Last fall we were just beginning to work on our new website (which is up and running and can be viewed HERE) and we spent 2 1/2 days working with a photo and video crew shooting all over San Juan County. Since we only had a short time with the crew, I think the hardest part for all of us was deciding where to shoot. San Juan County is a huge county (almost 8,000 sq/mi) and there is so much to see here that it was really difficult to rule it down to just about 10-15 locations.
To cover as much area as possible, we ended up splitting up the video and photo crews and taking them to different areas, and then meeting back up at certain places where we wanted to get both video and photos at. On the first day we met up in Bluff at about 6am and I went with the photo crew to get some shots of the sunrise over the San Juan River, while my co-worker went with the film crew to Valley of the Gods.
I had just gotten off the river the day before we did this photo shoot and I have to say, as much as I enjoy raft trips, it was really nice to NOT be camping that morning! I did a blog entry on that raft trip a while back (you can read about it HERE) and I think I mentioned that I had never been on the river that late in the year before- it was so cold at night I ended up wearing every piece of clothing that I had brought with me! So the morning that we were here shooting, I was really happy to be able to get back into a warm car when we were done!
After we finished at Sand Island, we headed south to Mexican Hat (that’s me in the photo above!) We wanted to have people in a lot of the pictures and video and we had ‘extras’ lined up for several shots that we would be doing over the next few days, but for certain ones (I think it was mostly the early morning shots) we were just planning to do ourselves, so we each brought an assortment of hats, jackets, etc. so that we would look different enough that it wouldn’t be obvious that we were ‘recycling’ our extras!
Well, I was one of the extras for the Mexican Hat shot and I think I should mention that I’ve always hated to have my picture taken. I am extremely un-photogenic, I think I get uncomfortable whenever a camera is pointed at me and I freeze up. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of myself with one eye half closed and the other eye all the way closed and my mouth in a position like I’m saying ‘hurry up and take the picture!’ or something.
So when I was told that I was going to be in the shot, they gave me directions to walk from outside of the frame and stop on a mark they had made on the ground, and look up at Mexican Hat Rock. Easy, right? Apparently not- it took me 3 takes to get it right! In the first take I stopped before I got to my mark. (In my defense, I wasn’t supposed to be looking down as I was walking into the frame, so I really couldn’t tell if I was in the right spot or not when I stopped.) In the second take I tripped right as I was walking into the frame. At this point I can only imagine that the person filming must have been hoping that we had different extras for the rest of the shots that day! I guess the third time’s the charm, because I finally got it right that time. When I watch the video and that part comes on, that’s all I can think about- how long it took to get that short 2-3 second shot!
After we finished at Mexican Hat, we met up with the main video crew at Goosenecks State Park. Once again, I was one of the extras for the Goosenecks shot. This time they were going to be using the remote controlled helicopter with a camera mounted on it to get an aerial shot of the scene. It was really interesting to watch how they operated it. It took two people- one to fly the helicopter and one to move the camera to get the shots. The battery life for the helicopter only allowed them a few minutes of filming, so they really only had time to do about 3 takes to get the shot they were looking for at each location.
Before we started one of the guys on the film crew recorded the two of us extras saying that we wouldn’t sue them if one of us got injured. What?! I didn’t know there was any chance of injury in all of this! This scene was supposed to be a couple walking up to the overlook at Goosenecks State Park talking, taking pictures, and pointing things out to each other. Luckily this time it was much easier than the Mexican Hat scene had been- no tripping, no stopping before my mark, everything went fine.
You can see in the picture above that I was actually taking pictures- the remote controlled helicopter is hovering above the horizon. When the film crew had went over what they wanted us to do in the scene, they had told us NOT to look at the helicopter. It seemed very obvious at the time, but once we were filming and it was hovering right in front of us, it was REALLY hard to not look at it!!
After we finished at Goosenecks State Park, my co-worker went with the camera crew to Muley Point, and I went to the Moki Dugway with the film crew. They took a few pictures, but the main thing we wanted to do was get another aerial shot- this time of a vehicle driving down the Moki Dugway.
The two people who operate the helicopter and camera climbed up above one of the switchbacks and another member of the crew and I got into a vehicle and they signaled us on a walkie-talkie when they were ready for us to start driving. Again, we did this about 3 or 4 times, and that’s all the battery would allow, so we headed on to the next location.
