At first I had an imaginary shark hunting the water in the distant. The waves covering all but the dorsal fin. No wait… perhaps it’s a sail boat at a good breeze in high seas. The crest of the wave hiding the hull of the sailing ship. The illusion of waves swelling in the open ocean is unmistakable. I’m often taken by flights of fancy. The freedom to search for what could be is sometimes more compelling that for what is. On that segue…
I watched this moon descend into the cloud bank on the right 15 minutes earlier. Wrote it off for the session. I figured it would be obscured. From that point on, it was just until I looked back to the horizon. Looking the other way… Preoccupied I was working the sunrise on the dawn side of the sky. I was aware (back of my mind) when the moon was setting. Having done this a few times I finally did glance around at the other horizon JUST in case. I was surprised when I looked up to see this vision. The clouds had moved to the right leaving a window to the really low moon.
Now this was taken with a huge long lens. These totally screws with your perspective. Zooming up on the relatively small mountains, makes the moon looks big. That ridge is 40 miles distant. The place I set up for this backshow of the sunrise that morning was high enough to give me views both ways. Around 4000 feet which is high ridge country in this corner of Wyoming.
Here the BigHorn Mountains are surrounded by an odd color to cover a landscape. It was really that color lol. I saw this developing the other night. I’ve been on a mission to catch the orange light behind the BigHorn Mountains. I haven’t seen a weather window open to the BigHorns for over a month. Smoke, haze, soot and other forest fire products were blocking the view. The sun was hiding far to the right off frame. This was a night when the side shows were WAY more photogenic that the glare of the sun. The odd lighting resultant from the filtering of the light by the smoke.
The 130 miles distant 13,000 foot high mountain range was shrouded in this Orange (ish) colorcast. It was like a stage light with an orange gel in front over the landscape. As the sun moved down through progressively thicker and thicker layers of clouds, the scene disappeared. Too dark to capture.
I’ve spent a lot of time this month pursuing the Big Horns photographically. The distant range is always playing peek a boo with the weather controlling the show. I have very few Long Distance captures from this month on the ranch. Those few will slowly work their way into my work flow here. The black ridge at the in front of the BigHorns is 40 miles out from this high resolution camera.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana overlooking the Red Hills out to the Bighorn Peaks.
I see the light. Light has a tendency to travel in a straight line unless acted upon. Usually this is by passing through a change in media such as air to water. This refracts the light. As I was carefully wandering in the twilight dusk along a high ridge. I was scanning for imaginary faces in the silhouette. (This image having many for you Pareidoliacs out there).
Having huge deep boulders on the skyline usually makes anthropomorphic imaginings easy. This scene froze me in my tracks. The spot of orange light in the black on the low right is actually showing THROUGH the boulder field. Talk about a gauntlet/light filter lol. I’m not used to seeing straight lines through rocks. My geologic background caused OCD kicks in lolol.
I was walking around with the wrong camera upon first happenstance to see this. “Clever Girl” was up the hill about 4 stories. Climbed up and traded cameras, climbed back down. (Got to stay in shape to do this stuff). I figured I was never going to find the exact same place in 3-D space again. I went back to roughly the same spot with this lens, found the “zone” and clicked. It was visible in a little window about 2 feet by 2 feet. Move outside that box and I couldn’t see it.
It’s an obvious metaphor. Simply put: “Seeing the light is looking at JUST the right angle at the right time. “
The Amount of Smoke in the air should not be underestimated here. When I get stepped gradients around the sun, there is literally a visual tunnel / window your looking at suspended in the sky. LOTS of Smoke… This is the scene exactly as I saw it. The colors are spot on. It shows the prodigious accumulated plume from of hundreds of forest fires to our west all the way to the Pacific Coast. The southwest/west is in a Mega-drought of sorts and has been for two decades. Megadroughts happen, and have happened several times in the past. This all before man became responsible for climate.
Researchers in the “southwest” compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other historic drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record. I haven’t read this study personally but this is from the abstract.
The paper, presented in the journal “Science” reveals the south-western US has been suffering from a 20-year “megadrought” – a period of very severe aridity that is starving rivers, stoking fires, emptying reservoirs and constraining water supplies to the municipalities of the region. Explosive Population growth and river diversion for agriculture as well as human use certainly looks to be a future problem. Millions depend on rainfall in the South Western United States.
