Arizona, USA 2022
I have had the idea of this image in my mind for a couple of years. Looking through stills of John Ford’s iconic film, Stagecoach, there was one image from the filming in 1939 that popped up on my screen time and time again - the stagecoach moving right to left with the unmistakable monoliths of Monument Valley in the background. There is no indication as to whether John Wayne was inside the stagecoach, but that mattered little, this was the perfect visual in what many have described as the perfect western.
The location of the old still from Stagecoach is on private land right on the Arizona/Utah border not far from the Monument Valley visitor centre and my production team secured permission to film there.
It struck me, given the direction of travel was westerly, if we used a wagon as opposed to a stagecoach, we could use the first rays of light to dramatic effect as they diffract through the foreground content. The trick would then be to find a dip in the terrain which would allow for the monolith to pop out above the wagon and horses. This was the critical part of the execution as to block the drama behind would kill the context and the photograph.
We found our spot at dawn and then it was down to luck. I think in this part of the world, the light becomes too harsh to work with really only about 45 minutes after sunrise, so we had a narrow window. The end result is a testimony to the team around me and the great horse driving skills of Dan Harris from Santa Fe.