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Porcupine Damage Sappy Sunset

Porcupine Damage Sappy Sunset
Porcupine Damage Sappy Sunset

Porcupine Damage Sappy Sunset

I’m walking along this ridge line way back up into the borderland backcountry of Wyotana. I see this scene developing. That is NOT water dripping off that injured pine tree. That is pine sap and it is dripping in SUPER slow motion at these temperatures lol . The Pine Sap extrudes on any external injury by the pine. This will keep out insects from penetrating the wound.

This of course is part of the process insect/pinesap to Amber made famous in the Movie Jurassic Park. Tree resin traps insects, it gets hardened by heat and pressure over time and you get an insect in Amber. Fossilization requires specialized conditions. Amber formation must occur in a wet low oxygen environment. Something like an estuarine, swampy or even a marine environments. (chew on that last one for a while). 😜🤔👀

Stripped of bark, this injury caused by a Porcupine will likely not heal. Particularly if it is deep enough an injury. Porcupines strip bark off Pine trees. Porcupine is from the french translation of “Thorny Pig”. They eat roots, stems leaves of many plants but definitely consume and even kill trees by girdling a trees bark. I have seen numerous trees killed by porcupines. The mountain men used to not bother them. Being slow moving, easy to catch animals, as such were easy pickings. So the mountain men saved them for Hard times and emergencies. Porcupines are greasy when cooked I understand. I’ve never wanted to skin one lolol.

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

Title: Porcupine Damage Sappy Sunset

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Frosty Pine Bough Sunrise

Frosty Pine Bough Sunrise
Frosty Pine Bough Sunrise

Frosty Pine Bough Sunrise

Toward obtaining an image at -2 degrees F. There was a breeze and I don’t care how you dress, something gets cold lolol.

This Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/8 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly pink color cast. Usually this is most obvious on the sky opposite the sunrise. The “Belt of Venus” which is a very pink Alpenglow phenomena reflecting said pink light back. Pine Needles coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This pink color cast is not that common on local vegetation and is usually 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.

2×3 aspect to 3 feet

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Frosty Pine Bough Sunrise

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Sunrise Through Frosty Fence

Sunrise Through Frosty Fence
Sunrise Through Frosty Fence

Sunrise Through Frosty Fence

The sub-zero morning I took this up on a high ridge, the Hoar frost covered ANYTHING that was exposed to the wind. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. I have many images yet to finish from that morning.

Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow can be as deep as the backcountry is big with just a few plowed paths to provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top. Stuck is not good up here.

Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a very early morning session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here.

The highest ridges locally are 4000 feet in elevation. With valley fog being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions. Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. Millions of them actually. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔

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

Title: Sunrise Through Frosty Fence

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Winter Twilight North View

Winter Twilight North View
Winter Twilight North View

Winter Twilight North View

This a view northeast from one of my favorite overlooks just in Wyoming looking across the border north into Montana. Sunrise is seconds away to the right of frame. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, the snow is melting with a 50 degree day and melt water is running in the fields. The winds are blowing and the cold front is incoming. The next time I go the three miles of drifted two track roads, it will crunch along the way from the ice patches.

This image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. The Montana / Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before. So many things appear around the next bend that are photogenic every time I travel backcountry.

The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. The ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formation and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).

Title: Winter Twilight North View

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Belt of Venus Touches Ground

Belt of Venus Touches Ground
Belt of Venus Touches Ground

Belt of Venus Touches Ground

From the top of the pass one can see 45 miles to the higher peaks of the Red Hills. The far ridges high points are right at the same elevations around 4100 – 4200 feet as where I stand. The intervening Little Powder River Drainage starting near Gillette Wyoming runs north into the big drainage in Montana. The water droplets here flow first into Trail Creek then immediately off into the “Little Powder River. This flows into the Powder River then the Yellowstone River, then the Missouri all the way to the Mississippi. All the sand grains that used to be between where I stand and those far peaks have been removed by the above described river system. It took a few days.

