Montana native and professional photographer Lynn Donaldson was recently on assignment for Nat Geo Travel and shares her experiences photographing in Montana.
The produce that’s served at the poolside grill at Norris Hot Springs—located about halfway between Bozeman and Ennis in Montana’s Madison River Valley—is grown on the premises, and if you time your visit just right you’ll hear live music on a stage right next to the soaking pool. One image can’t capture all the elements, so I budgeted several hours into my schedule in order to take it all in.
Norris Hot Springs can be quiet and relaxing or crowded and chaotic, depending on what time of day you arrive and the time of year, winter being the most popular season. Temperatures were unseasonably hot for June this year, and not many people are willing to sit in hot water on a scalding day. I took this photo in the late afternoon as the crowd began to trickle in.
The sun had not yet dipped below the hills that envelop Norris, so the juniper trees on the hilltops were lit up. The water being sprayed from the pipes was backlit, which adds a layer of depth. Later, when the sun’s rays were gone, it became harder to see the sparkling drops, and they almost looked like rain.
I like showing layers of light and dark in images—the contrast adds dimension. In this scene, I wanted to expose for the pool and water drops, but when I did, the face of the woman in the foreground was completely underexposed in shadow, so I kicked in some fill flash to light the woman. It popped just a kiss of light while keeping the background’s exposure where I wanted it. This made her face visible and kept the exposure low enough that you can still distinguish the light rays’ defined edges in places.
The woman in the foreground is one of the gardeners at the hot springs. When the clock hit 5 p.m., she changed into her bathing suit and came to soak. I think it’s a pretty good sign for a place when the employees stick around and hang out for fun in their free time.
Photographed with a Nikon D700 with a 24-70mm lens at 1/640 sec; f/4; ISO 100.
See more photos by Lynn Donaldson on Instagram @lynn_donaldson.