Marines in their blues

For me, few things are as inspiring as seeing United States Marines in their dress blues. They look sharp. And strong. And good. All the qualities that remind me of my father (Sgt. Michael James Ahearn, USMC, Vietnam War Veteran).  I have a deep appreciation for all who have served in the Armed Forces, but I will admit, I have a particular bias is for the Marines.

This week the Daily Inter Lake sent me out to document the festivities on the Fourth. Highlight of the day: seeing the local Flathead Marines looking good and stepping sharply down main street in the annual Fourth of July parade in Kalispell.

Semper Fi Marines! Well done.

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parade kalipsell

KPD Kalispell police Marines

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Other scenes from the day…

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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

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.

Too Close to the Story

Bishop Maxim blesses the new temple in a service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell. More than 100 clergy, members and guests were at the historic service where the Rev. Daniel Kirk was ordained to be the priest for Saint HermanÕs and became the first Orthodox priest to be ordained the in the state of Montana.  (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Bishop Maxim blesses the new temple in a service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell. More than 100 clergy, members and guests were at the historic service where the Rev. Daniel Kirk was ordained to be the priest for Saint HermanÕs and became the first Orthodox priest to be ordained the in the state of Montana.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

I love my work. A few weeks ago I got to attend the first Orthodox ordination in the state of Montana. If you are not familiar with Orthodoxy, it is complex, ornate, exquisite, formal. It’s beautiful. It makes the traditionalist in me very happy, even if does run a bit on the long side.

Mostly my work is just images. I have to gather enough information to write up the photo captions, but the reporting of stories, isn’t my job. And I like it this way. But sometimes, it just seems to make sense that I write the story as well as photograph it. This ordination became one of these cases. It was a two hour ceremony on a Sunday (both photographers at our newspaper have Sundays off and as many reporters as can have off, take the day, so we have a bit of a skeleton crew on Sundays. I had to go because I wanted to photograph it. But reporters can do a lot of their job over the phone or after the fact. Photographers must be there.

When I got back to the office and started going through all the images, I realized there was so much information, not just visually, but with all the traditions, the decorations, the cultures. I felt as though I had to tell this, because I was the only member of the Inter Lake who saw it. I made it my project, my responsibility.

And…I got too close to the story.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

My editor gave me an 800 word limit. This is a lot. The last story I did, I was granted 300 words. Yikes. How do you explain the entire Orthodox experience in 800 words? It can’t be done. At least, that is what I convinced myself of.

When you get too close to the story, you loose perspective. It’s like looking at one of those painting that uses the pointillism technique. From a distance you get the whole picture, up close, it’s all just a bunch of chaos and individual specs. I got too close. I got so wrapped up in the details that I didn’t actually find the story until the very end. My word count, just under 2,600. Five pages. WAY too long to print in a newspaper.

So, not one, but two editors worked their magic and created a much shorter version of this story. As soon as I have the link I’ll share it here:

But even though it’s too long and I am too close, there is something about the longer version that I still like. I’m still proud of this. Still glad I got to explore both the written and visual side of this experience. Since this version will never be printed, I figured it is just about perfect for a blog.

I hope you enjoy it. And forgive me…it’s very long.

A detail of one of the icons in the newly constructed iconostasis. This large wooden screen was built by Joshua Hicks of Polson and incorporates some distinctively American features. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A detail of one of the icons in the newly constructed iconostasis. This large wooden screen was built by Joshua Hicks of Polson and incorporates some distinctively American features.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Orthodox Ordination
Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake

Daniel Kirk, 29,is a seventh-generation Montanan, raised on a ranch near Cardwell, Montana and homeschooled. He is also the first Eastern Orthodox priest to be ordained in the state of Montana.

Kirk got his start with Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Butte.

“Holy Trinity is an old parish, 113 years old. When I considered the priesthood I never thought about being a first on any level,” Kirk said. “Priests have come and served in Montana, but none of them have been ordained here. For me, this is a unique blessing.”

“When I began to feel I might have a call to the priesthood there was a natural draw for me to return home and serve here,” Kirk said. “In Orthodoxy I felt I had found my spiritual home and I wanted to bring that to Montana, but honestly I never thought it would happen. In the old world it is common that one of your neighbors would receive the call and become the local pastor. In American, we don’t seem to have that because we are such a transient society. Added to that, there is the size of the diocese. Our diocese, which has its cathedral in Los Angeles covers the state of Alaska, from the northern border of the continental United States down to the southern border of Mexico and from Colorado all the way over to Hawaii, is geographically one of the largest in the world, and yet there are only 40 parishes. So you go where there is a need, and for Anne and I, there was a need here.”

Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Orthodox diocese of Western America is greeting by the crowd gathered outside Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19, for the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk, the first priest to serve at Saint Herman and the first Orthodox priest to be ordained in the state of Montana. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Orthodox diocese of Western America is greeting by the crowd gathered outside Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19, for the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk, the first priest to serve at Saint Herman and the first Orthodox priest to be ordained in the state of Montana.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

In the beginning

Tikhon Hanlon, a founding member of Kalispell’s parish, moved to Kalispell in 2010.

According to Hanlon, it all began with two families. The Cook family in Eureka had been in touch with Father Russell in Butte. Hanlon said he also got in touch with Russell, asking if there were any Orthodox parishes in the area.

There were not, and so a group of five people began gathering weekly for reader services. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, a reader service is conducted when no priest is available. It is an abbreviated version of Sunday service that consists of liturgical reading, reading of the Psalms, and choir and worship songs.

In the summer of 2011, Father Russell traveled to Kalispell to lead four nights of introduction to Orthodoxy classes in the basement of Colter Coffee. Attendance varied, but following the class the number of faithful gathering weekly grew to 7 or 8, and it has continued to grow slowly but steadily since. The parish currently has 60-65 regular members.

“We didn’t have the Eucharist, the part of a Christian ceremony commemorating the Last Supper; we really didn’t know what we were doing,” Hanlon said.

The process of becoming an officially recognized Eastern Orthodox parish is complex. The founding members didn’t select a name until they reached the first stage in the life of a church, which is to become an officially recognized satellite church, in this case, a satellite of Butte’s Holy Trinity.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

“When a parish is founded in the Orthodox Church it requires the effort of everyone; the entire diocese is involved,” Kirk said. “One diocese is considered a ‘local church.’ So when we say this has involved the whole local church, that means the Bishop, the clergy, and all the faithful praying and contributing. It takes a whole diocese for one new parish to begin.”

A satellite parish isn’t on the books of the diocese. Rather it is acknowledged as dependent on another church. When the Kalispell group reached this stage, it took on the name Saint Herman Orthodox Church.

According to Hanlon, the founders here always had an affinity for St. Herman of Alaska. He is called one of the “Enlighteners of America.” St. Herman came from Russia in the early 19th century. He and a group of Russian Orthodox monks traveled from Finland across Russia and the Bering Strait to Alaska, which was at the time a colony of imperial Russia. St. Herman is seen as an apostle to the American people. As a result of his missionary work, there are even today a large number of Native Americans in Alaska who practice Orthodoxy.

“In this parish we are primarily converts and we feel his vision and intercession for us,” Kirk said.

The Re. Daniel Kirk before receiving his ordination and vestments on Sunday, July 19, at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Re. Daniel Kirk before receiving his ordination and vestments on Sunday, July 19, at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Kirk’s connection to the St. Herman community began in the summer of 2011. He was attending seminary at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania and returning to serve in Montana during the summers. As he progressed through training, he became connected with St. Herman through Holy Trinity.

In 2014, Bishop Maxim traveled to Butte to celebrate the Pentecost feast in May. A group of delegates from St. Herman’s traveled to Butte at the same time to present a letter of petition to formally establish St. Herman as a mission parish within the diocese.

A mission parish is the intermediate stage in the life of a church, when the diocese recognizes the church as a fledgling parish. The group is given time and support to procure a building and begin full services. St. Herman was approved that day.

A mission parish gets seven years to procure a building, gather finances to afford the salary for a priest, and then secure a full-time priest. St. Herman accomplished all these steps in one year.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

“It’s so surprising,” Hanlon said. “From the beginning it’s all been a surprise that people come to our home, would show up on a regular basis, that we would grow the way we have. I always believed it would take a decade to get a parish and a priest here in Kalispell.”

“That’s common,” Kirk agreed. “It can take a lot of time to get used to the name and concept, to have a group of believers grow into a parish in a place as diverse as this. The way things have progressed so quickly here is rare.”

In 2014, Kirk was ordained as a deacon and assigned to Holy Trinity. As an assistant to Father Russell he was able to come to Kalispell and get to know the parish from its start as a satellite parish.

“I felt drawn here,” Kirk said. “I grew to love and appreciate the dedicated people here.”

