Retrospective: 8 years in the making

In November I celebrated my eighth anniversary with the Daily Inter Lake. Traditionally, I create a “best of the year” blog, but this year I am preparing to show my work at the Hockaday Museum of Art which warrants review of my entire time with the Inter Lake.

The title of the show is set — "Magical: A Collection of Ordinary Miracles from Northwest Montana." All that remains is funding and reducing eight years worth of work to a collection of 50 photographs. Considering I usually select the top 200 at the end of a single year, this is a challenge.

However, with this goal in mind, I updated my portfolio with some of the news, features, landscape and sports photos over the years as well as three stories I had the privilege of covering.

To read the captions, hover over the image.


From left, single mother Hayley Matthews and her two children Darien, 12, and Kaden, 10 survey the damage to their home on Friday afternoon, Nov. 18, east of Kalispell. The Matthews home was completely destroyed in a fire on Wednesday. The fire was so intense that firefighters used 16,000 gallons of firefighting foam to combat the blaze.

A firefighter battles the fully engulfed townhouse on Slopeside Drive on Big Mountain on Thursday night, Nov. 2, in Whitefish. At 9:42 p.m., Big Mountain Fire and Rescue responded to the report of a structure fire in a residential area near the ski slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort. They were quickly joined by crews from the Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Evergreen fire departments. Nearly 30 firefighters battled the blaze for about five hours in freezing conditions on snow-packed ground. A sharp wind was another concern for firefighters as they fought to keep the blaze contained.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., tours the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 16. The congressman has provided one of the voices to consistently speak out against having the plant be designated a Superfund site due to the cyanide, fluoride and other metals that have been detected in the soil. Covering 40 acres of floor space the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company is the largest building in Montana.
(This is one of the images I submitted to the AP when President Trump announced that Zinke was his choice for Secretary of the Interior. The two images were picked up nationally as well used in Outside magazine.)

Kalispell Firefighter Jake Felts carries a tool up the ladder to firefighters dealing with the last of a fire on the roof of the old hospital building on Tuesday evening, July 4, in Kalispell. The roof fire was reported at 7:43 p.m. and was responded to by the Kalispell, Evergreen Fire and Rescue, South Kalispell, and Smith Valley departments. Kalispell Police and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office were also on scene. The original hospital building was constructed in 1911 and was remodeled into condominiums in 2007.

Flathead County Sheriff's deputy Dan Linder looks back at the tow truck while as he struggles to stabilize the line dive team members are working to attach to a partially submerged truck at 1:40 a.m. Monday morning, Feb. 16, in Bigfork. At 9:15 p.m. emergency crews first responded to a driver who missed the entrance to the one-lane span on Bridge Street. Law-enforcement officials have declined to identify the man because the investigation is ongoing and authorities believe alcohol was a factor. It took more than six hours to extricate the truck from the river.

Firefighters from Columbia Falls battle flames in a fully involved structure fire on Thursday, May 14, on Brunner Road southwest of Columbia Falls. The fire, which started in the family’s welding shop around 5 p.m., completely destroyed the home of Stan and Carol Ortel.

Kalispell Firefighter F. Ray Ruffato, center, carefully looks over a victim being moved into a waiting ambulance Friday evening, May 20, at the scene of a wreck at the intersection of U.S. 93 and W. Reserve Drive in Kalispell.

View from atop the Evergreen Fire and Rescue ladder truck of a fire on Mountain View Drive in Evergreen on Wednesday, August 5, as the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopter swoops in with another load of water. A total of five buildings were completely destroyed in the fire which was caused by a cigarette dropped by not extinguished. Fighting the flames not the ground is River Mallory of the Creston Fire Department.

Capt. James Boyce of the Evergreen Fire and Rescue department relays scene conditions to Incident Commander Craig Williams as a grass fire spreads from Maple Drive to East Reserve. Although firefighters from Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation responded to the fire, several residents lost their homes in the largest blaze to hit a residential neighborhood in the Kalispell area in almost ten years.

Smoke from the Thompson Fire in Glacier National Park pours into the sky in this view from Lost Creek Road and Farm-to-Market Road in West Valley on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 11. More than 30 fires are burning between the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park. Approximately 13,600 acres are not contained.


Donna Maddux as the Story Lady reads to children at the Whitefish Library on Thursday morning, Feb. 18.

Leif Castren of Kalispell with his “little brother” Rylan, 10, at Lawrence Park on Thursday, April 21, in Kalispell. Rylan has been in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program since 2014.

Bernadette Binoya Fuhst of the Philippines throws her head back joyfully after receiving a small American Flag as well as her American Citizenship certificate on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Glacier National Park. Eleven new citizens, from seven nations, took the Oath of Allegiance on the shores of Lake McDonald.

Carroll Krause weeps as she gets a hug from her grandson, Chief Petty Officer Anthony Fluke, as he makes good on his promise to someday come home from the Navy wearing his dress uniform on Monday morning, April 10, at Brendan House in Kalispell. Fluke, who will be retiring after 20 years of service, made the promise to his Carroll when he first joined the Navy.

Lasso tricks during the Bigfork Fourth of July Parade on Tuesday afternoon, July 4. Estimates for attendance at this year's parade had more than 5,000 spectators lining the route along Electric Avenue.

Mitchell Johnson, 8, of Creston, reaches out to get a high five from Whitefish Police Department Chaplain Don Dukes on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4, during the annual Winter Carnival Parade through downtown Whitefish.

Jason Rasco of Kalispell treks home from a visit to the library with his 4 year old twin boys Macy, in red, and Mac, in blue, on Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, in Kalipsell. The twins were enjoying the catching and eating the freshly falling snow.


