Montana Outdoors

April 8, 2010

Umbrella photography

It’s impossible to resist getting outside into a sudden springtime snowstorm and when one came up this afternoon I grabbed my camera gear and headed down toward the river.

The forecast for western Montana today had been for strong winds and snow although this particular area was excluded from the wind part of the forecast. However, as so often happens, Nature ignored that and decided to push the snow along by a brisk little wind of about 20 knots. Just up off the river, it felt cold; it was 33° to be exact, putting the wind chill at about 17°.

Rather than give up my excursion completely I sought the shelter of some small cliffs above the river that looked as though they would serve as a wind break and climbed up toward them to sit for a spell to watch the storm play itself out over the river. As I scrambled up the steep slope, a speck of color showed itself and when I investigated I found that there were several very small Oregon grape plants in bloom deep down inside some other brush that sheltered them quite nicely, and since the blossoms were open I decided to try for a shot.

Of course, one of the laws of photography states that the lens currently on your camera is never the one you want to use, and that is where the umbrella (which I always carry strapped to my pack) comes in. Yes, it is indeed possible to change lenses and take macro shots while lying prone under an umbrella on a steep slope in a 20 knot wind that is driving heavy snow before it; not easy really, but possible.

I hope it was worth it.

Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

Oregon grape



  1. Amazing shots!! I love how well I can see those drops of water- amazing!!!


    Comment by epicswife — April 8, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

    • Thanks. One of the nice things about inclement weather, the light isn’t as harsh as in bright sunlight. thanks for visiting!


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:39 am

  2. Oh my Terry – what you went through to get the shots! It’s quite pretty! We have several in our area here. I love your last shot especially. How are you feeling?? More peaceful, I hope…


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — April 8, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

    • They have pretty blossoms: I really like the color. Yes, thanks. I’m just impatient to be able to get into the high country and the roadless areas again. The peacefulness there is unsurpassed.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:42 am

  3. Lovely captures… I think in Montana, they call this plant something other than what I call it… Oregon Grape? I know it as Mahonia and have one in my garden. These are stunning images and so much better than any I’ve managed over the past couple of years. The blossoms on mine are done now, so I’ll just have to try again next year! (thanks for stopping by my blog… Forsythia doesn’t grow in Montana as far as I know… too cold sensitive!)


    Comment by Victoria — April 8, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    • It’s amazing that your Mahonia is already past blooming and these are just beginning. What a difference in climate! It’s interesting to see the natural distribution of this plant, too. Strange.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  4. Well duh… should have read your description before writing my comment… then I’d have not been guessing that this is Oregon Grape… magnificent details on these tiny blossoms! And yes… it was worth what you want through to get these shots!!!


    Comment by Victoria — April 8, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    • It’s always difficult to change lenses under unusual weather conditions. Delicate wildflowers and wind are not an easy combination to deal with.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:50 am

  5. I would say that your risking life and limb (and umbrella) was well worth it! The last shot is my favorite… that little spot of bokeh is a teaser.


    Comment by kcjewel — April 8, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    • Not a lot of risk except risk of getting something in the camera. I really do like shooting under an umbrella anyway, although the wind made that challenging.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  6. You were prepared, Terry. Nice work and improvisation on a cold, windy day next to a cliff face.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — April 9, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    • I wasn’t all that prepared after all, but it worked. It was interesting to see how those plants were coping with the rather lousy weather we’ve been having. They grew right inside thick brush and grasses to shield them from the cold. These plants seem to flourish in very open conditions, but at the moment the blossoms on the ones in those areas are still closed tight.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  7. Wow! Persistence and a bit of innovation in wild weather and ruggedness pays as these are excellent shots. I really like the second photo with the clusters of flowers in an array of bright colors in the shadows and highlights with glistening drops. Beautiful!


    Comment by Anna Surface — April 9, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    • Thanks Anna. When I held back the brush that sheltered this clump of blossoms I was very surprised at how nice they looked. They had a good plan!


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  8. Like the last shot as well. Is that pollen or a bit of snow on the inside of the inner petal ring? Great detail.


    Comment by DaveABirding — April 9, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    • That’s a bit of snow that blew in. I was afraid there would be much more. It’s the first time I’ve been able to get a really clear shot of a single blossom. They’re pretty small!


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  9. Everytime I hear “oregon grape” my mouth dries, and memories of you come back. While I wouldn’t be able to identify one these days, I do remember the taste! 🙂 Love you Dad!


    Comment by Juls — April 9, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  10. Lovely shots – pretty!


    Comment by Tricia — April 9, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

  11. I think you did a great job, under the conditions.


    Comment by sandy — April 9, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    • Thanks Sandy. I love those conditions but don’t like to risk hurting the camera.


      Comment by montucky — April 9, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

  12. I’d say it was definitely worth it, not sure I would have done the same, though. You’re certainly a more adventurous photographer than me.


    Comment by Candace — April 10, 2010 @ 12:14 am

    • I’m just used to the conditions here. I rarely get to hike much on flat ground and the weather changes a lot. You would get used to it too.


      Comment by montucky — April 10, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  13. Lovely, and very worth it!


    Comment by kateri — April 11, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    • Thanks kateri! Two years ago we had a very wet spring and I got pretty used to photographing under an umbrella a now I almost always carry one. Now, wind is another story though.


      Comment by montucky — April 11, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  14. well, WE think it was worth it! 🙂 thanks!


    Comment by silken — April 11, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  15. As always: Exquisite!


    Comment by Iona — April 11, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    • Thanks Iona! Wildflowers are such great subjects, aren’t they!


      Comment by montucky — April 11, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  16. You’re definitely devoted to your craft! I’m sure I’m not the only one that appreciates it, either. 🙂 I’m always running into that problem with the lenses….haha

    Love that last shot-I can just feel the delicateness and beauty of that little flower.


    Comment by victry1 — April 11, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

    • That’s the only decent shot of a single blossom of the Oregon Grape that I’ve been able to get. They are small and delicate and, I think, just beautiful!

      (I had the issue of changing lenses again today when I came upon some Trilliums in bloom that were quite unexpected.)


      Comment by montucky — April 11, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  17. Amazing photos from Mahonia Aquifolium. We call it simply Mahonia and we had many of this plants in our garden. Personally I liked it when in flower, but the problem was with Mahonia, that its roots were conquring “land” from other plants and then they were not flourishing good, so my wife digged it away.

    I checked my really old home pages and found still after many years photo from Mahonia in our garden:

    When moving mouse pointer over image one gets info about it.

    So this plant is here only cultuvated not a wild plant in the nature.


    Comment by sartenada — April 13, 2010 @ 4:58 am

    • I had not seen it cultivated before. It’s beautiful in your garden, growing much taller than in the wild. It’s a common native plant here, found at almost any elevation, but always low-growing (~ 15cm).


      Comment by montucky — April 13, 2010 @ 9:21 am

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