Belt of Venus Alpenglow Show is that moment in space and time when the red light of the ice filtered morning sun, touches the far mountains. As far as backshows go, this is a good example of that variety of Alpenglow. (Belt of Venus). The pink belt surrounds the sky behind a sunset or sunrise if there is a LOT of ice in the air. The low angle sunlight is red due to the longer wavelengths being able to penetrate the haze better.

The best Alpenglow displays are early winter based on my experience. Atmospheric ice requires temps obviously below freezing and at 4000 feet in elevation, that isn’t that hard to do. I’ve seen good Alpenglow mid-summer. It’s off season appearance is a fairly common event but it usually isn’t this intense. When the sunlight is just touching the hills in the distance, I am in the shade of the ridge 10 miles distant from my perspective. Topography allows some interesting opportunities.

I strongly recommend googling “Belt of Venus” to further your knowledge of this wonderful phenomena. Often the sunward side of the sky show your watching isn’t the highlight (pun intended) of the moment. Make sure you turn around and check the sky. This was easy as I was still in the shade and waiting for the sun to come up over that ridge behind my position. I had a three mile drive on two track roads to get to this location. My jeep has no trouble on these old cow trails. (Except it beats me up).

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

Title: Belt of Venus Touches Ground

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Barn Yard M Perspective

Barn Yard M Perspective
Barn Yard M Perspective

Barn Yard M Perspective

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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands *Wyotana”

Title: Barn Yard M Perspective

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Up On a Backcountry Ridge

Up On a Backcountry Ridge
Up On a Backcountry Ridge

Up On a Backcountry Ridge

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.

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

Title: Up On a Backcountry Ridge

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Twilight Crook County Overlook

Twilight Crook County Overlook
Twilight Crook County Overlook

Twilight Crook County Overlook

Crook County Wyoming has the 3rd lowest population of all other Wyoming Counties. A grand total of 7083 a decade ago which seems to be the most recent number out there. The area of the whole county is 2854 square miles and this photo covers about 1/2 of that quite literally.. It’s about 100 miles to the horizon which is in South Dakota partially.

On the left horizon is the Bear Lodge Mountains pushing up into the cloud bank. That range has a mountain up to 6480 feet above mean sea level. In contrast the lowest point in Wyoming a few miles away. Located where the Belle Fourche River crosses the border into South Dakota at 3099 feet above mean sea level. That river bounds those mountains to the north with most of the drainage from those mountains west side draining into same.

The Bear Lodge Mountains are geologically related to the Black Hills Uplift. They are actually governed as part of the Black Hills Ranger District. Exposed on the high peaks, a few deep sourced igneous rocks outcrop there. This testifies to the scale of the upheaval geologically. To the right, both Devil’s Tower peaking up center of the horizon along with the “3 Sisters” otherwise known as the Missouri Buttes. These both are volcanic rocks. These formerly deeply buried volcanic pipes/necks intrusion into the surrounding sedimentary rocks stand above the plains. The softer sedimentary rocks being removed by the LIttle Missouri Drainage and the Belle Fource Drainage one sand grain at a time. Such things take a while.

Location: A high ridge standing barely in Campbell County looking east to almost straight south with this 90 degree wide image.
Title: Twilight Crook County Overlook

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Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

Frosty Frame Backcountry Road
Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

Frosty Frame Backcountry Road is a capture initiated by the -2 degree morning, the icy air and the lighting. The later of which was JUST coming over the ridge but about 6 minutes after sunrise.

This 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 “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit.

The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly yellow color cast. Usually this is most obvious on the White projector screen that this snow is. Alpenglow in the main show is bright yellow light and depending on the timeline, changes from pink to yellow shortly after sunrise. . This color cast is not that un common on local vegetation and is usually 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.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Frosty Frame Backcountry Road

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Backcountry Peace Sign

Backcountry Peace Sign
Backcountry Peace Sign

Backcountry Peace Sign (Hoar Frosted to heck).

Yup, a good fence is a good way to keep Peace between neighbors. An example of a serious border fence built by a local rancher keeps the peace for sure. It surrounds his whole property of many square miles.. it’s 8 feet high, high tension and virtually impenetrable by ungulates that use to eat part of his grass crop. He even paid for double wide cattle gates on the road to make it harder for game to get in there. I suspect the math worked out. It was cheaper to build a fence than put up with the damage to the grass crop the antelope and deer do every year.

