It Was a Dark, But Not Stormy, Night

When I got to Yellowstone last week, there were predictions that we just might get to see some Northern Lights way down south because of a big Class X flare on the sun. I went out to a dark location in the park to see if I could spot some.

Well, it got good and dark and cool after the summer heat, but I didn’t see any aurora. First, I was out too early, then the moon came up and even at half phase it lit up the sky pretty good. That’s always a challenge for getting a good look at aurorae, so I headed back to my warm motel room.

Next day I drove into the park and gawked around for a while. The road goes along the Gibbon River, so I thought that might make for a nice scenic shot. It did. What you see is the result of the high-dynamic range (HDR) process. HDR has been pretty controversial, although it’s now getting recognized as a valid way to fiddle with photos. Early HDRs were very contrasty and the colors were over saturated, so I didn’t do many in the ‘early days.’ Lately, the process has become more predictable and useful, so I decided to try it with this scene. Worked out just fine.

Here’s a look at the Milky Way from Yellowstone. Looks pretty much the same anywhere in North America, I guess, but the high altitude might have made for clearer skies. They definitely were darker! (As always, click the thumbnails to see the images at the right size and with proper color.)

 

Milky Way, Yellowstone, NP

Milky Way, Yellowstone, NP

 

And here’s a look at the Gibbon River.

 

Gibbon River, Yellowstone NP

Gibbon River, Yellowstone NP

 

I’ll share a few more from Yellowstone in the next few days.

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Well, That’s Crazy

I went to Yellowstone this weekend. On the way back, I stopped to look at the Crazy Mountains just in case there was some autumn color starting up. I didn’t see any of that, but did see a nice panorama that I thought I’d share with you.

This is actually seven images stitched together in Photoshop then minority tweaked after the stitching. I think it came out pretty well and thought I’d share it with you.

Don’t forget to click on the thumbnail to see the image full frame (it may not fit entirely on smaller monitors, but you can scan back and forth to see the full image).

 

Crazy Mountains Panorama

Crazy Mountains Panorama

 

I”ll share some of my images of Yellowstone as the week goes on, so be sure to check back.

More to follow,

Bob

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Where I live Redux

I’ve been kind of behind the times with my posts and I apologize for that. I thought today I should share with you a little more about where I live.

I went up to Beartooth Pass on the Montana-Wyoming border this morning. I used to live in Wyoming and love the state and live in Montana now, so it makes sense to shoot along the border.

A bonus was I got to walk in some fresh snow. Those of you who know me well know I hate summer, love autumn and winter, and really enjoy spring. Today made me feel like Autumn couldn’t be far off.

Here are a couple images from today. They’re actually the same image, just processed differently. They’re seven-shot panoramas, which means I took seven photos and then let Photoshop merge them into one huge file. I quite like the color one, but can’t pass up an opportunity to convert them to black-and-white whenever I think the image will work that way. You can look and decide (click on the thumbnails to see them in their full glory).

 

Beartooth Pass Panorama (The files are really big, so it might take a while to download when you click on them).

 

Beartooth pano in color

Beartooth pano in color

 

Beartooth pano B&W

Beartooth pano B&W

 

Shot some more that I’ll try to get uploaded this week.

More to follow,

Bob

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Airshow 2

Back at it the second day. Again, the weather was almost uncooperative, but things held off until the show was over. I was a little concerned because there was a rather large area of mammatus clouds. I’ve been told that they are indicators of pretty rough air and potential severe weather. Fortunately, they passed over before the action started.

Saturday’s show saw the Blue Angels short one plane, so the traditional diamond formation was replaced with what they called the mini-delta. Sunday, all six planes were ready to go and the diamond formation was back. I’ve got to say that the Blue Angels Diamond formation is the tightest, finest, most thrilling formation to watch. They fly about a foot-and-a-half from wing tip to canopy and make a knife edge pass by the field to show how close they are. Then they show similar close quarters with an echelon formation. One of the Blues’ maneuvers is to do a roll in the echelon formation. When I was stationed at Miramar Naval Air Station, their announcer said they did that maneuver because the Air Force said it was impossible. No inter-service rivalry there.

Here are a couple shots from Day 2 (click the thumbnails):

 

The Diamond

 

The Diamond

The Diamond

 

And the Echelon:

Angels Echelon

Angels Echelon

 

That’s my Blue Angels fix for a while. Until, of course, they appear close to home again!

More to follow,

Bob

 

 

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Airshow 1

Sometimes I amaze myself. I do the oddest things. I’ve been a fan of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron for years. I served in the Navy air wing and so got to see the Angels fly several times while on active duty. They’ve always thrilled me. After the Navy I didn’t see the Blues for a while. Hard to catch them in Fort Bridger, Wyoming, after all. Somehow I came across the Blue Angels’ Facebook page and started following them. A couple Mondays back I noticed they were going to perform in St. George, Utah. I thought that would be a nice place to go see them and mentioned it to a couple of my colleagues. They encouraged me to go. After chasing air fare deals and hotel reservations, I decided to take a flyer and see the flyers. Flew into Las Vegas and stayed in Mesquite, about 30 miles from the St. George airport.

And then there were two days of great flying. The weather was challenging both days and actually grounded a couple of the demonstrations on Saturday, but the Blues flew both days. Oh, boy, did they fly!

Here are some shots I got. I’ll do a couple today and then a couple more Wednesday. (Click on the thumbnails.)

 

Of course, you can’t start an airshow without the National Anthem and you can’t play the National Anthem without the flag. Here, a woman from the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team delivers the colors.

