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Whitefish photographer Nathan Peterson shares jaw-dropping images of Montana

Nathan Peterson
Nathan Peterson Night Photo
Nathan Peterson Mountain Photo
Nathan Peterson Mountain Photo
Nathan Peterson Moose Photo
Posted at 10:58 AM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 13:08:50-05

WHITEFISH - MTN's Emily Brown recently headed up to Whitefish to learn the story of a Montana photographer, Nathan Peterson, who is making waves on the internet.

“I grew up in Great Falls, Montana; in the plains of Montana. Very far from any sort of mountains. Kinda just grew up skiing and snowboarding at Showdown,” Peterson began.

Nathan’s first passion, snowboarding, started to transform his life and shape it around being in the mountains. And then he began messing around with a camera.

“My dad gave me his old digital camera and I was just trying to break the thing. I was just trying to figure out everything that thing could do to the maximum. And long exposure was mind-blowing to me," Peterson shared. "Like the fact that you could leave a camera open for 20 seconds at night and just like basically create this like, world in the sky that like you can’t even see with the eye.”

Nathan Peterson Night Photo
Comet NEOWISE, Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho

Leaning into long exposure, Peterson fell in love with photography. After connecting with the crew at Showdown, he'd shoot events for them, practicing his long-exposure skills. He'd frequently take photos and videos of his friends having fun on the mountain as well.

Peterson moved to Bozeman for college to get closer to the mountains, but his eye was always drawn further north to Glacier.

“I just wanted to get closer to Glacier. I was making trips, probably 10 to 12 trips a year, during the summer up to the Flathead Valley. And that didn’t make a whole lot of sense [to take so many trips from Bozeman]. A quick way to change that was to just move up here.”

Nathan Peterson Mountain Photo
Peaks of Glacier viewed from Big Mountain, Whitefish, Montana

Taking photos and being outside is just what Nathan loves to do. And he’s been gaining a large following over the years on Instagram, 21,000 people to be exact, because of it.

“I think in the beginning days, I was forcing myself to be outside and like taking so many photos to just be like dumping them online. Until I realized like, it's so important that when you go outside to just absorb nature and like be present. It’s about finding that crossover and that balance of like what’s going to be more important at the end of the day, is it how I felt by that moment or sharing that online and getting some likes," he continued.

"And that’s what I’m finding, that fulfillment, that self-fulfillment, of being there and whether that’s skinning up a mountain or backpacking for a few nights, that’s just way more important than the end product," Peterson stated.

Nathan Peterson Mountain Photo
North Fork of the Flathead, Montana

While he’s thankful for his expanding following, he also understands that social media is changing Montana.

“So, I think it is kind of a catch-22 in that like I do wanna be like sharing that this is from Montana and it’s gorgeous here and all of that but at the same time it’s like you know trying to keep it our little secret.”

Still though, it means so much to him to get to represent where he’s from artistically through photography.

“I take great pride in the fact that I’m from here and I think where I grew up specifically shaped me and my style too.”

Over the last few years, Peterson has been using a variety of different lenses to shoot compression style. He loves to compose scenes where far away mountains and valleys seem up close and personal.

Getting to snowboard alongside Nathan at his home mountain and workplace, reporter Emily Brown got a first-hand look into his day-to-day activities — and it’s more than living a dream.