Now I have an 8 foot high electric deer exclusion fence that keeps deer out of the 10 acres around my homestead’s infield. My yard fenced/surrounded by a similar barrier. Deer, 99.99 percent excluded from entry, watch from the outside. .. I let them play on the other 3490 acres of the ranch at their leisure. I understand his frustration with deer. They were causing tremendous damage to the ornamental plants and even shelter belt trees were feeling the deer pressure. Damage ornamental plants mounted into the thousands of dollars some years done by deer. New plants in my homes landscape were abused badly. It took me personally months to construct the 200+ section buck rail/electric hybrid fence surrounding my yard. The only way now to get in to my yard is through a gate which is where they occasionally penetrate my defenses.

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

Title: Backcountry Peace Sign

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Show Me the Ranch Gate

Show Me the Ranch Gate
Show Me the Ranch Gate

Show Me the Ranch Gate

Sunset through a Veiled sky just after the horizons shadow passed over me. The hills behind me are still in daylight. The contrasts are difficult for a camera system to capture. To have detail instead of shadow in this kind of shot speaks to the gear.

It is now mid winter up here on the ridges of Northeastern Wyoming and SouthWestern Montana. In this view west both states are in the distance. That mountain range is 40 miles distant from my camera. From the middle of the corral system next to our homestead looking west. I can’t tell you how many cattle have been through these corrals over the last 100 years. I suspect it is in the 30,000 range or there about.

Our ranch is a small “hobby” ranch versus the big ranches in the 20 Thousand Acres (or more) spread that surround me. Our place is only 3500 acres or 5.5 square miles. It’s enough to keep me busy that’s for sure. Never underestimate the power of a piece of ground to be a black hole for your time and money lol. Even worse, there are dinosaurs in this ground lolol. They take some of my effort from time to time up here too. There are 30 miles of fencing on or around my ground. I’ve spent my share of time building and fixing fences over the years. I have some fence work to do in these corrals at the moment. I had some bulls go through an outer fence behind the gate. Dang!

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

Title: Show Me the Ranch Gate

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Down Yonder by the Fence

Down Yonder by the Fence
Down Yonder by the Fence

Down Yonder by the Fence

The morning was sub-zero. That which was exposed to the wind, had been covered by Hoar Frost. Freezing fog grew monster ice feathers off every surface that disrupted smooth air flow. I have many images yet to finish from that morning.

Here on the Montana/Wyoming border, the snow is as deep as the backcountry is big . Just a few plowed paths provide access to the high ground. The wind here moves a lot of snow from ridges to the surrounding slopes so if your on the ridge, DON’T get off the ridge. You loose the traction of “position” off the top.

Given the opportunity, I will set up for a Close/Far perspective capture when ever a fence “of interest” is around. This was a very early morning session that started in early twilight and worked for several hours. It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not necessarily every year up here. The highest ridges are 4000 feet above sea level in elevation. Valley fog pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions.

Woven Wire Fence: When you absolutely don’t want smaller livestock going from pasture to pasture. It makes a wonderful nucleation spot for ice crystals to grow from. The low angle light was still very spotty. I had to find a “Slit” through the trees to catch this. Working backcountry has it’s little areas of zen. Millions of them actually. We just have to slow down and see them. Capture their photons. The ironically, hurry on to the next little spot of zen lololol. Such is the life of “working” a scene with cameras…. 📸🤔

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

Title: Down Yonder by the Fence

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Wyoming Volcanic Necks Diptych

Wyoming Volcanic Necks Diptych
Wyoming Volcanic Necks Diptych

Wyoming Volcanic Necks Diptych (2- 20″x20″ images)

That’s Devil’s Tower on the left and the “Three Sisters”

This country is big. The high ground looks pretty close but those mounds of phenolytic porphyry are pretty big thusly far away. . These bumps on the landscape used to be buried by thousands of feet of sediments surrounding them. The hard rock volcanic neck rose up thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The Little Missouri River removed some covering sediments from the west side. The Belle Fourche River Drainage providing the bulk of that work to the east. The soft rock is removed while the harder material makes mountains. That’s pretty much the way it works all over the planet.

