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The Art of Wildlife Photography

Lesson 7 of 24

Lighting Exposure and Gesture


The Art of Wildlife Photography

Lesson 7 of 24

Lighting Exposure and Gesture


Lesson Info

Lighting Exposure and Gesture

so we're going teo uh talk about lighting and gesture and I think gestures always kind of overlooked um this one of my most important subjects I think to get right so um would you start a little bit in meeting we've we've kind of clear talkto quite a bit about meeting already um just briefly about history graham this is a high key image very low contrast er very little dark obviously and if you looked at your history gam ifit's exposed correctly you would lie in this area not touching that wall if it touches that while basically there's no detail right now that this history graham tells me that everything here has some detail in it if you want to make a print you know there's there's detail in that white that white the brightest has detailed there's no real black so the idea of the history graham is most of you know is to keep a ll the image between the two walls on the left hand side you lose the darks on the right hand side you lose rights it doesn't really matter where it falls down...

here but then you you don't want to be a slave to his two grammy then I'll talk about that in a minute so this is basically the opposite of the other one um this gorilla you could see here the history graham there's often through the left side that means there's no detail in the blackest part and I saw this image this is a film image it was in digital so I couldn't look at my history maybe I could look at the film so but I knew that I wanted his face toe have details so this is what I was worried about I wasn't worried about this and I wasn't worried about you know the dark but I wanted his eyes so I expose it took a spot meeting on this and therefore my history gam show and you can see it's very tiny line that goes here which probably means the very lightest parts maybe that part right there you know there's no detail but we don't really care so tiny but this is dark so that's where you're not a slave to the instagram you know if I wanted to perfect his graham this would be in the middle to be some detail here but basically you couldn't do it with this image is just is too much contrast same way with this one I wanted again this film image uh no no history I'm available but I exposed for the head with a spot meter using a pen ticks uh spot meter a measured this light I didn't care much about the sky didn't care anything about the shadows but this had to be exposed correctly so that's what I went for that's what you have to remember this is a really old image on film again um probably shot in mid eighties it was in the florida everglades in this background had a lot of bush you know a lot of business and all I wanted I want to under expose it so I wouldn't see it so I selected for this there's detail in all of these feathers um and this went black which was a gift because it got rid of all of the business so you could do you know use your head don't just try to be between you know the walls but if you hiss graham is incredibly important and you can change all that I don't bracket hardly ever but I used my exposure compensation dial you know you could do a third to two thirds of set up differently for different cameras maybe half stop but I'll look at my history graham in the back of my camera to see where it is but then I also say okay now what I want in this case I measured these you know I wanted this to have detail in it I wanted him to be silhouetted I don't care about his far we know what a moose is for looks like we've seen it right we don't care about their fur we really care about this area here that mountain has to have detail that was by singing and he will be look cooler if he's you know silhouetted same way with this the bald eagle obviously has way ahead I've shot a lot of bald eagles with white heads have seen enough way I wanted this beautiful palette this beautiful soft pastel the sky was incredible you know the turquoise to kind of a yellow tow tow a peach to a purple again repeating with the reflections in the water that's what I wanted that color and he was just an accident I mean this would be kind of pretty without him but him being silhouette told black is see that's where you have to think what do you want that's when you start making images instead of taking images so that's the idea to make images so these are just a variety pictures showing you know different kinds of light today with digital thisa film image shot in the serengeti some years ago this is pre dawn light before the sunrise of bite just very maybe thirty twenty thirty mystery ford sunrises it's a morning african fog isas sunrise right it's sunrise doctor earlier by the light bouncing off off the clouds which gives us this nice open glow look pink again that only usually last for a couple of minutes so you have to be really set up for your exposure out and your composition out and everything and then of course you think about reflection is in the lower you get to the water the more reflections you're going to get so I got quite close to the bottom of the bank then you get sort of filtered morning suddenly you can see their son on this bear but there's really no sun here the sun is literally at that angle and it's filtered through this blowing snow so it gives us a very soft very soft light on that polar bear and this is my most I think favorite light of in fairy portrait of animal and it's already morning again it was on elephant back and this cat was lying on this rock in a perfect position but it was dark you know and it was on the back of an elephant shooting that film again I s o fifty or hundred fuji chrome and exposure was like three seconds or four seconds at two point eight before the sun came up so my asam a hoot this it can we just wait for a bit because if the sun comes up I could see the sun hitting that far hillside and knew that it would eventually come down the cat stayed there it would be really cool another man who came up and said we need your elephants you've been up here long enough some other people wanted to use I'm pretty kind can do that but I said please can we stay for another twenty minutes he said okay in the meanwhile