The Crazy Mountains stunned us as we arrived in Montana. ‘We’re not on the East Coast anymore,’ I thought. I had the great privilege of attending the annual Big Timber Arts Round Up put together by alumni parents from The Agnes Irwin School. Together, with several other Main Line schools, we traveled to a ranch outside of Big Timber, Montana. It was on the ranch that high school students from Philly and Montana joined together to better their artistic skills and express their passions in theater, painting, photography, and writing.
I accompanied the Photographers, naturally.
We spent three days with photographer, Barbara Van Cleve, who wowed us all with her skill and excitement but most of all with her spirit and gushing enthusiasm for her students and the great Montana landscape. We drove out into the fields of horses and cattle, just to photograph – to watch their moves and anticipate the next shot. Never have I had the pleasure of lying down in a cattle field with twenty other people and felt the foot steps of a herd approach. (Cattle run if you are standing but as soon as you lie flat on the ground, their curiosity spikes and they approach.) I could have laid their all day. We chased them around with the car, moving them every which way just to see them from different angles, to get the sky in the frame, and to laugh. We laughed and laughed and laughed – all the while camera shutters were going off like rocket-fire.
There were lots of other opportunities to take photographs but the cattle really won me over. The whole experience was magical, one that could not be replicated. To watch my students from the Main Line detach from their phones and the expectations of their surroundings and connect to that which is real and good and divine: nature, was nothing short of fascinating. I would do anything to provide that experience for all of my students.
I was able to do the same thing. I was alive with joy and excitement and the space to let my creativity flow. I took hundreds of photographs in just three days. I had a running narrative of what the experience was, everything seemed so poetic as we all tried to bring to life our experience yet at the end I realized it was incapable of being captured authentically, the authentic qualities are those that are in our hearts.
I chose out my favorite group of images from our long weekend in big sky country, but this group doesn’t even come close to capturing what really happened for all of us on Hobble Diamond Ranch.