Rocky Mountain School of Photography » Montana Wed, 28 Jan 2015 05:05:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Montana High School Photo Contest Winners Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:52 +0000 BencheckIvy-1043-WinnerIsOn November 25 we launched our 2014 Montana High School Photo Contest, and today we are tickled to be able to announce the winners.

While we typically don’t host contests, after meeting and visiting with hundreds (thousands?) of Montana high school students at a series of career fairs we attended in September, we knew we had to do something. Many of the students we spoke with knew of RMSP, and it was obvious they had a yearning for photography. Witnessing a student from across the room lock eyes with our booth and come running over to introduce themselves left us inspired and wanting to stay in touch with them.

Over the course of the three weeks the contest was “live,” we received submissions from every pocket of Montana. Helena, MT had an incredible showing thanks to the generosity of Helena Capital High School Photo Instructor Scott Andrews. Mr. Andrews told all of his students to submit, and did they ever! Images also came in from Glasgow, Missoula, Kalispell, Troy, and so many more Montana towns, we can’t list them all. Suffice it to say, we are humbled and inspired by the turn out.

Thanks to our educational partners BH Photo Video and PDN Magazine, we were able to offer up some great prizes including magazine subscriptions and $25 gift cards as well as a host of great items from us too.

So, I guess you probably want to see some images, don’t you? Visit our Montana High School Photo Contest page to see the 5 winning photos.


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2015 COURSE CATALOG IS OUT!! Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:33:18 +0000 2015-CatalogCover-webThat’s right! The 2015 RMSP Course Catalog will begin shipping today! If you are on our list (and request mail from us), your copy should be showing up in the very near future. If you simply can’t wait to hold this beauty in your hands, you can get a jump on planning your 2015 by heading over to our homepage at and downloading a PDF version.

While smaller in its physical size (it’s 6 x 9), the 2015 catalog is livin’ large on other fronts. The cover of our new book features an image taken by our very recent 2014 Summer Intensive graduate Ivy Bencheck (congrats on your first cover Ivy!). The first three spreads feature images of three of our 2014 Summer Intensive students engaging in what we believe are the pillars of our educational philosophy: We believe in an Experiential, Intensive and In-Person learning experience. From these images of Virginia, Barry and Nicole, you will be encouraged to go to our website to watch full video interviews with each of them as they recap their RMSP experience. These three individuals came to Summer Intensive from VERY different backgrounds, but over the course of their individual 11-week journeys, became connected to photography in an incredible way. See what they had to say by clicking the images below.


We hope you like our new catalog and it helps you find a course in 2015 that speaks to you!


















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Always Expect the Unexpected Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:42:57 +0000 When first getting into photography, no one ever predicts what exactly it entails. Sure there are cameras, some lights, models, computers, hard drives, etc., etc. But no one ever plans on all the other calamities that can – and will – enter into daily life as a photographer. Sure duct tape is amazing and can fix most anything, but when trying to fix a gas line, it’s worthless. And what about equipment catching on fire, and strong winds blowing models around, and best of all … being asked to create a summertime photo in early spring. These examples are not far-fetched figments of the imagination, rather are snippets of what 2010 graduate Jim David has experienced since becoming a full time professional photographer. In this post Jim shares a few stories when being able to adapt and flow with a situation allowed him to get the shot.


I recall a story that Bill Gratton, formerly of the MAC Group shared with us in the 2010 Career Training class. Someone in his family (I think his grandmother) showed him a beautiful photo that they had captured and said, “See, I can take photos as good as you can,” to which he replied lightheartedly, “Oh yeah? Do it again on purpose!”

As photographers, that’s what we’re trained and expected to do—take those beautiful photos on purpose. But what about when we’re asked to create a beautiful photo and the conditions are less than ideal, or when circumstances turn the situation into something even more difficult? Shooting commercial, editorial and stock photography, more often on location, I’ve come to realize that this is more the rule than the exception. I must expect the unexpected and always be prepared to solve problems.

Peaceful Paddleboard or Wind-Whipped Whitecaps?

Sometimes the problem can be a single occurrence. During a paddleboard shoot, a strong wind blew in during the last (and best hour) of the day. It was so strong that my model was being blown backwards in spite of her efforts to paddle forward. Unwilling to give up, I switched from the outdoor recreational shot I had planned for to something more fashion oriented that I thought I could still pull off in the wind. While it wasn’t the smoothest shoot I had ever done, the chaos was an opportunity to think quickly on my feet and I was fortunate enough to have a model and assistant who were willing to roll with the punches.

Not Your Average Campfire

On another occasion, I recruited my wife as a model for an outdoor camping scene. I was standing down a hill and about 50 yards away, firing the flashes with PocketWizards when I noticed a distinct change in the output of my flash. I asked my wife, who had her back to the equipment, to check it out. “It’s on fire!” she yelled. Actually, it was the makeshift modifier that was burning. The flash had overheated and was no longer usable. Moving past the frustration of an expensive piece of equipment not functioning, once again, I had to make changes. In this case, I changed the scene to a silhouette against the sky.

