The ephemeral wetlands of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, entertain many reflections every day but you have to be there at the right time to capture those photons that are worth catching…. The winds were somewhere else as the water here was mirrored as smooth as it gets. Dead calm air is quite unusual up in this high ridge line country. The ice floating on the surface of this rapidly depleting due to the warmth… Melt water pond will be here but a few more weeks. This water level is quickly dropping soaking into the Hell Creek Formation sands underlaying this spot.. There is NO snow left to melt up the hill from it. Nothing to feed it further so I’m expecting it to disappear shortly.
This nearly full March Worm Moon that evening a few weeks ago was a beautiful sight rising just a few minutes before sunset. I worked it with 4 cameras/lenses over about 30 minutes. I have a few photos to finish from the “sitting” lol. The “Golden Hour” lighting tinting everything an orange hue that is classic for the timing of the sunset ongoing over my left shoulder. The sky show there is a subject for another post another day. Seeing the full moon while the sun is still up only occurs for a few days a month, perhaps 4 chances during the month.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, (pretty much directly ON the Montana/Wyoming border, the 45 parallel, precisely 1/2 way between the north pole and the equator. Exactly🤔
The Tres Amigo’s here are walking back home from a long winter down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands.
So for this shot I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming to my ranch. I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is the long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area on the maps. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn anywhere.. 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.
On a glass Melt Water Pond, high on a ridge that straddles the Montana/Wyoming border, this water from a nearby grassy field. Formerly snow earlier that morning, this melt accumulated very quickly. Nearly 60 degree days lately. Over several hundred acres covered by a foot of snow will fill a good sized pond lol.
So the wind was becalmed and the correspondingly glassy surface of the melt water provided an amazing mirror. It would have faithfully reflected what was beyond for the cameras. So I decided to drive my new truck into the pond and mess up the surface. (I know the bottom). One shot is all you get at this…
Driving through water:
I’ve never had a wheel slip in mud with this truck. As all 35 inch tires are in various 4×4 driving modes. Ford F-150 Raptors are complex and amazing to this old school 4×4 driver . If there is a cooler factory Baja capable truck made anywhere, I’d love to drive it. It’s perfect for what I require to get me into places where most vehicles won’t AND keep me fairly comfortable. My old Jeep Grand Cherokee would get me anywhere. It would just throw you around inside lol.
I like the view this ground has of the horizon. It has a very thin lake shore making it’s horizon band across the image. I’m very aware this is a “Halfie” which is like photographers rule #237. Never have your horizon across the Center. At least it’s level and I never worried much about rules. It’s best not to know about them sometimes as you can’t break them if you don’t know about them…. Right? 😜👀
Well they were watching me at the time watch the sunset….😜📸 . I’m thinking the deer were more into the iced grass along our back fence. I had to make some noise to get them to look up lolol. This was the first sunlight in 4 days for any of us. It had been foggy for most of that interval resulting in a highly frosted environment. This happened March 16th, 2020. (A day I will remember as I discuss below. ) There wasn’t much snow left. We enjoyed having had some 50-60 degree days the week prior. Then it got overcast, the clouds moved down over our ridge and didn’t leave for 96 hours. I find it is difficult to find color in an overcast frosty environment. No photography for that interval.
The sun slit seen here was long but not very wide. This was just about the first photo I took that evening. I think it went down hill from there. I drove out into the backcountry looking for a better angle on this. Drove a few miles back in, it was getting dark and I got too hot in my gear. Immediately as I was on a 30 degree down slope crossing a gully system to gain altitude and angle across that gully, I got motion sick. Turned on like a switch it did.
Now this might have been a reaction to a meal but I am sensitive to motion at times. I was 3 miles into the back country, got hard motion sick and it was getting dark. I only had to stop 5 times lolol. Finally made it home….Slept it off and was fine the next day.
Corral with a View (Moon Setting from my side yard. )
Back in the cold January of 2020, we had a little more snow on the ground that we do now in Mid-March 2020 as this posts. This is a corner of our corral system from just inside the fence of our front yard. Looking west this small part of the corral system. This enclosure was being used to keep some 1200 pound hay bales. Safety from the small herd of Corriente’ Longhorns we keep about. Corriente’ cattle are seriously able to take care of themselves in the winter. Like Bison they paw at the snow to expose the grass under the blanket. Angus and most purebred domestic breeds lack enough instinct to perform this task.
