Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Super Volcano

I have heard many different people say that the Grand Tetons National Park is their favorite over Yellowstone National Park, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why!

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Grand Tetons. They are some of the prettier mountains that I have seen, and I have seen more than my fair share of mountains on this trip. I also got some really awesome and rare moose shots in the Grand Tetons (rare because of the conditions of the shot).

The thing is, Yellowstone has so many different things to do and see, and all of them are interesting (with the possible exception of the natural bridge, which is a very long hike to a very small and unassuming arch).

Immediately upon my arrival in Yellowstone, I was faced with a heard of elk cooling off in the shade of one of the many employee barracks at Mammoth Hot Springs, one of the most beautiful set of hot springs in the park.

As I journeyed East and then South along the grand loop road, it was like a journey back in time. Each place that I stopped at was a memory from my childhood, when my parents took us on a western road trip. I remembered the creek where I caught 5 brook trout, and my first look at a bison, and the sulphur smell of the Geo-thermal features.

I took time to stop at one overlook for nearly an hour, watching and waiting for the wolves that had been showing up in this area recently. I never did see the wolves, but I saw quite a few hawks and elk.

I was so touched by the view of lower falls, from Artist’s Point, that I made a decision to drive back to the point the next morning, for what I thought would be better lighting. That night, as I camped off the side of the road in a national forest, I was visited by 6 motorcycles that pulled into my clearing, revved their engines for a couple of minutes, and then drove off.

PS: why people hate photographers

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bob's Burgers

I made my way east from Missoula, crossing rolling glacial hills, fields of golden grass, and low, stony mountains, stopping briefly in Butte, a small mining town that stretches from the highway up the side of a large hill, “the richest hill on earth” as it is known, where prospectors struck gold in what is now the main street. For having the name, “the richest hill on earth”, the town certainly did not look like an overly prosperous place to live. Houses and shops were small and rundown, every fourth lot sat empty, and men wore wife beaters and drove rusty Camaros and old Chevrolet Pickups. It was almost exactly what I would expect a mining town to look like, except of course that a mining town should have more trees, and be very dark and cloudy all of the time.

I am always pleasantly surprised when I find a town that catches my eye. Bozeman is one of those towns. I think it is the downtown that attracted my attention. In my exhaustingly repetitive search for a place to sleep, I accidentally drove one exit past the Wal-Mart, and had to circle back through downtown Bozeman to get to my free version of the holiday inn.

I was shocked by the feeling of vitality that I got as I drove through downtown. People were still out and about at 9:30, stores and restaurants were still open, children and adult lined the streets alongside the college age, and young professional crowd. Bozeman feels like a town with some culture.

I drove all the way to Wal-Mart before deciding to turn around and get a little bit of the Bozeman experience. As I walked up and down the streets, feeling underdressed in my jeans and brown plaid shirt; I was approached by a man speaking truth out of the scriptures. His words were not long, his opinion not shared.

He simply stated: “seek yea first the kingdom of God,” along with a word of exhortation.

A few minutes later, a lady approached me to ask if I knew the location of the bus stop. I did not. After she had walked off, I got a feeling like I should make an effort to help her out rather than sitting on my lazy butt. I asked a passerby about the location of the bus station, and then found the lady and gave her a ride.

I ended up spending the next hour or so enjoying a glass of PBR with Carmen, while we talked about our life stories and our respective travels. Carmen is a former army medic, and EMT. She spent years working two jobs to support her teenage daughter, until she was no longer physically able to work because of the combination of no rest, and gulf war syndrome.

Now that her daughter has graduated, she travels around the country visiting friends in various places. I am always amazed by the stories of people that I meet, as well as by the words of encouragement that they so often share with me. As we talked about things that we felt like were valuable, I mentioned my own skepticism about the value of my photography, a skepticism that she did not share at all.

She told me that God gave me this gift for a reason, and that the images that I capture may not impact most people, but they impact some. She said that if a person looked at one of the images that I capture and stopped for just a second to think about G-d’s creation or our relationship to eternity, that would be something of value.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coming Soon…

…To a maternity ward near you.

It is unusual to take maternity pictures when a mother is only 20 weeks pregnant, but then again, what do I ever do that is not unusual?

Kimberley Heger, a model in Kalispell, Montana, gave me the honors of doing her, and my, first maternity shoot. I have always thought that being a mother was one of the most wonderful and beautiful things that a woman could do, so it was a treat to be able to capture the beauty of maternity with my camera. Kimberly and I were both quite pleased with the results.

Night Light

My photographic adventure did not end in Kalispell. Just one long drive down a winding, scenic road from Kalispell is the thriving town of Missoula. Missoula is a real gem of a city, and one that I could see myself living in at some point in the future. The town of 50,000 people is home to the University of Montana, and supports a thriving downtown area, complete with bars, coffee shops, art galleries, alley ways, and on the evening that I happened to visit, a live band.

I stopped in Missoula to do a photo shoot with a student from the university there. The project that we were working on was light painting in an alleyway in the downtown area. Because of the technique, in which the camera shutter is left open for several seconds while a flashlight is used to “paint” light onto the subject, we had to shoot in a very dark area, which meant an alley at nighttime.

It is usually a bad idea to be hanging in dark alleyways at night, but Missoula seemed to be a fairly upstanding city, in that, rather than being attacked by drug dealers, we were harassed by a drunk blonde guy who wanted to hug my model, and a gaggle of drunken college girls, one of whom is actually trying to become a model.

All Forward Paddle

It is funny how people often mistreat each other, thinking that they will never see such and such person again. The truth is that our world is very small. This was illustrated to me as I walked through the parking lot of a Walmart in Missoula.

“Hey! I know that guy!”

I look up, and to my great surprise, up walks Michael, a guy that I river guided with at the JH Ranch in 2007.

So what is the moral of the story?

Be nice to everyone you meet, and not just because God told you to!