Monochrome

Black and white wedding in Glacier National ParkOn of my favorite things with weddings is to go back and pick out photos to re-edit in black and white. When I started out in photography (in 1996) I started on black and white film. Tmax. Tri-X. We used bulk loaders to fill reusable film canisters and chemicals like Dektol and Stop bath and Fixer. One of these days I have to write about my mentor, Tim Webb, who opened my eyes to photography and the amazing world that goes with it. I am always so grateful.

I now shoot everything digitally. Part of this is related to being a newspaper photographer. Newspapers embraced digital early and didn’t look back. Even before the technology was as good as it is now, digital gave the media a new and incredible speed, and journalism loves that. But even though I have no wish to switch back to film, I still love the look of black and white. And so, when I have finished photographing a wedding, I go back through the images and choose favorites (mostly from the portraits) that I believe would be (dare I say) better in black and white. I love color. But monochrome…it will always have a place in my heart.

For Armed Forces Day I was lucky enough to photograph a soldier and his bride in Glacier National Park. To see the color photos from this, you can check out the blog I wrote before this (http://www.brendaahearn.com/glacier-wedding). I would never want to photograph a wedding on black and white film or with digital in black and white mode. Once you make that choice, the color information is lost. But I’ll happily spend the time with color files to convert them to grayscale and re-tone them. Black and white is elegant and has its own magic. It’s worth the extra time and trouble, and so far, my clients seem to love it. It’s something extra I get to give to them and it connects me to my own photography roots. Win/win.

I’m attaching some comparisons here, black and white vs. color. I have to admit, it’s not entirely a fair comparison, the day of this wedding we had incredibly overcast skies that were hours away from a complete downpour. That made for some wonderful soft light at noon, but it also meant that the colors don’t “pop” the same way they normally do. Still, the side-by-sides show the way black and white really focuses in on the composition of a frame. I love monochrome for this reason.

black and white wedding dress

mother of the bride and bride at Lake McDonald

first kiss in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald wedding on Armed Forces Day

Lake McDonald Lodge wedding day, bride and bouquet

A soldier and his bride and their wedding in Glacier

Montan Veterans Home chapel Army wedding

Montana Veterans Home chapel Army wedding

black and white wedding photos

Glacier Wedding

Glacier National Park wedding

May is a risky month for weddings in Montana. Some days are warm and sunny, some are cold and beautiful, and a lot of days are rainy and dower. There is little in May that can be described as predictable. So it’s touchy scheduling wedding May weddings. The simple truth is, you never know what you are going to get.

Armed Forces Day weddingA few days ago I photographed the wedding of my friend Collin and his bride Miss Liz. We had a perfect day in Glacier National Park with soft light and overcast but dry skies. We didn’t get the dramatic light and bold colors we were all hoping for, but neither did we get doused and that was a win for everyone.

It was the day before that was craziness…

bride and mother

On Friday I was on the phone with both Collin and Liz. I wanted to make sure they didn’t need any last minute details taken care of by me. When I called Miss Liz she was tied in knots about the weather and the predictions for an incoming storm. She didn’t want to cause problems for anyone of the guest, but neither did she want to give up her dream of getting married in Glacier.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park wedding

For my part, the answer was pretty obvious, go with Glacier. Even if we get rained on. Even if it isn’t what you dreamed of. Buy umbrellas (they bought a dozen clear umbrellas) and go for Glacier and hope for the best.

Armed Forces Day wedding

And the best is what they got. They had there ceremony on the banks of Lake McDonald, bright flowers at the Lodge added a touch of color, and the overcast skies made taking photos at 1230 in the afternoon not a complete photography nightmare. And, as an added bonus, the couple decided to hold two ceremonies. One at Glacier, and then a second at their wedding reception for the people who couldn’t get to the park. More photo ops for me.  😉

happiness

I so love that one of the reasons they considered not going to Glacier was out of concern for me and my gear. I am also outrageously happy I was able to tell both these wonderful people that I was good to go and we should take the chance on the mountains and the park.

And it worked. The gamble paid off.

ring detail

One moment I will not soon forget was driving home from the reception, looking south and seeing the storm front moving in. The rains kindly waited until this wedding day was complete. It makes a photographer smile…

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography wedding dress

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

here comes the bride

best man

Lake McDonald wedding

with this ring

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

groomsmen

bridesmaids

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Glacier National Park wedding

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Montana Veterans Home chapel

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Montana Veterans Home chapel

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Montana Veterans Home chapel

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photos by Brenda Ahearn Photography

Photographing the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater LakeBefore moving to Montana I had never seen the Northern Lights. The first time I saw them was because I got a text from a friend at the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office: “Northern Lights over Big Mountain.” That came through a little after midnight. I got up, raced out and started shooting. Mesmerizing. That’s what the Lights are. They sway and pulse and dance across the sky in colors and beats that are wildly beautiful and unpredictable.

