Maple Canyon Recap

I really don’t like waking up early in the morning. This doesn’t really work as a photographer because if you’re going to be shooting outside, the best light is right as the sun shows up. OR, for this shoot, there’s some traveling that needs to be done. Maple Canyon isn’t very far away from Salt Lake City, which is where I’m based, so we had time to travel and shoot in just one day. However, this meant that I needed to wake up early and that was probably the most difficult part of the shoot for me. The biggest challenge in shooting was the dogs that the crew had brought along. I love dogs more than anything. On this shoot, they created a challenge and led to my biggest mistake of the shoot.

Maple Canyon is this really strange area. It’s pretty off the track for normal travel. The closest town is mainly agricultural land. I don’t even recall seeing a gas station there. My hope when I see this kind of thing is that the places I’ll be shooting at won’t be as crowded. However, this isn’t the case with Maple. The rock at Maple is iconic. It’s this conglomerate rock that’s made up of extremely smooth stones that have been frozen in petrified mud. The only problem is that the mud isn’t exactly petrified. Weather changes and things shift, so rock is known to break loose and fall. Helmets are a necessity in Maple canyon. When climbing on established routes, the danger is less. The routes are trafficked enough that the rock that is remaining on the route is very secure. However, step just five feet to the right of a climb, like I did, and you may find yourself diving out from under a watermelon-sized boulder, like I did.

We spent the day chasing shade, which wasn’t hard to do because the canyon is narrow enough for that kind of thing. We had planned out which crags to be at and what times they’d have the friendliest light at. It was at the second crag we visited where we rubbed shoulders with a large group of college students from Wyoming. Like I said, Maple Canyon is iconic, a term I don’t use lightly but I do use it to describe a place people would plan a specific trip to. This group of college kids was pleasant to share space with, I thought. They were intrigued that we were doing a photoshoot and tried to be helpful with sharing routes and that sort of thing. 

Taking pictures in Maple Canyon was an interesting challenge. I enjoyed trying to focus on different things. It’s a beautiful landscape so there was that to focus on. The models we brought were absolutely lovely and had great smiles and personalities that were fun to capture. And then there was the focus of the shoot, the products. We were specifically trying to feature the climbing ropes and various hardware such as carabiners and the like. I had a good time trying to put my own spin on shots I had seen on the web. One thing I didn’t capture that I wanted to capture was a very dynamic moment. The closest I came was some rope flipping through the air as a belayer took up slack. Climbing isn’t typically a super dynamic sport. So, in my opinion, this shoot would classify more as adventure photography rather than action photography. 

Adventure to me is all about exploring new places or showing a familiar place to someone else who is new to the place. When I take adventure photos, I try to make it about the place where my subjects are. These adventure photos capture the emotions of the subject. The subject’s eyes should be wide and curious so the viewer can see the wonder in them and crave that experience themselves. If you’re placing products and you want to portray them as a tool to help people access adventure, they should be shown in use as well as dormant. For example, we shot a carabiner resting on a climber’s harness and being fixed to a rope on a climb. That’s all I have to say about adventure photography this time. I’ll talk about action photography some other time.

We had four dogs with us on the shoot. We used them as models in some of the shots and they played a big role in the overall good mood of the crew. None of the dogs were mine and I didn’t feel like it was cool for me to try and direct them. I was left to try and figure out how to support the crew as they tried to direct the dogs and keep them away from strangers’ snacks. At one point, one dog got very concerned that his owner was climbing up the wall and tried to climb up after her. You might imagine this didn’t go so well for the pup. The dog was rescued and restrained by the crew until his owner came back down.

At the end of the shoot, the crew wanted to take a photo with the dogs. We picked a spot in the middle of the road with lots of colorful trees as a background and each member of the crew picked up a dog except for myself. I was in charge of capturing the photo. As I lined the photo up, I noticed that one of the crew members was wearing a hat that was creating some heavy shadows and her eyes couldn’t be seen. Because she was holding a dog, I rushed up to adjust her hat for her. This was my biggest mistake of the shoot. I should have explained what I saw and asked if I could adjust it. She rightfully recoiled and although she didn’t express any anger, I’m confident she felt it. Take it from me, whether it’s with crew or models, some folks would prefer you don’t adjust them. Don’t be afraid to direct and if they agree to it, adjust them. But always get consent before adjusting them yourself. 

This crew member adjusted herself, positioned her hat for the picture, we took it and drove home. I like to do my post work right away. So, I tucked in for a long night sorting through the thousands of frames I had captured. The natural colors were fantastic and we had selected crags that were easy to expose correctly. There weren’t many adjustments needed which is perfect. Typically, adventure photography likes to have a natural look. Probably the best source to find this aesthetic is National Geographic. That’s what my instructions for this shoot required. So, I did my best to balance my style with what they asked for. All in all, I’m very happy with how this shoot turned out. Waking up early ended up being worth it after all.

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