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Blue Heron Launch

Blue Heron Launch
Blue Heron Launch

Blue Heron Launch

IT was very late Golden Hour Lighting and the sun was settling into a cloud deck. (thus the red colorcast… natural). I had been watching this 5x5x5 bird (5 pound, 5 foot tall bird with a 5 foot wingspan) for 15 minutes. Sitting across a pond literally on the Montana / Wyoming border, he is 50 feet up a mature CottonWood Tree. The Pond is artesian and never dries up. The birds commonly seen in marshlands in the south, are rare sightings in this backcountry setting. There is a Heron rookery on ranch so I see them more than most. This photosession was just 9 days ago as this posts.

The cottonwoods are leafing out. I could only see 1 nest in the tree line where 6 were visible a week ago. I’m worried about the huge wind storm that blew through a few days before this. I’m guessing 80 mph gusts took a few nests out. Hopefully others are just obscured by the leaves of the trees. I looked very carefully to sky other nests but could only make out one. There was a Red Tail Hawk Nest not far down the tree line that I also could not locate in the 15 minutes I was watching this timeline unfold.

Catching a bird of any size at take off is a matter of reading it’s body language. Birds OFTEN poop just before they go errrr launch (no pun intended). Then there is that Squat 200 microseconds before the feet leave the perch. Timing and anticipatory focus. I’m thinking the focal field is 2 feet deep here… maybe 3… Focus a few feet in front of where he is standing…

I left after this fellow flew the coop as the sun was going down and I was a way out in the backcountry. A few miles to go over grass fields in the dark is tricky sometimes…. .

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Blue Heron Launch

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Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud
Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

I was watching this monster come in. It was coming right at us. Everybody on ranch had their car under that big white roof a mile distant from my camera. That roof is the size of a regulation foot ball field in it’s entirety. Built in 1964, it was the largest building in Campbell County Wyoming. It’s a pretty tough heavy metal framed building. That roof replaced in 2008. After a hail storm threw baseball sized ice chunks at us. That along with all the other roof tin on the ranch. Definition of “Big pile” of dented metal left over after that repair. I’m still using it for various projects.

I seriously respect hail in this country having seen it crash through car windows many times. I also respect the down drafts from big storms that have shelf clouds stretching 130+ degrees across the horizon. Taken with the widest lens in my tool kit. It’s not a panorama but a 10mm lens. Looking south west (right frame) and east left frame. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in with the gear I had. I don’t have a lens wider than 10mm for full frame Sony cameras. No one makes one.

I thought this storm might produce the golf ball sized hail it was known for from radio warnings. That missed us as it passed fortunately. Rapidly moving, it produced .3 tenths of an inch of sideways rain and 60+ mph winds but from where I stand, they were way higher say near 80. I had a calf shed cartwheel over a fence, a window blew in, two empty 500 gasoline tanks/ stands blew over. Found some things moved “quite a ways” here and there by the blow. I made it into that big shed before it hit but that is where I weathered the storm too lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Sinuous Shelf Cloud

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Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus
Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

Driving under rapidly growing spring Mesocyclones is always an interesting time. This magnificent display of Mammatus billows coming out of the flow bands in this huge storm transcends normalcy. Though admittedly this still growing sporty “little” mesocyclone is a small one based on local standards of 100 miles across for big ones. It’ve seen them spanning the 3 states of Wyoming / Montana / South Dakota from my high ridges. It’s right at 90 miles to South Dakota east of my door step.

Monsters each and every one of these storms. They do spawn tornadic activity. I’ve only photographed one funnel up in this country over 20 years. They do occur in the county I live in. Straight line winds are aggressive at times. The average counties up here are bigger than a couple of US states. We are on the high plains weather wise… We only get one or two tornados a year within 150 miles of here as a general observation. You don’t want to be right under a mesocyclone that isn’t moving very fast because your gonna get wet there…

Big Spinning Mesocyclones are absolutely amazing storms to observe on the sunlit side. I’ve been known to follow but storm chasing is not my tendency. I’m usually running from them more than driving toward them.😜 I deeply respect hail in this country very much. We had base ball sized (3) inch hail hit the homestead in 2008. That left a few marks… Had to replace 44000 square feet of metal roof on the combined buildings here on ranch. I’m still using pieces of that old roofing for misc. projects. Works great for raised bed gardens.

