Today I’m sharing pictures taken at the Plains Indian Museum section of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This world-class museum has five sections focused on western history, culture, and the environment. It’s in Cody, Wyoming, a half an hour drive from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
The theme this week for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge is “low light.” Museums and galleries often have challenging lighting for taking photographs. I used my Samsung phone to take most of these photos since it does well in low light conditions. I’ll share some of my tips for taking and editing photos.
The first image shows a war lodge. Warriors made these temporary structures in wooded areas to hide their presence in enemy territory.
There was a reflection of a large blue screen on the right side of the image that I eliminated with my editing program, Corel PaintShop Pro 2021. I also used a vignette effect to direct viewers to the most interesting parts of this structure.
The next picture shows part of a display of several headdresses. Members of the Blackfeet tribe created the bonnet on the left ca. 1850. It includes golden eagle and great horned owl feathers, buffalo horns, tanned hide, horse hair, ermine, porcupine quills, wood, wool, silk ribbon, and cotton thread.
I erased a dark part of the base and dimmed the lights. In this case, I cloned darker colors near the lights onto the bright bulbs.
Plains Indian on the move and at home
The next photo shows a family traveling with a dog who is pulling their supplies with a travois. A large dog could pull 75 pounds and this was a common practice among Plains Indians.
This image had several reflections from the overhead spotlights on the background photo. I used cloning and the scratch remover tool to get rid of them.
The next photo shows a woman on horseback with an infant on her back. Cradleboards of Plains Indians were bordered with leather, forming a sort of hood. These cradleboards combined elements of woodwork, basketry, and beadwork.
I cropped this down a lot, but left some dark cording at the bottom so I could show the horse’s front hooves. You sometimes have to work around things meant to protect the displays. Once again, I removed reflections from ceiling lights.
The next image shows a tipi made of heavy canvas. Most were covered with bison hides before the 1880s, but they did not last as long as canvas. These were more permanent than stick war lodges and could be moved easily.
I debated cropping more off the top because of the bright spotlight. I left it in to show more of the structure. In this case, I dimmed all the spotlights by using the burn tool. This darkened the brightness slightly.
This picture is of an earth lodge. Tribes living in the Upper Missouri region used these more permanent structures. They covered timber framed structures with sod and these houses protected people from temperature extremes.
I cropped out as much as I could around the building while keeping the blue-edged ceiling structure. I thought it looked like a flattened flying saucer. 😉
The artistry of Plains Indians
This picture shows several decorated shields created by men of the tribe. The shields portray images of elements of nature thought to bring them protection in battle.
I eliminated spotlight reflections but left the long, horizontal reflection. Sometimes you can’t eliminate all the distractions.
This display shows how Plains Indian tribes adapted to new resources. When European settlers and hunters moved into their lands in the 1870s, they brought colorful beads to use in trade.
For this image, I shifted position until I found a spot without reflections. I used the perspective corrector on the largest sign to make it easier to read.
This display shows more examples of beadwork. Each tribe used distinctive patterns to decorate items such as bonnets, purses, and cradleboards.
This display had a couple of distracting marks on the background display board, and I erased them.
This colorful piece is a traveling medicine doll. It includes tripod sticks, symbolizing tipi poles. The items being carried represent things of importance to a Crow family while moving. It was not a toy.
Displays are often full of multiple pieces, so if some interest you, be sure to zoom in close. I cropped out adjacent pieces and bumped up the vibrancy of the already vibrant colors.
This is a representation of a more modern Native American family home. Note the artistry of the quilt and beadwork displayed around the room.
Sometimes you need to be patient while others view displays. I waited a couple minutes to take this picture. At popular attractions, like the arches in Utah, I’ve politely asked visitors to step back for a second so I can take a quick picture.
Living off the land
This picture shows examples of plants important to native people of the plains. They used these plants for many purposes, including food, medicine, natural dyes, and raw materials for clothing and tools. I have an interest in these plants because I may include them in a book I’m working on.
I used a perspective corrector to bring the framed pieces back to their true rectangular form. Though I attempted to lighten the specimens, the lighting was uneven in this display case.
The next photo is of the sign below the pressed plant display. I don’t normally share pictures I take of signs on my blog or newsletters.
If you plan to write about something you saw later, take pictures of the signs. I wish I would have figured that out long ago!
One more bit of advice… be careful when taking pictures of display cases and framed artwork covered by glass. It’s easy to get a picture of yourself in the reflections. 😀