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)

The Charm Campaign

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

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

It doesn’t take spending a whole lot of time with me to realize that I consider those who serve in the military, in law enforcement, or as firefighters, heroes. They are the good guys (and girls) and they have my respect and admiration. In a way, they all remind me of my greatest hero, my father, Sgt. Michael James Ahearn, USMC.

In my career as a newspaper photographer I have been both blessed and cursed in my dealings with these groups. The blessing is that I get to work with them, get to know them, get to do my small part to show them in their daily lives serving their communities and not getting as much credit as I wish they did. As far as them getting credit and recognition, I get to help with that and I love it.

A Creston firefighter battles the blaze at a structure fire/grassland fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A Creston firefighter battles the blaze at a structure fire/grassland fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The curse is, military, cops and firefighters tend to have an aversion to members of the media. I don’t blame them for this. Most of them have either personally had a bad experience with biased, unethical journalists. If they haven’t lived through it for themselves, they have certainly been warned by their brothers that media people are not to be trusted. Again, I don’t blame them for this attitude, the sad fact is journalism and ethics don’t walk hand-in-hand so much these days.
Fire in Evergreen
In the six years I have lived in Montana I have slowly but surely started making friends and allies amongst the local first responders. I don’t have a lot of active duty military connections yet, so for me, cops are the hardest. For a couple of years now I’ve been doing photos and ride alongs with members of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. I will never forget how joyful I felt when the team leader for the SWAT Team told me that every member of the team was on board for me doing photos of them. They decided to trust me. And I’m honored. And, just a few weeks ago a very stern (and a little scary) Montana Highway Patrol Trooper told me he appreciated me, the work I do, and the way I do my work. He made my day.
Fire in Evergreen
My editor Scott refers to my efforts to improve relations with these groups as the “charm campaign.” The newspaper likes it because over time I have slowly started to win over some of the locals. It takes ages, but it’s so worth it.

A DNRC helicopter flies through smoke to drop water on the scene of a massive fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. Evergreen Fire and Rescue were joined by the Kalispell and Creston fire departments, the Flathead County Sheriff's Office, forest firefighters and other first responders.  (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A DNRC helicopter flies through smoke to drop water on the scene of a massive fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. Evergreen Fire and Rescue were joined by the Kalispell and Creston fire departments, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, forest firefighters and other first responders.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

As a journalist its worth every effort because I get better photos and better access. When they see me, they know who I am, they know I’m not going to get in the way or stir up trouble and so they don’t have to question me. On the days when I am really lucky I will sometimes even get tips and texts letting me know what’s going on. I recently spent a full day and four nights riding with the Kalispell Fire Department documenting a day in the life…best part? Text messages when there is a fire I should get to. Love that!

High winds contributed to the structure fire/ grassland fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

High winds contributed to the structure fire/ grassland fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Firefighters are tricky… There are rules that make photographing them difficult. If a firefighter gets his name and photo in the paper, he or she will have to buy ice cream or pizza or tacos or whatever for the whole shift. I have seen firefighters notice me taking pictures and deliberately turn and walk the other way. Do you know how frustrating that is!!! I could strangle them for this! But even the ones who don’t want to be photographed, they’ll go out of their way to help get me the access I need for photos and to keep me safe while I’m taking pictures. Sometimes they say no when I ask. In fact, that happens quite a lot. But I ask for a lot. And they never seem to resent me asking the questions. Sometimes though, they say yes, and then I get photos like these. This fire was only 6 acres, contained due to the combined efforts of at least 4 fire departments. And because I know these people, they let me in, they let me get close, they trust me and they allow me to do my job.

Fire in EvergreenBut there are other results of this so-called “campaign,” ones that have nothing to do with the newspaper. Results that are frankly far more important to me than photos. My father died when I was 25 years old. He got to see the start of my photography career, but only a little. I so desperately wish he could have seen who I grew up to be. When I think of my dad, the man he was, the Marine that he was, I know that if he was alive today he would see my work with these heroes and he would be proud of me.

My parents are the measuring stick against which I evaluate the trajectory and the fruits of my life. They are always with me, but they are silent. When one of the cops or firefighters or the military people that I know decides to trust me, even a little, I can almost hear my father’s voice. I can see his smile and hear him say “Good job.”

