Monday, August 22, 2011

Fire in the Sky

The third morning of our trip was by far the most visually stunning of many outstanding sunrises. Fortunately we were there to witness it. This was dawn in all its glory.

We arrived at Lake McDonald a few minutes before this incredible show took place. It lasted for at least 40 minutes. During that time a mother merganser and her brood took a swim through the fiery reflection on the perfectly calm surface of Lake McDonald. If you look closely, the mergansers are on the left side of the image and their wake is the orange streak that runs through the middle of the dark mountain reflection.

I have never seen such a beautiful sunrise last for so long. I had noticed on my previous adventure in Utah that the sunrises seem to last forever out west. Here in the east, the best color lasts for a maximum of ten minutes. Comparatively the western sunrises that I saw this summer seemed to last for ten days.

There are few places that are as beautiful as Lake McDonald at sunrise. I was thrilled that the two mornings we spent there offered two very different, but equally beautiful sunrises. You may compare this image with my previous post "Cerrulean Reflections" at

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy

On our first night in Montana we went to an authentic rodeo complete with bucking broncos, big mean bulls, cowboys, cowgirls, colorful clowns and a sea of ten gallon hats. This rodeo was the real deal.

This image may be my favorite of many wonderful shots that I made that evening. The essence of the rodeo and the west is captured in this photograph. The cowboy captured in mid-air, his hat flying off in the background, and the steer's hooves locked into the ground in a desperate attempt to escape, all hint at the wild energy of the rodeo.

Few things represent the cowboy tradition of the west better than a small town rodeo. Cowboys and cowgirls came from all over Montana and Canada to compete in the contest. Some of them may not have been old enough to finish the 6th grade, while a few were old enough to potentially be great grandparents. Young and old, they all shared a fire in their bellies for the thrill of the ride.

Many of the rides, whether on a bull or from a horse started with a gut check and a quick prayer finished with a sign of the cross made for protection. Then the excitement would build as the rider exploded out of the gate as if a cannon had fired. Within seconds the ride would be over and the crowd would cheer to congratulate the rider for his or her courage.

Watching these events with the naked eye is fascinating, even exhilerating. Seeing them afterwards as snapshots brings about an even greater appreciation for the effort and courage that these modern day wranglers display. The still shots show the raw power that the broncos and bulls are capable of. Even an event like barrel racing is fraught with danger. Twice, riders trying to cut corners too hard in an effort to shave seconds off of their time, managed to topple their horses to the ground. I was particularly impressed by the cowgirl who remounted her horse and finished the race, even though there was no chance for her to win. That type of hard nosed attitude prevailed throughout the evening as rider after rider attempted to tame the beasts to which they were bound.

If you find yourself out west, be sure to find the local rodeo. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cerulean Reflections

The tour to Montana was blessed with perfect skies for every sunrise and sunset. I have never seen such a beautiful series of skies in succession like we did for that entire week. Usually you are lucky to get one great sunrise every 10-20 days. The skies started out great on day one and just kept getting better!

This was my second favorite sunrise of the tour. The photo was made on the shores of Lake McDonald. At first, I thought we might get a poor or non-existent sunrise, but this one turned into something truly special indeed.

I loved the reflections of the sky upon the perfectly smooth lake. The mirror image was enchanting. This sunrise was a great start to a great day!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silhouette at Sunrise

This horse stopped munching on its breakfast of plains grass just long enough to watch the sunrise. I wonder if it enjoyed the sunrise as much as I did. This image was made at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village in Browning, Mt.

The sunrise was as beautiful as the sunset and the milky way from the night before. This is truly a special place. Spending time with the local band of horses was a fantastic way to start the day!

Please note that this is a captive horse. The wild horse band was only ten feet away, but they were not high enough on the ridge to silhouette against the sun.

The Setting Crescent Moon

This image was created at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village in Browning, Montana. After we watched the sun set, we were able to make images including the waxing crescent moon. Placing the moon among the tipi poles seemed only natural. I was witnessing a scene that had occurred on the plains thousands of times before. How many more times will it happen again? I was thrilled to be there, in that moment, connecting to something greater than myself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Beauty of the Plains

This image was created near sunset at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village in Browning, MT. The plains have hundreds of species of flowers and grasses, birds and butterflies. I was very fortunate to have a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers to anchor the foreground of this image.

To create this image, I used an 11-16mm wide angle lens. One of the best techniques for using a wide angle lens is to get as close to possible with the foreground subject. This is a classic technique that has been around forever. Don't forget to use a high f stop to help maintain excellent depth of field. In this case, I selected f22.

As you can see from my previous posts, I found the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village to be a truly beautiful location rich with many photographic opportuinities! I can hardly wait to visit again!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dreams of Tipis and Stars

This image shows the milky way rising like smoke out of the tipi. The stars on the Plains of Montana are bright and beautiful. My friend Nancy and I stayed out until nearly 1:00 AM making compositions of the tipis and the milky way. We both wanted to keep photographing, but I had the longest drive of the trip ahead of me the next day. We were back at it by 5:30 AM for sunrise.

Watching the stars wheel above the tipis, smelling the smoke from the campfires and hearing the coyotes howling across the plains made me think of days long past. Every so often a train would rumble by in the distance that would also remind me of the wild west. I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to see and hear a herd of a million buffalo running across the plains...

As the temperature began to quickly drop, I began to wish for a buffalo robe and a seat by the fire. This was truly a memorable experience.

The Bird Woman's Tipi

This photo was made at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village in Browning, Montana. I offered an optional star photography session for the photo tour to Montana. As the sky was getting darker, we kept small campfires in the tipis. Combined with a long exposure, the fires created an ethereal glow in the tipis. The tipi in the foreground glowed in the shape of a woman or an angel. Having recently photographed the famous Bird Woman Falls in Glacier National Park, I am inspired to title this photograph "The Bird Woman's Tipi."

Our stay at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village was fantastic! We had a wonderful dinner of fresh trout and buffalo meatloaf. Then we photographed wild mustangs and the tipis at sunset. The star photography was outstanding. I will soon post a photo of a tipi under the Milky Way. The next morning, we revisited the mustangs at sunrise. This was truly a magical place to visit!

Mmmm Huckleberry!!

I just got back from leading a fantastic photo tour through Glacier National Park and Northwest Montana. The scenery and wildlife all showed up on cue. (I am glad that the union contracts were mostly settled:) We saw so many amazing things that it will be hard to retell all of it. For me, the best part was the people who came on the trip. I have never laughed so hard for so long. These folks were all kindred spirits and I had a blast getting to know all of them!

This black bear was photographed in the National Bison Range. It was foraging for huckleberries, a Montana delicacy. If you look closely, you will see a huckleberry on its tongue! What an amazing chance we had to observe this bear in the wild. We watched it for about 15 minutes before we had to leave. When we first saw the bear, my friend Sue, who was sitting behind me in the van got so excited that she screamed "BEAAARRRR!!!!" so loud that I still can not hear anything in my right ear. So much for quietly approaching wildlife:) Fortunately, the bear didn't seem to mind. The huckleberries were probably just too good!

I will keep posting my favorite photos from this trip as I edit them. Check back here regularly.
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