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Anaconda and Mt. Haggin Scenic Area

Montana has been called, “The Last Best Place”.

After having spent quite a bit of time photographing different parts of Western and Central Montana, I’ve come to understand just why that term was coined.  Not only do you find yourself  surrounded by huge rolling prairies and towering mountain ranges, but also the people there are just great folks and hard workers.

Coming up, I’ll be sharing my recent work at the Bowman Cherry Orchards, located along Flathead Lake on the Eastern side.  But for now, let’s take a trip to one of the more uncommon locations that is in the Anaconda area.  A few miles south of Anaconda, just past the smelter stack, you start what’s known as the Mt. Haggin Scenic drive, which is officially MT 569 and runs 22 miles into the intersection of MT 43.

The iconic Anaconda Smelter Stack is seen near sunset with bright light rays bursting through the clouds, illuminating the surrounding landscape.

Along the drive you can expect to find few other cars.  Traffic is light, but not totally absent.  If you’re looking for true solitude, just drive off one of the dirt roads that line the sides of the highway that take you into the Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management area.  Found along one of these roads is a group of old structures sitting mostly undisturbed in the Montana prairie with the Anaconda Mountain Range in the background.

A dirt road curves off into the distance under a blue sky with puffy clouds in Western Montana.

While I didn’t see any wildlife on my recent trip to the area, but moose and mule deer are known to frequent the areas and hunting is available in the area.  Further down the highway, a lonely and decaying old cabin is sitting right next to the road, begging to be photographed.

A derelict cabin sits near Anaconda, Montana as storm clouds move in.

You can see my gallery of select images from this trip here.

Have a great week!

Ben C

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National Bison Range

Hello again friends!

I’ve been on the road lately a lot more than I have ever been and I’m pleased to share some images from the National Bison Range near Dixon, Montana.

For those of you who haven’t been to the area, the range is definitely worth a stop.  On this latest trip, the higher elevation road was closed, but there was still plenty of driving to be had. All of the hooved animals in the area are considered captive, since the area is fenced.  That being said, they still behave like wild animals and you do not want to have an angry bison making a target out of your vehicle.  Keep your distance.

These three bison were actually waiting patiently for cars to drive past before crossing the road.  Unfortunately a vehicle parked right in their path and the driver eventually got the message when one of the bison started coming uncomfortably close to the passenger door.

The range is also home to a large number of pronghorn antelope, which seemed to keep their distance from the bison and graze independently.

I took a short timelapse sequence of the clouds and antelope to incorporate into a future production, you can see a very rough cut below.

Have a great day!

Ben

 

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Have a bias towards action…

This is going to be pretty short and sweet.

Evaluating my own style & workflow, lately I’ve been on a “rant” of sorts about making things happen, rather than sitting idly in bliss concocting elaborate plans and schemes toward things to be accomplished.

If you have an idea, concept, or dream that you want to live out, bias yourself towards doing something rather than continuing to dream endlessly.  This applies to everything in life, whether it’s creating work that others want to see and use (as in photography and the creative industry), ministry or charitable efforts (evangelism, feeding the poor/etc), or even raising your children.

Some of you have probably heard the following quotation:

There are three types of people:

  1. Those that make things happen.
  2. Those that watch things happen.
  3. Those that wonder, “What happened?”

History has shown those who have made the biggest impact have “a bias towards action”.  Have a dream, but act on it.  Be the the type that makes things happen.

Ben

See my recent work in Cascade County, Montana

Watch my time-lapse video “Surreal Journey” featured by News Corporation’s  “The Daily”

 

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Mammatus Clouds in Coeur d’Alene

As if I needed another reminder why I should always keep my 5D Mark II with me when driving around town,  I was on my way home and noticed that just after a heavy downpour, some mammatus clouds appeared in the sky in Coeur d’Alene, ID.

The sunset lights up mammatus clouds as seen driving in Coeur d'Alene Idaho.

I’ve only seen these once before ages ago and I am pretty sure I was just as surprised then as I was today.  What a pleasant end to the day!

It’s safe to say these are a pretty rare occurrence in the Spokane / Coeur d’Alene region.

