Ever traveled through eastern Montana? If you have, you would know that there’s not much out there. If you haven’t, then just take note that . . . there’s not much out there.
However, before you just truck it through to get to your final destination, consider what your photographic eye might be able to pick up along the way, places like this spot close to the North Dakota border. No, it’s not your epic, tourist-choked Badlands National Park or Black Hills National Forest, but these unnamed badlands near Fox Lake, Montana, have their own quiet beauty that makes them unique and inviting. It’s true country beauty.
So, If you’re ever passing through, here are some field notes to keep in mind from a photographers perspective:
47.584858, -104.700460 was the launching point for a short morning of exploration on a vacation out west a few years ago. While most of the family slept in, a few of us ventured out for the sunrise.
I’m used to the lush greenery of the East so the brown prairie of eastern Montana was at first quiet a novelty. But prairie itself is difficult to photograph, so that’s why I think I took a liking to this stretch of unnamed “badlands”. I know very little about Montana, so it could be that there are badlands like this all over the place, but what stood out to me is that this area provided some much needed geologic variation. I only spent one morning at this location, and that, because it was close to friends whom my family was visiting, but for being “nowhere” on the map, I was impressed. It’s the sort of place where one might enjoy getting lost driving around in search for pretty pictures.
Depends where you want to go. If you stick to the “main” roads (which happen to be gravel), you should be able to get around with any vehicle. But nothing is paved out here and there’s no telling what you might encounter on the back roads that wind in and out of this “valley”.
Wrinkled topography with buttes, gullies, dry stream beds, and open hay fields. What was most interesting to me were the relatively small, but plentiful, bald, wild-west-like buttes that make this place have the appearance of more well-known badlands. Telephoto lenses are more useful here than wide angle ones, in my opinion, for including these in a composition.
Time of Day
Sunrise, sunset, and the golden hours. Not much point of shooting here at any other time of day. 🙂
Time of Year
I was here in October, and everything was about as brown as you can imagine. I assume it’s like this most the year. Land is used mostly for hay and cattle grazing.
Buttes, badlands-like surroundings, off the beaten path, plenty of roads to explore.
Rough terrain, not what you would consider a friendly natural environment.
100% private property, have to stick to the roads unless you have property owner permission.
Some interesting links related to photographing Montana’s prairieland: http://tonybynum.com/tag/eastern-montana/, http://www.toddklassy.com/cowboy-photography, http://www.montanamagazine.com/images-east-photographer-travels-10000-across-montana-make-images-eastern-montana/
For scouting notes on more locations, please visit www.lenspiration.com/map. Anyone can view locations in the state of California. PRO Members can view the 150 (and growing) list of locations across North America. Know were to go to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation!