A Little Emerald in the Water

One of the most beautiful trout species in Montana is the Yellowstone Cutthroat. Cutthroat trout throughout the state was in decline for years but thankfully due to the help of a lot of people, both the Westslope and Yellowstone came back from the brink. Today they can be caught in numerous rivers and lakes but are still highly sought after. Photographically they are a must for the files but like all aquatic species have to be handled with great care and very little time. During the height of summer, this is especially true.

Image captured with Nikon D750, 18-35 f3.5-4.5, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Montana Gems

You wouldn’t think of Montana has having a lot of aircraft activity but the state has always had a healthy history of privately owned aircraft going back to before WWII. Once part of the old US Mail route, Montana has seen its fair share of progress over the years. Still, to this day there is a healthy number of antique aircraft flying around to keep the legacies of the past alive.

This Stinson 10A is a great example of just that legacy. Built as a light utility aircraft by the Stinson Aircraft Company, the 10A was a later variant of the 10, which was a modified 105. The 10A sported a roomier cabin and a Franklin 4AC-199 engine. This particular aircraft is one of 7 flying examples of the 10A in the world and it was part of a 10-year restoration right here in Bozeman. It was pretty cool to see it once again fly over the hillsides.

Image Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

How to Work a Big Flock

It’s really fun when you go do something that you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Working with American White Pelicans in Montana is one of those things for me. Every year they come back and haunt the Madison River in big flocks. As you can see most of them are juveniles but with the regularity of people floating by on drift boats and rafts, they have become rather habituated to people. This made approaching them easier which I did with waders.

Two big things when working a group of birds like this. First, you got to watch the light. These birds are big and bright and they really stick out against the dark blue background causing a lot of contrast. Due to the nature of the local, the light was kinda hard when I started so that caused more contrast. The solution was wearing a pair of waders and walking around the birds until I found the angle that worked. I went slowly, and watched them, thus making sure they were comfortable with me.

The second piece of advice is having to work with the group itself. With so many heads, bodies and butts it’s easy to chop something off or have something extra you don’t want in your photo. So, be patient and watch the birds. Find a good subject and wait for the right moment.

Light and Shadows make for Good Landscapes

Heavy darks and blacks have always fascinated me with landscapes. In most photographs, there is a balance between the two creating contrast but sometimes there is an overwhelming amount of one or the other which can make for some interesting photos. High mountain lakes often offer these types of occasions because of the way the light either comes up or down behind the mountains. The result is a spotlight in one area or another. Using a longer lens like the 70-200 VRII along with the D5, I was able to isolate this section of pine trees. In post, I used a couple of split graduated filters, along with the shadow slider in ACR to enhance that dark shadow background. Simple tricks for some good results.

 

Long Lens Landscapes

A long lens can be a very useful tool when it comes to landscapes. You can use a long lens to isolate key areas where the light is creating the most drama and keep unwanted or undesirable elements out of your photographs. For instance, the foreground in this image was very bright and didn’t add to the story. By using the D5 and 70-200 VRII, I was able to keep that element along with narrowing the background, so that the light and shadows become more visually powerful. Wide angles work well in a lot of landscapes but don’t be afraid to go tight and pull out small chunks from the overall scene.

A Little Black and White Action

It’s been a while since I’ve done any black and white shooting but on this occasion it just made sense. This Cottonwood tree was the only thing blocking out the sun which normally shooting into the sun doesn’t do much for backgrounds but in a black and white it makes for a clean background. The rest of this was just a little finishing in Adobe Camera Raw.

Images captured with Nikon D5, 85 f/1.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Get Low, Shoot Wide

One thing I learned a long time ago when working with aquatic species is to get low and shoot wide. Getting low helps to make the subject look bigger and as well as making it easier to hold the subject closer to the water, thus helping to reduce the amount of time the fish is out of the water. Remember the goal is to get the shots quick for a fast release. The wide angle helps to exaggerate proportions while also dramatically changing the focal plane when shooting wide open. The results can be really fun.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, 18-35 f3.5-4.5, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Always Find the Silver Lining

Storms are fun to chase because you never quite know what you’ll find at the end of them. A lot of time you end up with a whole lot of nothing but you had a fun drive. Then again you find those rare moments where the skies open up and let down something amazing. This was a quick click with the D750, 18-35 f3.5 on Lexar UDMA Digital Film on a recent trip through western Montana. One of the great things about the transition from Spring into Summer are all the chances at these storms.

 

Just Can’t Beat Them

We’ve been chasing them for years but the Cutthroat Trout doesn’t give up its secrets that easily. There are enough known spots these days to catch Yellowstone Cutthroats but finding big ones is still rare so I was pretty stoked to catch this 14″ female. Needles to say I had to get a photo with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB5000. Something I learned long ago was that it’s always best to find a shallow spot with a nice background. This grassy bank made for an interesting backdrop to go along with the net as a prop.

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