The mountains in the distance, known as the Red Hills reach 40 miles out from the camera. The Little Powder River Basin between myself and the Red Hills. Part of the right side of that ridge is in Montana while I’m standing in and looking at 1/2 a Wyoming ridge.
This Waning Gibbous Moon captured here in the process of setting. Remember it’s not the moon that’s moving. It’s the horizon/you. This was a full moon a few short days ago. I chase the moon from time to time. Here such that it is in the same image as the Pink Blush from the “Belt of Venus”. A variety of Alpenglow . Sunrise over my shoulder with a pink back show. If your going to be “Stuck” in a corral as stock, it might as well have a great view. 😜📸
T-posts generally set right posts a “ROD” apart make a barbed wire fence to “spec”. A Rod consists of 16.5 feet from end to end. The right at 50 feet of fence line here is in a perspective that makes it look a LOT shorter. That is literally 50 feet of fence 👀👀📸
As I pointed the long telescopic lens at the fence line, it lineup. I noticed the Meadowlark was still there. I had stopped to take him, reached down to grab the 3 foot lens used here. . Clicking away Icaught this. I think the Meadowlark was as surprised as I was.
Meadowlarks are very active this early in the red light. The sun had been up for about 5 minutes while I was moving between locations. I was headed back as the sun was climbing into the blue sky over my shoulder. Click on machine gun setting which works will that time of morning with all that bright light. (This was a well side illuminated fortunately. The best cameras can’t resolve this much difference in illumination between objects.
Meadowlarks are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I ca see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. They are the state bird for several states in this region.
During these winter days with obscured/veiled suns and sunslits, I consider Perspectives with Wide Angle Lenses as my activity for the day. Interesting lighting speaks for itself but up close and personal is better.
Deeply weathered fence brace wood just grabs attention promoting my “deep focus” love of this particular lens. This brace there far in excess of the 2 decades I’ve been driving by it lol. .These corner braces carry a huge amount of tension with the barbed wire humming in the wind they are so tight. I’ve heard that many times up here…fences humming in the wind. Keep that wire tight !!!. Lot’s o tension on the bottom of that left post. Building braces well utilized, on all fences, is a science here.. Warm Season brings more fencing practice every year.
We have about 30 miles of 3-4 strand fence on my relatively small ranch alone. Some of the Big Ranches have people that only fix fences on the payroll. It takes a pretty tough hombre’ to string barbed wire without tangling yourself up in it lolol. It is work that will keep you in shape. The snow up here varies by the day this early in the winter. Somedays it all mostly melts and others it’s covering everything. Two track roads will be un-passible shortly due to mud. I choose not to damage the ranches roads with my 5700 pound vehicle.
Favorite ridge line look out spots will be snow drifted in. Photographic necessity requires me to plow some of my two tracks to allow me to get up on “ridge one”. I am at the top of the first of 5 ridge east of my homestead. From the top of which there is a 180 mile across horizon to horizon view. The high ridges are snow lined lightly on the windswept top of which, I can usually drive quite a ways to if it’s not muddy.
Snaggy Silhouettes are fodder for my photon capture boxes. (cameras). I always like snag silhouettes but when a sky is fully involved showing off to me, it’s enough to get my attention. (I’m spoiled) This is not an easy tree to be at right at sunset as it takes a little travel to get there in the backcountry. All two track trails suitable to 4 wheel drive only most of the time. To find standing snags on ridges isn’t as common as you think. Lots of snags standing in sheltered from the wind areas. This is fully exposed and will be laying down pointing to the south (ish) sooner or later. The prevailing winds from the north west will eventually win the battle with this old soldier.
Such organic forms are rife with smooth curves, contrasts against colors of a veiled Wyoming Sunset. The sun JUST peeking around the trees / snags base. Raw organic. Rainbow gradients are always to a one beautiful. I’ve never seen one I didn’t like. 📸 Always expose the highlights correctly. Worry about the shadows later. 📸 We call fallen trees “Snags” because as you walk, they will Snag your leg and trip you. Pines die here mostly due to lightning strike or wind damage. Igniting from a lightning strike, they may burn for days if not extinguished (usually by the rancher).