Summer Getaway Before Springtime Blooms

945646_10151702728706177_1081654662_nOther times, an assignment can be plagued with problems from the start. I was asked to create an image for the “Summer Getaways” issue of Phoenix Magazine. The first hurdle was the early April due date. At the lake to be shot, in the higher elevations of Arizona, nighttime temperatures were still into the 30’s and you would be hard pressed to see anything green on the aspens surrounding the lake. Fortunately, I had time to scout and formulate a plan of attack. A week before the shoot I walked the four and a half mile shoreline, observing the light and looking for ways to minimize the feeling of winter. On the bright side, I knew the lake wouldn’t be filled with the busy summer crowds. I sought out compositions to downplay and minimize the barren aspens and focus on my planned subject—a couple in a canoe. A wide-angle lens would help me minimize the background, while other locations were better suited for a long lens to help me pull in the evergreen Ponderosa Pines that sat behind the aspens.


On the day of the shoot, I had my usual butterflies, but I was feeling confident in my preparation. I brought my 14-foot fishing boat with a small trolling motor to transport the equipment and lighting gear to the pre-scouted locations. At the lake, we wasted little time getting the canoe and the boat into the water. As we were about to push off, I turned the motor and heard a loud “snap”—the gas line broke in half. I was stunned! Surely that didn’t just happen. I had had the boat for years without a problem—had even used it a just few weeks earlier.

It would have taken considerable time and cost optimal lighting and wind conditions to use the backup oars to row the boat laden with three bodies and considerable equipment across the lake. Searching for solutions, I considered duct tape and quickly learned that gasoline is like kryptonite for the famous fix-all tape. Considering my options, it appeared I might be able to hold the line together as I steered—it was thick and broke in a sort of jigsaw puzzle pattern. I decided to give it a try, so off we went and, surprisingly, it worked (although I knew the art director was a bit uncomfortable when he asked me if I, or all of us, might erupt in flames).

Jim_David_Photo_262707We made it across the lake when I was hit by another surprise. A large branch (more like a small tree) had blown into the shooting location. Seriously? I would like to tell you that I threw on my cape, picked up the tree, flew it to another location and saved the day. In fact, the true battle was taking place within as emotions threatened to become my primary enemy, cloud my judgment and sabotage the shoot. There was a lot at stake and my expectations were being smashed left and right. I took a deep breath, said a prayer and resigned myself to the fact that the shoot wasn’t going to go as planned. That didn’t mean it was going to be a bad shoot, but I had to re-set my expectations, use my skills, training and preparation to make the best decisions for the here and now. In my opinion, these internal resets are vital to turning such situations around. I needed to quickly decide if I should detour to one of the other locations selected during my scouting trip or spend the time trying to move the tree. I still felt the first location was the best place to start, so we towed the tree out of the scene and got to work.

Jim_David_Photo_263001My plan had been to shoot at three locations and finish by noon, but due to the lost time and dependence on the oars to get around the lake, there would only be enough time to shoot one more location and I was determined to make the most out of it. We headed to a dock, which was operated by a cafe/boat rental company on the lake. I had obtained their permission in advance and was pleasantly surprised when something finally went my way on the shoot.

Jim_David_Photo_263144The staff not only accommodated us, but helped us relocate extra rental boats to clear the scene. I was able to shoot a couple of my desired scenes, and I came away with images that I thought would make someone want to make it their summer getaway. In the end, a shot from this second location landed on the cover and nobody would ever know it wasn’t a warm summer day (well, maybe until now).

In any of these situations, if I had allowed myself to be consumed by frustration and disappointment, I know the shoot would have ended very differently. I may not have a cape, but, like you, I have sound training, good skills and, most importantly, a mind that can overcome obstacles and solve problems to be able to take those beautiful photographs on purpose.





Jim David is a graduate of the 2010 class of Career Training at Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Based in Phoenix, AZ Jim shoots commercial, editorial and stock photography. His work has been used by clients including Allied Services, Verizon Wireless, Panasonic, USDA and has been published in Men’s Health, Women’s Running, Phoenix Magazine and Inc. Magazine.

You can see Jim’s work at

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Instagram Takeover! Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:00:51 +0000 RMSP has been taken over!! Well, at least our Instagram account has been! 

But don’t worry, it’s a planned, highly-anticipated, fun and creative type of takeover.

Starting today, Monday, March 10, 2014 our Instagram account will be in the hands of 2013 Summer Intensive graduate Megan Jae Riggs for two weeks! She will be logging into the RMSP account today and not looking back until her time is up. Aside from a few agreed-upon hashtags, and a general understanding of what she will be doing, the rest is up to her eye, her whim and her creativity. To give you all a hint however, it’s no coincidence that she is taking over IG as we begin the countdown to Summer Intensive 2014. I encourage you to follow us – and Megan – to get a glimpse into how she sees the world.

