Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Judging Photos at the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America Is Humbling

Fort Abraham Lincoln and California Joe

Fort Abraham Lincoln and California Joe

┬ęBert Gildart: This is now the third day of the conference for the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America, held this year in Bismarck, North Dakota, and from my perspective, it has been extraordinarily successful. The gathering has featured some of the very best speakers from across the nation and has been well attended by members .

The convention has also provided me with the opportunity to serve as a photo judge.

Speakers for the convention have included Valerius Geist, a man known for his definitive research on bighorn sheep; a representative of the Outdoor Channel; and keynote speaker Jon Young, from the very prestigious Wilderness Awareness School.

Others in attendance have included C.J. Box, known for his many novels, some of which have made the National Bestseller list. I bought one of his books, In Plain Sight, about game warden Joe Pickett. Box signed the book and then added a note to both Janie and me.


So far one of the highlights has included a side trip to Fort Abraham Lincoln. Buses took us from The Best Western Hotel, where the convention is being hosted, for a late afternoon tour and dinner held that evening on the grounds. The Bismarck Tourism and Convention Center had arranged for several professional entertainment groups to greet us, and all members of the troupe looked their part.

Moniseta and Elsworth Kincaid

Moniseta and Elsworth Kincaid

Fort Abraham Lincoln is the post from which General Custer waved goodbye to Libby one May day, and from which he led his 7th Calvary to their deaths on the Little Bighorn several weeks later. Men and women were dressed appropriately and will, in fact, be traveling from the fort to continue playing the role of Custer’s soldiers at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana.


One of the people I photographed was a young lady, whom everyone jokingly called Moniseta. Moniseta was the name of an Indian maiden with whom Custer is said to have had an affair. If that’s true, as most historians now believe, then it may also true that the liaison resulted in a child. For the purpose of my photography, I asked her if she would pose with Elsworth Kincaid (AKA Steve Shaw), a man who has distinguished himself as an actor in western dramas–and as a novelist. (See: Beyond the Rio Grande)


My role as a judge was in collaboration with Tom Ulrich, who served as the moderator, and with Chris Madson. Madson is the editor of Wyoming Outdoors and I met him years ago. At the time, I had read a book about the Missouri River by his father John Madson. The book was–and still is–a classic, written as it was by one of the nation’s best adventure chroniclers.


Because Tom, Chris and I all have a bit of the ham in us, I think we were able to criticize photographs and do so in a way that was not too offensive. Some of the photographs were so artful rendered that was there very little that could be said. The judging was well attended, perhaps 150 people, and the photo that generated the most comment was one by Noppadol Paothong, an oriental photographer (www.nopnatureimages.com) who managed to capture a hawk with outstretched talons just mini-seconds before it seized a prairie grouse that seemed frozen in place. Nop, as he calls himself for the sake of simplicity, is the second oriental photographer I’ve known whose work excels, and we wonder if patience is a cultural trait.

Fill flash and tight cropping

Fill flash and tight cropping

Indeed, the contest contained some extraordinary images.

There was, however, room for the three of us to offer suggestions, and my main comment was to move in tighter. As well, I suggested that photographers should use a flash, particularly when rendering images of people in outdoor settings where the light is often so harsh. In fact, all the photographs included in this posting of our evening at Fort Lincoln were made with flash. That’s particularly important with people garbed in western hats and where shadows would otherwise block a person’s eyes.


For instance, in the photograph of the undertaker I angled my SB-800 Nikon flash toward the man in black. The sign was in full sunlight but the undertaker was in full shadow. Flash added the correct balance and made a picture that would never have worked without flash.

"Last to Let You Down"

"Last to Let You Down"

My other comment was to take a photograph that told the best story that can be told, and so I included the undertaker’s sign, which I think rounded out the tale:

“We’ll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down”

Today, is “Break Out Day,” the day in which the manufactures of outdoor products have the opportunity to display all their tried-and true-products, as well as their many new ones. Think, for instance, of all the well-known manufactures that produce guns, fishing tackle, hiking gear, boating equipment, engines-and the vehicles to transport all this equipment–and most likely representatives and the products will be there.

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