As the late summer / early fall progresses into full brown season. I still see just a stripe of green (ish) across the middle of this large field of stunted grown grass.
The Pronghorn Herd traversing the grassy field were in a moderate hurry. I find that as a group, they are synergistically more jumpy than a single animal. Even individual mothers with fawns are easier to approach than a herd. If just ONE of the animals doesn’t like what they see… One jumps and all go. Them deciding which is might as well be random. I’m assuming the presence of my truck traveling down the gravel road 400 yards out spooked them. They were running parallel to me, not the other direction. They eventually race to cross the road in front of me as I had to stop to catch this. 4 wheel disk breaks on 35 inch tires stop pretty quickly but the truck takes a few seconds to dampen down the rock back from the stop.
As soon as the truck slowed down, the Pronghorn must have perceived a sign of weakness. They instantly turned to run in front of my truck. I’m thinking they were just showing off. Nothing like being the fastest animal in North America. I’ve clocked them at close to 50 before. Hard to tell exactly. I’m sure someone got one on a radar gun. The official record is 61mph. A cheetah can max out at 80. Good things there are no cheetah’s left in North America after the Megafauna die off after the last ice age. Climate changes in the past…
Speaking of weather: (Like that segue??)😜 Locally, the warmest June or July in a long time. Very dry as well with only .6 inches of rain in June. A lot of the country is a tinderbox as those in California know all too well. Last summer was wet and lush through late August. Wyotana Bi-Polar climate…. Remember that ALL climate is local. The earth has no climate. It has all climates. Multiple personalities as it were….🤔
These big moths are really way more attractive on their pink underside than their dorsal olive tan pattern. Their legs and antenna are white as can be. Without a doubt they are a gardeners/ranchers friend as they lay their eggs on “Leafy Spurge”, a noxious weed. These big moths are active in the day sucking nectar and trying to find some Leafy Spurge. They lay their eggs on the noxious weed with the larva destroying the plant as they grow. Devouring it as they develop as it were.
This moth was introduced (foreign species) into Western Canada years ago. They apparently are spreading with no ill effects noted to the rest of our biosphere so far. Just larva eating Spurge and some nectar use by the adults which competes with other native species of course.
The color scheme here was too obvious to ignore. I adore right primary colors surrounding a “plain jane” subject. Garden plants with big moths flying about is a target rich environment for sure. The hard part is getting them to stay put long enough to capture the scene. Their big bugs which are quick and zip around when warm. They are impossibly hard to photograph well without cooling them down. Usually you can catch them in my experience but it takes some luck. Funny I’ve seen so many of them this year. Wish they ate grasshoppers 😜 📷
Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (vehicle) seems somehow logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea 🤔 ⛈. Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list.
Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I actually flinch for, is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that particular photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. 📸
There are two ways of doing this. If it is very dark, set your camera on a stabile tripod in a dry area. Take 25 second time exposures at ISO 200 and f11 to start with… You will have to tweek some to see what comes out. Or use an external “lightning trigger” to snap the camera as the bolt touches off. Set your camera near or at ISO 200 F11 and 1/4 second. Your setting s may vary but now too far out. The trick here to get a full frame (not a crop) image was to watch the storm and figure out where the bolts were consistently hitting. Then you just point the camera into that area and wait. Turn on some tunes…..
Twilight is a time to look around. There is no better spot for this Breeding / Nesting Upland Sandpiper to watch the sunset. Hanging out on a fence brace with a view was a good choice I’m thinking. Topography was such I couldn’t get the larger twilight show behind the grass. I still liked the composition. I’m going to have to get a taller truck though lol.. Time for that 2 inch lift kit perhaps.
I liked the symmetry of the brace with the asymmetry of the angles by the wire versus clouds all interacting. The Peachy Creme Soda color is one of my favorite hues for an Alpenglow pallet choice by mother nature. I never know what she is going to pick but I do know that Alpenglow is one of my favorite sky phenomena. (Google it if you know know what it is).
