Assignment: Portrait of a Rifle

Last fall we traveled up the road to do a shoot for Outdoor Life Magazine. It was a portrait assignment, but our host Fairbanks sportsman Jackson Fox wasn’t our focus. We were there to photograph Ole Meat-in-the-pot; Fox’s family hunting rifle. More specifically a pre-1964 Model 70 Featherweight Winchester in .30-06 Springfield originally bought by his grandfather and passed down three generations. In the current issue, the feature story follows Fox through an epic hunting accident on Alaska’s Kodiak Island that involves falling off a cliff, compound fractures and a lost Model 70. Losing the heirloom rifle was foremost in his mind during the whole ordeal.

We met up with Jackson at his home outside Fairbanks on a rainy September day. While waiting for the weather to shake out, we set-up a make shift studio in Jackson’s living room to photograph the rifle. The magazine needed a table-top style shot of the Model 70 and shipping this member of the family anywhere was not an option. We used a simple white cloth and three Nikon Speedlights with umbrellas to make the photograph. A few two-inch spacers placed under the gun created a nice drop shadow.

The rain let up and we moved out to the birch forest around Fox’s home. Coming up with a natural posture that still showed off Ole Meat-in-the-Pot without getting ridiculous took some time. The final photograph was made with a single umbrella Nikon Speedlight to camera right and a large reflector to camera left. The scene was exposed two stops under metered. Just as we packed away our gear, guests started to arrive for a surprise potluck party put on by Jackson. There was plenty of moose, caribou and salmon to be had as we milled about, catching up with old friends we hadn’t seen since our Fairbanks days.