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Fall Equinox Fence Line

Fall Equinox Fence Line
Fall Equinox Fence Line

Fall Equinox Fence Line

During the Fall Equinox (on Sept 22nd during 2020) Smoke Pall over the skies from the fires to the west.

Around the Equinox, the east / west trending fences have a tendency to fall into order with the universe. For all intents and purposes, this fence line is directly on the Montana / Wyoming border . Montana on the left and Wyoming on the right. Looking East at Sunrise. Ive done many fence perspectives straight on with the fencline. Getting above it so far was an act of crushing perspective with a long lens from a far away hill. Looking over this west slope of a local divide between upper drainage courses.

Many of my photo’s have parts of both states in them. Either a Wyoming ground with Montana Sky or visa-versa. Here the sun looks over all that ground. It is having a great deal of trouble getting it’s light to the ground. The Pall of Smoke this particular day (this has set in for a few months I’m thinking ) was different than each day before it. The strange “filtered light” feeling reminds me of watching a total solar eclipse.

You might note the “Hump Gate” mid-fence. It’s a Cattle gate I designed to put on the ground without having to dig a hole under it. Cattle don’t cross it but ATV’s zip right over it. Idle minds are problematic in my world lol.

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

Title: Fall Equinox Fence Line

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Renewables Struggling to Keep Up

Renewables Struggling to Keep Up
Renewables Struggling to Keep Up

Renewables Struggling to Keep Up

The Smoke Pall has shown a short fall of solar renewables to keep up with demand under the significantly lower light levels. ALL the ranchers under this smoke that rely on solar wells to water stock are scrambling if they use solar… (When you have to chain a 12 foot long 6 inch diameter pipe tied to a well casing down to keep it from moving in the wind). There might be some wind loading on this infrastructure lol…

Many ranchers have to put generators on their wells now to pump enough water to keep all the cattle well watered. The average cow drinks 30 gallons a day on a nice day. Hot days…. 50 or more :)… That adds up in a herd with say 400 head drinking 30 gallons each. That’s 12000 gallons they need on an easy day ….. A garden hose at 5 gallons a minute, 300 gallons an hour is only 7200 gallons a day with 24 hour sun………. Hard for any ranches solar well working a it’s highest efficiency to do that much…. This one does 5 gallons a minute in full sun. Maybe 10 hours a day in the summer……

Ranchers aren’t the only one to notice this shortfall I assure you. ANY solar array installed on homes, businesses, and utility based are having performance issues lately due to the western forest fires. This is perhaps biggest problem with solar is that the sun doesn’t always shine and it’s really expensive to store the power (plus inefficient).

Apparently Tesla has recently sold some BIG batteries to England that some hoopla was made that power can be stored then used in peak demand times. I don’t know the specifics but that had to be expensive and will need to be replaced in 10 – 20 years. I read where some body in Tennessee has figured out how to crack ethanol from water using an exotic copper catalyst plus CO2 driven by electricity If that comes to fruition, electrolysis using spare electricity from renewables will change the game. Just burn the generated ethanol to run a generator then…. In the mean time, any scheme to substitute renewables will run into this problem with regional brown outs or rolling blackouts.

Having some background in this…. I have run 18- 200 watt solar panels net metered to the utility since 2005 . Individual solar set ups since 1995. ). I did all the engineering /wiring / installation of the systems. We even had 5 electrical engineers from the power company there for the initial connect. All watching the meter run backwards going ooo and ahhh. We were first to hook up feeding back to the utility in this region according to them in 2005. They were excited.

I was even a member of the Wyoming Wind Power working group upon it’s inception for about a year of monthly meetings in Casper. All of us were “pioneers” doing this. That group was more interested in the big projects unfortunately so I left. I was more interested in what ranchers could do…. Wind, just another renewable that doesn’t work all the time. Interesting hobby if you have the spare money to put into a project that will never pay for itself. The solar well now…. that’s another story since running electricity to this particular spot would be several hundred thousands of dollars. It has paid for itself many times. Solar running a house…. not so much.

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

Title: Renewables Struggling to Keep Up

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Channeling Japan in Wyotana

Channeling Japan in Wyotana
Channeling Japan in Wyotana

Channeling Japan in Wyotana

Boy the Land of the Rising Sun has nothing on this country. (Except Deep Sea Food lol) . Those swanky Japanese Maples are perhaps more photogenic than the backcountry Jack Pines seen here. But not much. Old growth and 60 feet tall survivors of the “big fire” back in the 1930’s. Here they bask in the colorcast smoke filtered light. The smoke from the fire all over the west. The sun size show the crushing of perspective by this long lens. Those trees are a mile distant.

These survivors dominate the ridge on the Wyoming / Montana border. This ground was more like the ridge behind them 100 years ago. No low branches is an adaptation to range fires. Those trees that loose their lower branches to heat from earlier fires do better the next time around. This growth habit is not reflected in the young progeny around the old still standing soldiers.