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

During Lent of this year, St. Herman saw its biggest growth spurt. A representative of Bishop Maxim visited St. Herman’s. Father Predrag, a diocesan dean, came just before “Pascha,” the feast of the resurrection of the Lord, celebrated on April 12 according to the Orthodox calendar. Father Predrag reported back that St. Herman was ready to take the next step and have a priest of its own. At the same time, he informed the bishop of the special relationship that had developed between the Kirk family and the people of St. Herman.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

“We had been hoping it would work out exactly like this,” Tikhon said. “You don’t want to presume. You don’t want to invest too much into what you are hoping will happen because you don’t want to be disappointed.”

Yet all admit that while they were hoping and praying for God to move and work his plan according to His will, it seemed impossible that Kirk’s path to becoming a priest and St. Herman’s path to becoming a parish could ever be brought into perfect alignment.

“That is part of the unique blessing of all this,” Kirk said. “We couldn’t do this. We couldn’t make this happen. Only God could have brought things together in such a way. There are so many ways things can go wrong. We felt God’s providence and St. Herman’s intercession for countless details that needed to fall precisely into place.”

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Within days of receiving Father Predrag’s report, Bishop Maxim approved his recommendation. St. Herman’s congregation was ecstatic. And then the reality of the time crunch set in; Bishop Maxim gave them until mid-July to have everything in order for Kirk’s ordination and for the blessing of the new temple.

Work began in May. The church owned a building that was being rented by another church, but the Orthodox style is so specific that the entire building had to be gutted, renovated and redone. Stadium-style seating that was bolted to the floor and a baptismal fount had to be completely removed. New floors, carpets, paint, and a ceiling were all needed. The main feature is a new iconostasis.

A photograph from behind the iconostasis by acolyte of the church Walter Keathley. Keathley, who is not a member of clergy, received a special blessing to go behind the iconostasis and capture this photograph. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A photograph from behind the iconostasis by acolyte of the church Walter Keathley. Keathley, who is not a member of clergy, received a special blessing to go behind the iconostasis and capture this photograph.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

St. Herman’s iconostasis dominates the interior of the temple. The iconostasis is a wooden screen featuring multiple icons, separating where the congregation stands from the alter. Only priests and deacons or those who have been given a special blessing may pass through the screen.

Joshua Hicks, of Polson, built the iconostasis at St. Herman. Hicks converted to the Orthodox Christian faith last year. He also built the iconostasis for St. Anthony Orthodox Church in Bozeman.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Having Hicks build this for St. Herman is yet another of the unique blessings Father Daniel sees in the story of this church.

“An iconostasis is so unfamiliar in this country. Often churches will have no choice but to order them from overseas,” Kirk said.

Having a local craftsman do the work gave the parish the opportunity to incorporate some American elements into their screen, like a carved pineapple, a symbol of hospitality and welcome.

This American touch is particularly significant to Kirk.

“As Orthodoxy expanded and evangelized it became part of the local communities and cultures,” Kirk said. “The parish works to engage the local community, to reach out and transform. Yet as it reaches out, it is also transformed by the specific people who convert.”

The center of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church is still located in Istanbul, but there are 14 independent Orthodox churches — including Serbian, like St. Herman — Russian, Greek and others, in the United States.

“Istanbul is considered the first among equals,” Kirk said. “What we hope to see, as the church in America grows, is the same kind of transformation in these American parishes that was seen in the past. What we hope to have someday is an American Orthodox.”

“Today it is not uncommon for an Orthodox priest in the United States to be asked if he is Muslim. Often when a priest speaks of being Orthodox, the first question is to inquire if he is an Orthodox Jew,” Kirk said. “Our hope is that Orthodox Christianity will become a serious contributor to the shape of American culture, and to be recognizable as fundamentally connected to America in terms of its symbols, customs and appearance.”

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Renovations to St. Herman were complete on July 17. Bishop Maxim arrived on July 18 and Father Daniel Kirk was ordained in a Sunday morning service on July 19.

On July 18, Bishop Maxim presided over a vespers service, followed by a meet and greet with the congregation over local craft beers from the Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Bishop Maxim also gifted St. Herman with an 800-year-old relic. A relic can be the earthly remains of a saint, such as bones, or even the clothing or vestments. Bishop Maxim gave St. Herman a relic of a great Serbian monastic saint, St. Peter of Korisha.

“In the church, both time and space are mingled together in the body of Christ to become united,” Kirk explained. “This gift is a manifestation of the conviction that Christ is in the 800-year-old relic, and Christ is in the modern church in America. We are one.”