this is the daughter of sita the one that saw the brother that was pouting that was his sister and meanwhile the father came down the road charge a big big big cat big famous um tiger who who sired uh these kittens and everybody wanted to charge because he was biggar and battar and more you know tougher there be left we had all the time in the world so we just waited son came up hit her face hit her paws she sat there for about two minutes and it was two fifty two point eight on with the three hundred millimeter shot about three rolls of film very quickly fortunately the two or three that were focused or not moving images they were focused but there was a movie and then they're like a too hot on her or too bright she got out but need to be gone I went back and disappear into the forest but that is that kind of perfect uh magic hour like this is midday in our bases where we should shoot um you know on ly during that you know our before our after sunrise sunset and that's a magic hour of course that's the most beautiful time just like the cat was but we were picking up camp drove by this lake bed so these drafts I didn't open playing here out on the lake bed and there's a storm coming up and it created this really beautiful light coming through the to the sucker holes here on this kind of lit up these areas lit up the drafts and so don't forget you can shoot during the middle of the day this is a huge question that I've seen a lot of people asking is obviously we talked about light and you are talking about the morning and the sun set and all that but if people are having to shoot in the middle of the day what are your strategies to maximize and make them pictures as good as you can well um it all depends on what the lightest and if it's filtered light through clouds you khun it's much easier if it's a bright sunny blue sky day much more contrast more difficult to pull it off course you can use polarizer sze to help you know darkened skies lighten clouds but mostly you're you're dependent on being some filtered light where they'd be like dust like this this is three o'clock in the afternoon but the wildebeest on the zebras were we're migrating and there's a lot of dust in here the africa obviously and so then you back like things like this so that the light comes through it creates this nice foggy look and but it depends if you have stormy clouds of stuffing a shooting all day long sunny days is more difficult of the sunset and you get in these great he's blowing snow creates his big blast of of uh son off the horizon created beautiful light another magic hour silhouette kind of light okay so this is evening after sunset so we saw pre begin this is on film like a six hundred uh mother cougar and her kitten and this is about thirty minutes after sunset and today with digitalis would be so much easier that was like a half a second exposure and I shall like three rolls of film of only one that was sharp backlight on flowers or sidelight is almost always preferred as two front light because you get the translucent you get that snap get that poppy get the color same way instance like this is a negro it how many times have we seen eager its front let millions of times I've got thousands of photographs but this eager I was photographing and all of a sudden he stretches wing out started printing himself I ran back about twenty yards go there the six hundred one of us too tight on him and unfortunately preen for a minute or so but that light shows all that beautiful detail and all those feathers you can see how the fillers air built these long streamers is nice yellow bill and again think about backlight backlight here again uh really makes these lines they're eating your carcass uh uh will to be sees two brothers killed not a particularly uh pretty scene but that light this rim light on that hair makes the image front later would have been just sort of a gory gory scene this is a funny story about this we're uh shoot my partner assistant use upstairs I think she uh we were on antarctic trip south georgia this is a gold harbour and like two o'clock in the morning at sunrise antarctica and such roses early in the morning you have to get up there they change your clock actually so they fool you so it doesn't seem like it's so early but as we're coming in on the zodiacs I notice all these penguins coming out of the water and shaking and there was sort of that's what they do in any go up and change nested he's up the hill with their mates tio either feed the young they're out feeding and if you need to feed the younger they take takeover the egg incubation but then I saw we pulled in I saw that when one shook I saw a little bit of a of a sparkle and I got down lower until I was on my knees and then I looked I saw more sparkle meantime seuss's come on let's go everybody's going to the colony there thousands literally five hundred thousand penguins up up the beach and she said what are you doing I was like from here to the boat won't you go no I've got I've got this covered but she said no to me everybody's going so she went on and about three weeks later she called me and she's ah I get what you're doing she sent it into american photo magazine I'm the most to me and it won the best while I photograph of the year with american flow that year so you have to look look you have to you know be aware and then I spent a half hour there and we you know we only have like an hour to onshore so and that was only from here the zodiac so but it's again observing watching in making a photograph and this is a good example sidelight evening light and again filtered filter light through dust you know african dust is very soft and it makes elephants so much nicer you know as a whole different dimension to the grass and the e grits and the beauty of the elephant that's a strong side light but it gives you the texture and the you know you get the idea of the size the massiveness and the impact the drama uh of this huge iceberg and that's very often this is sidelight again but just happened to be these eyes were the lights coming through the eyes and that eye and that eye again and so much to this image and that's just a matter of an inter too and you know that kind of you know I probably shot twenty thirty images of this cat he and his brother were hunting um and again is gesture a bit and that light of course