Living Hundreds of years on this ridge, the family here is tightly knit. I would imagine they are all related closely from a single pioneering ancestor. No doubt from way back in local early post glacial history. These pine trees of course release their seeds by way of cones falling scattered around their base. Those cones only open in response to a grass fire that is not too big, not too small. When the fire burns past, you get a generation of young pine trees that sprout up afterwards. Unless the fire is too hot. Fed by a century or more long build up of fuel in the grass. Old logs, branches and layers of pine cones.

Facts are that regular fires are GOOD for the ecosystem by regularly cleaning up the forest litter. Preventing HOT uncontrolled fires is a good idea across the board. Those fires burn the seeds they release and set the trunks of the old grown on fire destroying them in the process. Regular small fires help, large hot burns not so much. I’ve fought a few fires during my two decades on ranch. I don’t like fighting back in the woods too much. Not that I like fighting fires at all lol. Controlled burns are a GOOD thing. It spreads out the work over decades safely instead of all at once where you just loose things. This is not new knowledge. Common sense.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana .

Title: Channeling Japan in Wyotana

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Perspective on a Smokey Sunset

Perspective on a Smokey Sunset
Perspective on a Smokey Sunset

Perspective on a Smokey Sunset

The Amount of Smoke in the air should not be underestimated here. When I get stepped gradients around the sun, there is literally a visual tunnel / window your looking at suspended in the sky. LOTS of Smoke… This is the scene exactly as I saw it. The colors are spot on. It shows the prodigious accumulated plume from of hundreds of forest fires to our west all the way to the Pacific Coast. The southwest/west is in a Mega-drought of sorts and has been for two decades. Megadroughts happen, and have happened several times in the past. This all before man became responsible for climate.

Researchers in the “southwest” compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other historic drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record. I haven’t read this study personally but this is from the abstract.

The paper, presented in the journal “Science” reveals the south-western US has been suffering from a 20-year “megadrought” – a period of very severe aridity that is starving rivers, stoking fires, emptying reservoirs and constraining water supplies to the municipalities of the region. Explosive Population growth and river diversion for agriculture as well as human use certainly looks to be a future problem. Millions depend on rainfall in the South Western United States.

Way up in northeastern Wyoming, our ranch is mid-continent 100 miles from the geographic center of North America. None the less the Drought monitor map has tongues reaching right up from the Southwest to this corner of Wyoming. We are definitely “enjoying” a serious lack of precipitation. Unless a Mesocyclone or two happened to run directly over you this summer. You’ve had a rough year growing grass. (our main crop).

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

Title: Perspective on a Smokey Sunset

Perspective on a Smokey Sunset

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Wyotana Volcanic Display

Wyotana Volcanic Display
Wyotana Volcanic Display

Wyotana Volcanic Display (Satire)

So I wake up 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. It takes a properly positioned camera lol. Those are normal clouds up in the sky. Yellowstone is not blowing up. The Devil’s Tower/Missouri Butte Volcanic Neck field about 50 miles to my southeast has not reactivated. No, the Laramide Orogeny has not started back up just yet.

That Butte (called Turtle Butte), is made of layers of river sands stacked on top of one another. The volcanic shape is a result of a hard cap rock which resisted erosion better than every thing else between it and myself. All that rock has been removed by erosion. It is a erosive remnant of all the material that used to surround the hill. Hundreds of feet if not thousands of feet (depending on your location) of sediment has been removed around here. Remember Devils Tower? That used to be a mile or so deep. Now it sticks up 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. That river system essentially removed enough material to expose the harder tower. Same process here except just the top of the hill is harder rock.

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

Title: Wyotana Volcanic Display

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Twin Mesocyclones over Wyotana

Twin Mesocyclones over Wyotana
Twin Mesocyclones over Wyotana

Twin Mesocyclones over Wyotana

This pair of 30 mile across spinning tops of a storm called a “Mesocyclone” stretched across the Montana /Wyoming border 20 miles south and 45 miles north to Broadus MT. Internet Radar showed it pretty well considering. We are in a Doppler Radar shadow zone between Rapid City and Billings. These storm showed up paired up which I don’t see too often. Two alien ships approaching as in the movie “Independence Day”.

These Mesocyclones are a curse and a blessing depending on where you are when they go over you. Usually there is a rain shaft or two in them. Sometimes it just rains like heck and the storm parks over you. We got .45 inch from this storm “front” moving through. That is a HUGE amount of water during a very dry summer. We feel fortunate to get it.

If you look at the trees on the landscapes first ridge, you can see the burnt area from recent grass fire on ranch. We BARELY kept it out of the trees on the other side of that hill. Starting on the right, blown to the left It did run about 1/2 a mile. If it had been unattended, it would have made it across the 10 miles to Biddle Montana by the next day. The phone tree worked resulting in neighbors with water/sprayers on their truck coming out of the wood work. It takes a community. 😀

Seen from the hill I climbed after a lighting storm to “look around”. When I first saw it, it was very small. 20 minutes later, the first break in the fire left to right was us driving across in front of it. It still got past our first pass as the 20 mph winds drove it.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Twin Mesocyclones over Wyotana

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Road to the Rainbow

Road to the Rainbow
Road to the Rainbow

Road to the Rainbow

The intersection of Parks Rd and Trail Creek about 4 miles south of the Montana / Wyoming border is in the distance. I’m about a mile from that crossroads for this shot. The Pronghorn as a matter of principle decided to cross in front of me. They do this to show off. I was pursuing the rainbow the road was leading to. Of course rainbows are tough to catch up to since they move as you move lolol. BUT I find that there are rainbows images and then there are rainbow IMAGES. Gravel Wyotana backcountry roads are always exciting in what you will come across. I had stopped to to capture the rainbow lining up with the road of course for the Close / Far Perspective.

