Durango, Colorado – 2023
When we shoot in the winter, weather plays a large part in our planning, but given the speed at which weather can change, it does not pay to be too prescriptive too far out from shooting days. But we continually check weather patterns and within 36 hours of a shoot, we tend to home in on a certain plan.
In my experience, there are basically five weather possibilities in the winter: flat light and no recent snow, which is a little dull; melting snow and sunny, which is horrid; cold and sunny, which is better but restricts filming time; a snowstorm, which is exciting, but can impair detail or, ideally, the end of a big snow fall.
In the Rockies, I guess there are about a dozen days a year when a big storm passes through and clears, leaving behind a winter wonderland and kind gentle light. This is the film maker’s big opportunity, provided the props are in place and access is still possible. It is always challenging, but these are the days we wait for. They don't come that often.
We know the Durango to Silverton steam train well and have built up a strong friendship with the owner Al Harper and his wonderful team of engineers in Durango. I sensed there was an opportunity at this jaw dropping location made famous by its appearance some 50 years ago in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We were in town and waiting as the storm system pushed through. It had lasted 36 hours and left 18 inches of new snow in the San Juan Forest that the old steam train cuts through.
We had to operate fast, as the light was picking up all the time and both teams worked quickly to get everyone in position early in the day. The Native American and the horse had the toughest job - that was no easy brief that day.
When I look at this photograph, I feel some sense of pride, it is a hell of a shot. But not pride in myself, pride in all the people that made it happen. A real team effort.