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Crepuscular Rays from Above

Crepuscular Rays from Above
Crepuscular Rays from Above

Crepuscular Rays from Above

An irregularly shaped cloud cooperated here in this unusual lighting display put on for me here in late June 2020. It had been sprinkling all day with dark evil looking but harmless clouds. Lots of moisture in the air…. My biggest fear is lightning at the moment as this country is dry for the year. Missed the water that day. Fortunately, by means of compensation, the weather provided me this spot lit stage . The 10 miles to the first dark ridge in deep shadow was the hard part to capture with it being quite dark versus the ultra bright clouds. A cameras ability to bring out the dynamic range of a photo is something you want to buy into if your looking for a camera.

This display is an inverted downward “crown sky” (as I call them on my gallery). They are fairly rare while the more typical upward pointed rays at sunset more often are seen. I MIGHT see one a year this well developed. All the water vapor/moisture in the air along with actual precipitation acted to reflect the light to my lens. Of course I have many versions of this and will finish 3 maybe 4 of them. I’ve seen a few of this kind of show over the years. I suspect I could count the number of Crepuscular displays so complete I’ve captured to around a dozen.

Jagged Clouds are responsible for passing light. It’s the wide perspective of that light streaming through the gaps in the clouds that lends it’s fan shaped view to the observer. The phenomena makes it appear as if the sun is a mile or two above the cloud deck. Just follow the angles lolol. I assure you, the sun is a “few” miles up above the clouds. 😜

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

Title: Crepuscular Rays from Above

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WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet
WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

This is a Whitetail buck that was going to our water tanks along with the rest of his herd of 6 other bucks. A boys club as it were. By the time I got position on them (light), they were in deep brush with this one being the only one cooperatively posing for me. He wasn’t too worried as he kept on chewing the tasty morsel he had in his mouth. That’s pretty good for this jumpy species. Spring here is a land of plenty with a lot of lush green vegetation. The cellulose equivalent of jet fuel. 😜

Velvet refers to the skin covering the growing stubs of antler bone growth. That covering is rich in blood vessels supplying nutrients to the dividing cells. I believe this a 2 year old based on his body size so he may start looking better by late August. He is still growing.

I haven’t seen that many Mule Deer around the Homestead this spring. It’s starting to make me wonder where they are. There are been a lot of Pronghorn about. I’ve heard when the Whitetail move in, the Mule Deer Pack up and leave. I point out Mule deer are much better hunting / bigger / less skiddish etc. Whitetails running are one of the most beautiful images to witness live. This guy was just hanging out when I wandered by. Even they will get used to me if they keep a schedule by the water tanks.

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

Title: WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

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W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson
W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

That HUGE butte in silhouette(called “W” butte) is a southeastern Montana Landmark. Seen here from across the Montana/Wyoming border 35 miles distant. I’m standing in Wyoming. You can actually see the communications towers that are up there. An 18 inch wide tower at 35 miles is what is called “resolution”. I love how 1200 mm telephotos CRUSH perspective. Really high end camera backs give you very high megapixel count plus high dynamic range. The higher the megapixel count, the bigger you can print the image.

I seldom see naturally totally oversaturated clouds without me setting my camera incorrectly but the sky really was this color. I mention that because it’s looks very harlequin and un natural/odd to me. This is indeed what was down range of my lens that morning. I work very hard to get scenes to be a reproduction of what I experienced live real time. Looking back and forth between my video screen and the actual scene on almost every landscape/sunrise image is a good habit.

My process is to expose ONLY the highlights properly so as not to loose detail in them. I can worry about shadow detail in the digital darkroom. Interestingly, there was no detail in those crimsons back/bottom clouds to begin with. Nature doing the oversaturation is not that common in my experience. These cameras can usually look right through it to the detail hidden in the saturated area. IT wasn’t there to see from where I was…

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

Title: W Butte Alpenglow and Crimson

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Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake
Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake

The Black Angus Cattle herd out on “open range” were “Watering up” late in the afternoon. This natural spring fed lake watered several hundred cattle at about 30 gallons or more a day per adult. They usually fill their tank then get up the hill to better grass. All here are cows and calves. I doubt there are any bulls in the mix just yet but it won’t be long before it’s that time again. 

This is about as green as it has gotten this year. Part of it is this particular area is drier than others but over all it is indeed going to drought. The water is good sweet water with a tad of the cow next to you flavor I suspect as cattle have a pretty tough stomach. If you drink that water though there might be some intestinal ramifications lol. 

