Driving out to remote backcountry ridges up here in the borderlands is often the best part of the day. I’m taking roads with no other traffic to go to smaller two track trails with less traffic. 😜👀 Then I usually have to climb up on a ridge to get a view of the horizon . I live in a world of parallel ridges. Deep dissected gullies divide the high ground into distinct highways around the area. You generally try to travel the topographic lines around a hill side. Going into the valley and back up isn’t necessarily an option in this steep country. That far ridge sits 200 feet above the bottom of the gully between us. There is an old saying up in this country of: “you can’t get there from here”.
Now “You can’t get here from there” is a ubiquitous saying around Wyoming. Most places settlements / communities have only one way in and at most 2. The roads around here are always iffy. While that ridge is a few miles out, it would take me 30 minutes to get on it because of the above statement.
This morning was a fully involved Civil Twilight Sky. I saw this forming up really early and bolted for the backcountry. Took me about 20 minutes to get to this point. I worked the whole morning as it was a magnificent sunrise. I don’t see many this involved.
Lining Deer UP from hundreds of yards away against the setting sun is an exercise in understanding topography. By working parallel ridges I get to stay hundreds of yards away from the casual deer. not alert the deer and am still able to get far enough away to catch a foreground object in focus for three layers of image here.
I only get to have the planets align like this a few times a year. I only had one opportunity this year to have deer pose for me in front of such a show. Images like this are infrequent in their occurrence for me to work. In reality this is going on all the time, there just isn’t anyone there to take the photo. Getting into the right position for this is a lucky event.
I have known these two bucks for a few years and because aware of their tendency to walk this ridge an hour before sunset. They were on their way from their grass pasture to the water hole on the other side. Almost every day these two walked this ridge like clockwork. Following the same trail daily These two are still around. I’m not sure exactly where with the snows. The Backcountry is challenging to get back into at the moment. I see them both on game trail cameras near the water holes we keep open mid winter for them. If we didn’t keep water tanks open they would have to migrate. The closest running water which is some distance from this high ground.
When I try to read the morning as to whether or not to go out, I get about 70 percent good choices. This was a good morning. Once I decide to go out 30 minutes or so before sunrise, I have to decide where to go. I usually try to follow the light so I chose to take a road trip. There are few places up high that are accessible in the winter (sometimes more accessible than others).
Hoar frost covered this ridge that morning. Covering the left side of all the pines. Covered were any objects that disrupted air flow. The down wind side of the trees had little to no Hoar frost. Taken 5 minutes Pre-sunrise, this Alpenglow Back Show was a sight to behold for me. I don’t see many “Belt of Venus” this intense. Ice as a projector screen becomes efficient with so much of it in the atmosphere. The colorcast in the snow testifies to the reflected lights intensity. I don’t post much colorcast snow if it didn’t actually exist at the time. I mostly produce images in a “Blue Snow Free Zone”.
If you haven’t already, look up the term “Belt of Venus” as it is a fixture up here in the Winter. In season, almost every visible sun/horizon crossing up here has some pink alpenglow in the backshow. I’ve even seen it during the summer as well but for some reason, there seems to be less ice in the air during the summer.🤔😜 When there is ice, it usually falls as hail lolol.
Twilight to me is a night sky in this case, late civil twilight. The 13000 foot high peaks at 130 miles out from my lens. This is a 2 second time exposure and it was very dark out. Once the sun goes down, there is still an hour and a half sky show through the three twilights. You just need a good tripod and time exposures to see the show sometimes. I have photographed many of these from start to finish. This week has been incredible.
Civil Twilight begins about 28 minutes before sunrise or ends 28 minutes after sunset. It is that period from when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon. On clear days you can do normal outside activities that require light. That solar elevation angle below the horizon defines each twilight phase. CIvil Twilight is by far the brightest of the three twilights.
Nautical Twilight starts when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon technically. Both the Horizon AND brighter stars/planets are visible in this twilight. It is the “middle” of the three twilights. At the beginning of Nautical twilight, it’s about one hour to sunrise. Rule of thumb which varies with your position on the globe, is 28 minutes each twilight.
In Astronomical Twilight, If you live in the city, you have probably never noticed astronomic twilight. The are NO shimmers of daylight at the beginning of Astronomic Twilight a full hour and a half before sunrise. . Away from the lights of population centers, we see Astronomic Twilight regularly where there is just a slight greying of the black totally dark sky mid night. It gets as dark here on our ranch in remote northeastern Wyoming as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA.
