Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian border. The park is a wildlife and landscape shooter’s Disneyland, with thrills and wows around every corner. Its stunning beauty has drawn me back for the past six years.
Swiftcurrent Falls is located in the Many Glacier area of the park. To reach Many Glacier, turn left off of Highway 89 at Babb, Montana. The 12 miles from the junction to Many Glacier are spectacular—the area is often compared to the Swiss Alps.
The historic Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Inn provide wonderful rooms and dining. The campground is large, but fills up fast, so arriving no later than early afternoon is recommended. Many Glacier is one of the most-visited parts of the park, with majestic mountains, many lakes, entertaining wildlife, horseback rides, boat tours on two lakes and spectacular hikes. Approaching Many Glacier, one can see the falls from the road at the junction with the hotel. The falls tumble 70 feet over several shelves soon after leaving Swiftcurrent Lake. Access is easy: It’s a short hike from the hotel to stand near the varied shelves of the falls. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Many Glacier is right up against the eastern side of the Continental Divide. High winds and quick thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence. One should dress accordingly, including protection for one’s gear. Layering is recommended as it can be hot one moment and briskly cold the next. Winter leaves late and arrives early, often in September. The mercurial weather is part of the experience when visiting Glacier National Park.
During past visits I had taken many shots of the falls. It can be quite a challenge keeping the lens clean from spray early in the season. I wanted to get a good wide shot of the broadest part of the falls, which is challenging as there isn’t much room for good tripod placement along the chasm. I set my tripod up riskily on the edge. I used a Nikon D800 and a 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 lens at 28mm for this shot. The gusts made it dicey with the rig often wanting to go for a swim.
Since the stormy skies weren’t bright, I skipped a neutral-density filter and used a Hoya circular polarizer to increase my exposure for a smooth, silky flow. I tried several settings, and 13 seconds seemed to work well. The winds were stirring up the skies adding nice sky drama. This particular composition and capture with Grinnell Point rising above was a favorite from this trip.
The park is open year round. I like to come to the park later in the tourism season when there are less people and more critters. Most of the visitors in late September are photographers seeking wildlife, primarily grizzly bears. Good fun, but that’s a different tale. However, I have seen both black and grizzly bears near the falls, so one must always be aware. OP
Contact: Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/manyglacier.htm. See more of Philip Kuntz’s work: flickr.com/photos/phils-pixels, 500px.com/nwvisions, facebook.com/philip.kuntz.