Glacier National Park Photos

I recently visited Glacier National Park in Montana with a few other photographers and spent a few whirlwind days photographing sunrises, sunsets, the Milky Way, and everything in between. It was an excellent trip, one that offered a lot of fun with fellow photographers and great variety in the scenes we photographed. After visiting Yosemite National Park last year, I thought it would be very difficult for another National Park to dethrone Yosemite as my favorite. I’m not quite sure that Glacier can take the crown, but it is very close, and this visit was definitely my best-ever to a National Park.

I haven’t had a chance to do a full write-up of this trip to Glacier, but I think it probably deserves one. It really was an incredible time spent in the park, both in terms of photography and visiting in general, and I want to share more of my thoughts about the place. For now, though, a few photos will have to suffice. It’s also been a couple of months since my last post, and I wanted to drop in with something new.

Now is about the time in the post when I’d normally make my seemingly recurring promise that I’m going to make more of an effort to stay current on this blog, with more posts “coming soon.” But, it seems like I’ve made that promise a lot with little follow through, so this time I will follow the mantra that actions speak louder than words. Although aren’t I sort of implicitly suggesting something just by virtue of indirectly addressing it? Well, I will say that big changes are “coming soon” for me, and you will likely see that reflected here within the next couple of months, too. Stay tuned on that front…

I still have a ton more photos to get edited of Glacier National Park, and have only become more bogged down with additional photos from other locations since (I’ve more or less been living out of a suitcase for the last month plus), but that’s certainly not a bad “problem” to have.

With that said, here’s a glimpse at some of the photos of Glacier National Park that I have had a chance to edit thus far, along with some technical info and random thoughts after each photo. I promise more is coming…sometime! 😉

I arrived before the other photographers who went on the trip because I delayed on purchasing my airfare, so it made sense for me to fly into Glacier International Airport and come a night early (or maybe I’m just always looking for an excuse to extend a trip…). I arrived to the park really late (or early in the morning, rather) and ended up sleeping in my car and being treated to an overcast sky for sunrise the next morning. Shortly after meeting up with the rest of the group, this beautiful sunset presented itself to us over St. Mary.

The beautiful light we had here made up for a full day of haze and overcast skies, and really kicked off a great trip in terms of weather and skies. This is a multi-frame panorama of the scene, and I’m truthfully not sure if it’s a “good” pano. I mean, I like the scene and the light in it, but in terms of the quality of the panoramic, I’m not sure whether it looks right. I have little experience with panos, so hopefully I stitched the shot correctly!

Here’s a shot of Triple Falls near Logan Pass. I had seen photos of this difficult-to-find location prior to visiting, and was expecting it to be a bit…uh…grander. In reality, this waterfall “room” is quite small, and very difficult to photograph.

For the majority of the time shooting it, I was using my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens and my Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 fisheye, but I decided to use the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR telephoto lens for a couple of shots, picking up some interesting and uncontrolled flare.

I ended up liking this one the most of the bunch, probably because it deviates from my normal style and has what I’d consider an almost ethereal-glow quality to it. It’s not an eye-catching landscape, but I like this photo a lot as a nice change of pace shot.

A photo of mountain goats was high on my shot list for the trip. On the afternoon we hiked up to Hidden Lake above Logan Pass, I decided to bring along both my Nikon D600 and D700, so I could mount both a wide angle for landscapes and a telephoto for wildlife shots and not have to worry about changing lenses.

Hiking with so much gear is a hassle, but it all proved worthwhile when this glorious, goat-filled sunset appeared and I was able to capture it both as a landscape and as a backdrop for my goat-homies.

This mountain goat evening was the highlight among highlights for me. Mountain goats now are up there as one of my favorite animals, and I walked away with several mountain goat photos that I consider keepers.

I later joked that I wanted to become the world’s leading Glacier National Park mountain goat photographer, and release a book on the topic…only to discover that some dude already beat me to the punch! 😉 Dang you, Sumio Harada!

The day before this sunrise shoot, we saw dead trees littering the mountainside from the road and knew we wanted a sunrise view from an elevated position overlooking Many Glacier Hotel and the mountains surrounding it, so we asked a bellhop at the hotel if there was a trail up the mountain nearby. The bad news was that there wasn’t. The good news was that it was “easy” to get up there by starting at the chute and doing a bit of a “scree scram” until we found a good lookout spot.

We nodded knowingly as he described what to do, as if we actually understood the alpine slang he was using. Of course, none of us actually did. The next morning when we tried to “scree scram” at around 5:45 am in the dark, it was much easier said than done.

We all made it up eventually, and once we got set up, we were rewarded with one of the most gorgeous sunrises I’ve ever seen. Every couple of minutes or so, one of us would shout or just say “wow” as new light appeared somewhere around us. I think you can see why…

…Everyone was probably shouting and saying wow so much because any direction you looked, there was a beautiful photo waiting to be taken. Literally. The above is the view of the scene directly behind the above shot, with the light starting to hit Mount Grinnell, Many Glacier Hotel, and the epic clouds above the landscape.

This was shot with my Nikon D700 and Nikon 28-300mm lens handheld as I bounced around the mountain while the D600 and Nikon 14-24mm sat mounted on a tripod watching the actual sunrise.

The composition here is a bit unorthodox, but I went with it for two reasons: 1) wildlife photos isolating the animal are a dime a dozen, and 2) I don’t have the gear to compete with the quality of those “normal” shots.

