Sunday, 18 May 2014

Nearly 400 stunning photographs are on display for the 21st annual Ernst ...

Nearly 400 stunning photographs are on display for the 21st annual Ernst Peterson “Photograph Montana” Contest at the Ravalli County Museum. Photos are by Ernst Peterson, the professional judges and all the entrants.

The Best in Show selection by the judges was Barbara Garten, in the Wild Animals category, and the winner of the People’s Choice award was Greg Dowling’s ‘Storm Watch’ in the Scenic category.

Dowling said there is a story behind his winning entry.

“I got up at 4 a.m. to go to Freezeout Lake near Augusta,” he said. “The lighting was bad – so no great bird pictures and I was driving back and I just looked over to my right. I saw a classic Montana spring storm rolling in and I found a little dirt road leading to the mountains and I was at the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of luck involved in taking good pictures.”

Winning the Ernst Peterson “Photograph Montana” Contest and especially the People’s Choice award is significant for Dowling.

“I knew Ernst and his wife really well,” he said. “I grew up admiring his photos. We are sixth-generation Bitterrooters, and even as a little kid I remember admiring the quality of pictures he took even in the early 1960s.

“The award is really meaningful to me, I’m really honored. I love shooting scenery in the Bitterroot; the weather is constantly changing – it’s amazing.”

Sarah Monson and Noellynn Pepos are program coordinators for the Ravalli County Museum. They created the categories, advertised the contest and handled all the logistics.

Monson said the contest brings out the best in Montana.

“There are really talented people in the valley and we have a wall of professionals who are very good at what they do,” Monson said.

The requirement for the contest is that all photos must be of Montana and if you sell your work you are required to enter the professional category.

The first place winners in each category are as follows: Structure – Mel Holloway, Scenic Color – Greg Dowling, Macro and Flowers – Richard Jackson, Wild Animals – Barbara Garten, People – Mario Locatelli, Humorous – Deborah Richardson, Older Student – Kailer Scott, Younger Student – Sequoia Rhodes, Manipulated – Noelle Smith and in the Professional category – Torrey Voigt.

“One of my favorites is of a window with drops of water all over the window,” said Monson. “At first glance you don’t see the beauty, but then up-close you see a flower reflected in every drop. It is amazing.”

The museum’s contest drew 425 entries last year, but for 2014 only 350 were received.

“We’re tossing around the idea of what happened,” said Monson. “We usually have this contest in February, but this year we had it later. People in the Bitterroot do things last minute so it may have thrown them off.”

The judges for this year’s contest were three prolific valley photographers, well known for their award-winning photography – Perry Backus, Mark Mesenko and Patrick Clark.

Perry Backus is a photojournalist for the Ravalli Republic; he has worked for the Montana Standard, owned his own portrait studio in Dillon and done freelance award-winning photography. He has documented Montana’s people and landscapes for 30 years.

“As a photojournalist, you’re always on the hunt for people doing interesting things that will make for nice front page photograph,” said Backus. “In the ever-changing light in the Bitterroot, some of my favorite photographs have been found on my morning and evening commutes between Stevensville and Hamilton.”

Mark Mesenko is an award-winning photographer with a career in computer animation, advertising, and video production. He is a fourth-generation Montanan with roots in Anaconda and the Bitterroot Valley.

“My great-grandparents Jim and Libbie Holloron homesteaded east of Corvallis near the turn of the century,” said Mesenko. “As a kid I would split my summers between the Holloron ranch and Beth and Everett Flint’s farm on Quast Lane. Through these experiences, I gained a great appreciation for the rural lifestyle which is expressed in a majority of my photos.”

Photographer Patrick Clark has had Missoula as his home base for 30 years. He has worked for the Forest Service as a wilderness trail crew foreman, a timber examiner, a firefighter and a tree planter. Working in the outdoors of Montana and Idaho expanded his vision and his hobby of photography became his award-winning professional career.

Commercially, his images have been used by well-know, businesses, including Getty Images, Microsoft, Panasonic, Volvo, Minolta, McGraw Hill, Duracell, Claritin, Honda, and the Montana Film Office. He has been published in magazines including: American Heritage, Good Housekeeping, Parade, Modern Maturity, Food and Wine, Cowboys and Indians, OutdoorTravel Photography, Montana and New Scientist.

Ernst Peterson, a Montana native born 1912, began taking photos at age 14. After World War II he began to take photos of the West and market them in earnest, building a far-reaching reputation of excellence.

In 1953, he was discovered by national magazines and his photos were published in The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Country Gentlemen, Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic. Big companies like the Anaconda Copper Company and Montana Power used his work for advertisements and year-end reports. His photographs were also used by major calendar companies.

Peterson’s photograph collection, an astounding 27,000 photos, slides and negatives, are archived at the Ravalli County Museum.

On display in the museum are his cameras, the paint set he used for tinting photographs, a collection of his cameras and some of his commercial work and publications.

To honor Peterson and encourage present-day photographers, the museum hosts the photo contest each year. The entrance fees help provide for the preservation of the Peterson Collection.

“It costs money to preserve history,” said Monson. “We’re not funded by taxes here at the museum.”

The Ravalli County Museum is closed Sundays and Mondays, but opens at 10 a.m. the rest of the week. On Thursdays there is no admission fee.

For further information:, 205 Bedford St., 363-3338.

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