This was a beautiful evening for a partly cloudy sky sunset. . These kind of evenings are all about the side shows, not the sunset itself. It was calm, little or no wind (rare), you could hear cattle calling from miles around. The air was crisp and icy as can be. It was only 5 minutes to sunset at this capture so the shadows are very long. The contrasts are all building as the “Golden Hour” draws to a conclusion.

That detail on the Devil’s tower is from 40 miles away. In maybe 100 trips to take this scene, this one might be the clearest view from the Pass at Rockypoint that I have in my portfolio.

Location: The Pass at Rocky Point Wyoming, On the border of Crook and Campbell Country about 4 miles south of Montana.

Title: Wyoming Volcanic Necks Diptych

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Buck Boys Club Trailing

Buck Boys Club Trailing
Buck Boys Club Trailing

Buck Boys Club Trailing

Only the Yucca and the Highest grass is standing above the snow back in this backcountry cul-de-sac of a valley. I was driving the ridges adjacent to this lower area. I’m able to drive mostly two tracks at the time I type this. It has been drifting a bit in the backcountry lately. Makes it hard on me. Tricky…

I have seen this group around in several familiar locations to them and myself. . These 3.5/4.5 year olds all have known me since the beginning by seeing me out on the ranch land taking photos of their childhood and parents. They have slowly started to really accept me as a another grazing animal. I slowly over time carefully approach deer. They are aware of my new vehicle now. How I approach them is the same. The “trick” is that I drive like I’m a grazing animal. Stopping, moving a little and stopping. No hurry. Might take me 1/2 an hour to get up this close. I’ve actually worked inside of deer herd boundaries before.

I wasn’t destined to integrate with the herd here, the terrain was against me getting to them in the first place. Problematic is the travel noise my rig was making. Too much noise busting over/through snow crust. Crunchy noises are not the best way to make deer comfortable I have determined. Make no mistake these are wild deer. These guys were moving slowly across the landscape trailing to bedding in this late day light. They each to an animal have seen me drive around here in my new rig quite a few times now. Hard to get this close in the snow however.

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

Title: Buck Boys Club Trailing

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Perspective Frosty Lightning Scar

Perspective Frosty Lightning Scar
Perspective Frosty Lightning Scar

Perspective Frosty Lightning Scar

Perspective is indeed was a really cold morning but it was a pretty sunset. Crawling out into the pines seemed like a good idea at the time🤔 We actually have 2 fresh inches of snow on the ground here today (as I type) and expect some more of it. The scar on the tree is from a lightning bolt exploding the layers of wood with water in them. The heat from the bolt flashes the water to steam and boom. This old soldier survived it’s wounds.

This gloomy day with VERY flat light wasn’t that inviting. Anything exposed to the wind because coated by hoar frost. The temps were around zero with some light wind. T-shirt weather without the wind up here. Add some wind, put on the three layers under the Parka. I get out and walk around up on the forested ridges to see what I can see. I use these locations for many of my images. From the POV of field mice.

Every season seemed to be a month late in 2019 . Winter came early, rinse and repeat to mid-February. Last spring, Winter ended late. We had Lilacs blooming on the 4th of July at least a month late. I’ve noticed that the deer rut was late starting by several weeks. It only got to 100 degrees F once this year if memory serves me right. July and August were not nearly as hot as normal. All climate is local I point out. . Global warming didn’t happen here this year. Far from it. It’s just mid-February too so this cold/wet/icy stuff might be around for a while.

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

Title: Perspective Frosty Lightning Scar

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Crimson Morning Sky Show

Crimson Morning Sky Show
Crimson Morning Sky Show

Crimson Morning Sky Show

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.

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

Title: Crimson Morning Sky Show

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Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges
Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

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.

