Montana Panoramic an ongoing collection of unique photographs by Craig W. Hergert. Beginning in 1997, this collection of vast landscapes, mountain ranges, rivers, parks, towns, wildlife, hunting and fishing images from all over the great state of Montana has grown to thousands of images, and continues to grow each day. Craig is a freelance photographer whose work is currently on display in several art galleries and businesses throughout Montana, including his studio & gallery in Bozeman, and in private collections all over the world. He has lived in Montana for the last 19 years chasing light and exploring the landscape, and when not out wandering around capturing more images, he makes his home in Bozeman with his wife Julie, two sons Carl and Flynn, and one crazy old German Shorthair Pointer named Henry.
the back story:
My older brother was born in the small town of Sidney in Eastern Montana. Many times growing up my dad told stories of working for Holly Sugar as a field man, unloading sugar beets in 20 below zero blizzards, that of course, came in sideways. After only a year, they decided it was time to head south toward New Mexico to raise the family. However, my grandfather had also mesmerized my young imagination with the time he spent in Montana telling stories of the badlands of Glendive, Whitefish, Flathead Lake, Glacier, and the Choteau grasslands in the amazing Rocky Mountain Front. Deep down the seeds were planted, and in 1994 I began working in Yellowstone during my junior summer off from college, and never looked back. I had found my home.
Earlier, while studying fine art and graphic design at Eastern New Mexico University, we were beginning to work with some of the early Apple computers and a very exciting new program called Adobe Photoshop. The machines then were so slow, that even the most menial task of the simple darkroom technique of dodge and burn was a painful lesson in patience. I saw that the potential was there however, but after much time with chemicals and darkrooms, I soon became bored with the limitations and process of photography, and decided to put away the equipment to focus on painting and other distractions. After the summer in Yellowstone, and then Big Sky, I officially transferred to Montana State University attending through the National Student Exchange program. There I continued studying graphic design and spent a good deal of time wandering through the libraries. While at the library one night, I happened upon a book of old, scratchy, sepia toned black and white panoramic images of mines, cities, groups and landscapes of various places from the turn of the century, and was just simply captivated. My patience had paid off, inspiration was finally revealed and I slowly began to take photographs again.
In 1997, I started taking my own versions of these wide open views. I had spent a valuable summer after college as an intern for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks based in Helena, which allowed me to see many new corners of the state. Then, back in Bozeman, and after a few years into the corporate life as a graphic artist, I began searching for something more fulfilling than my day job. I worked at the local newspaper and had all the tools I needed at my fingertips such as the latest Macs, monitors, software and printers. I began experimenting to try and recreate the old style panoramic vision. But instead of taping single prints together, or using conventional panoramic cameras and film, I started shooting and scanning series of slides and prints and ever so slowly piecing them together by hand using Photoshop, fresh with a brand new layer function that made it possible. However, I was setting no trend, photographers were doing this all over the world. But the process was new to me, and it woke up the creative juices. I couldn’t sleep for weeks dreaming of the endless possibilities! I wanted to do nothing but take photos and paint, but that seemed impossible. The odds are against surviving as an artist in Montana, or anywhere for that matter. It took quite awhile to get the courage up to quit my steady day jobs. I moved on to run the marketing department of a western farm and ranch supply store for several years. I enjoyed the work and was able to go out shooting early in the morning, nights and weekends to start building the portfolio and of course save a little money to fund future photo expeditions, but I know deep down it was not what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
Finally, with a strong desire to get out of the corporate office life, I took a solo journey to Maui in 2003 to do a little soul searching. It was my first real photo vacation, and after standing on the top of a Haleakala volcano and then an evening pondering the waves of my beach camp, I decided now was the time. I quit my job the day I got back home to Bozeman, and have never looked back. Soon built a studio in the garage, maxed the credit cards to buy some new equipment and the rest is history. Granted, I spent quite a bit of initial time doing construction, building fences and shooting real estate to make ends meet, but I would not have had it any other way. The learning process of building a business takes all types of influences to make it work, and I’ve luckily had my share.
"I am very lucky to be able to live my dream and passion as my profession. I would like to thank all my art teachers, mentors, friends and fellow artists who have inspired and helped me along the way, to whom I am eternally grateful. To my parents, grandparents and all of my extended family, from immigrant homesteaders, farmers and ranchers to honest businessmen who showed me that the American dream is real with determination, hard work and a little bit of luck. I am honored to be able to live this dream as my livelihood, and I thank everyone for your help and for your patronage that allows me continue with this passion…of capturing the landscape."