Living the nomadic life of an adventure photographer in a frigid desert
Traveling Utah in a 4x4 Vehicle
Traveling around Utah in a 4x4 vehicle opens so many doors to places you can not imagine. The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior responsible for administering federal lands. Headquartered in Grand Junction, Colorado and with oversight over 247.3 million acres, it governs one eighth of the country's landmass. The abbreviation of this land is refereed to as "BLM land." This is the land you can camp freely on, unless otherwise specified, and have the freedom to fly a drone, unlike National Parks, National Monuments, and State Parks. A lot of where Justin and I went this trip was BLM land or a National Forrest, so when you see some amazing locations in the film, just keep that in mind.
There are more and more places being invaded by tourists. Personally, I would like to prevent that because too many people don't respect the environment. So like many outdoor photographers and filmmakers, I am hesitant to give away any specific coordinates at this time. That said, there are also a lot of places that I am happy to tell you about in Utah if you reach out! I haven't been everywhere in Utah but I know enough about it to help you out in your travels.
Trying Out New Ideas
Every time I am in pre-production for a travel film (the planning stage) I know there will be variables and things will change. I don't expect everything to go as planned, but I do head into it with some ideas based on my previous work and subconscious inspiration. For this particular film, I really wanted to try something new. After my travel films from Ireland and Belize, I was ready to try some new filmmaking ideas. In Ireland and Belize, I was pointing the camera at my face a lot and explaining the trip throughout. I call this the typical vlogging style. I don't really know what else to call it. For this film, I wanted to challenge myself to make something without pointing a camera at my face. I wanted to try something more narrative, including narrative scenes that may not even make complete sense. It was also a huge help to have Justin there to film – someone who knows how to shoot. I quickly realized my idea was bordering the docufiction genre with some comedic relief. I would describe it as a documentary with some fictional sequences.
After watching the final edit, I am really beginning to like this style. We'll see where it takes me next. Some places may call for that traditional vlogging style. Perhaps it depends on the trip. Without creating these personal challenges it is hard to grow as an artist. It's important to take yourself out of comfort zone sometimes just to see what happens and what everyone else thinks of it (with a grain of salt). At the end of the day, it is your own personal opinion that matters. Do whatever makes you happy and you enjoy the most. If it makes you pick up a camera, create something, and release it, that is all that matters.
Meet Justin Wirtalla
The main character of this film is my best friend Justin. Justin Wirtalla travels full time without limitations as a photographer living in his 2019 Toyota 4-Runner SR5. He currently makes his living creating stunning photographs for outdoor related brands and products. Most recently he has executed photos for vehicle companies like Chevrolet and Ram Trucks. Justin is also one of my best friends. We met at the PGA TOUR and created hundreds of commercials there together over a two year period. It was a great opportunity for both our paths that led to finding our calling as individuals. Collaborating with Justin never gets old. Creative collaborations are one thing – but becoming best friends is another. When those two meet, you really get something special. A lot of people call that chemistry in the film and photo industry. It is tough to describe any other way. We have our moments of serious creative discussions while naturally turning everything into something witty. It makes for a fun day rain or shine and a travel buddy you are always wanting to experience something new with.
It's wonderful watching Justin's story unfold as he ventures across the globe chasing light and living in the moment. I recently joined him for one week in one of my favorite states. Let's be honest, it really doesn't matter where you are, as long as you're Somewhere in Utah. What a mind bending part of the earth. It was the perfect setting for my first travel film with Justin.
Capturing Utah with a Sony A7S III & Mavic Mini 2
The Sony A7S III has revolutionized what it's like to film in 4K. At the very least, it's made it affordable to shoot in 4K at 120fps. The catch is you also need new Sony CEA memory cards, but that's just how this industry goes. If you make videos or photos, it won't take long for you to discover the money involved in every upgrade you make. There is always a price to pay for keeping up with the status quo. It is important to know why you are buying something new and how it will help you create better stories. Think of every film or photo gadget as a tool. That is all they are. I upgraded from the A7R III to the A7S III for four main reasons. It would allow me to shoot in low-light situations without too much noise (bad grain), the focus tracking feature it offers, to shoot at 120fps in 4K instead of only 1080p, and for a better image stabilizer. There are more improvements as well, like a better menu to navigate, built in time-lapse function, the ability to shoot 10-bit, and have a fold-out screen. All of this justified the cost for me as someone who makes videos for a living full time. I am happy to help you decide what camera and lens to purchase based on your skillset and experience. Just email me or contact me on any of my social media platforms.
In addition to a new camera, I decided to switch from the Mavic Pro 2 to the Mavic Mini 2. After using both, I would personally argue The Mavic Pro 2 has a better image and it unarguably has more features for automatic shots – the shots performed by the drone without you having to manually fly it. But what you gain by going to the Mavic Mini 2 is a drone that can fit in your pocket, batteries that last longer, and a good enough image quality that led me to choose this over the other for my particular needs of traveling as light as possible. As a minimalist who practices minimalism in just about everything I do, the size of the Mini 2 is just so convenient. The other significant thing I noticed is the Mini 2 does struggle to perform in higher winds. It is a much lighter UAV, so it is more easily displaced by wind. This is true alongside Newton's Laws. The heavier the object, the harder it is to displace. If you want something that can handle higher wind speeds, perhaps the Mavic Pro 2 is for you. Drones are hilarious to me. I couldn't fly one during this film without laughing about it. They are funny robots. But when it comes to storytelling, what they are able to capture is serious business. The perspective of the surrounding landscape from above is unmatched in many situations.
For the car shots, I used a Go Pro Hero 7. I picked up a few of them for my flying videos because this model revolutionized image stabilization, especially for vibrating machines like airplanes. To have a smooth shot in the air while flying a plane is amazing. Although it doesn't have a shallow depth of field, it is the easiest solution and shoots in 4K. It's great to carry one on you for traveling because they are also waterproof, for any underwater shots.
I can fit all of my gear into one backpack, besides my Ronin-S. It is the one tool that is a little bulky but an electronic gimbal is essential for cinematic rotations and just about any shot you think of. Most shots you see in the film, besides the drone shots, are all with my A7S III, Ronin-S, and Zeiss 35mm 1.4 lens. A portable tripod is nice to have as well. Something small like the MeFOTO Backpacker. I also love what PeakDesign is doing with their tripod, but it is more expensive.
For the post-production of this film I used Adobe Premiere Pro CC as my editing software and created proxies for all of my footage. My current desktop is an i7 core MSI Trident X with a 2080 Ti Ventus Graphics Card. I also use the keyboard and mouse that came with it, some Beyerdynamics DT 990 Pro headphones, and a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface. For a full list of my gear, check out my Kit Page.
I hope you enjoy my film and I really look forward to hearing your thoughts on it and answering any questions. Please leave your comments on the film via my YouTube. You're the best! Keep trucking.
Written by Brady Skye
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