weather changes everything I love shooting in the snow live shooting in fog love rain showers um atmosphere changes everything I was there for five or six days I found this grove of redwoods uh northern california this road or gender had done the research on when they average time for rotor dinner uh bloom and the guy we talked about jack taking that they had the lung transplant on the guy that was he was a big landscape guy says and he was going to go there and he said there's a best time so it was part of the research we met up there and we both search for grow you know the perfect setting we fought every day that when would be blind these would be blowing back for to be raining or the sun to be too bright actually drove fifty miles were supposed to meet uh do a story with tom brokaw is doing a story on grizzly bears and how people felt about grizzly bears biologists and hunter's game fish invited me to be in yellowstone and talk about this film crew and that but I saw this scene fifty miles I thought if I I could go back maybe spend two more hours get that scene because I hadn't gotten it I drove all the way back so I'm just gonna shoot for an hour I was there till noon because it was so beautiful far rolled in the light came through the fog made those like they were like none of the I don't shoot flash you haven't seen one flash picture I haven't printed one flash bicker about ten flashes over my life never use them it's my downfall you question that a lot of people are asking a see woodhead and many money other for asking that same question do you ever use that sounds like no is the answer and can you just talk about your thought process around it doesn't have anything to do with disturbing the animals or is it just an aesthetic choice both saying that cats always we didn't rainforest because why didn't you shoot flight that was all film wish owed and digital than it was before it was really good I didn't want to bother the birds you know flash something bothered bothers animal sometimes doesn't it all different sometimes they seem to not pay attention and people like frans lanting good friend of mine art wolfe a lot a lot of really great they shoot flash all the time and they do it really well and makes a difference I think in their photography I just never liked or what I shot I should but I've gone against it what I've seen one of those shots for them in others but I just don't like it aesthetically for how I've done it so I ended up driving all night to get the bozeman from northern california because I waited those five hours for this but and I suppose you could you know I mean I know people were probably you know set up flashes back there and make the light you know making pop and stuff but that's too complicated for my people I do have one more question that is again something that is a lot of people are asking about right now which is how much of your digital photography is manipulated in photo shop or other editors can you talk to us briefly about your general philosophy behind post processing do you do a lot of it do you think it's necessary will you completely change the lighting in an image if you didn't get it right that sort of thing I don't do any photo shop myself I haven't assistant who does a photo shop work I sit with him uh all images basically need to be be processed you know because they're flat there none non contrast low contrast s o they meet need to be optimized and that's uh pretty much what we do if the exposure's you know off too high to love fix that contrast needs to be boosted a bit fix that that the color is you know sometimes you can look att even the video which we in watching the video you see how much difference the color balance is on the video to my nikon so what you see what you remember is what the camera picks up is not none of it's real and I can do the best I say that's not how I remember but I'm gonna take a look a look of my lcd on the back of my camera right after you take a picture of something that's not what that's not what I'm seeing um so first of all get over what's really what it should look really should be israel is possible and I do very little photo shop as we think of it is manipulating or adding don't take away things don't add things but as far as color I think it's legitimate to to you know make sure the color isn't too were sometimes itjust turns we elected you know maybe food you chrome too intense or something but a tender and I don't do I don't do what I can do it and I don't really have a lot of interest in it myself but I do work with the guy that he he optimizes images and he knows my uh my thoughts on it so he's very careful so basically it's color correction is making sure that everything is exposed like correctly within a certain range and that's about it trying to make it look real on that I assume then another question I saw earlier I assume you don't do any compositing you won't pull ahead off of one image and put it on a body and another image if the you know the animal was looking in the right direction or had a certain glynis everything else was wrong this thing about fixing your head there thank you I thank you for understanding what I was no I don't I don't do that don't add a clone clone things no thanks uh anything in the room do you do any cropping in your I think cropping is legitimate we've been cropping forever um and we talk about this in the critique section session which coming up um oh and all the images say make the uh my limited edition prints if you want through the gallery there would probably be maybe ten percent that would be cropped a bit two percent would be maybe crop maybe made a vertical and a horizontal two percent one percent and the rest are shot pretty much right the camera the camera but people who do I know a lot of people who crop you know they were compelled to crop and they think about cropping when they're in the field when you get home same way with photoshopping fixing it when they get home and I write I want to teach people I want to inspire people to get it right in the camera and and that's my challenge and I love getting it right in the camera and I've got all the lenses you can see I have no excuse I have to have two feet I could move you know maybe there's a cliff there and I can't you know where the person shooting can you have a crop it but I don't