Enter the Bearcat

One big engine in a small plane. The F8F Bearcat never saw combat in WWII but one could imagine what would’ve happened had this 455mph fighter/interceptor entered service. Powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the Bearcat was designed to be operated off of escort carriers, which were smaller and lighter, with a high rate of climb, maneuverability and speed. The first operational squadron was ready May 21st 1945 but with the war over in Europe, production orders were vastly reduced and eventually only 1265 were built. The Bearcat first saw combat in the French/Indochina war and then again in Vietnam.

The Bearcat’s true fame came from the Navy’s choice for the famed Blue Angels squadron, then being raced for decades at the Reno Championship Air Races and for setting the 3km World Speed Record as well a the time to climb record. The speed record was of course broken later on.

Still this marvelous aircraft graces the skies of North America at various airshows throughout the season. It’s short wings, short fuselage and high profile make it hard to miss among the other aircraft on the ramp. In the skies, the sound of that R-2800 is unmistakable as it thunders overhead.


This is probably one of the hardest areas for me personally when it comes to wildlife photography. Waterfowl can be really frustrating subjects as they have the tendency to move a lot. When there is activity on the shoreline they will instantly b line away from said activity to somewhere safer. This is often why photographers go out in blinds or setup somewhere and wait a really long time. One piece of advice when it comes to waterfowl is to not chase the birds. Trying to outmaneuver any duck will just end up with you scaring the bird off completely. If you don’t have or want to use a blind then arrive early and wait patiently. It might seem like common sense and that’s because it is. Those lessons tend to work well with photography.

Now I know from personal experience that chasing the subject doesn’t work as this Harlequin Duck is a perfect example. It’s a little early for them to be nesting in the area but they serve my purpose. These guys brave the rapids of the fast moving rivers and often nest in Yellowstone. Trying to keep up with them is a challenge and not exactly safe. But spending time watching them and seeing where they go will keep you and them safe.

75th Anniversary of Attu


Technically this anniversary goes from May 11-30 seeing how the battle lasted that long for a very tiny island. Attu is one of the islands in the Aleutian Island Chain of Alaska. It’s a desolate place with lots of wilderness and very little civilization. In 1943 when the Battle was occurring supplies were incredibly hard to get as the nearest allied and axis bases were hundreds if not thousands of miles away. But the Aleutians were an important strategic island chain for further invasion of the United States. Due to the sensitive nature much of the battles were kept a secret from the public for fear of panic.

The battle of Attu was a bloody fight with almost all of the heavily fortified Japanese soldiers killed. Unlike the island of Kiska where the garrisons were able to evacuate. The fighting on Attu was tough as the island was made of mud, rock and permafrost. Vehicles sank and men wore out. It was three weeks of struggle but deemed necessary to secure the Aleutian Islands from further occupation.

I truly cannot explain in detail how much went on during this campaign or the struggles that happened on Attu for both sides. To really get into the history I recommend this book. It’s well worth the read.

Background is Key with Portraits

With any good photograph, the photographer watches the background and finds the one that makes the image unique. Backgrounds tell as much of the story as does the rest of the elements. Even with a portrait that background sets the story of where everything is happening. Now I think of these more as landscape portraiture since I’m always trying to show more then just water in the background. Each one is a story on it’s own in its own unique place. In this case it goes back to the biology and ecology of the fish and the waterways they inhabit. Right now these Rainbows are towards the end of their spawn so catching them with spawning colors in a high altitude lake is different then anywhere else. You know it’s high altitude because of that background. So the next time you are doing portrait work think about more then just a color behind your subject.

In Honor of VE Day 73 Years Later

Certainly an anniversary that needs to be honored every year. VE and VJ Day were two very significant days in world history. VE Day stands for Victory Europe when the war in Germany came to an end on May 5th 1945. WWII affected millions of lives and when the conflict ended life didn’t just resume as normal. It took time. Time to remember.

Three years ago I had the great fortune to be at the 70th Anniversary of VE Day as part of the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in Washington DC. Over thirty thousand people attended the ceremony and over 800 veterans were present at the Reflection Pond. Every head was looking up as the 52 aircraft flew overhead in honor of the different services that participated throughout the war.

You can see what happened through the eyes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum and their fleet of aircraft as they flew over the memorial here.

How to Deal with the Changing Temps in Your Photography

Weather affects a lot more then just what type of background we have to work with in our photographs. Specifically it’s the temperature that can really make a difference when it comes to the photographs. All walks of life are affected by the temperatures and when it comes to birds their reproductive time table can either be set back or sped up. With the exceptionally cold and long winter we had this year in the rockies, everything seems to be delayed by two weeks. Now this is just coming from my own observations I’ve made over the last 10 years of watching migratory species, nesting birds and spring chicks. This one spot on the Madison is a good example. Having literally gone to the same spot over the last two years on the same weekend I can say the number of birds are less this year.

So what is the whole point of this?

Quite simply, since the time table is never 100% accurate you have to just keep your feet in the mud and look for the activity. Once you find a spot go back to it several times to watch the changes happen. This is also a great way to document life in your area over the course of multiple years.

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

Is it Better to shoot into the Sun or Away From It?

This is a question that I think about every time I go out with the camera. It’s an important question to ask when you’re working with landscapes and dealing with a sunset or a sunrise. In those scenarios there are two things to look for, where is the light hitting and is it better then looking at the sun itself. In this example the Bridger Mountains are behind me and the light hitting the mountains wasn’t as dramatic as the sun itself going through the clouds. Looking in a 360 is a very important lesson in photography, just as knowing your surroundings is.

History Repeats Itself

Photography is a great way to see how the world changes around us as time moves forward. You take a photo, wait a few years and then go back to that same spot and see the difference. I hiked up this trail many years ago just outside Bozeman and it looked the same then as it does now, just a few more buildings down below. While I went with a different camera and lens, D5 and 18-35, history repeated itself and there wasn’t much to shoot, but plenty to enjoy.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Not in Montana! This old adage is a favorite among farmers and ranchers but it certainly doesn’t seem to apply this year. With storm after storm bring record levels of water content into the mountains it’s hard to say when the snow will give way, when the temps will rise and when those posies will blossom.

These two images were taken in June a while back because like this year, those years the bloom didn’t happen until June. Now I have never been a huge macro flower person but I love landscapes that are filled with color from those flowers. Something as simple as a field of Mustard Grass can be rather amazing. Like with all my landscapes I look for clean backgrounds and clean lines. Notice there are no trails of people having walked through the flowers. Also blue sky days are great, blue sky days with puffy clouds are even better. Don’t go just for the sake of going, be picky, and find the good days. I bring this up now because with all photo subjects you need to prep ahead of time.

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