoming winter was in the air. I captured an old soldier of a wildlife tree. Heavily used by Wood Peckers and Flickers to hunt in for grubs. It oversees/overllows all on it’s high backcountry ridge redoubt. A safe nest for a dozen creatures. Within is a rest from the relentless high ground wind. A rest here for this Great Horned Owl while the rising moon lights up the scene. While dark to our eyes, the extraordinary night vision of the hunting raptor (and my Sony Alpha 7RIV) pierce the darkness. 😜 📸
Did I mention the above is art. The moon just by itself is a 16 image composite. I own the owl silhouette and the snag/twilight photo. Took me a bit to do this well. 🤔👀 (Landscape up to 3×2 feet)
Now the Science:
The owls perception of the night world and need to detect the smallest movement a trait of the species. This would be a real world nocturnal and uncommon encounter. I’m ignoring the limitations of physics and gear to get an image like this require it’s construction in the digital dark room. This scene has happened millions of times however. They would be REALLY hard to catch in the real world. It’d take a heck of a lens to do this at maybe 500 yards out. Having said that, if this ever unveiled in front me in the real world, I could certainly capture the image. That is, if I were given about 5 minutes to get into position/set up lolol.
While active during the day at times, they habituate the darkness and are totally apex predators in this environment. Just to stress the point, none of this would be happening without the moon. (Morning citizen scientist assignment, please google “moon formation”).
The moon is our planets protector. It’s mass around the earth keeps the earths rotation stable. Research reveals that less than 10 percent of terrestrial planets may have a satellite large enough to provide the stability life needs to develop. (This is a big deal and where some genuine magic occurs)
The Mass and resultant gravity is necessary for stabilizing the Tilt of our planet like a huge slow motion gyroscope. Scientists say Earth’s “obliquity”, as this tilt is known, is important to remain stable. Changes in Obliquity have huge repercussions from the resultant environmental reactions. Should Earth’s obliquity wander over hundreds of thousands of years, it would cause environmental chaos by creating a climate too variable for complex life to develop in relative peace. Imagine obliquity such that the South Pole is all daylight 100 percent of the time and the North Pole in 100 percent night sky. Our lunar neighbor has literally made it possible for you to read this as a sequence of events set up in the flow of Space and Time. 🤔📸
Winter sets in deep during mid-February. The cycle of the year repeats over the century this ground has been settled/worked.. This tractor first chugged along in 1939. The first year of the International M tractor. I need to change the tires on it but it runs if I add gas and give it a jump. It has a crank on the front but I’m not as strong as I used to be. (or foolish). I’ve driven this around pulling this and that on the ranch over the time I’ve had it. Lost a tire a year ago and have to just cough up the cash lol. A big ranch operation takes time and money spent fixing things. 😜
The long late day winter sun throws deep shadow casts on the ice crystal projector screen the surface provides. The contrasts present were blinding to the human eye. Those in and of themselves are unable to behold such a scene unaided by technology. The Icy surface intensifies the glare reflecting into your vision. You instantly avert your eyes to avoid damaging them. Sunglasses would have been inadequate. You can not look directly at the sun with them. Mirrorless cameras have significant ability to turn down the volume on the incoming light. I see the scene on a video screen before I commit to take the image. You’ll want to have a full frame mirrorless before attempting this.
Disclaimer. Do not do this with a DLSR as there is a direct light path to your eye through the camera. This could EASILY blind you instantly. I only use Sony Alpha 7 R series cameras which has no direct light path internally to your eye.
Everything was covered by ice. During this winter cold morning with little or no cloud cover, the glare was excessive. The Shadows are Long with a slight down hill angle to the hill. This makes the shadows a bit shorter. However this is a VERY high contrast environment of white and black is way outside the normal photographic envelope.. Human eyes just can’t look into a scene as this without blinding ourselves. The Mirrorless Cameras I use that feed to a video screen. It actually lets me see this image BEFORE I click the camera. I can adjust the settings live real time on the screen. Love those Snow Diamonds…
There would be a star around the sun if it weren’t filtered by the branches. I way prefer cellulose filters to glass ones in front of my lens. Turning up your f-stop which is necessary in this high light environmnet has an added benefit. in this case by reducing the amount of light coming into your camera. It also gives you a very thick depth of focus.
In this high light environment, your also going to have adjust shutter speed really fast. Set your ISO really low (camera sensitivity) or both to compensate for the high light. Basically you have to shut down your camera to light. Many cameras will take a neutral density filter to accomplish this. . Your always balancing 3 different settings in Manual Mode on your camera. I use NO/zip/zero automatic settings anywhere. Not in my cameras or lenses. No auto focus, no stabilization etc. Manual photography strictly on a very modern platform. I get a pretty good battery life that way😄. Manual Mode is best.
