This is a must to take full screen. The Pronghorn’s are well camo’d in this image with huge alluvial fan deposits in the distance. Those sediments eventually turning into those rocks were transported from the Big Horn Mountains 130 miles back over my shoulder.. OF course I’m standing where there used to be rocks like that but erosion has removed them. Those layers were at one time continuous all the way back. Now rivers have cut big valleys in the apron of the mountains. Geologists regard things in a strange way 😜👀
So for this shot I was traveling from my ranch to Gillette Wyoming. , I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is a long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states. They wander quite a bit and there are sometime I see nothing but grass and scenery. Half of the time. No cell phone service and no AAA up here…. Just saying 😀
The Thunderbasin Grasslands are indeed a remote area. The closest stop light is about 40 miles. There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. There might be a few water and a few oil wells out there. They actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
This Crown Sky during mid-civil twilight (about 15 minutes after the sun went down that night) is a pretty rare sky event. I’ve only been able to photograph a half dozen crown skies this good in 30 years. This is the second from mid -twilight with the sun well below the horizon by a few sun diameters by the time this was taken.
It was dark. I didn’t enhance the colors, this is a time exposure of about 3 seconds which tends to enrich colors a bit. I adjusted them to where I remembered them. This is a night sky after all… I will work a “promising” sunset from early Golden Hour to late Civil Twilight. Longer if the sky show lasts longer. Reverse that for morning / sunrise. Sometimes I work from my yard, other times I’m way out in the backcountry. Hard to know what the skies are going to do.
The light rays reaching toward the heavens. Scientists call them Crepuscular Rays. Those photons bounce off ice in the atmosphere. The travel to my camera lens. Within the camera’s sensor, they are dutifully recoded but only as a series of 1’s and 0’s. All by the computer in the camera. There a variety of software programs (filters if you will) effect the digital signal in various ways determined by a programmer overseas. If you select automatic, those are the guys doing the camera adjustments not you. . Try manual mode sometimes…… You do the work…. Only three main things to learn….. Just saying. (ISO, F-STOP and Shutter Speed)
Thunder Basin National Grasslands (The only shaft of light I saw ALL hat Day. )
I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming. Driving toward my ranch, I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. This road skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states.
There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. Right side of the fence is reserve, left side is private ground. There might be a few water and oil wells out there but they actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
I get the best Hoar Frost images from those geothermal ponds in the deep winter. It is a good 1/2 gravel road drive to the closest of those ponds though so I’ll only work them photographically a few times a year. If it’s -10 or lower, I’m heading that way for sunrises. Mostly those ponds are on the north side of this grassland complex. Gotta love vandalism of shooting signs. Shooting signs which cost hundreds to make, is senseless and a waste of good ammo. It’s also vandalism. 😞
Here the local Wyoming Roaming Road Block was down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands. These are Pronghorn Bucks still with antlers (not for long) and does mixed. They are on the move migrating down to that remote grassland to winter over the rough Wyoming Winter.
As this was taken, I was on the road to Gillette from my ranch for a ‘day trip”. It’s about 25 gravel road miles to this spot. Then another 12 miles of gravel before I run into concrete in the form of St. Rt. 59 (Wyoming) .
The Thundbasin National Grasslands are huge chunks (several spread around a few states) of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with very few inholdings by private land holders. These ‘reserves” are hundreds of square miles of just an occasional power line and stock well or solar well. Of course there is the obligatory oil well facility but these guys don’t care about buildings. Usually geothermally warm water is the only running water and there is a few of those sources around here. They are oasis’s in the winter for wildlife living near them.
I’ve seen many very large herds of Pronghorn roaming just off one of the few maintained roads out there. Vehicle traffic is prohibited within the national grasslands. The only way to get miles back and up high is to horseback or walk in. I gave up horses a decade ago and walking more than a few miles backcountry with 20 pounds or so of gear gets pretty old pretty fast in the winter I have found. Reminds me of deer hunting when I was way younger. I’ll stick to the roads down in this country lol.
Location:25 miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Campbell County Wyoming.
Snow Dumping on a Pronghorn Buck (or “Winter is coming” )
Winter has been here for a months already and we’re seeing snow on the ground full time now for a week anyway. This Pronghorn Buck is crossing in front of a Game trail Camera while Snow is just Dumping on him lol. Based on the timeline of images, he was following a doe through the gate walking right along the trail. I set my camera up to be focused right on the trail. This particular camera is in a very good spot ! 📸
Pronghorn Migration South
The Pronghorn are migrating now and I’m seeing groups I have never seen on ranch. Moving through here toward the south from up in Montana. They are following ancient migration routes that the cowboys used to move cattle in the late 1800’s from Miles City Montana down to Newcastle Wyoming. The local version of the “Texas Trail” runs right through the western side of our ranch. Fences are little obstacle to these animals which play the “limbo game” effortlessly. They usually do go under but I do have a few photos of Pronghorn going over fences.
I figure most of those animals that lived on ranch all summer are mostly 10 -20 miles south. They are working their way to the ThunderBasin National Grasslands where they have moving water (not frozen) and good feed. There are only a few roads through a pretty big piece of remote real estate between the Powder River Basin and the Wyoming Black Hills. Many Hundreds of square miles for herds to congregate in. Many ranchers maintain water stock tanks during the winter. This helps more on the margins but water is a rare thing up here when it’s been 30 below for a week.
HEre’s another rare crepuscular Ray display. I took this a week ago (as this posts) on a trip to Gillette while in the the county road down middle of the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. My nephew was driving and had sunglasses on and saw this. I was easily able to get it on camera as this 360 degree around Ray display was fairly obvious once you eliminated the glare.
It’s caused by a lot of atmospheric ice that is lighting up from the spotlights coming through the cloud cover and my perspective at the time. I’ve never seen this before in many years of photographing skies.