As I’m catching up on some much overdue editing here, I thought I would share a few images from this year’s Rocky Mountain Front Photography Workshop in Montana. We timed it just right this year with spectacular wildflowers and perfect weather. Spring in Montana is pretty hard to beat, especially in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front, enjoy!
Just wrapped up another fabulous trip to Olympic National Park on Washington’s stunning peninsula. A week of beaches, rainforests, and great company made leaving hard to do this year. I started my week off with a couple days of backpacking on Shi Shi Beach located near the town of Neah Bay, scouting some new locations and visiting Point of Arches before kicking off my workshop. Shi Shi was hard to beat and certainly didn’t disapoint, it’s probably one of my favorite beach locations on the peninsula, with some epic sea stacks and tidepools, not to mention some stunning sunrises and sunsets. I was however bummed to miss the classic line of rocks that protrude out of the sand and add some amazing foreground shots at Point of Arches. These can be hit or miss depending on time of year and whether they are covered by sand which is determined by the ever changing conditions there. Still pretty sweet though.
Our workshop kicked off mid week, just in time for the rain to start and boy did we get rain! Our first day in the Hoh Rainforest it poured all morning giving us a wet day, but great conditions for the rainforest. As unwelcoming as the rain can be, it really helps bring out the colors and contrast, adding great elements to the foliage. The waterfalls and rivers were also flowing very nicely this year. The winter had brought heavy snows, wet conditions and combined with the persistent cold and rainy spring, made some small falls and creeks very photogenic this year.
Our second day of the trip we ventured down to the Quinault Rainforest, which I think has become my absolute favorite place to shoot as far as rainforests go. It can be a little off the beaten path for a few visitors as it sits on the Southwest edge of the park, making it a longer drive for some travelers and maybe doesn’t get as much attention as the Hoh and Sol Duc do. However I think its ferns and interior forest offer up some of the best compositional opportunities and its small creeks and falls add a well-rounded shooting experience. We lucked out while we were there and had a nice break in the rain, giving us time to wander the forest a little more easily.
On our last night we decided to take a drive out to Cape Flattery which is a phenomenal area located just about as far northwest as you can get in the lower 48. It’s located just outside Neah Bay and managed by the Makah Tribe which requires a recreation permit when visiting. Its views are stunning as you wander the tops of the cliffs viewing cormorants, tufted puffins and sea stacks from above. Pretty amazing place and well worth a trip for photographers.
Now I’m sitting here editing images, playing catch up, and planning for more trips before I head back out. I’ll soon be posting my 2018 itinerary for this workshop and can hardly wait to get back!
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Planning a photography trip to Montana and wondering where to spend your time? Here are few of my favorite locations throughout the state that I revisit year after year for amazing landscapes, wildlife, and to experience the diversity of Big Sky Country.
Montana is our fourth largest state in the US but it feels much bigger partly due to its large open spaces and much like Alaksa it’s one of the least populated states, topping just over a million people for the entire state. Definitely more cows than people here, in fact more than double.
What really makes Montana stand out even more than its big wide open spaces is its diversity. Spend your time in the northwest and you’ll find expansive wilderness areas, millions of acres of national forest and mountains, big mountains. The Continental Divide cuts right through here creating an impressive backdrop from Glacier National Park down to the southern border of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Venture east and you begin to head into the plains where rivers like the Missouri and Yellowstone snake their routes through the state joining in the northeast to continue their journey to the Mississippi. When you get out this way you get an understanding for what “Big Sky Country” means and you also get a sense of how small you are in the great wide open of eastern Montana.
Below are just a few of my favorites places to explore that represent a good cross section of the state if you’re looking for some key locations during your travels. I have left out Yellowstone, because technically almost all of it’s in Wyoming (although many of us still secretly consider it a part of the state).
Glacier National Park
If you can only visit one destination in Montana, Glacier National Park is the place to go. I find my time spent here is usually some of the most productive of anywhere else and for good reason. You simply can’t beat the dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife. The mountains rise up from the plains in the east and tower over you with sharp jagged ridges, glaciers, and sweeping vistas. The blue waters tinted with glacier silt of the many lakes reveal their multicolored rocks, like candy under the turquoise surface and wildflowers erupt in an epic display of color throughout the park.
There’s also only one road though Glacier and it’s probably the most jaw dropping 50 miles you may ever experience. Literally blasted out of the cliffs, hugging the mountains with thousands of feet of empty space below, it joins the west and east side of the park climbing in the middle to the top of Logan Pass. Completed in 1933 after nearly three decades of construction it’s a real testament to the determination and ingenuity of the men who constructed it and put in place a scenic drive that seemed an impossibility.