I drink NO natural waters without ultra fine filtration. THe cheapest way to filter your water is one of the many “straw filters out there). They are inexpensive protection, just don’t let them freeze after their first use. Honestly I haven’t had to resort to using even a stock tank for the 20 years I lived here. I always bring adequate supply in the form of frozen water bottles in an ice chest. I stuff water bottles in every spare crevice of my ATV and truck. This is dry country, almost a desert at 14 inches of rain a year. Carry enough water for 3 days minimum with you is my advice. Being without water is a bad thing…

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

Title: Meanwhile Down By the Lake

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Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown
Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Catching a Meadowlark at all is an accomplishment as I’ve never seen them lining up outside my studio for portraits, yet… With the right negotiation skills I’m sure “Sneaky Pete” the windmill could make it happen by promising to make them famous. As far as I know, that deal has not been cut yet. (years long narrative if you don’t understand). At any rate I’m always tickled when one of these singers performs for me. The estimate is about 20 percent of the Meadowlarks I see, let me get within good photo distance from them. All of my encounters are random as I travel about our ranch here in Wyotana.

So I’m coming back from a high ridge. I placed a cut branch a few years ago on a ridge with a view. It is conveniently located within excellent telephoto range from a trail I travel often. Usually I go out to photograph when the light looks interesting to me. If that changes I’ll return back for the trip to the homestead. Several miles of two track roads later I approach this. Stopping, turning off the Raptor, and wait. From the surrounding acreage, Meadowlarks came and went over the next hour. I was happy to facilitate their becoming “famous” 😜

What was really nifty about this was the wind was blowing at least 30 mph. It made for some interesting postures. The photographs of which will slowly work their way into my published work flow.

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

Title: Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

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Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama
Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

This is landscape close/far perspective version of a similar image I have in portrait image aspect. It was taken at a different place in the timeline. These skies morph by the minute. I call this backcountry ridge “Sunset Ridge” for it’s awe inspiring views of the eastern horizon covering the Big Skies of BOTH Montana and Wyoming. There is even a little South AND North Dakota there in the lower Golden Alpenglow.

Created is a classic Alpenglow Gradient with a fully involved complex cloud deck. I watched this Saturday the 20th’s morning with 3PM Mountain time roughly being the actual solstice. That is when the sun was over directly head of the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north Latitude. This location is for all intents and purposes exactly at 45 degrees North Latitude. This was the longest day of the year.

It was a beautiful morning. Left early mid-nautical twilight as it takes a while to get to this spot. It’s a civilized drive with a little over a mile of fairly smooth two track trail. A few miles of county gravel to start. It was cool this am in the 40’s with a stiff breeze. This kind of capture is handheld walking a ridge line I could park “Clever Girl” within walking distance of.

I am NOT used to 40 degree windy weather. There is this thing called windchill that works it’s way into the “hoodie” I had on. Just for your minds eye, I am usually in full camo dress as if I was hunting wildlife. As technically I am with the cameras lol. I would rather blend in than not.

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

Title: Summer Solstice Sunrise Drama

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Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough
Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

I’ve taken many photos of Meadowlarks over the years. Not so many flying up close like this. They are very fast fliers. Seems to me I always under estimate how much shutter speed is necessary to freeze their wings. Small birds and Bumblebees from now on will be 1/4000th of a second. (This was 1/1000th. (ISO 500, F8, 1200mm) I have images of dozens of birds launching/ taking off. I have maybe 5 or 6 of birds landing over my photographic career. Each of those I saw the birds incoming and was able to track it machine gunning the camera as fast as it will go. All my bird encounters are random out in the backcountry. I don’t feed birds except my barnyard flock.

In most photographic endeavors, more light is your friend…. Preferably bright sunlight. I had previously focused in this pine bough so I was just waiting for the bird to show up. Watching this same bird for 1/2 an hour come and go from this branch. I finally was able to bring one in. It’s like throwing darts in the dark through a really long lens which is required to get this kind of up close and personal shot.

Meadowlarks are abundant this year and I suspect all will be fat with grasshoppers. Unfortunately this is a grasshopper year too. There are enough grasshoppers to WAY over feed every bird in the area. We keep about 60 yard birds (ducks and chickens) in our barnyard. I’m feeding less so small herds of ducks are ranging around our yard to eat anything in site. The Meadowlarks will have a good year with easy pickings for their clutches.

What is a disadvantage to us (grasshopper) is a buffet to another species. Kind of like this business climate. I hope they eat themselves good an chubby. We are currently getting golden yolk free range chicken eggs that MIGHT taste a bit this year like grasshopper guts…… Could be wrong…. 😜

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

Title: Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

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Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show
Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

I call this backcountry ridge “Sunset Ridge” for it’s awe inspiring views of the eastern horizon covering the Big Skies of BOTH Montana and Wyoming. There is even a little South AND North Dakota there in the lower Golden Alpenglow. A classic Alpenglow Gradient with a fully involved complex cloud deck. I watched this Saturday the 20th’s morning with 3PM Mountain time roughly being the actual solstice. That is when the sun is over directly head of the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north Latitude. This location is for all intents and purposes exactly at 45 degrees North Latitude. This will be the longest day of the year. It was a beautiful morning.