Way up in northeastern Wyoming, our ranch is mid-continent 100 miles from the geographic center of North America. None the less the Drought monitor map has tongues reaching right up from the Southwest to this corner of Wyoming. We are definitely “enjoying” a serious lack of precipitation. Unless a Mesocyclone or two happened to run directly over you this summer. You’ve had a rough year growing grass. (our main crop).
Of course this is very dark. It looked like a refrigerator bulb across the yard. ONLY the red through yellow wavelengths were making it. Not many of those either. This reminded me of the Eclipse we witnessed down at Douglas Wyoming a few years back. The way the subdued lighting had everything awake but on hold. Almost like a pause before the curtain opens for the screen play to follow.
We’ve had smoke for two weeks now and I’ve worked every terminator crossing (look that up if you don’t know it) during that interval. Except this AM as I type this. A small cloud system came in and blocked my eastern view with nothing but a gray slate screen. Sort of like the internet was down in the denial. I was so used to getting up and about, shock to my system…. The nights are very short in the summer. It’s a good thing I don’t need much more than 4 hours of sleep. (as long as I get a nap during the day lol).
I’ve spent a good deal of time doing photography these days. This intense a smoke pall for so long is fortunately a rare event this severe. This plume(s) is equal or in excess of any I’ve experienced in my 20 years living in Wyotana. It’s been an interesting “disaster” year all around now with twin hurricanes landfalling on the Gulf Coast. I did some post-graduate marine biology teaching down at the Gulf Coast Marine Lab in Ocean Springs Mississippi. Those guy are getting clobbered as I type this. (Shaking head side to side).
This is the way my camera recorded this trip up to ridge one this AM. I was interrupted at the first ridge by a herd of Pronghorn feeding there. That took a few minutes but they were patient with me and no matter how strange the lighting, I’ll photograph Pronghorn up close. No indication they were here in this capture. Up the hill I headed.
This was my establishment shot for just starting to take images that morning. I was late getting up the hill this morning so the sun had some time to rise above the ridge top. I have been working both sunrise and sunset photographically for the last week (14 in a row). It’s starting to wear and tear but one has to work when there is light. Well I would indicate that this is a very one subject but very interesting light environment. As long as the smoke pall is over us, I will be working these sunrises and sunsets.
This is what I saw through the camera lens. I can adjust the exposure but this is no “filter” photography as it were. I couldn’t actually look at this so who is to say it’s not what was actually there. The human eye wouldn’t like looking at even that heavily smoke filtered sun for long. It’s not good for you.
I’m looking at the cloud cover this evening on “Weather Wall”™. It shows the smoke pall very well. Might be clearing for this sunset. Planing where to go is a good thing.
Having unhealthy levels of forest fire smoke in the air isn’t a good thing generally. EXCEPT for the effect it has on light. I have been working every sunset and sunrise with a “box-o-cameras” since the smoke pall started a week ago. Taken 6 days ago.. (my current click to publish interval) This is one of the first of the SMOKEY timeline to make it’s way to your computer via a whole host of intermediate steps lol. I’d take a photo of a non-smokey sky but I’ve seen things this week that are new to me. That’s saying something as I do this a bit lolol. This is very hard core pollution by mother nature.
The stand of old growth trees remembers the smell in the air from fires to the west. During the 1930’s, this stand survived the “Fire that burned till the snows fell” up in this country. All around this area lie old snags that have not decayed in the intervening 90 years. The area between there and where I stand used to all be heavy pine forested before that fire. Remnants of trunks are everywhere. One has to be careful driving off trail here (private land all). Your likely to take out suspension driving in high grass. A low stump can make you walk miles back to the house lolol. (well there is the radio)…
The old growth trees all have lost their bottom branches. It’s hard to burn those upper branches with such a long trunk above the grass fires.
So you want to go fight a fire eh? It’s not a Disney™ ride. I believe that I have never been more covered in dirt, sweat and soot more than by fighting a good grass fire. Just recently I took two very newbie guys out to fight our recent on ranch fire a few weeks ago as this posts. Trial by fire. They had no idea but hung in there….
I have been totally soaked, over heated and generally bounced to death. Driving a 1000 gallons of water in a 37000 pound 6 wheel drive truck to the scene is usually bumpy across the backcountry trails. Some of the toughest jobs on the planet is the professional smoke jumper game. The “hot spotters” are an amazing group of people. Olympic Athletes with a purpose all. The crews that come into clean up a fire area are careful, hard working and generally in a great attitude about what they do. God bless all first responders.
