Alpenglow with a Zig Zag Landscape Ladder with a reflective ice surface. That pond is filled by the melting snow off that hill.
This is pretty far back into the backcountry on my ranch. I didn’t even know there was a pond in this “Cul-de-sac” until a few years ago when I first found it. It was built in the 1950’s according to the engineers office. It only fills with melt water from about 200 acres of a small portion of this overall drainage system. This is sandstone country with about 500 feet in 10 miles difference between the “Little Powder” river in the valley with the ridge tops here.
I have to climb that far ridge to see the eastern sunrise and you’ve seen many dozens of images up on it. It’s a little harder for me to get to the top in the winter but I’ve done it numerous times. For those of you that keep track of such things, this is just east of ridge one looking at ridge two on the far south end of the ranch. That’s right at 300 feet difference in elevation and about 2000 yards to the ridge top. That takes a while to get there lol. It’s all two track roads over the divide. Then I walk or ride on ridge tops as is interesting with the light. I have an 80 mile view east from that ridge.
Musings on getting out of Dodge:
Knowing when to stop taking photos is a significant skill to acquire as a photographer. Wasting time, battery and disc space is bad JuJu. I know my camera backs pretty well and know instantly when I have the scene in front of me captured. The image rolls around in my head like a melody does for some. Then: It is necessary at that moment to analyze the possible future scenarios of the light unfolding in front of oneself. To predict the future is a skill worth working on. That very attribute leads me to a better area/angle/direction. Working landscapes is all about that. Finding the Frame.
Crimson Cloud Roll Sunrise Driving two track roads during Nautical twilight up high in the backcountry is easier when there is only this much snow 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 arrive, it’s already into Civil Twilight with maybe 15 minutes to go till sunrise.
The sky starts to light up quickly, 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 over a month ago in early March. We had light snow then, none now…. Dry year 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, the lower yellow band is bright alpenglow. 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.
This low pointy feeder band was forming in front of me and flowing toward the larger storm system right.
This marvelous sunset is the result of a complex weather system moving through. Complex skies with multiple layers / levels are usually worth stalking at sunset / sunrise. There is just off frame right and above, a single huge rotating Mesocyclone storm. The air is rife with ozone. A mimic of a slight chorine smell as with any compound that will react with your sense of smell. The wet sage was ALMOST over powering the lightning induced tri-oxide. You might say the atmosphere was “Sporty” that evening.
Having passed right over us last summer at sunset (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 150 miles across. It provided me with a long feeder band into it’s wall cloud right at sunset. The yellow color low is atmospheric dust ice and moisture stopping all the colors with shorter wavelengths BUT red and yellow. The clouds high are white as that light didn’t travel through the atmospheric gauntlet at that angle. Still blue sky there.
These storms are HUGE, dominating the landscape. They are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. That energy is released over time but it’s still a LOT of kenetic and potential energy up there. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long. The cloud canopy straight up is still white
I traveled 30 miles one way to get to this windmill. Left before sunrise and of course have a whole timeline of this scene from start to near finish as this was. I left back for home a few minutes after this shot. Snow all gone mostly…
Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting doing on since the county may not plow it for a few weeks. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. It is genuine backcountry Wyoming. There is a small bird hanging out on the sail of the Aermotor Wind Engine. That windmill has seen a local ranch house inhabited then abandoned nearby, but the mountains seem to have not changed very much over it’s shoulder.
It had snowed the whole drive there and I was leaving the first tracks on the road both ways. I often go on road trips for hours up on Wyoming/Montana backroads and not see another vehicle. Breaking down is not an option up here without LOTS of survival supplies this time of year. Blankets, sleeping bags, food and basics are all on board. I do have a very good radio that communicates via repeater from 30 miles away if necessary. Not to worry.
Location: 10 miles from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) (Looking into northern Crook County Wyoming
Random encounters being what they are, worked out pretty well for this meeting in the backcountry. I will drive around two track trails, don’t make a lot of noise unless I’m driving through 4 foot high sage. The Ford Raptor is pretty quiet if you keep your foot out of the turbo’s. So not being a threat in a slow moving black truck, was sufficient to get this wild raptor on a post. Apparently it didn’t feel threatened by another Raptor…. 🤔😜
I don’t get this close too often as I’m thinking 30 feet maybe. It took a while and I’m really surprised it didn’t fly away. I drive like I’m a grazing animal. It looks best to the animal to stop, start, take a minute at a spot, move 20 feet, rinse and repeat is my “process” at approaching most wild animals in. Might take me 10 minutes so if they are sitting around, you’ll eventually get there. I take photos at each stop. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 22 feet deep and the background is totally bokeh’d out . Obviously after I came as close as he was tolerating, I started machine gunning the 400-1200mm lens. Click click click click ad nausium lol.