Left early mid-nautical twilight as it takes a while to get to this spot. It’s a civilized drive with a little over a mile of fairly smooth two track trail. A few miles of county gravel to start. It was cool this am in the 40’s with a stiff breeze. This kind of capture is handheld walking a ridge line I could park “Clever Girl” within walking distance of. I am NOT used to 40 degree windy weather. There is this thing called windchill that works it’s way into the “hoodie” I had on. Just for your minds eye, I am usually in full camo dress as if I was hunting wildlife. As technically I am with the cameras lol. I would rather blend in than not.

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

Title: Summer Solstice Sunrise Show

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Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster
Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

Just to give you an idea of scale of this image, that white roof is the size of a regulation football field. That building is our stock barn next to my homesteads compound. (I call that our “infield”). This was taken using a 12 mm (very wide angle) lens to take in about 100 degree slice of sky. The top of the photo is essentially straight up. In other words, this is a big wide/tall view of about 1/3rd of the sky. This was right over us and worse moving in.

This was a mean one. The actively rolling Jump rope hoop on the right center was rotating nicely. It reminds me of a “Smoke ring” for some reason. Seeing obvious rotation is always an adrenaline rush. Then the rush for cover….

After the fact…checking my Davis Pro II weather stations (2) data on the actual stations showed two different high wind speeds. Station 1 was high wind of 79mph with Station 2 coming in at 84mph.

This storm did indeed do some damage and I got down to that big roof to ride out the storm under. It blew a plexiglass window out of the frame in that building, cartwheeled a previously nice calf shed over a fence, (damaged it), and tipped over 2 long empty above ground gasoline tanks on stands. We get high winds all the time so damage to trees was minimal around the house. Having said that, I have seen several broken pines out in the backcountry showing fresh damage. When you have full grown pine trees snapping, it’s classified as a “Stiff” Wyotana breeze. 😜📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana) May 2020

Title: Mesocyclone Shelf Cloud Monster

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Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette
Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

A neighbors ranch gate to their main entry nicely ornate with a plasma cut piece of soft steel. Rusted to a nice tan patina during the day. The gateway having stood for around 20 years to my recollection. Ranches take great pride in their entrances.

The Meadowlark on this 2:1 image aspect capture was VERY cooperative. I kept thinking he would fly away as I did adjust my position a few times. Movement after you stop is not well tolerated by Meadowlarks. They take flight (usually) as you try to adjust your position for a proper composition. This time it was not so flighty. I figure it was watching the sunset with the rest of us. I’m thinking he was unaware of the stampede occurring right under his nose.

This image meant as a diptych work of course. The timing for sunset at this particular point in space and time was a matter of just being there with a camera capable of working in this high light environment. It’s hard to understand but this light envelope was a bright sun behind a thick cloud veil. All taking place at sunset. It was an amazing occurrence to have a meadowlark sit for me to light up a composition like this lol. I’m sure it’s something “Sneaky Pete” arranges but I may never know….😜🤘

Location: Entrance to the ranch “next door” of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

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Forest Fire Smoke Plume

Forest Fire Smoke Plume
Forest Fire Smoke Plume

Forest Fire Smoke Plume

It has been a very dry year starting about January and we are well below normal at our location. I was sorry to see this as I climbed up to a local high point looking from Wyoming to Montana across the border. This old seeder has been a star of many a close / far perspective in my portfolio. You have to admire it’s view (in all directions). That far ridge of mountains is about 50 miles distant from the antique planter as is the forest / range fire burning on the back side of the Red Hills.

So I wonder in the scheme of things how this seeder has avoided being burned on the range during it’s tenure on site. There have been significant grass fires. Some burned free until the first snows in the country. More so at the beginning of the last century than later through the 1940’s. Locals have fought grass and timber fires for generations. I have fought my share and spent days driving the ranches M813 Military 5 ton truck outfitted with 1000 gallon of water with a couple of 1.5 inch hoses off the fire pump. I primarily do the driving these days. Mostly grass fires under my belt. My fire rig fits poorly between trees lolol. I’ll do tanker duty though for the smaller rancher rigs on pickup truck. Done that a few times.

I didn’t have to use my fire truck last year. The year before was a few times. One summer was horrible in my past here for local fires. We were up the hills after thunderstorms to look for plumes and knock down the fire fast. This summer is tender dry with not much falling as I type this. Some weather is coming through the region so we will see how the dice roll.

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

Title: Forest Fire Smoke Plume

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Eye and Ear on You

Eye and Ear on You
Eye and Ear on You

Eye and Ear on You

As I get eyebrow close to a lot of wild animals these days. My truck is accepted by many local inhabitants as just another Black Creature grazing on the prairie. It’s a wonderfully appointed mobile blind for me to work the creatures that haunt these prairie highlands and ridge country. Most of the local critters let me move around without changing their natural behavior resultant of my presence.

