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.
Looking From Under a Snag, I see the world from an entirely different perspective. The Detail exposed as the bark falls away from hundred year old pine trees is remarkable. This “Driftwood” of the Prairie has been treated to very little water in this almost-desert arid environment.
The perspective here was obvious to me which almost always pushes me toward snags to work wide lenses….Grab that 12 – 24mm or sometimes like this I have a 10mm wide angle full frame lens. I use it when ever I get a chance. It is very wide. The detail of course is the target of my glass.
Perspectives and clear skies seems to go together… Cloudy complex skies detract from the detail up close. I feel that detail is the point of the photo but your opinion may differ lol.
Musing on Fallen Logs on the Prairie:
RegardingFallen logs: “Snags” each has it’s own character and personality I find out. Some are masculine and rugged like this one. Others are more curvy and feminine with a grace that is hard to describe. Orientations change from tree to tree, opportunity emerges as I drive by on the ridge tops. I see the possibilities as I go though sometimes I get on a mission for a particular tree.
The little shelter under this tree has provided an expedient rain shelter. Any shelter in a storm as they say. I find deer beds all around this area as the big tree also provides a windbreak . Such a shelter is a rare thing up in the grasslands. Soon this tree fall will be rife with woodpecker holes before it decays to dust as all things do with time… 🤔
Lone against the elements, unaware of the battle ongoing around it by other plants, this Echinacea hybernates with it’s deep tap root. The winter sealing it off from the stimulus to grow.
A good source of “Anti-oxidants”. There are a few studies showing Echinacea use with a reduction in the likely hood of catching colds . Noted are claims of effects on other viruses. Claims are that it will shorten the duration of a cold 1.5 days. Other say this link is unclear. It is claimed by “test tube studies” to have anti-diabetic properties. Thus lending itself to lowering blood sugar level. This might be of interest to type II diabetics. A good bet is claims of relieving anxiety are whispered in the corridors of Walgreens™ nationwide. The anti-Inflammatory properties might be of interest to you osteo-arthritus practitioners out there. You know who you are 😔👀 They are quite a hardy plant living freely out in the backcountry. Widely distributed here in the high country. Ubiquitous anywhere out of the boundaries of our monoculture yards
Literally the ranch has millions of Echinacea plants. Known as the “Coneflower”, their purple crown of petals is ubiquitous in the region. You might say: they are native/common/widespread “in these parts”. This prolific prairie plant is one of the most used and popular herbs worldwide. It has many medicinal benefits. Roots/ upper parts use in extracts, teas, tinctures or tablets make it to the store shelves. There is a veritable arsenal of active compounds in the plant.
Here I stand in Wyoming and am imaging across the Montana/Wyoming Border looking at the “Mud Hills” about 10 miles distant into Montana. The intervening valley shows the erosive power of little “Ranch Creek”. Ranch creek is about 10 feet wide when its flowing. This drainage removed all that sediment covering the horizon OFF where I’m currently standing exposing the dinosaur fossils in the older rocks. This is the country I call “Wyotana”.
Our Ranch, totally covered by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Formation differs from the distant hills. . I stand on the famous that dinosaur fossil bearing Cretaceous sandstone. . The distant “Mud Hills” are younger rocks with no dinosaur fossils. The sediments composing them were deposited AFTER the dinosaur died. All deposited in the Tertiary after the Big Horn Mountain Uplift to the west.. The Big Horns provided the sediments composing those hills. All the way from the Big Horn Mountains over 140 miles distant to our west. Those alluvial fans totally covered this ranch at one time. All gone now 🤔⚒
During some years past, those alluvial fans have been totally eroded from my place and have left to the Mississippi River Delta. Carried down the drainage one sand grain at a time. Some is still in transport I’m sure. The layovers along a sand grains journey to the sea can be long.
‘ Residual Petrified Wood. We do find occasional chunks of a particular type of petrified wood that is “residual” from rock layers previously above where I stand that have been removed. This wood is not native to the Hell Creek/Lance formation. We find random chunks laying here and there on the surface…. isolated. I have never seen it “in situ” in Cretaceous sands so it came from above literally. This wood is VERY hard like quartz and survives when everything else breaks down into sand grains. That wood falls straight down over geologic time as the rocks below turn to sand and wash away from below them. Thus “Residual” wood, left over from formations no longer above us but we find it here and there. Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana
This is a land of many uses with a long history to tell if you can read the book that is open in front of us.
