Art and Fear

“When your work is counted, will it be counted as art?…Acceptance and approval are powers held by others.”
— From Art and Fear.
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There in a great and terrible power in the negative voice.

Why are criticisms so much easier to believe than compliments? When someone says something kind, I smile, say thank you, and go on my merry way — grateful, but forgetful. But say one negative thing, even without malice, and I find myself coming back to those hurtful words over and over again. I feel like an oyster desperately trying to protect myself form the irritation of a tiny grain of sand. Maybe all this would be easier if I thought at the end of it, I would at least have earned a pearl of wisdom, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. The pain and suffering seem useless, futile.
I have the perfect example for this. Six months ago I posted a video slideshow to my Facebook page (the photos in this post are a few of the shots from that slideshow). I got a huge response to this. I’m not a famous photographer so my numbers might be lackluster in the eyes of some, but to a mostly-anonymous photographer in the middle of nowhere Montana, the numbers created by this video far outmatched anything I’ve created before or since.
If you want to see the video and have a Facebook account, here is the link:
Here is what this video did for me.
More than 1000 likes to my Facebook page in about a month. That was a nice ego boost.
2,536 people reacted to the video.
7,997 people shared it.
197,594 people watched it.
I got hundreds of comments from people. Most consisted of simple things like: “Wow,” “Beautiful,” and “Thank you.” And everyone one of these made me smile, made me grateful.
But a lot of the comments were more personal. I now have a Facebook friend who follows my work from France and comments in French (a language I sadly can’t speak — thank God for google translator). Her comments are so encouraging and because they’re in a foreign language, each one is like a delightful treat.
A woman who lives in Costa Rica offered to let me stay at her place if I ever wanted to come down and photograph that country. Wow.
For the slideshow I matched the photos with the song “Bury Me in Montana” by singer/songwriter Mike Murray. The song is incredible and is on his album Tumbleweed which you can find on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tumbleweed/id1008787372 (it’s track number 11 the Alternative version). Some people who viewed the video really connected with their grief and I got comments from people about lost loved ones and how this video touched them and was a comfort to them. I am an artist who has lost both of her parents, so these types of comments were dearest to my heart.
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Some comments people wrote:
“Absolutely wonderful, Brenda, thank you for this beautiful work of love! Makes me miss Montana all the more! I will share this, too gorgeous not to! Blessings to you!”
“Your work is beautiful. Being a lapsed photographer I do know the hours that went into your presentation. Keep going with your passion you have a real talent.”
“Brenda your photography is insanely good!! What you capture through the lens is gorgeous. If you words don’t make it into some kind of printed compilation it will be a shame. Beautiful work!”
Who wouldn’t want to get comments like these? And there are hundreds of them. So much good. So many kind people. So many expressions of love and gratitude.
And yet…
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Of course, it isn’t all perfect or kind. There is one person in particular who couldn’t be kind a wrote a comment that started off with “I’m sorry” (because if you’re going to insult someone you should always start with an apology.) “I’m sorry but…” she basically said that she was sorry but she felt compelled to point out that my photography really isn’t all that good. She went on to link to another photographer’s Facebook page as an example of what a “real” artist can do.
I didn’t respond.
I mean really, what is there to say?
“Thank you.” Nope. Not grateful.
“The photographer you admire sucks.” Nope. I don’t need to go on the attack.
I could acknowledge how much she hurt me, but why give her that kind of power?
So, I said nothing. I ignored the comment and since this was six months ago, I couldn’t get back to it to find it if I had to. After all this time, after thousands of joyful, positive, enthusiastic, great, amazing, heart-warming, inspiring, edifying, uplifting, unique, thoughtful, and gratitude-inducing moments that have come from this video there is still only one comment that I remember clearly, and it’s the negative one. One negative voice, in a sea of compliments, and that is the voice I hold onto.
Why is that?

Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake A sunrise view of Reynolds Mountain over an alpine meadow on Thursday, September 13, in Glacier National Park.