I tend to photographically work my local county roads when it rains. The rain can make driving on trails destructive to the two track roads I typically travel on. Access to the real remote backcountry is extensive if you know the way. County roads take you places everybody goes. The area between county roads to my west is over 100 square miles. This is very big country and I know I have been to places where certainly very few if ANY people have been before. I’m even considering Native American populations. But then again I’ve found traces of humans literally in the middle of nowhere. A cartridge case, a piece of iron artifact from a homestead, some trace. I might take a trip down Parks Road there and try to spy that pot o’ gold before the Pronghorn get it again… 😜 👅 (old narrative).

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

Title: Road to the Rainbow

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Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Watching Prairie Fire
Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

Windmill Weekday: Windmill Junkies Unite, (you know who you are). 🤘🤘

Perspective photographs properly done mess with your sense of depth. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is “Milling” his fate at the scary scene unfolding “just over the hill”. He can’t see whats coming. I can just sense his aprehension. These big fires out here can be devastating. Most ranches have some way to fight fires. Usually a “quick reaction” truck. Perhaps a wagon pulled behind a pickup with a sprayer rig on board. Several thousands dollars of equipment to safely fight a serious prairie fire.

I’ve lived up here on the border 20 years and have fought dozens of range fires.. I’ve lost track and they all blend together going back that far. Each and every fire was a community experience with familiar local faces. There will be 6 or 7 more finished images from this timeline.

Fortunately for us, this particular smoke plume was over 40 miles distant. We can’t travel very far in our big lumbering fire truck. For those fires we do show up at, we try to make a difference with the 1000 gallons of water we can carry. I’m in the process to fit my Raptor with a 100 gallon bladder tank. Quick reaction is good too. This HUGE forest fire distant started with one spark (lightning) and was small for a while. They it got big quickly. If some rancher had enough water and got to it with the first smoke, it would have been controlled. We had our ranches fire under control in about 3 hours. We were on it about 20 minutes after I first saw it.

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

Title: Windmill Watching Prairie Fire

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Milky Way Over Gillette

Milky Way Over Gillette
Milky Way Over Gillette

Milky Way Over Gillette

There are infinite possible stories about this 25 second time exposure with a very wide 12mm lens. I cropped the darker sides off to give it a square aspect to 18″.

According to NASA, this location (if we turn off our compounds lights which are the blue Stadium LED’s we use for our place) is as dark as the North Atlantic Ocean. Certainly ranking up there for dark skies here at only 4000 feet. The Milky Way spiral arms exist every night. Even above you folks living lower or near population. It’s amazing our eyes can discern most of this but the sensitivity of these modern cameras is just tremendous. It just takes a lot of shutter time to catch it.

As you might have assumed, the twin Blue Glows over my signature are our ranch compound lights as seen from two miles away and over the high ridge between us. The orange glow is a proper exposure of the light pollution from Gillette Wyoming. What an interesting perspective from so far away. I’m parked in Montana with Gillette being some 60 crow miles south of me. The light pollution of all the sodium lights there causes the flow. It’s very faint but the longer exposures will bring out colors well. For those that like star colors, many are in this shot. The Comet Neowise was way over my shoulder at the same time naked eye visible.

You can clearly locate yourself with this one. Sagittarius the Teapot is the low constellation down in the light pollution. Just pouring some tea I think. Jupiter is the bright Planet. Saturn is the less bright planet to it’s left. On the full sized file I have you can clearly see the moons around Jupiter. This reduced resolution social media .jpg has nothing on the 200 times bigger original file. There is just a SLIGHT star motion track on this pushing the envelope for the lens I was using.

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

Title: Milky Way Over Gillette

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Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Shelf Cloud Snaking North
Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Shelf Cloud Snaking North

Sometimes little ephermeral ponds for even mid-summer. Late that particular afternoon a line of storms was moving to my left and this Shelf cloud was putting on a show. 

Shelf clouds are not to be confused with wall clouds which are typically symptoms of a severe often rotating individual cell. This one was at least 60 miles long from my perspective continuing well back over my head almost to the horizon. I have the components for a really really really Tall image, maybe 12 to 2 in this width. Needless to say this was very impressive to be under. I wasn’t in the best place for a close far to using what I had….. 