It’s usually not a discussion IF they (as a group) are going to take off or not, it’s WHEN. Pronghorn are the Fasted Land Animal in North America. Nothing else even comes close. They developed these skills/anatomy as a result of learning to avoid predation. It seems there used to be some pretty fast Lions, tigers and other cats living in these hills. Those predators were obviously prolific during the last Ice Ace and before here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands. The most most recent continental Ice sheet (5 glaciations
in the last 500,000 years) the series of advancing glaciers stopped their advance about 20 miles up into Montana from my perspective here on the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. There were LOTS of critters hanging out below the glaciers. The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. Paleontologist recognize this age as a time of geologically rapid Glaciations followed by warmer periods in between. A vast and diverse “Mega-fauna” was present within those variable ecosystems.
About 11,700 years ago, things started warming up for the 5th time in a half a million years. (Warm periods between the ice sheet advances). The earth’s various climates (the earth has NO climate, it has ALL climates) were “Changing” every 100,000 years or so. The Term “Cycle” is thrown about loosely these days. I use it here in that I’m glad it’s warm because living here with an ice sheet 20 miles to our north….Might have experienced some “Climate Change” back then. Sort of like this winter so far…. (The first 60 degree day this year as I type this narrative).
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).
This 220 pound “King” Corso Mastiff is one of 4 Mastiff’s of 2 different breeds living in our ranch compound with us currently. (Along with my nephews tiny poodle mix lolol). He was walking away from a a cool bath under that spigot after the last run of the day. (I have that bath on another similar image) The cowgirl gave the short haired dogs a few minutes to dry in the summer air and off to bed. Living with mastiffs has it’s big rewards with just a few detractions.
The Drool Thing:
As a rancher wearing ranch cloths, I don’t mind so much the drool issue.. If you’ve never been around Mastiffs that were bred by the Romans for war (not table manners), you haven’t experienced living with a salivating horse before. Generally they are clean enough for dogs but the strings of drool are impressive. I should have waited until after he drank to show the foot long strings that occur after eating or drinking. I bet there are some patentable characteristics for the sticky, stringy properties of Mastiff Drool.
So I’m sitting in my computer chair working while my wife is feeding the mastiffs. (they eat outside but we hand feed them meat rolls about a pound each. ). She let the dogs right in and the first thing the big one does is come over laying his head on my arm. I almost had to take a shower lololol. The command is now, “Wipey Wipe” after feeding BEFORE the dogs come back in. They don’t like their face wiped but they let us do it lol.
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…. 😜⚒⚒
As I travel the backcountry, I see opportunity in common objects. If I had uncommon things (huge mountains, monuments etc), I’d certainly photograph them. Regular Ranch objects are what I’ve got so I will work the common things looking for little areas of zen hidden among the other visual noise. My job is to catch isolated moments in time and space. There were an infinite number of places to observe this twilight, I chose to get down on my knees and look through this window to the twilight. You’ve got to get to where the photos are after all lolol.
Perspectives such as this, require a very close/far focus. That is not an easy task in fairly dark environments such as this. Just before the horizon dropped exposing the sun. It’s civil Twilight still, the sun has not risen yet.. (Astronomic, Nautical and Civil are the three twilights) I consider this a tough photographic environment certainly.
I do like working perspectives in low light. It’s working several problems at once in the cameras Manual mode. Such activities are an exercise in balance of the three major camera settings you have ANY control of. (white balance excluded).
Twilight is by far the best time of the day. Not many are up seeing what is going on most mornings. I’ve seen so many sky shows . Just about every possible situation short of some ultra rare phenomena. I will testify that twilight is the most varied color, capable of the full rainbow of possibilities. Only the bright greens of aurora have I not seen from twilight. Oxygen excited by the sun at 60 -120 miles high is that green. None in basic twilight that I have ever seen. The variety of scenes, the play of low angle light, leads one to take the work if you can get it lolol.