Fire in Evergreen

Evergreen Fire and Rescue Chief Williams looks out over the structure fire/grassland fire that filled the skies over Evergreen with smoke on Tuesday, August 4. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Evergreen Fire and Rescue Chief Williams looks out over the structure fire/grassland fire that filled the skies over Evergreen with smoke on Tuesday, August 5. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

James Boyce of Evergreen Fire and Rescue. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

James Boyce of Evergreen Fire and Rescue. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Kyle Gully of the Kalispell Fire Department. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Kyle Gully of the Kalispell Fire Department. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A firefighter battles a fire in an outbuilding south of the main structure fire on Wednesday, August 5, on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A firefighter battles a fire in an outbuilding south of the main structure fire on Wednesday, August 5, on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Smoke billows from a massive fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Smoke billows from a massive fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5.
(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Fire in Evergreen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…where no one notices the contrast in white on white…

The White CollectionIn 1994 the Counting Crows released their version of the song Round Here from their August and Everything After album. I liked it instantly, but the line that really stuck out for me was “…into the fog where no one notices the contrast in white on white.” Twenty years have past and I still think about that line sometimes. When I moved to Montana and found myself in a part of the world where winter snows are significant, I found myself thinking about that line again.

It’s an interesting challenge for a photographer. White is emptiness when you print it. It’s nothing. How does one photograph nothing? What kind of nuances can be found in the subtle color shifts in an all white scene? I didn’t find as much fog as I would have liked, but I did find my self captivated with snow scenes and frozen details. Montana didn’t have a very powerful winter this year, but while it lasted, I was always keeping my eyes open for white and all the ways it likes to disappear. The heavy winter at least is over for the year, but I know I will come back to this theme again next year. It gave me a reason to be out in the cold. And it gave me some wonderfully fun photos I would have otherwise passed by.

So…here it is the 2015 White Collection.

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

The White Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you and best wishes,
Bren

Chasing someone else’s vision

fb20150215_big_mtn_1393I have a friend. A great friend. A very particular friend. One might even say a persnickety friend.

This friend loves my photography. Sweet, right?

This friend likes to hang my photos on his wall. And I’m honored.

This friend likes to come to me with projects. It will start off simple enough. Something like…  “Ok. Here is what I want a photo of next.” I listen. And as I listen my head usually starts to hurt. There is this thing that he loves, or this view he remembers from childhood, or this place that is important to him and his family. And so I get an “assignment.” He tells me what he wants, and I go out and try to capture it.

It is incredibly difficult trying to capture someone else’s vision. I go. I see what I can see. Find what I can find. But with these assignments, I’m not looking for what interests me. I am looking to capture the elusive whatever that makes this site special to him.

It isn’t easy. Last time we did this it was a view of the Upper Swan Mountains at sunset. A view he grew up with. This assignment took me all over the Valley and lead to some photos I was really happy with. It also lead to a new photo on his wall. Finally. Now it’s a view of Big Mountain with the nighttime ski lights on.

fb20150215_big_mtn_1463I do not doubt there are more attempts at this to come. The odds that I have successfully captured something he’ll approve for a place on his wall in one attempt are virtually nil. No way I’m getting that lucky.

But while I whine about how hard these assignments are, the truth is I love them. He has good tastes for what will make a beautiful photo and anything that drags me out into the world and makes stretch those creative muscles has to be a good thing. Plus, there are usually other views, other images, other photos to capture while I am work on his project. That was definitely true on Sunday night.

So here are the first round of photos of Big Mountain and some of the other shots I found. I’ll update this post later once I have the stamp of approval or once I have a round two of images to share.

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Those are my favorites of Big Mountain. Here are some of the other views from that night.

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What a night… More to come. Cheers!

