Antelope Island. The wildest freaking place to shoot in Utah.
After spending the majority of my life in Utah, I’ve been able to visit some pretty neat spots! Utah is basically the Golden Corral of States when it comes to photography locations. You have red cliffs, white sand dunes, snowy mountains, crystal blue lakes, waterfalls, forests...I really could go on forever… but the place that keeps me coming back is Antelope Island.
Located just west of Layton, Antelope Island boasts of beautiful scenery and wildlife that are unique to this segmented piece of land. As much as I adore shooting there...I only recommend it to my bravest clients who are down to get their feet a little dirty. There are rattlesnakes, giant bison, coyotes, gnats, mosquitoes, mud, bird skeletons, fog, mud, giant spiders, mud, the smell of a wet dog that just rolled in rotten eggs and oh ya...mud. Think I’m joking? I have experienced everyone of the above listed dangers in person with clients. So why in the world would I recommend clients going there?!?! Well…. Look at the images below and judge for yourself.
So how do you prepare to shoot at Antelope Island? After one or two (or two dozen) experiences, I feel like I’m qualified to give a much needed guide on HOW TO PREPARE TO SHOOT ON ANTELOPE ISLAND!!!
First off! Warn your clients. Don’t let them walk into this place with no former knowledge. If you all end up getting gored by a bison...you’ll just look like a boob.
There are snakes, there are 2200 lb bison, and there are spiders that look like Aragog’s cousin (hope you caught the Harry Potter reference!) I get how much they want to be riding a buffalo for their engagements, but please remind them to keep a safe 100-200 yard distance. If your clients are down for the adventure then here is a list of things you’ll need to throw in your bucket of knowledge:
MEETING POINT: There are two parking lots before you hit the toll booth. Both are on the South side of the road. The first parking lot is a lot bigger but the second parking lot has a bathroom in case anyone needs to change.These are the best spots to meet!
$10.00 - Antelope Island is one of the few State Parks that doesn’t require a permit for engagements, bridals and family pics. This is another reason that makes them one of the least suckiest places to shoot (I’m looking at you and your stupid $175 permit Albion Basin). All you need is $10 per vehicle to get in!
WATER - I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten into my car with mud caked shoes after a shoot. Bring at least a gallon of water to rinse off shoes! Most of the time we scrape our shoes off on the road but water is a must if you don’t want to ruin your car. Sometimes it’s not muddy out on the flat part but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
GARBAGE BAG & CLEAR TABLE CLOTH - These two items are also life savers with the mud. The last thing you want is your bride getting her trillion dollar white dress muddy. Laying out a Clear Table Cloth that you can find at the dollar store are awesome! Also bring a couple garbage bags for dirty shoes after the shoot to preserve your car!
BUG SPRAY - As soon as the weather starts warming up, I always buy a couple of cans of bug spray to keep in my car and in my camera bag. Near the land strip the gnats gather by the billions. They don’t bite, but they like to hover. Mosquitoes are also naughty little rascals there. Use bug spray liberally on yourself and your clients. The last thing you want are your clients slapping each other to get bugs off. Those make super cute pics….no they don’t.
If you have a shoot here I would plan on being there 30-45 minutes early. This will give you a chance to scope out locations prior to the shoot. The “salt flats” are one of my favorite places to shoot however they get a little tricky due to mud, water, and spiders. Yep. Spiders. Mid to Late Summer, Orb Weaver Spiders come out in the millions to eat the billions of gnats. These suckers have bodies the size of quarters and they like to hang out near the water between bushes. If you want to shoot in the Summer I highly suggest driving far inland to avoid the arachnid swarms. The north east side of the Island has a lot fewer bugs and beautiful fields of grass, however you’ll want to keep an eye out for snakes and bison.
Best Times to Shoot!
My favorite time to shoot here is in October and November! Usually the salt flats are dry and the spiders are dead. I have been able to create some absolutely magic pictures during these times! There are few places you can shoot with an absolutely endless horizon. It almost gives the photos an unearthly feel and puts the focus entirely on the couple. March is also a good time to shoot, however gnats usually start showing up at this time and the mud is impressive. When things get muddy, I often encourage my clients to take off their shoes and embrace it. You’d be amazed at how happy two lovers can be chasing each other around in the mud! You’d be even more amazed at how beautiful it looks on a photo!
Hopefully I haven’t scared you off! This really is one of my favorite places to shoot. All of my clients I’ve shot there with have very fond memories of stepping out of their comfort zones and letting loose! I guess the main point of this message is be prepared!!! You’ll have a much more enjoyable time if you are expecting a little craziness and are ready for it. This isn’t a location for the light hearted. Communicate to your clients the risks, and if they’re down for it then you’re in for a treat!!!