Sunset through a Veiled sky just after the horizons shadow passed over me. The hills behind me are still in daylight. The contrasts are difficult for a camera system to capture. To have detail instead of shadow in this kind of shot speaks to the gear.
It is now mid winter up here on the ridges of Northeastern Wyoming and SouthWestern Montana. In this view west both states are in the distance. That mountain range is 40 miles distant from my camera. From the middle of the corral system next to our homestead looking west. I can’t tell you how many cattle have been through these corrals over the last 100 years. I suspect it is in the 30,000 range or there about.
Our ranch is a small “hobby” ranch versus the big ranches in the 20 Thousand Acres (or more) spread that surround me. Our place is only 3500 acres or 5.5 square miles. It’s enough to keep me busy that’s for sure. Never underestimate the power of a piece of ground to be a black hole for your time and money lol. Even worse, there are dinosaurs in this ground lolol. They take some of my effort from time to time up here too. There are 30 miles of fencing on or around my ground. I’ve spent my share of time building and fixing fences over the years. I have some fence work to do in these corrals at the moment. I had some bulls go through an outer fence behind the gate. Dang!
The Deeply Veiled mid-winter moment presented above was captured walking along high ridges in the backcountry. The Montana/Wyoming borderlands is a target rich environment. Nobody but myself, some wildlife and some cattle pass this way. A rare mounted cowboy or a chaser on an ATV may pass a stones throw away. But to notice the symmetry that nature presents to us is my greatest challenge in my work.
We all walk past little areas in our world that present us all the beauty that we need. It’s easy to see this when you walk upon it. The trick is to determine where to walk ahead of time of course. Seeing this stuff from across the ridge is “anticipating the frame” which I believe is an acquired skill. I hope I get better at it lol. Walking with a gear load post holing snow on even surfaces has benefits. I stay in shape, I get to see magical and miraculous things daily, and I get to explore a world in the borderlands that even after 20 years of educated observations, continues to amaze me.
This is a land of many uses. We ranch, raise fossils, run a national level tactical Rifle Championship, and do some photography from these high ridges now and then. Our Ranch was even highlighted in a nationally 4 Wheel Drive video (2008 Petersons 4 Wheel and Off Road “Ultimate Adventure”) . The photography aspect is certainly pervasive.
So Who out there has seen me on America’s Funniest Home Videos where I won second place with a funny 4 Wheel Drive Video Driven by another local wheeler. ? Flew us out to Hollywood they did, won 2500 bucks… 🙂
The Wyotana area is indeed a nice place to spend a late afternoon with a good camera.
Commonly known as a “Mock Sun” or “Sun Dog, this is a Parhelian or “Mock Sun” It occurs at 22 degrees angle from the sun. There are many manifestations of this. I’ve only seen one better Parhelian off the face of the Jackson Hole Ski area. At the Village in Jackson Hole mid winter back in the 90’s. This capture was a few miles back in the backcountry while I was driving parallel ridges for that mornings sunrise. This images sits on the border between Montana and Wyoming with both states ground and sky in the image. I never know what I’m going to run into when I go out.
Caused by Reflection and Diffraction is the slight bending of light as it passes around the edge of an object. In the atmosphere, diffracted light is actually bent around atmospheric particles – most commonly, the atmospheric particles are tiny water droplets found in clouds. Diffracted light can produce fringes of light, dark, or colored bands. Here Hexagonal plates of ice are falling actively from the sky. You can actually see some of them like white dots on the image. Ice Hexagonal plates Frozen in Space and Time as they fell (literally and figuratively).
It was a cold subzero morning for this sky show. This ice was hazing up the whole sky but I actually drove into this from an area with no falling ice. POP and there was an entire Parhelion right in front of my camera. Slide to a stop, enjoy the view while the camera comes out of sleep, compose, set the final settings, focus and click. The image is about 60 degrees wide overall. Love the Lone tree sun filter.