I don’t think the fire crews are generally worried about changing the way they work to suit the new “norms”. On the fire line, there are a few more considerations that somehow seem more immediate of a concern. You suck a lot of smoke if you dive in front of a grass fire with a big truck full of spraying water. I have found that behind the flame front it’s WAY too hot with the ground radiating heat as well as the flame. In front of the flame, you don’t want your truck or your pump to stop working. I have driven straight into an advancing flame front numerous times. I’ve also seen them so tall that I didn’t go through it.
Grass fires are a way of life up here on the grassy prairie Wyotana area. Sparsely populated with miles between ranches, a grass fire can go un-noticed until it’s almost out of control. A fast local response saves the gov’t thousands of dollars in pay and travel time. We do our best along with most of our neighbors that can. The same is true across the west.
This looks bad at first glance. One sees smoke rising from a structure. Trust me the century old house of the Historic Parks Ranch stands un-affected by the blaze 50 miles distant. That is just a REALLY big fire. Burning Hot in the drought ravaged Wyotana area to our west. This fire was just past the Powder River drainage on the Crow Reservation I believe. Perspectives, curved tree line, crepuscular rays and smoke plumes. PLUS an old ranch homestead with some blue sky peaking through. Very hard core, real world Wyotana in action.📷
I find that Really big fire plumes make interesting illusionary additions to background architectural constructs with in telephoto photography. Crushing distances like 50 miles versus a few hundred yards together is what telephotos do best. Add smoke, a sunset to an amazing old building well preserved and you have quite a composition in and of itself lol. I don’t get really big smoke plumes exactly in front of sunsets too often. I worked this over about 10 miles of north south backroads in both Montana and Wyoming. Those hills in the distance right are in Montana. I’m standing in Wyoming.
The most local actual newspaper from the small town Broadus Montana claimed June was the Driest on Record. I may have mis-read that. It’s durn dry here with July a bit better with all the water we got from that 30 minute long hail storm throwing up to 3 inch stones at us. Pool Table Ball sized stuff. This ranch avoided that hail storm, it went Just next door hitting us.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
In this high country, a spring fed pond is a rare thing. To find one with a reasonable view of almost straight west is a tall request. Not quite as tall as the smoke plume from this fire. My personal estimate is that thing is 40-50 miles straight west. I’m also thinking it is miles wide at this point. I had just spied it 5 hours before when a neighbor called me as to “what was burning on my side of the hill and where was it.
Spending the next 5 minutes to go up to a high ridge it was instantly obvious mid day. Fast forward to the “golden hour” and driving to a spot where I have a huge smoke filter to photographically work the sunset with. I called back the neighbor to let him know. Short discussion I had to zip off to intersect some other trucks headed this way. All of the ranchers in this region are on a hair trigger about responding to a spark. There is no worse feeling than watching a dry thunderstorm travel over an area only to see a smoke plume.
That fire is located pretty close to the Crow Reservation very near the border so your looking across from Wyoming to Montana here. We were covered by a pall of smoke all afternoon today (as I type this a week ago). I’ve had 2 sunsets to work from this fire so far. I bet it’s going to burn awhile as that is mountain goat country.
This happened 8 days ago as this posts. One of the first pictures I took in this timeline. I’m thinking I have about 18 images I’m going to finish eventually from this event. I was perfectly positioned by a coincidence of cosmic proportions lol. Of the 360 degrees on the compass, the sun setting behind a forest fire …. I’ve never seen such from this angle sun passing through. It isn’t something I’ve ever experienced.
For you Pariedolia sufferers, there is an angry Micky mouse trying to eat a landing bat for sure.😜 That pall of smoke TOTALLY blocked the sun behind it. The eventual play of light from this event was spectacular as you will see as the captures from this timeline make it into my workflow. Heck, this is pretty much a unique vision. ….
That is the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Homestead on the lower left of the frame. It makes a good scale for the HUGE WIDE image above. This was from my 10mm widest lens I own kind of optic. The top of the frame is past the zenith of the sky and the width is something like 130 degrees . That fire is Straight West of my ranch so Montana is literally on the right with Wyoming on the left. I’m standing in Wyoming for this capture but not by much (100 yards or so)
Windmill Weekday: Windmill Junkies Unite, (you know who you are). 🤘🤘
Perspective photographs properly done mess with your sense of depth. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is “Milling” his fate at the scary scene unfolding “just over the hill”. He can’t see whats coming. I can just sense his aprehension. These big fires out here can be devastating. Most ranches have some way to fight fires. Usually a “quick reaction” truck. Perhaps a wagon pulled behind a pickup with a sprayer rig on board. Several thousands dollars of equipment to safely fight a serious prairie fire.
