Up on the highest ridges here in the borderlands, besides the view, I see a myriad of habitats. Large patches of Yucca (Spanish Dagger, Our Lord’s candle, Joshua tree, and Adam’s needle.) exist here with a large wild rose bush (rose hips) on the eastern slope (less hot) of this ridge. The tall yucca flower stalks provide a majority of the food for the Ungulates up here (Mule Deer, WhiteTail Deer and Pronghorn) Elk eat them too where Elk habitat exists. There is a small herd somewhere near here. We also have itinerate bulls come through now and then.
This eventing was one of smaller storms moving through mostly miss rather than hit. We stayed dry that evening (notice a theme lately with the dry thing?). We got .6 of an inch a few days ago as I type this. It would be nice to have several inches. They yucca will do fine through the drought. It’s tough as nails.
For many centuries, yucca plants of various species have served American Indians for a variety of uses. Not restricted as fiber for rope, sandals and cloth. The roots have been used as a soaping agent. Whe food was short early Californian settlers along with Native Americans used the green pods for food. Native Americans boiled and baked the fruits, eating the blossoms, chewed the raw leaves. Apparently they had a technique of fermenting the fruits to produce a beverage for rituals.. Ummm . I actually think the flowers are fine in a salad. Never eaten roasted seeds before.
Golden Triangle Frame Sunset (This shot from last year but the snow conditions are identical at the moment)
I love to use natural cellulose filters to reduce the glare from the overly bright disc of ol’ Sol. There are all sorts of photographic accessories you can screw onto the lens of a DSLR camera. Same with a Mirrorless Removable Lens Cameras. I find myself becoming more of a purist all the time and revert to natural filters leaving the glass ones at home. For years I’ve excluded them from my kit. I don’t like extra glass of any kind in front of my lenses.
This photo drives me crazy but it is too fun not to share. A primary motivator and one of my true talents is my OCD. It drives me to want to align very precisely terrestrial AND celestial objects for the camera. Being off “Just a Little Bit” turns on that switch. . OCD needs no reason, OCD is a reason unto itself of course… 😜 This is a natural align so I would have loved for the sun to have been just a touch to the right and the tree wasn’t just so. I saw the possibilities, held my breath, click. Actually I was machine gunning the shots as the grass was moving..
Thus the requirement for timing involved here as the tips of the grass were swinging to and fro in the light breeze. The wind is a constant companion on these exposed hill slopes far above the Little Powder River Drainage here in the borderlands.
Watching families of deer grow up is a pass time sub hobby of mine. This doe and her now pregnant yearling is moving along a grassy hill on a parallel ridge to me. They feel safe with me as I’m pretty much just another grazing animal. The group of deer these two belong to are well known to me. IT’s much harder to tell the girls apart than the guys though . A three year old doe looks pretty much like a four year old doe. A year difference in the males will be really obvious. Antler size, shape and neck girth are usually unique in the males. Their antlers are usually similar year by year just larger as they grow older. The older battle tested males have torn recognizable ears unique to the individual.
My tracking of deer individuals is of course informal and spotty. I don’t necessarily see the same group every day. I do recognize groups though as they move around the ranch from haunt to haunt. There are certain places that each herd will tend to hang at. Not reliably but tendency comes to mind. The exception is their daily trek to water which deer being a creature of habit, cooperate in the summer. I’m out more of course in the summer. NIt’s not necessary to
Deer have a gestation of around 200 days, this is a mid-winter snap so I’ve giving her 120 days 130-140 days. . This is probably a yearling doe as older does usually have twins.
This image has so much going on. The colors that day were popping with everything being a little wet from a rain an hour before. The flat light making what color is present, pop. Click!
This Buck Mule Deer was hanging out with a couple of gals mid-summer 2019 totally enthused about the Yucca fruit. Here mouth open picking on best way he can. Tongue lolling.
I’m thinking he was unaware he was standing on a weathering boulder of Hell Creek/Lance Formation Sandstone cropping out of the hillside. If I could only train the deer to look for dinosaur fossils. I’d feed them in exchange for information where to look. I mean they always have their eyes on the ground anyway…. Maybe “Sneaky Pete” can arrange a deal ? 😜😜👀📸
The density of Yucca here in the highlands seems to be sufficient to get these guys fat and sassy by the end of the summer. They eat the heck out of the fruit and the flowering parts of the Yucca plant. Yucca is a well defended plant and the primary reason I forbid guests from going into the backcountry without full full leggings on as a Yucca will plumb stick you through jeans let alone shorts lol. It also traps wind blown snow into huge deep drifts around patches of it. If you see a Yucca patch driving in the backcountry, your best served steering around it. The drifts totally supply those desert adapted plants an advantage of water in a semi-arid almost desert we live on. (We get 14 inches of precipitation average per year, a desert has 10 inches or less precipitation a year.
