Photographing Glacier National Park

Photographing Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park - Sinopah Mountain ©

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Record Breaking Snowfall for East Glacier Park, Montana!

It's not widely known that East Glacier Park just dug out from over 60" of snow. Little is know broadly about winters in East Glacier Park - until now.

I want to share with you a short, time-lapse I created. You'll see me move a mountain of snow after the epic winter snowstorm of February 2017.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Glacier National Park - Guest Post Richard Horst

This is a departure from my normal musings. I asked a friend if he would write a story about his fist visit to Glacier National Park. He agreed.

Richard lives in the southern portion of Montana with his wife and two kids. He often visits Yellowstone, bud had never been to Glacier. This year, he and his wife drove up to Glacier Park for the fist time ever.

If you're interested in telling your Glacier Park Story, please let me know. I'd like to find a few people who would like to make regular contributions to this blog.  

Here's Richards take on Glacier National Park.

It was really a no-brainer. The plans were being made to return and the sign from St. Mary's was still taking up the full width of the rearview mirror. Rejuvenated, elated, full of wonder and awe, my wife and I could hardly contain ourselves. We had spent the last 4 days trekking hikes on various trails through the east side in the Crown of the Continent. "We are so bringing the kids back next year," my wife said enthusiastically, "we just have to, this has to be an annual trip with them from now on!" She exclaimed. Up until this point, even after living in and around southwestern Montana for 15 years, we had never been to Glacier National Park. 

Lunch break amongst the wild flowers with a view of Grinnell Glacier

I remember the feeling as we settled in the campground just outside St. Mary's. We had maps spread out like kids on Christmas morning planning our 4 days to explore. We wanted to cover as much country as we could, even if it meant wearing ourselves out! Well, we succeeded in doing just that. Each day we completed 8-15 mile unbelievable round trip hikes - from the more difficult Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake hikes to the easier Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake loop. Socks worn thin, sore legs and backs, evidence of blisters and all, it was perfect! Since that first trip, we have been like mini marketing gurus for GNP, for those of you who have been there know, this area is like no other. We knew we had just barely scratched the surface of what this magnificent place had to offer and decided it was our goal from now on to explore as much of it as we possibly can.

Lake Josephine's mirror

My photography of Glacier is in its infancy. However, that's part of the wonder of it all. Planning, exploring and creating. It is such a vast and diverse place that wildlife excursions can also lead to panoramic landscapes, portraits of lakes and mountains, picturesque waterfalls, wild flowers, even historic buildings and bridges. Everywhere you gaze is literally a work of art. My camera pack is always full and it's easy to get your mind in a scramble. That's the fun part though - it is always an adventure! And while wildlife is invariably my primary focus, I am always looking to connect with my surroundings in nature. That is why I have often found myself overwhelmed with the power and mystique that blankets GNP.

High above "The Lick"

This year was our 3rd annual excursion to GNP and each time, not wanting to leave, I have managed to find a way to extend my stay longer and longer. On this trip, the first 4 days we spent as a family, choosing less strenuous adventures the kids could handle. But the next two days I spent there alone, on a mission to add more and more photographs to my ever growing collection. For me as a photographer the trick is starting early, as the evidence of first light barely tickles the tops of the trees. At this time of day you can have many places in GNP all to yourself for longer than you think.

Two Medicine area of East Glacier

Your mindset needs to be wide open though - with the only plan of the day to be back to the trailhead by dark. Even the "tourist hot spots" can be near vacant for a fraction of time if you plan it right. Go there early, or very late in the day even, and the wonder of it all can be yours exclusively, but if only for a few moments. Those moments can seem like hours.
There is something very spiritual and healing in Glacier National Park. For me, the "Mountains are my Medicine."

Maybe I'll see you there... and I press the shutter release...

A kid being a kid and cooling off in the summer sun

Thanks for listening and if you have a moment visit my images over on my website.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Glacier National Park - Black and White and Uncommon Views

The leaves have fallen. Glacier Park's fall colors came about two weeks early this year. As quickly as they came, they disappeared - it all happened pretty quickly this year. On a scale of one to ten, ten being the best fall colors I've ever seen, I'd say this fall was about a 6 or 7 on the east side.

Black Bear in fall colors, Glacier National Park, Montana. Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400 f4, a-fs VR II. 1/500th @ f5 iso 400.       © 
Generally, fall colors on the west side of Glacier National Park are fantastic - they're also more predictable. You can almost always find good color someplace. On the east side, it's always different from year-to-year and you never really know what you're going to get - it's very unpredictable.