After the deaths of my parents I remember finding a beautiful little poem that I memorized and have remembered now for 15 years. He wrote:
“Our joys as winged dreams do fly,
Why then should sorry last?
Since grief but aggravates thy loss,
Grieve not for what is past.”
Sunrise Over Dickey Lake
A few weeks ago I read a great little book that has been helpful and challenging. It’s called Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Making Art by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
There are so many great quotes in this book, I took pages of notes while reading it. But for the purpose of this blog I am going to end with three. These are the three things I am trying to remember, trying to hold onto and learn instead of getting wrapped around that negative voice.
“Making the work you want to make means finding your nourishment within the work itself.”
“The viewer’s concerns are not your concerns. Their job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. Your job is to learn to work on your work.”
“Catering to fears of being misunderstood…you discard your own highest vision in the process.”
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I’m going to hold on to what was worth holding onto from this experience. I am going to hold onto the people who wrote with love and kindness in their hearts and who touched my life and left me feeling alive, and appreciated, and so very grateful. This has been a bit of a challenge, but the work should always be a challenge. My mentor (and best friend) always used to quote Tom Hanks from the movie A League of Their Own.
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Whatever else my life ends up being, it certainly has offered moments that  were truly great. Every bit of challenge has been worthwhile.

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

North Fork Buck

Blue Sky Morning

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2010 Looking Back

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Trumpeter Swans on Flathead Lake

Spring Thaw comes to Lake McDonald

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See what a difference 18 minutes can make…

This is my favorite photo of the sunset last night at City Beach, Whitefish, Montana.
b20160315city_beach_0995But the night didn’t start off looking like this. It started off with some great clouds and good light, but the very tip of the mountain was shaded. This is what it started off as…
b20160315city_beach_0876This first photo of the night isn’t ‘bad.’ But it isn’t anything I would normally post. I am only adding this to show the difference that 18 minutes can make.

Photography is a waiting game. You see the light, you see the clouds, you go. You find your location and you wait. In the wind, and the cold, you sit on some rock and wait and hope. You hope that as the sun continues to drop eventually it is going to strike the top of Big Mountain. And the clouds will light up with color. And you know that if you’ll just wait you will have a chance at getting so incredibly lucky, or you’ll get nothing but colder.

The days that are hardest are the ones when the light doesn’t quite do what you need it to, and you walk away with photos that are just “meh.”
Eighteen minutes. Biting cold. Shivering in the wind. The sound of the water making me feel even colder. Battling doubt as the minutes creep by and wondering, ‘am I wasting my time out here?’ And then at the very end of sunset the last, most colorful light, struck the top of Big Mountain and just like that — Boom! — worth it.
Absolutely and unquestionably worth the wait.
Patience is always a virtue, but that is especially true in photography. In that 18 minutes most of the people who beat me to this location packed up and left. They didn’t see the finale.
I wish I could say that every time I wait and watch I get rewarded, but that isn’t true. A lot of the time, I just get cold. But I always know there is this chance for pure delight. And even when I don’t get it, I don’t regret it. I guess the simple truth is, it’s always worthwhile — photos or no — because it restores my soul.

Here are the in between photos. Enjoy.

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Wedding Portfolio

For weeks my life has been consumed with preparing my wedding portfolio. It’s been a long time since I have made one of these and sorting through thousands of photographs was not an easy task. I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite pages from my new 8.5 inch square album here.

Also, I’m going to give a small plug to Mixbook. I am not an affiliate of theirs and I don’t make any money or get any rewards for this, I simply want to say something good about a good product. The album I created is one of their premium lay-flat books. I chose the 8.5 square layout and I love it. The pages are a strong and thick, the color reproduction of the photos in the books are excellent. This is something I am going to be proud to show off to potential clients.

I have gone with companies that charge hundreds of dollars on albums. I once paid $500+ for an album. And I’ll admit, it was gorgeous. Really. A work of art. But not worth the price for me. I don’t make albums for clients anymore except by special request, but a lot of clients seem to want to save the money and make their own. I have no qualms about sending people to mixbook. This is my third album with them, and I am well pleased with this product.

Here are some of the pages I designed for my book. If you want to see more I have almost the whole thing up on my wedding blog: wedding portfolio

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The Big Mountain Location Challenge

Big Mountain from downtown Whitefish at dawn.

