January 16th, 2020
Montana is not only diverse in landscape it is also highly diverse in weather. The coldest recorded temperature in Montana was -70 degrees below zero at Rogers Pass on January 20th, 1954. This record also holds the distinction as the coldest recorded temperature in the lower 48 states. Conversely, the warmest recorded temperature in Montana was 117 degrees in both Glendive, Montana in 1893 and Medicine Lake, Montana in 1937. Lastly, Loma, Montana holds the national record for the single largest change in temperature during a 24-hour period in 1972 with a 103-degree difference between January 14th and January 15th at -54-degrees below zero and 49-degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. I always think about these extremes when returning home to Northeastern Montana and my recent visit was no different. It took a hardy folk to put down roots during the homestead days and that mettle was best proven living out on the prairies.
Sights like the photograph above gives you an idea of the kind of life families had back in those days. A house, often one room, was built among pockets of trees to help provide as much shelter from the wind as possible. In some cases, houses were simply built with no wind breaks at all — standing lone against the full effect of the prairie winter winds.
From a photographic perspective the prairies offer endless opportunities. Contrary to what some people might believe the prairies are not flat. The topography is varied and often rugged. The hills, valleys, and coulees all have their unique shapes and patterns that change from sunrise to sunset. With winter months brings a unique color palette that is cool yet warm. The landscape is stark yet uniquely beautiful. It's a landscape that makes you earn the photographs you take, and compositions are not always obvious. When all of the right pieces come together, though, you are rewarded for your efforts.
Montana's public reputation is often associated with the mountains, but the prairies share equal responsibility for making Montana, Montana. There is no Big Sky Country without them. It's a landscape that may not be for everyone but, to me, it represents home — a simple reflection of Montana at its finest.