Bringing your long lenses? Grizzly & black bear, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats are just a few of the large mammals that call Glacier home. Head to the northeast for some of the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48 or head up high and hang out with mountain goats as you point your camera over sub alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers and stunning backdrops of some of the parks 10,000ft peaks.
Best time to visit is July-Oct, the rest of the year main access to the interior of the park is closed due to snow.
Makoshika State Park
Head east, far east in Montana, to the small town of Glendive nestled up against the North Dakota border where you will find Maksoshika State Park, a surreal landscape and one of our coolest State Parks (in my opinion) in Montana. Makoshika is relatively small, only about 11,000 acres, but it sits in an area that is unique geographically and gives a glimpse into our prehistoric past. The park is an ancient exposed seabed that has been shaped by wind and water over millions of years and gives you a sense as you’re hiking through that you’re wandering in some sort of martian-like landscape.
Makoshika in Lakota translates to “Bad Land” or “Bad Earth”, which seems appropriate as it’s situated in the badlands that stretch between Montana and North Dakota connecting up in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is a short drive east from Makoshika. The badlands in this area can be beautiful in late spring as the rains come and green starts to dot the brown parched landscape. In early summer, awesome thunderstorms make their way through bringing lightning shows and dramatic weather that can make for some fantastic landscape photography.
To get to Makoshika head to the town of Glendive just off of I-94. There is some camping inside the park and also lodging in town. Late spring through fall is the best time to visit, but be prepared in mid summer for hot temps and drier conditions.
Are you searching for the perfect fall location to explore in Montana? Wondering where the best time is spent for great colors and epic landscapes? When fall arrives there is one place I head every year and that’s the Seeley-Swan Valley located in western Montana, a short 45 min drive northeast of Missoula.
The valley is bordered by two distinct mountain ranges, the Missions to the west and the Swan Range to the east. On the other side of the Missions lies Flathead Lake and the Mission Valley and to the east past the Swan Range lies the famous Bob Marshall Wilderness. What makes the Seeley-Swan Valley so special?
One, it’s home to a chain of lakes that stretch from north to south, some large some small, providing great landscape opportunities, especially with fall reflections. Second the valley is thick with larch or “tamaracks” as the locals call them, the only deciduous conifer and one that turns a brilliant orange in the fall, one of the primary reasons for photographing the area. Third are the mountains. Both ranges provide great backdrops, especially when the snow comes to the high country, adding nicely fitting snow capped peaks into the scene.
Not only are the views amazing, but you have some great wildlife opportunities with both grizzly & black bear, moose, elk, and other large mammals. Not to mention some birding opportunity as well with bald eagles, loons, waterfowl and other migrating birds.
The best time to visit if you’re coming for the larch, is mid-late October.
Rocky Mountain Front
What can I say about the Rocky Mountain Front? Well if I had to sum it up in into one word, I think it would be “Wild”! That’s the sense I get every time I make a trip into this incredible wilderness area. The “Front” in Montana stretches from just south of Glacier to the town of Lincoln and the two main towns that border this area are Choteau and Augusta. The mountains here rise up dramatically from the plains towering over the foothills where ranchers graze their cattle and grizzly bears still wander onto the plains just as they did before these lands were settled.
One of the main draws of the Front is the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Just beyond the front range lies one of the largest roadless wilderness areas in the lower 48. Home to the second largest migratory elk herd in the United State and also the largest band of Big Horn Sheep it encompasses some of the most important and protected lands we have here. For day hikes or multi-day trips you can explore endlessly here with jaw dropping views and wildlife just about everywhere you turn.
In the late spring I like to visit the Front as huge blooms of wildflowers appear carpeting the foothills and making for some awesome foregrounds. Late May into early June can be the best time, especially when the rains arrive. As you explore here whether driving the backroads or hiking in, you rarely see many people, giving you a sense that you have this whole place to yourself. I liken it to Glacier without the crowds.
The National Bison Range
The National Bison Range is located just north of Missoula next to the small town of St. Ignatius in the southern end of the Mission Valley. The Mission Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop all along the valley in the east and extend to the Bison Range. The National Bison Range was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to provide a natural habitat where bison could roam, protected. The Bison Range is just over 18,000 acres and is home to about 500 head of bison.
What makes the Bison Range such a special location for photography is it also has some of the best elk and white-tailed deer photography around. Visit in the fall and you will have the elk and deer in rut, which is pretty amazing with some huge bull elk bugling everywhere you turn. The range also is home to black bear, bighorn sheep, and a fantastic bird habitat.
The reason I like to visit here so often is the combination of great close-up wildlife photography combined with the scenery of the Mission Mountains. It’s a productive area to work both early morning and late evening, with the latter providing the best lighting for your mountain backdrop. There’s one scenic drive that goes through the range with the upper portion being a one way tour taking you up into the higher elevations.