I have maintained a 5 ton truck just to fight fires up here for 12 years now. If you get too many snags in your “woods”, your going to have a hot fire. In their defense, they provide homes for wildlife. I call them wildlife trees myself. Woodpecker holes abound in them.
I often have to leave very early in the morning to get into position to work a sunrise photographically. The etherial glow I see sometimes in Civil Twilight is a difficult to capture relative to any other object. Thusly all things silhouette. This simple Meadowlark Singing so early might at the onset seem easy to do. Meadowlarks are flighty. Encounters I have with them are all random. If you drive up on one and manage to stop your vehicle without him flying, luck be with you.
My advice is. If you manage to get stopped/ point a telephoto at a Meadowlark. Don’t move your vehicle. If you do, it will fly with a 99.6 percent reliability. (Remember that 83.8326 % of all statistics are made up at the moment)😜👀 Fairly tolerant Meadowlarks are, seeing you, watching you slow down and come to a stop. So WHERE you stop is fairly important. If you go too close they will of course fly.
Musings on difficult photographic environments:
Photographing a silhouette require there to be a subject AND actual light behind that subject. This Twilight wispy sky was not being generous with it’s photons of yet. My cameras (Sony Alpha 7 R series) are low light monsters but there are limitations in the technology. Taking a photo in a dark environment of things that move like a singing bird is usually silly to try. I got lucky with this guy un-blurred as he was moving while singing a lot lol. Razor edge settings. I hate High ISO (camera sensitivity) so I used a very fast f4- 600mm telephoto wide open at 50 yards or there about.
For a 30 (ish) Horse Power Tractor, this 1939 International “M” Tractor had 270,000 made by 1954. It only weight 5400 pounds and has a 4.1 liter gasoline engine. This one runs if I put gas in the tank and hit the starter. It needs new rubber. This is out back near our corral system, in our yard but way off the beaten path. (We live in a 10 acre fenced in deer resistant compound ).
We keep a few big bales of hay around in case we actually have to feed our small herd of Corriente Cattle. They generally don’t need extra food but will happily take it lolol. The vistas from our homestead are BIG to the south west with 130 mile view when conditions permit. We have way more snow than the low lands we overlook. It’s a stark difference our front yard versus 300 feet lower topographically down by the rivers. No or little snow down there which is not a good thing. I consider the local snow cover as light this year. (March 3, 2020).
Mostly multigenerationally fixed / patched fences, old ranches have complex Corrals lolol. Those fences take a LOT of cow pressure particularly near the alleys. A 1500 pound bull pushing hard will be defined as “Cow Pressure”. . You might get 30 years of reliability, if a corral is made of treated wood posts. Corrals made of steel, it lasts a century or two. Oil Well pipe and sucker roads, cables, panels, wire panels, you name it are part of the fixes. Repurposed coal mine rubber belts (4 – 6 feet wide) for alleys. I have seen a host of other materials incorporated into many corrals. Free(ish) fencing is very popular. I’m seeing 4 different types of fences just in this photo. There are dozens of fencing generations in this grandfathered 80 year old corral system. Some originally built about the same time as this Antique Tractor.
I was driving along a two track trail with the bright lights of my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV. Big Bright LED lightbars are a fixture on all the vehicles I routinely take into the backcountry for photography. Not only do they help you see what you don’t want to run into, they show you what you do want to find lol.
So, after a long sunset photographic work session, I spied this Prickly Pear Cactus Boom down on the prairie as I was passing. There was still some residual color in the western sky and I was determined to get it. This flower just happened to have a green beetle within enjoying the relative safety of this environment. Can’t blame him really. Scented room with a view until I came along with my smelly noisy UTV I suppose. At any rate, I’m sure it all calmed down there as I pulled away.
