Stained-glass, sun create symphony of light and color inside Cathedral of St. Helena
Even from a distance, it’s easy to recognize the beauty of the Cathedral of St. Helena.
Finished a century ago to stand in Montana’s capitol city of Helena, the Cathedral is a gorgeous building made of Indian limestone. But as writer and photographer Gordon Sullivan told us in the March/April issue, when you step inside the cathedral you’ll be greeted by an incredibly stunning setting thanks to the building’s stained-glass windows.
As the sun moves through the sky, the colorful glass creates a symphony of light and color. It’s a show Sullivan says upstages all the other wonderful elements of beauty inside the cathedral.
It’s no easy task to capture that show with a camera. Sullivan spent hours inside the cathedral to make the images he included in his photo essay in Montana Magazine.
“…for me, as a professional photographer,” Sullivan wrote, “the most outstanding feature revolves around stained-glass light and the sublime tone it casts on marble, polished brass and carved oak. It is the technical challenge this type of light presents and the pleasure of seeing each image suddenly duplicated electronically for others to see.”
What else does Sullivan love about the stained-glass inside the cathedral? He answered some questions for Montana Magazine about his work there.
Do you have a favorite portion of stained glass inside the cathedral?
I guess I have two favorite portions of stained glass inside the cathedral. The first is located on the southeast corner. Here low angle, morning light is particularly interesting. The stained-glass panels featured in this section, from both the higher and lower levels, spread illumination across the interior in colorful bands. It lights up the east facing side of marble pillars and walls and sweeps nicely across the oak pews.
Another of my favorites is the stained-glass panel behind the grated back-alter and crucifix. Here a mixture of brass and stained-glass is vibrant and provides a sense of texture, depth and physical dimension. This panel however is best photographed in low light, allowing just enough illumination of accent color without getting bright enough to wash out detail. Both areas require long exposures, tight metering and a tripod.
What is the best time of day for readers who visit the cathedral to see the splendor of the stained-glass?
The best time of day to visit and witness the splendor of stained-glass light is when the sun’s outside angle is at its greatest, which means early to mid-morning or late afternoon. Morning light enters from the east and in afternoon it comes from the west. The sharper the angle, the better the reflections inside the church and the more possible it will be for the illumination to be contrasted by interior shadows. Best time of year is autumn or early winter.
Another very special “mind blowing” time to visit is the last hour before sunset when the exterior light is low, warm and angled. It is almost unbelievable what goes on inside the cathedral during a vivid sunset. The effect is quick but very impressive.
Tell us about the time it takes to get shots like you did.
Once I set my sights on photographing the stained glass light, I first needed to study the patterns and determine what time of day or year would best demonstrate the effect I was after. This took some time and several dry runs and more or less pointed to times when the outside light was at its greatest angle to the windows. Mid-morning and late afternoon seemed to be prime – especially for the visible bands of light falling on inside attractions like marble pillars, oak pews and high contrast walls.
Working inside the Cathedral of St. Helena requires both patience and planning, simply because a few special shots appear only during certain times during the day and in some cases vanish at a moment’s notice. Some of the shots were planned very carefully while others seemed to appear out of nowhere.
World renowned wildlife sculptor describes Montana using three words
If you could pick only three words to describe, Montana, what three words would you use?
Hard question to answer?
We put a Montanan on the spot with that question in each issue for our Big Sky Spotlight feature. We created the feature because we figured there are plenty of Montanans you ought to know. So why not put one in the magazine?
Clark Schreibeis, truly a hidden treasure in our state, is a world renonwed wildife carver and sculptor who has won dozens of best in world awards for his work. Clark was featured as the Big Sky Spotlight in the March/April issue. He answered several questions for the story’s writer Jim Gransbery, telling us about how and when he finds creativity to create such amazing art. Check out the full post of the story to learn more about Clark and what three words he uses to describe Montana.
Have you thought of your three words yet?
Check out our January/February Big Sky Spotlight if you need more inspiration.
Penny postcards help pioneer women stay connected
It’s always fun to send and receive postcards.
Back in the day of the western pioneer, as contributor Ednor Therriault explained in the March/April issue of Montana Magazine, postcards weren’t only a sources of fun, but a crucial way to stay connected. Therriault wrote about Philip Burgess’ book that chronicles the lives of his aunt and grandmother, Anna and Dikka Lee, who came to Montana in the early 20th century and settled near Sidney.
Burgess uncovered boxes of “penny postcards” written and received by the Lee sisters. The postcards revealed a strong bond between women of the pioneer west. They were able to share news and well wishes through these pretty card. It makes for a great story.
The postcards (named for the penny stamps attached) make for a colorful slideshow.
Want to know more about this story? Montana author Philip Burgess’s latest book, Penny Post Cards and Prairie Flowers, chronicles the journey of two Minnesota sisters who did just that, leaving their town of Norwegian transplants to seek the autonomy promised by claiming a chunk of land in the harsh territory of eastern Montana.
Penny Post Cards and Prairie Flowers is available in Missoula at Fact & Fiction, and at www.amazon.com. More information and Philip Burgess’ performance calendar can be found at www.badlandsrequiem.com, and at www.humanitiesmontana.org.
Have you met Brutus the Bear?