Moon, This is the Moon. NOT the Sun. Captured from a Truck Window mounted camera up high in the backcountry of MT/WY. I have been able to get around with my “new rig” a little better. This capture on a remote ridge. This was done with a 30 second time exposure to pick up all the ambient light that was about. I could BARELY see this blush on the trees and had to set up my camera to catch this. A little tricky actually but the thought process is straight forward. The moon was heavily veiled for this and that limited me to landscapes instead of moon photos lol. This is the result.
Known as the Snow Moon, named after the snow on the ground. Some North American tribes named it the Hunger Moon due to the scarcity food. Also the hard hunting conditions during mid-winter. Others named it the Storm Moon for the tendency towards brutal February ‘s storms
This was a very very dark capture. A 30 second time exposure requires a very stabile platform like a heavy tripod or a sand bag and a remote trigger. I used a timer. Your first priority is shutter speed, the more the shutter is open, the more light the camera is going to collect. 30 seconds is a long exposure for me.
The Aperture was F-11. To get Deep focal fields, F-11 is low for me. I wanted the Moon lit “Snow Diamonds” to show up in focus. The Snow Diamonds would blur setting a lower F-stop. Any higher F-stop and the image would have been too dark. Focal Length was 48mm.I hate using ISO higher than about 150 but here I used 300. (camera sensitivity.)
Satire: The forest is full of a million moments of time and space. Different moments and different angles each contribute to what a camera can save for our amusement. It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time to see the play go on stage.
Here the moon had found a nice place to catch a comfortable rest before climbing to it’s zenith. Thank heavens this didn’t hold up the moon very long as there are so many things that rely on precise timing of the moon and the tides. 😃 Think of the mess if the moon gets held up.🤔🤔
Back to my normal programming:
Of course there are other phenomena related to the full moon besides photographers making up satire. Emergency rooms get busy on full moon nights. I worked as a medic for 20 years total and I give some credence to that discussion. I’ve seen some crazy stuff on full moon nights. They say that dogs are 28 percent more likely to be taken on an ER vet visit during the full moon. Birth Rates go up (don’t ask me! I learned what caused that crap early on). More Crimes are committed (FBI stats), Amazingly and last in this short list is that during a full moon is a better time to have surgery. The outcome statistically is better during the full moon. I don’t ask why. I just go with the flow….
This U.S. General Land Office Survey Benchmark says 250 dollars for removal. Placed here in the 1914 survey, this marks a 4 section corner very close to the 45th parallel. . These surveyor guys putting these brass markers using mules to haul their bulky plane table and alidade across the 45th parallel. Plus they were carrying a bunch of these heavy markers plus tenting/shelter for this country.. Tough slog to say the least. The 45 degrees north latitude coincidentally is also the Montana/Wyoming border. It’s also 1/2 way precisely between the North Pole and the Equator.
They are kind of a dangerous thing to suddenly find with your ATV or other vehicle if you by chance happen to be chasing a cow through deep grass. This is a big place and these things are about a foot to 18 inches high off the ground. When I find them, they get flagged. . I haven’t taken out a suspension yet with one but I suspect if I do backcountry enough I eventually will. 3500 miles on an ATV in that backcountry in 2018 is a lot of exposure. I found a few of these by seeing them. I do have a “general” idea of when I’m close to one. They really are a potential hazard to an ATV or truck. Remember this is private ranch land. We can/do by necessity chase cattle almost anywhere.
Location: almost literally up on the Border, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana)
A hundred year old settled area (only), Rockypoint Wyoming has a rich history of community surviving in the northeastern corner of Wyoming.
This spot is a good 12 mile drive over good gravel roads from my residence. That takes me about 18 minutes from my driveway if I drive below the speed limit. I have found that I’m a rediculously careful driver. The police driving course I took and subsequent on the street work, watching speeders and turn signal stops all day,. I was also an EMT for 17 years. Saw a lot of the result of bad driving. Sometime Days at a time in a small town in Ohio lol. I digress…
So every time I drive to this intersection, I see an image, and locked up the “antilock” brakes. With less than ideal traction, there was a spasmodic response of deceleration. The truck slowed jerking to a stop. I backed up, rolled the window down to verify what I was seeing. It was pretty cold at the time and setting up a tripod is of course the game.