(Crimson Alpenglow Close far Perspective #2 in this Yucca series)
Working the shadow line of parallel ridges with telephoto lenses has it’s rewards. I find that it’s the simple compositions that carry the most interest as complex misleads/distracts the viewer. Detail yes, but the time and space moment should place you in that continuum in your mind. The human eye might be able to resolve this but only for the briefest of moments. The reflexive look away followed by the ghost of the too bright scene on your retina. A quick thought of eye damage, you blink. Over a minute later, your vision probably would come back.
Yucca make for big speed bumps in the backcountry. Some of the clumps can get 2 feet high. In the winter they catch a snow drift behind the clumps big time. It looks like a sand dune field after a good snow and blow in the backcountry where Yucca is about.
I look at a lot of sunsets but seldom do I do much looking at the sun. Without the benefit of a mirrorless camera set up I’d be blind by now. I watch scenes like this develop live on video. The setting changes I make to the camera show up in real time as I spin the adjustment dials. With a mirrorless camera in my hands, I know what the image is going to look like before I click the shutter. Compare to a standard DSLR where you click and then see what you did on the back LCD. Just my 2 cents on that debate. Click!
If you are “stumped” as to how I did this, I assure you it was done in the camera lol. No digital or otherwise magic involved. (well there are some orbital mechanics😜🤔)…. This was quite a ways out from my long lens to get that stump into the infinity focal depth along with the moon. Getting the moon to cooperate with the topography was quite a challenge in this hilly country.
Having terrestrial objects in the same focus as the moon or the sun is definitely an acquired skill with a few requirements for it’s practice. I’m still trying to perfect this kind of work in a variety of ways. Getting only a few opportunities a month to work a full moon low in the sky and still have the sun light up the foreground scene. Wait another 28 days and hope it isn’t cloudy during those days. 6 or 7 times a year in other words do I get a “shot” at this. .
You need at least a 400mm telephoto on a high f number for a deep focal field. You still need to stand way back several hundred yards to enable the telephoto to crush the perspective. Your lighting will change your other settings from what I used but a high f-stop is the place to start.
Perspective: Works like this…
As you step back the stump will get noticeably smaller but the moon stays about the same size. So the further you step back the smaller the stump and the relatively bigger the moon looks. Perspective takes hold….
Only the Yucca and the Highest grass is standing above the snow back in this backcountry cul-de-sac of a valley. I was driving the ridges adjacent to this lower area. I’m able to drive mostly two tracks at the time I type this. It has been drifting a bit in the backcountry lately. Makes it hard on me. Tricky…
I have seen this group around in several familiar locations to them and myself. . These 3.5/4.5 year olds all have known me since the beginning by seeing me out on the ranch land taking photos of their childhood and parents. They have slowly started to really accept me as a another grazing animal. I slowly over time carefully approach deer. They are aware of my new vehicle now. How I approach them is the same. The “trick” is that I drive like I’m a grazing animal. Stopping, moving a little and stopping. No hurry. Might take me 1/2 an hour to get up this close. I’ve actually worked inside of deer herd boundaries before.
I wasn’t destined to integrate with the herd here, the terrain was against me getting to them in the first place. Problematic is the travel noise my rig was making. Too much noise busting over/through snow crust. Crunchy noises are not the best way to make deer comfortable I have determined. Make no mistake these are wild deer. These guys were moving slowly across the landscape trailing to bedding in this late day light. They each to an animal have seen me drive around here in my new rig quite a few times now. Hard to get this close in the snow however.
Looking westward across the 40 mile wide Little Powder River Valley , a cloud bank will snuff out the light within minutes. I am often sent home early with no “photos in the can” by cloud banks shrouding the horizon. When I head off road to climb up ridges chasing light, the mid-winter wins sometimes. This night I went up hill. Over 300 square miles of landscape presents here, all covered by this snow blanket. We get most of our 14 inches a year of precipitation during the winter.
You will note how effectively Yucca plants have a tendency toward collecting their own stash of water. The result of this is to soak the ground around them. The Yucca is a great plant up here providing food to the deer all year long. Deer from both species eat the seed pods from Yucca which grow in significant quantities up here. Yucca flowers are edible too I ‘ve seen ungulates take advantage of them every year. The deer grow fat on them. Already eaten, mostly deer have consumed the seed pods. By Mid-Winter, the deer have consumed much of the food reserves on this ridge. They have moved on to other pastures. Typically they head to sheltered gullies with water near by.