I’d heard about Brutus the Bear a couple times before I was fully introduced to him in the March/April issue of Montana Magazine. The first time I ran across his name was when he showed up inside Washington-Grizzly stadium in Missoula and because he learned to swim in swimming pool in Helena.
He really is an unusual bear. And, as it turns out, so is his best friend. Writer Corinne Garcia profiled Montanan Casey Anderson and his quest to educate people about wildlife like grizzly bears in her great piece for us.
Anderson grew up in Helena and after years working with and tracking wildlife, became the host of his own National Geographic Channel show America the Wild.
As for Brutus (who was rescued by Anderson in 2002), he’s found a home at Anderson’s Montana Grizzly Encounter outside Bozeman. If you get a chance, maybe you can go visit him.
For now, here’s a little more about Brutus the bear:
- Age: 12
- Demeanor: Laid back, cool, charismatic, charming. “He’s like a hot surfer dude of a grizzly bear,” caretaker and best friend Casey Anderson said.
- Favorite place to hang out: In his customized travel trailer, complete with air conditioning, with his buddies at Montana Grizzly Encounter, or on Anderson’s Paradise Valley property.
- Best Bear Pals: Lucy, 3, his girlfriend, and Sheena, 27. “When he first met Lucy, she was intimidated, and he just laid there until she came over to him,” Anderson said. “They’ve been together ever since.”
- Favorite Foods: The bears at Montana Grizzly Encounter eat a diet that’s comprised of 80 percent fruits and vegetables. But Brutus’ all-time favorite meal is sockeye salmon and avocados, and cake on his birthday.
- Typical Day: Likes to sleep in late (like a typical teenager) in his private denning area (cave). He tends to interact with any of the other bears that are out and about then. “It’s like a soap opera sometimes,” Anderson said. “Every bear loves him and wants to hang out with him, and he’s the only bear they all love.”
‘Cow bill of rights’ guides dairy farm in Flathead
The Hedstrom family have got it right.
They run the only surviving dairy in the Flathead Valley and as they told writer and photographer Jessica Lowry, their mission is to produce great dairy products using very happy cows.
Lowry featured the family in a story for the March/April issue. The Kalispell Kreamery makes a range of products and is slowly expanding its reach as people discover the quality of it products.
Did I mention they take great care of the their cows?
Here’s the cow “Bill of Rights” the Kalispell Kreamery lives by:
Cows are the reason for the business. We sell the milk so we can keep the cows.
Hedstrom dairy believes in the humane care of their cows and realizes that in order to get the highest quality production and longevity from its prized milk cows they must be treated with a high level of respect and as a partner in the operation. We believe in and have instituted the following “Bill of Rights” on our place.
- Animals should have the freedom from thirst at all times.
- Animals should have freedom from injury and disease.
- Animals should have freedom from hunger at all times.
- Animals should have freedom from unnecessary fear and distress
- Animals should have freedom to express a majority of their normal behavioral repertoire.
- Animals should have room to move around freely.
Here’s a list of Kalispell Kreamery retailers.
Readers share their Montana wildlife shots
Montana wildlife. Two great words.
And our great Facebook friends have shared some pretty great shots of the Montana wildlife they’ve seen across the state.
A special thanks to Mark LaRowe (coyote), Beach Kowgirl (owl), Marcie Rand Galick (birds on Hauser Lake) and Stephanie Nordberg (moose) for sharing these photos with us.
Sneak peek: Cowboys and grizzlies and murals, oh my!
It’s hard to believe but we just sent our March/April issue to the printers, and it’ll begin to arrive in mailboxes around March 1.
The “early spring” issue, as we like to call it, features a story about the Wild Horse Stampede in Wolf Point. I mention it first because (spoiler alert!) we chose one of photographer Lynn Donaldson’s amazing photos from the event for our cover.
The Stampede is legendary across Montana for many things, including its rodeo and its wild horse races. You’ll learn more about both in writer Rich Peterson’s feature.
Also featured in the upcoming issue is a story about Casey Anderson, a Helena native who is now the host of the popular National Geographic Channel series “America the Wild.” Anderson, by the way, also has a very unusual best friends. Writer Corinne Garcia will introduce the Casey’s best bud, Brutus the Bear, in the story as well.
We’ve also got several mail-themed stories, including a story about the six Depression-era murals that were painted across Montana, as well as a feature on sisters Anna and Dikka Lee, who settled in Montana during the late 1800s and sent postcards to women back East to keep in touch. It’s a rare glimpse into the lives of pioneer women.
There’s a lot more to enjoy, and we’re so excited for the March/April issue to get to our readers. Keep checking back here, too, for online extras and more blog posts.
Snowy dogs from across Montana
After the recent dump of snow we had in western Montana and the white winter they’ve had in eastern Montana, we couldn’t resist putting out a call to our Facebook friends asking for photos of their snowy dogs.
As you can see, they really delivered. Special thanks to Denise Roth Barber, Carol Kosovich Anderson, Beach Kowgirl, Meagan Thompson, Laura Mayer, Kat Grubbs, Tricia Hanson, Ken Barnedt, Debbie Perryman and Kate Nittinger (and their pups!) for sharing photos.
We hope you enjoy watching our slideshow as much as we enjoyed putting it together!