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

Title: Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

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Pink Alpenglow on Snow Moon

Pink Alpenglow on Snow Moon
Pink Alpenglow on Snow Moon

Pink Alpenglow on Snow Moon (Moon Monday all Day Plus a Windmill Weekday)

Rare mornings each month does the Full moon set with the sunrise behind the photographer. Rarer yet are the mornings that we’ve just had a fresh snow coating everything. Add to that the Red/Pink light of the Belt of Venus falling down on the snow. The 40 miles wide Little Powder River Valley stretches across to the “Red Hills” (Their real name). The 6 inches of fresh snow over the last couple of days has been blowing around from a strong wind. “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill had to get into the picture as is his propensity of course. I have no control over his photobombing actions. In his defense, I find he provides scale for this perspective crushing telephoto shot

Mustings on Agility:

Standing back 400 yards from this .5 second exposure that was on a window clamp mount using my vehicle as a tripod out in a snow covered field that allowed this angle. Yes, this morning I was driving through drifts and 6 inches flat of snow all over the place. I have enjoyed the extra clearance that this new f-150 Raptor has. I’ve never had to take it out of 4 wheel high so far. Off road even down hills pretty steep hills (and getting back up) is doable so far. Usually valleys are black holes for 6000 pound objects that drop below the ridge line. I’ve not managed to get it stuck so far. I’ve gone many places that would have stuck my old jeep hard. I am much more agile in this rig than any other I’ve driven up in the high backcountry.

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

Title: Pink Alpenglow on Snow Moon

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Big Tall Crimson Sunrise

Big Tall Crimson Sunrise
Big Tall Crimson Sunrise

Big Tall Crimson Sunrise

Getting to a favorite overlook for catching a Twilight Moment in the Backcountry in the Wyoming/Montana Borderlands is an exercise in driving remote two track roads in the dark dark lol. I might take 10 or 20 minutes to get into position for a shot like this pre-sunrise usually in late Nautical Twilight where stars are visible early on.

Eastern Skies almost always have better twilight shows than western skies as there is usually more ice in the atmosphere by my observations. Others may disagree.🤣This is in mid Civil Twilight which starts 28 (ish) minutes before actual sunrise. Nautical Twilight just ended and Astronomic Twilight (when the stars just disappear) has been over for a 1/2 hour. IT takes about an hour for the sun to rise. The horizon is actually falling away from covering the sun for the night. Remember it’s not the sun that’s moving. I remind you that it is the earth that is rotating. The horizon is literally falling when you look to the east about 4-6 inches during the time it takes a rifle bullet to reach 1000 yards out.

This Backcountry show starts in pitch black as deep as the North Atlantic Ocean (according to NOAA). Little dribs of color pushing through the dark. . As time progresses, the “volume” of the color wheel is turned up. Such Sky Shows are a pleasure to watch from beginning to end and I have done many many hundreds in totality. I’m pretty sure time isn’t taken off your lifeline for time spent watching sunrises and sunsets.

This is a 1 second time exposure as it is. No wind, dead calm or the pine needles would be a blur.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Big Tall Crimson Sunrise

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Crimson Sunrise Mountain Pass

Crimson Sunrise Mountain Pass
Crimson Sunrise Mountain Pass

Crimson Sunrise Mountain Pass

The commonality we all have with roads leading off into the distance brings back memories of “going over the pass”. Every time I crest a hill I never know what I’m going to see.

Taken early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. . I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy cloud gradient already on a remote high ridge. A fully involved sky is a treasure but this morning was a treasure chest with all the rare colorcast it led to later in the sky show.

Civil Twilight begins about 28 minutes before sunrise or ends 28 minutes after sunset. It is that period from when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon. On clear days you can do normal outside activities that require light. That solar elevation angle below the horizon defines each twilight phase. CIvil Twilight is by far the brightest of the three twilights.

Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you usually have to gain altitude to do so. Much easier on the roadways than back on the snowy ridges. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation. Everything else is lower in this area. The lower streams are 3600 feet. We are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). How easy it is to gain altitude depends on where you are going of course but winter makes this much more relevant a discussion. Climbing up backcountry two track trails is usually hazardous at best lolol. This complicated with snow blowing around. Being able to read snow drifts is a good skill in this country. This was a stressless busy morning for sure.