If it’s going to be winter, I wish it would freeze the backcountry ground. As I type this it’s been staying around freezing and just above for weeks. Mud in the backcountry completely blocks me from access as I don’t want to rut up my two track trails.
It’s about 20 minutes of traveling 2 track trails to get to this location I call sunrise ridge, I set up there high above the valley just over that lip waiting for that mornings stage show. This opening act was pretty much put on for my benefit alone. Mother nature takes care of me if I tread lightly but often I have discovered. There is something about paying dues, going out to chase the light regularly will pay off sooner or later. This winter I’ve been working on a lot of my older photographs. I haven’t gone out for “common” skies of late. Worse, the mid-late January Thaw we just went through has softened the back country soil considerably. The top 4 inches of topsoil are pure soup with some grass roots mixed in at the moment lol . Right now I leave deep foot prints just walking in the backcountry.
We actually need a freeze and a series of five or six 4 inch snows over a month to entice me to go out at the moment. I’m working Wyotana roads when ever I get away from the ranch of course. This winter will be one of getting the rest of my portfolio finished and on the web. I’m mixing and matching new and previous images all winter so bear with me.
I might have to reduce the total number of images I produce a day from 6 to 5 shortly. I’ll loose the last post of the day at 9PM and move the 6pm to 7 pm. Producing 6 finished print a day is a serious amount of work. I’ve done that every day since Sept 21. I don’t have enough time to get everything else done 😔
I’m all about highlights. These dark brown/red seeded plants past the yucca were a projection screen for the sunlight just creeping over the hill top. Working backcountry ridge tops for perspective gives you interesting diversions from the normal. I put myself into the mind of a mouse and use the light from their hiding places in my photon capture boxes (cameras). I usually leave a few foreground objects out of focus to get the feeling of closeness. (It was)..
Using a Yucca sun filter, a Spike blocking the sphere of the sun proper from our view. This is yet another in a long line of “Close / Far” perspectives I have finished in the last couple of years.
Buying lenses Musings:
Close far perspectives require interestingly, a close focus capability along with higher fstop capability if possible. Most folks when buying lenses look at the focal length as everyone wants a long lens. God knows bigger is better right? 🤔😜. You actually CAN do this from a 400mm telephoto if you set it up right. The closest my 100-400mm Sony/zeiss telephoto will focus is 15 feet. So much for things in the way lolol. The 10mm Voightlander lens on a Sony Alpha 7R2 back I used here will focus down to 10 inches and do so under high fstop for a very deep focal field indeed.📷📷📸
The particular lenses I use isn’t important and isn’t my point. When your buying a low fstop lens is nice but I like lenses with HIGH fstop potential for close/far since higher fstops give you a thicker field of focus. Close to infinity is the game here. Evaluate perspective lense about how close they can focus. “Macro” lenses focus very close. But they MIGHT not focus close AND far at the same time. High stops with close focus is a very good thing in a lens used for this kind of image. Hope this helps if your buying gear.
Working the shadow line of parallel ridges with telephoto lenses has it’s rewards. I find that it’s the simple compositions that carry the most interest as complex misleads the view. Detail yes, but the time and space moment should place you in that continuum in your mind. The human eye might be able to resolve this but only for the briefest of moments. The reflexive look away followed by the ghost of the bright scene on your retina. A quick though of eye damage, you blink and a minute later your vision is back. .
Yucca make for big speed bumps in the backcountry. Some of the clumps can get 2 feet high. In the winter they catch a snow drift behind the clumps big time. It looks like a sand dune field after a good snow and blow in the backcountry where Yucca is about.
I look at a lot of sunsets but seldom do I do much looking at the sun. Without the benefit of a mirrorless camera set up I’d be blind by now. I watch scenes like this develop live on video. The setting changes I make to the camera show up in real time as I spin the adjustment dials. With a mirrorless camera in my hands, I know what the image is going to look like before I click the shutter. Compare to a standard DSLR where you click and then see what you did on the back LCD. Just my 2 cents on that debate.