This is a VERY wide image of 130 degrees or so with the top of the frame being straight up overhead. Mitten Butte in the distance center is the 300 foot tall monadnock for scale.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Under the Mesocyclone Mammatus

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Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming
Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

This shelf cloud from a good sized mesocyclone moving through May 2020. I’m happy to say I only had one small formerly nice calf shed cartwheeled over a fence. As well as two empty standing gasoline tanks/stands blown over from this one. They have been standing for decades. Any hail missed us. I was however, pelted by horizontal rocks and gravel. Carried by the wind gust coming up the hill over the gravel road lower left frame. Looked like a sand storm coming at me.

I’m estimating conservatively it was a 60 mph direct down draft but it was probably 80 mph. My recording wind gauge is currently down waiting for a replacement moment as the winds here wear out the 120 dollar devices every 4 or 5 years. They are actually incoming next week so that will be fixed. I have recorded a 79mph wind on the ranch historically.

I’ve been an observer of weather for some time. The winds usually affiliated with this type of Arcus cloud CAN be pretty severe. I snapped this image along with a few more. Thought the better part of valor was to avoid the worst of it. “Clever Girl” is only 5 months old and has no hail dents yet. I heard golf ball sized hail in this…. didn’t get it. Only .3 inch of rain but we’ll take what we get.

I thought it was pretty nifty this shelf has 3 horizontal rings looping around rotation clearly visible in this capture. The lightning bolt was a rare one in this storm as it really didn’t light up too much. There were some dangerous bolts. When my truck started getting seriously buffeted, I headed for the barn under that big white roof. I left that building’s white roof in the frame for a reason. It is a good scale. That is 1/2 of the roof of a building which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field. I’m almost a mile and 200 feet above that building at the click.

Sporty Storm 📸 3’x2′ Image aspect

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Incoming

Shelf Cloud Incoming

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Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm
Spotlight on the Storm

Spotlight on the Storm

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch,Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spotlight on the Storm

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Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus
Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

Taken 10 days before it posts mid-may 2020. This is how long it takes me to get a “current” photo in to be published. That is if I bring it to the front of the line. I have to admit I have a bias for big Mammatus. (👀). When I say big you have to realize this storm is about 10 miles long. Admittedly this is a tiny storm for this country that occasionally has 100 mile across mesocyclones develop from these smaller storms. The shelf cloud off to the right was awesome in this storm.

This was one of a series of storms moving south to north along a line that evening. They all were just east of me along Parks/Garst Road up here in Wyotana. The little rainbow as you follow the red gravel road as it curves to the right, was a nice touch from the storm. Lightning? Not so much. The big views we have up on the high ridges gives up 50 to 180 mile long vistas to photograph and observe weather occurring from a distance. I followed this and it’s sister storms moving along the frontal boundary moving through our area. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of this barking dog.

As I type this, the wind blew well over 60 mph last night. Rained sideways for 20 minutes. It said .3 inch but this is suspect lol. I was up photographing the storm come up but got back to shelter before that one came through. I have yet to download the images from that event.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunlit Side Mesocyclone Mammatus

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Dandi Sunset Silhouette

Dandi Sunset Silhouette
Dandi Sunset Silhouette

Dandi Sunset Silhouette

A Dandilion Sun filter. I use “Cellulose” filters where ever possible to moderate the glare from that ball of fire up there. Sometimes what ever is handy… in this case :). I find you are where you are with only the gear you are carrying at the time. Noted is a spring bloom of the invasive plant in the backcountry. I find isolated patches here and there anyway. Fortunately, just about every part of the plant is edible and another food source.

Photographic Musings:

I have a very limited amount of time to shoot sunsets. Depending on the sky, I choose what camera/lens combination I’m going to grab to “work” the scene unfolding in front of my eyes. A Veiled Sky Sunset is an indication ahead of time to set up a “Close / Far perspective image. I only had a 400mm lens for a “macro”. Closest focus for this lens is about 4 feet away. I’ve certainly taken this shot before and will again. It’s a right of passage for the “Close / Far” perspective students to get this one. 

Figuring it out is not rocket science but you do need to be in manual mode. I’ve heard from some that manual mode is scary and difficult. Wouldn’t know as I’ve never operated any of my current crop of cameras on any other mode. I don’t have a clue how to work them on automatic….

I would way prefer a 90mm (ish) macro lens though. The long macros work well for close ups of dragonflies on the wing … Most telephotos will take macroshots, the question is how far away do you need to be…. 😜📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Dandi Sunset Silhouette

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Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit
Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

Taken after sunset, the LOW angle long wavelength sunlight is still reaching the curved boundary under that reflective bumpy “projector screen”. The landscape is in total shadow from a storm low on the horizon over my shoulder at sunset. This storm is around 100 mile across and called a “Mesocylone”. I’m parked under the huge trailing apron of it. While not terribly common, Mammatus clouds are often very dramatic particularly with just the right light…📷 An affiliation with storms that produce extreme weather has been noted over the years. Hail isn’t usually far away with these olympic athletes of cloud types.