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

Title: Crimson Sunrise Mountain Pass

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Stark Stoney Sunset

Stark Stoney Sunset
Stark Stoney Sunset

Stark Stoney Sunset

Sheep Herders Cairns from a day that Sheep Roamed this country more than a few years back. I find these piles of flat sandstone on hill tops here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana. Literally found in the middle of nowhere typically miles from the closest inhabited ranch. Somebody spent a lot of time gathering flat sandstone from far and wide. You see sheep wander the hills and herders would stay with them to protect them. They had some spare time.. The stone cairns were markers. They marked places to meet, places to drop supplies or a sign post marking borders..

The ridge tops are the highways of the backcountry. While forested ridges certainly exist, long grassy ridges generally cleared of pine by past fires provided easy walking for the Indigenous Americans. There is a documented “Clovis” tool site within a 20 minute radium of my place. I’ve never found Clovis artifacts on my place as of yet though I do find man made stone tools. I wouldn’t call them common up here on the high ridges. Only hunting camps were summer inhabited in this country. It is too high and too dry to sustain population very long. We do find “TeePee” rings now and again. Both springs by my homestead have teepee rings about them. Summer quarters this spot was.

I’m not sure If I could have found a flatter light than this. Occasionally I’ll look at a heavily veiled sun with no colors in the scene and instantly start with high F-stop close / far perspective anyway. This one was worth the effort. It was windy and cold up there. The bunch of grass in the mid-distance testifies to this.

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

Title: Stark Stoney Sunset

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Tired of Snowy Sunrises

Tired of Snowy Sunrises
Tired of Snowy Sunrises

Tired of Snowy Sunrises

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.

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

Tired of Snowy Sunrises

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Shadows Divergent Snowy Sunrise

Shadows Divergent Snowy Sunrise
Shadows Divergent Snowy Sunrise

Shadows Divergent Snowy Sunrise

Everything was covered by ice. During this winter cold morning with little or no cloud cover, the glare was excessive. The Shadows are Long with a slight down hill angle to the hill. This makes the shadows a bit shorter. However this is a VERY high contrast environment of white and black is way outside the normal photographic envelope.. Human eyes just can’t look into a scene as this without blinding ourselves. The Mirrorless Cameras I use that feed to a video screen. It actually lets me see this image BEFORE I click the camera. I can adjust the settings live real time on the screen. Love those Snow Diamonds…

Photographic Musings:

There would be a star around the sun if it weren’t filtered by the branches. I way prefer cellulose filters to glass ones in front of my lens. Turning up your f-stop which is necessary in this high light environmnet has an added benefit. in this case by reducing the amount of light coming into your camera. It also gives you a very thick depth of focus.

In this high light environment, your also going to have adjust shutter speed really fast. Set your ISO really low (camera sensitivity) or both to compensate for the high light. Basically you have to shut down your camera to light. Many cameras will take a neutral density filter to accomplish this. . Your always balancing 3 different settings in Manual Mode on your camera. I use NO/zip/zero automatic settings anywhere. Not in my cameras or lenses. No auto focus, no stabilization etc. Manual photography strictly on a very modern platform. I get a pretty good battery life that way😄. Manual Mode is best.

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

Title: Shadows Divergent Snowy Sunrise

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Snowy Spotlighting Sunset

Snowy Spotlighting Sunset
Snowy Spotlighting Sunset

Snowy Spotlighting Sunset

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.

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

Title: Snowy Spotlighting Sunset

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Barbed Wire Hoar Frosted

Barbed Wire Hoar Frosted
Barbed Wire Hoar Frosted

Barbed Wire Hoar Frosted

It’s not every day I see this kind of hoar frost. It does happen but not this well very often…. The highest ridges here are 4000 feet in elevation. Valley fog/ moisture was being pushed over higher elevations. Thus creating a fantastic environment for hoar frost growth to prodigious proportions. Natural Sharp edges like the points of barbed wire provides a “point of nucleation” for the ice feathers to form. The symbolism by mother nature was not lost on me here lolol. 👀

Science here is a conversations about the “Triple Point” of water which is a good basic concept to understand if we’re talking about weather. When the water vapor is thick and RIGHT at the temperature/pressure point it can be deposited directly to ice from water vapor. Typically these ice crystal feathers are less than an inch. Thes monsters were a full inch and a half with a few around the ranch reaching 2 inches for that storm. 

