Two Weeks On The Road Ends In Montana

September 3, 2011 | Editorial Photography Misc. Photos

I’ve been on the road for two solid weeks now and I can’t tell you how much I want to get home but what a great trip this has been. I’ve been teaching up here in the beautiful Northwest of our country. It started in Portland…

Had a great meeting at W+K in Portland and then I went to Seattle. (I just realized those photos are on a hard drive in my hotel room so here’s a photo that I’m not entirely sure what was going on at the time. It feels like I shot this a year ago right now but it was just last week.)

I had a day in off in Seattle and walked through the hallowed doors of the Wexley School for Girls. If I die and come back as something, I hope I’m an art director so I can work in an agency. They always have the greatest work spaces. Played credit card roulette at lunch with the Chase-ster. He lost. I won. Met Mark Wallace for the first time as he was getting ready for his creativeLIVE weekend. Super great guy and I watched his class off and on that weekend and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Hopped on the Mosquito Express wing-n-a-prayer prop plane and flew to Missoula, Montana after that to teach for a week at RMSP. Spent six days with sixteen students from all over the country. It was a long exhausting week that finished today. Yesterday we were out on a ranch.



The image above was shot with the Canon 135 f2. That lens is reason enough to switch to Canon. Oh Em Gee. Love that lens.

Traveling is a weird beast. It calls you. It’s sexy. It’s the goal of many and then you get into it and it becomes a beast. It takes you from those you love the most. Meg and I have a hard enough time when I’m on the road for five days. Two weeks apart has left us both frazzled. If you read this blog you’ll know I’m not putting two complete sentences together all that well. :)

RMSP is a jewel in big sky country. I’ll be coming back next year to light it up once again. Thanks for all the new friendships everyone.

The cherry on top of my trip was the shave and a haircut at a main street barber shop today. A guy named Steve took a razor to my neck and it was amazing. Guys, go to a barber shop and get a good ol’ fashioned shave. It’s better than a day at the spa. Off to find dinner. I’ll be at the Rhino by 9:00 tonight. Best bar in town! Is it the travel or all the nights at the Rhino this week? :)




  • Sean McCormack said on September 3, 2011

    Heh..nothing like a cut throat razor/hot towel shave.. sweet.

    Nice work there too Zack.

  • Brian Hirschy said on September 3, 2011

    Can’t agree more about the travelling bit. I’ve been on the road way to much this year and spent almost a month in 4 different countries away from my wife – technology makes it better, but almost makes it ‘harder’ too…somehow.

    After about 2 months at home I get the itch to go out again but more than a week separated it starts to get really stressful.
    Travelling is a tricky thing.

    Thanks for the post,

  • Teymur Madjderey said on September 3, 2011

    looks and sounds like a good trip!

  • John (aka Wish I Were Riding) said on September 3, 2011

    I don’t want this to be about gear (love the photos), but did you ever use one of the Nikon Defocus lenses before you switched? I wondered how you’d compare them.

  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @John – I did. I had the 105 f2 defocus and it was my favorite Nikon lens of all time but… I didn’t like the defocus control thing so I just taped it to zero.


  • Russ Robinson said on September 3, 2011

    Love your sense of composition, which always adds a spark of interest to otherwise run-of-the mill shots. Thanks for sharing the fruits of your travels. -Russ

  • Ryan O. Hicks said on September 3, 2011

    If you think the 135L is magical and enough to switch to canon.
    Give the 85L a try. Zing.

  • Rick said on September 3, 2011

    Great stuff, as usual Zack. Love the ranch shots.

    I’ll pass on the straight-razor shave. Did that 17+ years ago the morning of my wedding at the urging of my best-man–he raved about it much like you have. Worst. Shave. Evar. Best man apologized for the nasty razor burn. Evidently that skill is not well distributed among barbers.

    I hear there are kids picking up new-fangled razors on the intertoobs, reading blogs about givin’ men a shave, then think they can undercut the competition, with their cut-rate skills. Scary.

  • Krista said on September 3, 2011

    RMSP 4 EVA.

  • Mark Schueler said on September 3, 2011

    Hell yeah, dude. I hear this post 100%.

  • James said on September 3, 2011

    Being on the road is a killer. I used to be gone all week and home only on the weekends. Everyone that I talked to thought it would be so call to be in a different place all the time and eat out every night! It’s alright for the first month after that all you want is to be home cook a hot dog and sleep in your own bed! It takes a strong marriage to handle it. It makes the time that you have with your family all the sweeter!

  • Marika Garland said on September 3, 2011

    Missoula was an amazing week. Thank you. Thank you to your family as well for sharing you with all of us crazy photographers chasing our dreams. It is a huge sacrifice that is greatly appreciated.