This one easily spans 3 states in my part Wyoming/Montana with South Dakota about 80 miles east. We are not sure exactly what is going on in this kind of cloud morphology. I will tell you that cloud boundaries form where two different air masses meet. Like oil floating in water, the density interface gets all visually 3D on us. Localized micro currents of flow scours into the air mass below like ripples in water. I think the the boys at “Skunk Works” would call it turbulence. Most planes divert around these atom bomb energy storms for good reason. You don’t want to fly through one for sure.

The water and air interface is one where two states of matter mix. The relative density differing the two substances create that obvious boundary. Gravity is doing the sorting. Cloud/clear air boundaries are not that different. Ripples and moving air channels / flow channels both vertical and horizontal within these Mesocyclones are chaotically complex apparently lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Mammatus Cloud Under Lit

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Two Trees Trapping the Sun

Two Trees Trapping the Sun
Two Trees Trapping the Sun

Two Trees Trapping the Sun

When ever I point a really long lens directly into the sun, I’m going to get either Burnt Umber or Crimson colors. The latter was gifted to me here. You have to realize that no one knows what this would look like because you would be blinded to stare into such a scene. Using a 28 inch long lens to crush the perspective of about a mile distance from the tree pair. Shutting the camera down to light leads to all sorts of interesting effects. (mostly diffractions).

Obviously those two trees (Ents) were up to no good. Catching the sun like that trying to keep it all to themselves. Fortunately the sun had the state of mind to sneak out the back and disappear behind the ridge. The two didn’t have a clue how it got away but no matter how many times they try this, it never seems to slow down the sun very much. IT still rises more or less on time every day. Imagine if a whole forest did this at one time… think it might slow it down?

I work in a wondrous world of parallel ridges that when very mobile, allows me to find events like this to point my camera toward. By being able to move up and down topography quickly extends my ability to find such scenes. It is a truism that topography is my master. 10 feet lower, and the sun would be below the horizon, 20 feet higher and it wouldn’t be in the trees but above. Location, Location, Location…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Two Trees Trapping the Sun

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Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Tree Growing Out of a Boulder
Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

Trees growing out of boulders are always a photographic target . Particularly with a LOT trees growing out of boulders. On the crest of this backcountry ridge, is a hard cap rock that has resisted erosion thusly protecting the rocks below.

This is ALL Hell Creek Sandstone. Differential erosion leaves these relatively harder boulders for me to enjoy. They are 66 million years old and that lichen can be 100 years or more old. Only rocks that are undisturbed have big lichen patches. Cattle pressure/wear from rubbing will destroy it. There are big areas of this boulder strewn surface covered with Sunburst Liichen (Xanthoria sp.), sometimes called pincushion lichen.

Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different species of Lichen that inhabit Wyoming and differentiating them exactly is sort of a science all by itself. Lichenologists have to have work of some kind. Academia is the obvious job path. I suspect that there is a use for court testimony however the job prospects of a Lichenologist is about the same as a masters in biostratigraphy such as myself. Though interestingly, biostratigraphers do a lot of work with oil companies .. My general comment about Lichen nomenclature is that you need a bachelors of science in Biology (which I have) to look at the photos or read the text. The text about the lichen is a foreign language.😀😀. I digress,

Enjoying a veiled sunset while walking around with several cameras in the remote backcountry is similar to a shooting gallery with a .22 but without the report or an occasional zinnnng…. . Lots of good stuff to shoot at. Just a click versus bang. BTW, I do carry a firearm in the backcountry. add a few more pounds. You never know exactly what your going to run into. A 10mm 1911 pistol with a 5 inch barrel is good for 300 yards… (work on that one for a while). This was taken this fall and it was pretty chilly.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Tree Growing Out of a Boulder

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Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

Twilight Under A Mesocyclone
Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

Both states in this VERY wide image. This is what I call a “fully involved” sky. This is the back edge of a HUGE Mesocyclone Spinning above. It is easily over a 100 mile diameter storm.

While Montana Claims the “Big Sky” moniker, Wyoming certainly shares it. Our ranch is in both states and MOST of my images have both states well represented in the capture. I’m one of the few photographers that can legitimately post an image in both states Facebook forums lolol.

This might be acalled a sunset” but in fact it is now in Civil Twilight. A full 4 minutes after the sun actually set. I consider this a night sky but others disagree.

