June 11, 2024

Montana's Forrest

Rad People


Rad Places


Forrest Mankins makes photos and films that makes you want to get outdoors. Not a bad gig, eh?

We got to know Forrest last summer when we were looking for capturing the essence of our Montana and impending NorthEast properties. He picked up the phone, hit the road made awesome happen — taking snaps that took our breath away. If you are not following him already on the IG, do yourself a favor: @forrestmankins

You’re based in Whitefish, MT, what do you love about Montana?

It’s the people that make Montana what it is. The folks I’m thinking of are independent, capable, generous, and engaged with the land and conservation. It has taught me that we don’t just build self reliance for ourselves, we do it to put ourselves in a position to help others when the time comes. Many of these people are from Montana, some are fourth and fifth generation and many moved here from around the country. Another tie that binds them is that none of them think bad weather exists. Our summers are pretty great, and the other ten months of the year bring wind, snow, ice, and mud, along with temps down into the -30s,  and we spend time outside during all of it

How did you come to be a photographer and filmmaker?

My mom always had a camera with her, and she is still one of my favorite photographers. I would borrow her cameras and go sneak up on deer in the field behind our house. It felt like I was on a nat geo assignment. Fast forward into my 20s - I was a musician and quickly realizing that the touring lifestyle wasn’t for me. Between tours I’d drive out west in my little truck, and take photos as a way to decompress from tour. I’d sleep in the front seat of my truck, eat ramen and freeze my ass off. It was wonderful. After sharing my work online, I started to get requests from brands to shoot for them and finally felt like this was the thing I was supposed to be doing. I was also pretty ecstatic about the huge pay increase. Going from making nothing to making almost nothing was a huge quality of life increase, percentage wise. The big thing for me was that I felt like I had an excuse to go experience life and people. To learn, explore, a reason to be there, wherever I was. When you’re in a band, you’re all married, and decisions are slower, with votes and management and labels, and in photography, I could just go. That feeling of freedom hasn’t attenuated. 

Besides working with LOGE, any shoots, photos/films, or clients that you’ve really been glad came your way?

If you’re a freelancer reading this, you’ll know I’m telling the truth when I say that I’m thankful for every single project that comes my way, but to pick one, I’ve got to shout out my boys at Seager. Case, Mattson, Elliot, all of them. They were some of the first folks that really just turned me loose to shoot in the way that I wanted to shoot, and to this day the work I’ve made for them over the years is probably the most referenced from individuals and clients alike. On the first shoot, our buddy Austin put my pristine ’83 Honda XL500 into the gravel and shredded himself up pretty good (any one of us would have done the same - thanks, Austin), but the point is that it led to one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. And they let me do that, they never questioned why I was spending time on that shot, which I really respect because as a client it can feel scary to spend money on this stuff and hope that the person you hire truly gets not only where you are, but where you’re headed. Those guys are good friends, and they understand how important play is. For an example, check out the print of my buddy Danny floating on an inner tube out of a culvert in the LOGE Missoula location. The more fun we have, the more fun the photos are. That was a big deal to me when I started working with LOGE, they have been really trusting and given me room to try things. 

What is about the outdoors that you love, personally? What are you go to activities or adventures?

Oh my gosh, everything. It’s what we’re evolved for. It reminds us that all of these day to day problems are really irrelevant. It reminds us when we need to lose some fat and gain some muscle, and when we need to slow down. It is the signal when everything else is noise, and when you add in activities with other folks, you make bonds that are stronger and more meaningful. Sorry for the outburst. I’m pretty obsessed with fly fishing year round here in Montana. In the winter my buddy Craig and I put on snowshoes and go fish until we can’t feel our fingers. When you take the snowshoes off you posthole down to your ass cheek in the snow, and after you’re done fishing, crawling back up the bank on all fours is about as undignified as it gets. It’s that same attitude that there isn’t bad weather, you just need more layers. My favorite thing in the world is camping with my wife Claire and our dogs. I don’t even really care where it is. It’s just having that reset together. No phone service, just spending time outside and watching the stars come out. It’s the best thing in life. 

Everybody has their personal favorite food or snacks when they’re going out, what’s your go to’s?

