This photograph was captured while working on a wolverine research project in Glacier National Park. The set of ski tracks, actually two sets of ski tracks – one over the top of the other – coming across the frozen Two Medicine Lake from a grand mountain landscape, was captured on the last day of our three-day winter back country expedition. It also landed on the cover of the January/February 2012 issue of Montana Magazine, one of my favorite Montana specific publications. So what is it about this photograph that landed it on the cover of Montana’s most popular magazine? The answer is simple…and it, the photograph, is simple. Let me explain in more detail why I think the photographs works. First and foremost is the composition. The tracks lead the eye into the vanishing point where you pick up the bulging base of Rising Wolf Mountain in Glacier National Park, but it follows the Dry Creek Valley and on up to the title “MONTANA” – some would argue it’s the other way around, from the title to the ski tracks, but I won’t get into that. The title anchors the ski tracks, almost compressing the photo, thereby drawing you into the image as if you could fall into it. The sky is open and blue, something I have found over the years to be particularly important to photo editors for a clean masthead. Second, contrast and tone. The deep contrast is found between the white snow and the dark, almost black, forest shadows caused in part by the sun angle. Together with the middle tone sky, the contrast and tone all work together to help balance the image. Finally, the photograph lacks an often important element to editorial photography…the presence of a human. I think this photograph works better for that reason by making the viewer ask were the skiers coming or going, and where are they now? Sometimes you don’t have to have every element in a photograph to make it work, sometimes less is more. The primary reason I took the photo was I wanted a photograph to help remind me of our epic, 25-mile mid-winter ski expedition deep into the heart of Glacier National Park. But I also wanted to show the world what Glacier Park looks like in winter. I hope I succeeded. I’ll add this photograph for fun. It was taken on the same trip, and it should have its own story, but for now let’s just say that it felt strange packing two deer legs into Grizzly Bear Country. It was the dead of Winter…so thank goodness the bears were sleeping!
I’d like to thank the folks at Montana Magazine for continuing to use me for assignments and for digging into my stock and supporting a freelance outdoor adventure, nature and wildlife photographer! Tony