Capturing MontanaWhen photographers think of Montana they usually think of snow capped mountains and fresh water lakes underneath the "Big Sky." What many people don't realize is that Montana has a much wider variety of photographic subjects. In fact, many of our Summer Intensive students who spend eleven weeks in Missoula tell us that they run out of time rather than places.
If you are coming to Montana, you should visit all its obvious highlights including, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and Yellowstone National Park. But be careful not to overlook rodeos, ghost towns, powwows, and all the other unique and interesting locations or events that take place across the state.
Not only are there many different locations and subjects to photograph, but each season adds its unique characteristics to any scene. Spring creates a carpet of green throughout the valleys that climb up the hillsides. The florescent greens of spring leaves dappled by blossoms in white and pink, and sprouting wildflowers add color and dimension to the lush surroundings.
Summer ushers in endless opportunities for photographing numerous lakes and rivers across the state and all the activities in them. Montanans love water and any given day on the river you can find a group of kayakers navigating a rapid or inner tubers floating along the banks. As the sun begins to set the fly fishermen come out. Even if you don't fish, there is something magical about the dusk light and catching a fishing line like a thread of gold in mid air. This may be the reason Norman McLean set his novella "A River Runs Through It," in Missoula. If you are looking for a different type of action, there is nothing quite like the experience of a small town rodeo in Montana. Starting in mid June you can find a rodeo almost any weekend. Between the cowboys, cowgirls, kids and animals it is a full day of opportunities like you've never known. As you drive back from a rodeo on a summer evening, you might witness a Montana sunset. Make sure you have your camera ready because you won't want to miss the opportunity. As the sun goes down around 10 p.m. it is followed by brilliant reds, oranges and violets. With the silhouette of any mountain, grain silo or old train car you are guaranteed photographs that will evoke oohs, and aahs.
Although summer is chock full of potential photographs, Montana's appeal doesn't end in August. Montana definitely puts on a foliage show that is all its own. The aspens and larches in the higher altitudes are the first to turn creating different levels of color across the mountain sides. The red-orange leaves transition to the green trees and then on to the flat valley bottoms covered in golden grasses. The early autumn also brings Montana state fairs to both rural and large towns alike. State fairs are a unique place to photograph local culture mixed with lights and motion.
With all of the possibilities, our instructors and staff were more than willing to narrow the list by sharing some of their favorite places to photograph. When fine art photographer Elizabeth Stone is looking for locations to photograph she wants diversity, ever changing light and weather, places where it is easy to be alone, places close to home and dog friendly locations where her new puppy Lucy can swim. She's partial to Brown's Lake, an isolated lake surrounded by mountains and reeds. The dirt road between Helmville and Avon, two very small towns in western Montana, provides a vantage point on rural landscape and life. Augusta, Montana is a small rural community with a great rodeo. There are a chain of lakes around Seeley Lake that are small and quaint but offer serene views and wildlife opportunities.
Susanna Gaunt who is also a fine art photographer but does quite a bit of travel and architectural photography loves Montana's towns. Phillipsburg and Garnet Ghost town provide quintessential Western architecture from the turn of the century and also possess unique characteristics. Of course downtown Missoula with a blend of its old and modern is a favorite for Sus. One of her favorite outside locations is the east side of the Rockies near Choteau where the high altitude plains abruptly meet the massive mountains.
Bob McGowan our Programs Specialist is a prolific photographer and has spent ample amounts of time driving around Missoula and Montana photographing. Some of his favorites in Missoula include the "M" on Mount Sentinel on the 4th of July as the fireworks are exploding over the city. He is also drawn to the bridges throughout Missoula. As he explains, "from the top of and underneath the bridges of Missoula the trails and environments that run through these areas are [always] interesting. It's a great spot for people photography, moving water, reflections, shadows, graffiti, and even self-portraits. I have often thought of doing a daily study of at least one photo a day from the Higgins Avenue Bridge to capture a microcosm of Missoula."
Andy Kemmis, our Publications Specialist is more of an action/sport photographer and never at a loss for events or people willing to show off their sport while Andy snaps away. Between all the bike races, skateparks, and general outdoor activities in the summer there is always something to capture. In the winter, Andy goes into the mountains, where the perfect powdery snow reflects the warm morning or evening light contrasted against bright blue skies. He says that "although it can be a whole lot of work to even get to the place where I take my camera out, I will never get sick of seeing a successful snowboarding shot from a good day in the backcountry."
If you are coming to Montana there are the places you should definitely go to photograph, but be sure to keep your eyes open to experience all the lesser known opportunities the state has to offer. No matter what type of photography you specialize in you will find a great scene, backdrop, or activity that is unique and will leave you wanting more.