Tonight I woke up at 1:39 a.m. and noticed the particular shade of green that indicates that outside the lights of the city, the Northern Lights are putting on a show. In a matter of minutes I had my keys, clothes, camera and tripod and was starting up the Jeep. The question is where to go…

If you have never seen the Northern Lights in Montana go to Glacier National Park. The dock at Apgar is one of the best viewing spots there is. One, it’s Glacier (you can never go wrong there). Two, you’ll have the benefit of the frequently smooth as glass Lake McDonald. Three, there are no annoying city lights or power lines to contend with. Four, there is that famous silhouetted horizon the mountains at the east end of the lake. It really is quite perfect.

Aurora Borealis over Glacier

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)

Last year I took this photo of the lights from Apgar. The picture was a complete surprise and people responded to it in a way I never expected. So tonight I was faced with the question of whether or not to return to Apgar. The location is perfection, but would it be really any different than the last time I photographed there? It’s Saturday night, one of the nights when people can be out photographing the Lights and then sleep in the next day, so I knew I wouldn’t be alone if I went to Glacier. And one of the things I wanted was a shot different from what everyone else would be getting.

Years ago I was at a photography workshop and one of the photographers there was a shooter for National Geographic. He wasn’t a teacher, he was on a personal retreat and he didn’t talk too much. But I noticed the way he deliberately moved away from the crowd. He avoided the obvious shot and would hike much further to get something unique. In one of the few times I was brave enough to talk to him, he mentioned that he hated it when people followed him. He didn’t want to be copied, he wanted to find his own images and wanted other people to find what would speak to them. When I was a young photographer I didn’t really understand this. It made sense to me to follow him, after all, he knew what he was doing. Now that I’m a pro, I understand better. There is something powerful and magical about going you’re own way to find your own view. What you find may not match the perfection of the well known, but it will be your own. I wanted that tonight.

So, two roads: I could go with what I knew would work, or I could take off on an adventure and simply hope for the best. I went with the second option and it was so worth it.

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater LakeInstead of going to Glacier I drove north of US 93. There is a lake called Upper Stillwater and it’s the name that made me want to seek it out. I wanted the reflection to double the effect of the Lights. I’ve seen photos of the Northern Lights from latitudes in the 50s and 60s. And the farther north a person is, the more the Lights seem to fill the entire sky. One day I hope to travel in those regions and see the Lights the way I have seen them photographed. From Montana, (based solely on my own experiences) the lights seem to pretty well hug the north/east horizon.

Since the lights aren’t going to overwhelm the sky here like they do up north, when I go looking to photograph them I go looking for north facing water. It’s not the easiest thing to find in the pitch black dark of night. But when you do find it, the water becomes a mirror. That’s what I’m looking for, that’s the shot I want.

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater LakeIt is fascinating to stand alone in the dark surrounded by the sounds of the night under the light of the stars. In the coolness of the predawn hours my overactive imagination goes wild with fears of bears and wolves and mountain lions. But even those fears heighten the experience and make me feel more alive. When the Lights are out the stars create points of stillness that accentuate the speed of the solar winds pushing the lights across the sky. The sky dances and it is lovely.

These photos were taken with a Nikon D600 and a 17-35mm f2.8 lens at ISO 640 and exposed for 25-30 seconds. The location is the bridge over Upper Stillwater. What a spectacular night, what a perfect way to begin Mother’s Day.

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater Lake

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater Lake

Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater Lake

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Northern Lights over Upper Stillwater Lake

Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Sunday Lake, near Stryker, Montana

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.”
Colorful Sunrise
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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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.

Shrek

Shrek

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.

Big Sky Weekend

Big Sky Weekend 2015

Big Sky Weekend

Big Sky Weekend 2015

Big Sky Weekend

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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Today I am celebrating six years in Montana. Six years at the Daily Inter Lake. I love this place. I love the job. I love my life. And for the past couple of weeks I have been working on a video slideshow and an article for the paper that was published yesterday.