Animals don’t see much traffic out here. But they are usually aware of your presense. I caught this doe (those are ears not horns) looking back at me while looking the other way at the same time. Not to mention the left ear is strategically pointed my way to listen to the tunes one a Sirius XM channel I’m pretty sure. Good tunes are hard to ignore in the backcountry. But to be able to see behind your head would certainly be an evolutionary advantage. They have a 320 degree width of vision. This is super creature wide vision. Fish eye lens times two lolol.

This one is shedding as you can see a roll on it’s neck and the scruffy look along it’s back. Still early in the summer for this shot. These Pronghorn are quite the dressers when they get in top shape by the end of summer. The Fall outfits are smooth and properly covering for the cold months to come. Now it’s spreading to the wind lol.

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

Title: Eye and Ear on You

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Cowboy Saves Bird from T-rex

Cowboy Saves Bird from T-rex
Cowboy Saves Bird from T-rex

Cowboy Saves Bird from T-rex

Or so the Satirical Headline Reads…

If I go out for sunset to work the light with a box-o-cameras, I’m pretty much serious about the process. I maintain a high operational tempo all day but go into overdrive with cameras chasing fleeting light.

So I just spent a few hours out in the backcountry trying to work this sunset. I finally give up on the light and head back to the ranch. A few miles of two tracks later I get to our driveway. A few hundred feet of gravel to home to a reclining chair. But no, I saw this apparition backed by Alpenglow occurring before my eyes. Thusly the involvement of a photon trap in the capture. Picking the right gear for the situation is of course the “game here. The cowboys had T-rex’s tail totally held back by a lariat firmly set into the saddle (just off frame right), that line was sure holding back the T-rex’s charge. The helpless bird was clueless it was about to get eaten of course. The second ropin’ hand on the left was going for a leg to stretch him out.

I didn’t stick around long enough to see the hog tie but I’m pretty sure those horses know what they are doing. The cowboys around these parts are versatile. Here at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, there have been dinosaur encounters of many kinds.😜 Here, the chapped ones saved the day yet again. 🤘

These are silhouettes from the Ranches Main Gate Entry. I did the art years ago and had a plasma table cut the design out. The bird was serendipity as of course is most opportunistic photography 📸 .

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

TItle: Cowboy Saves Bird from T-rex

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Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree
Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

Finding a Huge Mesocyclone Spinning 50 miles+ off in the distance, I’m thinking “Perspective” 📸 So I had a “Far Object’. This little Spinning top of a storm with the energy of the atom bomb spread out over it’s lifetime. This is just the right 1/3rd of the storm. I easily could have made a triptych out of the total storm. Over an hour after this capture, I was chasing this storm and indeed took a very wide composite image of the sunset projecting red on this storm. Both daylight AND twilight captures of this storm are now in my portfolio. 

These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as potential monsters if they roll over you. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long. Yes tornadic activity can occur out of them. Hail is also a HUGE threat. 

They make ultimate IMAX™ wide theatre screen for the filtered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector over my shoulder with this being the backshow more mid-day . 📸 Having passed right over us. This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 100 miles across. Still Blue with white clouds, the twilight colors later in any sunset timeline are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere.

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

Title: Backcountry Mesocyclone Lone Tree

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Perspective Pronghorns Sage Lounge

Perspective Pronghorns Sage Lounge
Perspective Pronghorns Sage Lounge

Perspective Pronghorns Sage Lounge

Or is that Chaise Lounge? 😝

This late spring, the grass is not that high yet as it’s starting as a dry year. It may appear this Pregnant Pronghorn Doe was standing in high grass. Nope.. If you look carefully, you can see her hind leg folded up as she is actually bedded down. Also she would stand well over the Yucca right behind her. She rests unafraid of my presence. I actually thought she was standing while watching live in the camera. After a few minutes she didn’t move anything but her head I figured that out lol. That head is on a constant swivel as all Pronghorn practice situational awareness routinely. In my experience, they are on situation Orange most of the time and go red at a pin dropping. She can go from 0 to 60 even while pregnant as here though I suspect 50 might be her top speed capability in her “sensitive” condition.

Setting aside very difficult to capture Pronghorn Eyelash close shots of wild animals, the Holy Grail of Pronghorn Photography are bedded animals. Certainly I use long lenses that bring creatures up close and personal. However this was intended as a landscape composition that happened to have a Pronghorn in it lolol. I can’t tally all the things that have to align just so to get a capture like this. The layers of this composition are many (I count 9) which I LOVE to find while randomly driving along remote two track roads. I find new angles every time I go out here in Wyotana. This country is beautiful every which way you look.

