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My 2020 Fall Review

Besides signaling winter is just around the corner, fall is one of my favorite times of the year for photography. As a professional photographer, I have had a rule that if I am not selling my artwork, I should be creating it! So given this being an "unprecedented" year, with all of the art show cancelations. I decided it was time to get in the field as much as possible this season. Over the last 45 days, I have done a combination of day trips and camping within a couple of hours of where I live here in Whitefish.

With a series of camping trips planned with our "Funfinder RV" in tow behind our adventure vehicle, we set out looking for the next great shot. On one of these occasions, we found a nice dispersed forest service site amidst an aspen grove in prime fall color. This turned out to be a great base location for accessing some favorite photo locations in the Northfork area. As well as the famous "huckleberry bear claw".

On our first night, it was off to Bowman Lake.

Upon arrival, I was thrilled with the reflections and the beginnings of fall color. After some time searching the shoreline, I found several last streaks of sunlight illuminating the lake rocks that really added interest to the foreground.

On another camping trip, this time to Flathead Lake, we were able to camp at the edge of the lake and see the stars at night while a warm breeze was coming off the water. It felt like summer! I didn't want it to end and even stayed an extra night to take advantage of this "October Suprise."

Oh, and the photography wasn't too bad, either!

What a welcoming view the lake overlook makes to the Flathead valley.

I found the weather this fall to be very challenging. It was difficult to find fall as the seasons collided from summer-like heat to winter-like snow and cold.

On this particular day, just after a rainstorm had passed, I took to the mountains to find some fog! As with any passing storm, the light was testing my patience. I found it to be one of those times that if I were not set up and ready to capture it as it happened, I would have missed it.

As many of you know, I am not a wildlife photographer. But I found this guy on my way to a photoshoot and could not pass up the opportunity. One of the things I love about the North Fork of the Flathead is that I often get to see animals. One year I saw my first pack of wolves. Another year I saw a herd of elk crossing the river.

By late October, winter was starting to win the battle of the seasons with more snow and single-digit temperatures. I have seen this happen before where the extreme cold "freezes" the fall color right where it is at. This is fine if the trees have already changed color, but bad if they haven't.

What added to the problem this year, however, is that fall color came late in NW Montana. It was over in the high country; it was peaking in the middle ranges, and in the valleys, just getting started. So I focused on the mid ranges.

This next shot is one of my favorites for fall 2020. I am calling in "Autumn Shore First Snow".

Instead of fighting the weather, I chose to use the drama to create what I think is a masterpiece. First of all, the clouds look like they have been painted on the scene, and I like how they are just holding on as the wind tries to blow them away. This same wind was messing with any chance of a reflection. So I used it to add drama to the lake by drawing out the length of the exposure. The foreground is also pleasing to the eye with the driftwood and rock patterns.

I am always looking for ways to improve my photography, on my last trip to the Big Prarie. I created a platform to use on top of the "Adventure Vehicle." Sometimes, just being another 6.5' higher can make all the difference. In this case, it elevated me high enough to create a better site-line in the mid area of this photo. I love how the clouds in this scene are lit by the last light of the day. The beautiful layers of trees with yet a little bit of aspen color holding on to their fall glory one last night!

My final trip of the season. The Great Northern! I knew from a previous trip this year that larch trees are abundant in this location. After the snow and cold, I calculated that the larch would still be frozen in time at an acceptable color at this elevation. Any other year and the needles would have been blown off the trees. I was leaving time to scout for my final light location. When I arrived, there were still no clouds, but the clouds had arrived in the time it took waiting for the perfect light.

As I look back at the uniqueness of the weather conditions this fall, I am pleased with what I was able to capture. It took patience and persistence, and a lot of dedication to my craft, but in the end, it paid off.

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