The biggest recorded earthquake in Montana history (magnitude 7.3) struck August 17, 1959, causing a huge landslide that dammed the Madison River (coming from Yellowstone Park) and created Quake Lake. Some 26-28 campers lost their lives, most of the bodies remaining under the millions of tons of rock. To me, they seem connected to the much larger number of trees that were drowned by the rising water, but remained standing bare, half-submerged.


Quake Lake is about two hours from Bozeman, and I’ve visited several times. I have made well over a hundred photographs of the place, but not one I’ve considered worth printing. Scenic and evocative as it is, it eludes me yet. True, I haven’t been there in over a year (nearly half my recent photographic career!), and I want to believe I could do a better job now. I’m certainly anxious to try.


Quake Lake has some great features, from the sparkling water to the skeletal trees to the ripped-out mountainside (at the end of the lake, marked by snow in these images) that slid into the valley. It may be the very strength of these subjects that makes them hard for me to photograph well. Am I too drawn to the subject to be thinking about the picture?


What I may need most is simply time, time to explore and to wait for the light, perhaps, if I remember, time to close my eyes and listen. Once I did stay overnight (yes, Jay, on the ground), but left early for someplace else. The photographs have yet to plumb the depths.