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

Title: Perspective Pronghorns Sage Lounge

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Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset
Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

You really have to see this full screen to appreciate it. It is dark but that is because the dynamic range required to look into the sun. The Camera relents. It’s inability to replicate what my eye sees is obvious to me. Technology will eventually catch up. The human eye has 5 or more F-stops of Dynamic range than the best camera. IF you blow this image up, you can see lots of detail in the dark. If you looked at the sun at the scene, it would have blinded you the glare was so intense. Cameras seeing details in the dark while looking at other very bright things is why silhouettes are created. The camera is unable to do what the eye does. I point out that the camera is better at looking into the sun than the eye is though 👀😜📸

This timeline was limited to about 15 minutes as this is just a thin slit for the sun to shine through. The cloud deck was otherwise opaque to the sun. It was actually quite beautiful as a stand alone sky show. Always trying to work a scene, I had no way to incorporate the foreground into this scene. I was up too high on the ridges and at a point JUST above the next ridge in front of the camera. No time to move. The cloud deck never lit up from under significantly on this show. That was a trick mother nature held out for a short 8 hours later for dawn the next day. That timeline will make it’s way into my work flow shortly. Stay tuned….

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

Title: Crimson Tinged Blue Sunset

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Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus
Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

This was a very Late afternoon “Golden hour”. Clouds all illuminated of the west side of a huge growing Mesocyclone. The Sun had already set where I was standing even on a high hill top. . The lower part of this cloud is in the shadow of the horizon as well. I was miles out on that high ridge from the homestead watching a huge storm in the distance when I noticed the “hat” on the top. The amount of energy tied up in these massive spinning monsters is amazing. The 60 mile across storm was growing stronger as it traveled away from me. It was visibly growing taller as well. 

The Science of this: 

Pileus Clouds are also called “cap” clouds or “Scarf” clouds. They typically are short lived. Usually the climbing cumulonimbus absorbs them. Only occasionally seen only over strong updrafts. THe change caused a dew point tripping phase change. Flashing vapor to condensation droplets. The appropriate changes in either Temp/pressure/humidity can cause the condensation. 

Personally I’ve only seen them once before. I didn’t have a camera with the legs to reach out and capture their essence. Rule number one of Photography is (Have a camera). Rule number one subsection 2 (1.2) is have the right lens on the camera to get close to what you want in the frame. This was a 1200mm on a full frame mirrorless Sony Alpha 7R4. This is about 10 miles distant. 

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. 

Title: Pileus Cloud over Cumulonimbus

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Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients
Spring Twilight Color Gradients

Spring Twilight Color Gradients

The stripe of orange/yellow colored ice under the Crimson Cloud Deck is what the sun light is passing through. A fully involved twilight sky is the result of that red/orange light making it through to the underside of a cloud deck This image was taken near the border line of Montana / Wyoming. The Butte actually sits directly on the border which coincidentally is precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole. Some bright guy in the past decided that a kilometer would be based on the distance from the Equator to the North Pole. That distance is 10,000 kilometers between the geographic characteristics 90 degrees apart on the globe. There is actually a difference in distance to the south versus the north pole from the equator. There are several related discussions but that is something you’ll need to google for yourself 👀🤔😀

I must climb several hundred feet of topography to get this eastern view. It’s a several mile drive over two track roads. This spring time image from from May of 2020. With the drying out of my trails, I have much better access to the ranch’s high ground. The views are spectacular up there. I consider the east west view from certain high points around here to be 180 miles from horizon to horizon. Those spots however are not very easy to get to 1/2 hour before the sun rises lolol. The Big Sky of Montana merges seamlessly with the Wonderful Wyoming Skies right over my place.

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

Title: Spring Twilight Color Gradients

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Portrait of Devils Tower

Portrait of Devils Tower
Portrait of Devils Tower

Portrait of Devils Tower

That 5112 foot tall Devil’s Tower National Monument is standing 1267 feet high above the surrounding ground. There is an intervening ridge JUST covering the base from this spot. The high ground looks pretty close. Those columns of phenolytic porphyry are pretty distant/ big and stand out in this well lit Tower and shadowed landscape. The summer rain dump behind the tower is the reflecting color of the light reaching the suspended ice from the sun. That all reflected back to my lens.

The Tower exposed from burial by thousands of feet of sediments, stands unsupported. Those rocks used to surround the tower. Supporting the hard rock volcanic neck up many thousands of feet higher than it is now.. The surrounding “softer” sediments were removed. All by the action of 2 rivers. Little Missouri River plus the Belle Fourche River Drainage. Those two drainages providing the bulk of that erosive work locally. The soft rock easily removed. While the harder material remains as mountains. Removal of material is how most mountains take their shape. Nature is a sculptor of magnificent skills. Those expressed by the breadth and majesty of it’s creations.

Devils Tower National Monument is about 40 from my vantage point on the Pass to Rocky Point Wyoming on Trail Creek Road. I’m standing Campbell County Wyoming.
This is the view that tourists never see as they are all on the other side of those hills. You can see South Dakota from this site on a very clear day…completely across Crook County Wyoming. That is a BIG county 80 miles wide anyway.