Best time to visit is Spring-Fall, with special attention to Bison, Elk and White-tailed Ruts.
Just returned from a week back in Yellowstone National Park during one of my favorite seasons to explore our first park’s incredible wildlife and winter landscapes. It seems like the theme of my trip this go around was “blue & cold”, at least that’s the way a lot of my images seemed to turn out! The weather was clear and cold with temps around -20f during the mornings in the Lamar Valley which made for some interesting landscapes and also produced some pretty cool sun dogs and overall shooting atmosphere. Not to mention some cold fingers!
If you haven’t visited Yellowstone in winter, it’s really a must for nature photographers. Whether you shoot landscapes or are a dedicated wildlife shooter, the uniqueness and beauty of the park in winter really offers up something for everyone. Obviously its wildlife is some of the best in the lower 48, especially when winter arrives, but the landscapes as well can bring some pretty cool things you don’t normally get a chance to see. When the weather turns harsh, it gets even better with unique atmosphere producing sun dogs, trees with hoar frost, and dramatic fog in the valleys.
Jan-Feb is a great time to experience winter in the park and also to find the solitude that comes minus the crowds. Spending a cold morning in the Lamar Valley with only you and few others around you are quickly reminded of this. As wolves howl in the distance and frosted bison roam nearby, it’s also a reminder that you’re standing in the last little bit of wild we have here and a place that has a new surprises around every corner for photographers.
Now that 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I would share some of my favorites from this year. It’s been an adventurous year in the western U.S. and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly wonderful travelers on my workshops. I’m always amazed at the dynamic nature and diversity of our groups and how everyone shapes each trip. When you put a bunch of passionate photographers together in some stunning places, you can’t ask for a better time.
One of the things I love about teaching photography workshops is watching the creativity that is stirred up by the group. Watching each other work and how each individual approaches the same scene spurs new ideas and really helps encourage thinking outside of your creative comfort zone. I think sometimes I learn just as much while teaching and traveling with others.
As we begin 2017, I look forward to meeting new friends, exploring new places and staying in gratitude for the amazing abundance we all share here. Wishing everyone the best in the new year!
I’ve finally had some time to really put the 5D Mark IV through some serious use and thought I would share a few of my thoughts on Canon’s latest update in the 5D series.
These are just a few of my thoughts on what works, what doesn’t, and things that make the Mark IV stand out against its predecessor the Canon 5D Mark III.
First off most of the externals are the same. Canon has added a new selection switch directly below the back joystick and they have also added a plastic prism cover that accommodates the added wifi, although it’s not very noticeable. The ergonomics of the body essentially remain the same and if you’re a longtime Canon shooter, you will probably appreciate this. The body is actually a hair lighter than the 5D Mark III, but size seems identical.
One new feature on the back is the new LCD Touchscreen, a first in the 5D lineup. I was initially impressed by its responsiveness and convenience, although I will admit with my workflow around the camera I just don’t use it much, but it is nice to have and I imagine some will enjoy it. I do use it when selecting images for WiFi transfer.
As far as the internals go, I have been really impressed with a few new features that really make the 5D Mark IV a worthwhile upgrade.
First is the 30MP resolution increase. This is a very nice spot for a camera of this caliber and it offers a lot more versatility for those who may want to crop their images to get some extra reach or those who are making larger size prints. I think it’s a nice increase from the 22mp of the Mark III and it doesn’t seem to impede on the overall function of the camera too much.
The other area that I think really puts the 5D Mark IV into the perfect “do-all” camera is its increased frame rate to 7FPS. This really makes it capable for a serious wildlife camera for a majority of folks, although depending on what you’re shooting, a faster frame rate may be warranted, but for most situations this can fit the bill. In addition to the faster frame rate, the improved autofocus is even better now, especially in low light (if you can somehow imagine that?) It’s what’s found in the 1DX II and has greater improvements in tracking and low light performance. I have definitely noticed a real world improvement compared to the 5D Mark III.
In addition to the higher resolution, faster frame rate and improved autofocus, is the updated ISO performance. Here we really don’t see much increase in low light noise compared to the 5D MarkIII. Maybe just a hair at a 1/2 stop improvement at best, but you also have to remember we have increased the resolution to 30MP which creates more challenges for low light noise performance. I’ve found shooting up to ISO6400 to be quite acceptable, especially with improvements in noise correction in Lightroom over the last couple years.