 

Presenting the Colors

Presenting the Colors

 

The Blue Angels are flying FA-18 Super Hornet jets these days. The planes perform well faster than lighting and slower than molasses. Here’s an example of slow flight:

Dirty Delta

Dirty Delta

 

One of the thrills of the show is watching the solo pilots fly directly at each other, doing rolls and other maneuvers at 400 mph. Here’s one on a high-speed run.

Solo Angel

Solo Angel

 

The Blues do a number of signature moves, but probably the most well-known is the Blue Angels’ Fleur de Lis.

Angels Fleur de Lis

Angels Fleur de Lis

 

And that was just the first day! Check back Wednesday for more.

More to follow,

Bob

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The Jewel is in the Lotus

When we were at the zoo a couple weeks ago, we came across a pond of water lilies. Lotus if you will. The lotus has a lot of meaning to Eastern religions. The Lord Buddha sits on a Lotus Throne. The flower is so complex that it requires a lot of contemplation. It’s very symbolic because its roots are in the mud, yet a beautiful flower is the end result. The Jewel is in the Lotus. That’s the basic meaning, as I’ve been told, of the Mani mantra: Om Mani Pedmé Hung. I’ve read that this is the favorite mantra of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet. When one chants that mantra, one is supposed to realize that no matter what his or her origins are, the potential for inner beauty is there. Our true nature is not in the mud but in the realization of beauty. Not a bad thought to carry around.

Here are the lotus I found in good old Billings. The backlighting was a challenge, but I think Lightroom helped me control it (click on the thumbnails):

 

 

The Jewel is in the Lotus

The Jewel is in the Lotus

 

And the true nature of the lotus may be as a Black & White image. Who knew?

Pink lotus

Pink lotus

 

I’d better go meditate for a while.

More to follow.

Bob

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Brought to you in Glorious Monochrome!

Well, you know me. Still trying to make a good Black & White image. I’m showing improvement and some of the images I’ve done lately I’m pretty happy with. It’s funny how I can be looking at a brilliant green scene and see monochrome written all over it. I guess that’s my preference, so I lean that way. I’ve been up in the canyons lately and have done a lot of wildflower photography. And I’ve noticed the non-floral scenery. While I still can’t understand mountains and trees as well as I can the desert, I think I’m getting there.

Here are some monochrome scenes I’ve seen lately (as always, click on the image to see them full size and with the right color. Oh, no color this time):

 

Here’s my boy Gandalf, The Gray Cat. He was sitting thinking about the birds at the feeder, so he held still for a while. Not a bad portrait.

 

Gandalf the Gray Cat

Gandalf the Gray Cat

 

This False Hellebore or California Corn Lily (I’ve been told) just called to me, saying, “Monochrome.” It was right.

False Hellebore

False Hellebore

 

And these are, to all intents and purposes, weeds. I don’t have a clue what family they belong to, so I’ll take the lazy way out on the naming.

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

 

I’ll keep working in this old-timey mode, I think.

 

More to follow.

Bob

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More Big Timber Flowers

I went back up to Big Timber Canyon today. I’d heard the flowers are blooming big time, so decided I had to catch them in the act. There were a few that I thought looked photogenic, so I pulled out the macro lens, got up close and personal and clicked away.

While I knelt in the rocky soil with sore knees two things dawned on me. First, I need to put my kneepads back in the camera bag. My cat Spike used to steal them from the bag and chew on them, so I put them where I figured he couldn’t get at them. Now he’s gone, but I keep forgetting to put them in the bag. And if I go do it now while I’m thinking of it, I’ll likely forget to complete this post, so it’s a matter of taking chances.

The second thing is that I need to get a wildflower identification guide. I always say that I know two wildflowers by name. One is Indian paintbrush, the other isn’t. The two you’re seeing here may be bluebells and an LWF. LWF is little white flower. That may not be a very good means of identifying, so I’ll start to study up on them.

Here’s what I saw today (click on the thumbnails to see them full size and properly colored).

 

These are pretty small and they’re mostly white. Hence the name.

 

LWF, Big Timber Canyon

LWF, Big Timber Canyon

 

 

My department head said the bluebells are blooming up there, so these may be those. Or something else. I saw some other blue bell-shaped flowers, but I think they were too big.

 

Blue Bells Maybe

Blue Bells Maybe

 

 

That’s all for now.

More to follow,

Bob

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Eagles and Tigers and Bears, Oh, my!

A group of us went to the zoo today. It was unfortunate that they wouldn’t let us in until they opened and they opened at about the moment the lighting got really awful. But I got some shots I don’t mind anyway. They had to be worked on quite a bit to control the contrast, and I cropped them some, just because my lens isn’t long enough to isolate the critters properly. Cropped them except for the GRIZ (Ed Abbey always used to refer to ursus horibilis  this way). Some of the zoo staff facilitated a close, yet safe look at the big guy.

All in all it was a nice morning, hot and sunny and cool critters.

Here’s what I saw (be sure to click on the thumbnails to see the images full size and properly colored):

 

Bald Eagle, Billings Zoo

Bald Eagle, Billings Zoo

 

 

Griz

Griz

 

 

Siberian Tiger, Billings Zoo

Siberian Tiger, Billings Zoo

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Independence Plus One

I missed posting fireworks last year because, being new to Billings, I didn’t know where to go. Turns out I need to put a lawn chair in my back yard and set the camera next to it.

Here’s what I saw from home (click on the images to see them full size and with proper color):

 

Fireworks1

Fireworks1

 

Fireworks 2

Fireworks 2

 

Fireworks 3

Fireworks 3

 

Fireworks 4

Fireworks 4

 

That’s all for now.

 

More to follow,

Bob

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