6 months ago during the summer solstice of 2019, a BIG 100 mile across mesocyclone moved over us right at sunset. Of course “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill jumped into the photo as he is a terrible attention hog. I have no control over his actions. Windmill Wednesday AND Christmas Wednesday. , Windmill Junkies Unite 🤘
I do understand through a third party that “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill wishes all of his fans a very very Merry Christmas. He has this insecurity problem where he wants to solve through fame and fortune acquired via his exposure in pictures. So he rushes into my images. His brother “Re-Pete” I’m sure also has Christmas wishes but he couldn’t be present at this photo taking session. He was over the hill out at his hangout during this storm.. Hard to get a family together portrait of the two brothers. They can’t move easily through the timber. I suspect they haven’t seen each other for a long time. I’ll have to see if I can arrange a digital family reunion someday…. 😜
I’m not sure what his New Year resolution. I’m pretty sure it has to involve photobombing more and injecting himself into my landscapes.
My new years resolution is to catch more skies like this and finally get all these images I’ve got stored away up on my web gallery. That will take a “while”. I consider it job security.
From all of us at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, all of it’s creatures mythical and otherwise , Merry Christmas and a Happy/Safe New Year. 2020 is going to be an interesting year to be alive.
“Sneaky Pete” the Windmill has positioned himself dead center of this BIG twilight borderlands twilight sky show. Habitual Photo-bombers like Sneaky are incorrigible. I have no control over their actions.
I never know for sure how a twilight show is going to turn out. Overcast skies tend to be the best shows but there has to be a window from the sun to the under deck of the cloud layers. No window due to clouds blocking light equals no color.
The reds and oranges you see here are the result of only those long wavelengths making it through the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Smoke or moisture in the air can increase the effect. I’ve seen these skies so red that the color cast from the sky makes the snow purple. I have several photographic timelines of even more intense skies. This one ranks right up there with the some of the best full coverage skies. This is a pretty wide and tall image out of a 24mm lens.
Commentary on the weather:
We have way more snow than this at the moment. Winter has been very early this year. There is a lot of snow in the backcountry now and it’s not Christmas yet. IT has been a very moist year with every season being a month off. Spring was late and fall was REALLY EARLY on a Tuesday. Oct 1 Winter began this year. In the past I’ve driven down empty roads through Yellowstone in October before. I’ve never seen as cool/moist as year as this in my 30 years of living in Wyoming. It’s going to be a very long winter I’m afraid.. Starting winter early is bad.😫
The Crimson Twilight show this sunset was spectacular. A full sized screen is a nice thing to bring this too. The Section of the BigHorn Mountain from this location is 140 miles distant and is near Buffalo Wyoming. I’m standing across the border in Montana. It was pretty muddy up on the pass road to Alzeda Montana from Ranch Creek. I wouldn’t suggest that route to anyone at the moment. Once it freezes it’s going to be deeply rutted certainly. That is always a tough road to choose or not.
But…. I got this shot anyway. It took me a 1/2 hour to wash off my Jeep. The mud was 4 inches deep many times…. I had to take a front wheel off to get the rock that was stuck between a brake rotor and a brake shield from…..well mud and rocks lolol. I was noisily scraping around for a few days hoping it would just fall out but nooooooo. Not a chance that would happen. I can’t see this portion of the Big Horns from anywhere on my ranch. This pass is higher but 10 miles further back from the peaks.
This particular sky was a magnificent during the after sunset show. The large eye shaped cloud would be a good image to mirror. It would look like a masked bandit. I’m always looking for images to mirror as they can make very good Halloween Images if done properly.
Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter is a capture that I put myself into the mind of a mouse to compose. I find that compared to scale of the backcountry here in the borderlands, I’m a mouse anyway😋 Everything is proportional which is the game with photography. This is about 2 miles into the backcountry. I know of another one that I can walk under and stay very dry. The Hell Creek/Lance formation this ledge is a part of, is not known for large caves. That’s limestone that dissolves away to make caves. This is sandstone so we get Rock Ledge Shelters here.
You can’t build a fire under one of these safely though. Many a person has been killed by rocks falling from above a fire build under a rock ledge shelter. The rock expands from the heat and a dead fall trap ensues. It will keep you dry and out of the wind though, pull up some leaves and pine needles and relax.
Angles and leading lines. I am always thinking compositions when I click the shutter. Sure you focus (last thing). You worry about your settings. (With a mirrorless camera you see what your getting BEFORE you take the photo BTW). The Proportions of 1/3rds, and a “hero” which here is the sunstar. This defraction star is light bouncing around in the lens off of the edges of the aperture (the pupil) of the lens. The aperture is known as f-stop.
You need to learn that fstop is a double edged sword. Turning it up high like this (F22) gives you very deep fields of focus from up close to infinite. The sword part is where you really shut the lens down to light (pin point pupil). A LOW fstop nubmer (f2.8 say) will give you a very narrow field of focus say the grass but not the sky. A blurry background is good sometimes but not in my landscape perpectives. By nature they are close/far focus as it’s all about the close details. The background is important yes but its the detail I’m after.
This is a pull back as your eyes would see this scene at around what a 50mm lens sees of a Big Sunset Over the BigHorns Mountains. If you were on my ranch watching from 130 miles distant.