About 24 hours ago I posted my video. Tonight I’m looking at the Facebook stats and honestly I’ve never had anything behave the way this video did. It has reached more than 100,000 people, had 28 thousand views and been shared more than 1000 times. The experience is rather humbling and definitely surreal.

Thank you for your interest in this story. For my blog I am going to focus on photos that didn’t make it into the video. Here is the story that started all this. I hope you enjoy. — Bren

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Photographic Memories
Photos and story by Brenda Ahearn
Layout and design by Seaborn Larson

Tomorrow will be my sixth anniversary as a photographer for the Daily Inter Lake, and I’d like to give readers my personal thank-you note. In my years here I have had many people reach out to me, give me positive feedback and make me feel welcome. I am deeply grateful. But when I think of the people who have made this job such a positive experience, the person I think of first is actually the photographer who had the job before me, Karen Nichols.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park at sunrise.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park at sunrise.

Karen Nichols is beloved. When I first started working for the Inter Lake, I would go out on assignment and every day, every photo shoot, I would introduce myself and people would say something along the line of: “Oh you’re the new photographer? We LOVE Karen.” They let me know very clearly that I was following in the footsteps of someone great. Karen is a true talent and an amazing person. Every time I heard someone say how much they loved Karen, all I could think was, “Yes. I’m trying my very best.”

Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Montana.

Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Montana.

After several months on the job, I got an unexpected phone call from Karen. She invited me out to lunch. I didn’t have many friends at the time, and I remember being really impressed that she would reach out to the new photographer. We went to Gresko’s and as we ate our sandwiches Karen told me she had been watching my work, and that she wanted me to know I was doing a good job. This compliment felt huge. For months all I had heard was how amazing this woman is; to have her tell me I was on the right track was exactly the encouragement I needed.

Flathead National Forest north of Whitefish, Montana.

Flathead National Forest north of Whitefish, Montana.

I told her what I had been hearing, how every person I met seemed to have some story of her, or some compliment of her work. And Karen smiled. She bowed her head a bit and took the compliments I passed on humbly and graciously. I remember thinking that she had true grace. Then she looked back up at me and told me that one day, I would have people who felt that way about me and my work.

A view of Glacier National Park from Swiftcurrent Trail.

A view of Glacier National Park from Swiftcurrent Trail.

That didn’t seem possible at the time, but it became my goal. And now, six years later, I find she was right. I still run into people who love Karen. And they make me smile. But I also run into people who appreciate me. Believe me, when you have bright red hair and a press pass your identity doesn’t remain a secret for long. And that’s OK, because I have had people over and over stop to me to tell me that they like my work.

Dickey Lake north of Whitefish, Montana.

Dickey Lake north of Whitefish, Montana.

I find it sweet when someone sees my name on a form and they get this puzzled look on their faces as they wonder why my name looks so familiar. A couple of times a year I’ll get an email from a firefighter in Ferndale, telling me he’s made one of my photos his new computer background. Once when I was out photographing a car wreck I had a person figure out who I was and start telling me how much they like my photos. I didn’t have a lot of time because I had work to do, but I never forgot that person or the effort they made to let me know my work matters. There are people who call and leave messages. Or write emails. Or send flowers. Once I did a portrait of a World War II veteran. He was so pleased he sent the reporter and me each a box of chocolates.

Sunset in North Glacier near Polebridge, Montana.

Sunset in North Glacier near Polebridge, Montana.

These people do more than offer a pat on the back; they remind me of some important truths:

1. Community journalism is the best. When I was a young photographer I met a famous photographer to the stars. He said something that shaped the direction of my life. He told me that what we must not forget is that photography is about people, places and things. He said as you climb the ladder the people get more famous, the places get more exotic and the things get more expensive, but they are still just people, places and things. He said if he had understood that when he was young, he would have stayed at a smaller newspaper where he could really be a part of the community and use his talent and position to make a difference. I love living and working in the Flathead Valley because this is a place where I feel I can make a difference.

2. A photo in the newspaper is a big deal. I’ve been working for newspapers since 1997. When you are in this business it’s easy to get to a point where a front page photo is just another day in the life. However, it is a very big deal to the person who is in the photograph. Because of my job I have gotten to meet some incredible people and be part of telling amazing stories. It is a daily challenge and a daily responsibility. There are a lot of aspects about this job that are fun, but there are aspects that are important. And doing the job well is important.

3. “Work is a blessing.” My grandmother used to say this. When I applied for this job I was one of more than a hundred applicants. And the other photographer at the time let me know I was not the first choice. But the first choice said no, and so here I am. Over the years I have become the senior photographer for the Inter Lake, and my Grams was right, my work has been a blessing.

