Montana is an amazingly beautiful state. We have mountains, lakes, rivers and prairies, and wildlife seemingly filling all those spots. We have Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks as well as over 50 state parks all within the 150,000 square miles which is Montana. I see amazing photos from some amazing photographers of Glacier and Yellowstone Parks, but as amazing as they are, and as skilled at their craft as each photographer is, I decided years ago that I wasn't going to shoot the same images as everyone else. As an example, just Google the words 'moulton barn' which is probably the most photographed barn in the world and it lives just outside Grand Teton National Park. You will see page after page of amazing images. I don't want to be one more on the pile.
I try to bring you what I call "My Montana"; that being, what an average hard-working Montana resident sees. Places that are rarely photographed because they are not a big name, or they are so obscure no one has ever heard of them, or in some cases are just not worth a photo except for maybe a few days a year. It's the benefit of being a resident here and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
I picked these top 10 images based on a couple of factors. The first being audience approval (social media) and the second being how I felt while I was taking the image. If you would like to purchase any of the images in this post, simply click on the image and it will take you directly to my galleries where you will be able to see the different products offered for that image. Be sure to read this post to the end before you do, there's a special discount at the bottom. They do make terrific Christmas gifts if I do say so myself!
1. Parker Homestead in Three Forks, Montana
At one time this was a state park but due to costs of maintaining it, the land was sold to the abutting rancher where it is now left undisturbed as there is fencing around it. After many, many stops here, I finally caught the sunset I hoped for one day. I couldn't have been more pleased.
2. Paradise Valley - Just south of Livingston, Montana.
When I first moved to Montana I lived in this area. It can be one of the most beautiful places in Montana if not the country, and it can be one of the harshest as well. Springtime was always the ultimate rebirth after months and months of snow, high winds and freezing cold.
In Memoriam 3. In Memoriam
When I originally shot this image I had no idea why there was a bouquet sitting on the rock. Shortly thereafter I found out it was the spot where a little girl lost her life to the river and her dad had placed the bouquet there. I held on to the image for a few weeks, hesitant to post it for fear of making anyone sad. I finally did post it, with a respectful tribute. Within a few hours the image had gone viral, local news stations picked it up and more of the story made it my way from friends of the little girl's family. The little girl's mom reached out to me the same day, graciously thanking me for sharing the image and tribute and asked if she could purchase a print. I of course refused her request as I wouldn't hear of such a thing. About a week later my girlfriend and I stopped by their home and delivered a beautiful canvas print of this image to the family. Wonderful people during extremely trying times.
I spend a lot of time around rivers. I love the moving water, the tiny slices of time that move past you never to be repeated, how the sound of the rushing water vanishes after a while of being there so you can hear a pin drop on the other side. I'm fairly certain this heron was thinking the same thing. Or maybe about a fish.
Harrison Lake I
5. Harrison Lake
This one is purely a personal favorite of mine. I had never been to this lake prior to this day, so I loaded my gear and my dogs and headed out for a sunset shoot. We had about an hour to kill before sunset and as I looked around at what is basically a barren landscape and a hole in the ground with water, the light took enough of a change where (in my opinion) the beauty of this little lake came out.
6. Pronghorn at Sunset
I had seen this guy several times but could never get close enough for a decent shot. He's easy to recognize because of his offset horns. He was so distracted by another buck that was approaching, I could finally get within shooting distance for this image as he stood in the late-season grasses at sunset.
7. Worth It
I stood on the two foot wide ledge with one leg of my tripod in the water and hoped that neither me nor my gear slipped and ended up in the water. More times than not, I am alone when I go out shooting so I try not to take any unnecessary chances. I have passed on some amazing shots because of that mindset, but it's probably worth it in the long run.
Dream On 8. Dream On
I can never get enough of photographing the Bighorn Sheep. This guy, obviously exhausted from the rut, just couldn't keep his eyes open. He napped through some snow squalls, me making all sorts of noise, and other bighorns walking by him as he dozed. After about 20 minutes or so, he got up, stretched and started grazing.
Abandoned in Pony, Montana 9. Abandoned in Pony, Montana
Montana has lots and lots of ghost towns. I would venture a guess that most of them were former communities brought on by the discovery of gold during the gold rush years. As the gold was depleted, the towns were abandoned. Pony, Montana is one such town.
Abandoned Farm Equipment 10. Abandoned Farm Equipment
I'm a sucker for sunsets, for the symbolic end of the day, for that time where things slow way down and the noise of the day vanishes. Throw in some abandoned equipment and the opportunity is irresistable to me.
I hope you enjoyed the top 10 for this year, and if you've read this far and wish to buy any image in my galleries, here's a thank you of a 20% discount on your entire order. Just select whatever products you are interested in and at checkout use the code 'TOP10' to get 20% off your entire order. This offer expires at midnight (Mountain Time) December 14th.
You can see all my work right here.