Twilight is my favorite time of the day. I photographically work almost every morning but clear sky cloudless mornings. There are SOOOO many cloudless gradient twilight images in my portfolio. Certainly I don’t need many more.

Going out in the twilight before sunrise into the backcountry is alway interesting. I often run into still bedded deer, most of which don’t care that I’m driving by, stop, take a photo and move on… I get some of my best wildlife photography done coming back from working morning twilights. I’ve done this many hundreds of times. Over a career if you pay your dues, you get lucky with random encounters starting to add up. You need to have the right gear and ability to work in morning golden hour light. Twilight low light is a whole different group of settings lolol. The transition from twilight to sunlight or in reverse is rapid.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Twilight Under A Mesocyclone

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Fully Involved Spring Sky

Fully Involved Spring Sky
Fully Involved Spring Sky

Fully Involved Spring Sky

The sun had JUST set and I had traveled about 5 miles south of my homestead to catch this. If I hadn’t adjusted my position, The whole show would have been hidden by the storm. In a reversal of roles, I became a storm “evader” instead of a storm “chaser”. 😜

We have had a good series of spring storms move through over the last week and I have been working them. I spent about 3 hours out in the backcountry yesterday. Most of that time was spent waiting for a particular storm event to occur. Once I have made it up to the ridge tops, I hate to loose my position so high up and head back to the house. As long as I don’t get poured on the two track roads are usually in good enough shape to head back and forth.. I have found out after many decades of 4×4 wheeling off road, that anybody can fall DOWN a hill. Most are not as talented progressing up a hill… Going up a wet/muddy hill is usually a recipe for redesigning landscape in the backcountry. I don’t see much point in that for the long term. Tearing up trails is generally not one of my favorite activities.. 👀🌲🌲🤘

At any rate, this was obviously worth traveling for in my mind. Skies totally lit as this are always worthy of my time in my humble opinion. Hopefully it was worth your’s.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Fully Involved Spring Sky

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Antique Plows View of Sunset

Antique Plows View of Sunset
Antique Plows View of Sunset

Antique Plows View of Sunset

Sunset of an Old Wheel which will slowly turn to rust.

Slower than wood which will quickly turn into dust.

But not as fast as the all of the rest of us.

Surely turns the wheel of life I trust.

(Frank Bliss 2019).

Snowy landscapes with patchy cloudy sky…MADE for perspectives. Instantly a 12-24mm comes out and I’m considering low angle deep focus shots into a bright sun. The bright sun allows you to turn up your f-stop to a high number which gives you deep focus and cuts down some of the bright light from the sun. It also gives you that nice star around the sun. Those are diffraction artifacts in the photo, attractive as they are. If you had used a lower f-stop and a faster shutter speed to balance, you would have a smaller/less noticable star diffraction. You’d also have the foreground out of focus.

So the photo lesson: if you remember nothing else. f-stop high numbers = Long/deep layer of things that are in focus. All at the cost of a lot of light. I had plenty to spare of with this sun looking at me. High f = less light going into the camera but long focus.

This is an antique Plow. Abandoned in the backcountry probably as far back as the 1920’s. A horse team pulled plow, never saw more than a few horsepower. The work, the sweat, the toil behind this plow was incredible. Used turning over centuries old sod. All to make room for hybrid grass . Those same grasses are thriving in the same fields they were planted in . Those were the “hay” days of turning sage brush into hay fields .

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands..

Title: Antique Plows View of Sunset

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Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset
Muted Layers of Sunset

Muted Layers of Sunset

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?

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Muted Layers of Sunset

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SunDog High Plains Sunset

SunDog High Plains Sunset
SunDog High Plains Sunset

SunDog High Plains Sunset

Some of the last snow from the winter of 2020 in mid-April. We are snow free as I post this two weeks later on March 8th, 2020. 

I was driving the high ridge (Ridge1) heading back to my homestead. I had been driving parallel ridges watching this wonderful veiled sunset. As I crested the hill, I saw this scene…. stopped…. Click…. got it… then moving on to the next spot…

Two ways these form:. 1: light passing through suspended atmospheric plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. 2: Alternately, refraction from light passing through freezing moist air at medium levels in clouds. Those “mock suns’ are may form at anytime of year but obviously the cold months are best. The colors usually go from red closest to the sun outward with the standard rainbow sequence. This was pretty bright. 

A tad of Photographic musing: 

Priority (working on Manual) Your lenses will differ…. . Use High F-stop as your priority. That’s a deep focal field your seeing. (high f stop numbers mean a deep field of focus for you to use but at the cost of a lot less light going into the camera). Your only able to gather light through the now pin hole in the lens’s aperture). But all this lets you get the detail in the grass in the front AND have the sky in focus. Google f-stop and learn what it means. Focusing up close AND far with a removable lens camera takes higher F-stop. 