I’ve lived up here on the border 20 years and have fought dozens of range fires.. I’ve lost track and they all blend together going back that far. Each and every fire was a community experience with familiar local faces. There will be 6 or 7 more finished images from this timeline.
Fortunately for us, this particular smoke plume was over 40 miles distant. We can’t travel very far in our big lumbering fire truck. For those fires we do show up at, we try to make a difference with the 1000 gallons of water we can carry. I’m in the process to fit my Raptor with a 100 gallon bladder tank. Quick reaction is good too. This HUGE forest fire distant started with one spark (lightning) and was small for a while. They it got big quickly. If some rancher had enough water and got to it with the first smoke, it would have been controlled. We had our ranches fire under control in about 3 hours. We were on it about 20 minutes after I first saw it.
With forest fires way to our west this last summer, some of the sunsets were seriously moderated by the smoke. Any particulates in the atmosphere will act as a defacto filter that reduces overall light along with a color filter. Low in the atmosphere, all colors but the red were effectively prevented from making it to my camera by the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Normally Yellow light would be a component of the lowest sun but not under these extreme conditions. Up higher in the sky the RELATIVELY unfiltered light was blue (ish). The smoke effecting the sky show from top to bottom. I’m not looking forward to fire season this year. It has been very dry so far heading into early summer shortly.
In all fairness, last summer was a better fire year “up here” though some local smaller fires broke out. We were wet all summer thank heavens. Unfortunately, places like California Burned but we were mostly out of the serious smoke from those events. I’ve seen HORRIBLE air quality here from forest fires west of us . We’ve had days where it was just plain unhealthy to go outside.
The only good part about the big unchecked fires brought on by mismanagement of the forest litter, is the wonderful photographs they bring on downrange of the fires. Having fought a few fires over the years, I will tell you they are terrifying. If you’ve ever seen a 200 year old 50 foot tall pine torch and was fighting that fire anyway, you might be my friend.
This is one of the most intense smokey sunsets that I have ever captured. From the summer of 2018, I’m just now finalizing the image. I have a huge back log of about 4000 images that I’ve previous worked on and like a lot. Getting them all finished is job one around here until it isn’t.
I’m standardizing all my frame sizes to be consistent. These days I’m mostly finishing square and 3×2 aspects (landscape and portrait) with ventures into 2:1 diptychs and 3:1 triptychs multiple image scenes. I’m slowly building those “coffee table books”. I’ve got nearly 1200 finished images with 250 – 300 word (or more) narratives attached composed since September 21st 2019. Every day without fail since then I’ve put out an average of 5.7 photos and 2000 words. I’m not sure I can keep this up through the summer but I’ll give it my best.
The light environment here was quite dark with the sun still up. When only crimson hues make it through the gauntlet of smoke, soot, ash plus atmospheric conditions. In other words this was actually a very low light capture, you could easily look at the sun with your frail human optic sensors. This was more like 20 minutes after sunset with a dim moon looking at me instead of a setting sun.
I’ve seen this happen with ice in the air but never this intense. Smoke and other particulates are better at it but suspended atmospheric ice does a wonderful job trapping all the blues greens and yellows.
Prairie Smoke Sun Filter (Sunset middle of the summer so a tad out of season)
Geum triflorum is a perennial native to North America. This flower seed head pictured here have a host of nicknames. These include: Long-Plumed Avens, Three Flowered Avens, Old Man’s Whiskers, Purple Avens and Red Avens. This is actually a rare plant across it’s range as naturalized invaders are out-competing it. 😕 I only know of a few spots on my place to find them. They are only 5 or 6 inches tall and not particularly obvious. They aren’t really an evergreen. Their leaves can last through winter turning red and crimson. This is easier for me to find than in the spring. I just make mental notes where I see them.
