Grain Silo Timelapse – Rapelje, MT

The sky in central Montana is force that plays different characters on different days. Today it was playful in a way it hasn’t been in several moody weeks. Watch until the end, and you’ll see the shadow of another storm begin to slide across the sky.

This is my first time-lapse in Rapelje, set up while I interviewed Laila, the manager of the Stockman Cafe. I’m looking forward to making more. With time such an important part of the story, I’m thinking that they may play a big part in the film.

Check out the film’s website HERE.

Rapelje, Montana

Stills from my first trip to Rapelje filming my short documentary on the 24 Hours of Rapelje, the town’s famous mountain bike race. Special thanks to Sally Orr for giving me tour of the area, and helping me lay the ground-work for the film!

Life’s Fast is Back Under the Big Sky!

It’s official, Life’s Fast Productions has moved its headquarters to beautiful Big Sky Country! While this won’t affect our video projects throughout the country, we are excited to begin working our video magic in Montana.

"Pictograph Caves State Park" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at: http://jeffhandlinblog.wordpress.com/

We are hoping to be Billings, Montana’s premiere video production company, telling stories about the local people, places, and organizations that make Montana such a unique place to be.

"Prairie Winds Near Molt, Montana" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at: http://jeffhandlinblog.wordpress.com/

Moving back to Montana is a homecoming for the team. We are excited to get back here and apply what we’ve learned to this amazing place. We have plans to partner up with some of the local talent on some of our newest projects. The photographs shown here are from local photographer and timelapse artist Jeff Handlin.

"Sacrifice Cliff" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at: http://jeffhandlinblog.wordpress.com/

As far as new projects, we have some new stuff that will be working its way to the surface in the coming months, so keep an eye open for those.

Photography provided by Jeff Handlin Photography. Check out his latest adventures HERE. Also, check out his very-reasonably-priced fine-art prints.

MT Roadtrip Pt. 5: Peaks and Valleys, Missoula – St. Mary’s Peak

"M" Trail, Mt. Sentinel, Missoula, MT: Missoula lies under the watchful eye of a giant "M" on the side of Mt. Sentinel near the University of Montana campus. I climb the series of switchbacks to get an awesome view of the city nestled in the crook of three mountain ranges.

Mt. Sentinel, Missoula, MT: From atop the "M" Trail, Missoula fills the valley before me. The Clark Fork carves lazy S-turns through Missoula's lively downtown and the two closest wilderness areas rise just outside the city limits, providing places to enjoy high country activities. These wilderness areas, plus several more within a few miles, are part of what draws people from all over the country to settle here.

MBW, Missoula, MT: Missoula has a thriving community of cyclists made up of everything from year-round commuters to pro racers. Missoula Bicycle Works embodies Missoula's independent nature: a local shop serving this diverse community better than any chain retailer. I worked here for three years and enjoyed stopping by and catching up with old friends.

Hellgate Cyclery, Missoula, MT: I also visit Hellgate Cyclery, one of a new breed of shops around the country focusing on bicycle repairs and selling used bikes rather than dealing in bikes from large-scale manufacturers. Tucked into an alley downtown, this shop feels like a hidden doorway into the heart of the local bike scene, complete with a greeting by the shop dog.

Missoula, MT: I wander along the Clark Fork through a series of parks and greenways. The flowers and trees along the river stand in stark contrast to the semi-arid land just outside the valley, giving the "Garden City" its nickname.

Missoula, MT: These massive fish "swim" between boulders at the edge of the Clark Fork in Caras Park. This sculpture is a great reminder of what makes Missoula a haven for people who want to live someplace because of their passions (in this case, anglers) rather than the availability of high-paying jobs. This, in turn, has brought a lot of diverse talents to the area, making Missoula the home base for several international businesses and organizations.

Fire Tower, St. Mary's Peak, near Stevensville, MT: The final stop on my trek across Montana is at St. Mary's peak near Stevensville. After the hike to the top, I am greeted by both great views of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and and a Forest Service lookout who was kind enough to let me check out the instruments he uses to track fires. He will live in this 12'x12' box for weeks at a time watching the forest through most of the Bitterroot Valley to the east and the rows of jagged mountains in Idaho's panhandle to the west.