Must be good water😂 the cattle have been drinking it right? I think that water is mostly melted hail. Lots of water is collected over the 80 acre drainage that feeds this little water hole. Couldn’t be anything living in that I’m sure…….? 👀 It’s a dry summer. The grass here was just trampled by a hard hail storm July 5th. Late in the afternoon, it flattened pretty much everything that didn’t have a woody stem. Most trees were heavily cut up by the up to 3 inch stones. The dry year grass crop with was terrible to start with. It is all flat now along the strip of the hail path. I really do respect this weather up here. It’s all business when it’s active. . Crop insurance is an important consideration in any business plan. 

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

Title: Shelf Cloud Snaking North

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Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie
Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

These two week old fawns are following their mother across a pretty good run along side of my Pickup truck. There of course was no threat from me. Pronghorn tend to run along with vehicles just to remind themselves they are the fastest land animal in North America. Typically they will do their best to speed up and run across the road in front of your vehicle. Since the local backcountry speed limit is 45 mph, typically, they can and do pass you. I’m not sure if there is an evolutionary advantage to telling your pursuers that you are faster…. Maybe next time they won’t try??? 🤔 😜 In two decades of riding these backcountry gravel roads, I’ve only hit one Pronghorn with a vehicle. We custom build bumpers just for such things on our vehicles so no damage to the truck but the Pronghorn didn’t do as well. 😔

Mom had twins because last year was a banner year for grass. Her body reacted and doubled down on the survivability this summer. So far, it is early July and the Grass is totally brown. The grasshoppers are already competing for the meager grass crop cut short by both a dry year cutting mandibles. The grasshoppers are as thick as I remember them since I’ve lived here but I assure you that they could and probably will get worse. India, Saudi Arabia and Africa are having REAL Plague of Locust Biblical stuff at the moment. Let’s not go there please ☹️ It’s going to be hard on that mother. ….

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

Title: Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

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Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring
Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

These Tres Amigos are obviously conspiring to pull a prank on their mom just out of frame. They jump around bouncing and playing as you might expect to see from Mini Loki’s. These are legitimate triplets as I know the mother. She was enormous compared to the other pregnant Pronghorn Does in the area. I have watched them for hours now. Mom is relatively skinny having given birth to these three. Plop, Plop, Plop with no Fizz, Fizz I’m thinking.

“They are tight as three knots on a rope they are” 👀 . Yes they play most of the time when mom’s well used spigot(s) or sleep isn’t on the menu. I hope for the mothers sake that the grasshoppers this year aren’t going to be competing for this dry years vegetation. The grass crop is going to be hurt by this insect attack I’m afraid in this area anyway. More good timing. Waiting for the asteroid impact in 4 ,3 ,2 ,1 …..

I was lucky enough to completely circle this group with a box o’ cameras. If I am very careful and drive like a cow grazes, getting close is just a matter of time. I have to drive slowly through high grass these days as there are indeed fawns both Deer and Pronghorn potentially laying there unseen. (I only drive off trail on ground that I own).

One of my advantages taking photos is I’m very agile getting around to get the light and my subject properly oriented to each other. Owning the land, not having nearby boundaries to prevent me from moving into position. I could never approach these weeks old Fawns on foot. The Pronghorn mother wouldn’t allow it so zip gone…. My truck is my portable blind. In the Black F-150 Raptor, I must seem like a noisy grazing Black Angus to them. I need a horn that makes a moo sound on it. Think that might void the warrantee?? 😜 📷

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

Title: Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

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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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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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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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Storm over Parks Ranch

Storm over Parks Ranch
Storm over Parks Ranch

Storm over Parks Ranch

Storms with personalities journey through our lands. Some have a sour disposition, others benign. This one was showing off with a very intricate set of flow lines in the storm. Bands of moving air rushing to the up draft built into these huge spinning tops called Mesocyclones. They range in size from embryonic newbies only a few miles across to pure monsters at 100+ miles in diameter. Slowly rotating along the way. The big ones spawn all sorts of problems here on the high plains. Tornados come out of these when well developed. Lots of rotation built into the systems.

The worst of this storm was a little behind this display but this was pretty nifty I thought. The swirling soup that was this storm did produce some small slushy hail with associated gusty winds at my location. Nothing spectacular for this country and NO lightning I could capture. That of course, is what I was waiting for to photograph. This is a very wide rectilinear 10mm lens on a full frame camera. This lens scrunches things on the edge just a little. I corrected for this best I could.

This capture taken across the front yard of the Historic Parks Ranch’s original Homestead. Built around 1900, it is an amazing huge structure. Dated to the 1950’s last remodel. Made of locally obtained wood. Best spot in the watershed for a ranch with a half -dozen nice spring fed lakes around there. Caretakers live on site. Hunters sleep there in the fall.

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

Title: Storm over Parks Ranch

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Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts
Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

Spring time thunderstorms moving through the area are much appreciated in giving us a little more moisture for the apparently soon to be dry summer so typical of Wyotana. Our annual precipitation amounts are BARELY above desert at 14 inches per year. Not this day though 😀

This happened May 13th late in the afternoon as a series of smaller storms moved through the area. This thunder storm went on into South Dakota and grew as it went but wasn’t particularly violent. It was however strong enough to dump enough hail to cover the ground off in the distance under the “rainbow”. I didn’t think there is supposed to be a bucket o hail at the end of the rainbow but something with a bit more glitter. “Clever Girl” got slushed on but fortunately the hail was a bit further east. This capture looking almost straight east along the Montana / Wyoming border. I’ve been known to move my position to avoid hail a time or two. It’s usually not a huge area that get’s hailed on but reading the storm isn’t necessarily straight forward as I’m not “Bill Paxton” in the 1996 movie Tornado.