I’ve got a life altering wrap my good buddy Jim Chapman showed me, and it travels well. It’s a Stacey’s whole wheat tortilla with CRUNCHY peanut butter, shelled hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and fresh blueberries. And a little salt.  I definitely made fun of him before I first tried one, and I’d like to publicly state that I was wrong. Sorry, Jim. I eat about half of them at home, and the other half on or near the tailgate of my truck. Doctors orders: take one of these with a cup of coffee in the morning and go forth and conquer.

Give us a couple of your personal recommendations things to do/places to go around Missoula?

Where to start. I think people should try to move their body outside at whatever capabilities they have, especially in a place with such great access.  It’s such a huge part of the experience here, and it’s going to make going back to town and having dinner that much better. We know the river stuff, float it on an inner tube, swim in it, raft, fish, surf, etc etc, but don’t just save your hiking for Glacier. Even for folks don’t feel confident about going out into bear country (the more you learn the better you’ll feel about it and the safer you’ll be), there are tons of place in and around town to get out and move. The trails that go right out of town are perfect. Go to waterworks, or get a quick ass kicker in at the M, and your day gets infinitely better. I also think it’s important to communicate that you don’t need to be an athlete to go take part in this. I know in a lot of places throughout the country, access is non existent or much more limited, and I think it’s easy for folks to not think about it. Come out and experience it, it’ll probably make you find the closest trails to your own home if you don’t know already. I love the Camino, it’s amazing food made by equally amazing people, and when I come to town it’s where I want to go. Draught Works, Kettlehouse, the breweries in town are a force. Cruz Tacos on Broadway is my favorite lunch spot, and I alway start the day at the Black Coffee quonset hut over on Spruce Street. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Same, but for Glacier area (‘cause our next LOGE there in Essex, MT opens this summer)?

Let’s start with the park. It is busy, but as someone who lives right next to it, it is ALWAYS worth it. I tell folks to get up super early and get going when you’re headed into Glacier. Parking is way easier, and another thing is that seeing the sun come up and the light change in the landscape is powerful. In country so big that we can’t quite comprehend it, the changing light is a special experience that you miss out on in the middle of the day. The best thing to do in my opinion is get your hike in early, and then spend the afternoon swimming and relaxing at lake Mcdonald or Saint Mary. It’s fun even if you didn’t hike, but do try to get out of the vehicle as much as possible. Outside of the park, you retain unlimited hiking options with far fewer people.  I think what a lot of people miss is the hiking opportunities near Essex. You get a similar experience to being in the park but without the crowds. Please do be bear safe, hike in groups, make a bunch of noise, and for extra good karma pick up any trash you find along the way, wherever you are. Sorry to preach, but yeah if you pick up random trash people will find you better looking and funnier. Like Missoula, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to be comprehensive, but some quick favorites are: Uptown Hearth in Columbia falls breakfast and lunch (thank me @forrestmankins on IG after you order the breakfast sandwich). Excellent coffee. Bonsai brewing in Whitefish is another favorite, it’s a really fun place to be, and both the beer and food is great. They have yard games, there’s shade, and altogether it’s just a place that feels good to be in. Fleur in Whitefish is on another planet with their baked goods, and you’ll be lucky enough to have your coffee or espresso drink made by Levi Hoch, a good friend and incredibly talented barista. You’ve GOTTA go up to Polebridge, get a huckleberry bear claw, or anything. Anyone that’s been here before is going to ask if you went to Polebridge, and while you’re in the area, stop at Home Ranch Bottoms and spend the afternoon. Great pie, diner coffee, food, personalities. 

Maybe photo-nerdy but always curious what your equipment of choice is?

It’s taken me far too long to realize that the fewer options I have, the better. The less time I spend fiddling with gear, the more time I think about what’s actually happening in front of me. Everything I shoot is a combination of digital and film. For digital, I’m fully in the Fuji medium format world, the GFX 100 II does everything I want, and more importantly has a great viewfinder and the power button is where it should be. I shoot 99% of my work with a simple midrange zoom lens.  I’ve got a janky Contax T2 that I’ve shot a lot of the LOGE work on, it’s the most perfect camera I’ve ever used in that it gets out of my way, and i’m fully focused on my frame. It also is significant to note that it doesn’t intimidate people.  I intend to be buried with it. I also love the Leica rangefinders, I’ve got an older MP and a 50mm lens that goes everywhere I do, including on shoots. 

See Forrest's latest film for LOGE Missoula: 

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