On July 19, St. Herman Orthodox Church celebrated its first divine liturgy, which is another name for a regular service requiring a priest.

A censor disperses incense into the air during a service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell. "Incense is a physical offering. It represents the prayers of all the faithful," said the Rev. Daniel Kirk. "It comes from Psalm 141: 'Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.'" (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A censor disperses incense into the air during a service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell. “Incense is a physical offering. It represents the prayers of all the faithful,” said the Rev. Daniel Kirk. “It comes from Psalm 141: ‘Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.'”
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

“The service was beautiful — stunning,” Hanlon said. “Having that many clergy is always an incredible sight because of their vestments and the way they move and interact with one another.”

“Overwhelming is the best word for it. It felt unreal to have the Bishop visiting, to have that many people attending in our new beautiful space. It was invigorating. I felt like we were a thriving church.”

That day, in addition to the service, worship, blessing and consecration of the temple, the clergy and parishioners gathered for the ordination of Father Daniel.

“Our little community has stuck together really nicely all this way, and that has been difficult without a priest,” Hanlon said. “We needed this. We were moving forward, growing, but being without a priest was becoming harder and harder. So it was deeply satisfying to see our ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ pay off so magnificently.”

“It isn’t very often you get everything that you almost didn’t dare to hope for.”

The Rev. Daniel Kirk looks out over the parish during the blessing of the temple on Sunday, July 19, at Saint Herman Orthodox Church. Kirk was ordained later that day. "I was also filled with such joy at the sight of each one of these faces that I have come to know and love," recalls Kirk. "It felt like a little piece of Heaven." (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Rev. Daniel Kirk looks out over the parish during the blessing of the temple on Sunday, July 19, at Saint Herman Orthodox Church. Kirk was ordained later that day. “I was also filled with such joy at the sight of each one of these faces that I have come to know and love,” recalls Kirk. “It felt like a little piece of Heaven.”
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

For Father Daniel, the beauty of the day came with both a deep sense of blessing and satisfaction, but also with the weight of responsibility.

“The flow of events could not have worked better in so many ways. When the bishop comes there is always a heightened level of intensity. And with so many visiting clergy members, that added to the day as well. We had visiting Greek, Ukranian, Serbian Orthodox with us and yet there was so much grace present that we really did kind of breathe together. What I mean is there was no stumbling over the individual traditions, we all came together in such unity.”

“When I looked out over the service, seeing the faithful gathered together, I felt fear and overwhelming love,” Kirk added. “The enormity of my responsibility all came rushing in. These people have waited so long, worked so hard to build this parish, to reach this point. And now I am here to serve them.”

He pauses for a moment looking for the words. “I was also filled with such joy at the sight of each one of these faces that I have come to know and love. It felt like a little piece of Heaven.”

The Rev. Daniel Kirk receives his vestments, the robe worn by clergy, on Sunday, July 19. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Rev. Daniel Kirk receives his vestments, the robe worn by clergy, on Sunday, July 19.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

What lies ahead

Officially the next step will come when St. Herman is able to give funding and support back to the diocese. At that point they will be elevated to full parish status. But that is the far distant aspiration.

“Our biggest goal is to become a member of this community in Kalispell,” Kirk said. “To open the doors to anyone who is hungry and seeking after Christ. It’s a big responsibility for all of us. It means taking our faith seriously in every aspect of our lives.”

All services at St. Herman are open to the public. There are Great Vespers at 6 p.m. on Saturday evenings, which include a time of prayer and worship music. Sunday morning service begins at 10 a.m. and is generally about two hours long. The church is also holding Wednesday evening vespers at 6:30 p.m., followed by a weekly class on Orthodoxy.

For more information, visit www.sainthermanoc.org.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Bishop Maxim, head of theÊSerbian Orthodox diocese of Western America, one of the geographically largest diocese in America, takes part in the blessing of the new temple of Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19.

Bishop Maxim, head of theÊSerbian Orthodox diocese of Western America, one of the geographically largest diocese in America, takes part in the blessing of the new temple of Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19.