Interestingly, this is NOT a black and white photo. It’s is full color but the light was as flat as it gets. The T-posts are very old and only slightly green but they provide an anchor to the world of color in this other wise chroma bare capture. Science 

This is the only time I’ve ever seen such a thing such that the barbs grew so prodigiously. I spent hours that morning walking from place to place absorbing the unique sites as they were presented to me. It wasn’t long after this photo that the wind picked up and obliterated the threatening look of the wire. 

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

Title : Barbed Wire Hoar Frosted

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B1B Buzzing Bliss Ranch

B1B Buzzing Bliss Ranch
B1B Buzzing Bliss Ranch

B1B Buzzing Bliss Ranch

Nick named “The Bone” as in “Bad to the Bone” I think…. 550 million dollar machine built by the lowest bidder ? 😜😜📷

Flying over me here at their common operational speed of 450 knots (518 mph). The wings swept back means he’s got some of the throttle forward. This guy came over the ridge behind us at maybe 500 feet. . I’m thinking it took 5 seconds to go from no indication they were there, to the sound to finally catch up and the plane is virtually past you. So the average encounter is hard, really hard to get. I would invite any of you jockeys riding the tip of the speed to fly over that big white roof on the Montana/Wyoming boers any time you want. (Daytime would be nice). You would not believe the sound of that much power.

We live under the Powder River Flight Training Complex. It’s a huge area of South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming used by the U.S. Airforce to work out their rigs. A couple of times a year I have a close encounter like this. Usually it’s without a long lens camera ready to rock in my hands. 🤔 (Rule one of photography is “Have a camera handy”.

They can of course fly that run at 50 feet. Catching these guys incoming is my goal but that is fairly difficult. I usually at best get them right over head or past me from behind. I’ve had a lot of encounters with the monster pieces of technology.

Ellsworth AFB is located just outside of Box Elder, South Dakota but think Rapid City. Without a doubt military is the largest employer in the region. Statistics show it the second largest employer in the state.

“Providing rapid, decisive and sustainable combat air power and expeditionary combat support, the 28th Bomb wing is assigned to 12th Air Force under Air Combat Command. As home to the B-1B, the 28th Bomb Wing provides operational support in many areas.” Hu Raaaa Tip of the Spear. 🤘

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

Title: B1B Buzzing Bliss Ranch

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Iced Pine Needle Sunrise

Iced Pine Needle Sunrise
Iced Pine Needle Sunrise

Iced Pine Needle Sunrise

This was a photo I took AFTER the main twilight show that morning. The twilight lighting was truely amazing but as soon as the sun cracked the horizon, chapter two of this stage show began. No intermission either !. The red color cast early light was saturating all the white frost and snow surfaces for the next few minutes. Sometimes the same red light that colors the “Belt of Venus” variety of Alpenglow works it way down on the ground. Particularly up on the high ridgelines. Add a little hoar frost, a bit of white ice and you have a perfect reflective surface to light up. Light up just like the Belt of Venus was doing coterminously with this image but over my shoulder. The back sky was all pink down to the ridgelines.

I was driving my new rig for this trip. It truly is a well suited vehicle to do what I’m doing. The 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor is the first new vehicle I’ve purchased since 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Road Warrior) was bought. It is BY FAR the nicest riding, most capable pickup I’ve ever owned. ehicles for 30 years. . I just added a very serious LED light bar for the front which I used in this capture to illuminate these needles from the side. All those layers of colors are the result. I am adding some more light as time goes along here. There are 3 more built in switches for me to add lighting so I’m starting to get very serious about it. 🙂 There are so many uses for a bright light source in the backcountry. Stay tuned 👀😀📷

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Iced Pine Needle Sunrise

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Wind and Solar Hybrid

Wind and Solar Hybrid
Wind and Solar Hybrid

Wind and Solar Hybrid

Satire: (Did I mention this is Satire?)