Prickly pears belong to the Genus Opuntia which contains over 150 species across the globe. The deer in this country grow fat on cactus “figs” grown on the low paddle shaped cactus. These cactus have been used in Mexican cooking for hundreds of years. Take off the spines, and they cook like vegetables. I’ve eaten fresh prickly pear and I compare it to a cross between water melon and bubble gum.
I find the moon to be a big show off when ever it can be. Here it is rolling around a hill top like a precocious 10 year old. It’s probably trying to impress the sun which is still up over my shoulder still barely lighting up the scene I often find it resting on the horizon or caught by some rouge “Ent” Tree. Way out in the remote back country many magical and mystical things occur when I pursue light. I’m just the stenographer here with the limitations of the technology I deal with daily.
There are only a few days a month where the relatively full moon is close to the still sunlit horizon. I get perhaps 3 or 4 sunrise/sunsets a month with the moon involved. Some months I don’t get the opportunity due to cloud cover . I’m usually game to be in the backcountry for this kind of activity. As I post this it’s deep mid-winter in the backcountry. We are high up so we get more snow than most. Deep snow sort of slows me down but NOW I have a taller truck with 35 inch studded snow tires to help a bit.
On the moon you can clearly see the smaller top crater at 12 oclock. (It’s actually a small “Mare”). It is always at 12 oclock on a rising moon but at 3 oclock as the moon sets here at 45 degrees north latitude. That little Crater is Mare “Crisium”. (Sea of Crisis from the latin).
Have you noticed the moon’s face appears to rotate clockwise as the night progresses? This is an illusion as you are the one that is rotating, not the moon🤔. Your looking at the moon rising looking east. Then you spin and look at the moon set to the west. In other words your point of view has changed. The amount of change depends on how far north or south of the equator. Illusionary. It’s very complex from here and another whole narrative. 🤔📸 It will make you crazy trying to figure this one out lololol.
Half the Sky Summer Sunset (full screen suggested)
This Triptych image (3-20×20 inch) prints is 180 degrees wide and is a full 180 degrees of the sky. A full East to West Sky
I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 80 miles distant/ 40miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing. But at exactly the opposite side of the sky as well. 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 of living here.
Creation of a Triptych:
Really wide images like this are of course composites created by taking multiple images and “stitching” them together in the digital darkroom. I point out that there is a crescent moon compounded by the setting sun. The buildings of our ranch on the lower right edge several miles away.
This kind of Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/4 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these coated pine needles “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. Add a fence for the far vanishing point due to the distance and we’re good to go 🤘
The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly yellow color cast on this particular morning. The Yellow light projected through the Alpenglow phenomena low on the horizon shows the color of light refracted by the ice suspended there. Transmitted to the local objects, pine needles and fences coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This yellow color cast is not that common on local vegetation. Usually it presents only perceptible on the atmospheric ice.
Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.
So many Satire filled narratives apply to this image with so little time/space. I’m thinking several classical themes here. One of Don Quixote in the lead wanting to dual windmills mixed with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The second theme is the Three Wise Deer” out of the east. Boy I sure could get off on a tangent with that one.🤔😜
As it turns out this little group of bucks are brothers from other mothers. The one on the left is a 2.5 year old, the middle a 3.5 year old and the leader a 4.5 year old. Small, Bigger, Biggest and all that. Doing compositions while deer are moving is a matter of anticipating where they are going to be and get lined up before they get there. These guys were definitely walking/moving along which tends to quicken the timeline and the “pressure” to get the shot. I did have the ability to move a little and I was at least 100 yards out. As a result of my position I had about 20 seconds of moving and shooting to get the composition.
Photographic musings: Automatic Crap… (there are still layers of software in a modern camera your using I point out that run all the time).
I don’t use autofocus at all. Nor do I use any automatic settings on my camera as I’ve found they get in the way more than they help. The Dreaded Manual Mode turned on, the auto functions turned off…. 2 times the battery life at least. Image stabilization while nice in theory, is something I seldom use. It is VERY battery power use intensive particularly with the really big lenses/apertures. It is my suggestion to turn off all that auto crap including that hidden adjustment. Automatic White Balance. (Google This).
