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Bitterroot artists spotlight work in studio tours

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HAMILTON, Mont. - This weekend artists will open their studios to the public for a tour that stretches up and down the Bitterroot Valley.

Artists Along the Bitterroot features some of Montana's most talented and diverse artists. One of them is Hamilton photographer Steve Slocomb.

NBC Montana met Slocomb at his studio Thursday. He had already prepared his photographs for exhibition.

Most of his photos are of flowers, with a heavy concentration of Bitterroots, Montana's state flower.

The exhibition is stunning, like a floral kaleidoscope. It's a mix of colors. But purple stands out.

"A good percentage of flowers are purple," said Slocomb. "Obviously I think the bees must like it."

Slocomb uses a wide-angle lens and gets close at ground level. His use of the sun in his pictures has become a Slocomb signature.

"I started photographing wildflowers more and more," he said, "and came up with this technique where I could get the sun in the actual picture, which gave them a striking look and became my brand identity."

Slocomb has been taking pictures in one form or another for 45 years. He spent years doing his own documentary work in Montana. But before all that he worked as a visual effects camera man in Hollywood.

In 1970 Slocomb photographed a little girl in the jungles of Mexico. He put her picture away for years but recently decided he could incorporate the child's photo in what he calls a "complex composite."

Slocomb placed the photo of the girl, looking like a 6-inch fairy standing next to giant mushrooms in a spectacular green forest.

Slocomb incorporated Montana outdoor scenes in the picture. There's Kootenai Creek, Blodgett Canyon and Woods Gulch near Missoula.

Slocomb sees the girl and her surroundings as being similar to "Alice in Wonderland."

"I realized when Alice drank from the 'drink me' bottle," he said, "and was 6 inches tall that it was the perspective my pictures are taken from."

In that award-winning photo, rising above the little fairy in a green Montana forest, is the sun.

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