Fire Tower, St. Mary's Peak, near Stevensville, MT: From inside his tower, a Forest Service fire lookout keeps an eye on one of several fires that sprang to life over the hours since I started my climb. High winds drive these fires across the mountainsides even as I watch them. These fires, like human presence, will change the landscape. In some ways these changes will be for the better and some ways not. These fires are often out of our control but, in the end--with fires, at least-- nature prevails. A new cycle of life begins.

Montana Road Trip Pt. 4: Rust and Mountains, Bozeman – Nevada City

Burger Bob's, Bozeman, MT: This place hasn't changed a bit since I was here last ten years ago, from the MSU Bobcats helmets on the walls to the beer bottles chilling in a tub of ice. I admire any place confident enough to use self-deprecation to stand out in the fierce food service competition.

Burger Bob's, Bozeman, MT: Bob's lives up to their promise, plus I get one of the best burgers I've had in months. I imagine the beef coming from a field around the corner rather than from around the world.

Downtown Bozeman, MT: Bozeman's downtown is filled with art made by "local" artists, many having moved here from other places for the "quality of life" Montana's mountain towns offer. Many locals view this influx as detrimental to the character of these places (as well as an increase in property taxes).

Highway 287 toward Ennis, MT, south of Three Forks, MT: Beyond the curve of this highway the road is hemmed in by the 10,000 foot peaks of the Madison Range on the left and the Tobacco Root Mountains on the right. I have never been to Ennis and am stunned at the beauty of this highway. I can hardly believe I've never seen this stretch of road before and wonder what other treasures I've missed sticking to the interstate for all those years.

Highway 287 toward Ennis, MT, south of Three Forks, MT: The arid conditions spared this old ranch cabin, preserving a glimpse of a hard way of life that still exists for cattlemen. Ranchers in this area are known for still doing much of their work by hand or on horseback. I imagine that, for the ranch-hands that lived in this cabin a century ago, seeing the rugged beauty of the Tobacco Root Range right out the front door may have taken some of the bite out of the ever-present wind scouring the valley floor.

Top of the pass near Eight-Mile Creek, Hwy 287, Overlooking Ennis, MT: Homage to the trusty Toyota I borrowed for this trip. It is a joy to drive on the twisty backroads and its large windows offer excellent visibility as I gape at the mountains drifting by.

Virginia City, MT: These pumps and boarded up station sit at the edge of one of Montana's most famous ghost towns, Virginia City. Though most of the gold rush buildings are being restored, this historical late-comer sits decaying. Much of Montana's rural history is visible in rusting heaps along its roadways. Barns and machinery in various states of degradation, populate the open spaces between communities. Broken down farm trucks become archeological stratification: 1960's Chevy next to a 1950's International next to a 1940's Dodge next to a 1930's...

Nevada City, MT: Nevada City is another famed ghost town. Unlike Virginia City a few miles away, Nevada City almost disappeared before being reassembled from period buildings found and shipped in from around the state. This sign commemorates the vigilante actions that gave the old west some of its "wild" reputation. This reputation lives on in the largely self-reliant towns along western back roads.

Montana Road Trip Pt. 3: A Taste of Rural Life, Columbus – Bozeman

Stump Gulch outside Columbus, MT: The Stump Gulch fire roared through here leaving behind these smoldering hillsides. I drove through here two evenings ago, at the height of the blaze, and watched columns of flame cast infernal light over miles of interstate. The highway worked as a fire-break, stopping the wildfire's progression south. Smoke still darkens the sky as the fire burns northward.

Road toward the Crazy Mountains, outside Big Timber, MT: I love this view of the Crazies jutting up out of the flat prairie as I drive toward Big Timber. The ruggedness of the range foreshadows the mountainous landscapes that are to come as I head west.

Big Timber, MT: At one time, wooden fences kept cattle from wandering from one range into another. This one, however, holds back a development of new mini-mansions. This creek will soon be drained trying to keep lawns of non-native grasses green in this arid environment.