Big Mountain from downtown Whitefish at dawn.

This post is really going to only apply to people who have some connection to the Flathead Valley. I need help with a project and I’m getting desperate. So I have decided create this Big Mountain Location Challenge. The winner will get a complimentary 16×20 print of either the photo they made possible, or any of my other photographs that they wish.

Here’s the back story:

It’s hard to believe this started at least two years ago. I have a friend who loves my photography. He has consistently purchased aluminum prints to decorate his house and I’m honored. As friendship has grown and changed over the years he’s gone from picking photos that I’ve taken to hang on his wall, to giving me assignments. I’m basically making custom artwork for him. He’s from Montana, so when he told me has this mental image of the Swan range at sunset, he’s not really talking about the view he saw from his living room window growing up, he’s talking about a lifetime of seeing and loving those mountains. And so I get to go out, drive around, scout for locations and then wait until the weather is perfect to go and try to capture his vision. It’s hard enough to be working on my own artistic vision of a scene, but add to that the challenge of taking a modern photograph that somehow captures a lifetime of memories and associations…it’s not easy. But it is worthwhile.

In my personal photography work the only person I am shooting for, and the only person I have to please, is me. If others like what I create, great. If not, oh well. Trying to capture someone’s predetermined mental image is vastly different than shooting for myself. But like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

After many attempts I got the Swan Range photo. The challenge I am currently working on is Big Mountain with the ski lights on. I shot this a bit last year, but none of those were quite what was wanted. This week I went to dinner with this guy and his family and I got the not so subtle hint that the lights on the mountain are on again on Saturdays and Sundays (what we was actually saying is: “Get back to work”). Skiing with the lights on is significant to him because of the memories it provokes of time with his wife and kids and maybe even times from when he was a kid skiing under those lamps. The weight of the nostalgia connected to this mental image of his, is only adding to challenge for me.

I went out for sunrise this morning, because it turns out the lights are on for dawn as well. Yeah, more changes for me. But I am still not finding the ideal location.

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So, if anyone reading this has a suggestion for the perfect location from which to photograph the ski lights and Big Mountain please message me via Facebook. I will need to scout the location in the day time and then randomly show up there when the light is right. If you have a friend or family with property on the lake, or a vast field that looks across to the mountain, or whatever, I want to see it. If your location creates the photograph that finally gets the approval of my most persnickety friend, then I will give you a 16×20 photograph of either the photo you made possible, or any of my other photographs that you may prefer. Please message me if you are interested in submitting a location.

The first person to submit a location gets it, so if you have more than one idea, mail them in. Two, I am NOT the person who will be deciding this. He is. And honestly, I never have a clue what this guy is going to choose.

Thank you in advance!

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2015 Year in Review: part three – people, families, true loves

2015 was by far and away one of the busiest years of my life. I photographed 9 weddings. Plus high school seniors. Engagements. Portraits. One friend of mine described my life as having two full time jobs. He was right. For 2016 I’m going to be looking for more balance, but as I look back, I am only grateful for the amazing people who let me be part of telling their story.

My “rules” for this post are fairly simple. One photo from the major wedding or lifestyle assignments this year. There are going to be a few times where I will cheat. I couldn’t help myself…

 

A surprise engagement in Glacier National Park. I have seldom had as much fun planning a photo shoot as I did this one. He was SO excited and so thoughtful and yet so open to ideas and suggestions. We had fun...

A surprise engagement in Glacier National Park. I have seldom had as much fun planning a photo shoot as I did this one. He was SO excited and so thoughtful and yet so open to ideas and suggestions. We had fun…

How joyful to photograph a wedding and then have someone come back to Montana for family photos.

How joyful to photograph a wedding and then have someone come back to Montana for family photos.

Echo, the bride who loves chartreuse, the bride I have photographed the most frequently, was in my life for two photo shoots this year: pregnancy photos and then the birth of her first child.

Echo, the bride who loves chartreuse, the bride I have photographed the most frequently, was in my life for two photo shoots this year: pregnancy photos and then the birth of her first child.