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: SunDog High Plains Sunset

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Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus Reflections of the Storm
Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

Mammatus clouds tend to indicate that there’s a thunderstorm about. Certainly linked with heavy precipitation some where, mammatus are very impressive at times… Particularly when back lit by the sunset (slit) over my shoulder. That precipitation doesn’t always make it down to the surface before evaporating or sublimating. (Virga). Other times it dumps several inches…

The difficulty of getting enough warm air aloft means that a thunderstorm has to be rather strong before it can form huge mammatus. Often read as a harbinger of strong oncoming storms. I find they are usually a sign of one that has just passed. Aviators taught cumulonimbus cloud avoidance live longer. Particularly with Mammatus about. Notoriously, associated with severe weather, mammatus certainly mark turbulance.

While they look impressive, they have very little impact on life at the surface in my travels. . Mammatus are merely the messengers of their bigger, tougher clouds about the area. Having one pass over RIGHT as the sun passed under the cloud deck to the west

As mammatus clouds don’t usually do damage tohumans directly. They can occur around a very hazardous environment however. Scientists really don’t know much about them. While they’re not that uncommon, it’s difficult to get scientific data back about exactly what’s going on under the thunderstorm’s anvil. They certainly reflect a density change between the air below and the cloud itself. Puffy surfaces like that would indicate micro circular flow environment of trought troughs. It’s a 3D thing going on up there. Very complex as I visualize what is ongoing under there.

Meanwhile, their striking appearance and relative rarity make them good targets for conspiracy theorists. Some believe that they’re the result of weather modification programs. As most conspiracy theories, they don’t hold much water…. or maybe there is some “water” up there lolol I consider this one of the best capture of the species of cloud that I have done to date. Next summer is a whole new set of sky shows.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mammatus Reflections of the Storm

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Cellulose Filters the Sunset

Cellulose Filters the Sunset
Cellulose Filters the Sunset

Cellulose Filters the Sunset

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 cellulose frame moderate the amounts of light coming into the camera. Any photo is a balancing act inside the camera of just three settings. This is not going to happen in any camera in manual mode. To work this kind of image, it would be necessary to learn to use that camera on Manual Mode finally. I am happy to keep talking about HOW I take my photos for you guys to follow along.

I find that pointing cameras into the sun gives me several different color casts from burnt Umber to Crimson (like this one). What I was hunting for here was the Edge Reflections from the grass around the suns periphery. The hightlight are awesome to me in this very intense camera environment. Working outside the envelope is always my goal unless there is something really cool in the envelope. .😜

Disclaimer. I only use Mirrorless cameras where I look at what I point my camera at through VIDEO. A standard DSLR camera I will never use or buy again. There is a BIG difference between the two technologies. A very good Pandemic feel good present for any photo bug out there is a new mirrorless body to fit their old lenses. They are easier to learn on no question over a DSLR camera. I buy camera backs as disposables but lenses last for generations. Looking at the sun directly through a standard DSLR camera can and likely will blind you. If it doesn’t do that, it could burn a hole in your cameras digital chip. If your camera isn’t rated for this, don’t do it. Be safe out there. Pointing at the sun with a telephoto is OUTSIDE the safe envelope for most cameras.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Cellulose Filters the Sunset

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Forest Fire Smokey Skies

Forest Fire Smokey Skies
Forest Fire Smokey Skies

Forest Fire Smokey Skies

With forest fires way to our west this last summer, some of the sunsets were seriously moderated by the smoke. Any particulates in the atmosphere will act as a defacto filter that reduces overall light along with a color filter. Low in the atmosphere, all colors but the red were effectively prevented from making it to my camera by the hundreds of miles of atmosphere. Normally Yellow light would be a component of the lowest sun but not under these extreme conditions. Up higher in the sky the RELATIVELY unfiltered light was blue (ish). The smoke effecting the sky show from top to bottom. I’m not looking forward to fire season this year. It has been very dry so far heading into early summer shortly.

In all fairness, last summer was a better fire year “up here” though some local smaller fires broke out. We were wet all summer thank heavens. Unfortunately, places like California Burned but we were mostly out of the serious smoke from those events. I’ve seen HORRIBLE air quality here from forest fires west of us . We’ve had days where it was just plain unhealthy to go outside.