If you are “stumped” as to how I did this, I assure you it was done in the camera lol. No digital or otherwise magic involved. (well there are some orbital mechanics😜🤔)…. This was quite a ways out from my long lens to get that stump into the infinity focal depth along with the moon. Getting the moon to cooperate with the topography was quite a challenge in this hilly country.
Having terrestrial objects in the same focus as the moon or the sun is definitely an acquired skill with a few requirements for it’s practice. I’m still trying to perfect this kind of work in a variety of ways. Getting only a few opportunities a month to work a full moon low in the sky and still have the sun light up the foreground scene. Wait another 28 days and hope it isn’t cloudy during those days. 6 or 7 times a year in other words do I get a “shot” at this. .
You need at least a 400mm telephoto on a high f number for a deep focal field. You still need to stand way back several hundred yards to enable the telephoto to crush the perspective. Your lighting will change your other settings from what I used but a high f-stop is the place to start.
Perspective: Works like this…
As you step back the stump will get noticeably smaller but the moon stays about the same size. So the further you step back the smaller the stump and the relatively bigger the moon looks. Perspective takes hold….
About 6 months off season, the forest fires to the far west. This is a VERY bright scene but the sun was indeed markedly yellow and the sky crimson on this tiny portion of the sky placed in the same focal plane as this tree. If you hold your thumb out at the end of your outstretched arm, it would cover this image area. Positioned where I thought the bulb should screw into this rare backcountry lamp. When taking such images, movement of your head fractions of an inch makes a REALLY big difference. The lens is an 18 inch 600 mm optic. I’m working hand held for this kind of capture. About 300 yards distant from the snag. The sun is out a bit further. 🤔
Being so bright a scene, it had some interesting light effects on the sensor. The particulates in the air as well as the clouds below it’s line of sight enabling only the longest red rays access to me. The bright yellow light from the sun made it to me though. The pall of smoke trapped all the shorter wavelengths of light from getting to me. I never know how these are going to come out when taking photos way outside the sane photographic envelope looking into the sun as this capture. Settings you must consider looking it a scene is a fast shutter so going freehand is easy. You need ISO low numbers and fstop as high as you need to enable both snag/sun to be in the same focal field.. The higher f – stop will give you a deep depth of field.
The Journey we are on is varied in the paths we take. Many roads traveled and many not. Some choices were made to get where we are. Many were correct in the decision. Others might have been best remembered as a detour along the way.
As travelers, often we must choose between two bad choices others times the choice seems clear. I’m my journey, I have seen the best laid plans fail, and the least anticipated outcomes prevail against all logic. I’ve learned not to swim upstream. I try to float with the current that tows us all along with it’s inexorable pull.
Time and space occupy my thoughts some of the time. Oh not outer space but inner space. For I feel our understanding of what is “without” will be found from “within”. Much of what I observe externally conforms to my beliefs on how the mechanics of the universe I learned from my teachers. Their thoughts gathered from their professors and handed down thusly. The understanding of generations of observers of the natural world painstakingly and sometimes erroneously recited. There is a loss of information in the game of telephone.
The one truism I have learned during my many steps. Things are the way they are, not the way you are told or what you think. I always re-evaluate and modify my path to conform to the values that I have accepted over those miles. Just like taking a path down an untraveled snowy two track off into the distance. One must choose ones’ path carefully.
This MesoCyclone was Veiling the full Moon. Enough to catch the stars visible to my naked eye. Using a 20 second time exposure, some lightning flashed during the interval. Details in the clouds that are seldom to a camera pointing at the full moon. Most you see are fakes or composites. Time exposures over a second tend to overexpose the full moon badly. Even a moon that was unveiled. Limitation of the technology.
Straddling South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, this rotating storm was around 100 miles across. Containing the energy of an atom bomb expended over it’s life.
The view I had of this storm was perfect enabling me to photographed it. I was up in the higher backcountry for almost 2 hours with 6 different camera lens combinations from before sunset to well into Astronomic twilight under the full moon. Being backcountry means any light on the terrain is ambient from the flash and the moon/stars. No other man made light sources in view from the highest mountain top around kind of backcountry.