This was taken in early July with the sky color attributed to ice reflecting the predominate color surviving the sunlights trip through the low atmosphere. Such low angle light is always tweeked by the shorter wavelengths being absorbed during the journey. No or few blues/ greens and indigos make it reflected back to my lens.
Close far perspectives are a challenge in low light. If your trying to do images like this, you need high F-stop setting. That will close off light which makes the other two settings important. Long exposures are your friend. High ISO will get you the photo but it will be grainy. . Manual mode is all about balance.
Having watched several bolts flash out of this rain shaft, I dutifully pointed a long lens at the spot. Tracked it a ways and the Lightning trigger clicked the camera automatically. Sometimes I have been lucky observing repeat performances with bolts originating out of the same spot of the sky. Even as the storm system moves across the landscape, the lighting source moves with it on the timeline. I have various experiences watching the same point in the storm launch bolts along the storms path. I’ve worked well over 100 storms to date for lightning.
Lightning bolts last a half a second sometimes so longer exposures up to that long work nicely curing the daylight hourse. Your other two manual settings are subject to what your doing and the ambient light level so any of my “Shared” settings won’t help. I will tell you that I like to set my ISO around 320 for daylight lightning under deep clouds. Shutter speed will change depending on how much wind is blowing. Long shutter speeds and a shaking vehicle don’t work well together. If your just taking a 2D sky as above, depth of focus is irrelevant. Low fstop of about f6 and a Lower ISO would be better. If your taking a landscape and want the foreground in focus, it’s important to have a higher F-stop as that gives you depth of focus from close to far. But it takes away light which has to be made up for with camera sensitivity (ISO).
I had gone on a backcountry road trip of about 15 miles to find a place around this storm which was blocking my view of the rising Strawberry moon. I understand the Algonquins tribe named it as the June moon corresponds to the picking of the wild strawberry crop. In Europe they are a bit more flowery with the “Rose” moon chosen for the moon moniker. Also called the “Hot Moon, the Honey Moon and the derivative of honey, the Mead Moon. Cheese with Honey I’m guessing lolol. It was probably about time for some Mead after the long winter this moon harkens the end of.
Seeing the Full moon this month was a good time for philosophy and thoughts of normalcy as the return of the season. I get very “reflective” introspectively about “cycles”. I’ve been at this place before a few times circling around our star. I recognizes processes and natures schemes for it’s perpetual engine to continue unabated. The machinations of our population makes little difference to those certainties provided by natures processes. All that is ongoing around is is insignificant in the scheme of the world around us. It’s somehow settling to have those processes continue in front of my eyes like the clock work that they are. The geologists in me tries terribly hard to be in tune with those little things. It’s makes understanding the bigger things that are so complex, possible. It takes a compilation of the little things to comprehend. Nature is easy, it’s human nature that is the tough one. IT’s the humans that the uncertainly. 😔📷
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. They like this highland grassy ridge to breed and set their nests in.
They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing calls. They will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. Entertaining if your a photographer as catching them in not easy tracking with a long lens. Challenging is what I call it. I often 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.
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. 😔
The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.
The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.
Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.
The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread species. It ranges to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here…. We are precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂
This image was captured early this summer and the cottonwoods were leafing. I can only see one nest currently. As I often loose track of them as the trees fill in with leaves . Thusly the cover over the nests keeps the privacy curtain up rather well. Not much assistance to me but I’m sure the birds like it.
Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up here and I don’t see them skinny lol. They usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and head out. I can’t really see them after mid may when the Cottonwood trees they nest in leaf out. Their nests are 50 feet up the big mature trees over a lake here on the ranch. The rookery is adjacent to a tall hill such that I can get at the tree top level about 200 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the portfolio with this image. I have many more to do.
The Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Synchronized Fence Jumping competition (BDRSFJC) is well under way. Last fall we had the tri-outs for the follow up event in the spring. This spring event is much larger usually and involves more animal diversity than the late fall meet. I give the deer in the foreground a 9.5 for form. 9.2 for jumping together…
This group doesn’t quite have the synchronize part figured out yet and doubtfully will make the final cut. Boy are these guys shedding with tuffs of hair falling off each one. Shaggy to say the least. Perfectly healthy.
BDRSFJC is an all “Ungulate” (google the last term) event. I expect some Whitetail to try out but their team failed to show up YET AGAIN !!!. Some creatures just can’t keep to a schedule. This is the second time this year they Whitetails have bailed from a major try out. Now the Pronghorns don’t even like jumping over fences. I read where they can jump 14 feet high but my memory fails sometimes, that might be wrong. 👅
Back to my normal (ish) programming:
I have around 100 good images of deer jumping over fences. This MIGHT be the only triple deer in the air I have in my portfolio. I don’t recall clicking on another with 3 in the air at the same time. I do have a couple of double captures.
I’m considering putting in a synchronized swim tryout down by the lake. We’ll see if those whitetail show up for that.. 😜📸
Rarely do I have architectural elements in my images. Under Alpenglow saturated refractive ice filled sky, the football field sized roof sets the stage for this three part drama. We need a little patriotism these days….
Muddled has been the origin of the starts and stripes.. Accounts handed down orally over several generations. Mostly from the descendants of Betsy Ross. Congress onJune 14, 1777 took time from it’s busy schedule. It passed a resolution stating : “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white”. That “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Still to this day, no one knows who designed the flag. No one know why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Rumor is Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776.
George Washington personally requested her design the flag. Again, this is hearsay. Obviously nothing is hunting it was it never varies its routine. (bad plan generally) Coming home from a long night out working the light with a box of cameras is always full of adventure. I never know what to expect. Wyoming winds are unpredictable so there is a variable you can’t control. Luckily this was/is not much of a problem that night. It’s generally fairly windy in this country. An 80 dollar 5×8 flag usually last me about 4 months before it get’s “Worn out”. 3×2 aspect to 3 feet.
This unusual sky happened about 10 days ago on a stormy eventing in mid March 2020. I had been working this sky for several hours photographically due to the wondrous storm clouds moving through the area. As a grand final act of the stage show that evening, a distant storm cloud decided to make a flashlight beam out of the suns blanket. The edge of that ‘little cloud” on the far right horizon blocked and quartered the sun nicely BEFORE it was actually down. It enabled just an amazing sliver of bright sun to cut the ice in the air with it’s light. All the while that light was color casted orange by passing the hundreds of miles long gauntlet of dust and ice in the air.
This “spotlight” beam passing through the atmospheric ice was indeed a worth show to see and capture. I particularly like the lighter blue’s gradient to the darker indigo above. This is a hint of the extreme wide angle lens I was using to capture this 130 degree wide vistas. The top of the photo is nearly straight up. It is difficult to get a proper prospective without a foreground object. The camera was looking south on the left frame to northwest on the right frame. In other words, it’s a huge chunk of the sky. (10 mm full frame lens)I am constantly wow’d by sky show performances up here. I was lucky to have experienced this night.
There are many more capture of the storms moving through that evening that were/are very good captures indeed. They will slowly make it into my workflow. 2’x3′ image aspect
Driving two track roads during Nautical twilight up high in the backcountry is easier when there is no snow or mud 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 arrived this morning, it was still Nautical Twilight with maybe 30 minutes to go till sunrise. The sky starts to light up quickly from here on. , 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 in early May. Dry year so far 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, no lower yellow band yet. The yellow hasn’t made it this far yet.. 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. It’s below the camera’s threshold of Dynamic Range. My eye’s could see landscape here. Not the camera though… 👀👀📸
Spring time thunderstorms moving through the area are much appreciated in giving us a little more moisture for the apparently soon to be dry summer so typical of Wyotana. Our annual precipitation amounts are BARELY above desert at 14 inches per year. Not this day though 😀
This happened May 13th late in the afternoon as a series of smaller storms moved through the area. This thunder storm went on into South Dakota and grew as it went but wasn’t particularly violent. It was however strong enough to dump enough hail to cover the ground off in the distance under the “rainbow”. I didn’t think there is supposed to be a bucket o hail at the end of the rainbow but something with a bit more glitter. “Clever Girl” got slushed on but fortunately the hail was a bit further east. This capture looking almost straight east along the Montana / Wyoming border. I’ve been known to move my position to avoid hail a time or two. It’s usually not a huge area that get’s hailed on but reading the storm isn’t necessarily straight forward as I’m not “Bill Paxton” in the 1996 movie Tornado.