This was the photo shoot that made me cry. I have never before been asked to document the start of a life. Years ago Echo hired me to photograph her wedding. We became good friends. This year her first child was born. And as I watched and tried to photograph her work so hard to bring her daughter into the world, I had to put the camera down at one point because I was crying... This was miraculous. I shall never forget it.

This was the photo shoot that made me cry. I have never before been asked to document the start of a life. Years ago Echo hired me to photograph her wedding. We became good friends. This year her first child was born. And as I watched and tried to photograph her work so hard to bring her daughter into the world, I had to put the camera down at one point because I was crying…
This was miraculous. I shall never forget it.

Seattle with swing dancers Ben and Ariel.

Seattle with swing dancers Ben and Ariel.

I'm cheating a bit...the goal of this was to choose only one best photo from a collection, but I loved this shot of Ben. So GQ...

I’m cheating a bit…the goal of this was to choose only one best photo from a collection, but I loved this shot of Ben. So GQ…

Another surprise engagement. Glacier is popular for that.

Another surprise engagement. Glacier is popular for that.

Mother-to-be portraits with Miss Taylor

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Engagement photos for a wonderful couple. I will be photographing their wedding in August.

Engagement photos for a wonderful couple. I will be photographing their wedding in August.

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This is my second round of photographing this family. Every year Brandy wants a photo with the whole family and her dog...and every time, the dog fails to cooperate. It's become a tradition.

This is my second round of photographing this family. Every year Brandy wants a photo with the whole family and her dog…and every time, the dog fails to cooperate. It’s become a tradition.

Pris Family Photos - fall 2015

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Josh and Lindsey Clark - Wedding Photos

This is my only other cheat, I loved this photo of Lindsey, she is so elegant.

This is my only other cheat, I loved this photo of Lindsey, she is so elegant.

One of my favorite photos of the year was this one. I asked Katie (whose wedding I shot in June) and Mandy, (whose wedding I shot last year) if they would be willing to get a few more brides to get super glammed up and pretend to be "Bridezillas." These ladies were awesome and this photo shoot was a scream. Thanks to Kathleen Fancis of Fancy Face Design for the face painting. It was exactly what I wanted.

One of my favorite photos of the year was this one. I asked Katie (whose wedding I shot in June) and Mandy, (whose wedding I shot last year) if they would be willing to get a few more brides to get super glammed up and pretend to be “Bridezillas.” These ladies were awesome and this photo shoot was a scream.
Thanks to Kathleen Fancis of Fancy Face Design for the face painting. It was exactly what I wanted.

Christmas Photos 2015

Surprise engagement at the New Year's Eve dance at North End Swing. And this is my final cheat. I needed one more photo because her happy expression I just had to post.

Surprise engagement at the New Year’s Eve dance at North End Swing. And this is my final cheat. I needed one more photo because her happy expression I just had to post.

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2015 Year in Review: part two – Music, Theater and Dancing

Mike MurrayI love being a photographer for a lot of reasons, but one of my favorite things to photograph is other artists. I love being around creative people. Engaging with them. Seeing them live out their passion. Being inspired by the way they chase after what they long for. Fortunately, I have a job that allows me the opportunity to collaborate with these people. They get to do what they love and I get to document that. In my time here in Montana I’ve built some amazing connections through swing dancing and through the performance arts. Here are some of my favorite photos from 2015.

The first photo is a detail from a Mike Murray concert in Whitefish. Mike is a the singer/songwriter I collaborated with this year for the video slideshow of my scenic Montana photos set to his song “Bury Me in Montana.” I love his work. To see the video check out my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BrendaAhearnPhotography/

 

One of my favorite projects of the year was the Northwest Artist Syndicate’s Singer/Songwriter competition (which Mike Murray won). For the newspaper we did individual profiles on all ten competitors. It was a massive amount of work under a hard deadline, but I loved it. These are the portraits I did of Nick Spear (who I was already friends with from his work with the New Wave Time Trippers) and Chris Kammerer

(who performs as “Old Sap”). Nick can be found online at: http://nickspear.com. And Chris has his info up at: http://www.oldsapmusic.com.