Instead, I used my Nikon 28-300mm lens and got close to water level to create and out of focus foreground of the colorful water, putting the moose at the top of the frame. I’ve gone back and forth on what I think of this shot, and I’m still not totally sold on it, but at least it’s “different.”

The National Park Service has a webcam monitoring Lake McDonald that some of the other guys had been watching prior to the trip, and one of the things they noticed was that this boat was always moored out in the middle of the lake.

This led to much speculation as to why it was moored in the middle of the lake, with my theory being to dissuade thieves (or mischievous bears?) from stealing the boat. After all, why steal a boat when you already have your own boat (which is what you’d need to use to go out and steal it).

These photos of Glacier National Park were all shot with my Nikon D600 and Nikon D700. My new Nikon D810 was out of commission for this trip because I had to send it back to Nikon for work, and they were slow to get it back to me. For lenses, I used a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lensNikon 28-300mm VRZenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye, and a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens, plus a MeFoto tripod, which I love for ‘heavy duty’ travel.

To see more of my Glacier National Park photos or to purchase prints, check out my Glacier National Park Photo Gallery.

Your Thoughts…

Have you ever photographed Glacier National Park in Montana? What scenery there did you enjoy the most? Which of these photos do you like or dislike? Any critique you care to offer? Would you like to see more photos of Glacier National Park or read a trip report? Please share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

10 replies
  1. LeAnn
    LeAnn says:

    I just found out you did more than Disney photography. I have been reading through some of your National Park posts. We have been on a National Park kick with our family of 5. In one year, we have done 16 National Parks, 4 National Monuments, a National Memorial, a National Historic Site, and 1 National Recreational Area. We just spent this summer (2017) in Glacier National Park. It was fabulous! Because we are hiking with a five year old, we don’t make sunset shots like these. It is on my list though. I carry a Nikon D7200, and I am all over the place on what lens I carry. I also always have my iPhone on me which was at the time a 7 Plus. If you go back, you need to try Avalanche Lake. Go early in the morning. I have the best photos of my family wading in the crystal clear waters with the amazing mountains in the background. After seeing your photos, I am going to have to suck it up and get and carry the 70-200. Thanks for sharing your photographic journey. It helps hobby mom’s like me get great photos of amazing places and the people I enjoy them with. Thank you.

    I have two favorites from this post. The first is the mountain goats. I total get the obsession! And the very last photo. It is what I dream of . . . Interest in the foreground, interesting lighting, and amazing mountain backdrop. Awesome shot!!

    I highly encourage you to visit Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. In Yellowstone later in the summer of 2017, I carried a 18-300 all in one for the first time ever. I loved the reach but it was a sacrifice. If you go to Yellowstone, take the longest reach you can get even if you have to rent. I would have if I would have realized what we were going to be seeing: bald eagle, Black bear, fox, grizzly bear, wolves, deer, elk, and bison. What I would do to go back!

  2. Steve Burns
    Steve Burns says:

    Those are some great photos! Glad to know that people still enjoy the National Parks. Always interesting to see how man-made artificial things get much more attention than places full of natural beauty such as this. I find myself in that former category all too often as well, unfortunately. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I’ve followed the blog for a while now, and the panoramic shot of the lake might be my favorite photo you have posted. It’s beautiful.

    I like the picture at the end with the dead tree as well. (I see how you were going for “different” with the moose, but that one doesn’t do much for me.) The problem, at least where I live, for Glacier National Park is that flights to Montana are darned expensive. I’ve never skied Big Sky for the same reason.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the incredibly kind words, Kevin. As beautiful as that panoramic of the lake is, I assure you that it was more beautiful in person. I could not capture the way the rays of light shined through the clouds and hit the side of the mountains, but it was really like something out of a dream. The scene somehow simultaneously had a soft glow from that light and harsher storm clouds above, and a gamut of color. It was breathtaking, and it totally changed the tone of the trip for me (before that, I was honestly getting a little frustrated and worried the trip would be a photographic bust).

      The final photo of the dead tree is one of my favorites, ever. It took me lying on my back under the tree to capture it in this manner while also framing the mountain the way I did. Don’t know why I just tossed that one in at the end without explanation.

      There are a few airports within driving distance of Glacier National Park, and when we started planning, airfare was <$400 roundtrip to Missoula from Orlando, Indy, North Carolina, and California (the places from which we were traveling), which we all viewed as a good price. I waited to purchase and it jumped above $500, but I ended up finding airfare to Glacier International Airport (much more convenient) for around $525 roundtrip. Closer, and my rental car ended up being cheaper from there. Still a lot of money, but I'm so glad I made the trip. It is an absolutely incredible park--I can't wait to share more from here!

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      That doesn’t sound bad at all – I haven’t followed airfares closely, but it was $600-$700 when I looked. Although even at that price, perhaps not a bad use of FF miles.

      I look forward to more pictures from the trip. Given the name of the park, do you have any of glaciers?

  4. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    Yea! Tom is back!

    Glacier is one of my favorite national parks – its mountains and lakes are just gorgeous. Your photos are beautiful as always and I, for one, am extremely appreciative of your talent, the early mornings, pack-horse loads, and willingness to share your stunning results. Thanks!

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the kind words! Glacier ranks highly for me because of its rich diversity and that there are so many places to go and things to see. It’s much like Yosemite in this regard. It really amazes me that so much can be packed into such a small (relatively speaking) location, but that’s what makes the National Parks so great!

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