Megan came to us last year after having a bit of photography knowledge and experience. She had been published in a variety of publications and worked as a student teacher during the process of receiving her degree in Photojournalism from the University of Montana, here in Missoula. Suffice it to say, she was comfortable with a camera, but still said that her “…time spent at RMSP was by far one of the most rewarding and incredible summers of my life.”

Shortly after Summer Intensive began, she appeared on my radar as a fluent, experienced and creative member of the Instagram community. I would regularly see her name pop up after she liked one of our photos. Conversely, I could always recognize a photo as being hers with barely more than a glance. Unlike a casual user of the platform, she has totally embraced Instagram as another tool in her creative toolbox; one where she can share her images, art and thoughts on a daily basis. I am totally looking forward to seeing what she does with our account. I hope you can join Megan on her IG journey.

Follow Rocky Mountain School of Photography on Instagram: @RockyMountainSchoolOfPhoto

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Follow Megan on Instagram: @meganjaepearl

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Summer Intensive 2013 – Week 10 Fri, 09 Aug 2013 22:11:26 +0000 EhlenSarah-6732 What a full and colorful week! This week began with an optional flash location shoot in downtown Missoula in the morning and a sunset landscape field shoot at the National Bison Range north of Missoula in the beautiful Mission Valley on Sunday evening. A truly unique landscape with plenty of flora, fauna and majestic mountains for backdrop.

From Monday on, their Visual Studies  explored advanced themes & ideas in artistic expression, time to work on their final projects in class, and one-on-one mentoring sessions with their instructor. Photo Studies involved macro studio labs using light tables, critiquing of assignments, and an exposure review with a lecture on the technique of Sunny 16 with Neil.

Lighting classes involved a fun experience with the students shooting on location at the local Missoula Children’s Theater of the EhlenSarah-6972Performing Arts. They were able to take professional lighting equipment to this building which includes many old school house classrooms, corridors and behind-the-scene spaces. This helps them apply ambient and artificial lighting techniques they’ve been learning in the studio.

Then they were introduced to the whole new topic of low-light and night photography by the dynamic team of instructors Tim Cooper and Gabriel Biderman with B&H Photo/Video/Pro Audio. After this lecture, they had the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge with these two present in an optional field shoot at the annual Western Montana Fair which opened on Thursday.  Always a fun event for everyone involved to capture the lights and people in this unique environment! Thrown in for good measure were mentoring sessions as well.

AllisonRobert_11-17Output provided plenty of opportunity for students to perfect their printing technique, utilize outsourcing options, and prepare their final class assignment work for critique. And also their all-important final projects. Edit classes concerned more intricacies of the Photoshop software and tons of assisted lab time for the students to apply them to their own work.

One more week left to go for this fantastic group – the Class of 2013. Final project presentations will be the order of the week. These produce some of the most poignant, meaningful and creative moments of the entire experience. Stay tuned!



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Summer Intensive 2013 – Week 2 Fri, 14 Jun 2013 22:23:32 +0000 ReichertCarly_SI2013_02If  week 1 of Summer Intensive 2013 was enough to teach students why we call the course “Intensive,” week 2 only reinforced that lesson.

Our mini-expo continued throughout the weekend and wrapped up on Sunday June 9. Enrolled students were exposed to lots of gear, got to converse with our vendors and even take part in a couple of model-infused evening shoots with professional lighting equipment…for the first time. A blast was had by all!

Next up during the week was the introduction in techniques of color management in Output, and the exposure concepts of proper metering, exposure compensation, use of the histogram and full manual exposure in Photo Studies. Then an assisted field help session on the campus of the University of Montana to apply what the students had just learned in class.

Also the all-important lecture on lenses by Neil Chaput de Saintonge. Each year we advise ourReichertCarly_SI2013_03 incoming students to wait until they receive the critical information provided in this lecture before making purchases so they can make better-informed decisions. Lenses are some of the most critical investments any photographer can make. To round out the week the students learned about the the basics of Lightroom’s Develop Module in their Edit class, and experienced their first Lighting class which involved a lecture on understanding the characteristics of various types of light.

ReichertCarly_SI2013_04Nothing to shake a stick at, we tell ya. This Saturday marks a very well-deserved day off for the group. The experience will continue to grow in comprehensive and intensive learning in the upcoming weeks. We hope you’ll stayed tuned!

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Summer Intensive 2013 – Week 1 Tue, 11 Jun 2013 20:42:55 +0000 Every year the beginning of Summer Intensive rings in a rather busy time of year for everyone at RMSP. Our students are in town, classes have begun, many of our vendors arrive to support us and our students, and being the beginning of June, the nicer weather brings Missoulians out on the town. While this uptick in activity is the highlight of our year and we love every second of it, this specific year of our program beginning is even more special. 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of RMSP’s Career Training program and the Summer Intensive course. To convey a sense of what happens week-by-week in the course, we will be posting weekly wrap up reports here on the blog. If you are curious about what goes on in the classroom and are considering attending SI in the future, or simply want to relive your days studying photography in Missoula, these posts will serve as good inspiration.