THe Misty Mountains 40 miles out are the Three Missouri Buttes (center) with the Devil’s Tower to the far left horizon. Mostly hidden in the mists, it rises 1200 feet about the nearby Belle Fourche River (the lowest place in Wyoming where it crosses the border).
Location: Rockpoint Wyoming. Crook County about 7 miles south of the Montana border. (still Wyotana).
There is more science going on here than you might suspect. First of all it’s about 8 minutes after sunset here. I can tell from the blue area under the pink Belt of Venus Alpenglow. The moon sits in the blue. That color is the SHADOW of the horizon. The long traveled red/pink light above the moon is the reflected light from the sun that made it back to my photon capture boxes (camera). The horizons shadow on the atmospheric Ice floating acts like a projection screen for the only color to make it that far. Ligh raveled hundreds of miles through air/dust/moisture/inversion layers bending and filtering out shorter wavelengths by those obstructions.
Long telephoto captures CRUSH perspective. Low light after sunset starting civil twilight is one of my favorite times to practice my long range skills. This was done with a fixed 400mm lens which in an ideal world, should be a standard lens in your “kit”. Most use a 100-400 zoom. Most of those are not particularly fast lenses but they work just fine under all but these conditions lol. Bigger diameter lenses gather more light than smaller diameter lenses.
Normally I would blur the windmill as 99 percent of the time it is moving. Not that it’s windy up here or anything….. IT was indeed dead calm at this moment. Problem though, even if it was moving, a blurred windmill takes a long exposure, the bright full moon takes a shorter exposure. Your only choice is to expose the highlights properly. You can’t cheat on this on in the camera though I could have done it in the digital darkroom (photoshop) easily.
The Big Horn Mountains 60 miles to the west supplied the sediment of this exposed section of Tullock Formation (Fm). Tullock Fm. consists of alluvial fan and swamp deposits all the way back to the mountains. Sediments washing off the newly risen peaks were filling up the coterminously formed sedimentary basin (Powder River Basin). The huge coal mines we have here are mining the coal formed in those swamps at the base of the Proto-BigHorn Mountains. Those mountains were much higher when they were young plus the basin was deeper.
Huge blocks of the earths crust uplifted and correspondingly downwarped during a major tectonic compression episode called the Laramide Orogeny. Cloud peak is 13,175 feet and is visible in this image. The same compressional forces that uplifted the peaks, also downwarped the adjacent basin to the east. This Basin called the Powder River Basin. This basin the major source of coal in the US. The burning of this coal generates 30 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.
My ranch coincidentally sits directly on the western most edge of the Wyoming Black Hills. It is actually JUST east of the edge of the Powder River Basin. If I drive 2 miles west, I start to see alluvial fan sediment. These sediment fans stretch all the way from the Big Horns. Dissected into ridges by huge rivers washing off the peaks during glaciation. . These alluvial deposits are far reaching, called the “Tullock/Fort Union” formation. Major Mountain sized Anticlines and Synclines resulted from the continental wide compression.. Huge were the forces bending even the underlying crystalline Pre-Cambrian rocks. The rocks to clay washing off of those peaks filled the basin and washed just about to my front door.
Understanding the geology here takes many books to read, its a long list and growing 🤔😀📷
Location: near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, WYoming/Montana borderlands
Missouri Buttes Snowy Squalls (I see the Devil’s Tower’s outline on the left but it’s pretty far out in the snow to show up here lol. )
I’m a photorealist who preaches against “blue snow”. I maintain the practice of maintaining a blue snow free zone in my gallery, except when it was really blue. This was blue sky and hills distant but the snow was white.
So much of the deeply blue snow you see in forum photos is bad or excessive color enhancement or improper setting for white balance in that camera. It drives me crazy lolol. I’ve always argued that blue snow doesn’t exist in nature but for a few, very few mornings, early in twilight. This color is as I experienced it. Think about it, have you ever seen electric blue snow?
I do sunrises and sunsets almost every day photographically. This twilight was a rmisty one indeed. This is a view looking to the south east from near the Montana/Wyoming border. This is very far northeastern Wyoming.