The Rainbow is right at 5 miles away from my viewpoint. The first tree on the right is at least 1/2 mile out. Telephotos CRUSH perspective jumping over lots of ground before you get to the “foreground” of the frame lol.

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

Title: Backcountry Rainbow Hail Drifts

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Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose
Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

With perfect light, these three cooperated for a “sitting” for my telephoto. I was sitting about 50 yards out from them in my Ford Raptor and was SLOWLY working my way toward them. I take images as I approach, stop, move a little closer, take some more and so on until I get the full frame image I was looking for. Now it always doesn’t work for me with Pronghorn being as spooky as animals come. The only way I can get this close is by working up to them.

Boy are they Pregnant each and all. Last year was a very good year for precipitation. I never had to start my fire truck (second time in 20 years). So I’m thinking that 2 out of three (right two) probably have twins in the oven. It’s still a while till they birth so I will be keeping my eye open for fawns in the grass when I travel before too long. Deer will birth sooner than the Pronghorn.

It’s that time of year of renewal up in the high country. The green grass is rocket fuel for many creatures. Must be wonderful after dried salads all winter for them. I don’t feel too sorry for Pronghorn since they eat a lot of sage brush lolo.. I suspect their diet is improving rapidly with the oncoming green. The brown season is waning. Long live the green season!☯

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

Title: Pregnant Pronghorns Portrait Pose

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Red Robin in the Snow

Red Robin in the Snow
Red Robin in the Snow

Red Robin in the Snow

Robins that arrive too early in the spring have a tough time of it. They are usually insect and “fruit” eaters and a good friend in the yard. They do occasionally dive bomb me during nesting season a few weeks away. But in the mean time, this guy would settle for 38 degrees and a clear ground to hunt on. This little area of driveway free of snow under a large tree in the midst of a deep 4 inch crisis for this traveler. Puffed up against the cold, it will struggle for the next few days against the harsh high country spring weather. (taken a 10 days before this posts)

There are of course American Robins that Winter north of here in Canada. Generally the 36 degree isotherm contour on the map is their northern boundary. Of course any particular Robin might just be nuts and go too far north every now and then. They migrate in response to food presence / absence not temperature however. I understand they can move about 40 miles a day or night) when on the move. If earthworms or fruits are not available, the Robins will “Spread Out” in response to the diminishing food supply.

You might notice that Robins DO NOT SING out of their breeding territory. If your local neighbor hood Robins are singing, there are going to be some peepers being hatched in the not far distant future. Rarely they may produce their first songs on their wintering grounds but the majority will not until they reach their breeding grounds. . The singing is part of the way the male defends it’s territory. . Male Robins don’t particularly like other males Songs…. this breaks up the winter migratory flocks. I have another image of a half dozen Robins in a tree during this storm. All within about a 2 feet diameter circle. Still flocking and no songs…

Title: Red Robin in the Snow

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Melt Water Evening Moon

Melt Water Evening Moon
Melt Water Evening Moon

Melt Water Evening Moon

A magical “Belt of Venus” evening up in the eastern Sky. . The sunset was 10 minutes past behind my shoulder as the blue stripe on the far horizon shows. That blue is the shadow of the western/opposite horizon blocking the long red light from the sun just over the lip. The pink projected onto the Ice suspended in the atmosphere are the reflections from the long wavelengths make it to my camera lens.

This ground is relatively easy to get to in the summer and fall as it’s on a local county road lol. This was taken spring 2019 as the snow pack started to melt into ponds as which provided the mirror for this capture. .

Close / Far perspectives are a complex photographic challenge for all of you. An automatic setting on your camera is not going to do this image.

I’ve gone through the technical basics a few times. I would entertain questions below for photographic solutions to your working on manual mode aversion. (Kind of like fear of swimming). You just have to jump in and turn that top dial to M. Then you figure out which control wheel controls each of the three settings you change in manual mode. ISO (Camera Sensitivity), f-stop (size of the aperture/pupil in the lens), finally Shutter Speed.

You only need to understand those three things to run on Manual mode. Their relationship to each other and how messing with one, requires you to mess with the others. Just a tad to compensate the amount of light coming into the camera. Your riding a three way light teeter totter trying to balance those settings.

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

Title: Melt Water Evening Moon

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Triceratops Toes Composite

Triceratops Toes Composite
Triceratops Toes Composite

Triceratops Toes Composite (Real Wildlife)….