The Rainbow is right at 5 miles away from my viewpoint. The first tree on the right is at least 1/2 mile out. Telephotos CRUSH perspective jumping over lots of ground before you get to the “foreground” of the frame lol.
(May 2020, third/last supermoon of the year) I was fortunate to have worked them all. This month I only had one opportunity to work it against the landscape. I have 4 quality images from this month’s full moon which is about par for the course. Without a doubt this image is the best one I have obtained from this combination.
This one is somewhat similar to others I’ve taken and I’ve shot this tree many times as it’s only a mile from my driveway. However the burgundy (muted pink light) alpenglow, details in the dark and the dynamic range of this one makes my heart pitty pat… 📸📸
I’ve taken a few photos of this tree in front of various astronomic occurrences. It is indeed a lone tree on that position about 1000 yards away from where I took this image.
Photographing images like this a combination of finding the right position in x/y space, timing and distance is z, and that position moves with the speed of the moon. This makes using Tripods very difficult as you have a moving target. Maybe a monopod. This however was handheld. Distance is your friend here from that Lone tree.
Practicing this kind of photography has found me on my butt more times than any other tripping over sage. The moon is constantly moving, I’m usually on some parallel ridge walking forwards (as the moon is rising and to the left a bit while looking through a 2 foot long lens (tube) and not at my feet with sage brush around on uneven ground.Bear with me as capturing this kind of image is a “sub-hobby” of mine within the general photography that I do. I find it a serious challenge to get terrestrial objects in the same focal plane as the moon or the sun in twilight or darker conditions. Just like this. This composition is a tough one to capture in this low light/long focal field combination. 📸
2×3 aspect to 3 feet. Rested 1200 mm lens on “Clever Girl’s” drivers window.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
I photographically work hundreds of sunrise and sunset landscapes every year. Having seen most variations of that theme, I’m always looking for rare variations. By definition each sky show is unique with attributes usually pleasing to the eye. This deep complex sky caught my attention out of the pile of “to do” images waiting for attention. This capture I absolutely adore.
It’s REALLY HARD to be an accurate photorealistic artist reproducing images as I recall / experienced the scene. I see SO many tweeked / over colorized images posted on the photography forums. When you see electric blues and pure oversaturated colors, you should just keep scrolling past them in my humble opinion. I very RARELY see deep electric blue skies in the real world for example.
These muted colors with the deep red layers buried far behind the cloud deck covering the “Red Hills (the ridges name). I could have easily intensified those layers in the digital dark room. This would have turned this into a deep crimson and the yellow would be canary detail less yellow with very blue clouds below. That is some artists stock and trade. Take a photo, bring it into photoshop and turn up the “volume” on the color sliders. It’s a cheap and unsophisticated way to get attention.
The camera technology I use is totally inadequate to accomplish what my eye sees. They don’t have the dynamic range human eyes do. To compensate for this, I reproduce these scenes precisely the way that nature presented them to me. I actually can see the scene live real time in my lens as I adjust the dials. Thusly I am able to A/B that scene with what is in the sky at the time. They still take work to fix…..I have been an art director of 9 other graphic artists and print buyer of many many publications. I would NEVER buy for publication or print an impossibly colored nature scene. (Hint to those artists out there that like using color enhancing slider controls). To do it right is MUCH harder and way more professional. The other professionals instantly know cheap tricks…
Would you rather see nature or some digital dark room mutation?