The next scene we were shooting was ATVing in Arch Canyon and we had real extras for this shot! We met up with the photo crew there and all of our extras arrived right on time with their own ATVs. I should mention here how grateful we were to have so many people willing to volunteer their time to come out and be extras for all these shots. We couldn’t have gotten some of these scenes if it wasn’t for them, and we really, really appreciated it! I think we had about 6 or 7 people who came out for the ATV scene and after a few quick instructions, they were ready to go!
In the picture above the guy standing on the right is the one who is flying the helicopter, and the guy on the left is operating the camera. Whenever they were shooting, the guy who operated the camera would turn his back to the actual scene and watch the screen on his remote control. It was really impressive to watch them do this- the fact that they only have a few tries to get the shot they want before the battery died would be too much pressure for me!
After we finished filming the ATVers, we wanted to get a few Mt. biking shots. I was so impressed with the energy of the crew- many of them stood in as extras, and in this shot in particular, the rider had to come down this steep section (and run back up for the next take!) about 10 times before they felt like they had gotten the shot that they wanted.
Our last scene for Day #1 was at the Bluff Fort. Our plan had been to shoot at the Bluff Fort just before sunset, and it worked out perfectly. I’ve been to the Bluff Fort many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it look as nice as it did that day- the lighting and clouds were perfect! Again, we couldn’t have done this without the help and cooperation of the volunteers at the Bluff Fort. They were very willing to take our film crew around and tell them about the history of the Bluff Fort and the Hole in the Rock Expedition, and a couple of them also stood in as extras for the filming!
Day #2 was another early one… I think we met up at about 6:00am again, but the crew had spent the night in Blanding this time, so that meant an extra 30 minutes of sleep for my co-worker and I! :) Our first location for the day was at Cave Tower Ruins- located just across the road from Mule Canyon (and House on Fire Ruin) on hwy 95.
Both crews were at this location to start off, but as soon as the photo crew got the shots they wanted, they headed on to House on Fire Ruin. Unfortunately the weather on the second day wasn’t as nice as it had been on the first, but I think we still got really lucky. The whole day it always seemed like it would rain when we were driving from one location to another, but as soon as we arrived somewhere, the rain would stop. When you watch the video you can see some really dark skies in some of the shots- those were all from Day #2.
We finished up at Cave Tower Ruins and headed out to Fry Canyon to meet up with our extras to shoot some canyoneering scenes. Again, we were very grateful that the owner of North Wash Outfitters had agreed to meet us there and to bring people to be extras for our filming.
I think it took a little longer than we had been expecting to get all the shots we wanted, but our extras were troopers! I don’t have any pictures of it, but they were waist deep, in COLD water a lot of the time.
The photo crew finished first, so they headed on to Blanding to try to get some pictures at Edge of the Cedars, the Dinosaur Museum, and the Visitor Center. When the film crew finished, we headed straight to Monticello with plans to meet up with the the other crew at the Hideout Golf Club. The weather had turned very bad by this point (you can see dark gray clouds in the golf scenes in the video) but they were still able to get the shots we were looking for.
Next up was Indian Creek to get some rock climbing and road biking shots. It poured on the 40 minute drive down there, but again, once we arrived the weather cleared up just long enough to get our shots. There are so many rock climbers down in Indian Creek at any given time, that we didn’t feel the need to arrange for anyone to be there for our shooting. Sure enough, when we arrived, the parking lot was full and we were able to get quite a few shots just from that one area.
For our road biking scene we had to arrange for an extra to ride down with us and bring her bike with her. The same member of our crew who had been in the Mt. biking scene also jumped in for a few takes.
After we were done in Indian Creek the two crews split up again- I went with the photo crew to the Line Camp Steakhouse & Runnin’ Iron Inn just outside of Monticello, and my co-worker went with the video crew to Wilson Arch to try to get some sunset shots. We got a lot of great photos and video from the crew, but the Wilson Arch picture (above) is one of our favorites- What a beautiful photo!
It was a very busy and exhausting two days of shooting, but we really enjoyed it! It was so much fun to get to show the crew around! Working in tourism it’s safe to say that we all enjoy introducing people to all the beautiful places in our county, so I know we all enjoyed hearing the crew members rave about the places we took them and say that they would like to come back and bring their families!
For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386
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