I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure. The different phases are an obfuscation but I think those orange nares are pretty diagnostic 😜🤔👀📷.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
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. These guys are our largest shore bird in North America. (National Audubon).
They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing callsThey will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. I 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.
This was a late spring snow storm from the spring of 2019. It caught everybody by surprise. Robins, Meadowlarks and Curlews were wading knee deep in the white stuff. Much to their collective dismay I’m sure. 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. 😔
It was an Icy Alpenglow Morning right at sunrise up yonder on the ridge tops. The main sunrise show over my right shoulder is usually yellow (ish) but this back show is Lavender/Pink/Orange. This back show is called the “Belt of Venus” which is often on going while your watching the sunrise. You miss this show if you don’t look behind once in a while … Several image from this particular morning timeline made it through the “sieve” I use to determine which photo to work on. Alpenglow is the result ice in the air lighting up with the bright first pink starting about 40 minutes before sunrise… and then gradients to other nearly pure primary colors to this rare Lavender at times up high.
The red/pink will often work down on the tree top tips as the surviving red rays project off the ice on them. The hoar frost covering any exposed surface made for a winter wonderlands for a photographer with time before sunrise. Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. T
he formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2.5 inches long.
With full reverence to the classical reference to a Clint Eastwood movie in Jackson Wyoming. You might remember the Orangutan that liked to use hand signals?. Having done traffic stops as a police officer I assure you such things have happened in the real world lol. I think I’ve seen it all at this point lol.
Perspectives using leading lines to draw the eye to the focal point in the distance is a trick as used by the old masters. The trick for us modern photograhers using cameras is to see the frame as those master painters would. It’s hard to improve on their senses of perception from the 3D world to the 2D frame of an image. The more I do this photography thing, the more I believe I’m thinking like a painter.
Of course I don’t get to choose my color pallet. I am only what is provided by the grand designer of such things. I watch what is going on around me. To where my eye is drawn, I often follow physically. Then evaluate/ compose if appropriate. Click.
There are SOOO many little areas of Zen. Spread about the remote backcountry they are randomly.. I just haven’t noticed them all yet. I’ve driven the same paths for decades to get from point A to point B. I strongly suggest getting of the beaten trail, look at where you are versus where you’ve been before. Go to somewhere you haven’t been.
In the 20 years I’ve been intensively driving the 5.5 square miles of my ranch, I still haven’t seen everything. Not even close. My nephew and his brother in law were driving around the ranch and found an old 1920’s truck 1/2 buried by time and blowing sand. I had never seen it before and have yet to make it to that spot.
Perspective March 19th Equinox (Today is the Equinox or old Pagan “Ostara” in the Wheel of the Year)
I try to be in tune with the cycles of the Sun and the Earth. It is part of the job up here to connect on an intellectual level with the physics, “the Calculus” and the rest of the science of the scene. I am VERY earth centric and live with the sunsets and sunrises by necessity of chasing the light.
Opportunity tends to flitter away as it is prone to. I try my best to be aware of the sun’s progression north and south. Awareness of what’s coming can guide you to those hidden areas of celestial magic that present themselves.
On the horizons during it’s annual migration back and forth, the equinox aligns the rising and setting sun with an east west orientation. Here a straight east – west barbed wire fence creates a visual tunnel to take your eye to the focal point of the image. The sun or it’s reflection in the ice. . The old cedar post has seen many generations of cowboys and fence mending folks on ATV or pickup truck.
Close far perspective:
That nail on the post just made this photo for me lolol. 👀👀 totally am into close detail in the shadows. I get so excited about such simple things anymore. It’s the result of living in this remote place I keep saying. Humans are generalists when they look at a scene. I tend to look at separate components of an image for their own merit and attempt to combine multiple components when ever possible in my work. Multiple “heros” are always my pursuit for a better composition. Anyone notice the mustard weed highlighted on the bottom 📸
The sub-zero morning I took this up on a high ridge, the Hoar frost covered ANYTHING that was exposed to the wind. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. I have many images yet to finish from that morning.
Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow can be as deep as the backcountry is big with just a few plowed paths to provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top. Stuck is not good up here.
Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a very early morning session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here.
The highest ridges locally are 4000 feet in elevation. With valley fog being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions. Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. Millions of them actually. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔
Fibers in general will catch flakes and often hold them ideally vertically for me. I get into enough Photo-yoga without having to block light to get over horizontal flakes. I can’t think of a better media for this work as it won’t melt the snowflakes. The fibers area wonderful insulator.
Just before I started typing this narrative, I was outside with this coat looking for that perfect flake while enjoying a near zero windchill. The gear I use is variable depending on the lighting as I work from several Macro lenses. Each lens you should EVER buy should be a generational purchase. Don’t skimp on your optics… Macro Lens is the search term…
I have lenses I’m still using I bought in the 1990’s and use several e-bay acquired 1970’s lenses say weekly… They made gooooood glass in the 70’s and camera adaptors can put a nikon lens on a canon camera for example easily. On the other hand, I consider camera backs a disposable item after the repair cost exceeds a new camera. I wear a camera back out about every 1/2 year. They are worth less and less each new model that comes out. I haven’t worn one out to the point of not being able to repair one though just yet. What’s good about Sony is that you CAN get them fixed.
Environmental stress destroys complex delicate electronics, LOTS of manual settings, I beat up the settings wheels. They wear out. There is a lot of grit in the atmosphere/environment here too. I find that cameras in this extreme environment stop working in some manner in the 50-100k click mark. I easily take that many photos and more but spread that 8 cameras currently. I send one in about every 2 months or so lolol. I’m surrently back to 7 functioning workhorses for the next month or so.
Being short on cameras is sort of a handy-cap the way I do things these days sadly. Rapaired, they come back like new if History is a guide. If your able to afford it, having cameras and lenses covering all different focal lengths is HIGHLY desirable. I ALWAYS take 5 or 6 cameras and lens combinations with me while working to make what I do. You can sure take good photos with one camera body with multiple lenses though.
Problem is you have to change lenses during a shoot. No one has enough time during a sunset to be changing lenses. For an example: last night I worked 5 cameras for a half an hour last night as the Sun set directly over the Bighorn Mountains. Every camera has dozens or hundreds of images of that event. Changing lenses also introduces dirt and dust into your camera. You can buy cleaning kits on amazon. Not that hard to do. Get the right sized swab kit though…
I knew what time and place the moon was to rise but it seemed to take FOREVER for the March 9th rising Supermoon. It was precisely this color. The same phenomena effects the sun. “Golden Hour” and better, the red light passing to the pink/red “Belt of Venus” alpenglow. That projected filtered to red light on the ice in the sky opposite of the sun. Same effect here but the moon to my camera. This resultant from the atmospheric gauntlet of dust, moisture of all phase states, pollution etc block out all but the red light. Lots less yellow light made it through in this capture.
So the “Worm Moon A.K.A. Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Chaste Moon or just the March Full Moon lol.
Of course when the moon OR the sun is apparently this low, you actually seeing the celestial object below the line of sight to the horizon. The image is actually bent around the horizon. The atmospheric lens literally guides the image around the surface to my camera/eye. Getting topography/ hills and a celestial object to cooperate the same time can be challenging. …I know the topography I work pretty well after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the moon is going to set is a matter of looking it up on google. Get a map, (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up.
I decide where to go early on but am flexible enough to change mid stream because I’m very mobile. Getting around in the snowy hills is a requirement for this job lolol. I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE an alignment will occur. 😄
This moon didn’t sneak up on me by any means. Getting up on the high ridges is of course the place to be for such a shot. The backcountry high in the hills provide all the topography and perspective that any photographer could need. Having free access to many square miles of backcountry WY/MT is always a good thing with a camera. Both States in this Photo.. I was lucky the weather cooperated with me as it disappeared into a cloud deck 20 minutes later not to reappear for over a day.
Corral with a View (Moon Setting from my side yard. )
Back in the cold January of 2020, we had a little more snow on the ground that we do now in Mid-March 2020 as this posts. This is a corner of our corral system from just inside the fence of our front yard. Looking west this small part of the corral system. This enclosure was being used to keep some 1200 pound hay bales. Safety from the small herd of Corriente’ Longhorns we keep about. Corriente’ cattle are seriously able to take care of themselves in the winter. Like Bison they paw at the snow to expose the grass under the blanket. Angus and most purebred domestic breeds lack enough instinct to perform this task.