The winter wears on up in the highlands of the Wyotana borderlands. This year has been a low snow year so far. It has also been winter since Oct 1st. Most of the snow is now either granular or ice at this point. We’ve had sort of a January Thaw around mid month. That period of warm weather took a foot of snow turning it into 3 inches of dense hard bumpy ice. It’s durn uncomfortable to drive in the backcountry at the moment. During the day I have mud problems out there as well. Vehicles leave marks in mud so I tend not to go out.
Bright scenes and over exposure….:
High Contrast snow/shadow divergent light is an interesting perspective to work. It’s really hard to get the bark detail in the silhouette with most cameras. I find these Sony Alphas are low light monsters with a very high dynamic range. The ability to bring out shadow detail is a big deal in my world. I always expose the highlights correctly as my third rule of photography. If you overexpose the highlights, you loose detail and get a washout. No details exist in washouts. However there is usually a boat load of photo hidden within the shadows of virtually every photo we take. Almost every photo I take you would consider underexposed and dark in the camera. It’s hard for me to preview them raw sometimes as a result. I have to work on them a little bit to see what I actually got. There are advantages to having a quality editing program.
When I see high contrast scenes I hunker down and try to bring it in. High fstop defractions and long shadows dominate the scene on a remote ridge line. The backcountry is full of an infinite number of little zen like scenes at any one time. I find that all I have to do is be there and mother nature will provide.
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.
If your buying gear soon….
Mirrorless Cameras: I’m not blind now because I look through the a Mirrorless cameras eyepiece which has a video screen behind the glass so no direct path of light to blind you. Newer mirrorless cameras do this video thing. Older Designed DSLR’s don’t show you your image until AFTER YOU CLICK. Mirrorless Cameras show you your settings changes live on screen and you get what you see when you click not after. If your shopping for cameras, I would tell you to buy mirrorless. Particularly if you work outside with cameras. Studio it’s not critical either way. Don’t look into the sun with a DSLR camera.
Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies. That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare. Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.
During the Carboniferous geologic period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.
There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water.
They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands. I don’t see them a lot on barbed wire though lolol.
Everything was covered by ice. During this winter cold morning with little or no cloud cover, an iridescent cloud starts to move across the sun. The Shadows are Long with a slight up hill angle to the hill. The makes the shadows even longer. This VERY high contrast environment of white and black is way outside the normal photographic envelope. I believe iridescent clouds to be WAY more common that I used to. We just can’t look into the scene without blinding ourselves to see them. The Mirrorless Cameras I use that feed to a video screen. It actually lets me see this image BEFORE I click the camera. I can adjust the settings live real time on the screen.
The star off the sun is resultant from a high f-stop number. Having only a pin hole for a pupil/aperture/opening in your lens. You get diffraction from the edges of the hole. This little bit of optical physics explains the star around the sun. Turning up your f-stop has an added benefit. in this case by reducing the amount of light coming into your camera.
In this high light environment, your also going to have adjust shutter speed really fast. Set your ISO really low (camera sensitivity) or both to compensate for the high light. Basically you have to shut down your camera to light. Many cameras will take a neutral density filter to accomplish this. . Your always balancing 3 different settings in Manual Mode on your camera. I use NO/zip/zero automatic settings anywhere. Not in my cameras or lenses. No auto focus, no stabilization etc. Manual photography strictly on a very modern platform. I get a pretty good battery life that way😄.
Oh Christmas Tree (with all due respect to Mario Lanza I changed the title to my image to Oh instead of O….)
Even the Wildlings way out in the backcountry have decorated trees to enjoy this Christmas day. A trillion of these moments in space and time happen all the time. It is a matter of realizing the possibilities and having the technology (in your hand) to capture the image.
Each and every one of these trees was casting a hugely contrasting shadow. I just had to pick the place where I could see the whole shadow. Again topography controls / limits my photography. That gravity thing is also a problem.
This well blown snow accumulates around the Yucca Plants. While where I’m standing is only about 6 inches, there are places in the hollows where it’s knee deep. Getting here was half the fun of this photograph 📸🎄 I’m locked out of most of the backcountry now. I have to plow a road if I want to get up on the big ridge. A couple of miles of plowing but I like to wait for a big storm to come through and blow around. Let it drift abit before I take the time and diesel fuel to clear a path.
Hope Christmas morning was blessed with family and gift giving to all of you. It’s right around noon as this posts and it’s gonna be time for a nap sometime soon lol.