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

Title: Portrait of Devils Tower

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Turtle Butte Volcanic Eruption

Turtle Butte Volcanic Eruption
Turtle Butte Volcanic Eruption

Turtle Butte Volcanic Eruption

A volcano blows up on the border of Wyoming / Montana. Here we are 40 miles from the closest historic Volcanic Field and those haven’t gone off for a LONG time. I wake up to shaking the other morning and much to my surprise, was a local pyramidal hillock that was blowing it’s top. The steam was rising, the cauldron boiling. I anticipate pyroclastic flows, lahars, glowing red hot clouds and other volcanic manifestations similar to what buried Pompeii. Ash should start falling any moment. Maybe “Sneaky Pete” the windmill will save the day and blow the ash away… Back to my normal programming: OK, this is NOT a volcano.

A simple sedimentary sandy remnant, Turtle butte has great aspirations. But Alas I suspect turning into a cinder cone volcano is not going to come about in the scheme of things. If this were really a volcano, I’d set up an outdoor hot dog and marsh mellow stand for the tourists. I mean based on buffalo encounters at other volcanos, they like to get close to things a tad out of their league.  I wonder why it’s called “Turtle Butte”? 😜

The Volcanic Fields regionally are several and spread in various time periods. Some being of serious world wide significance. Yellowstone of course is widely known as a “Super Volcano” the explosion of which would create a rough few centuries afterwards. There are many smaller volcanic complexes of various ages around the region. A pipe here, a sill there. The 16 or so million year history of Yellowstone starting out in Washington / Oregon culminating with a hot spot in Wyoming/Montana/Idaho. The Snake River Plain showing the path of the hotspot and a sequence of volcanic calderas across the continental scale landscape over that interval. That is a whole different scale of event for another time.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Butte

Title: Turtle Butte Volcanic Eruption

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Old Man North Wind

Old Man North Wind
Old Man North Wind

Old Man North Wind

I laughed out loud and then took dozens of images in all sorts of frame compositions. I liked this particular capture the best. There are several very good cloud creatures in this image. The hoot is the face on the upper gray cloud. The north wind as it were … Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale” The Selfish Giant (1888) exemplifies the North Wind as a man who “was wrapped in furs. He roared all day. I’ve always pictured him in my minds eye as a grey old guy… here he is caught on camera.

I thought as this was taken, it was an exercise in futility for the old guy. It was early June and 80+ degree days are already past us. My sense of normalcy was safe or so I thought. Of course it’s snowing in the mountains as I type this now. Looks like the old fellow got his way after all. I have seen snow in every calendar month of the year in the 30 years I’ve lived in Wyoming. I now have garden crops in and am hoping we will avoid the worst of the old North Winds effects.

Meanwhile on the rest of the image here overlooking both Montana and Wyoming. I’m also imagining a swan diving it’s head under the surface of a frothy ponds below the old guy. Pareidolia takes no captives and gives no quarter. If you have it, and don’t take definitive action to turn away, your likely to see all sorts of anthropomorphic shapes in clouds. If you do have this tendency, welcome to the club of us “suffering” from this malady.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands.

Title: Old Man North Wind

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Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter
Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

This adult female “Corriente” Breed is pulling nursery duty with two other angus calves that are in with her. We have a few white face “Angus” hanging out with a few “Corriente” this year and these were their calves. The calves mothers were nearby. This “Corriente” mother is still pregnant as my Horned gals are on a late June birth schedule. Very soon… I’ve owned this cow “Salt” for the last 5 years. (or she has just hung around and let me stay here too). She has given me a salt and pepper calf each year. This might be her last year as she is getting a little old for breeding much longer.

The “Corriente” breed originate from Spain/southern Europe. Imported into the America’s in 1493 reportedly by Spanish Settlers. I call them longhorns but some have said “they are not longhorns”. As I understand it, the Texas Longhorns were developed from this old stock but I could be wrong. Their most impressive characteristic to me is they are extremely hardy and take very little care. We do run them through the state required vaccinations, worming etc obviously. Other than that, there isn’t much to do for them except find homes for the calves from the previous year.

They are often used in the rodeo ring to rope as calves and to practice practical cowboy skills on around the ranch. Many large ranches have a few “Corriente” calves around just to practice on. “Training up” your “hands” on a ranch is a good “slow time” activity. The HUGE barn on this ranch was built for this. It still could be an indoor calf roping arena if I got all my crap out of it lol. There is still lot of the old memorabilia associated with those calf roping events held back in the 1970’s on the walls of that foot ball field sized building.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Perspective Corriente Baby Sitter

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Red Barn Strawberry Moon

Red Barn Strawberry Moon
Red Barn Strawberry Moon

Red Barn Strawberry Moon

I had very few opportunities to photograph the June 2020 Strawberry Moon as the clouds failed to provide me ample windows. Our closest celestial neighbor is coy with me sometimes. Playing peek a boo behind cloud decks. Some of these events are no shows by the actors. I drive miles to get to the right spot, and no moon, hiding behind a cloud, then it drops into the window…. this moon had it’s own agenda in mind this particular (and most) morning(s).