you know people they want to crop it here but that's just my preference I like the idea of not you know since it is a tree and hang in there bushes and I didn't notice it I notice it when I'm taking the picture you know uh so I want people to notice it and not not to have it in the original and not think of it doing it later you mentioned earlier that you never delete any photos you showed us all your equipment for daytime use what do you do at the end of the day what's your process stand for how you process all your pictures and you get into key wording also your own pictures first have a glass of wine um no again andy my staff um I have two people just gun andy and su also uh a key word they download everything they store it they back it up and they store uh one off site or two outside wanted a bank and in town and one in omaha in case jack hole gets nuked or something so they do all the key wording and um and I'd rather have and they don't do the way we each have a color we use for the mechanic and each of our staffs or so the five of us in office has a different color I happen have three because I'm not very democratic but so my colors are orange red and purple and orange means I want to save it to take another look at it red means I'm second call this is really better and purple means up take a look at it for making a print now each of the other people will have a different color green blue etcetera and they will mark it as this is what we think is the best picture of this you know a lot or maybe someone image and then but I don't want them worrying about editing out or deleting images because I might want to say what happened to that tiger that was looking through the grass oh here's a good example had a I had a editor who was very uptight about editing my film because we get is a during slide days and I thought that that I only want to the tigers once in ninety eight and had thousands of tiger pictures and charged with one and everybody went to chase the big guy he'd chase cars he jump jump up on hoods he went through cars he jumped up on elephants and stuff in a very famous and he died here for years after I was there and there's one night we went out and that's actually what did use a flash went out he was a cross upon and had a big flash on my driver's system take a picture chargers so I did and all you get see with these eyeballs a charger and all these it looked like the milky way which were the eyeballs of frogs insects all around charger and there's just a faint outline of charger right and he went through that I'm not taking another flash I put the flash down and uh but that image uh my editor had edited out going to delete and I asked where that picture was deleted with black no because charger and it looked like you know for me don't ever delete him amount any of my pictures because I want to know where it is you know and I'd rather have my my people find the good stuff not spend time on the bad stuff you know it takes more memory and it cost you know what the raid system so it it's expensive now it but also expensive to pay people to delete images just find the good stuff get about the rest I'll take care of the rest someday when I get old let's get going so again fog mantle of fog you know I just say when there's fog I just look for something find a subject because it looked good and rain could be uh really nice to it it brings out the it's obviously you know we've seen wet rocks and we've seen dry rocks wet rocks or much more saturated leaves with same way more saturation and the pigments in the league's anthocyanins and the chlorophyll drops out in in the leaves that color comes to the service of leaves after after rain so is just always more saturated so rather even using photo shop and and uh um a lot of manipulation is again film this is what it looks like if you do it that time of day or year or with those kind of conditions um and if snow is the same way you know I've got this l with snow and without snow was there for three four hours that was knowing he'd play into the bar and fly back out and go catch a mouse going but I decided that this was a much more interesting because it was like you know see they're alright off he's kind of hid with snow add so much to it so talk about it briefly about gesture and working so this is always how many pictures you take to get a good one you know how many um imaged you shoot so this deer is kind of funny looking into me as a spy kind of a funny thing on his mouth it looks like he's smiling or something is his one years you know this is sort of dis junkies got last known his face has got your kind of crooked there and so you just wait and I have one hundred pictures this so I'm just going to show you three um here is really alert he's always sudden kind think what who are you what are you doing men so he's looking me so that's kind of nice but it kind of tight on the feet you know and but his ears or if he's really alerts that's good and then his girlfriend came around and that was kind of nice too because it's always nice to have two or three especially in threes and fives odd numbers are usually better but this is kind of nice and then here's the last one I think of where he's kind of calm he's aware his ears europe his dough is in the back and so that was the one I selected to print so it's often real subtleties it's not really obvious I back up just for a second um you know that would have been when I was young I was like well that's a great rack you know bighead and and then you know it's kind of nice no those air suite and then that's just a little bit better so that kind of process you go through it's a gesture everything's about animal just your human gesture and uh talk about other kinds of gestures so what what makes this picture and tell me you mean several things not just one what birds yep absolutely what else waves poorly so the waves this breaking wave you know it's windy right and you know it's wendy by the way the bird's air are like this each one these birds has a different just but you know they're bucking the wind and you know they're bucking the wind because that breaking wave and all that and then there's other so so think about the just other than just the birds and the animals or you know a person even but now you think about okay the animals this is a female bear coming in there sam and