The only good part about the big unchecked fires brought on by mismanagement of the forest litter, is the wonderful photographs they bring on downrange of the fires. Having fought a few fires over the years, I will tell you they are terrifying. If you’ve ever seen a 200 year old 50 foot tall pine torch and was fighting that fire anyway, you might be my friend.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Forest Fire Smokey Skies

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Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

Visual Tunnel Forest Frame
Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

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…

Musings:

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.📸

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Visual Tunnel Forest Frame

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Sunrise Through A Veil

Sunrise Through A Veil
Sunrise Through A Veil

Sunrise Through A Veil

As I’m driving along the slope of a ridge roughly parallel to these married trees, I see many opportunities. Frames work by me rapidly but obviously as I travel. I usually have to keep about 1/2 an eye on the terrain as there is nothing like a deep game trail that will ruin your focus. I’ve had them bounce cameras around more than a few times. As I work the opposite slope of this valley, I have chance after chance of just this kind of “Japanese” image from the hills of Wyotana. Veiled suns are always worth of pursuing photographically in my experience. Particularly if you can get a “Close / Far Perspective working. Distance from those trees is your friend 👀📷

Realize of course that I would be blind looking very much into the brightness of such a vista. At this point in the sunsets timeline, the light is waning with a decided chill to the air. The warmth rises and the cold fingers of air from above run down into the valleys. Markedly cooler temperatures as the light gives way to the dark. 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. 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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sunrise Through A Veil

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Watching Natures Cathedral

Watching Natures Cathedral
Watching Natures Cathedral

Watching Natures Cathedral

I call this kind of sunset with divergent crepuscular rays a “Crown Sky”. The rays reminding me of a royal crown but it is also suggestive of a massive cathedral with a starburst at the focal point. I really don’t see too many of these. Considering the nature the particular environmental conditions necessary to create this.

OK here’s how it work. The light from the sun is passing under the lowest cloud bank just on top of the white disk. That light is stopped by the shape of the puffy bottom of the cloud surface. This creates shadows on the clouds/ice toward the camera. The “Rays’ you are seeing are the opposite of the shadow lineson the foreground of the effect. The lit up parts of the rays are illuminated by the light passing under that lower cloud bank. So that clouds bumpy surface profile is reflecting off the cloud deck. As a final “nice tough” here of course also has to be some falling ice crystals (hexagonal plates falling oriented like parachutes) to light up to really make it pop like this. So several things have to be happening at just the right time for this phenomena to occur.

I’ve seen these rays pointing upward like this capture as well as in a down facing divergent crown. I watch a lot of sunset/sunrises and I’d say these occur at a 1 in 500 rate or so. I have a handful of Crown Sky Captures over my travels.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Watching Natures Cathedral

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Sunset Through a Snowstorm

Sunset Through a Snowstorm
Sunset Through a Snowstorm

Sunset Through a Snowstorm

Snowy days on the high ridges of the WY/MT border lands are rarer in the spring than mid winter. We do get some interesting snow squalls and falls during the spring. Winter storms in the spring impact right during calving season here in cattle country. This can be less than convenient to the rancher with new born calves falling out into snow covered frozen ground.

Your all mostly aware I have this photobombing windmill that gets into my landscapes now and then. Just ignore him. He’s handy for scale here though I must admit. The snow was obscuring most of the horizon coming down in shafts of different opacities. Overall it was an amazing sky but it was not very long lived with the sun setting within the minute. Without the direct flashlight beam, the sky shows intensity fell drastically over time with the set. It was very dark when I took this shot with just the yellow rays of the sun making it through the atmospheric gauntlet.

As I type this, a spring storm dumped about 5 inches on us last night. We needed the moisture badly as it has been a dry winter and particularly a dry spring. Receiving only 14 inches of water a year in this high almost desert land, we appreciate most precipitation event and await them eagerly. I seldom complain about rain or snow…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, both sides of the Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunset Through a Snowstorm

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Blue Heron Sunset

Blue Heron Sunset
Blue Heron Sunset

Blue Heron Sunset

The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of their nesting season on Ranch. I have only seen 4 Herons so far but it’s early. We expect 5+ inchesnow/single digits over the weekend (a week ago as this posts). The Ranch has “left the light on” for others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 6 nests in the trees across the lake from my camera where this mated pair is building a nest. The third is probably waiting for a mate that is out hunting.

The group obviously weren’t worried about my truck as the three were mostly motionless for 20 minutes all through my maneuvering. Left them still standing like this as I backed up to leave. I drove away as the sun disappeared. It seems they just don’t care about my Black Ford Raptor. I have not been much of a concern to these birds. Many local wildlife are already familiar/tolerant to my 3 month old rig. Many see it at least 2 times a day on average.