I arrange my schedule around such sky plays. Finding opportunity to compose properly is the result of the complex map in my head. By knowing where the moon will set, I can adjust my location to provide the “vision” ahead of the event. You have to have a camera with you (Rule 1 of Photography) of course. So premeditation is a requirement for the job of landscape photographer. You plan ahead and you bring a tool to accomplish your goal.

I don’t know the background information on this barn yet but I suspect it was built coterminously with the Main Parks Ranch Homestead Building 300 feet away. There is wisdom to build your house Northeast of the cattle yard when the predominate prevailing with is the Northwest. Something about the Scent of “O dor Corral” that has to be considered when designing a ranch compound layout circa 1900. No air conditioning then. All of this is built with rough cut locally obtained lumber.

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

Title: Red Barn Strawberry Moon

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Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

Moon over Massive Mesocyclone
Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

I had gone on a backcountry road trip of about 15 miles to find a place around this storm which was blocking my view of the rising Strawberry moon. I understand the Algonquins tribe named it as the June moon corresponds to the picking of the wild strawberry crop. In Europe they are a bit more flowery with the “Rose” moon chosen for the moon moniker. Also called the “Hot Moon, the Honey Moon and the derivative of honey, the Mead Moon. Cheese with Honey I’m guessing lolol. It was probably about time for some Mead after the long winter this moon harkens the end of.

Seeing the Full moon this month was a good time for philosophy and thoughts of normalcy as the return of the season. I get very “reflective” introspectively about “cycles”. I’ve been at this place before a few times circling around our star. I recognizes processes and natures schemes for it’s perpetual engine to continue unabated. The machinations of our population makes little difference to those certainties provided by natures processes. All that is ongoing around is is insignificant in the scheme of the world around us. It’s somehow settling to have those processes continue in front of my eyes like the clock work that they are. The geologists in me tries terribly hard to be in tune with those little things. It’s makes understanding the bigger things that are so complex, possible. It takes a compilation of the little things to comprehend. Nature is easy, it’s human nature that is the tough one. IT’s the humans that the uncertainly. 😔📷

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

Title: Moon over Massive Mesocyclone

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Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands
Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands

These guys are sandpipers with obscenely long bills. Since the male and female Curlews look pretty much alike with minor differences in the bill I’m not qualified to call. What I like about these guys is that they are grasshopper eating machines in the summer. They over winters in wetland marshes and other shore line estuaries. It couldn’t get much further away from the ocean as we are only a few hundred miles away from the geographic center of North America. They like this highland grassy ridge to breed and set their nests in.

They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing calls. They will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. Entertaining if your a photographer as catching them in not easy tracking with a long lens. Challenging is what I call it. I often find them driving along the two track trails as I’m on the flats below the higher ridges. Mostly a flat field grassy nesting bird rather than preferring a hillside with a view as I’ve seen them.

I understand that across their range, the numbers of this amusing bird are dropping with the reduction in natural grass land turned to mono-crop agricultural uses. They of course use wild non – tilled prairie to nest and feed during the summer months. A classic case of reduce the habitat and reduce the numbers. 😔

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

Title: Curlew in the Grass Lands

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Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake
Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

The night was a partially cloudy evening with mid-layer patches of stratus clouds. The air was cool but NO wind makes mother nature say “find a pond” to me. When I get lucky, the sun drops below the layer of clouds. Then it can happen that nature provides me with a color pallet that says “take my photo” lolol.. Conveniently a rare windless Wyotana last light of the day moment was spent down by this local pond with a view. I particularly enjoy fully involved skies but sometimes the mosquitos push my limits. Out comes a small can of DEET (Off™) I keep handy in “Clever Girl” for such excursions. I don’t like it anywhere near optics/lenses though. Yuck…

Spring time is a good time for new angles for me to work photographically. The sun pushes North every sunset. Landscape features I use for compositions here in the backcountry are changed in their relationship to the light everday. An infinite variety of subjects over the 5 square miles of this small ranch.

The sun will start setting more to the south each night starting the Summer Solstice June 20th 3:44PM MST, the sun will continue to set to the left from this view point from June 20th till next December. Moving completely off frame with it progression to the south. This is a very wide capture at 130 degrees wide showing the whole sky that night.

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

Title: Sunset Reflections Backcountry Lake

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Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody
Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

The spinning and singing of this melody is not uncommon in the high ridges of the Wyotana backcountry but is worthy of my attention historically. I often an observer these storms which start as smaller building cumulus clouds to my west. Traveling overhead through their towering maturity which this had yet to achieve. Positioning for photography is all about timing and ones placement behind them to get late afternoon lighting on these monsters.