Remember that those 4 hills are all related volcanic necks. Being made of hard rock, they stick up above the softer rock the volcanic neck melted through to the surface. Much sediment has been removed around this volcanic pipes now more than a 1000 feet in the air. They used to be miles deep. Everybody known about the Devils Tower but also part of the same “Volcanic neck” complex formed around the same time as the MIssouri Buttes. This is the Non tourist angle from the north east .. Devils tower had more time to cool slowly and the columns formed much better
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands
The Lone Tree sees a sunset and a sunrise each day. Sometimes clouds trap all the light, the actors of the stage show have no spot to perform in. Sometimes dramatic plays happen overhead taking over an hour from start to finish. I have a tough job watching entire sunsets and sunrises as they mutate from second to second. I might take 800 photos of a particular sunrise as this. 3 or 4 images from the twilight will be finished. More images from after sunrise of this morning with different frames were equally as dramatic.
Skies as above are rare but the high ridges I work have their share. Dozens of decades under the trees “belt” , it’s perspective far exceeds our own limited memory of our travels. The complexity of our thought the tree can not conceive, but the perspective it has is beyond our comprehension.
Being a tree it has ultimately a figurative and literal connection to the land lol. I would like to think it is deeper than that. Much more connectivity between living things and the environment than we give them credit for occurs I feel. Even disconnected to nature by nurture human/me, can feel things happening an orderly manner here in the highlands. It’s probably my own psyche settling into the cycles, the yearly natural event of this place in space and time.
A tripod can come in handy in this lower light civil twilight sky. Long exposures are hard to do without them….
Deep Winter up here in the highland ridges of the Wyoming / Montana borderlands is intense. Particularly intense getting up on some of these ridges lolol. We are currently a little low on snow. I’m not going to say something stupid like we need “more snow”. That would be inviting catastrophe lolol. Up here in the hills (versus down in that valley 400 feet lower) is a bit more harsh. I was told when I moved here by the locals that this place was nick named “Little Siberia”.
Siberia eh? While I haven’t found a fossil mammoth on ranch, I did pull a Pleistocene Elk out of the ground. Well the back 1/2 of a 6 foot all at the hip elk with toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the ankle bone etc. All the way to the third vertebra in front of the pelvis. The tail, all the little leg bones were all articulated. It wasn’t in the Hell Creek / Lance formation bedrock but in the relatively loose Pleistocene loess/sands overlaying the Cretaceous bedrock up here. IT was about 10 feet below ground level at it’s location in a deep gully. There are other “more recent” individual bones I’ve found out of the more recent Pleistocene but not many.
The Pleistocene epoch was from 2.6 to about 11,000 years ago when it ended after the last ice age. We were in the Holocene right up until we started making plastics. The first indication of micro-plastics in the geologic records starts the Anthropocene. Epoch. The start of the industrial revolution is technically the start.
This was a photo I took AFTER the main twilight show that morning. The twilight lighting was truely amazing but as soon as the sun cracked the horizon, chapter two of this stage show began. No intermission either !. The red color cast early light was saturating all the white frost and snow surfaces for the next few minutes. Sometimes the same red light that colors the “Belt of Venus” variety of Alpenglow works it way down on the ground. Particularly up on the high ridgelines. Add a little hoar frost, a bit of white ice and you have a perfect reflective surface to light up. Light up just like the Belt of Venus was doing coterminously with this image but over my shoulder. The back sky was all pink down to the ridgelines.
I was driving my new rig for this trip. It truly is a well suited vehicle to do what I’m doing. The 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor is the first new vehicle I’ve purchased since 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Road Warrior) was bought. It is BY FAR the nicest riding, most capable pickup I’ve ever owned. ehicles for 30 years. . I just added a very serious LED light bar for the front which I used in this capture to illuminate these needles from the side. All those layers of colors are the result. I am adding some more light as time goes along here. There are 3 more built in switches for me to add lighting so I’m starting to get very serious about it. 🙂 There are so many uses for a bright light source in the backcountry. Stay tuned 👀😀📷
Out here in the high ridges of the borderlands of Montana / Wyoming there are millions of acres of grasslands. This was a wonderful veiled sky with a diffuse sun and a dense cloud deck above. The combination of the two required a foreground for the image to suit me. Close / Far perspective…
To use a stand of grass to grace a veiled sunset is not a new effort but is always a worthy target. Grass contains such an elegant form. Testures and lines abound. Over the years I have found that “you are where you are during the final minutes of sunset”. My mind wanders to the “filter materials at hand” for this kind of Close / Far perspective. When your in the middle of a square mile of pasture land, you have to act fact with a wonderful sky as behind this shoot and use a seed head.