So here we go … Here is what happened during week one of SI 2013


Monday June 3 was orientation day. Our staff and instructors welcomed 79 new students to the RMSP family. These folks came to us from over 25 U.S. states and a few countries including Iran, Switzerland and Canada. The day included time to get to know one another, facility tours, presentations by representatives from Missoula in Motion and the Missoula Downtown Association, group assignments (as you can see in the picture to the left, assistant Chad Matson is pretty excited about Group A). The day even culminated in a bear lecture … as in “Welcome to Montana … Here’s what to do in case you encounter a bear!”

Tuesday June 4 was the first full day of classes for our students. As they worked their way through the schedule, they met their instructors and familiarized themselves with the structure of the course. They attended Photo Studies courses where the learned about photographic genres, bags and tripods. They then progressed onto Edit, Field Help, Computer Set Up and eventually a File Upload class on Wednesday night.

On Thursday June 6, the day of classes culminated in a large group presentation by Jason Geller and Gabe Biderman from B&H Photo and Joe Massa from Manfrotto.

Friday June 7 was another full day for the students. As they will for the rest of the summer, they had a variety of classes all day long. That evening found them in another large group lecture, this time presented by Cliff Hausner from the MAC Group. Luckily, prior to engaging in Cliff’s lecture, the students got to spend some time enjoying RMSP’s involvement with Missoula’s First Friday art walk. Being that it was our 25th anniversary celebration our gallery space was hoppin’ with visitors and people strolling around town on a fantastic Friday night.

Saturday June 8 was a fun day around RMSP. Our visiting vendors put on a “mini expo” for our students. Our new studios were taken over by photo gear including tripods, calibrators, light modifiers, cameras, lenses and so much more. Students got to explore lots of gear and talk to some of the most knowledgeable reps in the photo industry. On top of all that, Saturday was a beautiful day in Missoula!

If that sounds like a full week to you, you are correct. It was! But then again, that’s why it’s called Summer INTENSIVE!

Here are a few images from the first week’s happenings during SI. See you next week!

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Upcoming Gallery Exhibit: Jeremy Lurgio Fri, 27 Jul 2012 15:30:43 +0000 If you are anywhere near a map of Montana, or any state for that matter, take a look at it. What do you see? Probably the usual roads, lakes, rivers and towns. Now consider what you don’t see. Consider the places that never make it on the map, or as photojournalist Jeremy Lurgio did, look at it and consider the stories and the people behind the towns that were about to be wiped off the map altogether.

“I am excited to tell the stories of towns like Horton,” Lurgio said. “If the last man in Horton hadn’t been struck by a train in 1999, Horton may not have vanished from the Montana map. His name was Frank Hartman. He had a story and his son knows it.”

Supported by funding from Humanities Montana, Montana Arts Council, UM School of Journalism and the University Grant Program, Lurgio racked up over 7,000 miles while criss-crossing the state. In his travels, he documented the sights, sounds, stories and feelings of 18 towns: nine that would cease to exist, and nine that were spared.

Jeremy’s efforts went far beyond creating photographs of the people and places. He also captured video and audio of them telling their stories in order to create a much richer, deeper experience for the viewer. This sensory experience can be had online at a dedicated website for the project, as well as at the RMSP Gallery from August 3 – October 30, 2012.  In the gallery, viewers will be invited to view the images and then scan related QR codes with their phones or tablets to see and hear more. In this sense, exhibit viewers will treat themselves to a mobile audio and visual tour of rarely seen locales in Montana.

This exhibit promises to not only be an opportunity to witness the fruits of Jeremy’s (extensive) labor, but to also experience a fascinating piece of Montana’s history as it is unfolding.

If you have questions about this exhibit, contact RMSP Gallery by calling 800-394-7677 or emailing  Or, contact Jeremy directly via email at

hint: Want a teaser of this show? You should definitely check out the trailer on the home page of the project’s website –


Multimedia Exhibit by Jeremy Lurgio

Rocky Mountain School of Photography Gallery
August 3, 2012 – October 30, 2012
Gallery Hours:  Monday – Friday 8 – 5

Opening Reception
with Jeremy Lurgio
August 3, 2012  –  5 – 8 pm



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Alumni Friday – Kinsey Roy Chamberlin Fri, 29 Jun 2012 21:58:09 +0000 A message often heard by students in our Career Training program is that if they are determined to make a career in photography, they can absolutely do so. An extremely focused student of ours from the last go around in 2011 is proving just that. Kinsey Roy Chamberlin, of Butte, MT came to us with an abundance of enthusiasm, willingness to learn, family support and passion for photography. In our minds, a perfect combination.

With determination as her key, after graduating last October she’s been extremely busy opening the doors to her future by building her portraiture business, developing her style and truly loving what she’s doing for a living in her hometown of Butte. During the last few weeks of school, she describes going into “melt down mode” thinking that no one would ever hire her as photographer, but reality has proven to be the total opposite! First and foremost, she was able to obtain a studio space that encompasses her photo business, an art gallery and her mother’s retail space that specializes in locally made and U.S. made products.  Her focus was in the portrait and wedding business, and the growth in these areas have become her bread and butter financially. The initial success of this side of her business has allowed Kinsey to focus on personal projects involving fashion and boudoir, both of which she loves very much.

