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

Pure Photography In Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Valley


"Sometimes," said Eliot Porter, "you can tell a large story with a tiny subject."

©Bert Gildart: Often good photography requires the paring down of an immense landscape to something that has fewer elements, and that’s what I often try and do when I enter a place as beautiful as Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Valley.

Contrary to what many say as part joke, you just can’t point your camera in any direction and shoot – even in a place as lovely as this mountainous valley. Instead you have to select and isolate, and do so critically. The famous photographer, Eliot Porter expressed my theme particularly well: “Sometimes,” said Porter, “you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.”

With those thoughts in mind, there’s an old snag about a mile or so from the Many Glacier Campground that I always stop to examine. It’s been there for a long time and provides cavity nesting birds with a home, and is another special component of a wild Glacier National Park.

On our trip of about 10 days ago, I again stopped as we entered, and found the old snag interesting — much potential, but in ways difficult to anticipate. However, those ways revealed themselves over the course of two days, for the lighting changed dramatically and did so in ways that can only be described as magnificent.


The above scene is an early morning one, made just as the sun was rising. Timing was critical – for five minutes later the glow on the peaks behind the snag diminished. And then, a snow squall followed.

The second image was made again in the early morning (the next morning, in fact), but following a storm containing a mixture of rain and snow. The rainbow was associated with the storm and became one of the most magnificent I’d ever seen. I felt privileged to be there at that precise moment and recalled a quote from Ansel Adams:

“Sometimes,” he said, “I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

That’s exactly the way I felt last week, for the setting lasted but a few moments, but before the rainbow’s time on this primordial stage concluded, it expanded into a complete arc. But the arc also embraced man-made structures so lost some of its wilderness drama. As a result, I didn’t feel as though it measured up to what either Porter or Adams might have sought.

In both cases, the foreground consisted of the same old snag, but in the case of the rainbow, I chose a different location for this image so as provide a better arrangement for the two elements. (”A good photograph,” said Adams, “is knowing where to stand.”)


Ansel Adams believed that he often got to places "just when God is ready to have somebody click the shutter."

Together, I think the images make a nice statement and show the benefits of returning to the same setting time after time – in this case to an old snag – dead now for many years. You’ll find the gnarled trunk with its up thrust arms in the Many Glacier Valley of Glacier National Park, and I’m always surprised to see what “a huge story this tiny subject can often tell.”




*Valley Forge




3 Responses to “Pure Photography In Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Valley”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Great photos Bert! And you’re right, returning to the same location often produces amazing results. :)

  2. Rich Luhr Says:

    I think this is one of your best posts on photography, so far. You make it look easy even though I know you put a tremendous amount of time and effort into getting these shots.

  3. Sebastian Mcadory Says:

    Those are some superb images, wish mine were that competent!