I was first introduced to the Arkansas River Valley in ’98 when I agreed to try my luck as a camp counselor at one of the many camps sprinkled throughout the valley. The camp was set back in the foothills of the Collegiate Peaks, and is accessible via the one stoplight town of Buena Vista. My counselor duties required pre-sunrise horse corralling, which meant that my running shoes and headlamp sat at the foot of my bunk-bed for those mornings in which I was overly motivated to venture out before rounding up the horses. Tough as it was to wake up each morning, the smells of Ponderosa Pines mixed with smell of horses and the yips of coyotes always worked as a natural alarm clock, reminding me that it was too dang beautiful outside to keep sleeping.
Upon deciding the location for the Spring ’13 Merrell lifestyle shoot, Colorado had been chosen for a variety of reasons. As the co-scouter for the shoot I debated with Nathaniel (the photographer) about the close proximity of Boulder and its surrounding towns for the requested access to water, trails and city but unanimously agreed on Buena Vista to help bring an awe to the images for Merrell, and inspiration to the models and brand representatives.
Prior to the shoot, we enlisted the help of a Buena Vista local and friend Alex, and spent a few days role-playing Merrell models in order to settle in on exact locations, best natural light for shooting, and to estimate timing for each activity requested by the brand. We chased light up Cottonwood Pass, measured distances from Buffalo Peaks to South Main, and hid out in the BV Roastery during the afternoon storms. We borrowed SUP boards from Colorado Kayak Supply and camping gear from our friends at The Link School to help create unforgettable and realistic images.
Being a lifestyle shoot our activities were primarily athletically oriented, be it trail running, hiking, paddling or road running. However, on the Sunday prior to the shoot we ran into Seth from Weathervane Farm at the Farmer’s Market and gratefully, he agreed to let the models on the farm help out with a harvest, while Natty shot a few images. He carefully selected farms tasks in which the Merrell clothing and footwear could be celebrated, and although there are some beautiful new styles coming out next spring, it’s tough to beat the classic Carhartts when it comes to farm living.
Since ’98 I’ve been back to Buena Vista a handful of times and each time I’ve come away daydreaming about what it might take to live in that valley. The overwhelming natural beauty shows up in my dreams, which tells me that someday an 81211 zip code may actually become a reality for us. But not for a while. Although we don’t have 14’000 foot peaks in our backyard, I am grateful to be living in the foothills of the Topa Topa‘s and to be awoken each morning with the smells of high desert sage mixed with the smells of horses, a hit of orange blossoms and yips of coyotes.
For those of you curious about this photoshoot, please check the Merrell website starting next March to see Natty’s magical images. If you are interested in capturing some breath-taking photos for your brand – send Nathaniel a note via his contact page - trust me, you can’t go wrong.
A big thank you to the town of Buena Vista for letting us play in your rivers, climb your hills, drink your coffee, and paddle your lakes — you continue to inspire us all.
All photos by Nathaniel Wilder Photography.
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