But how important is color? We’ve seen a lot of saturated photographs of Glacier National Park. I’ve created a few colorful photographs of Glacier National Park myself.  I’m sure some of you have also seen black and whites of Glacier too.

When the color goes away, or when I feel a need to put energy into my photography, I create black and white images. They are much harder to create, take more time and a lot more attention. Color can carry the image but black and whites are about shadows, lines, and composition.

Chief Mountain, Black and White - part of Chief Mountain is on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and part is within the boundaries of Glacier National Park. The leaves have all dropped and winter is on its way in Northwest Montana. Notice that this composition breaks the rules. The subject is in the center. I find that my images are often better (more appealing to me) when I can break at least one rule.  Nikon D810, Nikon 50mm 1.8, 1/125th @f8 iso 100. ©  
I’m often asked, “how many keepers do you get in a day?” It’s a hard question to answer.

Sometimes it’s one, maybe two. Other times none. On this day, I did okay. I think keepers are a matter of taste but I find that I do my best work when I’m stressed but able to remove myself from it and go to places where there’s solitude. This time of year, after all the tourists have left the Park, solitude abounds.  

Two cow moose feed in a small pond in Glacier National Park. Nikon d810, 24-120, f4 af-s, 1/500th @f6.3, iso 100. ©   
While I’m creating images, I’m completely lost in the moment. Somehow I'm able to let the presence of time and the abundance of solitude take over. I create better images when there are fewer modern, mechanical noises. Fewer cars, and no people.

I allow things to flow. I seldom shoot with a tripod for this reason. A tripod limits my creativity. For me, the time it takes to set up a tripod boots me out of my flow. Sadly, I've never learned how to incorporate a tripod into my landscape photographs without disrupting the flow. Most of the time, I just need to shoot and not worry about composition and tripod placement. I allow myself to just see arrangements, lines, darks, and lights, and go, as they say, with the flow.  

A stream leading to Rising Wolf Mountain, Glacier National Park. Nikon d810, Nikon 12-24 af-s 2.8, 1/125 sec @f11, iso 64. © 
Don't get me wrong, I love photographing humans in their element, but sometimes I prefer to craft images when the world around me is calm. I mentioned stress. I find that when my mind is spinning with the news of the day or the stresses of life, when I leave it all behind, for just a morning, I create better photographs.

On this day I discovered that what caught my attention most were the shadows, not the usual bountiful colors we so often experience in such magical places.

Here're a few keepers from today. How many, I did not count them, you can if you like.

Rising Wolf and Sinopah in the distance, Glacier National Park, Montana. Nikon d810, Nikon 24mm f1.4, 1/2500 @ f4, 64. © 

Sinopah Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana. Nikon d810, Nikon 24mm af-s f1.4, 1/250 @ f8 iso 64. © 

My favorite capture of the day. I particularly like this photograph. It has all of the elements that I look for in a good quality image. Shadows, clouds, a strong subject, and a broken rule - the subject is centered. Nikon d810, Nikon 24-120 af-s f4, 1/640 @ f6.3 iso 200. © 
There's only one thing better than bringing a little bit of glacier home with you, and that's actually being here in the flesh. Click this hyperlinked text for more Glacier National Park Photographs.The link is safe, it will take you to more of my photographs of Glacier National Park.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Glacier National Park Destroying Itself from the Inside - Instagram and the Parks Reckless Social Media Program

Glacier National Park - Instagram posts are helping to destroy the Park Resources  

If this were not about one of the most important public resources in America, and I were not compelled to help protect it, I would have dismissed it. This piece is controversial. I'm prepared to receive some backlash, even ridicule and name calling. That's okay, but before you make your comments - AND PLEASE MAKE THEM - consider this. This is not about me, I'm the messenger. This is about a current social, and resource managment issue, one that if not dealt with aggressively now, will metastasize to the point where it will gobble up more time and resources than can be deployed by Glacier National Park to deal with them (if it hasn't already). Nip it in the bud now, and there's a chance to put this cat back in the bag. I'm alone in writing this. Whatever errors you find, grammar, spelling, even facts, etc., are mine. Please don't let them get in the way of the message.

Here's the heart of the problem, GNP is pimping the park though it's Instagram feed, and NOT using the powerful social media platform to educate and teach users about the Park. It is also not going after the bad actors. Instead, it's teaching people that it's okay to be reckless, inconsiderate, unsafe, and down right destructive. But why?

Glacier National Park - Historical Homelands, My Home, and a Piece of Heaven 

For the past 15 years I've lived in East Glacier Park, Montana - the locals just call it, "East Glacier." Highway 2 and the Burlington Northern railroad splits East Glacier on it's way east across the "Hiline" to Chicago and west around the south end of Glacier National Park to Spokane, Portland and Seattle. East Glacier is also home to the original Glacier Park lodge. East Glacier and the Lodge, are completely within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the Park shares it's eastern boarder with the Reservation. The Blackfeet know it as, "The Backbone of the World."

