As far as cities go Salt Lake City’s reputation amongst quite a few New Yorkers is pretty bad thanks to the fact that it’s the capital of the (certifiably) strange Mormon universe. Of course New York’s reputation is quite similar with quite a few Mormons except you have to exchange the words “Mormon universe” for “liberal-socialist-chardonnay-sipping-brie-eating-universe”.
But in the spirit of the new American civility let me tell you: SLC is actually quite nice.
It has coffee shops, movie theaters, espresso bars, clothing boutiques, cafe au lait outlets, dive bars, latte purchasing stations, bowling alleys, cappucino factories, restaurants and-did I mention?- coffee shops. It’s kind of like Brooklyn only smaller, almost completely white and with very large mountains right next to it.
For a ski trip it’s awesome. You can stay in town and pay very reasonable prices for hotel, food and drinks (Utah’s liquor laws are not nearly as bad as rumor has it), get properly caffeinated in the morning and have your pick of a whole variety of great ski resorts within a half to one hour car ride. It also has a great Austro-German restaurant named Vienna Bistro. The chef/owner’s name is Frodi and he definitely knows how it’s done.
So in early 2009 I was planning a ski trip followed by a stock shoot in the fair state of Utah.
For photo shoots Utah is hard to beat because of it’s great scenery, good photographic infrastructure (lots of movies and ads are shot there) and accessibility. It’s also pretty easy to find good models. A lot of people out there are really into sports and you can hire plenty of good looking athletes.
Most importantly Utahns, Utahrinos, Utahlitarians, people from Utah are very friendly. On one ill advised hike in Zion National Park, a friend of mine and I ran into a very large group of young Mormon hikers going the opposite way on a very narrow path full of switchbacks. After every curve we ran into a new gaggle of nice people. By the time we reached the top of the mountain we had heard “Hi there-where are you from?-Germany?-well, Guten Tag then” so many times, it almost made me cry.
A few weeks before I was scheduled to fly out there I did a magazine shoot with the lovely stylist Jenesee Utley. I told Jenesee about my travel plans and it turned out that she herself is a Utahrette from Salt Lake City. I told her that I was planning a stock shoot which at that point was to be “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”. We chatted and she strongly recommended to call up her brother Jordan for local help. Jordan is a videographer that shoots BMX videos and Jenesee thought he might be able to put me in touch with some local riders if I wanted to shoot some BMX pics.
So, the misses and I flew out there and got the skiing part out of the way without doing too much damage to limb and ego. In that time we also met up with Jordan who turned out to be as nice as advertised. He showed me some videos he shot with local riders and the skill level of these kids was just amazing (so were his videos). I immediately knew that I wanted to work with them. I also immediately knew that I had to come up with a different angle to shoot these guys. BMX is mostly an urban sport and the videos were usually showing the riders turning typical city features like stairs and handrails into a playground. There are also a lot of really good photographs of them doing that. I knew it wouldn’t make much sense for me to do what a lot of good BMX shooters do all the time. The more I thought about it the more I was sure that I had to get these kids out of the city to do their tricks.
I pretty much knew that I wanted to shoot at the Bonneville Saltflats. I knew from prior trips that a lot of times they’re under an inch or two of water in the winter and the effects are just surreal. There is also a very interesting rest stop along I-80 that borders the flats. The water level turned out to be perfect and off we went to our second location Antelope Island which is situated in the Great Salt Lake. One of my favorite places ever.
We started the permit process, rented some gear (one Profoto 7b with 2 heads to go with the 2 kits I brought), bought a bit of unlogofied clothing at the Gap and Old Navy and put a call out for 2 female models on craigslist, for the romantic element.
Here are some of the landscapes I shot during location scouting (in their unspotted glory).
There will be more about the actual shoot in the next blog post.