March 25, 2022

Bryce Canyon Portrait Session


It was almost a year ago exactly when I was staying with my friend Maddie in Birmingham to photograph a wedding. She had told me about a company who curates styled shoots called The Shootout Society and had been saying that we should do one.

During this visit Maddie told me about a shoot The Shootout Society was doing in Bryce Canyon National Park that upcoming July. I don’t know if it was my wanderlust talking or the fact that we had all been cooped up for the entire year last year (2020), but I said why the hell not?

Shortly after my visit in April, Maddie and I purchased our shootout spots, plane tickets and AirBnBs for what was probably my favorite trip I took last year. Utah had been a bucket list state to visit for a while now, so the idea of not only getting to visit and hike there, but to do a shoot there was a dream come true for me. 2015 Jenna would have been really, really excited for 2021 Jenna.

Maddie and I booked a glamping tent AirBnB and seriously had the best time. Not to get too ~tender~ but that trip with Maddie really made me feel even closer to her as a friend. While we were there we visited Zion National Park and of course hiked the Navajo / Queen’s Garden Loop trial before our shoot at Bryce Canyon that day. What we did not anticipate? Rain. Yep, that’s right, rain… in the desert.

We had seen on the Dark Sky app the possibility of rain that day and as we were nearing the end of our hike that morning the clouds really rolled in, looking heavy with rain. We got off the trail and booked it to our car, in our research for the trip we had been warned a lot about flash flooding and wanted to make sure we were in a safe place for the storm. As soon as we exited Bryce Canyon National Park the bottom fell out and it absolutely began to monsoon. We headed to the small town of Tropic right outside the park and took refuge in what Google Maps said was a coffee shop, but was definitely the lobby of dinky motel. Nevertheless we were thankful they let us post up with our laptops for a few hours while we hoped for the rain to stop. The shoot was suppose to be that evening in the park, but rangers at Bryce Canyon had told all visitors to leave the premises and had closed the park due to flash flooding. And flash flood it did! I was thankful we were indoors for this storm and not on a trail or on the road because it rained, a lot. A man came into the lobby / “coffee shop” exclaiming about a crazy flash flood he witnessed. He began passing his phone around the lobby showing us all a video of a literal refrigerator floating down a street in a gushing flood of water.

While the situation as a whole was quite comical and makes for a crazy story, we couldn’t help but wonder what the frick was going to happen with the shoot later that day. According to the lady slinging coffees, their area had been in the middle of a massive drought and it hadn’t rained in weeks. So of course the one day we have shoot planned for the area… it monsoons. Maddie and I were monitoring our Instagram DMs where the shootout host and all the other photographers were debating what we should do. Because of the flooding, the trailer that contained all the details for our shoot got trapped behind water and obviously we wouldn’t be able to go back into the national park. We headed over next door the BBQ restaurant I had heard about on YouTube, i.d.k. barbecue (thanks The Other Side for the recommendation!) While we were feasting on our BBQ baked potatoes the final call was made: the shoot was still on, it was just going to be a very striped back version of what was planned. The Shootout Society was very kind to issue us all refunds for our tickets, seeing as the shoot was definitely not what we ultimately signed up for, but honestly we still had a great time!

Our shoot was technically still on Bryce Canyon soil, thanks to suggestion of Kata of Against the Grain Photo. We photographed Tyler and Rachel on the Mossy Cave Trail and it still was so beautiful. Here’s the thing: I’m from Florida where everything is flat. Utah couldn’t look more different from where I live, so anywhere in the area would have sufficed for me. Would the original shoot location been cooler? Perhaps. But the Mossy Cave Trail made for a solid back-up plan, and still served up some gorgeous orange rock backdrops.

Tyler and Rachel are a real life married couple, which always makes styled shoots easier. You can tell them to kiss without it being potentially awkward, ha! These two had a really fun and playful energy that made getting beautiful couple portraits a breeze. Speaking of Kata, she also owns a dress rental company and thankfully had a dress that she had brought along on her trip to photograph for a separate project. Basically, Kata is the real MVP and saved the day, thanks girl.

So despite the fact that the shoot didn’t exactly pan out the way it was suppose to, I’m still so glad that Maddie and I took this trip out to Utah. We saw so many beautiful things, made a lot of fun memories and got some really great images for our portfolios that we wouldn’t have achieved in our home states. We also set up a shoot with a former couple of Maddie’s who live in Salt Lake City. We ventured into Wasatch Mountains for a shoot with them and I can’t wait to share those photos in the next post.

For now here my favorites of Tyler and Rachel in Bryce Canyon National Park!