Natural behavior occurs while I’m in this rig. I just drive around like I’m a grazing animal. Stop, Start, turn, sit a minute. The truck is all black and only a little smelly/noisy. Just like a Black Angus cow :). Going really Slow in a factory “Baja truck”…. only in America.. 😜🤘📸

Photographic Musings:

I approach groups of animals living here on the huge grasslands with respect. If I scare them, I don’t get to photograph them. Of course most wild animals sense your approach early. At my crossing some pre-determined line in the sand, most bolt. Learning where that line in the sand is becomes pertinent towards the pursuit of the image.

I find stopping well back, take a few photos, figure out the light, get your settings up for a quick exit shot, then move. I usually readjust my settings for quality, get the composition set and click. Then go back to settings for speed (faster shutter, more ISO and or bigger aperture/fstop.). Move closer….rinse and repeat until you get the shot. (you might think this is “tough” light to work…. You would be right).

Most of the time with really long fixed (non-zoomable) lenses, I fill the frame, get the shot and leave without causing the animals to move. (Pronghorn excepted since they move regardless). 😜

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Blue Heron Sunset

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Channeling Japan in Wyoming

Channeling Japan in Wyoming
Channeling Japan in Wyoming

Channeling Japan in Wyoming

Lone Trees and Large Suns are in an of themselves, each worth of pursuing with a long lens. (1200mm). 300 yards out,. With the dramatic veiled sun and clouds in front, I was able to pull a Japanese scene out of this light.

This Isolated Lone Tree actually has a fossil site at it’s base that I’ve not collected much. I just walk around the surface there and I have not dug. I even left a caudal (tail) vertebra under a boulder there so there is always a fossil to find there. If you were astute looking around you might see large chunky bone fragments coming out of the sandstone in a small outcrop under the ledge to the right of the tree. I keep this place native for the rare person(s) I would take to this place. One of my 4 rifle courses for the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship surrounds this hill top.

I have a theory that is certainly just anecdotal. I believe that the soil types derived from the underlying sediment from fossil sites is easier for this species of pine tree to grow in than surrounding soils. MANY of the small fossil sites in this Cretaceous Sandstone Country have either a big majestic Snag laying around or a tree growing just above the fossil site. It is a “working” theory in the jargon of science in that I’m always trying to observe subtle nuances

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Channeling Japan in Wyoming

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Who Owns the Nest

Who Owns the Nest
Who Owns the Nest

Who Owns the Nest

There are two bird silhouettes in this image. I watched this little melodrama unfold through my camera lens from about 100 yards out. The Raptor on the left.. (I’m thinking a Red Tailed Hawk. Interested in staying overnight there it was. It’s a big comfy Heron nest . 50 feet up the fully mature Cottonwoods with a wonderful sunset going on below this frame off on the horizon. This was happening real time though. Here’s how it went.

The Raptor had spied this nest. He obviously had designs on the roomy spread. I don’t know how long Great Blue Herons have nested in this spot. So things got really sporty between these two with the Raptor heading out for the clouds beyond. I’m pretty sure that nest has been there a LONG time. Wood really decays slowly out here. I would not be surprised if it were 30 years old. It has been there since I moved onto this ranch in 2000. There have been birds nesting in it every year I’ve been here along with the other 5 nests. They have the best position on the tree line.. I’ve seen hawks nest down this line of trees. Smaller Raptor nests are pretty hard to find camo’d in the trees.

I would indicate that that Herons beak could pierce the raptor to the heart. If I were a hake, I would not want to fight a Great Blue Heron. Roughly 5 pounds at 5 feet tall and very capable of eating about anything silly enough to stay in front of it. These guys are basically dinosaurs in the mind of this Paleontologist. They just lack a tail and teeth. Everything else is pretty much there. All the Dinosaurs didn’t die off at the end of the Cretaceous. Some of them, the Avian Dinosaurs lived on. Flying around us today they are. 🤔👀⚒📸

Location :Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Who Owns the Nest

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Reflections Melt Water

Reflections Melt Water
Reflections Melt Water

Reflections Melt Water

A little wind that night but it was spotty. The sky show was muted at first.

This capture was well worth of hazardous pay. The particular camera rig I use for this kind of work is about a 5500 dollar outfit. (lens and camera body). When you literally touch the water with the camera, there is this reflexive pucker of certain gastro-intestinal muscles that occurs. I instinctively pull back from such threats to beloved gear. I had Goretex™ lined boots on as I did wade in a bit for this. Never got wet feet though. I’m not sure when putting electronic gear this close to destruction bothers me but it does lolol. 🤔📸

The sky this night actually went full involvement with this sun a little later on in the time line and those images will be posted as I finish them. I actually spent a lot of time with a nearby herd of buck deer all but one sans antlers (a stag) this night.. I left here shortly after this. Worked them for 10 minutes and proceeded back to here for the rest of this show off this reflecting mirror.