There are 19 bones in the toes of “Triceratops horridus” . These toe bones are each a separate animals contribution to this composite assemblage. All approximately the right sized toe bones properly place to assemble those toes to scale. Our Ranch sits entirely with the Dinosaur Fossil rich Hell Creek/ Lance Formation at the surface. The 66 million year old/Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstone Formation is not abundantly fossiliferous but I’m sure there are several animals around here. The trick is seeing them through the rock. Each and every bone I find promotes an adrenaline filled EUREKA moment. I’ve been a student of paleontology since I was 5 years old with my first EUREKA moment. 🤔🤣

Each one of these individual bones was a separate excavation at different times and 3D place in the outcrop. None of these belong to the same Triceratops. It took a few years and a little work to gather the bits and pieces for this assemblage. Several of the pieces show repair, a few are as found broken/cracked. Stabilized all with a diluted superglue compound. (Paleobond or Starbond). Soaking into the porous bone, the capillary action wicks the thin cyanoacryilate stabilizing the fossil. Deposition occurred long before the Big Horn Mountains rose from the earth. 130 miles to their west. The River that transported these bones also carried sand from Mountains long gone now. Mountains come, and mountains return to the sea as sand carried down by the river.

The hooves/claws/fingertips are the RARE bones but I indicate that just “plain old” Triceratops toe bones don’t grow on trees anymore lololol. Particularly pretty well preserved ones. This particular fossil site providing these is a wonderful place. 📸

Table below is an Eocene lake bed from Kemmerer. The whole table has several fossil fish on it but that’s not the focus for this post. You can see a partial on the lower left corner and a tail on the far right. The white spots are cuprolites. For a Scale I used an 18 inch ruler. The table weighs about 400 pounds. It rolls well on it’s side though. 🤣👀

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

Formation: Hell Creek/ Lance Fm: Cretaceous Terrestrial RIver Sands and Mudtsones: Horn Sieve Beds, Coll: Frank Bliss.

Title: Triceratops Toes Composite

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Ridgeline Antique Frosty Dawn

Ridgeline Antique Frosty Dawn
Ridgeline Antique Frosty Dawn

Ridgeline Antique Frosty Dawn

Going up this hill leads to this 1930’s IH Deering Seed Drill (seeder). That Antique has been sitting here for a LONG time and has seem more weather, sunsets, sunrises than any of us left alive today. An old soldier survivor of wind, rain, hail, and worst of all, cattle rubbing against it. It has BIG views in all directions. (Change up seasonally eh? )

Pretty Frosty in this capture lolol. This is the result of 4 days of freezing fog. Days of below freezing in March 2020. Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of this ridge is a favorite summer lightning observation high point. Of course to photo lightning, you want to be in a metal vehicle high on a ridge right?? 🙃

This is also the “Closest” high point to my driveway. I can see the east y horizon from here. I CAN’T see the east horizon from my house. It’s about a mile from my front door to this spot. The two track to here isn’t easily snowed over by drifts so I use this hill some in the winter to see what’s going on.

Winter has a dramatic effect on where I can and am willing to travel. I haven’t had to walk back yet. The new Ford Raptor is pretty capable but snow is snow. This winter is not over yet. There are a lot of snows between now and when it will get warmer. lolol. We will have our share of 1 foot dumps this winter I’m sure.

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

Title : Ridgeline Antique Frosty Dawn

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Lunar Eclipse Earths Shadow

Lunar Eclipse Earths Shadow
Lunar Eclipse Earths Shadow

Lunar Eclipse Earths Shadow

Super Blue Blood Moon taken Feb 1, 2018,. This is was the first of it’s breed seen in the United State since 1866. . The white part is the actual fully illuminated moon. The red, the earths shadow (pre-umbra and umbra) make up the bloody red disk. 3200mm astro glass.

A blue moon of course, happens when there are two full moons in a single month. Technically this Blue Moon is a fudge (again) by NASA since the actual full moon happened in the morning of Feb 1st not on Jan 31st by less than 2 hours in some places. I love it when NASA fudges. 🤔

Blue moons are not quite as rare as the old saying implies. On average they occur once every 2.7 years. The lunar 29.53 lunar month migrates across the 30 or 21 day calendar month. February has never had a blue moon….. There were two blue moons in 2018 due to the discrepancy in timing adding up over the years. There were no full moons at all in February 2018 for instance. There is some calendar magic ongoing as these lunar shows migrate around.

This moon was a super moon being at it’s closest point to the earth in it’s orbit at slightly under a 225 thousand miles. This compared to the average of 238 thousand. What difference could 13000 miles make….14 percent apparent size difference. It’s hard to see with your eyes but I see it comparing things like windmill sails to the lunar disk size from the same spot in the road at the same focal length. I have these fixed objects to compare the moon’s size with lol.

Location: Over Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. It was durn cold for this one lolol.

Title: Lunar Eclipse Earths Shadow

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Backcountry Snow Moon Rising

Backcountry Snow Moon Rising
Backcountry Snow Moon Rising

Backcountry Snow Moon Rising

A little Backcountry Magic for you moon lovers out there.

The Atmospheric Lensing was in full blown effect for this. The moon distorted by the mirage lines. Remember that this moon is actually below the line of sight to the horizon at this moment. The moons image here has been bent around the planet over the horizon by the differences in air density/temperature. Without atmosphere in the way, you wouldn’t see it yet. It’s actually below the horizon which is dropping to expose it. (You realize the horizon is dropping NOT the moon is rising right??) The times of sunrise and sunset are always off a minute or so because of this phenomena for objects (the sun too) near the horizon.

