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Behind the Scenes at an REI Photo Shoot, Part 2

Last week, I shared the story of my modeling gig at an REI photo shoot in Utah. Here's a look at the second half of the trip, plus a video sure to get you fired up for a Southwest vacation.

Day 4: Inches from death all day plus California Condors

Ever wonder what 1,500 feet straight down looks like? Hike up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. You only walk a couple of miles, but up at the top, you’ve got airy, scary edges on every side, and every one of them is 1,488 feet straight down. The last half-mile takes you across a narrow section with a sheer drop on either side. Sure, there are chains to hang on to, but the exposure is breathtaking.

Damon on the edgeTo get the perfect shot, Damon, our photographer, is standing about 2’ from the edge. He’s focused (get it?) on framing the shot, so art director Joel stands on the safe side of Damon and holds onto his belt. Safety first!

Sensing a possible meal, two California Condors cruise overhead, then swing around and come back, skirting the cliff right next to us. Real live condors with 9’ wingspans! There are only 350 or so of these birds in the whole world, so seeing a pair of them is rare treat.

We get our shot and head back down the trail at a dead run. We’re still supposed to shoot cycling photos at Bryce Canyon before sunset today, and we have to hike down, catch a shuttle to the parking lot, load the trailer and drive 90 miles north. It’s 2:30, 102˚, and we are running and shooting photos all the way down.

Amazingly, we make it to Bryce before sunset. We hike down amongst the hoodoos and shoot until it’s pitch black, and then stumble back up out of the canyon to drive to our hotel in Tropic, Utah. Oh, the glamour!

Bryce Canyon breakDay 5: Cycling at Bryce

I’m in no shots all morning. We’re at a place quite appropriately named Red Canyon, it’s beautiful, I’ve got a bike and there’s a paved bike trail. See ya later!

Lunch break today is a tease. It’s not really lunch: It’s a photo shoot! At Stone Canyon Lodge, laid out in splendid desert solitude. We take up positions on the deck, in the hot, hot sun.

We have sandwiches, but we must preserve at least half a sandwich for the photo, so we nibble on them over a period of 2 hours. The slowest of slow food. And then the shot’s done and we have 5 minutes to wolf down the rest of our sandwich to pack up and move on to the next location.

At Kodachrome Basin State Park, we spend an hour riding up and down the empty desert highway, waiting for that one perfect moment of sunset magic light. The magic never appears, but we get a few decent shots and everybody’s happy. Models Neil, Sarah and Adam decide to bike back to the hotel, not realizing that they will finish their ride on a narrow highway in the dark, with no lights. It’s almost scarier than Angel’s Landing.

Day 6: Morning comes earlier than usual

We have to finish 3 shots before we drive back to Vegas for flights home, so we eat cold cereal at 5am and head out to Bryce Lodge. As soon as there’s enough light, 5 of us crowd onto a small promontory and wait for magic sunrise light.

For a change, we are freezing. It’s 38˚ and breezy, and a large cloud is blocking the sun, so we shiver and wait. Finally, sun beats cloud and we get the shot.

We head down into the canyon and shoot two more locations and we’re done! By now, the sun is high and we’re sweating again. We run all the way up the trail, shooting pictures as we go, and head home.

What a trip

Except for the fact that we spent hours at spots real customers will speed right past, I think I experienced what anybody who takes this trip will experience. You meet a group of strangers in Vegas, then get to know them over the next few days in the best way possible: you hike and bike and sweat in incredibly beautiful locations all day, then share the day’s experiences over dinner that night. Get up the next day and do it again. Sweet!

If you take this trip, I hope you get fellow travelers as fine as mine. We were strangers at the beginning and friends at the end. Everyone was hardworking, funny, gracious and kind and I’d be honored to do this with them again, anytime, anywhere.

I’m thinking Thailand.


Posted on at 6:48 PM

Tagged: Bryce Canyon, Cycling, Photography, REI Adventures, Travel, Zion National Park and national parks

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