One of my favorite aspects of working for a newspaper in this part of the country is that both residents and visitors have a deep love of the scenic wonders that fill and surround the Flathead Valley.

 Tranquil scene at Kintla Lake on Sunday afternoon, July 10, in North Glacier National Park. (This image was picked up by the Associate Press and sent out to their world wide service marked as an APTOPIX).

A full moon sets over a field of canola at 5:57 a.m. on Saturday, July 12, in West Valley, north of Kalispell.

A late night view of the Sprague Fire in Glacier National Park as seen from Camas Road on Saturday, Sept. 9. The lack of trees and wide open view were created by the Roberts Fire of 2003. One viewer described the scene as “looking through history.” The Sprague Fire destroyed the Sperry Chalet, a National Historic Landmark, on Aug. 31.

A red barn and autumn leaves make a striking contrast against the blue of the mountains on a mostly overcast morning on Wednesday, Nov. 2, in Columbia Falls.

The ice on Lake McDonald has begun to thaw on Monday, April 7, in Glacier National Park.

A view of the Northern Lights over Lake McDonald at 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, in Glacier National Park.

The Milky Way shines brightly over Lake McDonald, in Glacier National Park on Wednesday, July 18, at 3:21 a.m.


Glacier senior Bryan Michaels shoots for two under pressure from Flathead senior Matt Quist during the Crosstown match up on Friday, Feb. 28, in Kalispell. Glacier won the game 62-47.

Drew Hollinger of Bigfork comes through two gates on his first run through the beginner slalom on Saturday, May 29, at the Bigfork annual Whitewater Festival.

Glacier's Amber McCann (5) keeps the ball away from Flathead's Bailey Poe (21) during the first half of their game on Thursday, Oct. 14. Flathead won the match up 2-1.

James Irish of Lewiston, Montana, rides Easy Does It for a score of 73 on Saturday night, Aug. 20, at the rodeo at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell.

Pam Fisher of Basalt, Colorado, rides Sea Lion in the Cross-Country challenge on Saturday, July 24, at The Event at Rebecca Farm.

Bozeman senior quarterback Tanner Roderick (11) attempts to escape Glacier senior linebacker Jacob Leininger (11) during the second quarter of their game on Friday, Sept. 10, in Kalispell. At half time the score was Bozeman 21, Glacier 7.



ATP — Behind the magic

Big River with Aaron Vega and Nicholas Ward.

 The Alpine Theatre Project has long been known in the Flathead for the magic they create on stage. This is a behind the scenes look at a year in the life of the company and what goes into making those performances a reality.
Photos are from the 2014 season.
Note: These images were designed in black and white to contrast between the behind the scenes work and the colorful stage productions. 

Producing Artistic Director Betsi Morrison (Broadway's The Sound of Music), leads Flathead Valley high school students as they rehearse a scene from Pippin. ATP is committed to working with young actors and inspiring the next generation of talent.

Pippin rehearsal.

Peter Pan rehearsal.

Luke Walrath (Broadway's 42nd Street) leads dozens of young actors in rehearsal for ATP's  production of Peter Pan..

For the summer concert series ATP produces three plays to be performed in rotation. The schedule is intense and requires actors to learn all three plays in a matter of weeks. Coffee is an essential ingredient.

Rebecca Spear in rehearsal.

Luke Walrath, left, in a scene from Big River.

Kendra Jo Brook learning her music.

Founding artist David Ackroyd in rehearsal.

Susan O'Dea in rehearsal.

Making costumes for Guys and Dolls.

Betsi Morrison and Eric Michael Krop in rehearsal.

Back stage.

Susan O'Dea and Eric Michael Krop share a laugh during rehearsal for Tommy.

Tech rehearsal for Guys and Dolls.

Learning scores for the final performance of the year: Yuletide.

Singing Christmas carols as the cast of Yuletide prepares for the final show of the year. Of the six shows ATP performs per year, Yuletide and three others, annually bring Broadway musicians to perform and work with aspiring young artists in the Flathead Valley.


Total Perfection: Chasing solar eclipse totality

I wrote the article that accompanied these photos. It is available here:

Roberts, Idaho witnessed 2m16s of totality on Monday, August 21.

On Sunday evening, the night before the Great American Eclipse, signs for places to park and camp were still up waiting for more visitors to arrive in Roberts, Idaho.

Leona Bacon is a volunteer with the City of Roberts. As people came into town Leona was there with information on parking, camping, and options for hotel rooms. She wore a vest which read: The Great Roberts Eclipse. Bacon decided to volunteer because she wanted to be active in the community. “I really like how everyone is loving our small town,” said Bacon. “People from Arizona, Utah, New York, Canada, California, they are all saying that they just love it.”

Melody Benchley, 13, of Hooper, Utah looks up at the eclipse through a disk of obsidian. Here family got the disks while traveling in South America. They were told that the obsidian is what the ancient Aztecs used to view eclipses.

The park in Roberts starts to fill up as people gather for the total eclipse at 11:32 a.m. on Monday, August 21. At the moment of totality a collective shout went up from the crowd that could be heard four blocks away.

Volunteers at the Roberts Fire District watch the eclipse on Monday, August 21. The Fire District has only 15 volunteers all of whom were on duty on Monday. Many of the volunteers had taken vacation time from their regular jobs so they could be at the station and on call during the eclipse. Firefighters had been meeting with the local law enforcement community for more than a year planning and preparing for the influx of visitors.

Al Tays of Whitefish stands near the Roberts Fire District as he watches the moon begin to pass in front of the sun on August 21. Seeing totality was a “bucket list” item for Tays.

A wide view of the solar eclipse over Roberts, Idaho, on Monday, August 21. The sky above the town went completely dark, while the horizon appeared as a 360-degree sunset.