  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @Marika – The pleasure was all mine!


  • Alan Thomas said on September 3, 2011

    Hi Zack,

    Needless these are some beautiful shots. The lighting is absolutely superb. Being a geek What type of light modifier was used in the second shot? The lighting looks really soft and colors really warm. Just luv it and the rest :)


  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @Alan – The second shot is done with a 60″ shoot through umbrella.


  • LluisGerard said on September 3, 2011

    Love the first photo.


    I used to share some of your posts in Google Reader but I have a rule to not share any RSS that doesn’t have, at least the photo/text part that I want to share. I just tell you to be sure that you are aware of that and not simply because the move. The rss post is too short for me, IMHO.

  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @Lluis – I’ll check on that.

  • Frank Grygier said on September 3, 2011

    Zack made it home. I seem to miss the Montana skies already. Thanks for being so generous and open. Had a great time and learned a lot. Even the tonic water tasted good at the Rhino.

  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @Frank – It was a true pleasure getting to know you. See you soon in Austin!


  • Daf said on September 3, 2011

    Not travelled much with work or photography – but even holidays are the same – i.e. it’s strange that we yearn to be away but if more than a week or so yearn to be back home.

    Love the blur/Bokeh + everything else about that last photo.
    Sorry another gear Q – ever tried the Nikon 135 f2 ?
    Am curious about these old portrait lenses – quite fancy one for candid street stuff, just my 70-200 2.8 is far too conspicuous.

  • Zack said on September 3, 2011

    @daf – I’ve never tried the Nikon 135. Can’t speak to it.


  • Dan Doran said on September 3, 2011

    Hey Zach,

    Well even with all the bad ass photos ya’ll got of me I still think I’ll stick to photography over modeling. Glad I did it though, not a bad way to sneak into your workshop! See ya out here next year. (Oh, and I second the Nikon 135 DC, love that thing!)

  • quaintkal said on September 3, 2011

    love the first 1 and the last 2 shots :)

  • jilske said on September 3, 2011

    curious monkey here, why did you go with 135mm for that last shot Zack? i mean, what made you choose that length?

  • Zack said on September 4, 2011

    @jilske – I wanted the perspective compression and shallower DoF that a telephoto gives.


  • Candice said on September 4, 2011

    Thank you THANK YOU for the most amazing week ever.

  • claude etienne said on September 4, 2011

    I love the pictures. The first, and the last one, are my favorites. I checked out the site of the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. The school’s location is just amazing. As soon as I saw the pictures, I just wanted to get on a plane and head for Missoula, Montana.

  • Keri said on September 4, 2011

    Love all the shots there, that first one is amazing, loving the light in that shot, definitely something i’m going draw inspiration from in the future :-)

  • Ian said on September 5, 2011

    That “Mosquito Express wing-n-a-prayer prop plane” is bigger and newer than most regional jets. No need to fear the Q400.

  • Takki said on September 5, 2011

    Wow, those Ranch Photos are awesome. Great use of light! Thanks for sharing. Always great to read your blog post.

  • Mars said on September 5, 2011

    Yo Zack,

    Man been wait’n so long for some awesome pics from you and as alwayz you never dissapoint!
    1st pic: BIG MAMA Softbox with Speedlight? Focal length 24mm maybe?

    Cheers Zack
    When’s DVD2 workshop coming?


  • Zack said on September 7, 2011

    @Mars – Yep, yep, and yep.


  • Rick Barry said on September 6, 2011

    Wish I could have taken your class in Seattle … could not raise enough cash and I got 4 yearold to feed… she does model for me and is a pro at helping on shoots!
    Paying gig’s hard to find … too many volunteers and such with cool, cheep DSLR’s

    Maybe some other time … peace

  • Jack Fussell said on September 6, 2011

    Great series of photos. I know what you mean about travel…I love it….then hate it. We need to get you to my part of the world….How does Denmark sound?

  • Polly Nance said on September 6, 2011

    Great work! I am in awe of your portfolio and your about page has given me inspiration to keep pursuing my dreams. Love your photographic style :)

  • Joey Sylvester said on September 6, 2011

    I was rummaging threw images recently that were taken with the 70-200 f2.8 and noticed 9/10 images I liked were in the 135mm range. I understand the usefulness of zoom’s but virtually all of my favorites come from a prime. I’ll be picking up a Nikkor AF 135mm f/2 very very soon 😉 Intriguing images BTW, good work.

  • Coty Henry said on September 6, 2011

    Great photos, love looking at your work. Definitely inspire me to try new and awesome things.