With the weather getting a little colder here mid-winter, I love crunching out through crusted snow. Crusted snow is a hard surface on top of softer snow underneath. I typically fall through somewhere
This is dry high ridge country here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana . The location several miles into the backcountry of this 4000 foot in elevation ridge. In this area, occurred a fire that burned all summer during the 1930’s. That fire didn’t go out until the snows fell in the fall. This obviously changed the landscape from a heavily forested pine grove into a more open landscape. Prior to human habitation, wildfires were always burning unchecked across North America. Then it got worse because native Americans did a LOT of burning to open up the deep woodlands. A grassland/forest mix is good for the wildlife. And they knew it. Pretty much right up until maybe 100 years ago.🤔
Random backcountry captures happen because of paying dues and paying homage to that which is in control of the backcountry. Rinse and repeat many times so you will increase the opportunity for photographically interesting encounters. You have to be there with a camera in your hand to get some of those moments in space and time. They are fleeting, you often only have moments to capture them before the light changes. The more you carry a camera (s) around, the more cool captures your going to get. 📷 I do actual photography every day if I have ANY light worthy of chasing. I knew this antique seeder was on the prairie, I never knew it would throw shadows like this in December / January.
Oh Christmas Tree (with all due respect to Mario Lanza I changed the title to my image to Oh instead of O….)
Even the Wildlings way out in the backcountry have decorated trees to enjoy this Christmas day. A trillion of these moments in space and time happen all the time. It is a matter of realizing the possibilities and having the technology (in your hand) to capture the image.
Each and every one of these trees was casting a hugely contrasting shadow. I just had to pick the place where I could see the whole shadow. Again topography controls / limits my photography. That gravity thing is also a problem.
This well blown snow accumulates around the Yucca Plants. While where I’m standing is only about 6 inches, there are places in the hollows where it’s knee deep. Getting here was half the fun of this photograph 📸🎄 I’m locked out of most of the backcountry now. I have to plow a road if I want to get up on the big ridge. A couple of miles of plowing but I like to wait for a big storm to come through and blow around. Let it drift abit before I take the time and diesel fuel to clear a path.
Hope Christmas morning was blessed with family and gift giving to all of you. It’s right around noon as this posts and it’s gonna be time for a nap sometime soon lol.
This big old sun dog happened one cool sub-zero morning. Ice crystals refracting light were falling out of the air in front of my camera everywhere. All the white speckles are ice crystals close to the camera. I was just driving along a high ridge as is my typical backcountry drive. It suddenly appeared as I was driving along. The ice fall moved over me.
Two ways these form:. 1: light passing through suspended atmospheric plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Alternately, refraction from drifting in freezing moist air at low levels as diamond dust as here. Those “mock suns’ are from the aforementioned “Diamond Dust”. The colors usually go from red closest to the sun outward with the standard rainbow sequence. This was VERY bright.
This half circle halo is 22 degrees from the sun. These 22 degree refractions are present with and without mock suns in my experience. This particular Sundog even has a sun pillar above AND below the sun itself. Pillars develop as a result of ice crystals slowly falling through the air, reflecting the sun’s rays off of their hexagonal flat surfaces.
I’ve only seen one better sundog off the face of the Jackson Hole Ski area at the Village mid winter back in the 90’s. This was a few miles back in the backcountry pretty much across the border with sky in both Montana and Wyoming. .
Miles into the backcountry, it was a chilly -2 degrees F. The ridge with the cloud veil blocking the blinding sun. This Perspective: Snag to the Sunrise is a backcountry very wide angle image taken about ten days ago as this posts. A lot of this snow has melted since the image was taken. A few days of autumn return but with mud…
There was an 1/8th inch of ice covering most of the north side of trees, the sun rising to the south west was just starting to light up the ice that was coating the grass. The Pine Noodles (Needles covered with ice) were a subject all by themselves this morning of worth light. This square aspect image is full resolution to 18 inches by 18 inches.
The is a very nice little ridge line being the uppermost reaches of the drainage. This particular ridge separates Trail Creek (Wyoming) and Ranch Creek (Montana). I usually work ridges in the early winter leading to road work only in the late winter. Snow depth will deny access to the ridges without me plowing snow over two track paths in the backcountry. I start going on road trips late winter when conditions look photogenic. The two tracks are drifted over badly is the rule. Deep snow is problematic from my viewpoint.
I am trading off my Jeep for a taller vehicle (F-150) some of my viewpoints might change lolololol. Hopefully I will be able to get through a big higher snow with this new rig due sometime this century I understand …..😃
Spotlighting in the Borderland Backcountry can be a very contrasty thing after a storm. This vista surprised me coming up over the ridge behind the camera. I instantly stopped of course and started composing the final frame. What dramatic contrast…. I honestly don’t see this very much this pronounced. That was a very interesting (if not cold at -2F) morning up on that ridge. It always is after a storm and the cold. That is BIG country back there.