I’m almost always using telephotos to bring in just the BigHorn Mountains filing the whole frame. It takes about a 800 mm long focal length to fill the camera frame side to side with the tallest part of the range. I have many captures from this night worthy of finishing. I’m standing a few hundred yards north of the Montana/Wyoming border to take this so it’s across the state line.
This kind of sky show changes by the minute. Looking tightly into the setting sun is dramatically bright but the shadows add up and it’s actually pretty dark where I stand. The Camera shows me the scene on a video screen so I’m not going blind from this.
Exposure time is so important in getting the colors right. I see the actual image my camera is going to save BEFORE I click the shutter. So I can actually check the color of the sky in front of me and the camera Once you realize a high f-stop and low ISO are necessary to take this kind of image, shutter speed becomes your variable to match the colors in your viewfinder to the actual scene. (applies to mirrorless camera users not you DSLR guys).
The mountain chain in Silhouette to the right is part of the Red Hills at 40 miles out from the camera. That range is an erosional remnant of the sediment apron the BigHorn Mountains spread out this direction. There are no sediments from the Big Horn mountains “Fanglomerate” (google word of the day) that reach my ranch. It’s likely that those that did have been removed from above by erosion. Those distant mountains used to be a lot higher. Plus Powder River Basin between here and there was a lot deeper.
Halloween Satire: Crystal Ball Back Country Sunset…… I found this _other Worldly Muli-Dimensional Portal (wormhole)” floating in the backcountry after the snows. I considered driving into it and popping up somewhere on the other side of the universe but decided to stick it out here instead. After all, I had images to finish in the camera and can’t miss tax time….😜 After all, during Halloween strange magical things happen up here in the remote backcountry of Montana/Wyoming. (both states in this image). (Nobody ever watch “StarGate SG-1 before lolol).
I’m amazed “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill didn’t try to get in on this but I think the 0 degree temps probably kept him from moving very fast. Fortunately the wind was fairly calm up on that high ridge. This was me driving places I’ve been a few times but most wouldn’t drive there in this kind of snow. I had to plow about a mile of two track road with my Skid Steer Loader to get close to this spot where I walked up the ridge to get this shot. I get to use the roads I build up on the ridges between blowy storms in this country. It takes several hours of pushing snow to get up here and once a week it shuts me down. By late to mid winter, I’m about done pushing snow. I get locked out of the backcountry and stuck on backcountry County Roads where I also get some amazing images…. more on that later this winter 😎
Actual photo short the support for the spherical optical quality lens ball removed in the digital Darkroom but don’t tell the kids that 🎃. So this is ART not a pure photo. I removed a small support under the sphere in Full Disclosure. This is VERY wide angle and a 2:1 aspect. 10mm lens.
Here’s where I spent the other evening at sunset. The Borderlands are such that when I take a photo east and or west, I’m usually having parts of both Montana (distance) and Wyoming (close) in the image.
There were small storms in the area spitting either snow or rain depending on your elevation at the time. I waited to go out until the sun was just above the “sun slit” under the cloud deck. Watching what is going on has saved me a lot of time here and there lol.
This is a nice little isolated lake not far from a road but you really can’t see it from the road. Most travelers up here drive 100 yards from this and never see it. Spring fed of course
I’m sure it was seep 100 years ago. So the ranches damed it up along with many other ponds decades ago.
I have seen some distorted sunrises before but sheeeesh..I could watch the roiling atmosphere live in my Sony Alphas video eyepiece. You could see the edge of the sun actively spinning in little mirage like circles caught clearly here as a still.
That tree is about 500 yards out and in focus, everything behind that ridge slowly starts to get affected by the mirage turbulence that morning. One of the best/most intense distortion I’ve seen with this 1200 mm effective super-telephoto. It resembles an oil painting lol. The sun is clearly out of round here due to the effect that morning.
Right at the Montana/Wyoming border looking east as the horizon drops exposing the relatively fixed sun (sun rises is the myth it’s the earth that is moving). Remember, things are as they are, not as they seem or your are told…. 🤣 (My First rule of science and thinking in general ).
“Western Woodgrain Skies through a Windmill Filter” is a 300 yard distant telephoto capture of “Sneaky Pete” the windmill who is notorious for Photobombing my landscapes and sunsets. He attracts lightning and otherwise gets in my way so just ignore him in the photos and enjoy the sunset😜
Woodgrained skies are not that common but I’ve seen a few of them this month and as I type this, both sunrise and sunset today were similar to this. I have yet to download those images from my cameras lolol. I’m literally slammed with images to finish. That is a good thing though lol.
Have a great day and get that cup of coffee going !
Perspective #9 Through the Steel Wheel was just taken a week ago. I was watching this big cloud cover the sunset when a crack in the cloud let this light through. I had mere seconds to catch this before it disappeared again. Light happens only when it does. 5 minutes before this, I was sitting on my computer and just happened to notice this setting up . I jumped in my jeep and ran up the closest hill where this old soldier lives. He’s seen thousands of sunsets in his spot. Countless…