I like to call this the "wild-side." The east side is where visitors wind up because of it's solitude, abundant wildlife, massive views out across the prairie, and access to the most splendid landscapes in all of North American. It's also where the most sensitive environments lie and where too many people, including the Park Service are helping to increase missus of the Park though social media, in particular by posting provocative and suggestive photographs - with no proper explanation - to the popular photography app, Instagram.
The Instagram account for Glacier National Park - is a lot about "Ranger" Jake and his goal to grow the Park's Instagram account at and cost and at the expense of Glacier's resources. 
Living in East Glacier year-around, I see the Park every day. I touch it, taste it, and feel it in my bones. Glacier National Park (GNP) is part of me, it truly is my home. I also see Park users day in and day out. Most are hugely respectable, kind, happy - or maybe grateful is more accurate - they follow the rules, have some deeper moral and ethical understanding of what it takes to protect a place from being over loved. Most pack their trash out, they don't often detour into closed areas, but mostly, they respect other users. When things are going well, and people are respecting the place and each other, the Park can handle the massive, annual visitor numbers.

I've hiked much of the park, bagged some of the most well known peeks, photographed wildlife from east to west, and north to south. I've boated on or swam in many of its lakes, including far-off ice filled ones, and I've introduced my children to this heavenly land. We're relatively new here, the Blackfeet have known this land for thousands of years. All the more reason to respect and protect it.

Glacier National Park and the National Park Service 

Glacier was created in 1910 by an act of congress, and signed by President Taft. This means Glacier predates the National Park Service (NPS) by 16 years.

2016 marks 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson singed a bill creating the National Park Service (NPS).
"the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." 
The mission and purpose of the NPS is to protect the park's resources and leave them "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Arguably an enormous and lofty goal, particularly in light of the demands now placed on the park's already limited resources. Shrinking budgets, a spoiled political culture, increased demands, over use, higher frequency of damaging weather events all are making it difficult for GNP to maintain, never mind improve, the conditions of the Park. In fairness, the new Going to the Sun Road is a stunning landmark and a monumental accomplishment! Most of the full-time park employees are good people who love the park and do what they can to insure it's protected.

Now, pile on the new, relentless, uninhibited spirit of adventure, the unrelenting drive by the "Gopro-Culture," kids with unlimited resources and motivation to find something exceptional, noticeable and to them, worth doing in life. Couple this energy and a camera or a camera phone, add access to social media, and you have the makings of an ever more rapid increase in resources degradation throughout our national park system.

Sadly, and most alarming, Glacier National Park's social media program is helping lead the way by encouraging misuses though it's Instagram feed by sharing photographs of people doing things that are at least questionable, and in some cases outright against Park policy.

Posting Photos of closed areas but not describing they're closed. 

In GNP's race to show the world how beautiful the place is, is in some cases promoting the use of areas closed for resource protection. Thousands of likes and comments on instagram and facebook, such as, "wow, where is that," "I want to go there," "how do I get to that place," followed often by the answers, only help make things worse for all users of the park by encouraging people to trespass into areas closed for resources protection.

Meanwhile, without describing the closure (helping to educate visitors) and asking people to respect the rules, the comments and kudos, (tapping beer mugs) goes on. I wrote about the Logan Pass area closer in an earlier post "Glacier National Park - Landmark area now closed to the public." 

The image below was clearly taken from a closed area in Glacier Park. Whether it was taken before or after the closer makes no difference, the area is close. Therefore, either GNP should not post the image, or it should use the platform to help educate users, not entice them into trespassing! This was a great opportunity for GNP to mention that the area around Clements Mountain, and Reynolds Creek as well, are close to off trail travel and briefly explain why. Beautiful Photograph by the way.  

Below is a photograph of a handicapped person with his three wheeled vehicle at the foot of Avalanche Lake. That's quite an accomplishment! However, as great a story as this is, it's simply unwise to not mention that bikes are not allowed on trails in Glacier National Park and describe, in a few words, why this event took place.  
The above image should have had a definition of the Park regulation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act . . . That way people would know that while this is a wheeled mechanized devise, it's also allowed under GNP's ADA provision.  Section 1.5 ii) "Trails, Campgrounds and Areas:
A) The use of any type of non-motorized wheeled conveyance (i.e. canoe dolly, cart, etc.)
anywhere in the backcountry is prohibited. Wheelchairs as defined in the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) may be used by persons with disabilities."