 

 

— 30 —

 

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

 

 

 

 

Another attempt at the perfect Swan Mountain Sunset

Last night as I left the office for the day, I looked up at the sky and just knew the sunset was going to be incredible. I hopped in my jeep and took off toward Bigfork, to the place where I had such wonderful views last time. But the light was fading fast and honestly I didn’t know if I could make it. So half way there I veered north toward Columbia Falls. This is what I caught….sunset and snowI am adding these photos chronologically. So you can see the way the light changes as it disappears.swan mountain rangeThese photos are part of a project I wrote about a few weeks ago. This is my attempt to capture a beloved set of mountains for a highly particular client. To read that entry click here.storm over the swan mountainsAfter a night like this it is impossible to not feel outrageously blessed. Life is good and I am happy and what could possibly be wrong with the world when there is beauty like this to take in? I know, life is never as simple as that, but in those moments standing alone in a snow covered field, watching the light strike the peaks and bounce up into the low hanging clouds above, my life was perfect.Swan Peak with cloudsI didn’t get to show these to my friend yet. He’ll see them today I hope and maybe, just maybe, one of these shots will be the one that finally wins a space on his wall.Swan Mountain sunsetWhether these win his final approval or not, I had an incredible night. Nights like that, sights like these, remind me how good life really is, and how blessed am I.
Love and best wishes to you all, BrenSwan with Clouds
Favorite of the Swan?
storm clouds over the Swan Mountains
Vertical of the Swan
Cloudy Swan Mountains
Last light on the Swan Mountains
Last light on the Swan Mountains

The Most Challenging Assignment Ever

Swan Mountain SunsetFor a month or so I have been looking at the mountains to the east and scouting for locations from which to photograph them.

I’ve been in love with these mountains since I moved here and realized exactly how close I was going to be living to them. But this recent push to get the perfect view has less to do with my love of the mountains and more to do with a request from a friend.
Swan Mountain SunsetOne of my friends grew up in Kalispell. He grew up looking out his parents front window at those mountains at sunset. And he would like me to capture a very specific view of the Swan Mountains. Now, there are several parameters for this photo. It has to be shot in the winter. It has to be shot at sunset. It has to show the bright pink Alpenglow that he loves.
Brenda Ahearn PhotographyThe way the eye sees and the way the camera sees are two completely different things. I’ve looked at the peaks from his old road. It’s a terrible view for a photograph. Houses, telephone poles, electric wires, and clutter that the eye can ignore and the camera cannot.

One of the first things you have to learn in photography is to see through the lens. The eyes and the brain can tune into a specific subject, mentally fading out all other distractions. The eye see things emotionally, seeing what it wants to see. The camera, however, is perfectly objective. It will record whatever you put in front of it, all of what you put in front of it. So when you are learning photography you have to learn how to eliminate the distractions. It is up to you to compose the shot and remove lamp posts and cars, and anything that takes away from the subject you are trying to capture.
Swan Mountain SunsetThe great thing about the mountains is, you can see them from all over the Flathead Valley. The bad thing is, everyone wants that view. So, there are houses, and fences, and roads, and cars, and wires, and barns and all matter of whatnot that get in the way of the clean, pure view I am looking for. The hard part about this project isn’t the mountains, it’s finding the perfect location.
Flathead Valley SunsetOn Saturday, I had a spectacular night. The peaks were brightly lit in the last rays of sunset and I just so happened to be in Bigfork. As soon as I saw what was happening, I knew I was going to get some great shots. Maybe even the shot for my friend.
Sunset Peaks of the Swan MountainsThis night was nearly perfect. The sky was filled above the peaks with dramatic clouds, that captured the light without obscuring the mountain tops. We had fresh snow and the peaks were positively vibrant. They glowed. In that light, the peaks were simply gorgeous. As I drove, looking for a place to stop and shoot I started wondering if my friend was seeing the peaks. A minute later I got his text: “The mountains are going to be awesome tonight” with the word tonight highlighted. I had to laugh at his timing.
Alpenglow on the Swan MountainsAs I said, the night was nearly perfect. I have to say nearly, because I don’t think these shots will be the ones he wants. He really wants the mountains alight with Alpenglow. But I am hoping one of these views ends up being the one he wants. At least then I will know exactly where to go when the right night finally comes.

I’ve got several snowy sunsets still to come for this winter, so I’m not worried yet. But I am determined. I have never tried to capture someone else’s vision before. I go. I find. I see. I fall in love with what I am seeing. And I record it. That’s how my scenic photo shoots usually go. Trying to record what someone else wants, a specific commission tied to what one person has seen and loved his entire life, has been one of the most challenging assignments I’ve ever taken on.