I am generally soured on using glass filters in front of my cameras while shooting into the sun. I WAY prefer to use “cellulose” filters to reduce the glare from the furnace above. Here I’m letting this stand of grass moderate the amounts of light coming into the camera. Even a few percent help. Any photo is a light balancing act inside the camera. You only have just three settings to play with . I suggest to you that it would be good to learn to use that camera on Manual Mode finally. (If you don’t already know how). I am happy to keep talking about HOW I take my photos for you guys to follow along. Ask if you have a question. 🤔📷
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, 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 December. We had lighter snow then than now. There is 6 inches flat everywhere on the ridgetops at the moment. You have to be very careful going off the ridge tops. The snow that use to cover them has been blown of to the sides. There hasn’t been much drifting yet this winter and I have a new truck now with excellent capabilities so it should be a productive winter up on the ride 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.
I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 50 miles distant/ 50 miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing exactly behind the rain shaft so the bottom of the storm is pretty much backlit as well as your going to see through one. There are just plain intense downpours under these storms sometimes. Depending on how fast they are moving makes you lucky or flooded locally lol. These only rain on a few percent of the ground area up here. Spotty! The ground under them becomes totally soaked if the storm doesn’t move.
We had a summer Mesocyclone years back that sat over us and dumped 4.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Water was sheet washing down the hill behind my home and skirting around the house. Almost nothing got in but that slope was angle deep in sheet wash. I have since re-landscapes using mounds to redirect any potential sheet wash off the long hill to our back. It’s only been a problem once in 20 years.
That was a rough storm. Tragically a local cowboy from a nearby ranch was killed in that storm. A truck full of locals went out to see what the 100 year water dump did, drove to one of their herds to check them, road was fine. Drove back the road had washed out. That cowboy was a passenger in that truck. County Emergency Management called me to close the road off from my side of the washout. The runoff went through a major country road that literal gully washer did. It was a major culvert to replace and a big job. We couldn’t get to the highway from that road for a while.
Working the shadow line of parallel ridges with telephoto lenses has it’s rewards. I find that it’s the simple compositions that carry the most interest as complex misleads the view. Detail yes, but the time and space moment should place you in that continuum in your mind. The human eye might be able to resolve this but only for the briefest of moments. The reflexive look away followed by the ghost of the bright scene on your retina. A quick though of eye damage, you blink and a minute later your vision is back. .
Yucca make for big speed bumps in the backcountry. Some of the clumps can get 2 feet high. In the winter they catch a snow drift behind the clumps big time. It looks like a sand dune field after a good snow and blow in the backcountry where Yucca is about.
I look at a lot of sunsets but seldom do I do much looking at the sun. Without the benefit of a mirrorless camera set up I’d be blind by now. I watch scenes like this develop live on video. The setting changes I make to the camera show up in real time as I spin the adjustment dials. With a mirrorless camera in my hands, I know what the image is going to look like before I click the shutter. Compare to a standard DSLR where you click and then see what you did on the back LCD. Just my 2 cents on that debate.
This Northern (not the Wyoming Pocket) ) Pocket Gopher was on the Montana / Wyoming border. The Northern is considered a Sub-species of the Wyoming Gopher though… Underground mostly, this one was active as I randomly wandered by his ground in the backcountry. I spied the movement. Any hawk worth it’s name would enjoy this though I suspect he blends in pretty well on that sane of the same exact color lolol. I suspect the rock was warm too from the sun that bright early morning. It may well have been warming itself.
