Don’t leave home without your camera. This is, of course, photography rule number 1. This rule assumes that you’ve got your bag together, film, batteries, all the essentials. But when you are walking out the door, even if it’s just to run an errand, you take your camera with you. Because you never know what opportunities life is going to present.
Today I went road-tripping down to Missoula. I took a day off to run a few errands in the big city (by Montana standards). After making my notes on where I wanted to go, where I could walk and where I would need to drive, I stuffed my journal into my camera bag and headed out the door. This is habit for me. Always take my journal. Always take my camera. And today, I’m certainly glad I did.

I didn’t photograph Missoula. One of these days (probably when it gets warm again) I really should head down there and just explore the city a little. But today I wasn’t really in the mood to be photographing – it was, after all, my day off, and I’m still fighting a cold.

Highway 93 parallels the Mission Mountains. Tonight as I drove home I found myself watching an incredible sunset. Low clouds along the horizon kept the lower parts of the Missions in shadow and the tips glowing white with fresh snow. I will never get tired of living near mountains. I love to see them. Always. And tonight I knew I had to stop to make a few photographs.

A note about timing: once sunset starts, the light changes rapidly. There are only 11 minutes between the first shot and the last. That doesn’t give one a whole lot of time to play around.

The first of these I made using my 300mm telephoto. This is the lens that I usually use with football, soccer and baseball. I have found that I really love it for mountains as well and I make sure that I take this lens with me whenever I go into Glacier. I wanted at least one shot that really brings you into the mountains. And the 300 is the perfect lens for that.

All the remaining shots were taken with my 17-55mm. This is absolutely my favorite lens. It lets me shoot wide and yet also lets me get close enough to do a nice portrait of someone. It’s the lens I use the most for newspaper assignments. Look closely and you will notice that I’ve photographed the same mountain. From the same location. The only difference is the lens.

At this point the light really began to change. The tips of the peaks started to fade and the red of the setting sun brought the prairie to life. I headed down the road a bit from my original location looking for a view that would really show off the field. When I came to this rise I knew those shadows on the right would come out rather black, leading a viewer’s eye back toward those mountains.

This last shot is my “detail” shot. I focused on the prairie grasses with the mountains as a mere hint in the background. When I am shooting something like this I always try to remind myself of Leonardo di Vinci. I’ve heard it said that when he was drawing, sketching, or planning he always like to get at least three different perspectives. I personally find this makes a good rule of thumb for a photographer as well.

So there you have them. Four views of the Mission Mountains in scenic Montana. I really do love it out here. I’ve been here almost one year and I still drive around thinking that I have relocated to photographer heaven.