this is the tide's coming in so the salmon are coming into the stream and this bear is approaching her who has three cubs were playing in the surf so this woman if you look at it carefully in this is slightly submissive is the biggest bigger bigger bear than she is actually but she doesn't want to mess with mama with cubs so that's a gesture mama's is aware she's she's wary of that bear she realizes is a female so she's not too worried about it and the kids were just played in clueless that is having fun so they're having fun gesture this is the druid pack of wolves again and is we know about dogs about dominance and submission obviously they're circling this poor bison in the middle of winter he's got his head down that's a gesture don't mess with me because hook my horns around your body and throw you into the woods okay then you've got this was testing him this one's thinking about backing him up this and says I'm out of here you know this's totally gone zo s o but that tell us you and of course these these long shadows and things there's a lot of other things going on here but you just talk about the gesture at the time of day you could tell that these wars are hungry and that but he's not gonna let them mess with them and he won uh again like the waves in the wind you know the tails and the grass um and obviously the three of them all similar position all the same gesture but the wind and the grass and the tails event is what makes that work then they have funny gestures you know and then you have more funny chester and whenever you can get another species like this rid build ox pecker and uh you know who knows what he's thinking is this I think I'm ready to get my cure my ticks off when you're done and then you have a couple of brown bears were fighting over a salmon stream and this is serious business you see how the claws are out t throughout the waves here are the waters a lot of spray there and the eyeball and look and then you've got poor dance two males same size of bears is but this is play fighting this is now play fighting this is my fishing hole and want you to leave this is les let's dance and this is let's have a beer this is I had my turkey yesterday this is actually a mother bear going out to hunt or fish for salmon there's male bears out there that sometimes will kill cubs and these guys they're not actually walking very for upright like that but to get the height than to be able to see the big bear better there standing up there following mother she she said something to them like you know watch the big guy out there so there's walking but there's a huge gesture there all in step you know and you've got a tender moment and everybody can relate to that then you've got just a cute moment then you've got I'm scared to death moment cheaters usually don't climb trees and not that great edit that their claws don't don't not like a lion or a leopard and then you've got some of russia's buddies in the hot pool okay so now we have any questions video I'd love to hit a couple of questions related to what you just talked about rama homes and three other people and then for other people over here we're asking questions about focusing on the animals through morning fog and then also just general settings for fog is everything you do differently for that good question so um focusing on fart usually out of focus doesn't work very well so I tend to put it on manual focus again it depends on how much contrast is maybe but say like those swan's we saw which is a far it was no way the autofocus is going to find them just put it on manual we could all you know the thing is we've we get too reliant on our cameras and everybody freaks out when their auto focus isn't where we just put on manual unusual libel um in the settings and far because it's so bright I tend to open up a quarter of a stop for a third of a stop for half a stop or even a full stop to keep a white you know because it says this is a really bright scene so your camera wants to um under expose it so then the fog looks muddy same way with snow and you know now the sophisticate katie cameras with the matrix meeting knows that lot times of snow or that's a beach that's you know a sunrise or sunset so lots times of compensate but that's when you look at your history grand this when you look at your forget the you know you could look a lcd and kind of get a name no it's old man isn't really blown away but if you look at your history graham it will tell you you know if you're in the ballpark if you're off but so I opened up on foggy scenes and um on icons I used to leave it at a third minus a third uh compensation pretty much all the time because they think nightgown meters or set a little hot I don't know about cannons I don't think it's the same way with cannons but uh I know a lot of people who set him on a minus third sorry night gone but I think you know what that works for me because it's it's learning here learn how it works and then uh work accordingly on I love that you tied that into the snow because that was another question that we saw was about how just shooting and snow as faras exposure goes where that one shot of the owl in the barn was amazing it was perfect you said that exactly the snow looked white but not but but exploding you know and so getting that doing that that direction was fantastic I probably shot that a plus one third stop on then zen ahead and two other people were wondering does tom changer there his white balance based on ambient light or does he shoot auto white balance almost should always outdoors on cloudy or sunny and more often under cloudy I start off in the morning on cloudy and and again there's one of those things it always should on raw so if you're white balance is a little bit off it's easy to correct and that's what I think way to do that he could shoot it on fluorescent and that's if you shoot on a raw you khun still correct it so it doesn't matter but in the camera I should use you on cloudy if I'm in a weird situation like in here obviously would be an automatic because these life or who knows ten different colors um and then one more question and I think unless we've got one in the room uh if we get to the video jay chef and two others do you use live you for focusing when you're using when you're doing it manually no I just always thought of you finding perfect