Various colors are way saturated which is what time exposures do. I actually really dampened down the purples that were native in the camera’s software in this image. 20mm lens, cropped in a bit. I wouldn’t go over 20 seconds with a 20mm as longer would have blurred the starts. That time varies with the focal length of the lens so look it up on google lol.
This ranks as one of my personal favorite images of the year. There are a few others….🤔 Taken Mid Summer 2019. 2×3 aspect.
Boy is there a lot going on here. This was a dramatic morning to a student of clouds. The Kelvin-Heimholtz type Wave Cloud patterns on the top dark band is not a terribly common cloud phenomena. Differences in air density moving past one another making waves… Add to that the spread across the sky crepuscular rays during twilight. I probably have 4 other images in 30 years of photography. Twilight Crepuscular rays hard to find in my experience.
I was looking madly for a foreground object(s). Ones I could use on a mostly treeless parallel ridge between me and the show. The main sunrise still 10 minutes away. I move pretty quickly from place to place if it’s possible. Mid-winter presents it’s challenges to my access or more importantly egress from some of my ridge top photographic locations. I had to drive about a mile in variously deep snow to get this angle on the tree lined ridge over 2 miles distant from my position. There is a large deep drainage between that ridge and myself as well. Can’t get there from here lolol.
The yellow to orange to red Alpenglow gradients is typical morning midwinter. The longer traveled red rays illuminating the cloud deck from below. The Yellow / Orange part of the image is mostly Alpenglow. Alpenglow is exquisite here in the winter. Every twilight has some if the sun is not occluded by clouds. . There is usually ice in the atmosphere in the borderlands even mid summer sometimes. I’ve seen Alpenglow every month of the year.
This sunburst coming just over the edge of the far ridge is one of the most prodigious I’ve had come out of this camera. Part of it was there was a LOT of fog in the air for this. Primarily these sun star are diffraction artifacts inside the lens of the camera. They are either attractive to you or not I have found. I personally like them.
Are these rays there in the real world? Yes they are a result of light passing through a very small aperture. Light diffracts off the edge of the opening which you are seeing here. The same thing probably happens to your own eye but you’d be blinded if you tried so you turn away lolol. No one can look into a scene like this for very long twice. No human eye could do more than glance past this. Then you’d still be seeing spots. When the diffractions stars are BIG, it’s really bright. Also the F-stop is turned up to give me a small aperture. Cuts off light too … Wide focal fields with high F-stops lets me properly focus the grass at my feet AND the hillside.
This was taken a day before we got a pretty good snow. IT’s a LOT harder to get around up on the high ridges now. We’ve been in the deep freeze for a while with mid-February weather spitting a few inches every other day at us. No huge storms YET this winter, I hope we get snow spread out in smaller dumps rather than huge punctuated events with named winter storms.
It’s not magic using a 12 inch Meade LX 200 Telescope at 3200mm. The result can be very interesting in the details… This bottom 1/3rd of a D moon (first quarter). I took this in infra-red capture… so any color would be artificial. Infra-red comes out pretty and pink raw out of the camera. This is more like it was at the time I took it not far from the horizon. The seeing was good that night. That was the mystical part….It doesn’t happen often enough even up here at 4000 feet in the dark dark westerns skies of the Montana/Wyoming borderlands.
It takes me 6 images at this magnification to stitch together the full moon into one frame. The resultant file is rather large lol. There was very good “seeing” that night. “Seeing” is a term astronomers and amateurs as myself use to describe the atmospheres transparency at any particular time. WHen the moon is straight up, the seeing tends to be better due to the less atmosphere your looking through. I see horribly distorted moons near the horizon where the atmospheric distortions have their way with the transmitted image. Turbulence above me usually blurs the details that this this light let through to my photon capture boxes (cameras).
Pursuit of the moon is a very cyclical thing. If your hunting for details, then you want LONG shadows to accentuate them. Full moons are wonderful of course, generally easy photography but the detail in the craters are elusive. I live very much in tune with the lunar cycle as well as the yearly sun’s migration I photograph both when they present me with opportunity and light worthy of your attention.
It’s not magic using a 12 inch Meade LX 200 at 3200mm, I need to take 6 images of the moon to mosaic together a full image. This left 1/3rd of a waning Crescent/last quarter). I took this in infra-red so the color is artificial. Infra-red comes out pretty and pink raw out of the camera. This is more like it was at the time I took it not far from the horizon. The seeing was good that night. That was the mystical part….