Ben

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Cascade County, Montana

2000 photographs comprising stills and 3 time-lapse sequences in 2 days.  I can’t remember when I had done so much shooting in so little time.

Throughout the entire Northwest Territories trip, I probably snapped off about 1900 photos in 10 days.  What was different about this trip?  Well, first was the fact I had literally no plans, schedule, or shot list for this trip.  I was just ready for some good exploring without any time commitments.  Antsy from having been out of the field for almost 6 weeks and eager to make a worthwhile trip somewhere, I decided that Cascade County in Montana was going to be my destination.

Situated nearly smack-dab in the middle of Montana, only a short drive from Great Falls, Cascade County consists of a variety of buttes, rolling pastures, and other farmland.  During my previous trip here, I shot a time-lapse sequence here of the total lunar eclipse that ended up being in my “Surreal Journey” HD time-lapse compilation on Vimeo.  I also took a picture of Crown Butte with the full moon just out of the frame, that I like to call, “Moonshine”.

A full moon just out of the frame casts a swath of light onto Crown Butte, Montana, near Simms. (Benjamin Chase)

On this trip, I drove down nearly every dirt road I could find, totaling nearly 900 miles in two days.  Sleep is of secondary concern to me on most of my trips and a series of 20-60 minute naps tends to keep me going.  One image that I’ve wanted to make for some time is a group of horses together under the stars.  Fortunately with modern digital sensors, this is achievable now, assuming the horses feel like cooperating and standing still!

Horses by Moonlight

I probably spent 45 minutes waiting for the horses to stand still enough, but it was definitely a memorable experience!  Our equine friends were very interested in what I was doing next to them with a camera and tripod.

Moonlit Equine Gathering

One other great find in Cascade County was an abandoned homestead, devoid of signs or a gate.  It is rare to find structures in this condition that have not been marked with graffiti, so this was a pleasant surprise indeed!  I ended up shooting a time-lapse sequence here that will likely become a part of my next video project.

Abandoned Homestead

Abandoned Montana Homesite

In short, the two days I had to photograph the area ended up being a great success, probably one of my best ever within that time frame.  If I had made definite plans for my trip that weekend, I likely would have never captured these images.  So next time you are planning to take a photography trip, ask yourself, “Do I really need to plan everything to the Nth degree?”

I offer three styles of prints for all of my photos, all are offered as open editions and use the best technology available on the market today.  If you’d like to brighten up your home or office space with some great landscape or nature artwork, give me a call or send me an e-mail and we can work together to make your space shine!

I also offer private instruction within a reasonable distance of the Spokane, Washington region.  Please contact me for details.

Cheers!

Ben

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The Value of Exploration

Sometimes you need to throw logic out the window and just explore.  No agenda, no timeline, no shot plan – just GO.

It’s very common to see the typical iconic photographs taken in the National Parks in both the U.S. and Canada.  They are accessible (mostly), and depending on the weather, afford both the professional and the amateur good possibilities for making great images.  Because there are so many great images of these locations, it really takes something special to have an image stand out at locations like Yosemite, Grand Teton, Glacier, and others.

Purple and blue light colors the sky over the Moulton barn in Grand Teton National Park. (Benjamin Chase)When you explore a location without a preconceived idea in your skull, you approach it with an open mind, not training your eyes to look for something in particular, but something more primal, something that stimulates the creative part of your brain.

I’m a planner by nature.  It comes from my network engineering background.  I love to plan every HOUR of a photo expedition to maximize what I capture.  I use Google Earth to plot where the sun & moon will be on a given day and their angle relative to what I want to photograph.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you want to have an idea of where the light will be at a given time to know where to be positioned.  However, this sort of planning I have found lately to be a crutch.  I’m less likely to try things that are more difficult or are less likely to be successful.

A man searches the red skies with a headlamp along the shore of Ebey Landing, Whidbey Island, Washington State. (Benjamin Chase)No more.  While I will continue to do some of the planning that always needs to happen on trips, I’m not going to have a pre-determined list of things I want to photograph unless it’s part of an assignment.  Say what you want about Steve Jobs – but one thing I think we can all learn from him is that being afraid to take risks isn’t a healthy thing when you are trying to be creative.