So my wife Patty was gardening here at the homestead when she heard a ‘Lot of Flapping”…. It was a surprise to see this huge vulture directly overhead. I’m pretty sure this was a rest stop on it’s way. It wasn’t particularly interesting in moving. So Patty walks across the yard, comes inside where I was cleaning up a bit. She mentions to me that a “vultures are circling” and I need to grab a camera….
Never being one to refuse an offer from my wife to get out of a cleaning job. I figured the bird had departed before bringing a camera to into play. As I stepped out the side door, it was certainly checking me out. Now when a Vulture is considering the possibilities….. a bit disconcerting…. The light was terrible being totally overcast. It wasn’t that bright which in and of itself is problematic. Hand held tight telephoto shots prefer good lighting. Leaning against a deck post I rest the camera and spin some dials. I took about 15 images just to eliminate the blurring from my moving the camera. I think I got 2 sharp images out of the batch. Having gotten the capture, I was lucky enough to go back to my cleaning chores lolol.
Turkey Vultures feed exclusively on carrion though I suspect this one was checking out all the nesting ducks about the barnyard stationary in their egg sitting. Having the best sense of smell of any bird, they can detect carrion over a mile away. All have featherless heads to keep the carrion from fouling the feathers.. Adults as here have a bright red head. Juveniles have a head that is blackish in color. These are not to be confused for the smaller black vulture. I’ve observed them riding thermals in large flocks before. That visual spectacle referred to as “kettling.”
Nesting by laying two egg under a rock overhang but on bare rock. Nesting starts in Wyoming as late as the first part of July. Both parents incubate and care for the defenseless young for a period of 9 to 11 weeks. They feed them through regurgitation. Regurgitation is also used by both adults and juveniles as a defense mechanism. This is one of the less pleasant defense strategies in the animal kingdom I’m thinking. No other animal hunts turkey vultures to any degree. I understand they are taken on a very rare occasion by larger raptors such as eagles, and young or eggs may be consumed by predators Feeding on decomposing flesh (and the willingness to use it in defense) apparently has its benefits.
Location: in our backyard… Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
I walk miles in the backcountry as it keeps me in shape. Well it might be the 20 pounds of gear I’m hauling on deer trails😜…. I have to do something to make up for the computer time I sit on my tail lolol. Working parallel ridges with riding or walking a shadow line is the way to set up compositions that I’m using here. Look for opportunities to walk and follow shadow lines. Here in the backcountry I run into random opportunities to use the landscape for illusion and crushing perspective. Here I actually walked to the ridge top to work this visual tunnel.
There is SO much going on here. Looking through a tunnel but what to what light at the end lol ?…. The far horizon which indeed is a climbing ridge towards the sun. Perhaps grassy ridge I’m on that dominates the layers game or the far horizon. Wow, this is busy with the close and far thing too. Gotta love yellow late afternoon Alpenglow…
I am fortunate to use technology that lets me evaluate the wonder of such scenes. I see live real time images as this in my view finder. Mirrorless cameras are WONDERFUL that way. You couldn’t even look at your focus with a DSLR camera without risking your eyesight. Bright scenes and DSLR are not usually good friends.. If you don’t know the difference between the two camera types, it’s time to do some homework. Particularly if your considering a purchase. I now consider DLSR cameras as the “Beta Max” of the current production camera world.📸
I was following this group for a while. They were not terribly concerned. The herd was moving from grazing pasture to a water tank about a mile distant from where they were feeding. I find they tend not to wander too far from their water. This “gang” is about 1/3rd males, 1/3 pregnant females and 1/3 yearlings. All of the males are just now in velvet with fairly new antler buds coming in. The largest set of antlers in this group is about 4 inches long. Those horns will grow rapidly over the next month or two.