These particular outlets have brought her to realize that helping women of all types with their self-image has become one of the most rewarding and unexpected outcomes. She works with “real” women, some of whom may have not felt at all good about their bodies, and has discovered a personal love for creating a safe and inviting space for them to reconnect with themselves during the sessions. Afterward, they often express how much better they feel about themselves when they see the images they have created there. As she puts it, “It’s a genuine realization of how truly amazing and beautiful they really are!” It’s not surprising to us that Kinsey has the ability to capture the beauty in people with her camera. Evident to anyone who has met her, the very light that she sees shining within her subjects burns brightly within her as well.

In addition, she was commissioned by a local hotel to do a display of local images that were hung in the lobby, dining area, and the main hallway. The purpose was to encourage guests to explore Butte and its history instead of just passing through.

The trials and tribulations of opening a new business has forced her to reevaluate it every couple of months and decide what is working and what isn’t. Through this process, she’s determined her goal is to operate a business that’s mutually beneficial for both her an her clients. By trying to give individual attention to everyone she works with and to get to know them, she’s tailoring her services to meet their needs. In this, she’s realizing it’s all about the experience she provides that impresses them, from the time they contact her for services to the time they receive their services, images, and products. This personal attention and focus on the experience has created a strong word-of-mouth market for her business. She doesn’t want just “customers,” she wants fans of her work.

With her business still growing, she feels she still has a long way to go to remain viable.  In her words; “RMSP gave me an amazing foundation for what I need to make a successful business, but my education continues. I still do workshops, read articles and shoot all the time, even when I am not being paid. It is very important to me to continually grow my skill set and stay current in an ever-changing market. I cannot wait to see where I am in a year. The last eight months since leaving RMSP have been amazing and rewarding, and I feel like I have grown so much as a person and as a photographer!” See what what we mean by determination?!

To view more of Kinsey’s work, visit her website at

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The Summer Intensive Experience: Week 4 Fri, 29 Jun 2012 20:08:01 +0000

RMSP Education Coordinator, Jillian Shepard-Seaton, surrounded by gear (generously provided by Canon) checked out and returned by the students.

This week in Summer Intensive was all about the students rapidly learning advanced concepts in photography and digital technology. Over the previous weekend, the students were able to check out specific Canon cameras and lenses from our extensive “library” of gear. Canon is a tremendous Educational Partner of ours, and their support adds enhanced value to our program. The students always love the opportunity to shoot with these high-end tools throughout the summer and fall!



Week 4 included their third week of Output classes, and they began printing digitally with critiques involved for the first time. It also involved their last instructional class in Lightroom and they’re now off and running with using this workhorse image editing software, most likely for the rest of their photographic lives. Next week they will be introduced to Adobe Photoshop to be able to take their work to the next level and gain more creative control over their images.

Output instructor, Kathy Eyster, reviewing some of the first student prints of the summer.

In Photo Studies, they received instruction on macro photography techniques to add to their creative bag of tricks. In Light Studies, they were introduced to working in the studio with lighting equipment by experimenting with strobes, stands, softboxes, light meters and other fun studio toys! Throw in an an informative lecture on color theory in Visual Studies and an optional publications critique (meant to evaluate their work from the standpoint of being published in a variety of publications), and the students again received an immense amount of training in a short time period. At this point they’re getting very good at what they’re learning!


Lighting instructor, Jeff McLain, demonstrates the use of studio lighting equipment and hand-held light meters prior to the students shooting in the studio.

This is also the time during the program that the students begin developing a very major mid-term project outside of class: a thematic individual student slideshow set to music. These will be due for presentation in a little over a week.

The end of this week begins a five-day break for the students over the Fourth of July holiday. Many will either be traveling home or around Montana, perhaps to stunning Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks. Some will be enjoying much deserved quality time with visiting friends and relatives here in Missoula, which happens to be a great place to be in the summer…as the students are quickly discovering.

Students shooting in the studio together. Students shooting in the studio for the first time. Students reviewing an image in the studio. Students receiving studio lighting instruction prior to working in the studio. Lighting instructor, Jeff McLain, demonstrates the use of studio lighting equipment and hand-held light meters prior to the students shooting in the studio. Output instructor, Kathy Eyster, reviewing some of the first student prints of the summer. RMSP Education Coordinator, Jillian Shepard-Seaton, surrounded by gear (generously provided by Canon) checked out and returned by the students.




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The Summer Intensive Experience: Week 3 Fri, 22 Jun 2012 21:27:19 +0000

Students enjoying rodeo lecture by Keith Graham.

And the journey continues. This week in Summer Intensive is a particularly fun one for the students. First off, their experience involved a second week of digging into the nitty gritty of the Adobe Lightroom software in the Edit classes & labs working on their newly created images. Also, they learned about enhancement of their artistic process in Visual Studies, more advanced camera technique and had an introduction to the famous Ansel-Adams-created Zone System in Photo Studies, and prepared images for digital printing in the Output/Print Lab.


