— From Art and Fear.
There in a great and terrible power in the negative voice.
There in a great and terrible power in the negative voice.
This is my favorite photo of the sunset last night at City Beach, Whitefish, Montana.
But 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…
This 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.
Here are the in between photos. Enjoy.
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
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.
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!
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…
I 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.