Safety and creativity are often enemies of each other and true adventure happens without planning.

Coming up next…  The results of my “no agenda” trip to Cascade County, Montana!

 

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A Surreal Journey

Greetings friends!

It’s been a long couple of months and several thousand miles of travel to capture the footage and time-lapse frames needed to produce my latest clip, but the experiences have been more than worthwhile.

Here it is:

And now for the rest of the story…

I experienced everything from photographing the northern lights while standing on the frozen Great Slave Lake in -30F and wind, to driving on unmarked forest roads in the middle of a blizzard with heavy snow.

Some experiences were shared with my friends and family, and others required me to walk alone right up to the edge of sanity and back.

A special thanks to my friend Don Pratt for his assistance with some of the video clips and for accompanying me on many of these travels.

Music is “Scorpio” by Simon Wilkinson.

From the late-night departures in inclement weather to the exploring of distant unmarked roads, my pursuit of photography is often a “Surreal Journey”.

 

 

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Northwest Territories – A Sense of Adventure

Date:  January 19th, 11:24pm.

Conditions:  -30F & wind gusting to 40-50km.  Bitterly cold.  If you’ve read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London – that’s the kind of cold I’m talking about here.

Upon our arrival at the shore of the frozen Great Slave Lake, we scouted out a location that looked promising.  It was hazy and there wasn’t much visible on the horizon.  We decided to nap for about 45 minutes at a time and periodically wake up to scan the skies for any sign of the aurora.

At about 10pm, the skies had cleared and the aurora was shimmering across the sky in curtain-like webs of greenish-blue color.  After packing a sled full of camera gear, we hiked about a mile out onto the frozen lake wearing nearly every piece of extreme cold weather gear we owned.  Shortly before 11:30pm I captured the aurora image above before starting my time-lapse sequence.  It was a special treat for me, as it was also my birthday.

Let me back up a minute to tell you how this all started.

In the fall of 2011, I decided that I needed to up the ante and make a major trip to a location that would allow for some adventure and great photography.  I chose the Northwest Territories because it is sufficiently remote and contains the “adventure factor” that I was looking for.

Preparation for any trip is key, and I didn’t cut many corners when it came to gear and clothing for this one.  Fortunately with great products from Pelican and Think Tank Photo, my protection and organization needs were well taken care of.

My friend Don fortunately was able to get the time off work to accompany me on the trip and graciously offered up the use of his Chevy Suburban as our vehicle.  Before we left we made a few “modifications” that ended up making our lives much easier, which included removing both rows of seating and building a carpet-covered plywood platform to allow for a level sleeping/gear storage surface.

I also borrowed a ContourGPS camera, but it unfortunately did not come with a mount, so we “engineered” a temporary solution involving a lightstand, umbrella holder, and zip ties.

Not bad for a $20 light stand and some zip ties ‘eh?

How cold was it near Yellowknife?  Cold enough that temporary roads are made over the ice to reach remote parts of the country.  One such road is the Dettah ice road, seen below, which actually has quite a bit of traffic on it during the daylight hours.

I also lucked out on a few wildlife photo opportunities as this gorgeous red fox happened across our path on the return trip which took us through the iconic Jasper National Park and Highway 93A, commonly referred to as the Icefields Parkway.

In short, I feel the trip was a real success and I’m left with some lasting memories and experiences that I can share with others.

Does reading this give you a sense of adventure?  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my latest photographs, time-lapse video, and writing.  I am nearly finished with my latest short HD  time-lapse clip, I hope you’ll tune in!

I am most active on Google+ where I share my latest work, but you can also find me on FacebookTwitter, and Vimeo.

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Departing to Jasper and onward to Yellowknife…

Hello Friends,

I will be leaving on another adventure in Alberta and Northwest Territories from January 13-22.  While it’s unlikely that I will have e-mail capability, I will do what I can to respond to any inquiries, but it is unlikely I will have much ability to communicate until my return on Jan 22.

Want to see where I last checked in?  I’m using the SPOT satellite messenger to guard against emergencies, and you can track my location here.

Thank you all for your best wishes, thoughts, and prayers – Will see you the week of Jan 23!

Cheers,

Ben