The mountains in the distance, known as the Red Hills reach 40 miles out from the camera. The Little Powder River Basin between myself and the Red Hills. Part of the right side of that ridge is in Montana while I’m standing in and looking at 1/2 a Wyoming ridge.
This Waning Gibbous Moon captured here in the process of setting. Remember it’s not the moon that’s moving. It’s the horizon/you. This was a full moon a few short days ago. I chase the moon from time to time. Here such that it is in the same image as the Pink Blush from the “Belt of Venus”. A variety of Alpenglow . Sunrise over my shoulder with a pink back show. If your going to be “Stuck” in a corral as stock, it might as well have a great view. 😜📸
During these winter days with obscured/veiled suns and sunslits, I consider Perspectives with Wide Angle Lenses as my activity for the day. Interesting lighting speaks for itself but up close and personal is better.
Deeply weathered fence brace wood just grabs attention promoting my “deep focus” love of this particular lens. This brace there far in excess of the 2 decades I’ve been driving by it lol. .These corner braces carry a huge amount of tension with the barbed wire humming in the wind they are so tight. I’ve heard that many times up here…fences humming in the wind. Keep that wire tight !!!. Lot’s o tension on the bottom of that left post. Building braces well utilized, on all fences, is a science here.. Warm Season brings more fencing practice every year.
We have about 30 miles of 3-4 strand fence on my relatively small ranch alone. Some of the Big Ranches have people that only fix fences on the payroll. It takes a pretty tough hombre’ to string barbed wire without tangling yourself up in it lolol. It is work that will keep you in shape. The snow up here varies by the day this early in the winter. Somedays it all mostly melts and others it’s covering everything. Two track roads will be un-passible shortly due to mud. I choose not to damage the ranches roads with my 5700 pound vehicle.
Favorite ridge line look out spots will be snow drifted in. Photographic necessity requires me to plow some of my two tracks to allow me to get up on “ridge one”. I am at the top of the first of 5 ridge east of my homestead. From the top of which there is a 180 mile across horizon to horizon view. The high ridges are snow lined lightly on the windswept top of which, I can usually drive quite a ways to if it’s not muddy.
This is indeed what a flat tire looked like 100 years ago. This old solder is tied along a fenceline high in the backcountry I suspect it’s 1930 vintage or before. The cattle every year rub on this wheel. Over the years this old wagon has had thousands of cattle rub and scratch on it. Wood rots very slowly here with 50 to 100 year old items like this still just looking like barn wood. Steel however will last a very long time.
I’m not sure what happened in the history of this device but I suspect the wagon it was supporting was overloaded and a rock appeared to start the dimple in the wheel. Once started the collapse cascaded and stopped the wagon in it’s tracks. This particular wheel was about 5 miles away from the nearest general store of the era so this might have not been a terrible thing. I suspect the 5 mile walk must have occurred in nice weather without wind, rain or snow to hinder the now on foot traveler to get help. There was no AAA tire service to come fix the rig either. No cell Phone, no landline phone, no radio. Word of mouth carried by hoof was the high technology of the day in this remote backcountry.
The red light from the JUST rising sun over my right shoulder is bouncing back off the projector screen the hoar frost on the trees provides. This is a common color I see when the “Belt of Venus” pink light comes down on the high ridge tops.
Under veiled sun about 30 minutes to sunset, the golden lightt from the suspended ice in the air provides the atmosphere for this capture. Close/Far perspectives of these wonderful pine bark textures with sunsets up on the high ridges are well worth pursuing. They provide me with textures and lines leading off toward a distant focal point. Drawing the minds eye deeper into the image, the hundres of year old tree lays waiting for the night.
This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana . The location several miles into the backcountry of this 4000 foot in elevation ridge. In this area, occurred a fire that burned all summer during the 1930’s. That fire didn’t go out until the snows fell in the fall. This obviously changed the landscape from a heavily forested pine grove into a more open landscape.
Prior to human habitation, wildfires were always burning unchecked across North America. Then it got worse because native Americans did a LOT of burning to open up the deep woodlands. A grassland/forest mix is good for the wildlife. And they knew it. Pretty much right up until maybe 100 years ago.
🤔 Wildfire is natures way of controlling the build up of forrest floor litter. The old trees do fine in the smaller grass fires under them. Many pine cones open releasing their seeds due to the fires. Fires are responsible for trimming back woods creating grasslands. Trees like this if hit by lightning will burn for days. If there is a LOT of fuel, it get’s pretty spicy in the grasslands.
