montana photograph Lasers

Sure, Montana has it’s requisite of mountains, wildlife and people who are connected with the land, but we’ve got tech too.

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Zack Cole, director of scientific materials at FLIR Systems, Inc., in Bozeman, peers through a garnet crystal used to build high power laser systems for cutting and welding sheet metal in automotive and heavy equipment manufacturing.

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Light travels through a crystal to illuminate the materials from which it was made: a raw powder of aluminum oxide and lutetium oxide, according to Cole, which are then melted into a liquid and re-solidified at a temperature nearing 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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At the Tech Park Facility of FLIR Systems, Inc., laser light travels into a crystal under the watch of Zack Cole. Cole says the process is a way to find imperfections in the crystal.

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Crystals made to be used in lasers by FLIR Systems, Inc., stand on a lab table. Cole says the different colors are indicative of different materials used in the making of the crystals and also the differing potential uses of the crystals, which include detection of X-rays, cutting and welding sheet metal and use in space applications like satellites, Mars rovers and International Space Station docking facilities.

 

See these and more on my website.

montana photograph Working Together

I’ve written before about how good land stewardship is a common trait among environmentalists and the agriculture industry. Both want a healthy ecosystem, but there have been problems in the past communicating and working together.

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust is working with local farmers and ranchers to preserve farms and ranches from future development, preserving healthy rivers and wildlife habitat — something many local farmers and ranchers have been doing for generations.

Last summer, I met several of the local landowners that have worked with GVLT. Here’s some of what I saw:

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See these on my website.

montana photograph Something Goes Right

These are trying times for all of us. And it’s easy to get sucked into current events that make us feel like everything is going wrong.

Meg Singer of the Montana ACLU gave a presentation about things we can do to improve life on Montana’s Indian reservations the other night here in Bozeman. During the presentation, Ms. Singer talked about the media’s fascination with what she called, “Poverty Porn.”

So often the stories we see about Native Americans are about the despair in their lives. And I’m not saying there isn’t desperation on Montana’s seven Indian reservations. But there are good things happening too.

So it was great to be sent up to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northwest Montana by World Wildlife Fund to cover what’s working up there. I found that most of the efforts center around the bison, which is seen as an anchor for the culture of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, who call themselves the Buffalo People.

Here’s a few pictures:

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The Fort Peck tribes now have a herd of bison culled from Yellowstone National Park that have been quarantined to be sure they are free of disease. The keep them at a place called, the Fort Peck Tribes Cultural Buffalo Herd Ranch Facility .

That was where they held the Buffalo People Summit, where local school children were bussed in to be introduced to the buffalo’s importance to the Assiniboine and Sioux identities.

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Also on the Fort Peck Reservation, language skills are being passed on. Young Ethan Three Stars studies with Del First. Three Stars is said to be nearly fluent in the Dakota language.

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Ramey Growing Thunder and her husband, Darryl, are big parts of the cultural preservation efforts at Fort Peck. Here, they pick wild turnips with their three children on the reservation.

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Family is everything — people within the tribes are rarely just “friends.” They are often referred to as cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. The buffalo are also part of their cultural family.

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See these pictures on my website.

montana photograph Time

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Our daughter, Katie, has moved out and our nest is empty. While this brings Rena and I feelings of new freedom and pride in the person our daughter is becoming, it also brings an unexpected emptiness to our house and a realization that time moves ever forward.

We’ve been very lucky thus far and we’re grateful. May we all have such happiness in the days ahead.

montana photograph Trying Times

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We are a nation divided. And in our house, that doesn’t settle well.

I feel isolated, foolish and stupid to be so surprised that so many of my neighbors feel so radically different than I. And when I look to the future, I’m hard pressed to know what to hope for.

It’s scary.

So when my wife suggested we attend a march and rally in Bozeman yesterday, we went and I’m glad of it. It was nice to connect with others with similar feelings. And the only gestures I saw from passing vehicles were peace signs and thumbs up. So that’s nice.

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montana photograph Smokejumpers

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I had the great pleasure to work for the fine folks at Bleacher Report this summer on a story about smokejumpers — women and men who jump out of perfectly good airplanes into forest fires. I spent a couple of days at the Aerial Fire Center in West Yellowstone, Mont.

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The jumpers are an elite group — experts at a variety of skills who have worked their way up through the ranks of Forest Service fire fighting.

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They’re supremely fit people, each given 90 minutes a day to devote to their own personal fitness routine.

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They jump wearing 100 pounds of firefighting and camping gear — enough to sustain their efforts unassisted for three days.

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And the gear they use is so specialized, they must make most of it themselves. And what they don’t manufacture, they often adapt from other applications.

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Time not spent fighting fires is spent maintaining and repacking gear. Parachutes are inflated and inspected before being repacked.

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The hours are long and a lot of time is spent away from home and loved ones.

Read the story on the Bleacher Report blog here. See these pictures and more on my website here.

montana photograph Birds of the Hi-Line

During the summer of 2015, the good people of the World Wildlife Fund hired me to spend a couple of weeks up on the Hi-Line in northern Montana photographing a multitude of things. Among those things were the birds in and around the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge near Malta. Here’s some of what we found:

Black-crowned night heron? South of Malta, Mont.

Black-crowned night heron.

Raptor. South of Malta, Mont.

Prairie falcon.

Godwit. South of Malta, Mont.

Godwit.

Raven in nest. South of Malta, Mont.

Raven.

Swallow near bridge. South of Malta, Mont.

Swallow.

Meadowlark. South of Malta, Mont.

Meadowlark.

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Burrowing owl.

Cormorant. South of Malta, Mont.

Cormorant.

Yellow-headed blackbird. Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge east of Malta, Mont.

Yellow-headed blackbird.

Battle Creek and swallows north of Chinook, Mont.

Swallows.

To see these on my website, visit ThomasLeePhoto.com