It’s a blessing I am grateful for. I love where I get to live and love what I get to do. I meet people who challenge me, inspire me, fill me with respect and push me to live life more fully. That’s the best part of working at a newspaper.

Boats on the dock at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Boats on the dock at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Last year while on assignment for the Inter Lake’s This Week in the Flathead publication, I was photographing the Northwest Artist Syndicate’s singer/songwriter competition. That was the first time I heard Mike Murray sing “Bury Me in Montana.” The song wrapped around my brain and instantly stole my heart. When I started thinking of how I wanted to share a look back at my years here, I knew it had to be a slide show and it had to have Mike’s song as the sound track. Here is the link to the video: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaAhearnPhotography/videos/1658748397701285/?fref=nf

Double rainbow over Flathead Lake from Lakeside, Montana.

Double rainbow over Flathead Lake from Lakeside, Montana.

Thank you to every person who has let me photograph them, and every person who has written or called or just said “well done” in passing. You mean more to me than you know.

Sunset south of Whitefish, Montana.

Sunset south of Whitefish, Montana.

I spent a lot of years hoping I would find a newspaper that I could settle down at, a place where I could build a life and stick around for 20-plus years. I think I finally found it.

Super moon over Flathead Lake, from Rollins, Montana.

Super moon over Flathead Lake, from Rollins, Montana.

Aerial view of Glacier National Park.

Aerial view of Glacier National Park.

Flathead National Forest north of Whitefish, Montana.

Flathead National Forest north of Whitefish, Montana.

Sunrise at Dickey Lake, north of Whitefish, Montana.

Sunrise at Dickey Lake, north of Whitefish, Montana.

Sunset at Whitefish Lake with a view of Big Mountain.

Sunset at Whitefish Lake with a view of Big Mountain.

Storm over Creston, Montana.

Storm over Creston, Montana.

Sunrise view north of Kalispell, Montana.

Sunrise view north of Kalispell, Montana.

Winter sunset near Polebridge, Montana.

Winter sunset near Polebridge, Montana.

Looking back: the best of 2014

The end of the year draws nigh. On the one hand, I am finding it difficult to imagine how an entire year got away from me. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago I was struggling to sign my checks 2014 instead of 2013?

During this holiday week I have been going back through my files from this year to pull together my best of collection from images for the Daily Inter Lake. I’ll use this same set of photos to decide what entries I want to submit for our annual newspaper competition. The great thing about this is, that even though I feel the days fled far too swiftly, I look back at all that was accomplished and I’m suddenly ok with the changing of the calendar. 2014 was good. So now, before I jump into 2015, I want to take this moment to post my favorite photos from this year.

Most of these are going to be chronological. Most. One exception. This first image is a combination of work. The moon and star is an image I captured from Big Mountain, in Whitefish Montana on April 15th. The “Blood Moon.” My fellow Daily Inter Lake photographer, Patrick Cote, was south of Kalispell photographing the same thing. He created the sequence of shots.

Blood Moon over Whitefish

Some of these photos are going to have notes or short stories. But many times, I am going to simply let the image speak for itself. After all, photojournalism is supposed to be about story-telling images, I’m going to them tell their own stories. At least, that is my plan at this point…

Washing Windows

Sunset Peaks

Flathead Girls vs CMR

Boys Basketball: Flathead vs Missoula Hellgate

Class AA State Speech and Debate Award Ceremony

Newspaper work involves an unbelievable amount of driving around, randomly searching for subject matter. You drive the speed limit, even a bit bellow, carefully scanning for signs of some human out living their life. It’s called wild art and most photographers that I have met, hate it. It’s hard. Sometimes you are looking for hours and there are just no people. That’s when you get desperate and start looking for pretty leaves, crazy squirrels, interesting bugs, anything!… Winter is particularly hard. In the summer everyone is outside, in the cold…not so much. That’s when finding a kid out playing street hockey in the middle of the road feels like a prayer has been answered! Yeah! A person! A person outside! A person outside doing something! A person outside doing something that I can photograph for the front page! Thank God my job is saved….

Snowy Street Hockey

Scene from a homicide in Hungry Horse on Valentine’s Day.