The Native Americans used an infusion of the roots , crushed seeds or pulverized roots as a kind of eye-wash, a tonic for menstrual Cramps, a gargle solution for sore throat and general stomach complaints. You will need to research further to get the processes involved in those uses. I only see them a few times a year during the late spring and earliest summer. Spring was on a Friday this year as I remember our yearly spring day. 😀
There is a little belly time involved in pursuing this kind of cellulose filter. I way prefer natural cellulose filters rather than glass filters. The Bokeh show us a sunset view . Rolling around on the open pine forest these are thriving in, has it’s host of risks. This is cattle country after all. Then there is Prickley Pair Cactus How else am I supposed to stay in shape? Rolling around in the woods.
IT’s winter with ice and snow covering the ground. It’s time to burn slash and branches from around the homestead. This is a yearly chore..
Some of the extra brush we get from wind damage or tree maintenance we put out on the prairie in piles to provide cover for small animals. Other piles get burned. This one burned hot and provided a sun filter effect for me to take advantage of lolol. I’m always looking for new ways to filter light from that overly bright orb that appears to move across the sky.
The overall effect I think is attractive in many ways. I’m not sure what to compare it to. Perhaps one of the artists out there can put a label who I was channeling at the time. Looks like a painting to me. Of course that is always a goal but it doesn’t always happen hard as I try lolol. No “filters” involved here as I use no such things in front of my lens. A cell phone might actually be able to take this image. I honestly didn’t see this coming but had to try anyway. Just hanging out on the edge of what is photogenic. I find the simple things are often the most interesting to me and often you the viewer.
Hope this finds you all well and safe this Saturday Noon. Busy day Saturday, I’m doing images all day, virtually every day now.📸👀
I do a bit of close up photography of the sun and the moon. This is the sun on a smokey summer night as the horizon rose to meet it. Usually one would have to either totally shut down the camera to light or use a glass neutral density filter on front of the camera to photograph this. With enough forest fire derived smoke in the atmosphere, the picture becomes easier.
This sun as are most of the sun images I’ve taken at the solar minimum show no sun spots. We are literally at a sunspot low since 1913. Low sunspot numbers lead to a cooler climate on a general level due to a large number of reasons. We are in solar cycle 24 (since 1755 when they were first noticed and subsequently recorded. These cycles from low to high sunspot numbers with an average 11 years. This is a very interesting time to be an informed geologist watching the climate “debate”. I’ve been following this since 1976.
The Maunder Minimum was an extended period from 1645 to 1715 where it got cold as the sun (the furnace) turned down the heat. Known as “the Litle Ice Age, the growing season in Europe shortened by a full month. Crop losses caused mass famines . The population of Iceland decreased by about half. . Exceptionally severe winters were the rule in North America. China had to change the crops it had grown for centuries to adapt .
If the furnace turns itself down, famine with hard times follow. Warm times geologically have been periods of high biological activities. We better hope it doesn’t get colder….. During Maudner: (Solar radiance was down about .24% lower than current levels so it doesn’t take much)
Forest Fires hundreds of miles away accentuate and attenuated this image. Various levels of smoke from burning forests give western photographers opportunities. I am not ashamed to take advantage of it though my heart goes out to those that the fires impact. I’ve physically fought my share of grass fires living surrounded by a sea of grass. Fires used to burn here from their start to the first snows putting them out. I’ve seen some tremendous sunsets as a benefit to natures actions cleaning up the dead fall that we have allowed to accumulate to dangerous levels.
I’ve said many times before that I don’t use glass filters in front of my lenses. When shooting directly into the sun, the best filters have lefts a ghost of the sun in my images. Offset artifacts are not generally welcome to a photographer that tries really hard to be a photorealist. I will occasionally wander using lens reflections/flares in my work, but not here lol. 📷
Big Long Telephoto lenses have a tendency to CRUSH perspective like a compressed accordion . Getting topography, Windmill and Sun all to line up at the same time while at the same elevation as the sail…..not that regular an occurrence lol. I know the topography I work pretty well after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the sun is going to rise is a matter of looking it up on google. Get a compass, a map (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up.
I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE it is going to take place though. 😄
Satire: “Turtle Butte” came to life the other morning with a series of rumbles and tremors resulting in a discharge of smoke and no doubt all sorts of other volcanic debris. This particular butte, only 50 miles from the Devils Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck complex, sure looked convincing the other morning when I took this🤣 Could be a precursor to Yellowstone’s caldera popping like a teenagers face before a date.
Just a geologists musings😎 with a photographers habits..📸
Happy Halloween .
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. In fact turtle butte is precisely on the WY/MT border.