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Learn wildlife and outdoor photography from one of the most prolific nature photographers of our time in The Art of Wildlife Photography with Tom Mangelsen.

Drawing lessons from his 40 years of observing and photographing the Earth's last great wild places, Tom will discuss the complex process behind his breathtaking wildlife photographs. You’ll learn:

  • What it takes to be a great wildlife photographer
  • How to capture wildlife in their natural environment
  • The best places to find animals
  • How to increase the visibility of your work
  • The importance of respecting wildlife and wildlife ethics

Tom will cover the basics of gear and scouting and teach you how to think about lighting when capturing animals in the wild. Tom will also offer a critique images and portfolios submitted by viewers.

If you have a passion for outdoor photography and want to capture the spirit of wildlife in your camera, join Tom Mangelsen for this inspiring and educational class.


a Creativelive Student

There is probably just one word that comes closest to describing Tom Mangelsen’s photography. Glorious. There are other good words too, of course. And they are also inadequate. Mangelsen’s panoramas are (cumulatively and separately (any one of them)) the best I’ve seen. Mangelsen teaches by example and his examples are exemplary. I’ve seen several photographers giving courses on CreativeLive lately many of whose photos I would love to have taken - but with Mangelsen I envy his possession not just of his photos but of their subjects too. And he does possess his subjects in ways many outstanding photographers fail to - possesses them and then leaves them to continue on with their lives. There are other reasons I’m grateful for this course too - his field trips and critiques have shown me (as with other CreativeLive courses) just how lazy I’m being with my work. And if his critiques aren’t motivation enough I only have to view his slide show ‘Last Great Wild Places’ for more inspiration. The photos in this series are revelations all on their own - even without commentary. Thank you CreativeLive for continuing to bring us the finest wildlife and nature photographers at work today - and thank you to photographers like Tom Mangelsen for giving us a look at the way they work.


I could not stop watching this class and set aside time each day until I finished it. I guess you could saw that I binge watched it. Then I was really sad when it was finished! Like a good movie that stays with you and that you don't want to end! This is a wonderful class and the best I have taken at CreativeLive. I learned so much and have a great fondness for Tom Mangelsen. He really knows how to pull you into his passion. I am so grateful to have taken this course and grateful to Tom for all that he has done in his career to further his craft and to share it. I am inspired! If you are going to purchase and course from CreativeLive, this is one to be sure to take!!! Thank you again.

Dub Maitland

Excellent class! An incredibly talented photographer who has a vast knowledge of the subject matter as well as an outstanding ability to deliver the information. It was as enjoyable as it was informative. I first saw Tom's work in an office in Denver in 1991 and have been inspired by him ever since. Thank you Creative Live, for giving us the opportunity to spend this time with the Master! And thank you Tom for your willingness to share your talent with us! Dub Maitland, Missoula, MT.