— From Art and Fear.
There in a great and terrible power in the negative voice.
There in a great and terrible power in the negative voice.
This is my favorite photo of the sunset last night at City Beach, Whitefish, Montana.
But the night didn’t start off looking like this. It started off with some great clouds and good light, but the very tip of the mountain was shaded. This is what it started off as…
This first photo of the night isn’t ‘bad.’ But it isn’t anything I would normally post. I am only adding this to show the difference that 18 minutes can make.
Photography is a waiting game. You see the light, you see the clouds, you go. You find your location and you wait. In the wind, and the cold, you sit on some rock and wait and hope. You hope that as the sun continues to drop eventually it is going to strike the top of Big Mountain. And the clouds will light up with color. And you know that if you’ll just wait you will have a chance at getting so incredibly lucky, or you’ll get nothing but colder.
Here are the in between photos. Enjoy.
This post is really going to only apply to people who have some connection to the Flathead Valley. I need help with a project and I’m getting desperate. So I have decided create this Big Mountain Location Challenge. The winner will get a complimentary 16×20 print of either the photo they made possible, or any of my other photographs that they wish.
Here’s the back story:
It’s hard to believe this started at least two years ago. I have a friend who loves my photography. He has consistently purchased aluminum prints to decorate his house and I’m honored. As friendship has grown and changed over the years he’s gone from picking photos that I’ve taken to hang on his wall, to giving me assignments. I’m basically making custom artwork for him. He’s from Montana, so when he told me has this mental image of the Swan range at sunset, he’s not really talking about the view he saw from his living room window growing up, he’s talking about a lifetime of seeing and loving those mountains. And so I get to go out, drive around, scout for locations and then wait until the weather is perfect to go and try to capture his vision. It’s hard enough to be working on my own artistic vision of a scene, but add to that the challenge of taking a modern photograph that somehow captures a lifetime of memories and associations…it’s not easy. But it is worthwhile.
In my personal photography work the only person I am shooting for, and the only person I have to please, is me. If others like what I create, great. If not, oh well. Trying to capture someone’s predetermined mental image is vastly different than shooting for myself. But like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”
After many attempts I got the Swan Range photo. The challenge I am currently working on is Big Mountain with the ski lights on. I shot this a bit last year, but none of those were quite what was wanted. This week I went to dinner with this guy and his family and I got the not so subtle hint that the lights on the mountain are on again on Saturdays and Sundays (what we was actually saying is: “Get back to work”). Skiing with the lights on is significant to him because of the memories it provokes of time with his wife and kids and maybe even times from when he was a kid skiing under those lamps. The weight of the nostalgia connected to this mental image of his, is only adding to challenge for me.
I went out for sunrise this morning, because it turns out the lights are on for dawn as well. Yeah, more changes for me. But I am still not finding the ideal location.
So, if anyone reading this has a suggestion for the perfect location from which to photograph the ski lights and Big Mountain please message me via Facebook. I will need to scout the location in the day time and then randomly show up there when the light is right. If you have a friend or family with property on the lake, or a vast field that looks across to the mountain, or whatever, I want to see it. If your location creates the photograph that finally gets the approval of my most persnickety friend, then I will give you a 16×20 photograph of either the photo you made possible, or any of my other photographs that you may prefer. Please message me if you are interested in submitting a location.
The first person to submit a location gets it, so if you have more than one idea, mail them in. Two, I am NOT the person who will be deciding this. He is. And honestly, I never have a clue what this guy is going to choose.
Thank you in advance!
Welcome to a brand new year! In true procrastinator style I have waited for the end of 2015 to write up my reflections on the year. In my defense, I don’t really feel my year is over. Personally, I have always counted my birthday (April 4) as my year, so by my reckoning I still have three months left.
This is the year I turned 40. That number seems impossible. I can remember being a child. My mother had this framed saying that she had cross-stiched which read: “Life begins at 40.” I can actually remember thinking, “Forty is ancient. How could anybody live to be that old?” Only now, I don’t feel ancient. I feel like life is just beginning. I wanted 40 to be memorable, and it has certainly been that. In many ways this has been one of the best years of my life. I’m excited for 2016, but I wonder how it could ever top 2015…
Still, the best day is the next day and I am so looking forward to what’s coming. But for right now, I have to stop and give a word of thanks for all the ways I was blessed this year.
My biggest news was this: For my sixth anniversary here in Montana I created a video retrospective of some of my favorite shots from my time here. I combined this with a song I fell in love with by Mike Murray called Bury Me in Montana (if you’re interested you can find it on iTunes on his album Tumbleweed). As of today the video has been seen 130,000 times.