Photographic Musings:

In a nutshell, you need a 400mm or longer lens, distance, timing, topography and a full moon. Distance from the foreground object is your friend. So is a HIGH f-stop number (f22 or higher). High f-stop gives you a deep field of focus that extends foreground object to infinity (moon). Being the double edged sword that f-stop is, by turning it up, you reduce the already low light level in the camera. A short 3 second time exposure if you have a tripod would be nice to compensate. Longer exposure means more light into the camera.. I did this handheld at about 1/30th second. Your ISO (camera sensitivity) is your wildcard. Change it to get an image as rule one is get the image…damn the graininess (which high ISO will give you). There are only three things you have to adjust to use your camera on manual mode after all.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Backcountry Snow Moon Rising

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Falling Horizon Exposing Moon

Falling Horizon Exposing Moon
Falling Horizon Exposing Moon

Falling Horizon Exposing Moon

My view from “Ridge 1” looking at the sun rise on “Ridge 4” which is about 10 miles distant. Working on Parallel Ridges gives you landscape ladders automatically.

The world we are living on is spinning like a top in space. Rotating around the earth the moon is albeit relatively slowly to our eyes. The appearance of the moon “rising” is an illusion. The Horizon is actually falling away fast enough that it makes a difference on long range rifle shots.

If you shoot a hypothetical “average” bullet at a 1000 yard target straight to the east, you better aim low…. say about 6 inches . If you aim to the west, you should aim high since the target is rising under your bullet. . You see to the east the target is dropping. Thus I’m saying that the horizon travels about 6 inches during the time a bullet travels 1000 yards. (over 1/2 mile). 6 inches is arbitrary as your bullet will act differently than my hypothetical one.

So the next mind game is to shoot straight north or south. You have to shoot neutrally, neither high nor low. Really long range rifle shooters use this in their calculations. Nothing like having your target rise or fall depending on the direction and distance the bullet travels over time. I’ve been involved in professional shooting for decades, trust me on this. You have to compensate at distances much over about 700 yards a little bit more each yard the bullet has to fly further. Most sportsman don’t shoot that far.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Falling Horizon Exposing Moon

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Spring Bucks In Velvet

Spring Bucks In Velvet
Spring Bucks In Velvet

Spring Bucks In Velvet

I’m always on the look out for framing deer inside of antlers of the foreground animal. A little out of season perhaps.

With all the cold weather coming in this image came to mind that spring isn’t that far away. The sage brush that time of year is a wonderful cyan/green color, the deer have all new coats. Their rapidly growing antlers are covered with the capillary blood vessel rich “Velvet” covering the bone under supplying it with nutrients.

Sometime later in the year they antlers will stop growing. The velvet starts to itch and they will rub those antlers tearing the velvet to ribbons. They will rub on any bush or tree unlucky enough to be in their path. Deer rubs on trees are good signs of deer activity and you can usually tell how recent they were.

Reminder: Photographic Musings (memorize this)

Terms you need to know: (F-stop) is your aperture size. The size of the “pupil” inside your lens. Big pupils (low fstop numbers) lets in a lot of light but your depth of focus is thin and shallow. (the eye is in focus but your ears are not). With a high F-stop number, you get a very deep field of focus/depth of field. The whole face and the trees behind the face are all in focus. This is because a high f-stop number makes a very small pin hole for a “pupil” in your lens. F-stop is one of three settings you adjust in Manual mode. It is a double edged sword, deeper focus field comes from having a small aperture “pupil” which means less light. Light is what your balancing here. The other two settings compensate for what your doing with f -stop in this case.

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

Title: Spring Bucks In Velvet

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Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising

A little Backcountry Magic for you moon lovers out there.

The Atmospheric Lensing was in full blown effect for this. The moon distorted by the mirage lines. Remember that this moon is actually below the line of sight to the horizon at this moment. The moons image here has been bent around the planet over the horizon by the differences in air density/temperature. Without atmosphere in the way, you wouldn’t see it yet. It’s actually below the horizon which is dropping to expose it. (You realize the horizon is dropping NOT the moon is rising right??) The times of sunrise and sunset are always off a minute or so because of this phenomena for objects (the sun too) near the horizon.

Photographic Musings:

In a nutshell, you need a 400mm or longer lens, distance, timing, topography and a full moon. Distance from the foreground object is your friend. So is a HIGH f-stop number (f22 or higher). High f-stop gives you a deep field of focus that extends foreground object to infinity (moon). Being the double edged sword that f-stop is, by turning it up, you reduce the already low light level in the camera. A short 3 second time exposure if you have a tripod would be nice to compensate. Longer exposure means more light into the camera.. I did this handheld at about 1/30th second. Your ISO (camera sensitivity) is your wildcard. Change it to get an image as rule one is get the image…damn the graininess (which high ISO will give you). There are only three things you have to adjust to use your camera on manual mode after all.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Full Moon Rising

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Ladybug on a Daisy

Ladybug on a Daisy
Lady Bug on Daisy

Ladybug on a Daisy

Pursuing Ladybugs with a quality macro lens has it’s rewards. This 18 inch square image with a smooth green bokeh is a favorite summer pursuit. They are usually fast movers, difficult to catch sitting still enough to compose a frame. This one was an exception. It was sipping on the drops of “nectar” from the flowers petal.