I call this phenomena spotlighting for obvious reasons. There is about 4-6 inches of standing snow up on the ridges and I’m still driving about in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have a new vehicle incoming if Ford will put it in production lololol. (We have a vin now 🙂 ) Winter is coming though and I’m going to have to get plowing some snow to get up in this country. This particular spot is about a mile up a long hill to get to. Roughtly the same distance to the far ridge in the shadows with trees on it. The far right side of that ridge (ridge 4) is a full 2 tiles out. Distances are deceiving out here. The closest ranch house in that direction is about 10 miles of hills and gullies that have to be driven around. That would mean about 20 miles of driving lololol.
All of this ground in this image is underlain by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Dinosaur Fossil Bearing Sandstone. This is prime country to find dinosaurs. I found a partial Triceratops just left of the frame around the corner or a hill so I have some basis for saying this lol.
Pine Noodle Frosty Sunrise is a perspective at -2 degrees F. There was a breeze and I don’t care how you dress, something gets cold lolol.
For some reason, I’m drawn to perspectives under icy sunrises. Focus close requirement(1) plus a sun show far (2)is my goal. Putting them in the same focal field is top on my list for planning this capture.
These two “priorities” fortunately compliment each other while in your Manual Mode camera settings. High light gives you the ability to set your widest lens to it’s highest fstop setting f-22 (ish). This cuts back light considerably which you need . It also lets you focus on things 10 inches in front of this particular wide lens AND have the background in focus. I always pay attention when I’m buying lenses to look for ones with the shortest distance to focus close. (macro) but if you want to do this, you need a wide angle say 12-24mm lens with a close focus.
Shutter speed 1/100 – 1/400 depending on your light conditions and ISO (camera sensitivity) is low like ISO 100 or ISO 200. This was a very bright light environment in the distance but just. The sun was just clearing the ridge.
The right gloves for cold work. There are many brands but I use:
The joy of -2 degrees is that the gear doesn’t like it, but my fingers take the brunt of the cold abuse. They don’t operate the equipment as well either if chiled.. I wear glove/mittens by “Red Head” that have the ability to open up your fingers. Fine detailed adjustments on a camera take more tactile feedback than through a glove sometimes. Finding your location on your camera body is the biggest problem. I find it is always better to have warm fingers and have quicker control of the camera bodies settings oddly enough lol. “Red Head Mittens” have been used by this photographer down to a -20 windchill with good results. I was tougher then though……
Looking From Under a Snag, I see the world from an entirely different perspective. There is a feeling somehow of security even though there is a ton of wood over your head being held up by rotten broken branches. What could go wrong there?😜
This is a very busy photo with all sorts of of things going on. Enjoy the looking. I ought to put a “where’s waldo” in some of these images lolol.
It was cold near zero when this was taken a week ago as this posts. “Winter is Coming” and in reality has come here to the borderlands. Fall was on a Tuesday this year it has been confirmed. ❄️
The sunset here was a clear sky orange/yellow alpenglow show which almost always pushes me toward snags to work wide lenses….Grab that 12 – 24mm or sometimes like this I have a 10mm wide angle full frame lens. I use it when ever I get a chance. It is very wide.
Perspectives and clear skies seems to go together… Cloudy complex skies detract from the detail up close. I feel that detail is the point of the photo myself but your opinion may differ lol.
RegardingFallen logs: “Snags” each has it’s own character and personality I find out. Some are masculine and rugged like this one. Others are more curvy and feminine with a grace that is hard to describe. Orientations change from tree to tree, opportunity emerges as I drive by on the ridge tops. I see the possibilities as I go though sometimes I get on a mission for a particular tree.
Here the trees were all frosted with 1/8th of an inch of ice, 4 inches of snow sticking to everything. The air is full of ice turning the sunset orange and yellow. This little shelter under this tree has provided an expedient rain shelter for many a small animal as it’s roots make quite a cover. I find deer beds all around this area as the big tree also provides a windbreak . Such a shelter is a rare thing on these wind blown slopes. Soon this fairly recent tree fall will be rife with woodpecker holes. Thusly then to graduate to full fledged “wildlife tree”.
This 2 year old buck’s antlers were still in velvet last early summer when I took this. By next year he will be better but a 5 year old is best for horns. Having said that….
This Buck is Wyoming (WY) proud for sure. I actually have some other photos of this guy around the ranch that I’d have to find to show you but this is the real deal. (his antlers spell WY if you haven’t seen it yet). 📸
I have a deer image who’s antlers spell WYO somewhere too lolol. I’ll get to it.