There were a few more stragglers spread out behind the group off frame with 20 total in this group. Only 15 in the frame as my telephoto will only pull back so far. I’m thinking this was 300 yards out as I recall the scene from my position of being left behind by a fenceline I couldn’t cross. The sun had JUST popped over the ridge. The shadows were very long and what stood out more than the deer to me was their shadows. If this were only on snow lolol. (better shadows but I’d sure like the extra water going into a dry year already 😔.)
The Deer herd up in the late fall just after rut through mid spring which is just now happening. Then they break up into smaller groups soon. Finally small groups does with fawns. Boys Clubs of buck only buddies form quickly. Only to regroup again later in the fall again. It’s all a cycle over and over again. I’ve watched this numerous times over the years… Rinse and Repeat.
Complex cloud systems have been moving through the area this late brown season (early spring) capture from late April. The day was exciting with actual lightning (first of the year). I dug around and found the 2 lightning triggers I use and worked this storm. They were last used last August (ish) , one of them was on, still had battery… (stored in the dark). 👀
I “Think” that those are Anti-crepuscular rays cross cutting into rain/sleet/hail shafts falling from this sporty little storm. I find the back side of isolated afternoon storms are WAY more interesting than the front side. I seldom chase storms but I sure as heck did last night follow a rainbow right as dusk. It will take a week for those images to find their way forward into my workflow.. Love the face peering up and right above the main shaft.
So This weather is very summer like so I’m declaring officially that “Spring Came and Went” on a Friday this year. Last year it was on a Tuesday. Brown season ends pretty much now though we are still in danger of frost for another two weeks as this posts. These storms made it quite muddy, the grass will grow but I don’t get into the backcountry when it is muddy as much. This is not necessarily convenient to the working of light that appears randomly and not always when the two tracks roads are passable. I washed about 200 pounds of mud off my Ford Raptor Last night and that was from the main roads…..👅📸
I’ve seen them below the sun many times as well but not usually in a lake. They form on ice crystals in the atmosphere of course . A combination of many many reflections off the large flat face of horizontally falling like parachutes hexagonal plate ice crystals. The effect is very similar to any slightly tilted horizontal surface. For instance, water reflect a light source (usually the sun) and spread it out vertically. This one is pretty big. This is close to a 24mm image which is about twice the angle of your normal vision.
The Physics explains it of course but the bigger they are, the rarer they are. The maximum extent of the pillar is about twice the maximum tilt of the plate crystals. Big oriented plates of ice at a high angle are required for this to occur. The crystals, flat 6 sided plates all. These fall the same way due to atmospheric resistance and their shape. Calm falling air is necessary. The high tilt is unusual. I’ve read that a pillar 5-10 degrees pillar is not unusual. This is silly tall. I bet this is 40 degrees tall if not 45 degrees. This is a very big image wide and high. (I’d have to look at the meta data and do the math. It certainly seemed big to me at the time (click click click etc ).
I arrived at this remote location about 5 minutes too late to get the sun on the lake. Mapped in my head now… 👀📸.
This image was captured just as the horizon dropped exposing the relatively stationary sun. Everybody always says the sun rises but it’s really the horizon falling away. OK. This was a “sunrise” bone chilling cold. It was “breezy” this morning few weeks ago (as this posts). At 15 degrees F any wind amplifies the experience from a sweat shirt to full arctic gear. In dead calm air, -2 might as well be 50 and CAN be t-shirt weather. A Jackson Hole “Ex” resident, I’ve literally walked around in -20 on a calm day in a t-shirt.. I dress in layers and it’s a “dry cold” lolol.
Working in really cold conditions with cameras:
I’ve been up here in an open vehicle at -20 before so this was pretty comfortable relatively. Riding around with a box of 4 or 5 camera/lens in an open ATV in that temp is something I don’t like to do now. I’m getting wussy in my old age 😜
For this capture, I was walking around from place to place for quite a while. Drove up there. Usually my right had is my weak link. I wear “Red Head” Mitten/fingerless gloves. They are better than other gloves I’ve seen advertised for photographers and do a pretty good job. I always carry two pair. If they get wet, it’s time to change them. But you CAN work the delicate controls of a camera with them on.
