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Photographs have been selected and winners awarded for the 22nd Annual Ernst Peterson Photograph Montana Contest and Exhibit at the Ravalli County Museum. The full exhibit of community-submitted photographs graces the courtroom and showcases Montana.

“I love how it pulls the community together,” said Program Coordinator Sarah Monson. “It really makes it an exhibit created by the community. It shows their talents and shows their unique view of the world.”

Mike Daniels won the People’s Choice award for his photograph “Blodgett Fog.”

“I was pleased and excited about it,” said Daniels. “You never know what will hit the moods of the masses.”

Daniels said the photo was taken on Christmas Day around 11 in the morning.

“I’ve been doing a series of Blodgett Canyon and on how it changes its looks,” he said. “Everything about getting a decent photo is all about the light. I had taken several shots when suddenly everything worked just right – the sun came out and hit that section of rock – it was tremendous.”

Daniels said he started with photography in the ’70s, when he was school yearbook editor and often won ribbons at the fair. He spent years studying composition and what makes a good photograph. He read the Time Life and Kodak photo training series and has done black and white, color and now digital work.

“A lot of people say you have the eye for it or you don’t,” he said. “It’s really all about the lighting and the timing. It’s interesting, the human eye is very subjective but the camera is not subjective.”

Daniels’ career has included being an engineering voice with Steve Fullerton at KLYQ and helping to run the Banque Club restaurant. Now he is on disability waiting for a new heart – but using the time to take photos. He was at the Teller Wildlife refuge Tuesday taking photos of herons.

He said he has been aware of the Ernst Peterson photo contest for a while and did enter a few photos last year.

“Last year there were lots more entries – but the quality was just as good this year,” said Daniels. “I managed to pull eight different ribbons. The quality of the body of work entered in to the contest has improved and especially the kids’ entries. Everyone has a cell phone and they just take photos all the time. It’s interesting. The quality is better than what you used to do with just a 35mm camera. It’s been interesting to watch the progression.”

Daniels also took a first place ribbon in the Humorous category for his photo of Barn Swallows.

“I get lots of comments on that one,” he said.

The Best in Show was Barb Garten’s photo that also took first place in the Wild Animals category.

Other first place winners and their categories are: Mike Daniels – Abstract; Mel Holloway – Professional / Color; Mike Daniels – Humorous; Mike Daniels – Black and White; Greg Dowling – Flowers; Greg Dowling – Structures; Greg Dowling – Scenic; Lindsey Strickland – People; Alane Harkin – Macro; Douglas Harkin – Domestic Animal; Barb Garten – Manipulated; John V. Scott – Professional / Black and White; Kailer Scott – Older Student and Frances Carrasco – Younger Student.

Contest judges were photographer and reporter Perry Backus and Mark Mesenko whose career includes photography, computer animation, advertising, and video production.

The Ravalli County Museum houses the 22,000 photograph collection of Ernst Peterson –renowned photographer and Montana native. This contest is a fundraiser to preserve and digitize his historical collection and to remind the community of his work. Peterson’s photographs have been featured in National Geographic, Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated, News Week, The Saturday Evening Post and corporation publications.

The Ernst Peterson Contest Photos will be on display through April 22 at the Ravalli County Museum, 205 Bedford, Hamilton. For more information: 363-3338 or

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or


Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic