Fall is all about the changing of the seasons and seeing that dramatic pop in color in the trees. Some of us are lucky enough to live in areas where that is more prevalent than others. What I’ve always loved about this time of the year is when an afternoon storm rolls through and the sky becomes very dark. All of a sudden there is this great contrast between the dark sky and the bright leaves on the trees which makes for some great drama.
Okay so it’s actually been a little longer than a year when this fire first started but it was burning all throughout September 2020. This has been one of the worst fire seasons throughout the West and thankfully we’ve been very fortunate to have not had a bad season here in the Bridger Mountains. It’s sad to see the scar left on the forest after a fire comes through but forests are designed to handle fires over time. The emotional and sometimes financial toll forest fires take on people is always harder to handle but like forests, we have to learn to adapt and to make things better so that we can bounce back while continuing to push forward. Problems like the ones we’ve faced this year won’t just solve themselves, we have to help.
Fall color is starting to pop up around Gallatin Valley but nothing major yet. I’m really curious with the hot summer and lack of water what kind of fall color year it’s going to be. In theory, it should be really good but anything could happen and one big rainfall, snowstorm or a month of cold weather could change everything. I took this last year while out fishing a local creek on the same weekend last year and now I sit here waiting and watching what this year will be like.
I’ve never been much for getting up early but sometimes it really does pay off to get up early. Fall is here and we’re finally getting the lower temps combined with warmer afternoons making for some great photography. A couple of weekends ago I went to Hyalite Reservoir which is a place I tend to underestimate, one because of how beautiful it is and two just how much you can do up there. Despite how little time I spend up there, this was by far the most beautiful morning I have ever encountered upon the reservoir. The clouds were puffy and scattered and the sun heated up the air above the reservoir created an amazing layer of steam.
This is always an option at sunrise or sunset but you have to remember that if you do then the range of light is going to be so great that the foreground is going to be darkened out and most of the detail will be lost. You can bring back those areas with the shadow slider in ACR but that will create more noise which will have to be dealt with. If you use plus exposure comp when taking the photo then you will have bright highlights which can also lead to loss of info. If you’re worried about either of these elements then you can try to hide the sun behind an object, like a tree, which will change the light ratio and create more beams of light. There are so many options it just depends on what you want to do.
Summer storms can materialize really fast and can be dangerous to get caught in them without warning. This past weekend I was out on the local rivers and sure enough, an afternoon thunderhead popped up out of nowhere. To be honest I was thankful that it appeared because the skies were really boring before they did. The one cloud added a nice bit of a pop to an otherwise simplistic landscape.
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.