There are “Islands” of Old Growth Trees, one right over my right shoulder that I was walking in . It is getting very difficult to get up on this ridge these days. I have to plow usually. Drifting is ALWAYS an issue up on the ridges. Mud season is close and mixed with snow days.Mud will keep me off the ridges though. I actually have built the road through the snow up to this ridge top. There is however, no cleared road along the ridge.. Just two track trails……. I’m pretty careful. That’s all about knowing where not to go driving backcountry ridges in mid winter….. 🌲🤔📷
Veiled Sun begun, the waters of life in it’s various forms all in this capture. Vapor, Liquid and Solid all co-exist under the moderating winter up here on the high ridges. Phase change occurring live real time in this “Action” photo lolol.
Currently we are loosing snow pack and the ponds are filling. Not all melts as much snow directly sublimates (google this) in this dry climate. Melting of course accounts for much snow pack depletion in the spring.
Here it undergoes a temporary pause on a long trek to the sea. Melt water ponded up in our front yard along it’s normal course through our homestead’s compound. The snow pack preventing normal contours from flowing water to the water ways on the ranch. Remaining still is about a foot of snow covering the ground. This after a long period of 50 degree days in Late February / Early March 2020. We are low on snow this year locally. I’d like to see a few more feet till early May but at 4 inches at a time from 30 degree windless storms. I’m sure I’ll get that wish…. 😜😜👀
Living up on a high ridge mean we often have snow when at lower elevations there is no coverage currently. Drop 500 feet off our plateau to the adjacent lower drainage is instructive to the paucity of accumulated frozen precipitation this year. This situation is what I call mud / ice season, sort of a sub category of white season. Green Season is 2 months away yet. Last freeze is mid-may. The mud effectively keeps me out of the backcountry 😔📷
Golden Triangle Frame Sunset (This shot from last year but the snow conditions are identical at the moment)
I love to use natural cellulose filters to reduce the glare from the overly bright disc of ol’ Sol. There are all sorts of photographic accessories you can screw onto the lens of a DSLR camera. Same with a Mirrorless Removable Lens Cameras. I find myself becoming more of a purist all the time and revert to natural filters leaving the glass ones at home. For years I’ve excluded them from my kit. I don’t like extra glass of any kind in front of my lenses.
This photo drives me crazy but it is too fun not to share. A primary motivator and one of my true talents is my OCD. It drives me to want to align very precisely terrestrial AND celestial objects for the camera. Being off “Just a Little Bit” turns on that switch. . OCD needs no reason, OCD is a reason unto itself of course… 😜 This is a natural align so I would have loved for the sun to have been just a touch to the right and the tree wasn’t just so. I saw the possibilities, held my breath, click. Actually I was machine gunning the shots as the grass was moving..
Thus the requirement for timing involved here as the tips of the grass were swinging to and fro in the light breeze. The wind is a constant companion on these exposed hill slopes far above the Little Powder River Drainage here in the borderlands.
This a view northeast from one of my favorite overlooks just in Wyoming looking across the border north into Montana. Sunrise is seconds away to the right of frame. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, the snow is melting with a 50 degree day and melt water is running in the fields. The winds are blowing and the cold front is incoming. The next time I go the three miles of drifted two track roads, it will crunch along the way from the ice patches.
This image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. The Montana / Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before. So many things appear around the next bend that are photogenic every time I travel backcountry.
The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. The ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formation and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.
Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).
From the top of the pass one can see 45 miles to the higher peaks of the Red Hills. The far ridges high points are right at the same elevations around 4100 – 4200 feet as where I stand. The intervening Little Powder River Drainage starting near Gillette Wyoming runs north into the big drainage in Montana. The water droplets here flow first into Trail Creek then immediately off into the “Little Powder River. This flows into the Powder River then the Yellowstone River, then the Missouri all the way to the Mississippi. All the sand grains that used to be between where I stand and those far peaks have been removed by the above described river system. It took a few days.
Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show is that moment in space and time when the red light of the ice filtered morning sun, touches the far mountains. As far as backshows go, this is a good example of that variety of Alpenglow. (Belt of Venus). The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. The low angle sunlight is red due to the longer wavelengths being able to penetrate the haze better.
The best Alpenglow displays are early winter based on my experience. Atmospheric ice requires temps obviously below freezing and at 4000 feet in elevation, that isn’t that hard to do. I’ve seen good Alpenglow mid-summer. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. When the sunlight is just touching the hills in the distance, I am in the shade of the ridge 10 miles distant from my perspective. Topography allows some interesting opportunities.