 This photo provides a great opportunity to describe the wildlife policy in the park. This photos is exactly what people what to see when they come to Glacier, only not this close. Right? Here's a link to another article I wrote about wildlife and glacier parks new wildlife protection regulations. 

The image below is from the account of the Instagram manager - Lets grab some brews dude, hang a hammock and have some relaxation time . . .  Is that promotion of a product?  Hmmm . . . Personally, I love the idea, but it's unwise to share this kind of image, particularly if you're the federal employee who's responsible for the GNP Instagram feed. . .  I'm sorry, live it up, but what's the point in posting this?  It's all about "see how cool I am." No thought of how it might influence other's to do the same on the shore of Bowman Lake. Or, maybe this is the kind of thing that GNP is now promoting? Great product placement too.  Thanks Jake.

The public expects more from public employees. I'm not suggesting that if you're a civil servant you should not drink beer, I'm suggesting that as a civil servant you're expected to follow the rules and at a minimum keep this kind of thing between yourself and your friends, not post it for the entire world to see. Take the hammock down and get rid of the advertisement for the beer company and it would be acceptable. Two beers crashing together, a thumbs up followed by the hashtag #glaciernps. For those that dont know, #glaciernps is also the account for Glacier National Park "glaciernps," the nps stands for National Park Service. In just about any other segment of our federal administrative system, this kind of post would not only be unacceptable, it could get you a meeting with the boss.  Don't forget, this is the public account of the person who is in charge of GNP's Instagram account.

Below are more images selling a product or in the very least the author is trying to get the attention of the manufacturer of the coffee.  Do we want to encourage people to use the Park as their product photo studio? We can if we get the proper permits for photographing models and props and if we're promoting a brand. . .

Above two images. Nice product shot Levi. Even Lakeside coffee thinks it's great, they ask in the comments if they can use it to market coffee on their Instagram account.

Good grief, not sure what to say about this one . . .  But it is an example of the power of social media. 

Just what we need more of, commercial photography and illegal camping in an unauthorized camp location.  
Is this paid content advertising and product placement - i.e., commercial photography from Glacier National Park? Hmmm . . . lets ask Patagonia . . . 

 I wonder why we're thanking Filson, Bing, and Alaskair, was this a commercial shoot or is this guy just promoting himself?

I wonder if this guys' being paid? Looks like a model, a prop and a contract with Sunset Magazine and Tandemstock. Read it . . .

Cheers! More product photography, was this a commercial shoot for Highlander? 

No product placement here!

"Instameets" wrecking park experiences and resources

Blast out a notice to all your followers that you want as many people as can attend to meet at a specific location, at a specific time. Gather 100's of people on the shore of Lake McDonald and have them share photographs of each other while tagging #glaciernps #glacier #glacierpark, #meetup and so on. Basically create an opportunity for photographing models and props and spreading the word to the world that massive crowds in GNP are welcome. Here's an image posted by GNP from a recent #meetup on the Short of Lake McDonald, on the Parks west side. It was used to drive traffic to it's facebook page.  Great advertising, nice photograph, but poor use of the lake shore in Glacier National Park.

I suggest that if GNP is going to organize and sanction this kind of event, with this many people it follow it's own public gathering regulations and meet in the already approved public free speech areas. 

No other group could get away with that number of people, in one group in the Park, particularly in such a relatively high use area. I'm sure there were lots of visitors affected by this mob. I have no doubt that this sea of Patagonia and Mountain Hardware was fun for some, but how is this protecting the Park's resources for future generations? To repeat, this is a GNP event marketed via it's social media platforms - can anyone answer, why this even is smart let alone allowed?

You and I would have to have a permit and likely GNP would not permit such an activity on the shore of a lake. But this is advertising for the Park, by the Park, so it must be okay. Imagine the look on the enforcement officers face when he/she arrived to find this mob on the shore of the lake. Talk about "who needs enemies when you have friends like that." It's the job of the NPS to protect the resources for future generations, not help create a destructive and disturbing gathering.

Glacier National Park's Own Instagram Account 

Below is a girl paddling a canoe in Swiftcurrent Lake, not wearing a life jacket. Sure, it was a cool angle, and the photo was well crafted, but why would GNP promote such mindless activities? You might think grizzly bears are the biggest threat to your life while visiting GNP.  You'd be wrong. More people die from drowning either by swimming from shore, or falling overboard, and yet, on the Parks own Instagram feed this, and many more photos of boaters without proper personal flotation devises - this one's someone playing roulette with Swiftcurrent Lake.