Nick Spear at Crush in downtown Whitefish, Montana.

Nick Spear at Crush in downtown Whitefish, Montana.

"Old Sap" Chris Kammerer performing at his home in Bigfork, Montana.

“Old Sap” Chris Kammerer performing at his home in Bigfork, Montana.

 

Sapphire Shakedown perform at Casey's in Whitefish.

Sapphire Shakedown perform at Casey’s in Whitefish.

 

Kevin Van Dort at Casey's in Whitefish.

Kevin Van Dort at Casey’s in Whitefish.

Detail of the unique guitar Kevin Van Dort frequently plays.

Detail of the unique guitar Kevin Van Dort frequently plays.

 

Mike Murray with The Left Ready at Casey's in Whitefish.

Mike Murray with The Left Ready at Casey’s in Whitefish.

For Father’s day we did a story on Chris and his son CJ which involved photos in Glacier National Park. There are few things I appreciate as much as people who are willing to work with me when the light is good. Photography is recorded light. Want great pictures? Find great light.

CJ Krager and his father Chris make music during a portrait session in Glacier National Park on Tuesday, June 16. CJ is a member of the Copper Mountain Band and Chris collaborates with a number of local musicians, but is most frequently seen with the Left Ready and with Mike Murray in the Mike Murray Duo. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

CJ Krager and his father Chris make music during a portrait session in Glacier National Park on Tuesday, June 16. CJ is a member of the Copper Mountain Band and Chris collaborates with a number of local musicians, but is most frequently seen with the Left Ready and with Mike Murray in the Mike Murray Duo. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

This year I spent my second season documenting both the on stage productions and the behind the scenes life of the Alpine Theatre Project. This is by far and away one of my favorite projects of the year.

ATP rehearsal of Legally Blond

ATP rehearsal of Legally Blond

ATP Summer Rehearsals. The Summer Season included the plays Chicago, Big Fish and Ring of Fire, a review of the music of Johnny Cash.

ATP Summer Rehearsals. The Summer Season included the plays Chicago, Big Fish and Ring of Fire, a review of the music of Johnny Cash.

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Eric Michael Krop as Little Mary Sunshine in Chicago.

Eric Michael Krop as Little Mary Sunshine in Chicago.

A scene from Big Fish.

A scene from Big Fish.

A special "outtake" photograph of Halladay Quist.

A special “outtake” photograph of Halladay Quist.

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N'Kenge takes center stage at Yuletide XII the annual Alpine Theatre Project Christmas season special on Monday night, December 21, at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. In the background are Rebecca Spear, Susan O'Dea and Amelia Cormack. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

N’Kenge takes center stage at Yuletide XII the annual Alpine Theatre Project Christmas season special on Monday night, December 21, at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. In the background are Rebecca Spear, Susan O’Dea and Amelia Cormack. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Several years ago I got involved (via photography) with a group of local swing dancers. They eventually built up their dance scene to become North End Swing. Montana isn’t what one would imagine as a metropolis of swing dancers, but every year there is at least one major event that brings in some amazing dancers. It’s the Big Sky Workshop Weekend in June. Every year it gets better and 2015 was simply amazing.
If you are thinking about seeing Montana at it’s best check out http://www.bigskyweekend.com. This way you can see the wonders of this part of the world and some world-class dancing all in one trip.

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Big Sky Weekend 2015

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Chris and Kate Walters. I got to do their engagement photos while there were here in Montana, then in September I went out to photograph their wedding in Tacoma, Washington.

Chris and Kate Walters. I got to do their engagement photos while there were here in Montana, then in September I went out to photograph their wedding in Tacoma, Washington.

Big Sky became even more magical for me when I managed to convince some friends from Bozeman to meet me at 3 a.m. for a drive up to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park for a sunrise photo shoot. The mosquitos were unbelievable, but the photos made the trek worthwhile.

