When commercial photographer Michal Venera saw a ragtag collection of canvas tents pitched on the side of a Montana back road, he followed his instincts. Pulling over, he grabbed his camera and ambled in.

Close up portrait of a Montana Mountain Man, by photographer Michal Venera

The men who emerged from the tents would have frightened a grizzly. And some of them have. These Mountain Men live off the grid, gathering once a year for a Rendezvous and then disappearing back into the hills.

Portrait of a Mountain Man with canvas tent behind him, by photographer Michal Venera

As Michal soon learned, a Rendezvous is a reenactment of the mid-1800s when beaver hunters roamed the hills to supply the booming fur trade. The men gathered annually to sell their furs and stock up on supplies.

Portrait of a Montana Mountain Man with glasses and moustache, by photographer Michal Venera

A few hardy souls still live the traditional way, emerging only for necessities and a little company, and to participate in the reenactments which require authentic period clothing and equipment.

Portrait of a Mountain Man in a hat looking into the distance, by photographer Michal Venera

At first, the men were suspicious of the stranger amongst them, but once Michal got them telling stories, they relaxed. Having mastered commercial portrait shoots for clients like Wells Fargo and Samuel Hubbard, among others, Michal is adept at putting people at ease in front of the camera.

Portrait of a Mountain Man in a red bandana with the American Flag, by photographer Michal Venera

A bit of a rural dweller himself, Michal works as both a commercial and fine art photographer from his studio barn in Northern California. You can see more of his product and lifestyle work here.