Yet another Blue Image from me. I have done 3 in the last week which is virtually unheard of. Not sure if it’s a mood thing or not but it’s definitely happening.

Be safe all and enjoy all the TV time.

Gear (Sony Alpha 7R4, Sony 28-135 G series lens. ).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana).

Title: Reflections Melt Water

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Shadows in the Fog

Shadows in the Fog
Shadows in the Fog

Shadows in the Fog

To me the ultimate perspectives are the foggy ones. Shadows within frame set up by the sun presented themselves to me. Foggy sunrises are not a common thing up here in the high country. There is a lot of topography here. Differences in elevation a mile apart can be 3-400 feet in this backcountry. Big Long ridge tops tower over the surrounding drainage. In order to see the sun in this area, one has to be on a ridge top. Fog is not as common on ridges. When It is, I try to be there.

I’m trying to remember how many of this kind of photo I have…. errr,…. none but this one I think. Foggy shadows are rare in my world of backcountry ridges here in the highlands. I see fog in the valleys rarely, 5 or 6 times a year. More likely, the cloud deck moves down with no mercy over us with 100 yards visibility at a bright LED Bulb. Totally obscuring all but grey flat light.

I’ve been OVER a cloud deck like this only few times up here. I got lucky anticipating the clearing above the Inversion layer, I went outside and saw a few stars break through a small window. On that, I took a trip to the highest point I can drive to around and instantly was in the clear. This is one such time. There were just wisps of moisture pushing over the ridge top this unusual morning. It was fully overcast flat light down in the valleys lolol. 👀📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Shadows in the Fog

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Starburst Silhouette Sunset

Starburst Silhouette Sunset
Starburst Silhouette Sunset

Starburst Silhouette Sunset

I’m 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 dried flower moderate the amounts of light coming into the camera. Any photo is a balancing act inside the camera of just three settings. A good New Years Resolution for many would be to learn to use that camera on Manual Mode finally. I

I find that pointing cameras into the sun gives me several different color casts from burnt Umber to Crimson (Orange here). What I was hunting for here was the dew Reflections from this dried stalk . The Windmill like look was interesting to me in this very intense camera environment. Working outside the envelope is always my goal unless there is something really cool within the envelope. .😜

Disclaimer. I only use Mirrorless cameras where I look at what I point my camera at through VIDEO. A standard DSLR camera I will never use or buy again. There is a BIG difference between the two technologies. A very good present for any photo bug out there is a new mirrorless body to fit their old lenses. They are easier to learn no question. You buy camera backs as disposables but lenses last for generations. Looking at the sun directly through a standard DSLR camera can and likely will blind you. If it doesn’t do that, it could burn a hole in your cameras digital chip. If your camera isn’t rated for this, don’t do it. Be safe out there. Pointing at the sun with a telephoto is OUTSIDE the safe envelope for most cameras.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Starburst Silhouette Sunset

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Tree Textures ala Snag

Tree Textures ala Snag
Tree Textures ala Snag

Tree Textures ala Snag

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… 🤔

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Tree Textures ala Snag

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Reflections Melt Water Moon

Reflections Melt Water Moon
Reflections Melt Water Moon

Reflections Melt Water Moon

It was a little windy for a reflective shot perhaps but this gibbous moon setting into a early morning setting moon backshow caught my attention. It made it through the “To Finish” Sieve I mentally put my images through.

I know the grassy bottom of this small melt water pond and it stays very firm even driving across it when it is full. The pond is ephemeral which means it dries up seasonally and has a good firm soil profile developed. I had JUST pulled up to the rippled mirror surface of this lake in my truck. The wind driven ripples were moving smoothly across the glass surface. The scene was subdued and very blue. Blue images are not my most common production but I liked this one. I’ve been accused of being Blue Blind before lolol.

Finding a pond high enough on a ridge that you can see the horizon around here is the tough part. For all intents and purposes this pond is about as high up as they get around here. IT’s also essentially directly on the Montana/Wyoming border lol. PLUS it has a thin bank to the horizon which is even more specific and desirable of a reflecting surface. . This place has a lot of topography so the particular combination of requirements is pretty rare up here. Even better, it’s only about 500 feet off the local county road which is rare for a photographic “attraction” up here. I normally have to drive miles of two track trails to get to an interesting subject lolol. No complaints on my end.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Reflections Melt Water Moon