Hey Bear (Grass)!

citadel-mountain-glacier-national-park

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken from the shrubbery near Gunsight Lake, overlooking Citadel Mountain, in Glacier National Park on June 18, 2016.

In 2016 I was invited to Glacier National Park to help Fusion TV film a short piece about the loss of the glaciers in the park. After filming wrapped I made plans to spend the next week in Glacier exploring the landscape, as it was my first visit to the park. My friends Elisabeth and Ty were also in the area and we made plans to meet up for a backpacking trip. After flipping through the options at the backcountry permit office we decided on a place called Gunsight Lake. It seemed very beautiful, and was relatively easy to get to: a 6 mile hike in with only a few hundred feet of elevation change. So on the afternoon of the 17th we hoisted our backpacks on, strapped on our cans of bear spray, and set off down the trail.

This was my first time in Montana’s grizzly country and as such I wanted to be prepared. The main rules to avoid bear encounters are 1) hike with other people, and 2) make lots of noise. That was easy enough as the three of us tromped down the path, oohing and aahing over the flowers and mountains surrounding us. A few hours later we rocked into camp, set our tents up, and waited for sunset (which was lovely). Then it was time to hit the sack, because sunrise comes very early in Montana in June. At around 5 am my alarm went off and we all wriggled out of bed and grabbed our cameras. Ty and Elisabeth went off to shoot sunrise by the lake, but I wanted to photograph a patch of wildflowers I’d spied on the hike in the day before. This meant heading off by myself into the dawn hours, breaking the first rule of avoiding bear encounters: Don’t Go By Yourself! Luckily I could still adhere to the second rule and I made a fine racket that morning, belting out songs at the top of my lungs about the sunrise, about bears, wildflowers, the creek nearby, and anything else I could think of. And it must’ve worked because the only sign of bears I saw that morning was the bear grass popping up in front of my camera.

Key Learning Tip:
It’s important to think of your photographs like visual stories. And just like a written story an effective photograph will have some kind of an opening hook to lure viewers in, details that help propel the story through the frame, and a finale. When using a wide-angle these three elements can be found in your foreground, middle-ground, and background. choose an eye-catching foreground element to draw your viewers into the frame. your mid-ground should give some environmental details that tell what a place is like. And your background element should provide some kind of visual payoff and sense of place. the more deliberately you choose these three elements for your photograph, the stronger the visual story you will create.

See more beautiful Glacier National Park photos here.

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