Repeat Photography and Glacial Shrinkage in Glacier National Park (Update 2)

I have now been in Montana for a few days, and I have finished taking photos for my repeat photography (see my last post for the photos I am recreating). For the duration of my trip, visibility has been hampered by wildfires. Saturday night, three wildfires started in Glacier National Park, and they have further reduced visibility and caused a major closure in the park.

Saturday was my first day in the park and I began with an attempt at recreating Ansel Adams’s photo at Lake McDonald. I started at Apgar Village, a small shopping area next to the lake, and realized that the topography in the background did not match up. From there, I went to a picnic area on the lake near Fish Creek Campground (a few miles Northwest of Apgar). I noticed that the topography was the same as what Adams photographed, but the angle did not match. So, I walked another mile up the bank of the lake to see if I could get closer. It was better, but not an exact match. I inferred that the photo was likely taken from Lake McDonald Lodge (on the other side of the lake and roughly ten miles away). However, I was running out of time, and the sky was hazy, so I decided to return another day. That night, a wildfire began near Lake McDonald Lodge, and it was later evacuated. It is unlikely that the area will open while I am here, so I will have to use one of the photos I took near Fish Creek.



Sunday was the clearest day, and I hiked to Grinnell Glacier to take two repeat photographs. The current location of the trail appears to be slightly different from the routes taken by Kiser and Hileman, as I was not able to perfectly match up the angle of the mountains in the photos. However, I am happy with the quality of my photos, for the sky was clear and the details of the landscape are visible.

Monday, I visited the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center in order to repeat Adams’s photos of Reynolds Mountain. One photo was explicitly taken at the pass, while the second was just of the mountain (I hoped I would be able to find it from this area). Visibility was somewhat low, but I was still able to make out the contours of Reynolds Mountain. Again, I was limited to the trails, but I was easily able to replicate the photo Adams described as being taken from Logan Pass. I was not able to match up the angle of the second photo, as it was likely taken from a vantage point closer to the mountain (and off of the trail).

On Tuesday, I went to St. Mary and Two Medicine Lakes to recreate two of Adams’s photos. I began with Two Medicine Lake, and recreating Adams’s photo there was fairly straightforward. There is a historic store next to the lake, so I walked along the beach near it in an attempt to recreate Adams’s steps. Thankfully the sky was relatively clear, and I recreated the photo from the beach. I took multiple photos roughly one hour apart so that I will have slightly different lighting of Sinopah Mountain to work with.

Next, I went to St. Mary Lake. By this point in the day, visibility had worsened. I traveled to Sun Point (the location of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalet, included in the photo’s description). The Chalet is no longer at the point, so I had to hike the various trails in an attempt to find the photo’s location. Again, I was limited to where modern trails are compared to the ones Adams may have used over seventy years ago. I saw a ridge that resembled the one in the right of Adams’s photos, but I was not able to match up the mountain in the left of the photo. From there, I stopped at multiple overlooks on the Going to the Sun Road near the former Chalet, but I was not able to find the mountain. I think the low visibility made my search more difficult, as it was hard to make out the outlines of some of the mountains, let alone the details that would have made determining the photo’s location easier. I do not expect conditions to improve while I am in Montana, so I will not be able to recreate this photo.

For the last part of my trip, I am focusing on interviews. After I leave Montana, I am going to do the final analysis for my project. I will examine my photos in order to determine which ones most resemble the original photographs, and then I will analyze the differences between them. I will also analyze my interview results to determine what they reveal about people’s perceptions of climate change, tourism, and Ansel Adams’s photography in Glacier National Park.


  1. klsheridan says:

    Hi Sydney,

    Reading over your posts, I have been interested in the additional difficulties faced by those who are doing some type of field work. I noticed that you have had to adapt your plans a few times because of unpredictable real-world conditions. After having spent some time in Montana, going into the interview phase, do you feel like you have a solid plan? And has that plan evolved since you originally planned your research?

    Thank you, and good luck with the rest of your research!

  2. Hello,

    I have just finished my trip, and I definitely had to adapt my plan every day that I was in Montana. During the first stage of my research, I created an itinerary, but I mainly used it to group things by location (for instance, I went to St. Mary and Two Medicine Lakes on the same day because they are relatively close to each other). Because visibility was not what I hoped it would be, I prioritized photography over interviews, and I am glad I did because conditions worsened over my trip (I only had one clear day).

    With interviews, I did not set a target number, and just tried to get as many as I could. This part was more difficult than I anticipated, as the wildfires reduced tourism somewhat (I talked to a few locals who mentioned it, and my hotel and the rental car company described cancellations), and it was hard finding groups of people that were free to talk to. As a result, I interviewed business employees when they did not have customers, and I got a few interviews in the airport while I waited for my flight home.

    I have definitely learned that nothing goes according to plan, as even my straightforward photos did not come out exactly as I hoped. I will be describing some of this in more detail in my summary.


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