Big Timber, MT: Wood fences have long-since been replaced on working ranches by barbed wire. Wildflowers line this working ranch in the shadow of the Absaroka-Beartooth mountain range.

Main Street, Big Timber, MT: Main Street in the working town of Big Timber is lined with muddy pickup trucks and hardware stores. The facade on the Timber Bar is covered with neon lights and has, no doubt, acted as a beacon to ranch hands for miles around. I am sad that I have to leave before nightfall.

Main Street, Big Timber, MT: The art in Big Timber doesn't seem like a kitschy glorification of the past to drive tourism but, rather, a celebration of a way of life the town still clings to. The influx of wealthy outsiders trying to carve out a slice of "Montana" for themselves is slower here (and many rural areas) due to its distance from developed features like Yellowstone Park.

Bozeman Pass, I-90, between Livingston and Bozeman, MT: Wildflowers grow thick along Montana's roadways adding color to the already stunning landscape. The flowers are so ubiquitous that I didn't even notice them until I moved back east and wondered what was missing: a blur of yellows, reds, blues and whites.

Main Street, Bozeman, MT: Montana Ale Works, built out of an old railroad depot sits across the tracks from an agriculture distribution center. Even with the short growing season at 5,000 feet, this valley supplies many of the fine grains that go into boutique breads and beers around the country.

Montana Road Trip pt. 2: Taking the High Road-Red Lodge to Yellowstone

Beartooth Pass, outside of Red Lodge, MT: Highway 212 switchbacks its way up the side of this canyon as it climbs over five-thousand feet in less than 19 miles. Even with several years of mountain-driving experience, I feel moments of vertigo negotiating the dozens of hairpin turns.

Satterlee Pond, Beartooth National Wilderness, WY: Wind churns the surface of Satterlee Pond while Picas chirp from the boulder fields. As I approach Beartooth Pass, the road winds out of the forest of lodgepole pine and into soft, mossy tundra similar to what what one might find within the Arctic Circle.

Satterlee Pond, Beartooth National Wilderness, WY: The granite exposed at the top of Beartooth Pass is some of the oldest on Earth, dating back 2 billion years. Hearty wildflowers spring up through the rocky ground, adding color to even the starkest stone outcrops.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY: Highway 212 drops into Cooke City, MT, then descends into the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Park. The valley is one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the Park and a prime location for spotting bear, elk, bison, coyotes, and wolves. Tourists and wildlife biologists crowd together along roadside pullouts scanning for the valley's more elusive animals.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone NP, WY: A now-dormant geyser cone stands at the head of the Lamar Valley with Norris Mountain and The Thunderer in the background. Building storm clouds threaten to bring rain to the valley.

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP, WY: The odor of Sulfur hangs heavy in the air and clouds of steam wet my skin as I stare into the depths of this hot spring. The vibrant colors of the hot springs often contrast with the stark, barren soil that surrounds them.

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP, WY: Kayakers glide past runoff from one of the hot springs near Yellowstone Lake, America's biggest mountain lake. The mountains on the far side show the edge of the vast volcanic caldera, a crater so large that the lake only takes up one quarter of the area.

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP, WY: Paddlers check out a dormant geyser a few feet off shore. The thermal features and high sediment temperatures suggest a shallow geothermal network here kept in check by the lake's cold waters. If the water level of the lake were to drop even a few feet, a major hydrothermal explosion could create another crater like the ones that make up Mary Bay and Indian Pond to the north which formed the same way.

Artist Paint Pots, Yellowstone NP, WY: The boardwalk seems on the verge of collapsing into this mostly underground hot spring. As impressive as the geysers and hot springs are, there are even more impressive forces going down below. The super-volcano that fuels these features is pushing up on the surface once again, building pressure and threatening the same type of catastrophic explosion that formed Yellowstone's 45 mile caldera.

Next leg: Back into Montana – Red Lodge through Bozeman

Montana Road Trip pt. 1: Flatland – Pompey’s Pillar to Red Lodge

Montana’s vastness strikes me as the needle on the car’s speedometer inches up to eighty-miles-per-hour, a speed I never hit on the east coast because of speed limits and traffic. The wildflowers along the highway blur into broad, impressionistic brush-strokes. Barbed wire fence posts flick by as fast as frames on a movie reel. And, yet, the mountains on my left haven’t so much as moved over the last half hour of driving. And, because of their size and distance, they will hang there in suspended animation for the next hour (until I turn north in Livingston).

