“Mountain Reflections at Saint Mary Lake”

Mountain Reflections at Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana (c) Mike Utley

In August 1996, I made a trip to Montana to see my buddy Jeff. While I was there, we visited Glacier National Park, a sprawling piece of heaven along the northern border of the state. We didn’t have much time—only one day to spend in the park—so making images was a challenge as I was at the mercy of the clock. In the late afternoon of this day, we drove past Saint Mary Lake and, upon seeing the spectacular reflections of the clouds and peaks on the water’s surface, we stopped for a few minutes and I ran across the road and set up my tripod. I wanted to capture the mountain and cloud reflections along with the shaded rocks in the immediate foreground, so my trusty 24mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens was used. The lake was nearly mirror-smooth, and the clouds were sublime. I like the understated personality of the foreground rocks and the overall blue tones of the image. Glacier National Park can’t be experienced properly in one day—indeed, it would take a lifetime to explore—but I did the best with what I was given and I have some good memories of the day. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

40 thoughts on ““Mountain Reflections at Saint Mary Lake”

    1. Thank you so much, Xenia, I felt so rushed that day, but each of these little moments caught in time brings back such wonderful, peaceful memories. Perhaps I can make a return visit someday when I have much more time to spend. It was a whirlwind trip–we visited Glacier National Park, Mount Rushmore, drove up into Alberta, Canada a ways, and I explored Devils Tower National Monument on my own. I returned home exhausted but with several rolls of slide film I couldn’t wait to see. It was a good time overall. 🙂

      Forgot to mention I also explored Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on that trip, as well.

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    1. Thank you, Friedrich. I like the silence of the shaded foreground rocks. There’s a stillness that sort of grounds the scene. The clouds were so willing to cooperate, too. I really enjoy the vertical format with strong elements in the foreground. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. 🙂

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    2. I think it has a lot to do with pain, and my need to impose order on my chaotic world. Writing (especially haiku) allows me to describe my world, while photography allowed me to try to impose order on it. When there’s so much pain and frustration, all I seek is peace. I’ve had many people tell me my nature photography is tranquil and peaceful. As for my writing, I can’t seem to write anything upbeat or hopeful, so the pain I write about isn’t buffered by any pretense of happiness (I know that sounds strange). I don’t have much exposure to Asian art, but I am so willing to learn and would love to explore it more. Overall, I suppose my “style” (if I have one) is a manifestation of my desire to seek peace and stillness and a quiet mind, and to embrace the natural world as it’s the only thing that has brought any joy to my life.

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      1. Yes, your desire for peace and stillness is omnipresent in your artwork. Some day I will send you an email trying to comment on your work from an Asian point of view. There are more aspects than one might think at first glance

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I was glad we had an opportunity to pull over at that moment. Generally, I dislike roadside snapshots as that’s the view everyone tends to see. I always preferred going off the beaten path and wandering around to find more unique perspectives. Sometimes that’s not an option, as was the case during that rushed day at Glacier. I was lucky to be able to snag this image. I have a horizontal image of the same scene and debated which one to post here. I chose the vertical image because I find verticals in many instances to be more powerful, and your scene is more distilled since you’re photographing a narrower view. I loved that 24mm lens–it saw a lot of use during those years and offered the perspective I saw in my mind when I’d go out hiking and looking for images. 🙂

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    1. Thank you kindly, Reena. Yes, I found those foreground rocks so intriguing, and they served to anchor the image and provide some contrast to the sunlit clouds and mountains. There was such a stillness about them that I found comforting. I appreciate your wonderful comments as always. 🙂

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    1. Oh man, I wish I could. Time did seem to stop when I was making each of my images, but looking back now, everything has flown by too fast. One of the main attractions for me with regards to nature photography (or anything creative) was entering The Zone, where time seemed to stand still, everything became quieter and there were no longer any worries because the outside world ceased to exist. Just a high state of focus and concentration. Then everything would flow and there was joy. I used to reach this state with my guitars years ago before my deafness struck, and I can reach this state with my writing now and then (but far too infrequently). If I invented a machine that could simulate this state, I’d be rich! And you know what that means–free pizza for everyone! 😀 Glacier National Park is gorgeous. If you’ve never visited, I recommend it. Thanks as always, Michelle, for your wonderful comment. 🙂

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    1. Thanks. It’s a beautiful park, for sure. It even straddles the U.S.-Canadian border, with the Canadian section being Waterton Lakes National Park. It’s definitely with a revisit (or three). 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. Such kind words from such a kind person… 🙂 Glad you like this image. And the Emojiku project was a lot of fun! Thanks for including me. 🙂


  1. The surface of the water is serene and beautiful. No doubt the mountains don’t lose their majestic glory. Yes, the rocks in the foreground are subdued but add so much character to the photo. Your dash to capture nature and its glory was a wonderful decision. I’ve mentioned this before – blue is my favorite color and I can see plenty of it in this picture. The softness of the clouds balance out the rigidity of the rocks below. Great work, Mike. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Terveen. The blues in this shot really are calming and welcoming. So glad you liked this one. I’ll keep in mind your favorite color and see if I have more blues to post in the future. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Daphny. Water reflections have such a magical quality to them, you know? Sometimes you can learn more from the reflections than you can from the object itself. I’m happy you enjoyed this one. Thanks for your constant kind support. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: “Mountain Reflections at Saint Mary Lake” – MobsterTiger

    1. Thanks, Lamittan. Serenity, indeed. That’s a central theme in my photography as I’d try to impose order on my chaotic world. A photograph is the essence of being in the moment. That brief time the shutter opens and closes and the film is exposed is preserved forever. And there’s a permanence to it, a silence, and specific memories attached as well. Looking over my old images brings a sense of peace. This lake shot is a good example of this sort of still quietude. Glad to know you liked this one, my friend. 🙂


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