If you want to see it, it’s at the top of my Brenda Ahearn Photography page on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BrendaAhearnPhotography/
The other major milestone for me this year was having on of my photos published in Time magazine. It’s a bit odd, the way things hit me. I’ve been working full time for a newspaper since 2002. And I’ve been seeing my work get printed since 1996. One would think that after so much time, I would be pretty well immune to the thrill of seeing my work in print. Not so. I still get a kick out of it. I love it when I get the front page of the paper I work for. Or even one of the inside pages. All I really care about is that the printing looks good and thanks to our press guys most of the time, the prints look very good. I love it when I find the AP has picked up one of my photos and it went out nationwide or even worldwide. I’ve had photos show up in some pretty major papers. My favorite was five years ago when I got my first photo in USA Today. Ironically USA Today isn’t delivered in Montana. Go figure. Still, it was a thrill. And this this year… Wow. It started with an email: would I be interested in having one of my photos considered for publication in Time magazine. Hell YES!!!! Except, of course, I wrote something far more professional in response. And come to find out they loved the photo and wanted it. Were even willing to pay the Inter Lake fee to get it. After all, I shot the photo while on assignment for the DIL so I don’t own the rights to it. They lady at Time graciously sent me 5 copies of the magazine. It’s the October issue with Pope Frances on the front. I am so honored.
This year I photographed 14 families, 2 surprise engagements in Glacier, and 9 weddings. I got to see the Pacific ocean for the first time in too many years and I got to be a part of two of the best swing dance workshops ever followed by a trek to Seattle and some photos of the ones I love out there.
This was also one of the most epic years I’ve had medically. Three hospitalizations. I broke my left arm in April. I had surgery in June. And after photographing fire season in September I ended up in the ER with the most dangerous asthma attack of my life. But I survived. And as I look back at the fear and pain they only make grateful for this incredible life.
Now…how to organize all this? I’ve narrowed it down to my top 100 photos. And that was painful to do. But it’s still too much. So I am going to post these over the next three days. First off will be all my newspaper work. This includes my Scenics from Montana because frankly, our readers love them, and I’m lucky enough to work at a newspaper that let’s me put these kinds of pretty pictures in the paper. Then photos from the music and entertainment world. And finally, weddings and family stuff.
To everyone who shared this year with me, the good and the bad, thank you. I am so sincerely grateful.
Here you will find details on your chance to get $100 dollars off family photo sessions and the rest of the money goes directly to saving a life. (Please note: there are only 14 photo sessions available and you must contact me to confirm you are one of the 14. Details below…)
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Sometimes, my job at the Daily Inter Lake is a lot of fun. For Halloween this year, the entertainment editor asked the reporters to do stories about monsters. I don’t normally write, my job is photos. But as I thought about the section and what it would need I thought it could be a lot of fun to write about bridezilla. The story I didn’t have very clearly in my mind, but the photo…I knew exactly what I wanted. And it came together better than I could have dreamed!
The above is the shot that ran. Here is the story. And below you find more photos of the women looking like the truly beautiful creatures they are. The irony is, two of these are brides I photographed. I know, cause I was there, that they weren’t bridezilla. And the other three are good friends. None of these could ever be bridezilla. I think that’s what I loved best about this photo shoot. These girls all agreed to this when the truth is they are as far from the monster as anyone ever could be.
Beautiful Monsters: Photographer reflects on modern-day Jekyll and Hyde
Oh, Bridezilla. In all my time working as a photographer in Montana, I have never personally encountered this infamous monster. But the stories are the stuff of legend.
This is a strange creature, usually only appearing once per lifetime. TV shows have been made about her. Books and articles have been written how not to become her. Grooms everywhere shudder at the mention of her name. Bridezilla.
Like the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of weddings, as the big day gets closer, the more dangerous it becomes for everyone around her. Normally sane, rational, lovely women are taken over and transformed into the very likeness of the hideous monster! They shout, cry demand. Nothing is good enough. Nothing satisfies. No amount of perfection can sooth them.
The self-induced stress, creates angry, volatile, unpredictable and moody monsters.
Some of you scoff and doubt. But I am a believer. I photograph a lot of weddings. And thus far I have been extremely blessed with the brides I’ve gotten to to photograph (including two of the lovely ladies pictured here). But statistics don’t lie. It’s only a matter of time before I will come face to face with the creature. Maybe you will too. Bridezilla is real.
It’s a goofy story, and for me, the photo was far more important. I wanted something very specific for this image. Elegance. I contacted Kathleen Francis of Fancy Face Design because I love her work. She can create some of the most gorgeous face paintings I’ve ever seen. In reality the number of people who might be up for this kind of make-up on their wedding day is going to be minimal. I explained things to Kathleen I didn’t want her to create Halloween-type monster faces, but rather, I wanted super glamorous make-up. I wanted the only “monstrous” aspect of this photo to be the expressions on the bride’s faces.
So when the bridezilla shot was done I suddenly had 5 super glammed up girls in gorgeous dress…why wouldn’t we take more portraits? The rest of the photos from the night are below. The only disappointment of the night was how fast the light faded. We had an overcast sky and it got dark rapidly.
I’ve been a photographer for 20 years and I can’t even guess how many brides I’ve photographed in that time. I have to say, honestly, this was one of the most fun photo shoots I’ve ever done.