It’s that time of the year again when the afternoon thunderstorms come rolling in at 2 pm and last for a few hours. The Gallatin Mountains get covered with these black streaks as the rain and hail come down. It’s really fun to watch these systems pass through the valley and then disappear over to the east. The best part is that tiny sliver of light that pops up on the western horizon letting in just enough to light up the underbelly of the clouds before disappearing entirely. With the Z50 and 16-50mm there wasn’t much needed to make a good capture of this previous afternoon.
I blog about this every year because every year I enjoy it. Spring thunderstorms are so cool and so much fun to watch. Great big dramatic clouds and that little bit of light that comes through really makes the drive and the time spent hunting for that right landscape worth it. I am blessed to be in an area where there are so many possibilities for great landscapes and I always feel bad when I don’t take advantage of them more.
As I write this it’s actually snowing but that will quickly pass and go back to rain. Spring has finally arrived for certain in Montana and with it comes the ever-changing weather from the sun, to rain back to snow followed by sun. You can’t ever predict it because you just can’t. The great thing is it’s green and beautiful and with all the rolling storms that come through the skies are often filled with these great puffy clouds that make landscapes so appealing.
Last September we had a forest fire come through the Bridger Mountains, which is the first time in fifteen years of me living in Bozeman that that has happened. It’s actually the first time in decades that fire of that size has gone through the Bridger Mountains. It was started by a lightning strike that hit a tree and instead of igniting a blaze, the fire remained trapped inside the tree trunk until finally, under the right conditions the fire escaped the trunk. I couldn’t believe it at first because it sounds so far-fetched but it is a real-life phenomenon. I watched from a patio that day as the fire moved up the hillside.
Thankfully the fire was put out with only minimal property damage but aftereffects are still present today. I decided to hike up to the fire line one day and see for myself what the fire did to both sides of the mountain. It was quite impressive and oddly surreal to see so much gone from the area. Very carefully I made my way through the forest on the path photographing the damage. Life will spring anew and in time it will go back to being a forest again. In the meantime, the area has lead to some nice photographs, including what I was surprised to find out was some really interesting black and whites. The heavy contrast of the burnt landscape combined with afternoon light and clear skies turned out to be an interesting combo. I found myself playing between color and monochrome on multiple images seeing what looked better for the end product and not really landing on an absolute answer. That there is the fun that lays within photography.
Well, I finally got all my photos finished from the trip, which considering the trip was a month ago, shows just how many I had to get through. I really did enjoy finishing these images though. The Kootenai River really is an amazing place and the topography of the land in that area of the state is just breathtaking. The river is controlled by Libby Dam, 17 miles upstream from the town of Libby, and regulates how much flows out from Lake Kookanusa. The Kootenai River is the third largest tributary to the Columbia River.
In the springtime, the flows are much lower than during the high runoff months of May and June, thus the river looks like this with more visible banks and pools. During the runoff months, the river swells and becomes very deep, very wide, and can be dangerous to navigate for outdoor recreation. While I was there last month on a fishing trip, we had to stop just once at the Kootenai falls, which is a natural barrier for fishing spawning, to do the whole tourist thing and see the sights. The Falls are accessible by a 1.6 mile easily manageable hike to the swinging bridge or the upper falls. Both spots are worth the trip. In the fall, the fish tend to pool up beneath the falls, and great schools of salmon, trout, and sturgeon can be seen. These were taken with the Nikon D5 and 18-35 f3.5/4.5.
My apologies for not posting much lately but I’ve rather busy since I got back from the latest Montana adventure, this one taking me all the way up north to Libby and the magnificent Kootenai River. It was one heck of a trip that I’m still processing images from and as you can see it’s unlike any river I’ve posted about before. The fishing was great and the photography was great so there will be more to come.
Spring is around the corner and these sixty degrees March days are really starting to get addictive but if you’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains for any period of time then you know not to get hooked on them. The weather can change awfully fast going into April and become very unpredictable so it’s important to get and enjoy while you can. I think that advice is good for anyone. After a long week of work, it’s good to get out for a drive with the camera and enjoy the scenery.
I’m certainly not the first to try drive-by photography but when you’re not actually driving and just looking out the window, it’s kind of a fun thing to play around with. With the Z50 it was a no-brainer rolling down the window and freezing the other passengers. Fresh snow disappears real fast in the lower elevations, so after a storm rolls through it’s a good time for a road trip.
There are a lot of interesting geothermal spots within the Yellowstone caldera and each one is usually worth the visit. I went a visited one that I had neither heard of before nor been to, a place called Big Spring. Located just minutes outside of Island Park, ID, the four-mile driving loop goes along Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and Big Springs. The Springs itself is a natural spring that is the primary source for Henry’s Fork which travels down several miles to Henry’s Lake and the Island Park Reservoir. Because it is attached to a geothermal vent it always stays above 52 degrees year-round. This not only makes it a very beautiful spot to visit in the wintertime but also a great fish spawning habitat that is closed to fishing.
Built-in 1929, the Jason Sacks cabin is among one the attractions at the Spring. Along with the cabin are the water turbine and shed. Of course, if that’s not enough, the area is filled with large rainbow trout which tourists often feed under the bridge. Since there is no fishing the trout tend to get quite large. Fun little trips like these were what kept me in Montana.
Well, I did say some, unfortunately, I was too slow to get to a good spot in time before the light was completely gone. I have always liked going out to shoot in between storms because that’s usually when the most dramatic skies appear. The other was no different. I got the camera as quickly as I could, drove out to a local spot, and photographed what was left of the light. the results, a nice evening, and a couple of quick clicks.