Sunrise in Glacier with Swing Dancers

Sunrise in Glacier with Swing Dancers

Sunrise in Glacier with Swing Dancers

The next day, Peter Flahiff, who has been my dance instructor for years, and his new dance partner Miss Lauren Stanley also came up for sunrise. Sunrise is no easy thing to talk dancers into, especially when they have been dancing until 1 a.m. 2015music_0019

I had such a fun time at Big Sky that immediately after the workshop I headed over to Seattle for the 4th of July and some photos with my other dance instructor Ben White and his parter, Miss Ariel Goh. Which was followed by a night of dancing at Eastside Stomp with Casey MacGill.

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Amanda Duff Caldwell as Patsy Cline and Scarlett Schindler as Louise Seger will star in the Whitefish Theatre Company's production of "Always...Patsy Cline." The cabaret show is running over two weeks – July 29-31, August 1, 5-8 with a preview night on July 28. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Amanda Duff Caldwell as Patsy Cline and Scarlett Schindler as Louise Seger will star in the Whitefish Theatre Company’s production of “Always…Patsy Cline.” The cabaret show is running over two weeks – July 29-31, August 1, 5-8 with a preview night on July 28. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

To wrap up the year I once again joined North End Swing for their end of the year dance. And this one turned into something unexpected. While there one of my friends proposed to his girlfriend, and I caught the moment. 🙂 What a perfect way to end one year and begin a new one.

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2015 Year in Review: part one – Photojournalism

View from atop the Evergreen Fire and Rescue ladder truck of a fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. The helicopter is from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake) (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

It would be difficult to pick a non-fire related photo to start with because the 2015 fire season was one for the record books. This is from the massive Evergreen fire in August.

Welcome to a brand new year! In true procrastinator style I have waited for the end of 2015 to write up my reflections on the year. In my defense, I don’t really feel my year is over. Personally, I have always counted my birthday (April 4) as my year, so by my reckoning I still have three months left. 🙂

This is the year I turned 40. That number seems impossible. I can remember being a child. My mother had this framed saying that she had cross-stiched which read: “Life begins at 40.” I can actually remember thinking, “Forty is ancient. How could anybody live to be that old?” Only now, I don’t feel ancient. I feel like life is just beginning. I wanted 40 to be memorable, and it has certainly been that. In many ways this has been one of the best years of my life. I’m excited for 2016, but I wonder how it could ever top 2015…

Still, the best day is the next day and I am so looking forward to what’s coming. But for right now, I have to stop and give a word of thanks for all the ways I was blessed this year.

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

My biggest news was this: For my sixth anniversary here in Montana I created a video retrospective of some of my favorite shots from my time here. I combined this with a song I fell in love with by Mike Murray called Bury Me in Montana (if you’re interested you can find it on iTunes on his album Tumbleweed). As of today the video has been seen 130,000 times.

If you want to see it, it’s at the top of my Brenda Ahearn Photography page on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BrendaAhearnPhotography/

The other major milestone for me this year was having on of my photos published in Time magazine. It’s a bit odd, the way things hit me. I’ve been working full time for a newspaper since 2002. And I’ve been seeing my work get printed since 1996. One would think that after so much time, I would be pretty well immune to the thrill of seeing my work in print. Not so. I still get a kick out of it. I love it when I get the front page of the paper I work for. Or even one of the inside pages. All I really care about is that the printing looks good and thanks to our press guys most of the time, the prints look very good. I love it when I find the AP has picked up one of my photos and it went out nationwide or even worldwide. I’ve had photos show up in some pretty major papers. My favorite was five years ago when I got my first photo in USA Today. Ironically USA Today isn’t delivered in Montana. Go figure. Still, it was a thrill. And this this year… Wow. It started with an email: would I be interested in having one of my photos considered for publication in Time magazine. Hell YES!!!! Except, of course, I wrote something far more professional in response. And come to find out they loved the photo and wanted it. Were even willing to pay the Inter Lake fee to get it. After all, I shot the photo while on assignment for the DIL so I don’t own the rights to it. They lady at Time graciously sent me 5 copies of the magazine. It’s the October issue with Pope Frances on the front. I am so honored.

Copies of the magazine sent to me courtesy of Time, as well as the photo they published with a story on the popularity of adventure racing.

