Photo by Sheldon Martineau

A Salt Lake City photographer’s guide to adventure photography in Utah

By Cara MacDonald, | Posted - Mar. 24, 2019 at 10:04 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s a hot-spot for outdoor adventure photography thanks to its active recreation community and beautiful, sprawling landscapes. Still, sometimes the right locations for taking pictures are hard to find, and how to best capture the images is an even more pressing question.

Sheldon Martineau is an adventure and travel photographer based out of Salt Lake City. A deep love for both nature and travel has motivated him to spend the past few years of his life seeking to share that love with others through photography.

His adventures have taken him to the furthest corners of Utah, where he has photographed images which he shares on social media. Martineau’s Instagram audience alone has grown to 13.7k followers with 100,000 visitors per week.

Martineau shared his thoughts on photography in Utah with, offering a variety of tips for both new and seasoned outdoor adventure photographers:

Sheldon Martineau

Essential equipment for outdoor photography

Martineau keeps to the essentials for outdoor photography, as traveling light is generally ideal when getting to unique and less-traveled locations. His must-haves include his camera, tripod, and filters to both protect his lenses and add effects to the images. More specifically:

  • Tripod: As far as the photo side, it’s essential to bring a tripod. “Especially if you’re camping, it opens up a lot of options for astrophotography,” he explained.
  • UV filter: “I always keep a UV on as a screen protector for my lenses. It saves my life all the time because I’m usually climbing around when I do photo shoots,” Martineau said. “On my last trip, my camera swung into a rock and the front shattered, but it was actually just my UV filter which is a $50 thing. Saved my $1,500 lens.”
  • Filters facilitating effects: “It’s good to bring extra things like filters so you can get different effects,” he explained. “Always bring a polarizer if you’re doing a commercial shoot to cut out reflections. I also bring neutral density filters, which give you the long and silky effect when you’re shooting waterfalls or if you reduce your shutter speed at midday.”
  • Charging devices: “If you’re spending a few days on the road, it’s always a good idea to bring something to keep all of your gear charged,” Martineau said. If the camera dies, a successful photo shoot is difficult to accomplish.

Top three photoshoot destinations

Martineau’s top three favorite photoshoot destinations are Moab, Hanksville, and the state parks near Zion.

  • Moab: Located in Eastern Utah, Moab is a paradise of red rock. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are excellent photoshoot destinations, but the entire area is a hotspot for unique and interesting adventures and pictures.

Sheldon Martineau

  • Hanksville: Located between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks, Hanksville is centrally located to provide easy access to Capitol Reef National Park, the San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley State Park and Robber’s Roost. This is a well-known backpacking and canyoneering destination.
  • State parks near Zion: These state parks get overlooked a lot in the shadow of Zion, Martineau said. They are less busy and provide a lot of unique and stunning natural scenes.

Capturing the essence of Utah

For photographers seeking to capture the essence of Utah and what it has to offer, Martineau thinks shooting the big 5 national parks, red rock scenery, and mountains along the Wasatch Front will provide a comprehensive illustration of the state.

Sheldon Martineau

Canyonlands is a great spot to hit if you’re trying to get unique red rock shots and capture that part of Utah,” he explained.

When to shoot?

“Personally, I like blue hour,” Martineau said. Blue hour encompasses the time during the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset when the faint glow from the sun casts a stark blue light on natural scenes.

He also likes to take photos during the golden hour, which is one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. The golden and colorful tones of the sun on the horizon bathes landscapes in a soft, warm glow. Photos at this time of day have smooth and even lighting, and tend to create pleasant images.

“Any type of soft lighting is good,” Martineau said. “Whether cloud cover comes or if it’s a moody, misty day. Try and avoid harsh daylight.”

Sheldon Martineau

Social media

Martineau’s photography has obtained a lot of success on Instagram, but he still doesn’t believe social media is necessarily the best tool for artists. Though it is a great way to put one’s work out there and network with like-minded individuals, he believes it can limit creativity when photographers allow it to.

“It is hard in a way because a lot of people get tunnel vision from it,” he explained. “They see the same amazing shot (on social media) at all these spots and they get them in their head so that’s all they end up shooting. It happens to me too, but the more you go the more you realize that there’s so much more to it than just that one shot. Start exploring. Show up to the destination, check your angles and find the right shot yourself.”

Tips and tricks

  • Get started: “Just go out and shoot as much as you can. Learn your camera like the back of your hand and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” Martineau said. “That hinders a lot of people these days because they’re worried about their presence on social media and hearing the word no. Just go out and do it every single day, work on your craft and things will start coming together.”
  • Find a way to make images unique: With more and more people taking pictures, it’s important to find ways to make photos different. “I like showing off the scale of an environment,” Martineau said. “I add in some sort of element, whether it’s a car or a person, to show how big the objects you’re looking at are. For example, if you put a friend in front of Delicate Arch it actually looks like a 40-foot arch, whereas if you just take a photo of the arch it looks like a 10-foot dinky rock.”

Sheldon Martineau

Utah provides easy access to hundreds of miles of nature, all within a five hour drive of Salt Lake City. Martineau concluded, “If this is something you want to get into, just go out and do it. Tomorrow is too late.”

See more of Sheldon Martineau’s photography on his website or Instagram.

Cara MacDonald

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