I strongly recommend googling “Belt of Venus” to further your knowledge of this wonderful phenomena. Often the sunward side of the sky show your watching isn’t the highlight (pun intended) of the moment. Make sure you turn around and check the sky. This was easy as I was still in the shade and waiting for the sun to come up over that ridge behind my position. I had a three mile drive on two track roads to get to this location. My jeep has no trouble on these old cow trails. (Except it beats me up).
Devils Tower Landscape Ladder (7 months ago for Wayback Wednesday)
There are some contradictions in this image of the landscape leading up the the Devil’s Tower. Viewed from the northwest, this image has green fields with cut hay bales on top. This last fall of 2019 capture resulted from a very well rained on summer. Wet late in the high borderlands of MT/WY.. Captured in August, it ALL should be brown. The grass was a green as the spring in the sub-irrigated fields overlying the Fox Hill Sandstone aquifer . Usually the sub-surface geology controls the vegetation on the surface.
That 5112 foot tall Devil’s Tower National Monument is standing 1267 feet high above the surrounding ground. The high ground looks pretty close but those mounds of phenolytic porphyry are pretty distant/ big. The Tower buried by thousands of feet of sediments, stands unsupported. Those rocks surrounding them and supporting the hard rock volcanic neck up thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The soft sediments were removed all by the action of the Little Missouri River plus the Belle Fourche River Drainage. Those two drainages providing the bulk of that work locally. The soft rock is removed while the harder material makes mountains. That’s pretty much the way it works all over the planet.
The Devils tower about 40 from my vantage point on the Pass to Rocky Point Wyoming on Trail Creek Road. I’m standing Campbell County Wyoming.
This is the view that tourists never see as they are all on the other side of those hills. You can see South Dakota from this site on a very clear day…completely across Crook County Wyoming. That is a BIG county 80 miles wide anyway.
For a 30 (ish) Horse Power Tractor, this 1939 International “M” Tractor had 270,000 made by 1954. It only weight 5400 pounds and has a 4.1 liter gasoline engine. This one runs if I put gas in the tank and hit the starter. It needs new rubber. This is out back near our corral system, in our yard but way off the beaten path. (We live in a 10 acre fenced in deer resistant compound ).
We keep a few big bales of hay around in case we actually have to feed our small herd of Corriente Cattle. They generally don’t need extra food but will happily take it lolol. The vistas from our homestead are BIG to the south west with 130 mile view when conditions permit. We have way more snow than the low lands we overlook. It’s a stark difference our front yard versus 300 feet lower topographically down by the rivers. No or little snow down there which is not a good thing. I consider the local snow cover as light this year. (March 3, 2020).
Mostly multigenerationally fixed / patched fences, old ranches have complex Corrals lolol. Those fences take a LOT of cow pressure particularly near the alleys. A 1500 pound bull pushing hard will be defined as “Cow Pressure”. . You might get 30 years of reliability, if a corral is made of treated wood posts. Corrals made of steel, it lasts a century or two. Oil Well pipe and sucker roads, cables, panels, wire panels, you name it are part of the fixes. Repurposed coal mine rubber belts (4 – 6 feet wide) for alleys. I have seen a host of other materials incorporated into many corrals. Free(ish) fencing is very popular. I’m seeing 4 different types of fences just in this photo. There are dozens of fencing generations in this grandfathered 80 year old corral system. Some originally built about the same time as this Antique Tractor.
I find the moon to be a big show off when ever it can be. Here it is rolling around a hill top like a precocious 10 year old. It’s probably trying to impress the sun which is still up over my shoulder still barely lighting up the scene I often find it resting on the horizon or caught by some rouge “Ent” Tree. Way out in the remote back country many magical and mystical things occur when I pursue light. I’m just the stenographer here with the limitations of the technology I deal with daily.
There are only a few days a month where the relatively full moon is close to the still sunlit horizon. I get perhaps 3 or 4 sunrise/sunsets a month with the moon involved. Some months I don’t get the opportunity due to cloud cover . I’m usually game to be in the backcountry for this kind of activity. As I post this it’s deep mid-winter in the backcountry. We are high up so we get more snow than most. Deep snow sort of slows me down but NOW I have a taller truck with 35 inch studded snow tires to help a bit.