Anyone who's knows much about Glacier knows that any lake in Glacier can go from calm to three foot waves in a matter of minutes. I guess it was a cool photograph though, right? Think about this, what a a great opportunity to educate the public, instead, "look at me, look at how cool I am," which continues to be the theme of the GNP Instagram account.

In an other case, I commented on a post that showed a logo, and was obviously promoting a brand (considered commercial photography in a national park) and I was told it was not commercial. How could it not be, it's promoting a brand and product. Even if it's not, GNP should use better judgement.

Below are more photos from the Parks Instagram feed. Imagine if every brand or product manufacturer made Glacier National Park its commercial photography studio? You may not have an issue with it, or you may even believe that's okay, but until the NPS changes the regulations, this is commercial photography and it's being promoted by GNP.


 Another great opportunity to remind people to be safe and not boat without a personal flotation devise. Read the post next to the image and tell us if you can make any sense of it. 
 I love this one, promote diving off into rocks . . .  It's legal, people do it all the time, but why not just leave it alone or in the very least caption this image by reminding people of this is how people die in Glacier National Park. . .
 Okay, so we have no idea where this is, but until the Park has a policy on hammocks, this should just be left alone . . .
 Again, and take a look at the contraption used to hang the hammock. Why would GNP post such an image? 
 What's to say about this one.  Just dumb. Sure, it's fun, we've all swam in the icy cold waters of Glacier, but why is GNP promoting topless men, and diving into ice cold water? Search and rescue must need something to do.  
 Another great opportunity to share the a public announcement about the risks of hypothermia in Glacier. I would suggest this kind of imagery just not be posted by GNP. Is that a brand or is this promoting a product?  Maybe it's the guy with no shirt on? Hmmm . . .  Again, not appropriate . . . 
 What a great oportunity to talk about pets in the park, and why not?  Well, because the GNP Instagram feed is about the social media people and their peeps . . . Not about creating the right image for the Park. 
 Okay, this is for real. Is this an image from the TV show, Cops? Why would GNP post a photo suggesting anyone race down the roads in Glacier?  It's bad enough that our law enforcement offers have to spend so much time as traffic cops. . .  Images have meaning and this one tells the wrong story. 
Finally, fishing from a canoe.  Why not say a little about the fishing regulations or tell us about lead and or bait fishing, and remind us to wear a personal flotation devise. 

All of the above images were take from the Glacier National Park Instagram Page. In not a single post was there the slightest attempt to educate, or explain the viewers that Glacier National Park is not a unlimited playground. By the look of it, however, it nearly is. Finally, in every case, the creator of the image is tagged and in some cases told to follow. This is unnecessary and should be stopped imidiatly.  

Other Offending Instagram Accounts 

Here are few more cases where people are promoting a product, brand or shooting models and props in the Park. Funny thing was, in June of 2016 I invited the NPS to be on a panel of experts to talk about commercial photography and permitting on public lands and national parks. The conference was sponsored by Professional Outdoor Media Association(of which I'm currently the Vice President) and because the location was Kalispell, it made perfect sense to have a representative from GNP attend and explain film and photography permitting in the Glacier. 

Coincidentally, the park service representative used the scenario of photographing a whisky bottle and how that would be considered commercial photography and require a permit. The photo below was posted to Instagram after the conference, it was taken in Glacier National Park. 

In the case of the photograph below, "hoxiesox" clearly is stating he's using a model for a photo shoot in Glacier National Park. "Thanks for being my/everyone's model on this trip." This suggests there was multiple photographers and multiple trips . . .  Again, using Glacier National Park as a private studio. The regulations clearly state, "models and or props." In this case it's a "model."

Quintontolman seems to be one of the biggest abusers of commercial photography in the park and even adds illegal camping to his bag of tricks. Number one, dispersed camping is not allowed without a permit. Second, erecting a tent outside of an authorized camping area is similarly not allowed. What's the difference between a tent and a hammock, particularly when it's set up in one of the most visited locations in the Park, the Saint Mary Lake, Wild Goose Island overlook.  Imagine the response from all the people trying to get a photo of the lake only to find that a few knot-heads were setting up a camp right in plain sight!

More examples from quintontolman . . .

I love this one. Promoting a brand or product, this looks very much like a photo shoot for Flathead Brewing . . .  

Probably the biggest offender of National Park Policy is @alexstrohl a professional photographer one time hired by the State of Montana to capture images for the State's own marketing campaign. Alex has almost 1.5 million followers on Instagram and often he will have well over 50,000 likes and hundreds of comments. He's a real agent! Here are a few of his recent images all taken in Glacier National Park and posted on his Instagram account. Glacier National Park follows his Instagram account.

