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Bruce Ellingson's American Landscapes
Landscape of the Month

September 2011:  Daybreak at Wild Goose Island
Glacier National Park

Just about a year ago, Marge and I were braving the altitude and a blizzard in Montana's Glacier National Park. In late August of last year, our sabbatical was officially underway and our first stop was the northern Rockies and the top of the world.

August 21st was our first day of exploring the park, and we headed up Going to the Sun Road in a rainstorm. We were driving from west to east, headed to St. Mary, Montana on the eastern slopes of Glacier park. We stopped for our first picture-taking effort at a spot in the road called The Loop. The rain had kept us trapped in the van for most of the morning, but I finally glimpsed a view I liked of the trees and mountains below us and Marge sheltered the camera with an umbrella as I tried to make a picture.

Clearly a man who stands behind his work.

Farther on up the road, at The Weeping Wall, we stopped for lunch. As we sat eating cheese sandwiches I suddenly realized the all-morning rainstorm was about to break. I scurried to get my camera set up, and as I ran down into a mountain valley for an appropriate foreground, the storm broke and a cloud from beneath rolled up upon me, completely hiding me from Marge. Then the cloud broke into a million pieces, scattering like ghosts into the heavens. The moment seemed divinely inspired.

The break in the weather was a mirage, we discovered, and a few miles farther up—at the summit of Going to the Sun Road—we ran headlong into a blizzard that forced us down the eastern slope and into St. Mary, Montana where we took refuge for pie at The Park Café and homemade bread and soup at The Johnson's Café.

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This was heaven, and we had little interest in braving the unseasonably cold and wet weather of August (at least unseasonably cold for these flatlanders from Iowa). The next couple of mornings, however, required that we photograph a spot that must be the single most photographed site in Glacier: Wild Goose Island. Our first stop at the site the evening of August 21 wasn't promising as the clouds from the blizzard above us obscured the setting sun and left us without contrast or color, but the following morning we couldn't have asked for better light. We had clouds caressing the peaks, a rising sun coloring the mountains orange, and the lake a brilliant silver as it reflected the bright sky above.

Of course, we weren't there alone! As I turned from my shooting to return to the warmth of the van, I realized that I had been photographing Wild Goose Island with about a dozen early risers, including one pair from distant Japan.

Still, I was happy to share my perch and happier still when I finally saw the processed image a couple of weeks later. Here's this month's Landscape of the Month: Daybreak at Wild Goose Island. And here is the 20-by-32-inch print I recently completed for our December show at Witter Gallery in Storm Lake.

This Landscape of the Month is 20% off for the whole month of September. Click here to visit the product page and find out the full set of options. Your discount will be applied during checkout.

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