I even had my Ford Raptor to retreat to . I prefer not to let my cameras get so cold so having them in a heated car has it’s advantages.
Working out of a car window in the cold:
You have to watch shooting cameras out of a heated car into very cold air. You can get distortion similar to a mirage that I’ve actually seen live and watched it distorting the image on the cameras monitor. The warm air and the cold air mixing makes a little distorting lens just for your annoyance. With a long lens the distortion caused by this interface CAN be significant. Each situation is different. I try to keep air flowing into the drivers window versus warm air flowing out. It’s a huge difference with long lenses.
That HUGE butte (called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border. The fore ground is in Wyoming. That mile wide Butte (in Montana) is at least 15 miles BEHIND that 400 foot tall old growth treed ridge. That ridge is 15 miles from where I’m standing for this capture. You can see the communications towers that are up there. They are 1 foot wide over the 150000 feet to those towers. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Taken golden hour as the sun was setting shortly over my shoulder. Long Shadows and Long lenses… be still my heart…❤️
So about 30 miles distant from my camera stands the epicenter of what was at one time one of the largest ranches in the Country. That ranch named the “W” Butte Ranch, was said you couldn’t see the end of the ranch from the top of that butte. I suspect that is not true. My ground was never part of that ranch to my knowledge. I’ve only seen/have deeds back to 1906 though. I’m not sure before that, pretty sure gov’t had it.
Custer certainly saw that Butte on his travels through this high country ridge/stream valley country.. He sure didn’t see it on his way back from the “Little BigHorn” though…. he was distracted it seems. I’m still trying to figure out where the 7th’s calvary’s pay (in gold) was stashed during that journey. Such speculation can drive people wild. What they ignore in their madness is that the treasure in this country is the land itself. ⚒🤔☯
Sometimes I actually have time during an encounter with wildlife to compose the image. The Ying and the Yang of this stood out “Biggly”. This gal was 50 feet above me and about 200 yards out. She was walking slowly unafraid of my presence. Then she paused and surveyed all that lay before her. This high ridge has AMAZING views off to where she is looking. I have to think that she is aware and appreciative of the vista I share with her daily. I believe to the depths of my soul that I have seen deer watch the sunset right along with me. Enjoying the whole show. I’m usually trying to get them between me and the sun lol. Occasionally I’m trying to be between them and the sun. Either way, I’m always maneuvering for the “angle” lolol. 📸
Certainly she is quite aware of her environment. Enhanced smell, excellent hearing with those big mule shaped ears with eagle eyes/excellent night vision. I’ve watched deer carefully as my photographic OCD brings me into close proximity with them regularly. They have “watched” me too lol. There is a certain amount of familiarity the local deer herds have to me and my vehicles. They are still wild have no misconception about that. They just think of me as another creature out here that has never done them any harm. A good photographer will never scare or ‘push’ the animals. You won’t get another chance to take their photo later if you do.
The mist over the water in this remote backcountry wetland was wafting slowly with the below freezing breeze above. This mid-spring Wyotana wetland capture was taken right as the sun cracked over the far ridge to the east shadowing this ground about 15 minutes longer than sunrise. Sunrise time depends on if the horizon is above you topographically or not lolol.
A snowy/frosty/blowy storm came through after a week of thawing weather melted most ice on local ponds. Rime Snow coated most exposed objects but the mist from the water definitely hoar frosted the far trees totally. Wind blowing that mist that refroze on the trees in the distance. I probably should have taken a walk over to those trees with a few good cameras but the aforementioned breeze with below freezing weather dissuaded me. Wind Chill cutting through the cracks in my cold armor is always a consideration in cold weather.
I see much wildlife in and around these lakes but they were no where to be seen this frosty morning. I suspect they were bedded down somewhere close by staying out of the cold breeze. Sheltered (lower) areas like this are an oasis from the blowing and drifting usually. The trees and topography “helping” with the natural wind break. A source of open water in places due to the spring fed nature of the lakes, many local animals winter over here.