Last we checked biking off road is not allowed, but for Alex I guess biking along the shore of saint Mary Lake, in front of wild goose island is cool . . .  Besides that, it's illegal according to the Glacier National Park 2016 Compendieum, Section 1.5 ii) "Trails, Campgrounds and Areas:
A) The use of any type of non-motorized wheeled conveyance (i.e. canoe dolly, cart, etc.)
anywhere in the backcountry is prohibited. Wheelchairs as defined in the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) may be used by persons with disabilities." I'm 100% positive that Mr. Strohl is not disabled and that in almost every case, it would be hard to make the argument that a two wheeled bike, ridden along a lake shore fits under the provision . . . 
Okay, just park it in the lake, it's all good because we're down with fat tire bikes in the lakes of Glacier National Park. Again, this does not meet ADA policy under GNP. See above caption for reference. 
Camping anyone?  Sure, how about wherever we want . . .  Nothing wring with a few feet from the shore right? 

This one's great. How about setting up our tents on the bluff overlooking the lake?  That would be cool if it were a campsite, but it's not. Alex is cool enough, rules dont matter to him . . . But I'm sure he'll come back and say, "I'm new here, I did not realize . . . " BTW, as cool as this shot is, the road is just out of the frame on the right. 

 Same as above . . .
 Okay, park the tent right next to the lake . . .
Okay, cool, back again but this time with a new tent and a slightly different location/angle. Nice!
 I know, this is getting old right? But, again the law states, "4) Campsites must be located a minimum of 100 feet from lakes, streams, rivers
and other water sources." Sorry Alex, again you're not doing so great at being a good steward of the Park. 

Okay, is great, lets burn down the tent while we're at it . .  1) Wood fires (other than personal wood fuel camp stoves) are prohibited in all backcountry areas, as well as unplowed auto campgrounds and picnic areas.
Hum, commercial shoot for Abitibico?  Ambassadors? 
Another post for Abitibico boats . . .  I would not be surprised to find this and other images showing up in print. Or maybe this was a pay to play deal, a product shoot?   

More "Hammock-Time" - this will destroy some of the most spectacular locations! 

How many of you have ever tried to get comfortable in a hammock? They're about as comfortable as a box of rocks on a rail car.  If you like to be folded up like a banana or you desire to have a broken back, get one and try it out in your back yard. Regardless of their utility or comfort, the movement to hang hammocks between two trees, no matter the location or the condition of the trees, is simply out of control. The surge will continue to grow exponentially until something is done to stop it. In the mean time, places are getting wrecked, trees broken, branches busted off from climbers, and many visitors experiences interrupted by hammock hangers who erect these contraptions in the middle of the most spectacular and most viewed locations in the Park!   

A hammock set up along the shore of Saint Mary Lake, right below one of the most viewed locations in the Park. Sometimes, there are hundreds of people overlooking this scene from just to the right and above this hammock.  This activity will get this location closed to the public, mark my words! Those trees are dead, ancient, and I guarantee you they broke branches attaching their hammock in between them. There are many images just like them on Instagram . . . 

Over looking iceberg lake has never been more fun then when you can do it in a hammock!  
It was so much fun in the first place, how about doubles! Maybe we can break some more branches of if we get lucky, break a tree down or trample this location followed by another 100 people doing the same. We're soooooo coooool!  

These trees are said to be over a 1000 years old. This particular one is along a trail in Glacier (I wont name the location for fear of helping other idiots find it and hang hammocks in it) but imagine what it took to hang this hammock?  It's such a shame. Notice this is a hammock company posting this photograph.    

It's a matter of perspective - 

Our national parks use to be respected. People, including the NPS itself use to take pride in our parks. But, when it comes to Glacier National Park, it seems some have lost their way, if they ever had it. Or, in the very least the operator of the Instagram account for Glacier is ignorant.

Glacier National Park is it's worst enemy when it comes to promoting stupid ideas, and in some cases, illegal activities. Furthermore, GNP is also tagging the creator of the image. What's that all about? GNP is basically operating the account like it's a commercial operation with little thought to how it's influencing the masses. It's almost like someone left the keys to the monster truck on the counter and 13 year old "Jonny" took them and tried to drive the truck over the neighbors Ferrari. Who does that?

Glacier National Park is under attack from the inside and out, and all that GNP wants to do is tell us they can handle the numbers and they have it under-control. Bring more visitors, send out more cool photos. . .  The truth is, GNP is literally being consumed and degraded from all angles. The sky - via climate change - the ground - extreme doers, gopro nation, social media, photography, you name it.

