This was the view coming back down the hill at Red Lodge last weekend. Some buddies and I rented a nice house with a hot tub and a view of the mountain and headed out for a quick ski/snowboard trip.
Not only was I the only cool kid (snowboarder) in our group of eight, I was the oldest. Proof: I choose to ride in old-skewl style. This is the Avalanche Bumps Pro Mogul snowboard I bought brand new in 1989 when I lived at a resort in the Rockies, and I’m rocking an Aunt Mable’s dino hat (with tail) from the early 1990s. Good luck finding evidence that either of these things ever existed, even on the Google.
If you’ve ever visited a ski resort, much less lived at and worked at one, you know that stickers abound. Naturally it’s tempting to mark your presence by affixing stickers to the nearest lift tower, and there’s plenty of that at Red Lodge.
I spotted a couple of Huff Hills stickers among the pile plastered to one of the towers, so it’s obvious a few of our locals have made their mark in Montana…
But I would love to hear the story behind this one. I’m not sure of its origin, and once again Googling the visible text on it gets me nowhere. But I imagine the story behind it must be a real knee-slapper.
The plan was to bolt down Thursday, shred the gnar Friday, hit the hot tub and grill some monster steaks Friday night, and bolt back Saturday. Perfect plan, perfectly executed. And I managed to get some photos and video to scratch that photography itch, too…while getting a few laughs thanks to the sticker-slapping folks whose handiwork will live in infamy…at least until the towers get a fresh coat of paint, anyway.
I was blazing up Highway 281 in “Other Dakota” when I saw a brilliant red cross off to the right. I was on a mission, so I didn’t really have any photography in mind on this particular date and hadn’t done any research to see if there were any prairie churches along the designated route. But I couldn’t pass this up.
No, it ain’t lit, and no, I didn’t play with the brightness or saturation of the red in the cross. It really was that bold. I believe it had a lot to do with the blue light of the overcast sky. We’d encountered fog and wet roads all along this leg of our route, and that can actually do some pretty cool things to items like this red cross. It seemed absolutely brilliant, and I’m glad I got to stop in for a quick shot.
The photo above is the one which started it all. I had picked up photography in 2005, and I wanted a place to share it. And so it began on New Year’s Day, 2006. And, like many of you, I’ve made a tradition of visiting the capitol on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, whichever works out. I’ve only missed it once, a few years ago when I was busy having surgery at Mayo Clinic. Otherwise, I’ve a spotless record.
Ya know what’s tough? Finding new angles after fifteen trips to the capitol on a cold winter’s night! But I try…and thankfully, the capitol grounds have changed a bit over the years. This angle, however, has always been here. I discovered it last year, and took another crack at it this year with a slightly different twist. Last year I didn’t feature the columns.
It’s said that good artists borrow, and great artists steal. I’m borrowing this angle from my friend Kyle. I didn’t duplicate what he did exactly, but I like my treatment of this one. Previously I’d featured the entire statue, but this is a more interesting perspective.
Remember how I said the capitol has changed over the years? One thing is the lights on the pioneer statue on the capitol mall. Its look has changed a lot over the decades; I have an old postcard on which they’re surrounded by flowers, granite posts, and a chain to protect the flower beds. But I’ve never seen this statue lit before. It saves me the trouble of lugging remote flash units out there!
One other way in which the capitol has changed is the new monument/sign at the south entrance to the grounds. This is its first New Year’s Eve, so of course I had to find a way to work it in. Thankfully I was able to find a spot that included the pioneer statue, the entrance sign, and the capitol itself.
The new sign is really nice, and has its own lighting, but that leaves a lot to be desired. For some reason they opted not to light the state seal! It’s normally a dark gap in between the text. It’s less obvious in this processed, long-exposure photo; it’s a dark gap otherwise. I have a painfully bright tactical flashlight on me these days, and parking it in the snow provided some much-needed fill light in the center of this new addition (you can tell in the photo above this one).
The capitol has a nice backside, too. Thankfully the numbers are on all four sides. As I took this, it was the wee hours of the morning and the weather was starting to do some weird things. There was some sort of temperature inversion or something causing the exhaust from the refinery and/or power plant to hang low in the sky, drifting southward. That’s the line you see in the sky behind the capitol tower. As I drove home later, the same thing was happening at ground level with the exhaust from home furnaces in my neighborhood. This morning it’s just plain foggy.
And we might as well go vertical for the last one. I do a wide-angle shot of the capitol grounds from the northeast for the banner of my blog’s Facebook page, which you can see by clicking here. That’s another tradition I’m glad to uphold.
I didn’t take a lot of photos in 2020. In fact, my camera barely left the bag this year, aside from a brief period of awesomeness in June. But I’m glad that, of all the things 2020 took from us, it didn’t take this annual labor of love away from me.