Copies of the magazine sent to me courtesy of Time, as well as the photo they published with a story on the popularity of adventure racing.

This year I photographed 14 families, 2 surprise engagements in Glacier, and 9 weddings. I got to see the Pacific ocean for the first time in too many years and I got to be a part of two of the best swing dance workshops ever followed by a trek to Seattle and some photos of the ones I love out there.

This was also one of the most epic years I’ve had medically. Three hospitalizations. I broke my left arm in April. I had surgery in June. And after photographing fire season in September I ended up in the ER with the most dangerous asthma attack of my life. But I survived. And as I look back at the fear and pain they only make grateful for this incredible life.

Now…how to organize all this? I’ve narrowed it down to my top 100 photos. And that was painful to do. But it’s still too much. So I am going to post these over the next three days. First off will be all my newspaper work. This includes my Scenics from Montana because frankly, our readers love them, and I’m lucky enough to work at a newspaper that let’s me put these kinds of pretty pictures in the paper. Then photos from the music and entertainment world. And finally, weddings and family stuff.

To everyone who shared this year with me, the good and the bad, thank you. I am so sincerely grateful.
Much love,
Bren

A large snow covered gate makes a frame for a winter scenic near Echo Lake on Thursday morning, January 8. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Yellow Bay at Flathead Lake

Structure Fire in Evergreen

Glacier National Park

A singing Valentine's from Classic Touch

These two images started with a text from a Deputy that read: Truck in water in Bigfork. I never mind getting woken up at 2 a.m. when I get photos like this out of it.

These two images started with a text from a Deputy that read: Truck in water in Bigfork. I never mind getting woken up at 2 a.m. when I get photos like this out of it.

 

One year anniversary for ImagineIF Library

Eric Michael Krop, one of my favorite local talents.

Eric Michael Krop, one of my favorite local talents.

 

Playing in Puddles

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park.

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park.

 

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John Dunnigan at the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish, on Thursday, May 14. In the middle of a portrait session Dunnigan looked up, saw a friend and had to wave.

John Dunnigan at the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish, on Thursday, May 14. In the middle of a portrait session Dunnigan looked up, saw a friend and had to wave.

Of my photos of John Dunnigan this was my favorite. But for those who know his personality, the first image is more authentically him.

Of my photos of John Dunnigan this was my favorite. But for those who know his personality, the first image is more authentically him.

 

Structure fire in Columbia Falls. May 2015.

Structure fire in Columbia Falls. May 2015.

 

Memorial Day 2015

A view of Kalispell at sunset from the forth story tower of the Kalispell Fire Department downtown station on Wednesday, May 27.

A view of Kalispell at sunset from the forth story tower of the Kalispell Fire Department downtown station on Wednesday, May 27.

 

Snow in June in Glacier National Park. Oh how I love life in Montana.

Snow in June in Glacier National Park. Oh how I love life in Montana.

 

"Gramma" Jean Livesay, 86, gets a hug from her neighbor James Francis on Friday morning, June 12, in Kalispell. Jean has been waving to students from the window of her Wyoming Street home for two years. For the last week of school she made a sign for her front yard and for Friday, the last day of school, she moved from her window to her front yard to wave at students and parents as they pass by.

“Gramma” Jean Livesay, 86, gets a hug from her neighbor James Francis on Friday morning, June 12, in Kalispell. Jean has been waving to students from the window of her Wyoming Street home for two years. For the last week of school she made a sign for her front yard and for Friday, the last day of school, she moved from her window to her front yard to wave at students and parents as they pass by.

 

I know photographically this photo isn't much. But the story was fantastic. I mean really, how often does one hear the words "airborne" and "minivan" together? The van went off the road, went airborne, and landed on top of the red car. It was funny but that's mainly because no one was seriously hurt.

I know photographically this photo isn’t much. But the story was fantastic. I mean really, how often does one hear the words “airborne” and “minivan” together? The van went off the road, went airborne, and landed on top of the red car. It was funny but that’s mainly because no one was seriously hurt.