On the moon you can clearly see the smaller top crater at 12 oclock. (It’s actually a small “Mare”). It is always at 12 oclock on a rising moon but at 3 oclock as the moon sets here at 45 degrees north latitude. That little Crater is Mare “Crisium”. (Sea of Crisis from the latin).
Have you noticed the moon’s face appears to rotate clockwise as the night progresses? This is an illusion as you are the one that is rotating, not the moon🤔. Your looking at the moon rising looking east. Then you spin and look at the moon set to the west. In other words your point of view has changed. The amount of change depends on how far north or south of the equator. Illusionary. It’s very complex from here and another whole narrative. 🤔📸 It will make you crazy trying to figure this one out lololol.
I find interest in simple things, some sage brush a fallen snag across the path I was considering traveling afoot. I consider this natures way of telling me to either detour or stop and observe the scene more closely. Looking into a scene to see that which is fleeting within moments. I often do pause with my photo capture boxes (cameras) trained one the action before me. Winter on the high ridges of the Wyoming / Montana borderlands is a tenuous existence.
Trees are subject to lightning and wind attack. When an old veteran as above falls, it gives me a moment to pause to thusly consider the past. Geologists as myself tend to see under the ground with sort of a mental x-ray vision. It’s called 3 Dimensional Spatial Visualization. (good google phrase for you). This ground has more going on than just on the surface.
Random Geologic Musings:
Below this Sage Scene exists Dinosaur fossil rich bedrock. All underlaying this vegetative cover. This image was taken at a good fossil microsite where there are literally fossil dinosaur teeth discoverable if you look hard (very hard). I have a theory that many Hell Creek/Lance Formation (Cretaceous sands) fossil sites have a tendency to have a locally scarce tree growing very close to the site more often than not. I find either a Snag or a living tree at them 80 percent of the time. In a grassland country that is sparse of trees on many hill slopes, it has become a repeated observation by this scientist. It be a good thesis for some researcher.
I believe the soil type that has developed from the particular river deposits that contain dinosaur bones in this country has something to do with this. I’m thinking permeability and moisture content of the soil derived from the bedrock due to the sedimentologic origin. Fossil sites tend to be a mix of sediments in a sand gravel mix. This is different than the pure sands surrounding them with no fossils.
I have also noticed with certainty (franks law), that if there is a tree, it will not provide you any shade if you are working on a hot day on that fossil microsite. Think hot beach sand…. 😜⚒⚒
Under veiled sun about 5 minutes to sunset. The golden tinted light resultant from the suspended ice in the air provides the atmosphere for this capture. Close/Far perspectives with these old fallen sentinels of the high ridges are well worth pursuing. They provide the artist with textures and lines leading off toward a distant focal point. Drawing the minds eye deeper into the image, the fallen tree lays waiting for the night.
This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana . The location several miles into the backcountry of this 4000 foot in elevation ridge. In this area, occurred a fire that burned all summer during the 1930’s. That fire didn’t go out until the snows fell in the fall. This obviously changed the landscape from a heavily forested pine grove into a more open landscape. Prior to human habitation, wildfires were always burning unchecked across North America. Then it got worse because native Americans did a LOT of burning to open up the deep woodlands. A grassland/forest mix is good for the wildlife. And they knew it. Pretty much right up until maybe 100 years ago.🤔
Wildfire is natures way of controlling the build up of forest floor litter. The old trees do fine in the smaller grass fires under them. Many pine cones open releasing their seeds due to the fires. Fires are responsible for trimming back woods creating grasslands. Trees like this if hit by lightning will burn for days. If there is a LOT of fuel, it get’s pretty spicy in the grasslands.
There are “Islands” of Old Growth Trees, one right over my right shoulder that I was walking in . It is getting very difficult to get up on this ridge these days. I have to plow usually. Drifting is ALWAYS an issue up on the ridges. I actually have built the road up to this ridge top but there is no build road along the ridge.. Just two track trails……. I’m pretty careful. That’s all about knowing where not to go driving backcountry ridges in mid winter….. 🌲🤔📷
Yet another capture from the network of 28 game trail cameras I maintain up here in the borderlands. Captured at the moment of the hawk strike. I’m thinking this was a bit hard on the “other bird”. (unidentified unlucky bird) while it was sitting on the post. Imagine just minding your own business. Suddenly, it was hit from behind/above. This is the definition of a bad day I’m thinking🤔👀📸
I’m not a hawk expert. The distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I’m betting this is a red tail’ed hawk I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure.
Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). Catching an image like this with a regular camera is highly unlikely . I have never witnessed a hawk attack on another bird anywhere any time in my travels. I’m out in the backcountry all the time. I suspect my presence or the activity of the vehicle I’m in precludes any raptors taking game around me.
Game Trail Cameras captures are all problematic from a photo finishing aspect. I did my best to “fix” the inadequate technology. When they make a really good quality game trail camera, I’ll buy them. Until then, I’ll have to live with these photon traps as they are. I also have an image of him flying away with this hapless meal.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
The hundred year old Parks Ranch I’m presenting here is certainly a historic place. This old red barn in and of itself is a pretty nifty place to see where generations of real cowboys handled their stock. Cribbing horses having chewed on the wood of the pens withing the large structure. Groups of geese flying about the area.
The old house on this property was built from locally sourced wood in the early 1900s. Still habitable of course and a local family lives on the property in an adjacent home. The original homestead a HUGE homestead. Built for 2 families it appears. I’d say 10,000 square feet in the old house.
The property has old Ranch buildings galore with all sorts of thing about you would expect from such a cowboy center of activity. You just have to love a 100 year old cattle ranches.
Stock Trailers, head catches, pens, fences, branding ovens, tack, horses, cattle. Artesian lakes surround this wondrous place. . A few worn horse shoes scattered about mix with discarded or just disused tack from the past. There must be tales about tales swirling about in the history of this old Ranch. Men and Women toiling over the three day wagon ride round trip from Gillette Wyoming and back to home. The flow of time slowly submerges events away from our collective knowledge. What is so important at the time, perhaps a new dress for a ranch child growing up, seems lost in the past.
Location: Historic Parks Ranch Campbell County Wyoming. 4 miles south of Montana but there is Montana sky and mountains in the distance. A few miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.
I didn’t notice the foot prints of something small that paused under this antiquity. This ranch is a museum if you know where to look.
Any old ranch has a “boneyard” where utilitarian things you just don’t want to throw away lay. Some since the beginning of the place. I’d bet this buck wagon saw use from the start of this ranch in 1906. It was probably retired upon the first model T truck. No matter how many decades, here it lays with nothing but the cows for company in the summer. Not many wildlife bother it but for the mice that might live under or in the boards. 80 or maybe 90 generations of cattle calves and adults have rubbed against this wagon’s side and wheels. I see them do it every summer in that pasture.
Between Ice expanding between the grain of the wood. The drying contractions of hot summer droughts wear. But occasional soaking from our meager 14 inches of precipitation is insufficient for fast wood decay. This climate (ALL climate is local), is semi-arid with that low annual average of moisture. Wood might last 100 years, some woods like cedar, longer. I’ve seen posts here put in early with little damage. We even find leather shoes and Horse Harness materials in some of the old over the gully bank junk yards from the old homesteads up here. You never know what your going to dig up in those. The settlers here didn’t throw away much that worked or could be repurposed. We are the same way. You have to be.
The Backcountry sparsely populated now in mid winter. Few animal are about. The odd Jack Rabbit living mostly random grass left over from the summer cattle. Mice and Pack Rats round out the majority of the mammal population in this region. There may be a few deer about but they tend to stay near the forest not the gumbo covered flats. The grazing is sparse in Bentonitic (gumbo) clay rich soils.
Most of the Pronghorn which frequent this area all summer have migrated south. They move down to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. This is down the road in Wyoming about 30 miles. So this land, dominated by fox, coyote is overseen by birds of prey. Those masters of the sky dominate the hierarchy of predators for this targeted population of small mammals.
It has been cold of late as I type this a week before it posts. Forecast is for snow moving in a few days before. Hopefully not so much but we do need the moisture. IT’s the snow that makes that spring/summer grass for the grazing of all species. We get most of our yearly 14 inches of precipitation from snowfall. Last year was exceptional exhibiting a wet summer and fall.
It’s still REALLY early for calving but it won’t be long. Ground like this opens for grazing mid-spring around May. In the summer you can see hundreds if not thousands of cattle on this same ground.
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
This kind of Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/4 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these coated pine needles “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. Add a fence for the far vanishing point due to the distance and we’re good to go 🤘
The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly yellow color cast on this particular morning. The Yellow light projected through the Alpenglow phenomena low on the horizon shows the color of light refracted by the ice suspended there. Transmitted to the local objects, pine needles and fences coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This yellow color cast is not that common on local vegetation. Usually it presents only perceptible on the atmospheric ice.
Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.