The joy of “Mirrorless” removable lens cameras is that you get what you see in the eyepiece (or backLCD) BEFORE you click the shutter. Working in manual mode on a Mirrorless, you instantly know what your settings are doing, you watch it live on the screen. This is NOT a DSLR camera routine where you approximate the settings, take a photo, check the image on the LCD. Then you reset your setting better….. Rinse and Repeat until you get the shot.
I wouldn’t even consider buying the best possible DSLR versus a 1500 dollar mirrorless removable lens camera. Not even close. Mirrorless allows you instant feed back to your actions. If you are gear shopping, I strongly suggest you find out about mirrorless camera bodies that take removable lenses. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. I use Sony Alpha 7R series extensively though I have a couple of consumer level Canon M series cameras. I’m currently using the smaller chip cameras (not full frame like the Sony) for astro/big telescope as this image.
As I am variously locked out of the backcountry by snow amounts and drifting, I tend to drive the backroads on mornings that are likely to light up. I saw the perspective, skidded to a stop, reversed and set up. I was trying to get that sunpillar centered within the visual tunnel created by the tractor tire. That tire is a “marker” as in, “drive 2 miles past the tractor tire” kind of directions. Some rancher planted this because it was easier than burying it completely. Fill up the inside with dirt and you stop the mosquito trap. It turned into a handy marker.
If I see an old “No Hunting” sign, I’ll stop just for that. Add a Tractor tire to that scene and you definitely got my attention. They on cue a sun pillar lined up precisely with the row of telephone poles running off in the distance. I don’t make this stuff up, I just capture the photons from it. Mother nature and ranchers got together here conspiring to make this composition. Neither party knew what they were ultimately up to I would speculate 😜😜👀📸
Sun Pillars are the result of falling hexagonal plates of ice all oriented flat as that is how they free fall. Like little parachutes they orient and reflect light off the gathering sunrise. The cumulative effect reflects light while the surrounding moisture absorbs it. Sun pillars can form above or below the sun itself. Here the sun is JUST below/behind the horizon. I don’t see a genuine purple sky too much but this one was real. Note no Purple snow.
Alpenglow such as this occurs when there is a LOT of ice in the atmosphere mostly during winter. . I’ve also seen smoke do this kind of scene in the summer. Here on the high ridges of the borderlands, I get to look at parallel ridge tops like this 40 miles away to the east.
After passing through a gauntlet of filters in the atmosphere, crimson/orange/yellow are the survivor hues. Absorbed/blocked/refracted away are the shorter wavelengths of color. Can’t trap them in my photon capture boxes (cameras) if they don’t make it to me. Passing that gauntlet to blues/greens and indigos consists not only of hundreds of miles of low angle atmosphere plus all the dust and the dirt suspended within.
The sun isn’t actually occupying the line of site where it appears to be here. Because of atmospheric “lensing”, the sun is actually still completely below your eye to the horizons line of sight. It just looks like it’s up. This accounts for several minutes of differences from rise/set charts versus the observed sunrise with the day always being longer due to lensing. The atmosphere literally bends it’s light around the curvature of the earth thus the “lens” part of atmospheric lens. This courtesy of inversions and thermal-clines. The path this light took was at least 300 miles of low angle air. The higher I go topographically, the longer the light I gets path. The redder the alpenglow.
I originally took this as a landscape during the golden hour. It is the backshow right at sunset with an excessive red/yellow color cast lighting. Everything was deeply red or yellow shaded. This is the improved version having reduced the color cast quite a bit lolol. I reproduce things here the way I experienced them. Not how the camera records it since the technology seldom get’s it right. When you get up on the ridge tops, you see the really red light saturate everything just as the sun sets. This scene was one of those situations where I was glad I turned around. I had to reset my cameras shutter speed from 1/8000th point at the sun to 1/60th of a second with the turn though lolol.