As the kids go back to school, the tourism season winds down and Glacier National Park gets some solitude back. This year, will end with the highest numbers of visitors in one season - EVER! If you can imagine this, almost a million in July alone! That's like the entire population of our great state of Montana visiting Glacier, all in the same month!

What's behind the popularity? It's a variation of things.

1. National Park 100 Birthday
2. Cheap Gas
3. Instagram and Social Media
4. Combination of younger, mobile well funded kids, and older, retired people who are trying to see the world's treasures before they die.

Those are just guess but I think cheep gas is the main driver coupled with social media and so many people trying to be noticed by the world. It's becoming a real danger to the future of the Park. I can say this much, "we aint seen nothing yet."

The Future 

Even with all the people visiting Glacier with cameras of every kind, I expect Glacier Park to experience increased visitation. There are consequences to increased visitation. While there are a lot of good people that visit the park, there are a few that will do anything to get noticed and those people will ruin experiences for many. More places will be closed, and more rules will be crafted and to stop the people who just can not help themselves from doing stupid things.

Things like disbursed camping (erecting tents in the most dramatic locations), nude, and scanty photo shoots in popular-places, hanging hammocks in every cool spot where two trees grow, chasing wildlife with phone cameras, flying every kind of electric propeller driven thing made, and so on. The Park Service generally and Glacier National Park specifically MUST get a handle on this problem before it completely lose control and the Park shuts down from complete miss managment resulting in the description of one of the crown jewels of the planet. The public is watching people, and images have power!

Mark my words, base jumping, wings suits, fat tire bikes, flotillas of floaters, extreme boaters who will cascade down anything that will float their pack rafts, lip ripping bull trout chasers, and additional illegal camping, invasive species, all are on the increase - to say NOTHING of the 90% of the main user's who seldom leave the road.

A few extremists will continue to ruin the Park for the masses. That's the trend and I have no reason to suspect it will change. I do not believe anyone of the people who are doing stupid things in the park will all of a sudden find ethics and decide to reign in their own desires to be discovered and become the next globe trotting national geographic explorer! Never mind that a career in the photography world, for most, is, at best, some free swag, maybe a shirt or some other apparel, a shared post or two and a "we'll help you get your name out there," but few are making any money yet many will help to get formerly visited places, closed. That will be a sad say as it will affect the other segment of the user group that has some level of restraint and common sense.

My Social Media Instagram Policy Recommendations 

The vision and goals for social media must be outlined beginning with the purpose of the park. Nothing shall be posted that does not meet the standard for protecting the resources for future generations. Here's a list of specific rules I would enact.
  • GET a POLICY! 
  • No sharing private, or non government account address's.
  • Limit posts to one, or two per day.
  • Consider developing a theme that corresponds to a message or park policy - NO random posts
  • Only post images of locations where you want people to go. 
  • Never make a post without a positive park focused message. 
  • Never post unsafe, or illegal activities - as cool as they may be.
  • No posting selfies, or driving social traffic to your personal account, or friends accounts. 
  • No posting brands, models, or other commercial photography and no promotion of unpermitted services, products or brands.  
  • No sharing images from abusive accounts - accounts that often post unpermitted and illegal activities in the Park - biking off trail, permitted camping, damaging resources, illegal fires, no hammock photos outside permitted camping areas, or camping outside of designated camping areas.  
  • Always post a safety message when it comes to water pics and boating. 
  • No off trail, off pavement instameets or meetups, and they must be cleared by the special use office along with the local enforcement officer. 
  • Do not post images, as beautiful as they are, from closed areas of the park without describing the closer and why it's close and asking for respect and participation. 
  • No camping photos that are not clearly from an approved camp site, with a location listed.
  • The Instagram account manager will be responsible for recording, documenting, and reporting abusive accounts and reporting those accounts to law enforcement one per month. 

Additional Reading - Instagram and Social Media wrecking our public lands and National Parks   

Should anyone doubt me, here are few more articles written about the subject of social media ruining our parks and environment . . .

Christina Adele Photography -  a very well written piece from a National Parks social media employee now working in Yosemite. Give her post a read.
To them, the only purpose nature serves is to provide them with the shot that they can pump up in photoshop to gain more followers and impress their friends and family. They think about outdoing the shot the last person who visited got. They think about the now, and not about how their actions might affect these parks in the future. These actions continue to snowball as people do increasingly ridiculous things to outshine others.

Hillary Oliver for, "Adventure Journal," wrote another nice piece about Instagram and how some users are helping to destroy out environment. 
“I’ve noticed a disturbing trend as well … seems a few people will go to great lengths for a photo op, even if it means setting up a tent in a fragile or dangerous spot…most likely not even camping there, but the problem is that it inspires others to do the same…a major brand even started a hasthtag ‘camp everywhere.’ I just hope people use good judgment when they are camping in the wilderness.”

