Thursday, September 24, 2015

Labor Day in Glacier National Park

Chasing the Sun: Glacier National Park
Labor Day 2015

Montana's landscape holds beauty that any attempt to describe can't possibly do it justice.  The mountains are breathtaking but the prairies can be just as awe inspiring.  The way the light plays off the wide range of colors and textures captures my full attention.  Logan Pass had been closed in the days before taking this day trip.  There had been rain on the plains and snow in the mountains and the clouds still hung low.  With camera bags, water bottles, and snacks packed up, we took to the road.  We dressed for autumn but probably should have added another layer or two.  A winter coat would have been a great idea once we hit the top of the pass.  We were in and out of the car quickly, not intending to hike, so we were only a little chilled along the way.

On the road between Browning and East Glacier, I was so taken with the changing landscape and sky.  There's a bit of blue sky but the clouds are heavy yet.  This just cries out, "paint me!"  I probably will.  Our two kids (teens) were not very excited about spending the day on the road but they had their electronics along.  At this point, I'm hoping for the least complaining possible.  The bad attitudes seemed to be held off that day.  I always pack more stuff than necessary even on days like this.  I had very little leg room but it was my own fault.  I really didn't care; camera in hand, I was distracted with the landscape around us.

As we cross the bridge high above the river, this is the view to the north.  Just wow!   As I saw the train moving along the tracks, I had to try an attempt even with the vehicle in motion.  It's always a gamble with the end result.  I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out so well.  

[Happy purring kitten crawling on my lap, nibbling at my hands on the keyboard.  I think she's saying she'd rather have playtime or cuddle time.  She's doing her best to distract me.  She doesn't comprehend blog post deadlines.  Funny Lucy Lu!]

The first stop was Apgar Village on Lake McDonald.  The cloudy skies made it a challenge to capture very well.  I'm always seeking more reference photos here.  It's my favorite place in this national park.  I have more favorite views from the west side of the lake.

On our second stop inside Glacier National Park, I was noticing the lighting still wasn't ideal.  This view would be so much better with blue sky.  For an art reference photo, it will work nicely to a point.  There really isn't a strong light source.  It's pretty flat.  It give information about the parts of the composition but a light source and more defined shadows would be a huge improvement.

While taking these photos, I was looking up at the sky around us, studying the "holes" in the cloud cover.  I was trying to decide if it would be worth waiting longer to have a chance at more sunlight.  Do I wait?  Should we move on?  Will there be more sunlight for other photos up ahead?

Before moving on, I zoomed in on a these five views.  The first shows the blue of the water caused by algae.  Then I zoomed in closer for several more shots in the area.  I did alter these some to adjust them because of the overcast sky.

This is a view I am planning to paint at some point.  I've been gathering reference photos over the years.  It's such a tranquil perspective.  While here, I would guess I took at least 15 photos of this and the surrounding area.  I zoom in on specific areas to help with added details while painting.  As we were pulling away, there was a photographer waiting in the parking area.  He was patiently waiting for the sun to come through the clouds.  We joked with him that he was "getting" the sun.  I wanted to wait as well, but I knew we needed to keep moving.

This would be so much more dynamic with some blue sky, sunlight, and more distinct shadows.  But here we are, it's what it is.  I still enjoy it and could use it for an art reference.  

We are driving on the Going-To-The-Sun Road toward Logan Pass and there are few chances to pull off for a better view.  My camera was being put to work now!  Judging the roadside and trees, I click away hoping to not have a tree in the middle of the viewfinder.  The sun is beginning to show signs of breaking through the clouds.  I can see bits of blue sky appearing.

About this time, as my husband driver is slowing for me, I'm shooting away like crazy to get as many shots as possible.  Without realizing it, we've slowed down another driver behind us.  That driver used his horn to communicate his annoyance.  "Really?  These views and you're in a hurry?"  That was my thought.  The sun is breaking through and lighting up the tree tops on the mountainsides.  The sunlight's rays so defined.  My husband drives quite fast all the time, EXCEPT in national parks.  He wants to enjoy the views and he's not rushed at all.  We are a great combination.  

Ooh! Ooh!  It's the sun!  We found the sun!  I know I sound ridiculous but that's exactly what it felt like.  The sky was changing constantly as we traveled the road.  I couldn't take my eyes off the views.  The sunlight brings out the vivid greens in ribbons that bend with the curve of the slope. 

These are just spectacular views and I'm taken with the fact that I get to see them.  This happens every day.  I try to imagine what it would be like to see this everyday.  The clouds move and the sun comes through to spotlight creation.  The light brings out details that captivate those who will pause.