Trends in the Photography IndustryTwice a year the major players in the photography industry announce their newest, latest, greatest equipment. There are three industry shows that tempt the companies to show off their best. Photokina which happens every two years during early fall in Germany, Photo Plus Expo in New York in October, and the Photo Marketing Association Trade Show otherwise known as PMA held in the spring. The most recent show, PMA was held March 8-11, 2007 in Las Vegas. Prior to this show there were many announcements of new cameras, lenses, compact flash cards, etc. Web sites were buzzing with questions and reviews, excitement and disappointment. Among all of the people searching the internet for this new information was one of the co-owners of Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Neil Chaput de Saintonge.
For those that don't know Neil, you should realize that Neil not only loves photography but also the technical side and the gadgetry that accompanies it. He's read about, if not tried, almost every lens out there. He can rattle off the specs of any given camera with surprising resemblance to the charts that the manufacturers create. Neil doesn't discriminate against any type of camera or brand, they all receive equal research time and attention. This is why March and October are exciting times of the year for Neil. It is his time to absorb all he can about the new equipment. Because Neil has spent so much time with cameras, lenses and all other types of equipment, he has an unbelievable sense for the trends in the photography industry.
Since the PMA announcements were made, Neil noticed that the changes between generations and models of cameras are getting much more subtle. For a couple of years, the differences between one camera to its successor were huge. There were different sensors, different auto focusing patterns, menu options became more complex, custom functions went from moderately helpful to almost completely necessary. As the quality of digital cameras reaches higher levels, new developments in digital cameras begin to slow down. Even though the gap is narrowing between each digital camera developed, there are other interesting turns that the photography industry is taking.
Digital SLR camera sales are at an all-time high since the heyday of film SLRs, and are on the rise due to the improvements in digital camera technology. The interesting thing is that increasingly more camera manufacturers are throwing their hat into the digital SLR ring, meeting the big names like Canon and Nikon with surprising force. There is no doubt that Canon and Nikon are still the leaders in the digital SLR market but companies like Sony, Olympus and Pentax are holding their ground. Not only are these companies generating good quality products, but they are coming up with innovative technologies that have the capability of shifting the wants and needs of consumers.
One innovation is sensor-based stabilization. With stabilization technology incorporated in the sensor, rather then in the lens, any lens could be used and have a similar effect. This technology allows the photographer to hand hold the camera at slower shutter speeds, by minimizing the effects of camera shake. This feature is being built into more and more of the SLRs which is an interesting turn. If consumer demand increases for sensor-based image stabilization using any lens, we could see the leading companies following in the footsteps of their counterparts.
Another trend that Neil noticed as of PMA 2007 is that the quality of lenses are improving dramatically. Due to the increased quality of the sensors, people are able to spot the flaws in their lenses much more easily. The response from the industry has been to produce higher quality, cleaner glass.
So what do you take away from this? Neil says there are three main things that any consumer should keep in mind based on the trends he has witnessed. First, since the changes between camera generations are getting more and more subtle, don't wait to see what's coming out next. If you are interested in purchasing a digital SLR there are many good models available now and they shouldn't become obsolete by the fall. The second thing to consider is that more than ever the quality of your lenses matter. If you can only purchase one item, spend your money on the higher quality lenses. No matter how fancy your digital camera is, it can't correct problems in your lens. The third and final thing that Neil would like to remind people is that this is still all about photography. Although there are more technological advancements to follow, try to spend more time out in the field rather then researching the latest and greatest. The technology will always change but what should not change is your love of the craft.
RMSP is excited to again be working with renowned photographer David H. Wells and his unique workshop, Light Studies:The Light and Atmosphere of Place. This workshop explores the relationships between light and shadows and the atmosphere that can be expressed by the interplay of these two elements.
David is a freelance photographer based in Providence, Rhode Island. An editorial, commercial and location photographer working across New England, he focuses on photo-essays for publication and exhibition. An award-winning photographer, he produces images for local, national and international clientele. Past assignments have been for Life Magazine, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine; to name a few. He has done work for numerous corporations including Consolidated Natural Gas and DuPont and for non-profit organizations including Brown University, the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund. He is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Creative Eye and the National Press Photographer's Association. David has taught at a number of universities, technology schools and private workshop organizations.
Learn more about Light Studies: The Light and Atmosphere of Place
We are only three months into 2007 and already RMSP is gearing up for 2008. Our full 2008 schedule will be available online or in your mailbox by early October.
If you enjoyed our Feature Article about photographing in Montana you may want to take a look at some of our Montana based workshops.
Character of Montana—Missoula and Choteau, MontanaJune 22-28, 2007
Light Studies: The Light and Atmosphere of PlaceJuly 7-13, 2007
The Art of MacroJuly 11-15, 2007
The Photography of PeopleAugust 4-10, 2007
Sunrises, Sunsets and Flowing WaterAugust 11-17, 2007
Wildlife Up CloseOctober 13-17, 2007
Basic Photography July 28-August 3, 2007September 15-21, 2007
Intermediate PhotographySeptember 23-28, 2007