Fatal Shooting in Hungry Horse

Profile: Travis Davison

Trumpeter Swans on Flathead Lake

Pond Hockey Tournament

2014_Best_of_12

Crosstown

Hope for Noah

All Saints' Episcopal Church Annual Chili Open and Golf Tournament

My friend Jake Bramante has not only hiked all 734 miles of trail in Glacier National Park, he created a map and hiking guide based on his personal experience. This guy is fantastic. If you are day dreaming of a trip to Montana to see the famous park check out www.hike734.com

New Map of Day Hikes from Jake Bramante and Hike 734

Zachary Klundt in Court

Wrestling: Glacier vs Helena High

Little Guy Wrestling

This photo is a sunrise over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. I like this first version. But I keep getting out voted. Most people like the second version. Including USA Today. Montana was voted the state with the most pride and they used on of my photos to illustrate the story. 🙂

http://archive.courier-journal.com/usatoday/article/8140879

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Stocking the pond at Dry Bridge Park

Hiking the Highline

Lunch at Logan Pass

Easter at Fresh Life Church. Followed by Pastor Levi Lusko preaching.

Fresh Life Easter

Fresh Life Easter

Swing dancing is one of the great loves of my life. This is my instructor Peter Flahiff, dancing with my friend Miss Caitlin Hills.Dancing the night away

 

Drop Everything and Move at Hedges

Montana SunsetSunset view of Big Mountain

Montana Spartan Sprint Race 2014Florence Nightingale's Birthday

 

This Week in the Flathead: Bibler Gardens

Just another day of driving down the road in Montana…

Bear in Glacier

Memorial Day Ceremony in Columbia Falls

Sunset StrollMontana High School Rodeo State Finals

 

Montana High School Rodeo State Finals

Harlow

Not all the stories are fun. There was a fire at a local mill. In the initial reports 60 people were unaccounted for. This is the group of guys who got in my face and tried to physically intimidate me in an attempt to keep me from taking photographs. I understand the high emotions of the day, but I have a job to do, even when some people don’t like me doing my job.

Fire at Plum Creek

 

 

Mary Lloyd Retires

Father's Day

Montana Life: The Lens Hub

This Week in the Flathead: Swing Dancing Style

This Week in the Flathead: Swing Dancing Style

Deer at Dawn

Deer at Dawn

Sunrise Meadow

Driving up to North Glacier

Every year, when Going-to-the-Sun Road is finally plowed and opened to the public, the first vehicle in is one of the famed red buses. Rhonda Hendricks, always wanted to be on one of those first buses. This year, with months to live, Hendricks got her wish. Here is the caption:

Rhonda Hendricks takes in the view of the Logan Pass Visitor Center from the famous red bus that carried her and her family up Going-to-the-Sun Road, officially opening the road for the season, on Tuesday, July 2, in Glacier National Park. Hendricks’ family managed to keep the surprise bus tour a secret until the day of. Doug Hendricks, her husband commented that is was wonderful to see her so grateful that she became tearful. The ride was a highly emotional one. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Opening the Road

Fourth of July Golf Tournament

Moonset

Photographing fly fishing is kind always special to me. I loved the book A River Runs Through It, and although this isn’t that river, there is just something about fly fishing in Montana. Later this year, I got to go on float trip/fly fishing expedition. I caught my first fish! It was spectacular. Cold. But worth it.

Montana Life: Cork Coffee Mug

2014_Best_of_54

National Dance Day

Double Rainbow over Flathead Lake

The home coming of pilot of No. 6  Major Jason Curtis, a graduate of Flathead High School, and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds was one of the biggest stories of the year. The Tunderbirds performed for two days at the air show which was attended by 25,000 people.

Major Jason Curtis returns to Flathead High School

Thunderbirds Practice

Mountain Madness Air ShowMountain Madness Air Show

Mountain Madness Air Show

North End Swing's annual Smooth Sailing event

Acknowledging Veterans of the Korean War

Cabo Survivor Returns to Montana

Glacier Starscape

2nda Annual Pink Me Up Run

Creston Sunrise

Fire Prevention Week

Black Swan Cygnets

Fall Football Fun

Profile: Halladay Quist

Veteran Profile: James Edmiston

Veterans Day at Whitefish High School

Glacier vs C.M. Russell: State Championships

Glacier vs C.M. Russell: State Championships

 

 

Profile: Micah Groschupf

Hockaday figurines at the KM Building

Montana Life: Freeman Leather

Montana Life: Freeman Leather

This final portrait is of my favorite story of the year. Mr. Wayne Bolton is a former Untied States Marine who survived the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. I got to tell his story in both words and images. https://brendaahearn.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/remembering-chosin/

Remembering Chosin