I feel comfortable in this vastness, even after spending the last three years buried in Maine’s dense forests, driving on roads that look the same, mile after mile. Don’t get me wrong, Maine is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. When I press my foot against the accelerator  in Montana, however, I find myself surprised that anyone could ever fall asleep behind the wheel and die on these roads. Over every hill, there is something new to see!

These images are a small part of what I see as I drive between the grassy plains of Pompey’s Pillar and rocky peaks outside Stevensville, Montana.

Sit back, roll down the windows and take it all in.

Pompey's Pillar, MT: My trip starts where this sandstone column rises 150 ft. over the grassy prairie about 25 miles east of Billings. In 1806 William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition carved his name in the sandstone after climbing to the top to survey the landscape. He wrote in his journal about the jagged mountains he saw on the horizon. Those peaks are the Beartooth Mountain Range 80 miles away. I hope to be there before the end of the day.

Pompey's Pillar, MT: Long before Clark named the pillar for Sacagawea's son, it held special meaning for the people of the Crow Nation who called it, "The Place Where the Mountain Lion Lies." The bluff is a place of great spiritual power to the Crow whose oral histories tell of vision quests at the rock by several prominent Crow leaders.

Pompey's Pillar, MT: Captain Clark wasn't the first nor last to graffiti this rock. These stairs lead visitors to where they can see Clark's signature among petroglyphs dating back before the horse was introduced to the American Indians in the 1700's through etchings made by railroad workers in the late 1880's. If you look closely, you can see the masts where motion-detectors and video cameras stop modern-day defacers from leaving their marks.

Outside Billings, MT: Billings lies in the Yellowstone River Valley, surrounded by sandstone cliffs on both sides. This photo, taken a few miles up-river from Billings, shows the landscape that gives Montana its moniker "Big Sky Country."

Outside Billings, MT: There's no shortage of patriotism in eastern Montana. Political signs often linger, fading in the sun, for years after the elections have decided their candidates' fates.

Pictograph Cave State Park, Billings, MT: This site served as a shelter to the area's American Indians for over 3,000 years, both in the caves (one of which is visible behind the tipi) and, after the introduction of the horses, on the banks of Bitter Creek in tipis.

Farm outside Billings, MT: A tractor kicks up a plume of dust as it crosses a dry field. The Yellowstone River Valley is fertile, yet challenging to farm. Less than 14 inches of rain fall on this field each year.

Red Lodge, MT: The facades on the buildings in downtown Red Lodge have a polished look that illustrates the crossroads that the town has passed. At one time this town eeked out a living on timber, mining and agriculture. Now its biggest growth sectors are tourism and real estate. It's hard to find a town more removed from its past.

Red Lodge, MT: The flags of dozens of countries hang along the streets in preperation of the Festival of Nations, one of the most meaningful ways Red Lodge struggles to keep hold of its past. The festival is a celebration of the influx of multi-national immigrant labor that dug its mines and tilled its fields. The festival includes traditional food and dancing.

Natali's Front Bar, Red Lodge, MT: Natali's is definitely the kind of place you throw your peanut shells on the floor. I arrived a little too early for a drink. The door was open, but no one seemed to be around to explain why there were hundreds of $1 bills pinned to the ceiling.

Montana Candy Emporium, Red Lodge, MT: Made out of an old theater, the Montana Candy Emporium is filled with old-time kitsch, cool cruiser bikes and buckets of local, hand-made candies. I felt like, well, you know...

Road into the mountains, outside of Red Lodge, MT: Red Lodge is the gateway to the Beartooth Mountains. Here' the road splits. Primitive single-lane jeep roads like this one climb to the right to the 10,500 ft. Hellroaring Plateau. On the left, Highway 212 switchbacks its way 5,000 ft. up and over Beartooth Pass. On the other side is my next destination: Yellowstone National Park.