©Bert Gildart: Snow has begun falling in earnest here in Bigfork, a small town in northwestern Montana. Accompanying it, a season of festivities has been kicked off. Weekend before “elves” helped decorate the town with a garland of lights. Then, a few days later, Saturday, December 1st this year, the town hosted its annual Christmas parade.
All the obvious business organizations participated, and for the youngsters, it was one of the highlights of the year. Horse-drawn carriages passed down Electric Avenue and so did several riders, but one particular crowd pleaser was a little girl perched atop a large horse lead by the young lady’s mother.
All decked out in white, indeed she did look like an angel.
As well as all the children and this little angel, there was Alan Quimby, a man who once worked in Alaska as a biologist. Quimby, a fourth generation draft-horse teamster, willl be offering horse-drawn carriage rides around Bigfork until Christmas.
On parade night the local fire department also got into the act, driving their trucks up and down the several-hundred yard-long street that is this village’s main street. Every now and then firemen would blast their horns, and though it didn’t sound like Santa and Rudolph, it certainly added to the festivities.
CIRCLES OF LIGHT
Falling snow certainly complemented the wintry atmosphere, creating white points of light in most of my photographs.
The circles did exactly what I hoped they would do, and that was to suggest that the air was graced by a multitude of lights all enhanced by wintry weather. In my photographs, they added to the array of lights that changed as fast as the twist on the tube of a Kaleidoscope.
Janie and I attended the parade because we wanted to feel a part of the community, and that in itself was reason enough. But we also attended because I’ve been hired by a travel magazine to document some of the highlights of Bigfork’s festivities these next few weeks. Probably, the magazine obtained my name from AgPix , an organization to which most professional stock photographers subscribe.
If you want to see some wonderful collections of photos, follow my link. Obviously mine are there, but so are those of many others, and some of their names you may recognize.
Annual highlight for Bigfork children
In assembling my Bigfork Christmas photos I wanted to show the stream of lights for which the town has become so well known. To do that I increased the ISO (ASA) on my Nikon D300 to 640 so that it could record the background lights. For foreground I used my strobe. Because the photos are to be used at ¼ page, my settings should work fine, with no loss of clarity.
The evening dusting of snow on December 1st seemed to have timed itself to just the hour-long parade and little accumulated; still, luck has been with me. Night before last it snowed and did so with substantial accumulations occurring throughout the night.
"Elves" ride in Christmas Parade
But when morning broke, the clouds lifted and the skies began to turn blue, and so (for the first photo, above) I scurried to a bridge overlooking Bigfork Harbor.
The harbor represents that point where the Swan River empties into Flathead Lake, which is the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi.
Sometimes the harbor and lake freezes almost solid, but we haven’t had that kind of extreme cold since 1998, when temperatures hovered at -30F for several weeks.
Next weekend I’ll be photographing Santa just off Electric Avenue in yet another of Bigfork’s winter festivals. With more snow and all the stores now so beautifully decorated, it’s little wonder Bigfork has become the focal point of so much attention.
Right now the festivities represent small town America and about the only thing that could undermine their charm would be an excess of success itself.