Keith Graham gets in the mindset of a cowboy when talking to the students about photographing rodeos.

In the mix was a guest lecture by University of Montana Associate Professor of Photojournalism, Keith Graham, all about photographing rodeos and the cowboy culture. This awesome lecture occurs this time year for a darn good reason. This coming weekend, many of the students and staff will be traveling to the Rocky Mountain Front town of Augusta, MT for one of the oldest and largest rodeo events in the state, the annual Augusta Rodeo. Next week, we’ll show you some behind-the-scenes examples of their efforts at this classic Montana experience.

Canon rep. Mike Gurley showing student how to take advantage of the scenery at sunrise shoot at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.


And to cap it all off, the school hosted our friend and regional Canon representative, Mike Gurley, who visits each summer to introduce the students to all kinds of Canon gear. Mike brought his load of goodies for the students to play with (can you say EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens?) on an extremely early morning sunrise shoot at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley just south of Missoula.

Now, if that isn’t a full week, we don’t know what is. Did we mention it’s only Week 3? Stay tuned!

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Summer Fun in Montana Fri, 15 Jun 2012 23:03:24 +0000 If you’ve ever been to the state of Montana, you may have been instantly enamored by the glorious scenery that exists in abundance (and your camera most likely got a workout). What may not be as abundantly clear to the casual, non-resident visitor, is just how much fun there is to be had in this unique type of landscape and community. In the summer months, opportunities can be had that can’t be imagined unless you have put yourself in the position to enjoy them, with or our without a camera. With a little forward planning and preparation, Montana can be your amazing playground during the summer. Here are some suggestions that can help make your experience here unforgettable.

1. Go for a drive.
Montana is a the fourth largest state in the union when it comes to land mass. It covers about 559 miles from east to west and about 321 miles from north to south. The paved road system can get you to just about anywhere in the state, with the unpaved roads getting you even further. For the travel-minded adventurer who just wants to road trip their way through territory that is simply unmatched in its scope and glory, we suggest checking out, which provides plenty of maps, resources and suggestions. One excellent driving option is the Montana Scenic Loop, a 400-mile trip in the heart of Northern Rockies country. Give yourself plenty of time to explore as you should be aware that this route abuts the southern border of the must-see “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park with its own epic “Going-to-the-Sun Road.” Another favorite is the Beartooth Highway which begins in Red Lodge, MT and terminates at the northeastern entrance to spectacular Yellowstone National Park. In our own backyard here in Missoula, a short distance in any direction is iconic Montana heritage and scenery. The central and eastern of parts of the state possess miles and miles of rolling plains, river valleys and geological formations that helped define what the West is all about. The major cities in terms of population, industry, academics and culture are Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman and Missoula. All of these are a good distance apart from each other and exist as islands of civilization among oceans of land mass. Make sure that your tires – and camera  – are in good shape!

2. Take a hike.
When the inevitable road-weariness sets in, it’s time to get outside and lace up them ol’ hiking boots. Because of Montana’s vastness, getting lost in the wilderness of Big Sky Country without another human soul in site is never a challenge. What to bring for a day hike? Water, snacks, bear spray ( it’s grizzly country, folks!), a map, a GPS unit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, first aid kit, extra socks, a hat and a swim suit. You’ll eventually be tempted to take a dip in the nearest lake or river you encounter, but don’t forget to take off that camera around your neck first unless its of this nature. What to take for longer trips? More of the same, a sturdy backpack, light weight cooking gear, water filtration, a flashlight, a sleeping bag and a tent. If you go alone or if you don’t, always let someone else know your itinerary and where you’re headed. Here’s a handy-dandy listing of hiking and backpacking trails by region for your planning pleasure.

3. Get wet.
Speaking of water, there’s certainly no lack of the wet stuff around here. In fact, nearly 1,500 square miles of it saturates the state. In themselves, the rivers and lakes of MT are some of its largest tourist draws and ways of life for its inhabitants, and have shaped the history of the West for generations. Just ask these guys. Revered for its blue ribbon trout streams, it boasts a bonanza of meandering waterways that tumble in a never-ending journey from their origin high up in the Rocky Mountains. In Missoula, a river literally runs through it. It’s the historic Clark Fork. Flathead Lake exists as the largest natural fresh water lake in the contiguous U.S. and one of the cleanest. Sailing, speed boating, water skiing, paddle boarding, swimming and fishing make up a part of daily summer life on the surface of this rare gem. Many other alpine lakes pepper the region as well providing the framework for an abundant and wild ecosystem. And if adventure is your bent, when summer rolls around, you’ll probably want to join the annual “tube hatch” by launching yourself into a flotilla and soak in the amazing environment surrounding you via a river-view from your inner tube. Not to mention stowing yourself away on an inflatable raft, kayak or canoe for a leisurely day floating or slamming into some Class IV rapids. You simply can’t do summer right in Montana without getting wet. Do it!

