The first time that I set foot in Montana, I knew I was in a very special place. It was not just the majesty of the scenery, it was the characters that lived there. I have long had a visceral attraction to the Wild West and no state embodies the final frontier of America more than Montana. In the hills in the winter, there is a sense of timelessness. The clock seemingly broke about 100 years ago.
Over the last few years we have been fairly relentless networking up in a village in the mountains. I have been there 7 times and we have invested emotionally as well as financially in order to be able to tell stories with the camera. This week – on Robbie Burns night – appropriately enough – we had our reward. There was no point attempting this without a solid base of locals that genuinely wanted to help.
I know this bar in the mountains inside out and the locals know me. Everyone wanted a role in the shoot, but we had to be selective. I wanted ex-convicts, wolf wranglers, wannabe Davey Crocketts and crazy old mountain men that are drunk by 11 am. But it needed more – the barmaid had to have the right look – as she would be pivotal to the image – as would the chosen mountain man. It would be a key juxtaposition. I found the girl – Roxanna Redfoot (what a name) – from Dallas and she was brilliant.
The wolf I could rely on – I have worked with him before and so long as he doesn’t tire I had a chance. But there is no light in the bar – so it as all seat-of-the-pants stuff technically – there was no margin for error in focus. A flash gun would destroy the emotion and sense of place.
As I expected, most of the photographs were not sharp or someone messed up (including me). The composition was always however bang on. I just needed one stroke of luck – 1 / 125th of a second that would capture Montana. I think we nailed it!