We approach Logan Pass Visitor Center and I observe other people dressed for winter.  Oh.  We didn't dress for winter.  We brave the cold and the snow anyway.  We can do this.

Inside the visitor center, this quote is posted on the wall.  I relate with these words.  I cannot begin to do justice to these views with words or photographs or paintings.  The views are just too amazing.

As we continued along the road toward St. Mary's, it occurred to me that we seemed to be chasing the sun.  We were excitedly pursuing sunlit views and glimpses of blue sky.  I am still in awe of the sun and clouds effects on the view of the valleys.  The varying pattern of dark next to light green is just yummy!  I know it's not food but yeah, it's food for the eyes.

The sunlight makes the difference.  Without the sun lighting up the landscape, it's flat and lifeless.  It's a beautiful view, sunlight or not, but just not the same.  It's really hard to add that in as I paint, second guessing how to plan the shadows.  I just know seeing the shadows makes painting a better experience.

Here is how the wildfires have changed the landscape this year.  This is the area drawing nearer to St. Mary's.  It's sad but intriguing all at once.  It's not ruined.  It's different.  Though it may not be ideal, it's still alive.  What we see may not appear to be alive but time will show its recovery.  The process is slow but so incredible to follow...this is one area I'll continue to photograph to show it's regrowth.

As we drove from St. Mary's toward East Glacier at the day's end, this traveler's Winnebago gave us interesting food for thought.  My own sentimental mind thought this suited our day and lives perfectly.  Off in the distance there are areas previously burnt in years past.  The regrowth is bright green and something good is on its way.

Our final stop in this day's journey before the drive home...Serrano's.  East Glacier has this little gem, Mexican cuisine so delicious that you'll need to get your name on the waiting list.  We waited about 30 minutes for a table and ate on the back patio.  It was a little cool but temporary walls were up on the patio aided by a patio heater.  We caved on letting the kids have technology at the table.  We seldom do this.  It almost felt like a date for just the two of us.  A little quieter and we could visit while we just enjoyed the end of the day.

During one of our first stops of the day, my loving guy shot these photos of me.  You can probably see how I was eating up every moment, sunshine or not.  It was a day full of taking in as much as possible because the seasons are changing.  The weather is changing quickly and soon all this will be like a different world.  The days grow shorter, the leaves change and fall, and the landscape is all new again.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to record these views and share them with the world.  It's all too good to keep to myself.  I'm sure there's somebody that would relish it all as well or better.  

This has been quite the wild ride, I'm telling you!  I'm not just talking about my own adventures in art and taking care of my family at the same time.  That has been a most exciting undertaking to be sure.  We had a rhythm that worked for us and felt pretty comfortable.  My decision to explore art as a possible career venture has thrown us all for a bit of a loop.  Now that we are starting our back-to-school rhythm, my work days in the studio are struggling to be productive.  There are appointments and interruptions that take me from art goals.  Though my progress continues, the amount of multi-tasking is tiring.

I'm learning so many new things at one time;
that only adds to feeling like I'm moving forward at the pace of a snail on Benadryl!

There are so many other unrelated commitments that I don't really want to give up.  I think my biggest weakness is that I can feel overwhelmed and not reach the goals I've set.  Do I expect a lot of myself?  Oh, yes.  Taking life too seriously can be my downfall.  

In the beginning, much research of online advice recommends longer posts for better search engine optimization (SEO).  I'm learning so much daily.  It seemed really hard to build longer posts at first.  Now, I'm trying to keep the post lengths from being too long.  I'm not sure what to share or how to say it...I guess that comes with experience and time.  I'll be trying to give a few short posts both for reader convenience and mine, too.  Now that the school year has begun, I'm finding I have to choose to write a post or paint.  Managing it all is a learning process.  We'll see where it goes!

In the meantime, here's a teaser on what I'm putting together for a post in the near future.  My sister is very curious about the magic eraser method I mentioned on Facebook.  I'm just learning how this can be effective so don't mean to sound like a pro here.  It's an experiment that I tried on a painting recently.

So for now, I'm heading back to get going on paintings for the remainder of my morning.  That river's not going to paint itself!  If there's a technique you'd heard about but never tried...let me know, maybe it could turn into another blog post.  Maybe creative little videos will be added eventually.

Until next time,


because she must make art.


  1. Glacier is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Your photos of it are quite lovely--that clear, emerald water is just mind-boggling, even in photo form. Happy painting!

    1. I agree, the vibrant color of the water is amazing. I could sit and gaze on it for hours! Thanks so much for stopping by...very encouraging!