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Detail of service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell, on Sunday, July 19. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Detail of service at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell, on Sunday, July 19.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

In the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk the bishop ordains by the 'laying on of hands' a practice from the New Testament. In this a priest is set apart for the celebration of the mysteries of the church. Only an ordained priest can consecrate the elements used in communion. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

In the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk the bishop ordains by the ‘laying on of hands’ a practice from the New Testament. In this a priest is set apart for the celebration of the mysteries of the church. Only an ordained priest can consecrate the elements used in communion.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Rev. Daniel Kirk take part in offering communion and blessings for the members of Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Rev. Daniel Kirk take part in offering communion and blessings for the members of Saint Herman Orthodox Church on Sunday, July 19, in Kalispell.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: www.sainthermanoc.org (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Images from the blessing of the temple and the ordination of the Rev. Daniel Kirk at Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Kalispell on Sunday, July 19. For more information on the church visit: http://www.sainthermanoc.org
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Photos that Linger

Back to school has arrived and with it, the calls for senior portraits.

I love these. When someone opens up, gives you their trust, shows you something authentic…then you can have a lot of fun and make some photos that matter, photos that linger in the memory.

I recently did a senior portrait session that I have no doubt will be one I remember for the rest of my life. I laughed and laughed and had so much fun. And I took a photo that makes me smile every time I think of it.

Here it is: Zach and Ross running away wearing nothing but their boots and cowboy hats.
fbzach_and_ross5476One of the reasons I love this photo is the story I see in it. For me, it’s the dog that makes this photo. They look so guilty. Like they’ve been up to no good and the farmer has set his dog after them. In reality, that is Zach’s dog, and would never hurt them.

If you have studied photography at all you have doubtless come across the expression the “decisive moment.” It is a phrase coined by famed photographer HCB (Henri Cartier-Bresson who died in 2004). The decisive moment is the goal of every photographer. The one single image that captures the complete story. It needs no cutline, no caption, no quotes. It is whole unto itself and even if you know nothing about the situation, you see the image and simply understand.

My photography mentor (and one of my best friends to this day), Tim Webb, was the first person to introduce me to the decisive moment. Tim’s view was informed, not just through photographs from HCB and others, but through art and even comics.
rockwellThere are two examples that spring to mind from Tim’s office. On one wall of his office he had a poster of the painting of a newsroom by Norman Rockwell. There is so much going on in the picture. I always liked the smile on the face of the girl doing the typing. This says community newspaper. Or rather, it is the idealized version of it. And to this day, when I think of a newsroom, this image comes to mind (in spite of the many technological advances). The things is, even if you have never been in a newsroom, you can still catch the gist of what is going on here. It stands alone and needs no words to define it. Tim also liked The Far Side comics and I remember a coffee mug that had a favored spot on his desk. It never failed to make me smile. This is perfect. No words, no thought boxes, no special effects. The only word is Missile and even that doesn’t really need to be there. These images capture a complete story. farside_missileThat is how I feel about this photo of Zach and Ross. It’s complete. It doesn’t need a title or caption.
fbSanders_Van_Luven4638bWhen I look back at this session it still amazes me how much difference there is between photographing one teenager and two. One person can get very stiff, very rapidly. They are the sole subject, the only “target” and the pressure that results can make a person uneasy. As soon as you add a second person, the whole environment changes.

fbSanders_Van_Luven4396This is even more true than I would have expected with teen guys. It turns out that what you can talk one of them into is highly limited, what you can talk two of them into is completely unpredictable. These guys have been friends since they were small and Zach’s mom had a memory of a photo of the boys when they were babies, boots and hats and not a whole lot else. She really wanted to “update” that image. I remember thinking, never gonna happen.

The Moms share a laugh during the senior session.

The Moms share a laugh during the senior session.

These are teen boys. They are not going to go streaking across an open field with a professional female photographer no matter how much you offer to bribe them. Turns out, I was wrong. For $75 a piece the boys agreed and the image was made. I was almost laughing too hard to make the photo. I am so glad this one turned out. I am happy with the photos from the day and have heard that they are too. But for me, I will always come back to this one story telling image and smile. I’ve been a professional photographer now for 14 years.  I have done a lot of work that I am proud of, but among the stacks and stacks and endless stacks of images I’ve made only a few really stay with me. Those precious few, the ones that linger, they are part of what makes being photographer worthwhile. I still smile when I think of image, and hope you will as well.

