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Unique photographer sees and shoots games differently

Aug 15, 2017 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

I don't see high school football through my camera lens like Morgan Tyree does through his, but I wish I did.

For more than 20 years, the Northwest College assistant professor of graphic arts and printing, also the school's coordinator of art, has been traveling to distant small towns in Wyoming and Montana and capturing high school football games on his cameras.

His one-of-a-kind exhibit, "The Biggest Game in a Small Town: Photographs of High School Football in Montana and Wyoming," opens Thursday at the Western Heritage Center in Billings.

It's not just the great runs, passes, or interceptions that he trains his eye to, although he is an expert at those. Rather, it is the intense feelings and essence of what football means to young players, little brothers, moms and grandpas.

It's football photographed from a different perspective. We learn through Tyree's work how the game fits into life's grandeur.

Keep in mind, he rarely travels to the larger schools in the region, and he doesn't seek out the superstar high school athlete.

It is the emotion of what it means to win or lose, or to sing the national anthem, or to watch the kids in town, or just to participate with your high school friends in a sport where young people discover what it means to be a teammate that he captures ever so well.

High school football happens in all types of weather, and his exhibit, with pictures taken in all kinds of conditions, reflects that beautifully.

The game's grit, its intensity, and even the long bus rides, are wonderfully captured by Tyree's camera.

But you might be surprised that he doesn't always use the most sophisticated new technology in his passion of preserving snapshots of small-town Americana.

Some of his work, such as this from the 1999 Montana Class C 8-man title game between Centerville and visiting Denton, are shot with toy cameras.

This particular image was captured with a Holga, which you can still buy for about $20. It has four adjustments for distance, two for weather (sunny or cloudy) and one shutter speed.

Even with toys, Tyree eye and talent makes pictures sing. It makes me chuckle when I see other photographers walking around with lenses that cost a thousand bucks or more.

But Tyree is not averse to new technology. He has fancy gadget add-ons to his iPhone camera, and some of the pictures in his exhibit were shot with drones that he has been experimenting with for the past three seasons.

He loves views from above, and says he uses the drone to visit sites he has been to before. With them, he is now able provide an added perspective.

Tyree already has planned his early fall 2017 schedule which include stops in Tongue River and Shoshoni. I met him two years ago at a game in Dubois.

As the 2017 football season begins, his work is good guidance for helping us think about how we bring the images of county football games to our readers.

You can view Tyree's portfolio, which includes shots taken in Fremont County, at https://tinyurl.com/y7s5v8xx.

Have a great sports week, Go Big Red!

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2017-09-19