Trip Report: Glacier National Park

We just finished the first of our two Glacier National Park workshops this summer. It was a fantastic trip and although the forecast called for clear skies all week, our group was treated to some very nice light all week. Glacier National Park is my personal favorite national park. The mountains are incredible, it features the greatest road in America, there’s flora and fauna from four distinct ecosystems, and the weather is usually dramatic.

The trip started out with a bang. After an early morning departure from Whitefish, MT, we arrived at the shore of Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald is Glacier’s largest lake at just under 10 miles long and 472 feet deep. At the end of the lake sits the towering mountains of Glacier. Instantly as we arrived at the lake, you could tell that the sky was going to light up. Even with the sky still dark, we could see some great clouds forming so we hustled down to the lake to begin shooting. We focused on using some of the unique, colorful rocks that litter Lake McDonald and other lakes in the park. Once set up with our compositions, we waited for the sun to peak up over the ridge. And peak up it did. The sky turned into a bright fireball and it was almost impossible to not take a great shot. It was without a doubt the best light of our trip.

After shooting well into morning (the light just did not stop), we proceeded to drive to St. Mary’s where we would be staying for the remainder of the workshop. That meant driving from west to east on Glacier’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is one of the most breathtaking roads in the world and an engineering marvel. The road is registered as a National Historic Place, a National Historic Landmark, and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Construction began in 1921 and the 50 mile road was finally completed in 1933. We took our time traversing the road and stopped along the way to take in the beautiful mountain views before checking into St. Mary Lodge and Resort in East Glacier.

Our next few shoots would include some of the blooming wildflowers around the park. July is a great time for flowers as lower elevations in the park are carpeted by wildflowers in the early portion of the month, while alpine wildflowers start to pop up at the end of the month. We found vibrant lupine blooms in the meadows around Swiftcurrent Lake and Saint Mary Lake…there was great sunset light at all our wildflower shooting locations and we held some classroom sessions during the week to process some of the skies and wildflowers.

A trip to Glacier isn’t complete without shooting some of the grand lakes in the park. The lakes here are some of the most photogenic in the world.  So, for four sunrises we shot four of the iconic lakes. I already mentioned Lake McDonald, but we also photographed Two Medicine Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Saint Mary Lake. Although our sunrise shoots brought clear skies excluding the first morning, there is something special about first light hitting the peaks towering over each of the lakes. The clear skies also brought calmer winds, which allowed us to capture some great reflection shots. We also took a boat cruise on Two Medicine Lake and Saint Mary Lake. Most see both lakes from the shore and taking the cruise gave us a new perspective, and by new perspective I mean insane, close up views of the peaks that tower over the two lakes.

Our group photographed Mount Reynolds and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain as well two of the iconic mountains viewable from Logan Pass, the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We spent a sunrise at Logan Pass, but also spent some time shooting Mount Reynolds from other areas along the road. Most memorable was Lunch Creek, as we were able to shoot cascading waterfalls and the creek with Mount Reynolds in the background.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. Every person in our group had great energy and wanted to photograph the park non-stop. It was great to see that kind of passion. The days were long, we woke up around 4am each day for sunrise and returned from sunset around 10:30pm each night. Yet, everyone always had a great attitude and was excited to shoot (we made sure to get some quality naps in during the day). After a final shoot at Wild Goose Island on our last morning, we made our way back to Whitefish for once last celebratory meal. We ate at a fantastic restaurant called Swift Creek Café and said our goodbyes after a great meal. I’m excited to see all the images we came away with this week…there will be no shortage of them, that’s for sure!

 

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

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