Why Did I Write This, resources and the business of photography?  

You may find this post a little strange since I'm a professional photographer and have a blog titled "Glacier Park Photographer." You might wonder, why would a photographer, who makes his living selling photographs, be harping on the very medium that feeds his family? It sounds a bit like the cook calling the kettle black - doesn't-it? You'd think I would be one of the first to get out there and make some cool photographs of people in the Park.

The demand to be noticed is out of control. Instagram has created a way for people to explore, and post photos of people using products. It's simple to tag the brand or send the photo. Often the payment is in trading out gear, or apparel, in exchange for an Instagram post, and or, some cash. Often times the brands adopt "ambassadors," and expect them to get the clearance and follow all the rules when taking photographs. Most, don't follow the rules, don't get permits, or do anything more than race to find the most spectacular location before the next guy . . .  To be sure, it's all about getting noticed, building brands, and making money. Most of the people who engage in this kind of activity, are amateurs looking for a way to "make it," land a photo-shoot, or become a brand ambassador.

I believe there are limits. I've watched GNP be overrun by people who's only motivation is to park their VW bus in a meadow, climb on top of the roof rack, and take a self timed image to post to Instagram. In other words, it's selfish and all about their own ego. It has nothing to do with the Park, it's resources it's beauty beyond the fact that it makes a great photography studio. The last car shoot I did in the park, where I took  few photos of the new Jeep for an editorial article in a car magazine cost me about $200 in fees, 4-5 hours in administrative time, a 40 page permit, not to mention I have to carry Glacier National Park specific insurance. Total cost for the shoot, about $800.

Some have argued that I don't understand the new generation of adventure photographers. Other's have called me washed up and unable to compete with the new hipster approach to photographing our national parks. I've been ban from the Glacier National Park's Instagram account for speaking out against it's poor choice of images and worse, policies about what and how post are made to it's Instagram feed. As much as the ban does not bother me, and I've since been reinstated, I believe the reason I was ban was becuase I spoke out about Glacier National Park's using images either that showed illegal activities, or in the very least, dramatized and encouraged questionable behavior. What follows should make my case.

Full disclose

I have photographed products in Glacier. I've also worked on major motion picture films in Glacier. The difference, I applied and paid for my permits, and they're not cheap! I have also photographed my family and friends in the Park, but there was no product placement or payment, it was for education and or memories. I know GNP is not following up on these photo-shoots to check to see if any of them had permits.


As we watch the Park be overrun, we should know that we can and should do something about it. GNP should imidiatly stop posting and sharing stupid, ill conceived images. It should review the recommendations and adopt them as needed.  We should not allow this to continue for if we do, we will have only ourselves to blame. Photographs have power . . .  Instagram and social media have power.

If you want to voice your concerns, leave a comment - they will get read by the superintendent of the Park. If you feel more compelled, please send comments or make a phone call. If you see stupid activities, report them. Stop a real Ranger and tell them what you're seeing. With some additional pressure from us, we'll help the Park Service do the right thing.

A link to the Glacier National Park Compendium (the rule book).  You'll find a link to the pdf of the full document at the link above.

Email or call the Superintendent -

By Mail
Glacier National Park
Park Headquarters
PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936
By PhoneVisitor Information
(406) 888-7800
Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD)
(406) 888-7806

About Tony Bynum 

Tony Bynum is one of the most well known wildlife and traditional outdoor sporting photographers in America. He's currently the Vice President of the Professional Outdoor Media Association. A life long conservationist, hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, Tony holds a Masters of Science degree in Resources Management (public lands watershed restoration and wildlife policy), undergraduate degree in Geography and Land Use Planning, and a minor in Environmental Studies. After working in Indian Country for a dozen years, including a two year assignment with the EPA in Washington D.C., he returned to the west where he was appointed by then Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton,  to the Central Montana Resource Advisory Council (a federal advisory committee). The next few years Tony earned his living as senior scientist for a private consulting firm where he managed large scale scientific research projects across the United States. Tony quit the corporate world in 2006 to focus his attention on conservation, commercial, and outdoor photography. Today, Tony is hired to photograph TV, advertising, and conservation projects. He has over 150 cover photos and his images have been seen in all the major outdoor magazines. Tony was the location expert in Glacier National Park for the new Imax movie "National Park's Adventure," a Mcgilvery Freeman Film. Tony continues to make resources managment a cornerstone of his life. Watch for the forthcoming short documentary about Tony and how public lands, hunting, and photography sustain his lifestyle - Coming October 2016.