Glacier & Other Montana Goodness

Hi everyone! Here’s the Monday weekly update. We spent most of the past week in Glacier National Park, exploring and photographing. I had not been to the park since college, and it was Karen’s first time there all together, so we were both pretty excited. The bus was parked about five miles from the park entrance, so it was really convenient to get in and out. We would head in mid-afternoon and stay through sunset and twilight, which is actually after 10 pm this time of year. That was actually a good AND bad thing. Good because we got an extended golden hour, and bad because there were some roads that were closed in the park after 9 pm so we couldn’t really shoot the nice light in those areas.

BenGlacierValleyAn evening shot of the beautiful valley. 

Glacier National Park is still home to several small glaciers, but there’s not nearly as many as there used to be, and one guide told us that by 2030, there probably wont be any glaciers left there at all. Even the glaciers that you do see there now look more like big patches of snow. You cant really compare them to what you’d see in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. But regardless of the actual glaciers, this park is just beautiful, with lakes and green valleys setting the foreground for the beautiful Rocky Mountain Range. Most of the snow had melted by the time we arrived mid-July, so it would be nice to return a little earlier in the year one day to see some more white caps.

The park is home to a few beautiful lakes, and Karen and I took a boat ride on Lake McDonald to get a glimpse of the park from the water. In my last post, I mentioned that the park used a fleet of restored vintage busses for public transportation. Well, I guess that’s a theme here because the boats used for tours are old and restored too. Quite beautiful, actually.

BenMcDonaldLakePanoWe took an hour long cruise on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in this 1929 wooden boat. I thought an antique treatment was appropriate.

Kar-GlacierBoatHere’s an iPhone pano I shot of Karen during the boat tour.

While we were there, I also got to lightpaint a bus from Glacier National Park’s vintage fleet. The park owns 33 busses that were made from 1936 to 1939. This Model 706 bus was make by the White Motor Company of Cleveland ohio in 1936. It was restored and had its powertrain modernized by Form Motor Company back in the year 2000.
The most difficult part of this light painting was dealing with all the black areas on the vehicle. Those areas either absorb all the light falling on them and become a black hole, or reflect light of a certain angle back into the camera like a mirror. I had to light the black areas from odd angles to pick up the texture of the material, or light the ground surrounding it to get an interesting reflection. The same is true of the front bumper, which would have come out black had I not strategically lit the ground and other areas to produce a nice reflection to define its shape. Since it doesn’t really get dark until close to 11pm this time of year in Glacier, I chose to capture this image in a barn where darkness could be achieved while the sun was still up.

Some interesting details: The White Motor Company went out of business in 1980. When they went bankrupt, Volvo bought their assets. In 1999 Ford bought Volvo. A year later they had a special interest in restoring these buses since they, in essence, owned the assets of the company that originally created the buses. Once 2005 rolled around, Volvo stopped being a profitable division of Ford, so Ford sold the company to a Chinese company in 2008. Good thing Ford owned it back in 2000, otherwise these buses might not have been lovingly restored. Glacier still owns one of the original unrestored buses that I didn’t get a chance to see. I hear it’s not in the best of shape.

Red-Jammer-smallMy lightpainting of one of Glacier’s vintage busses.

BenGlacierWaterfallYou can see this waterfall right from the main road in Glacier National Park.

After leaving Glacier, our next goal was Yellowstone, so we headed south. We did make a few stops on the way, though. The first was called the Miracle of America Museum in Polson, Montana. This place has an enormous collection of old Americana. Some of the stuff is pretty cool. Some is a little weird. I was drawn to an old vintage service station on the property, and you can see an iPhone shots of that below. There’s also loads of old cars, buildings and other random things, including “Area 51” space ships.

BenMOAmuseumAn iPhone shot of the old service station in the Miracle of America Museum.

About an hour north of Missoula is the National Bison Range and we stopped there along our travels as well. The Bison Range is a National Wildlife preserve and is home to 300-400 bison. There are a few gravel loop roads on which you can drive your car around the range. We only spent an hour or so there, as the sun was setting pretty quickly, but we were still able to see groups of bison. One of them even walked up right alongside our car and into the road. It’s a neat place to stop if you’re already in the area.

BisonRange-13One of Karen’s shots from the National Bison Range.

We spent one night in Missoula and then continued south toward Yosemite. The bus is now parked about 30 miles from the park entrance and Karen is off exploring. Where am I, you might ask? In Cleveland, Ohio, presenting my Photoshop Creativity 1-day seminar. I flew out yesterday and will return tomorrow to join Karen in the park. Since Yellowstone is so huge and magnificent, we plan on spending a good amount of time there. More to come!

Exploring The Palouse

Hi gang! Get ready for a very photographic post! We’ve spent the past week photographing the beautiful Palouse area in south-east Washington. We had originally only planned to spend two or three days in the area, but life got in the way a bit, in the form of bus transmission issues. Because we had to have the bus at a diesel shop in Spokane for several days in a row, we took the extra time to drive the mini down to The Palouse. This actually worked out really well, from a photographic standpoint, because we got to photograph in all kinds of weather/lighting scenarios.

BenPalouseSunsetThis image was shot from near the top of Steptoe Butte in the Palouse.

The Palouse is basically wheat country. The area is covered in beautiful, rolling hills covered with wheat and canola. When the canola flowers are in bloom, and they were for us, it is pretty spectacular seeing the sweeping expanses of yellow flowers. In exploring the area, we knew there was one place we had to visit, and that was Steptoe Butte. From the top, you have a great view of the rolling hills, and if you get good light, sunset is a great shooting time. From this point, you want to be using a pretty long lens to pick out barns and really emphasize the shadows & highlights. The photo above was shot from Steptoe Butte around sunset.

Aside from that one spot, the rest of our shooting locations were really found by exploring. We’d just get in the car, head into the Palouse area and see what we found. There were many small dirt roads we followed, seeking out good photo opportunities. Most of the time, we found them! While driving around, we were looking for one of two main things: Nice light hitting the rolling hills, and lone barn structures to use as subjects. The area has loads of spots like this, so it often took us two hours to go two miles because we would keep stopping to get out and shoot!

BenPalouseBarnWe found this barn near sunset while we were just driving around. This is an iPhone shot I took, processed with Snapseed.

I obviously did a lot of shooting this past week, but in addition to my usual DSLR shots, I did a lot of iPhoneography as well. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been seeing tons of my iPhone shots from the Palouse. The effects you can get with minimal editing on the iPhone is just amazing. I used Snapseed to edit most of those shots.  I also took a lot of panoramas. I love printing big, and always shoot panos, but this place was just begging for it.

BenCanolaPano-longHere is a pano from one of the canola fields. That’s Karen in the middle doing a yoga pose.

BenPalouseFishyA fun circular fisheye shot

BenPalousePano2Here is another pano of a barn we found just by driving around the area. 

While we were out exploring the Palouse, the shop managed to fix the issue with the bus’ transmission. I am going to be hanging out in the general area, making sure that the problem has been fixed (If it occurs again, I want to be able to easily get back to the shop). Karen is flying over to NJ to spend a week with her family and attend her brother’s graduation party. When she returns, we will meet over in Seattle for my next creativeLIVE event.

Speaking of creativeLIVE, I’ll be teaching my Photoshop Mastery: Creative Explorations class on July 8-9, 9-4 PST. As always with creativeLIVE, while it’s live it’s totally free to watch, so tune in and learn how to add some awesome sauce to your images!

More to come…

untitled-748Me and Karen goofing off