The Ladybug didn’t eat the daisy. There were many grasshoppers around, obviously someone seconds before munched the petals. I wouldn’t want to accuse the grasshoppers without any proof ……(apparently outdated morality these days but I digress😟) Anyway, ladybug saw an opportunity to rehydrate and get some sugar. Nature is all about one creature making it either easy or hard on another. This little one is making good from damage. It will go on and eat aphids, scale insects and mites.

Red in nature is usually a warning. It’s a big flag that says they might not be a good choice to eat. Ladybugs blood (yellow) has a foul odor I understand from reading but I’ve never noticed it. I have ordered thousands of Ladybugs for my aquaponic greenhouse. Handled them by the hand full before but never crushed one let alone tasted lol.

I think they are little turtles having photographed them up close and personal for a while. When threatened they “turtle up” and release a little yellow blood from their legs (stinky as discussed above). The red / stinky strategy apparently works as they are abundant up here in the borderlands.

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

Title: Ladybug on a Daisy

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Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan
Checking Your Flight Plan

Checking Your Flight Plan

While Sharp Tailed Grouse don’t migrate, it’s always a good idea to check your directions. 🤗

I have SOOOO many of these guys hanging around it’s actually kind of humorous. I’ve lived here for 20 years with this year having the largest population of of the “Sharpies” I’ve ever seen. I watched a flock of at least 100 of these behemoths. I consider them flying boats. They don’t look to me like they should be able to fly but I’ve seen them glide at least a half mile before. I will get the flock on camera this winter. Snippits so far is the rule….

Deep Deep Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse don’t go along too well. They tend to say out of the powder as they sink in and have short legs lolol. They usually have to fly out of the hole they make for themselves by landing in a controlled crash. In this image, there is about 8 inches of snow next to our backyard fence. We see them in our compound all winter as they mooch grain off our ducks and Buff Orphington Chickens.

These Birds are known as the “fire grouse or fire bird” by native Americans. This is because they are reliant on natural brush fires to keep their habitat open. Their common name around here is “SHarpies” or certainly Sharp Tail. Uniquely American birds that survived the extinction at the end of the Ice Age. Geologically it is the last species of the Genus Tympanuchus. (Linnaeus named them AGAIN, boy was he busy) Apparently there are 7 subspecies one of which is extinct, the other 6 are extant. (extant versus extinct…. good to google if you don’t know).

Being one of the larger grouse, they are hard to sex visually. The males have yellow eye combs that are not conspicuous. During the spring they males puff up a pale violet air sacs on their neck. UP to 18 inches long (plump birds) In the early fall, Females Ring-necked Pheasants easily are mistaken for a female Sharpie. Watch for the length of the tail which the pheasant wins with the longer tail.

They really don’t exist south of Wyoming/northern Nebraska ranging WAY north into Alaska through out central and northwestern Canada. I’m thinking they like the snow but I might be wrong[ They are year round residents of the Wyotana borderlands but I understand the continental divide is a boundary too them and they really don’t live west of there in the the US. Western most Montana doesn’t have them apparently.

Location; Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Checking Your Flight Plan

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Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker's Dozen Sharp Tailed Grouse
Baker's Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse

Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse is a capture of 13 Fat little Prairie Chickens feeding on Flowering Crab Apples, taken from my front deck 2x3aspect to 3 feetBakers Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse
Talk about a great puzzle!. This one would be just nuts…

As the winter goes on, the Sharpie flocks gradually move in on the main homestead. They attack the peripheral Flowering Crab Trees in our gardens further out first. Then the gradually get used to me moving around. Then they don’t even care if I’m around fairly close by. . The crab “apples” are smaller than cherries in this particular tree.

I never go out with a camera given time looking like a human shape. I love bulky hoods and cloths/coats that hide my human shape. A moving lump scares these guys a lot less than a moving human. It was 7 degrees the early morning I took this and I was working them a while. Spotted them inside and I just took my time getting into position for this. I very slowly opened the outside door of which they could plainly see me. Moving maybe 3 feet a minute with an 8 pound lens and camera to get behind a porch column was necessar. I rested the camera on the column of course and tried to hide my movement behind it.

This is a 1200 mm telephoto image from about 40 feet distance from my camera lens.

There are indeed 13 grouse in this image. Feel free to count them. I’ve done it a few times very carefully and I’m seeing 13. There were a LOT more in the tree. I couldn’t get the detail I wanted and have the shot wider. The local Sharp Tail Flock around our homestead is at LEAST 100 individuals at the moment. I’ve never seen this many birds winter up here before. It was a VERY good grass year so I will stick with that as a reason.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Baker’s Dozen Sharp Tail Grouse.