His burrow was next to this chunk of Hell Creek Sandstone. I saw him several times getting up on this rock to take a look around. I’m thinking it was pretty bright for him. It took a bit to get into position for this one. He didn’t like me at first but after about 15 minutes he was back at it again. This was not an easy one to compose lolol. He was king of the hill as far as he was concerned. Understanding your position in the world is an important perspective to gain lololol. 😜📸
Of course this is posted a bit out of season. I’m pretty sure this guy is sleeping here in mid-winter as I post this. He’s in a burrow under the backcountry snow at the moment. Filled his burrow with seeds and other stores. You have to admire an advance planner that stores food for the lean future. IT’s a good survival strategy.
The wonderful scene is another one of my game trail camera amazing captures as the Dragonflies Hunt Mosquitos overhead. This fawn down in the wetlands was in the high grass on the muddy lake edge.. The automatic camera captured it dead center of the frame. Game Trail Cameras us Infra-red motion detection to trigger the shutter and like any automatic camera, will snap what is in front of them. Depending on the lighting, Game Trail Cameras can even take a good photo now and then. This is an amazing shot from one of the cantankerous things.
As I’ve said a few times before, each and every one has problems but this one is a pretty good capture. It took virtually no work to fix the built in image issues of the Game Trail camera. I get captures like this because 1: I run a lot of cameras with 29 currently in the network. 2: I place them in unusual places with viewpoints that are not just on a post at animal neck level. I often put cameras very low looking up or in places like this where it’s obvious by the trails that game frequents the area. Setting a camera up too high would resultsin the capture getting the tip of it’s ears. Properly setting it low in the spring just about promised me it would catch a fawn.
One of the few things you have control of with Game Trail Cameras is where you put them. I could write a chapter on placing game trail cameras.
MONDAY MOONDAY : All moons all day….moon image number 5 (of 6) for the day 6pm edition..
Backcountry Moon Cradle:
I find that the moon is a lazy celestial object. Always sitting down on the job. Here I caught the sneaky planetoid JUST lifting off the “snag” cradle it was sitting on. Who knows how long it was sitting there. I mean it only moved after I pointed a camera at it… I catch the old guy resting on unusual things all the time walking parallel Ridges on the shadow line.
Missed are a million moments in time depending on the angle you find yourself observing a particular scene at. Every different angle will give you an entirely different viewpoint. I’m always looking at angles and what I have to do to achieve the perspective I’m looking for. The ability to anticipate the way things WILL happen and being there with a camera in your hand is about 100 percent of the photography game. The rest of getting the photo is reliant of your positioning before that time/space moment. My biggest limiting factor besides gravity is topography. Can’t stand with no ground under.
As this moon is rising, I have to walk closer to the hill to keep the perspective. If I move forward about 20 feet, you can’t see the log / snag. Also If I move up 20 feet I’m suspended in mid air levitating above a 20 foot deep gully next to the path. The ground I am actually standing on lol. I wonder how many photographers have walked a little more back, a little more, and more. Only to find out that there wasn’t any ground there.
MOON MONDAY 3PM offer… Moon photos all day today. This is number 4.
These two jokers were hanging out where I was driving just as the moon Full December moon was setting. The pink”Belt of Venus” was pervasive in the back show that morning. Alpenglow like the Belt of Venus is a result of LOT of atmospheric ice. The pink is the light that made it over the horizon, the blue like under it is the shadow of the eastern horizon on the western atmospheric ice screen. There are not many days of the month you can catch this and then the sky has to be clear enough to see the moon down that low to the horizon. As the western horizon moves upwards, the blue will disappear along with the full moon setting in due time.
Yet another low light (civil twilight) Close / Far perspective out of a 23-135 Sony G series lens. Some lenses do this kind of thing better than others but a medium zoom of about 70mm was my pick here. High F-stop for deep focal depth of field. Camera sensitivity and speed you set to light conditions with ideally lower iso and faster shutter if you can get away with it. Riding the razor blade of light balance. F stop is your priority here unless the horses are moving. If they are moving your going to have to make your shutter speed faster and turn up your camera sensitivity to compensate for the less light due to a faster speed/shorter exposure. It’s always those three settings working your camera in manual mode. Your camera on automatic is not going to take this image.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)