I’m going to end this a few of the other shots from this session. I will always be grateful for the people photography brings into my life. People, and smiles.
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12:44 a.m. text messages are awesome!

fb_aurora_borealis3158 It’s 12:44 a.m. It has been an outrageously long day. The dancers are in town for the workshop. There are three more days of classes and dances to be prepared for. Life is outrageously good, but overwhelmingly busy. Then your phone starts beeping. This isn’t my normal alarm clock beep, and not the beep of a call coming in. It’s my work phone. And it is the loudest, most obnoxious sound I can find because this is where I get my text messages from dispatch alerting me to fires and car wrecks and all the other things I have to cover at the drop of a hat. I groan. Make myself get out of bed to get the phone. I keep my phone just out of reach because if I can stay in bed and “accidentally” turn it off,  I may not get out of bed at all. But the message isn’t from dispatch, it’s from a friend who works for the Sheriff’s Department. “Northern lights are over big mountain!” … Ok. … Go!

I have never seen the Northern Lights. I remember hearing of them when I was child, seeing videos of the dance across the sky and dreaming that some day I would get the chance to visit Alaska or Norway or wherever, so I could see them for myself. As it happens, Kalispell, Montana at 48 degrees North is north enough to see the Aurora Borealis. Still, I’ve been here three and half years with no sign of them. So when that text came in, suddenly it doesn’t matter that I am sleep deprived, or that the next few days are going to be exhausting. All that matters is I need to be outside, with my camera, RIGHT NOW!

I grabbed my clothes, boots, camera, and keys and was out the door in minutes.

fb_aurora_borealis3161Wow. What a sight. From my back porch (which is near downtown) it was hard to discern the difference between the Northern Lights and the light pollution. Where to go? Answer: call the friend who sent the text. He sent me south of town toward Highway 40. I actually got on JP Road and this was where I got my first clear view and fell instantly in love.

As I said, I had never seen the lights, I had no idea how long they would last. That uncertainty led to some moments of silliness on my part. I was speeding and scrambling and not really thinking about compositions early on. Luckily there is a bridge on JP Road and as I crossed that I suddenly knew exactly what was needed — water. If the sky is gorgeous, find water to reflect the sky and voila! twice as much sky. This is an ancient photography rule. One I know well. It wasn’t until after I crossed the bridge that I figured that one out. But finding that bridge actually set the tone for the night.

fb_aurora_borealis3173After JP Road, I went to Whitefish State Park. I have to admit I felt a little guilty about this one. To get to the beach, at 1:30 in the morning, you have drive through the camp ground. People are sleeping. People are missing the Northern Lights, but I’m not their alarm clock. Maybe they don’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night the noise of my Jeep engine and me stumbling around in the dark looking for the beach. Note to self: even the places I have visited before become uncertain and difficult to navigate in the pitch black dark of night.

As my friend had been able to see the lights from Bigfork (about 50 minutes south) I started wondering if I might be too close. That decision set the tone for the rest of the night. I was out until 4 a.m. basically working my way south to Kalispell and east.

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fb_aurora_borealis3209My favorite photo of the night is the next one… Actually, this is one of my favorite moments in my life. And it came at 4 in the morning. The sky began to pulse. I can’t think of a better word for it. It was as if the energy behind the lights was sending out waves or blasts that quietly electrified the sky and caused the Northern Lights to really dance. I have no words for this. I can’t really explain what I saw, or what I felt. It was a moment of a lifetime for me and one I shall never forget. There was, standing beside the retaining wall on the bridge on Highway 35 that crosses the Flathead River. This is NOT a safe place to stand. Especially at 4 a.m. when all is dark and the drunks are out. But this was the view I wanted and this was where the show became it’s most spectacular.

fb_aurora_borealis3219In most cases, photography is inferior to human vision. The eye can discern more than 200 shades of gray. Cameras aren’t that lucky. In slide film there are five f-stops between black and color. On negative film there are nine. Digital I’m told runs between 11 and 13. But there is something a camera can do that the eye can’t. It can collect cumulative light. Long exposures. All of these images were shot with a tripod, something I seldom do. The exposures ran from 30 seconds up to one minute. By letting the light play over longer periods it’s effects are made more visible. The Lights were incredible to see. Nothing like them in my life. The Lights on film are even more dramatic, even if they don’t convey quite the same level of power as the pulsing sky.

fb_aurora_borealis3222It wasn’t the rising moon that put a halt to the show. It was the dawn. This was the first time I can ever remember wishing dawn would hold off, wait… Of course, it didn’t. The sun continued to climb and slowly the white light of new day began to wash out the other worldly green.

fb_aurora_borealis3240I have now seen the Northern Lights. Seen, and instantly loved. Instead of being ready to cross this item off my bucket list, I’ve moved it to the top. I want to see them again. And again. And again. I want to see the sky dance.

And… I want more photographs.