That day ending had it’s own character as each is unique of course. The chill was there but the snow had melted during the day leaving some muddy places. Snow in the shadows is where I drive then on the frozen ground to avoid tracking up the soil saturated with snow melt. The soil frozen below the melt prevents it from soaking is turning 300 year old turf into mushy soup that a foot print will destroy. I try very hard not to tear up the ground here. There is way too much human disturbed ground around the country. Smart travel in the backcountry helps a little at a time.
The rainbow is just barely visible if you zoom in and use your peripheral vision. It stands out then. It wasn’t raining but it was humid from all the sublimation and evaporation from the melt. Rare clear sky rainbow……
I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 70 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 me in about 15 minutes from this capture. 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.
A mere 6 months ago, middle of a warm summers evening, a sky show broke out…. THe evening was fairly calm with a light breeze. The air contained some grass pollen, some cottonwood pollen so my nose was a little stuffy. You could feel the relative humidity climbing as the air cooled down. Traveling up and down topography, you could feed obvious temperature changes as you moved from falling and rising air.
Every Once in a while, I like to do one of these vehicle mirrored images showing both sides of the sunset (in this case). It’s a commonality that all of us share. Most of us anyway have occupied the driver seat of a vehicle or two.
The Corriente’ Long Horns were out in the middle of a big grassy I sold this vehicle December 31,2019 . I loved my 15 year companion a 2005 Jeep Gran Cherokee. It worked very well for photography of the backcountry. It would pretty much go anywhere my ATV would which is saying something. The king is “dead” long live the king.
The 2020 Ford Raptor I am breaking in as a photographic platform is performing stellar in helping me find light. (so far) Already it has gone on paths I wouldn’t have taken the jeep on in mid-winter. It is stable, allows some movement inside of long lenses. It has WAY bigger mirrors plus they move out of the way with a button’s push. I will see what I get when the light is worth trapping. So far it gets me there…
Looking westward across the 40 mile wide Little Powder River Valley , a cloud bank will snuff out the light within minutes. I am often sent home early with no “photos in the can” by cloud banks shrouding the horizon. When I head off road to climb up ridges chasing light, the mid-winter wins sometimes. This night I went up hill. Over 300 square miles of landscape presents here, all covered by this snow blanket. We get most of our 14 inches a year of precipitation during the winter.
You will note how effectively Yucca plants have a tendency toward collecting their own stash of water. The result of this is to soak the ground around them. The Yucca is a great plant up here providing food to the deer all year long. Deer from both species eat the seed pods from Yucca which grow in significant quantities up here. Yucca flowers are edible too I ‘ve seen ungulates take advantage of them every year. The deer grow fat on them. Already eaten, mostly deer have consumed the seed pods. By Mid-Winter, the deer have consumed much of the food reserves on this ridge. They have moved on to other pastures. Typically they head to sheltered gullies with water near by.
If it’s going to be winter, I wish it would freeze the backcountry ground. As I type this it’s been staying around freezing and just above for weeks. Mud in the backcountry completely blocks me from access as I don’t want to rut up my two track trails.
Seeing faces in clouds or other natural scenes is termed: Pareidolia. Historically this tendency diagnosed one with psychotic symptoms/ “abnormal”. Now we are teaching computers to do it. It’s not just clouds of course. Any pattern the human mind creates out of literally random data is symptomatic. Of course the state of medical/psychological science has improved a tad from those early days.
I’m thinking this is a cloud version of Mount Rushmore. Looking behind me to the eastern back show a bit after sunset on summers evening is a good habit. Many photographers get tunnel vision and forget to glance around. The back shows are often better than the main sunset if your chasing light like I do. Usually associated with a disruption in airflow, called Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, aka billow clouds or shear-gravity clouds, and they look like breaking ocean waves. Taking many forms, these clouds can be impressive.
Typically by topography such as mountains causes the “ripples. . The interface between two layers of atmosphere with different temperature / density properties causes the phenomena. A series of waves with crests and troughs are created at the two air masses boundaries. The shapes are random but usually fairly consistent in one way or another.
I swear on a stack of geology books that I didn’t alter this image in the digital darkroom. It’s a totally natural scene. If you look enough at clouds, you see some very odd things :). The hard part is being there with a camera (Rule 1 of Photography).