Other then some of these notable updates, the menu system still remains mainly the same, I’m glad to see Canon continuing to use this format as most are use to it by now. Wifi and GPS are nice features also to have and Wifi is new to the 5D line. I have used it a few times using Canon’s own app while downloading selected images directly to my phone and iPad. What I like with this is you can shoot in RAW and it will convert it to JPEG when transmitting it to your devices, very nice indeed.
All in all the Mark IV is probably the best, well rounded camera I have ever used from Canon. I really do consider it to be the perfect “do-all” camera for those looking for one camera to rule them all. I am using the Mark IV for landscape, travel and wildlife photography, and so far it has not disappointed. I’ve tested it out in drenching downpours and massive dust and dirt and no problems whatsoever. Forgot to mention they also have improved the internal weather sealing slightly as well.
Currently I am using the 5D Mark IV paired with the 5Dsr for a nice well rounded kit, but I think I would be just as happy replacing the 5Dsr with another 5D Mark IV. I am no longer shooting with the 1D series as I am tired of lugging around the extra weight and for what I shoot, the 5D series work very well. I hope this helps for someone looking to either upgrade or just getting into Canon’s lineup!
We had a fantastic trip in Montana this summer on the 2016 Glacier National Park Workshop. Weather was perfect, wildlife was abundant, and we had way too much fun out there chasing the light in one of my favorite National Parks.
This year conditions were looking good. The remnants of the last year’s fire around St. Mary Lake were evident, but did not affect some of the classic shots, specifically Wild Goose Island. However it was interesting to hike through the recent burn and see the vegetation beginning to grow and also the different bird specifies that were visible and taking advantage of the the new resources available after the fire.
Last year the Reynolds Creek Fire blew up the day we were about to start our workshop on the east side. The fire forced us to evacuate and move our group to the west side for the rest of the workshop. The uncertainty of the fire left a lot of people wondering how much would be left intact around Wild Goose Island and the Going to the Sun Road. In all the fire burned around 4,800 acres.
Fortunately this year there were no fires to contend with and the park was back to normal on the east side. Matter of fact Glacier was to see record visitation this year and as of this writing over 2.3 million people have visited the iconic park, breaking last year’s record of 2.2 million and we’re still not finished yet. That’s a heck of a lot of people considering the park’s season generally runs from June-Oct. It’s also a recent challenge that a lot of National Parks are having to deal with at the moment. Now that more people are discovering our last best places, parks are having to figure out how to continue to protect and manage our delicate lands.
Glacier is certainly a special place for both landscape and wildlife photographers and offers an amazing diversity in climate, landscape, and wildlife found no where else in the lower 48. I look forward to being back soon and visiting one of my favorite places to explore!
Now that my spring and summer workshops are winding down I thought I would share a few images from this past June’s Palouse Workshop. We had an amazing group of travelers on this trip and some of the best conditions I’ve seen in Palouse over the last few years! The hues of greens and yellows were pretty epic and we also had some great old barns and the usually old americana that you can find throughout the area. We also had some pretty spectacular crops of canola and mustard seed, giving us at times almost blinding fields of brilliant yellows, adding some nice landscape foregrounds around the Colfax area.
At Steptoe Butte, we had the usually great crowd of photographers, getting to see some familiar faces from years previous and I think everyone was pretty pleased with the views we had up top this year. The greens were amazing and the light cooperated more often than not, giving us the classic overlook views of the Palouse. We were treated again this year to one of the yellow crop dusters making some passes in front of us, adding a nice element in the sea of green.
Overall it was an awesome trip and I’m anxiously awaiting next years!
Had a phenomenal workshop this year at Olympic National Park! Such a fantastic and great group of travelers and conditions in Olympic’s rainforest were looking better than ever. Our weather cooperated with only one day of serious rain and we managed to get some sunsets on a couple days of our ocean and seascape work down at Ruby and Rialto beaches. One of my favorite things about photographing Olympic is its diversity. We can be in the lush rainforests one minute and move over to the beaches the next. Later in the year the high alpine areas open up and ample images await up on Hurricane Ridge in the park’s northeast corner of the park.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s workshop and will be opening up 2017 to six spots on this workshop.
Here’s a few from this year:
Hard to believe spring is already here! It’s definitely time to get back to the blog and I have unfortunately been neglecting it during my travels this winter. Plus I have been secretly enjoying some time away from the computer:) But alas it’s time to get back to it, I’ll be posting regular updates from this spring and summer on workshops, travel, and new images from around the western U.S.
On another note, we’ve just had two last minute spots open up on the Palouse Workshop in Washington State. This is a landscape photographer’s paradise and one of my favorite locations out west to photograph. If you’re itching to get out west and explore the pastel hills of the Palouse, visit my workshops page at www.jasonsavagephotography.com/workshops to secure your spot.
In the meantime happy shooting out there!