  • Sue Bakkila said on September 7, 2011

    No doubt – BEST week at RMSP. Sigh. Sniff, sniff. Thanks Zack for widening both my skills and willingness to chase after strangers. But that Rhino Cold Smoke would’ve tasted good one more night. Good luck getting re-oriented in GA.

  • Max said on September 9, 2011

    Hi Zack, hello from Australia! Am a huge fan of your work, pretty much devour any knowledge you have to share. I have a question – the lighting in the first image is awesome, but is there any reason composition-wise the guy with the hat is on the extreme right, rather than say, somewhere as dictated by the rule of thirds? Or is the image cropped? Do you think there could be a better ‘balance’ if he was a bit shifted to the left? By the way, I love how you framed the girl with the arm of the Caterpillar in the second last shot.

  • Zack said on October 6, 2011

    @Max – Traditional rules will tell you not to face a subject into the edge of the photo. I typically break that rule for no other reason than I just sort of do it without thinking about it.


  • Michael Montalto said on September 11, 2011

    I feel like such a total and complete hack anytime I look at your photographs. I’m both in awe of, inspired by, and totally annoyed by your work. I wish you the best, but MAN, sometimes I feel REALLY small just looking at how easy you make this all seem. -mM

  • Jeremy Hall said on September 11, 2011

    As always I enjoy your updates and inspired by your work. I’ve spent many a day in Big Sky country. My family has a cabin up that way; and when I say cabin, it’s a cabin, not a vacation home. Way out there. I plan to get back up there next year and enjoy some unplugged time.

  • robert said on September 12, 2011

    I like the colors and the light in the first photo. And the composition with the guy just looking outside the frame forcing your (my!) imagination to think…

  • Danica Larsen said on September 13, 2011

    Zack, I am still totally amazed at our week in Missoula. First of all, thank you for hanging out with us for 6 days and also going out for beers at night. I learned a TON and hands down was worth every penny. Now I feel like I can master my lights (or at least I can figure out what’s happening and how to solve issues I may run into) and create some really cool crap! THANKS MEG for sharing him with us. God bless you and your work abundantly!

  • Zack said on October 6, 2011

    @Danica – It was great meeting you!


  • djaka said on September 13, 2011

    I really like the first and last pictures. the colours are nice. thank you for sharing.
    can’t wait for another ‘quality’ critique video post. hmm … sounds like demanding LOL

  • Jamie said on September 14, 2011

    Love the lines in the last pic. I realized a few days ago that I missed your workshop in Portland and I’ve been so very freakin depressed ever since. Well, maybe not that depressed but definetly dissapointed. Please come back to Portland (or Seattle) SOON. Keep rockin the light!

  • Andrew said on September 22, 2011

    I don’t understand how the second picture works compositionally. I’ve devided it in to thirds and I’ve looked at the shapes it makes. Could you explain your thoughts behind the photo. :-) Thanks!

  • Zack said on October 6, 2011

    @Andrew – Sometimes dead center works.


  • George said on September 28, 2011

    Some absolutely cracking images here…as always. Love the look and feel you have given these shots…as authentic feeling as I would imagine Montana feels! 😀

  • Gene Essel fotography said on October 2, 2011

    Zack i’m so infatuated with your work. I know this is the avenue to ask, but I need to get a video of the 1 Light DVD, thanks.

  • michaelben said on October 2, 2011

    Love the subdued colors og the first 2 pics. Elegant tones.
    Would you mind sharing how these were postprocessed?
    They look soooo..I don’t know..medium format or something..
    Please share…

  • Michael Montalto said on October 2, 2011

    Good morning Zack.

    I have been following you and your work for some time now. First, let me say thank you for keeping it real and voicing your honest opinion on the universe.

    Second, I recently picked up the 135mm f/2. I shoot on a cropped sensor with a 7D. I have always planned on going Full Frame once the 5D Mark III comes out. That being said, would you consider your experience with the 135mm as difficult in terms of framing up your subjects? The excellent shot of the cowboy on the road with the mountain in the background is fantastic, but I’m curious at what distance you had to be at in order to obtain that shot. Having shot only with cropped sensors in my career, I’m a little concerned that my perspective is going to change once I go Full Frame and I was curious if you had any feedback on your experience with that change (Crop to Full Frame) and if the 135mm is too tight on a crop.

    I look forward to your response. LOVE the new work btw!


  • Steel said on October 14, 2011

    Love the post. Love Montana. Wish I had been there to participate in the RMSP workshop. Also love the Rhino, and Steve the barber. Shot him for a story last spring:

    Thanks for the blog.

  • john barwood said on December 10, 2011

    Just lovin your work Zack!

  • Indeed, this is a really great lens. Especially for playing with sharpness, like you do.

  • Jaap said on August 21, 2012

    I frikkin love that first shot!

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