 

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A view of the main runway at Glacier Park International Airport. I am amazed sometimes at all the places my work takes me to...places that most people never get to see.

A view of the main runway at Glacier Park International Airport. I am amazed sometimes at all the places my work takes me to…places that most people never get to see.

 

Daniel Kirk's ordination as the new priest for Saint Herman’s.

Daniel Kirk’s ordination as the new priest for Saint Herman’s. I wrote the story for the paper on this one as well as doing the photos. To see more of it go to: https://brendaahearn.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/too-close-to-the-story/

 

A view of the Reynolds Creek Fire near East Glacier on Wednesday, July 22.

A view of the Reynolds Creek Fire near East Glacier on Wednesday, July 22.

 

Steampunk family in downtown Kalispell.

Steampunk family in downtown Kalispell.

 

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The Evergreen fire. August 2015.

The Evergreen fire. August 2015.

 

Smoke from the Thompson Fire in Glacier National Park pours into the sky in this view from Lost Creek Road and Farm-to-Market Road in West Valley. This photo got picked up by the Associated Press and ended up in USA Today. Ironically, this photo was used nationally to illustrate the wildfires in California.

Smoke from the Thompson Fire in Glacier National Park pours into the sky in this view from Lost Creek Road and Farm-to-Market Road in West Valley.
This photo got picked up by the Associated Press and ended up in USA Today. Ironically, this photo was used nationally to illustrate the wildfires in California.

 

Marston Fire

I'm flying in a Blackhawk photographing this Blackhawk. Life is so awesome.

I’m flying in a Blackhawk photographing this Blackhawk. Life is so awesome.

 

This was my first photo back on the job after being in the ER for the most severe asthma attack of my life. Clean blue skies never meant so much to me before.

This was my first photo back on the job after being in the ER for the most severe asthma attack of my life. Clean blue skies never meant so much to me before.

 

One of the most devastating wrecks I have ever seen: The driver of a Budweiser truck takes a moment off to the side of a collision with a Ford f250 truck on September 9, at the intersection of U.S. 93 and Farm-to-Market Road north of Whitefish.

One of the most devastating wrecks I have ever seen: The driver of a Budweiser truck takes a moment off to the side of a collision with a Ford f250 truck on September 9, at the intersection of U.S. 93 and Farm-to-Market Road north of Whitefish.

 

Benghazi Memorial 9/11 ceremony in Bigfork Montana. This was the second year for the event and this year featured a former member of the CIA and founder of the organization DeliverFund, which is a group of former special forces operators now dedicated to rescuing victims of sex trafficking.

Benghazi Memorial 9/11 ceremony in Bigfork Montana. This was the second year for the event and this year featured a former member of the CIA and founder of the organization DeliverFund, which is a group of former special forces operators now dedicated to rescuing victims of sex trafficking. I have written a blog about these guys and their work: https://brendaahearn.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/do-something-good-in-the-world/

 

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Serene Scene along the Flathead River

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Montana Life: Scarecrow Sue

Fall Feature

A colorful sunrise lights up the sky from Fairmont and Kinshella Road east of Kalispell on Thursday morning, October 22. I posted both of these photos to the Daily Inter Lake Facebook page and we let the readers pick which one would run in the paper. The top photo was the hands-down winner.

A colorful sunrise lights up the sky from Fairmont and Kinshella Road east of Kalispell on Thursday morning, October 22.
I posted both of these photos to the Daily Inter Lake Facebook page and we let the readers pick which one would run in the paper. The top photo was the hands-down winner.

 

Fire in Evergreen

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Last year I wrote a story about USMC Captain Wayne Bolton. This year for Christmas Wayne ended up recovering from triple-bypass surgery. But he wasn't alone for the holidays. The Marines turned out to Celebrate Christmas with him. Semper Fi!

Last year I wrote a story about USMC Captain Wayne Bolton. This year for Christmas Wayne ended up recovering from triple-bypass surgery. But he wasn’t alone for the holidays. The Marines turned out to Celebrate Christmas with him. Semper Fi!    Here is a link to the story of Wayne, one of the survivors of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Korea: https://brendaahearn.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/remembering-chosin/