This subdued sunset brought to you by the soot in the air contributed by hundreds of western wildfires. Hopefully you’ve been off grid and out of the way of these plumes. Such a Pall changes not only the air quality but the amount of solar radiation that makes it to the surface.
This image is my best try to get the scene exactly as I remembered it. The wedge of smoke from various Montana fires were moving this way. The cloud front was forming in advance of the smoke pall with the smoke moving with the front. I have seen this develop before and got the heck up the hill well over an hour before sunset. I figures that as the sun dove behind that jagged bottomed cloud, that shadow would get projected in the smoke below. The result is a fan of crepuscular rays radiating outward away from the sun well above the cloud deck. This is a fairly expansive display. Taken through a very wide lens at 24mm .
This is the second nice crepuscular display I have seen from this years smoke/brown season. They are somewhat predicatable to me but to get the ducks to actually line up is an entirely different matter lol. This would be a nice candidate for a mirror/mirror ART treatment I’m thinking… I’ll have to make a note to reflect this back on itself. I bet a nice face will appear magically.
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)
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.
It has been a very dry year starting about January and we are well below normal at our location. I was sorry to see this as I climbed up to a local high point looking from Wyoming to Montana across the border. This old seeder has been a star of many a close / far perspective in my portfolio. You have to admire it’s view (in all directions). That far ridge of mountains is about 50 miles distant from the antique planter as is the forest / range fire burning on the back side of the Red Hills.
So I wonder in the scheme of things how this seeder has avoided being burned on the range during it’s tenure on site. There have been significant grass fires. Some burned free until the first snows in the country. More so at the beginning of the last century than later through the 1940’s. Locals have fought grass and timber fires for generations. I have fought my share and spent days driving the ranches M813 Military 5 ton truck outfitted with 1000 gallon of water with a couple of 1.5 inch hoses off the fire pump. I primarily do the driving these days. Mostly grass fires under my belt. My fire rig fits poorly between trees lolol. I’ll do tanker duty though for the smaller rancher rigs on pickup truck. Done that a few times.
I didn’t have to use my fire truck last year. The year before was a few times. One summer was horrible in my past here for local fires. We were up the hills after thunderstorms to look for plumes and knock down the fire fast. This summer is tender dry with not much falling as I type this. Some weather is coming through the region so we will see how the dice roll.