I see lots of things on the “way up the hill” to photograph sunsets. Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill photobombed my divergent shadow landscape yet again! (exasperated look on my face). He hangs out (mostly) about 1/4 mile up that hill I often travel to. I’m not sure how he manages to get into my landscapes but he seems to. I have no control over his actions…. 👀

Stories about “Sneaky Pete’s” accomplishments have spread far and wide. He has his legend and then there is actually living in the neighborhood with the guy. What happened here is he got a BIG idea about a Wind/Solar Hybrid invention and I think he was trying to communicate the specifics to me. I’m not good at translating him being much better with deer translations of stories than “windmillian”. Tough to communicate with him, he speaks faster or slower depending on the wind speed and that throws off my cadence…. 🤔😜😜📷 I have so much to learn…. I speak geology not Windmill…..

He is such an attention hound. In fairness though he is known as a skillful negotiator with the deer. He’s helped me before with various “deals” with the various herds to get them to sit for me I’m sure of it.😀

Windmill Weekend, Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘🤘😜

Back to my normal programming ….

So I was actually surprised by this capture. I technically was working those aforementioned divergent shadows with a high f-stop on a wide angle lens. The high contrast environment lends itself for a good perspective image. “Sneaky Pete” provides scale for the foreground which was my interest. Winter in Wyotana..

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

Title: Windmill and Solar Hybrid

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Perspective In the Shadow

Perspective In the Shadow
Perspective In the Shadow

Perspective In the Shadow

The winter wears on up in the highlands of the Wyotana borderlands. This year has been a low snow year so far. It has also been winter since Oct 1st. Most of the snow is now either granular or ice at this point. We’ve had sort of a January Thaw around mid month. That period of warm weather took a foot of snow turning it into 3 inches of dense hard bumpy ice. It’s durn uncomfortable to drive in the backcountry at the moment. During the day I have mud problems out there as well. Vehicles leave marks in mud so I tend not to go out.

Bright scenes and over exposure….:

High Contrast snow/shadow divergent light is an interesting perspective to work. It’s really hard to get the bark detail in the silhouette with most cameras. I find these Sony Alphas are low light monsters with a very high dynamic range. The ability to bring out shadow detail is a big deal in my world. I always expose the highlights correctly as my third rule of photography. If you overexpose the highlights, you loose detail and get a washout. No details exist in washouts. However there is usually a boat load of photo hidden within the shadows of virtually every photo we take. Almost every photo I take you would consider underexposed and dark in the camera. It’s hard for me to preview them raw sometimes as a result. I have to work on them a little bit to see what I actually got. There are advantages to having a quality editing program.

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

Title: Perspective In the Shadow

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Untracked Mid-Morning Snow Diamonds

Untracked Mid-Morning Snow Diamonds
Untracked Mid-Morning Snow Diamonds

Untracked Mid-Morning Snow Diamonds

I occasionally go on long morning drives after a fresh snow to see what I can see. I will drive a big loop maybe 30-40 miles working what ever I come across that interests me. Mostly untapped by photographers the back roads of Wyoming are. . There are a few of us up here but not many doing this full time.

So I had drive a big round trip circuit and was just about back. Now this is a “major” local artery. It’s a Gravel Road but it’s usually a fairly busy road. Here it is on a Sunday morning at 9AM with no tracks but my own. I was surprised by it. The road I live on is often untracked most weekends unless I drive over it. You don’t want to break down out here. No cell phone service and no body coming by since the night before say 18 hours at least. There are some very remote parts of Wyotana I cruise about where I would expect that but not so much here.

Snow Diamonds (Diamond Dust)

All Blue Sky morning it was Diamond Dusting. Can it really snow on a cloudless, sunny day? It can if it’s diamond dust. It was pretty light so ore like Mother Nature’s tinsel than snow, this weather bonus is caused by millions of tiny ice crystals that form near the ground. As they float slowly in the air (much like household dust) they reflect the sunlight, which makes them sparkle like diamonds! A very similar phenomena is responsible for sun pillars both below and above the sun. Here those ice crystal plates fell all the way to the ground.

You see them on the road as bright sparkles.

Location :Trail Creek Road , 9 miles east from Rt’s 59, . Northeastern Wyoming, Campbell Country looking west up into Montana.

Title: Untracked Mid-Morning Snow Diamonds