The name of this looming, 60 mile across supercell is a “Mesocyclone”. This is indeed a “small” version of the storms I see floating by the ranch actually fitting fully into the frame of a 24mm lens. I could go twice as wide with the camera/lens combinations I carry routinely. I’ve had storms not fit within those lenses even at distance. Those superscells get 100 miles plus across. Behind them is a good place to be lolol.

Not to diminish the threat of these things if you were on the other side it’s traveling toward. . The best photos of these massive spinning tops are from the sunlit side and I relish them passing by. I’m not actually a storm “Chaser” and more of a storm evader. I prefer instead to get this “from the back” perspective on late afternoon maladies such as these. Let them float over head, head up the hill an hour later to get the light under the storm.

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

Title: Mesocyclone Mid Day Melody

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Wooden Tower AerMotor Windmill

Wooden Tower AerMotor Windmill
Wooden Tower AerMotor Windmill

Wooden Tower AerMotor Windmill

I traveled 30 miles one way to get to this windmill standing agains a late afternoon landscape. Of course I have a whole timeline of this backcountry Wyoming gravel road trip from start to near finish as this was. I left back for home a few minutes after this shot. There was landscape I wanted to be in front of at sunset.

Old Wooden Windmill towers are good for MAYBE 50 years. Some may last a bit longer. This is over in Crook County off Jenkins Road. I wouldn’t suggest traveling Jenkins road if there is any drifting or mud doing on since you may not see another traveler this week. This is a big backcountry up here and no one lives on this particular stretch of road. Very little commerce but ranching happens here. This is 30 miles west from Devils tower with it’s related volcanic neck’s of the “3 sisters” (Missouri Buttes)

The sail of the Aermotor Wind Engine has a ding at thop. What does it take to bend a windmill vein…? One heck of a hail stone anyway…. That windmill has seen a local ranch house inhabited then abandoned nearby. It’s in rough shape. The mountains (Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower (far left light butte) seem to have not changed very much over it’s shoulder. What lighting 👀 📷 Golden Hour in the middle of nowhere. This from the road.

Location: Near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) (Looking south east in northern Crook County Wyoming

Title: Wooden Tower AerMotor Windmill

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Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying
Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying

The smallest of the North American Falcons, the Kestrel is elusive to photograph in my world. I might see one singularly in a years work. Usually at a distance and seldom at rest. They have an uncanny ability to hoover with their head motionless. All the while scanning the ground below for any prey movement.

They are not very large at only a foot tall. Somewhere between a robin and a crow in size. They are the most common falcon in North America as well as the smallest . They are aerial acrobats though with the ability to hoover with their head motionless. None the less they are so small buffeting in the high winds here on the high ridges is visible. The vertical slashes on the face are shared by the sexes but the blue/slate wings and brown “cap” head markings are distinguishing in the males.

Kestrel eat a broad range of grasshopper sized bugs up to mice, bats, songbirds and even smaller snakes or frogs. Opportunistic hunters they are. I have seen them hunt before but are elusive to photograph being quite small. I was very fortunate to come up over a ridge top to find this guy sitting on a snowy branch. He spent about a minute and a half after we surprised each other observing me. I immediately stopped on seeing him. It was windy so he might not have heard me as he was up wind. It only took me a few seconds to bring this long lens to the task. I clicked a few images carefully checking focus each time and off he flew off after game. I lost him after that.

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

Title: Kestrel Falcon Flying

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High Country Sky on Fire

High Country Sky on Fire
High Country Sky on Fire

High Country Sky on Fire

Taken VERY early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. Those tree branches are very close for a telephoto perspective. I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy feathery cloud color gradient already on a remote high ridge.

Getting around in the backcountry during early twilight: Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you have to gain altitude to do so. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation here. Everything else locally is lower. Having said that, we are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). I have to leave considerably before sunrise to get up to an eagles view location as this.. I extend my horizon to 50 miles to the east if I climb the right peaks. This ridge named by me as “Sunrise Ridge” but usually because I’m taking pictures of the sunrise OVER this ridge. Not FROM this ridge as this captured moment in space time presents. IT’s a way’s out from my homestead driving 2 track roads in the dark. I have excellent lights on my F-150 Raptor though.

The Dark Orange Alpenglow is caused by ice that like a gel filter on a theatrical stage, colors all behind it. This is the cause of the color reflected of those feathery wisps of a cloud deck. Photography from the remainder of this timeline was equally as good. Eventually, most twilights gradually taper to a blue morning as the suns light was higher and less filtered by the atmosphere. Blue light invades, shadows ignite with detail and dynamic range. This was early in twilight, about 20 minutes before sunrise that May morning.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: High Country Sky on Fire