Spring in Wyotana is a fleeting season. I think it was on a thursday last year. Winter usually lasts until May 15, then it’s green season. Green season is variable depending on the rains of course but Spring…. it’s usually about a day long. 🤔😜📷
Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
I run a network of 29 game trail cameras. About 8 of them were inaccessible to me from December 2019 until mid-April 2020. In other words I have thousands of images to go through. This is one such image of a thickly Winter Coated Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes is the scientific genus and species to this largest of the true foxes. The species is not unique to Wyotana occurring across the entire Northern Hemisphere. It is not endangered with a stable population. Looks about 30 pounds to me at 18 inches tall. Beautiful Animal that I’ve only seen a few times in the wild. They tend to be elusive and wary of humans.
Foxes are known for their intelligence with a smattering of cunning in their reputation. Loners and solitary hunters all feeing on small game. They are omnivorous however not being above fruit and vegi’s with a side of fish, and an earth worm garnish.
I place Game Trail Cameras in locations where I believe the wildlings wander and congregate. The only control of these cameras I have besides some general settings are where I put them. This particular spot is more or less of a natural wildlife funnel. I’ve seen this foxes prey walk on this same trail too. Raccoons and probably skunks are on the dinner list though the latter is questionable I suppose lolol. Porcupines are a tough sell but I’m sure the mouse population is a target. Pickings are slim in the last half of the winter up here in the high country of the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. Competition is fierce and unrelenting.
The minute I saw this scene I knew I could capture the moody nature of the stage show unfolding in front of me. I love low light color when it comes out from it’s hiding place. There are so many areas of zen up here to anticipate and pursue. Even in flat light….
The sky leading up to this was mostly overcast. It is a bad bet/ use of time to go out with cameras. Each time I go to take pictures these days, I put myself further behind finishing the rest of my portfolio. If your new to my work, I’m only about 3700 portfolio images yet to finalize to current standards. I’m one page at a time, 4 a day building and posting “Pages” for several eventual books. Each Image I produce/post has at least a 250 word narrative. 1300 + finished pages contained within that web based “book” currently on line . 👀 I try to keep busy. lolol.
It’s easy to work with skies that are textured and complex but flat grey presents a serious challenge. To bring the colors that were vibrant in the flat light into a mechanical/electronic contrivance is a complex task lol. Several computer algorithms process images inside the camera even though I only use manual settings. I haven’t used anything auto on my cameras for years. I really don’t even know how to use those features except in theory. No auto focus, no auto light balance, no enhancements. Conversions of file formats occur automatically with the digital process from camera to computer.
When I drive out into the backcountry up to the high ridgelines, I never know what I’m going to find. The Rime snow coated all the grasses and fences that morning. I really didn’t notice it until the sun came up enough to highlight all the ice. The roughly 1/8th inch coating made for a late winter sunrise scene worthy of my time getting up the ridge lol.
The sun wasn’t very warming that morning. There was a good breeze from the left that cut through my cold weather armor. Wyotana here with both states in the image. I’m standing in Wyoming looking to the north east with the sun rising on the spring equinox (straight east). Here in Early April, we still have a month of winter weather possible. Last year was cold till the end of May. We had lilacs blooming on the 4th of July for you gardeners to compare with your seasons.
I miss chasing bees with cameras and finding Preying Mantis sitting for me swaying back and forth like a breeze. It has been a LONG winter. The seasons will change but the seclusion in this remote part of the earth is comforting in these troubled times. I hope this finds you all safe and secure in your homes. We have a 1 person per square mile population density in this country. Ranches are 5 to 10 miles away from most places but it’s still 70 miles from the nearest stop light here.
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.
A Month from now they return… Spring time 2019, the trees were just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I was busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well. These are big 5 pound 5 foot tall birds if you’ve never seen them before.
Earlier that season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot. Earlier that season before leaves were in the way, I was able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction.
They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings. These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes along the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀.