Post Format

Tipi, First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Cascade County, Montana


Tipi, First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Cascade County, Montana 2013 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

During a recent photography workshop I taught for the C.M. Russell Museum, we visited the First People’s Buffalo Jump, a state park located near Great Falls, Montana. The park is the site of a “buffalo jump” —a place where American Bison could be driven up a hill and over a cliff by Native Americans beginning possibly 5000 years ago. Bison were a significant food source for Native Americans tribes in the area and killing the animals was hard as Bison were notoriously difficult to herd or capture. Buffalo jumps were one way to kill large numbers of animals at a time.


An illustration of a Buffalo Jump in use. Image United States public domain

Located just outside the visitor center at the park is a tipi similar to those used by Native Americans in the area many years ago. During summer months, the park will sometimes build a fire inside the tipi in order to create a beautiful night time effect. The image I made is a single RAW capture, finished in Adobe Photoshop and I delight in the final result.

[SPOILER ALERT] Because wind is prevalent in the area and the chance of igniting the surrounding grass on fire was pretty high, it was decided, with the help of workshop participants, to illuminate the tipi using three propane fueled camping lanterns. I say whatever works . . .

Learn more about the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
Learn more about Montana State Parks

Posted by

CRAIG VARJABEDIAN is an award-winning photographer who explores the back roads of the American West, making pictures of the unique and quintessential. He shares awe-inspiring stories of the land and the people who live on it . . . one photograph at a time.


  1. This past weekend was just outstanding !! I have been in photography since I was 5 years old and still learned a few things from Craig. I can’t wait for the next workshop with him in Great Falls! Thanks Craig 🙂

  2. Thanks John, The workshop was truly an incredible one though I cannot take all the credit. Great workshops happen because of the mutual cooperation and admiration between the instructor and the students. I truly enjoyed meeting and working with everyone including you and your good pal Karen 😉 Thank you so much for being a part of the workshop. I look forward to being back in Great Falls next year.

  3. I had a great time in Great Falls, (even with all the wind). I admire your photography and really appreciate the one on one time we had with you along with the group critique session. Thank you C.M. Russell Museum for taking care of all the details. It’s not every day a person gets to work with a nationally known, award winning photographer! I would not hesitate to recommend this workshop to a friend or acquaintance, as the experience was invaluable.

    • The workshops I teach in Great Falls have been some of the best experiences I have had in my teaching career. I believe it is because of the opportunity to meet people like you who are hungry to learn and fun to be around! I thank you so much for your kind words about the workshop and about yours truly. I thank you too for joining us for the workshop and I hope you can join us again next year.

Comments are closed.