4. Experience a rodeo.
In terms of western traditions, the cowboy and ranching heritage of this place is alive and kicking. Wide-open range land, cattle driving, sheep sheering and horse breaking are all a way of life for many Montanans. So are rodeos. From the tikes, to tomboys, to grey-hairs and everyone in between, on any given weekend in a town in Montana, they come together and compete for bragging rights in their local community rodeo. The annual Augusta Rodeo in late June is one of Montana’s biggest and oldest such affairs and brings in crowds far & wide (including our Summer Intensive students) to this sleepy little town for heck of a great time. Plan ahead for mapping out your rodeo tour. Here’s a great listing of them occurring this summer. Don’t forget your boots and cowboy hat unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb, city slicker!

5. Experience a powwow.
The Native American peoples of the state are as much a part of what makes Montana special as the landscape. For thousands of years, their tradition of bringing families and tribes from all over the region together to commune, celebrate, honor each other, drum, dance, sing, tell stories and trade foods & goods has been one of critical importance. All over, the rites of the powwow take place and all respectful observers are welcome. See for yourself how the colorful tradition of family and celebrations of peace flourish in the native culture. Here’s another great listing of powwows to schedule your visit around.

6. Festivals, festivals, festivals.
Like huckleberries? Then how ’bout taking in a festival dedicated solely to this delicious fruit. Blue Grass Music? Mother Earth? Melons? Festivals, festivals, festivals. They all take place in abundance in Montana during the summer. Unlike just anywhere you may have been, this regional lively culture just naturally sprouts them and for good reason. With the long winter months of the northwest, spring, summer and fall are all about taking advantage of sunshine and inventing excuses to commune with your fellow man and celebrate…something! Any ol’ reason will do. There’s even the annual – eh em – Testicle Festival in Rock Creek, MT if deep fried delicacies (and debauchery) are your thing. In the historic mining town of Butte, several huge multi-day events take place with the Montana Folk Festival,  Evel Knievel Days and the An Ri Ra Montana Irish Folk Festival. See this complete list of celebrations to give you an idea of how much people love throwing a shindig around here.

7. Taste the wares.
My goodness…don’t get me started! Everything from the aforementioned huckleberry, freshly snagged & grilled rainbow trout, Montana-raised beef or bison, and local organically grown produce galore; our home state rocks it with culinary delights. Farmers’ markets are the crucibles of organic community  fare all over the state. We are also graced with an abundance of microbreweries, wineries and distilleries (see “festivals” above) to help keep our palates refreshed. Chili cook-offs (more festivals), barbeques and really good beer…what could be better? And you haven’t lived unless you’ve tasted a freshly baked huckleberry cheesecake, rhubarb pie or smacked down one of Missoula’s favorite delights, a Big Dipper Ice Cream cone (go for my fav, maple walnut – yum!).  Literally, whatever your heart desires can be found in Montana…and then some. Did I mention beer?

8. Seeking antiquing?
Okay, you’ve crossed off all of the above on your bucket list and want to take something back home with you to remind you of that-place-you-promise-not-to-tell-anyone-about-when-you-get-home. Montana people have a thing for preserving things. “Shiny and new” often isn’t a major priority to them. What is a priority is keeping things simple and preserving a part of the heritage. This ethic exists with architecture and artifacts that can be found literally everywhere. Just driving down the road a ways, it’s not uncommon to see rusty plows, dilapidated barns & farmhouses, vintage trucks in working order, or the occasional restored schoolhouse or church. Ghost towns such as Garnet or Bannack are stuck-in-time reminders of the lifeblood of the state’s economical and political existence; its mining history. The melting pot of “Butte, America,” as it’s know around these parts, is full to the brim of the historical past that made it the Pittsburgh of the West in American history. Secondhand and antique stores have become depositories for any imaginable object of age known to man, often possesses a ranching, hunting or fishing theme of some sort. Re-purposing gives purpose to the practical-minded, and Montanans in general are practical people. Seek out the discarded relics of a past that still exists in this fabulous territory. Good luck and happy hunting!

Did we leave out some adventures that you may have experienced in Montana during the summer? Feel free  to share your stories in the comments below!

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Tutorial Videos by Instructor David Marx Fri, 08 Jun 2012 20:59:08 +0000 Photographer and instructor, David Marx likes to teach. You might even say he was born to do so. One of his favorite subjects to teach is the functionality of the brilliant image editing software for photographers, Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® (commonly abbreviated to just Lightroom). If you’ve ever taken instruction from him, then you’ll know how adept he is at breaking down pretty darn complex concepts and articulating them into digestible and easy to understand series of steps for the beginner. To prove this point, we encourage you to view the series of short videos below he’s created explaining how to get started with using the new version, Lightroom 4. Enjoy them all at the risk of becoming a Lightroom addict!

