Montana’s Ghost Towns with the Fuji X-series

For a long time we have been planning to visit two of Montana’s ghost towns, Garnet and Elkhorn. While access to Elkhorn was fairly good, our day trip to Garnet was much more challenging. The main road was closed and we had to take a detour. It was a logging road – narrow, bumpy and poorly marked, hugging a mountain. We really needed an all-terrain vehicle. As a result, our sedan and our patience were put to the test. But all our grumbles evaporated when we arrived.

Both towns met our criteria for a ghost town – a secluded old place with difficult access and few people around. As usual we were equipped with the Fuji X-Pro1 plus XF 14mm F2.8 lens and Fuji X100s (we also had the XF 35 & 60mm). The 21mm and 35mm (after conversion) focal length is my favourite way of seeing. Kasia and I really like the “get close and shoot wide” approach, especially while photographing structures and landscapes.

Wouldn’t you know it – just when we wanted moody clouds and diffused light appropriate for a ghost town, the sun blazed down on both Garnet and Elkhorn. The bright sunshine forced us to look for strong patterns and shadows. We shot most of the photographs without a tripod, allowing full creativity. We crawled, climbed and flung ourselves prone, looking for different perspectives. And because we didn’t use a tripod, we could concentrate on composition and light without distraction. Even though you sometimes get slightly fuzzy photos this way, I don’t have a problem with that. I have found from experience that most of our best photographs were taken with camera in hand, letting the creative juices flow.

While observing photographers at work I often notice that their obsessive focus on the technical side of photography limits their creativity and artistic expression. What do two photographers talk about when they meet in the field? They hardly ever talk about composition, light or subjects – it’s always a dialogue about equipment, lenses, sharpness and the pros and cons of one brand or another. What to do? Compliment the person’s equipment and say you could never afford such excellent gear but one day when you win the lottery you will buy the same gear. Something strange happens – the person starts complimenting your equipment or changes the topic! 

Composition, light and creativity must always come before technical considerations.

Enough of this! Here are the photographs.

GARNET

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ELKHORN

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next time:

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.