DragonFly’s Shadow. These baby ble eyed dragon flies are about 1/2 inch long had longer shadows here than their own bodies. This is definitely a dragon fly as it holds it’s wings outward when at rest. These guys Blue Eyes ROCK. I’m glad they don’t have a 6 foot wing span like their ancestors did back in the Carboniferous Swamps of Pennsylvania 😲 These guys have bcen around the planet for a long time….. just saying.🤔
Damselflies and Mayflies hold their wings to the rear at rest but they are all closely related. This little guy was casting a huge shadow…it must have been a big ego boost to the little guy hard to know lolol
This was from a few weeks ago before the recent snows just now making it’s way into my workflow. My time lag from capture to posting here is right at a week at the moment. Some much longer from the summer will crop up. I’m also refinishing a lot of older images to current standards so those will get reposted from years ago . There are some great images incoming if your just tuning in. 😊
Location: Backyard, Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (I have a big backyard… 😎)
I had turned over this big boulder of Tiger Chert (kinda rare) out by a building leading to this little Black Widow Hunting (me about then) . The boulder of Tiger Chert about 90 pounds (I carried it down a pretty good mountain in a frame pack…. I know lol). So you reach under it to tip it over right?…… Up here you reach under it with gloves on and here is one (just one) of the reason why. Working bare handed turning anything over in Wyoming/Montana is not necessarily the right thing to do lolol.
This Black Widow hunting on Tiger Chert had another agenda than I did. I wonder if it’s like the ground hog and we’re in for an early winter if it see’s it’s shadow? I’m pretty sure it saw that shadow…. Well I know for a fact this gal now resides in an escape proof glass terrarium down in my green house now where she is going to be in a few photosessions I hope. She gets fed a cricket or so a week from the green houses endless supply of crickets lolol. Ultra macro work on her might just be an interesting time spent with a camera dead winter .
Tiger Chert for Rockhounders
As you might expect, the rock is exotic. Oil Chert or Tiger Chert is a fairly rare variety of Silicate mineral.. Named for the alternating bands of light and darker browns or tans, the banding reflects the yearly deposition of sediment into the bottom of prehistoric Lake Gosiute. Outcrops of the material usually occur south and west of Rock Springs as well as a few other places in the Green River Basin. I found this WAY north and east of Dubois Wyoming so this one is an outlier. It was up high when I found it too. Big effort to retrieve it and it still follows me around.
The concoidal fracture and homogenous nature of Tiger Chert made it a favorite of flint nappers throughout the period of human habitation in North America. It occurs in archaeological sites of all ages. It’s beautifully banded, reminds me of tree rings but those were yearly mudstone lake sediments that were literally “replaced” by silicious chert in the diagenetic history of the rock deep in the Wind River Ranges. Many mis-identify it as petrified wood. It’s very similar in composition with most petrified wood but it didn’t used to be wood 🤔
Satire: In Tolkien’s masterwork, the Living Trees are known as “Ents”. They walk and talk and generally care for the trees in the forest as their shepherds. Here the “Ents” Catch and Release Policy is demonstrated by a young cousin of “Treebeard” . (Classical Reference)
Halloween brings out Ents, many of which roam the Wyoming/Montana borderlands). While he was reaching up practicing the newly negotiated “Catch and Release” program. The Moon indeed did get away from the touchy feely young “Ent”. “Sneaky Pete” the windmill was responsible for the negotiations I understand but that is just local gossip and I wouldn’t be one to spread a rumor 🎃 .
Just think, if that “Ent” didn’t let the moon go, how many things would become haywire….. The oceans would become sloshy and off it’s time base for tides. It would be a BIG disruption of lunar charts etc….. “Sneaky Pete” the windmill apparently prevented all that. We own him much but we will see how long the Ents “hold” to this policy😂
There was just enough light left over from the setting sun to drag some detail out of the rocks grass and trees in the foreground. This actually takes some light to do. Because the moon is so bright, cameras have trouble looking into the darkenss around them. Silhouettes are easy. Getting details in this kind of light is an entirely difficult thing to do unless the sun is actually up. It wasnt here and this is using twilight light to capture the shadow details. Under the category of photographic challenges. Also I’d love to see a cellphone image of something like this. I’m thinking they shouldn’t operate in this kind of environment but I love being proven wrong. They make some amazing cameras on the little lenses these days. .
The left leg is definitely in Montana, the right leg no doubt in Wyoming.
I’m pretty sure that’s a rain or hail shaft NOT an anticrepuscular ray. Hard to know but I definitely got rain in my Jeeps window on this one :).