If interested in seeing David Marx live and in action, he’ll be instructing RMSP’s popular workshop Lightroom for Photographers on the Road in Overland Park, Kansas on August 16-19, 2012. Also, he’ll be co-teaching another workshop with fellow photographer/instructor extraordinaire, Doug Johnson, called Landscapes and Lightroom in Big Sky, Montana on September 15-21, 2012. To see more of his video tutorials, visit his weatlh-of-information website,

Installing Lightroom 4

Upgrading an Older Lightroom Catalog into the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Format

Creating a New Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Catalog

Creating a New Folder for Image Storage (Mac OS X)

How to Rename Your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Catalog

Creating an Alias for Your Lightroom Catalog (Mac O X)




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Michael DeYoung Sure is “Popular!” Wed, 23 May 2012 21:07:35 +0000 When one of our illustrious instructors gets big press, we’re both darn glad and super-pleased to spread the word. Such is the case with our Outdoor Photography instructor, Michael DeYoung. A professional adventure, landscape and lifestyle photographer, he has landed an interview and full page spread all about photographing in Alaska that has been published in the May issue of Popular Photography magazine. To say this is a big deal is a big understatement! Congratulations to Michael and we are definitely looking forward to having him join us here in Missoula sharing his valuable expertise with our excited Career Training students this summer.

To see more of Michael’s work and interests, visit his website at or his blog at To learn more about his workshops, visit



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Wonderful Missoula, Montana, US of A Mon, 14 May 2012 18:17:18 +0000 If you’ve ever heard the term “Turn that frown upside down!,” then maybe this could act as your first clue as to what it’s like here in Missoula nearly anytime of year. Even a so-called bad day is made amazing by a simple walk by a river or hike up a mountain trail or many other not-to-be-taken-for granted experiences all available within city limits year round. For those who are not familiar with our hometown, we’d thought we give you some background on how this place came to be and why it’s still thriving.

Originally founded as a trading post named Hellgate while still part of the Washington Territory in 1860, the town grew up in the hub of five mountain valleys and in the shadow of foothills of the Rocky Mountains in nearly all directions. Three rivers run through or near it at some point with the primary being the Clark Fork River which splits the heart of the city. In fact, its the inspiration of home-grown author Norman McLean’s novel A River Runs Through It, which was later made into a movie. The Clark Fork got its name from one of the co-leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which passed through the area from 1804-1806 searching for a inland water passage from the Mid West of the U.S. to the Pacific Ocean.

The town itself obtained it’s unusual name from the Salish tribes that used to originally inhabit the area. Their term for the Clark Fork River, ‘’nmesuletk, ʷ which roughly means “place of frozen or chilling waters,” has evolved into the current version of “Missoula.”  At least 5 to 6 native tribes would annually migrate to this junction of five valleys for thousands of years from all over the region until the coming of Anglo people. The hills that flank the city directly to the east are currently named Mt. Jumbo and Mt. Sentinel, and are prominent landmarks. With a giant “M” decorating Mt. Sentinel’s hillside, the M Trail – Montana’s most hiked – zig-zags its way to the midway point of the mountain which provides stunning vistas of the valley not to mention excellent exercise for the local populace.

Apparently the white visitors and then settlers found a land o’ plenty here as well. It didn’t take long for the trading post to first expand then move to its current downtown-oriented location on the banks of the Clark Fork River. With the U.S. Army first establishing roads from several directions to and from the town and then historic Fort Missoula to protect the ever-growing population of settlers, it soon become a major crossroads of trade and eventually industry. With the coming of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883, the town simply exploded in population, settlement and industry, the most primary being lumber. Original founders – and captains of industry – built the first infrastructure of roads, tree-lined avenues, structures and buildings, most of which still exist today. Then came the founding of the University of Montana in the early 1900s which lent an element of prestige to the city as being the first ever place of higher learning in the state of Montana.

Fast forwarding to today, Missoula is a cultural hub of western Montana. A prestigious medical industry thrives here along with tourism, arts and an abundance of adventure/outdoor activities. Rocky Mountain School of Photography owners Neil and Jeanne Chaput de Saintonge opened the doors to the school here in 1989 after relocating from Atlanta, Georgia.

With a population that truly cares about the community and environment in which they live, Missoula is an incredibly lively place. Major music, cultural, sports and arts festivals take place annually. The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Festival of the Book, International Wildlife Film Festival, International Choral Festival, U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Championships, Missoula Full and Half Marathons, River City Roots Festival, the Gelande Ski Jumping North American Cup Championship among others all take place here. Not to mention constant major (and less major) musical acts that travel here such as Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, etc, etc, etc.

Throw in year-round outdoor activities such as world-class back country/cross-country/downhill skiing/snowboarding, ice skating, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, road cycling, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, tubing, fly fishing, not to mention nature/landscape photography, you’ve got a paradise for just about any active person. We don’t mean to brag, but c’mon, wouldn’t you??? Come visit the place and you may never want to leave. But shhhhhhh….don’t tell anybody!

To learn more about Missoula, visit the websites and

Panoramic of downtown Missoula across the Clark Fork River. Image by The Missoulian. Licenced under Creative Commons.



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