Animal Photography in Montana

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For years one of the go-to places for access to photographing animals in natural settings in the US has been Triple D Game Farm in Montana. Established in 1972, Triple D is a family-operated business that specializes in breeding, raising, and training exotic animals. In October 2018 byThom will be offering two workshop sessions with many of those animals during what should be near peak fall color at Triple D's shooting locations in and around Kalispell. 

  • First workshop, October 1-3, 2018, with a weather day of October 4th
  • Second workshop, October 6-8, 2018, with a weather day of October 9th. 

    Signup information is at bottom of the page —
    Already half full!
    Note that you don't need Nikon gear to participate; all shooters are welcome

These three-day workshops will be taught by Thom Hogan and his teaching partner, Tony Medici. This is the same instruction team that has been teaching wildlife and nature photography to hundreds of students in exotic locations such Botswana, Galapagos, and Patagonia over the past several years, and they have plenty of experience helping shooters at all skill levels. Some of Tony's images from Triple D are used to illustrate this brochure (Thom has similar images, but mostly winter/snow based).

The evening before the workshop shooting begins we'll have presentations by Thom and Tony at Howling Wolf Lodge to get you oriented and ready to shoot. We'll discuss focus, composition, exposure, animal behavior, and much more. After a briefing session from the trainers the first morning of the workshop, we'll get right to the shooting. 

Included in the price of the workshop are eight animal sessions, one of which will be of a large species at Triple D (bear, leopard, or tiger). The remaining sessions will be mostly of primary species (wolves, lynx, coyote, bobcat, pine marten, mountain lion, and foxes). Beyond the species already mentioned, there are also badgers, raccoons, skunks, porcupine, and even animals like wild turkey or deer should there be a desire to shoot them. 

One of the unique aspects of Triple D is that they have multiple natural locations scattered around the Kalispell area. We're not shooting animals all in the same restrained pen. We typically take most of the animals to the kinds of habitats they're found in and shoot them there. We try to keep from repeating the same exact areas during the workshop in order to give you highly varied backgrounds for your shots. As noted, we should be near or at peak fall color during these workshops.

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When we're shooting these animals, we're very close to them. Often all that you really need is a 70-200mm lens (especially true for DX or crop sensor users). Thom and Tony will have specific gear recommendations for those signed up for the workshop as the date gets closer. But you won't need an exotic lens to photography these exotic animals. 

The large species we shoot will be determined mostly by availability and by workshop leader input. The remaining species we shoot are typically determined by popular decision among the students, though we try to make sure that everyone is able to shoot something on their most wanted list. If weather permits—and it usually does—we will offer additional shooting sessions on the last day and the weather day at the end of the workshop for US$150 a person per animal. It's quite possible that you could shoot as many as 10 or 11 animals during the workshop if the weather cooperates. These additional sessions are entirely optional on your part, but when else are you going to get the chance to shoot eye-to-eye with animals like these?  

Each shooting session with an animal is generally 60-90 minutes in length, and you should have plenty of time to collect both posed and action shots for each species you shoot. The animal trainers are exceptionally good at positioning the animals and getting them to do the types of things that make for good images. 

Note: October weather in Kalispell is cool. Maximum temperatures tend to be in the 50's (F), while minimums can drop below freezing. While October isn't know for a lot of precipitation, it can and sometimes does snow in October. Workshop participants will be given information on how to prepare for the season.

bythom DDD workshop

Besides the animal shooting sessions, Thom will be demonstrating Photoshop techniques while Tony will offer Lightroom instruction. You'll learn how to quickly manage workflow and raw conversion of the many images you'll take during this workshop. In addition, both Thom and Tony will be discussing proper camera handling and focusing techniques for working with animals. As time permits between shooting sessions, Thom and Tony will provide more general lectures on photography, including composition advice. 

Our headquarters for this workshop will be Howling Wolf Lodge, a small log cabin located next door to the Triple D main facilities. This unique property has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining, and living room area, cable TV and Wi-Fi. We'll use part of the cabin for presentations and lectures. Unfortunately, due to the limited sleeping capacity of this facility, some of you will be bunking in the same room (separate beds), and the last folk to sign up for each workshop may have to lodge at the nearby Hilton Express instead. 

These workshops are limited to eight students, minimum of six.  

  • First workshop, October 1-3, 2018, with a weather day of October 4th, lecture night of September 30
  • Second workshop, October 6-8, 2018, with a weather day of October 9th, lecture night of October 5

Note: you're just a few minutes away from one of the great US National Parks with this workshop (Glacier National Park). You can make a quite nice week-long trip by combining this workshop with a couple of days exploring the park. Do note that the park is in a transition season in October, and not all facilities and opportunities are always available this time of year. Be sure to monitor the park service's Web site for Glacier NP for details. 

Costs: 

  • Workshop fees including eight primary animal sessions: US$1995.
  • Additional animal sessions: US$150 per person per animal.
  • Lodging at the Howling Wolf Lodge: US$75 night (maximum 6 students). 
  • Food: on your own (those at the cabin can cook and eat there after buying supplies)
  • Transportation: probably best if you have your own vehicle available or share with another workshop student, though we'll usually carpool to the shooting sites.

The nearest airport is Kalispell's Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) and is served by:

  • Alaska Airlines (from Seattle/Tacoma and seasonally Portland, OR)
  • Allegiant Air (from Las Vegas and seasonally Los Angeles and Oakland)
  • Delta Air Lines (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City, and seasonally from Atlanta, Los Angeles)
  • United (Denver, San Francisco and seasonally from Chicago O'Hare)

Bold face indicates the four most-served routes to and from FCA and are the most likely hubs you'd fly into and out of to get to the workshop.

To sign up for these workshops, you’ll need to go to the following links and pay a US$200 non-refundable deposit:

A final payment of US$1795 is due 90 days prior to the workshop. Those of you signed up will get further communication about the logistics and details of the workshop as the dates for it approaches. At the workshop you’ll be asked to sign a liability waiver and a document that says you will not publish or show photos with Triple D facilities or staff in them without prior permission (for privacy and security reasons); photos of the animals alone are not restricted in use.  

If you plan to stay at the Howling Wolf Lodge with the instructors, you’ll receive instructions on how to arrange and pay for your spot there after your workshop deposit has been received. 

Both workshop space and cabin reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis. 

text and images © 2017 Thom Hogan
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