Video of the Week | Utah Desert Adventure

Every Friday I will be now posting a Photo or Video of the Week. Here I’ll be sharing the details on how I got the shot or shots, where I was, and the backstory that went into it. I hope you find this enjoyable, and helpful in your own photography and filmmaking.

Location: Moab, UT
Cast: Courtney Less, Vince Basile, & Gregor


When your buddy, Vince, from back home in New Jersey says they’re coming out to visit, we had to show him the best parts of Utah. So it’ no surprise we took him down to the desert. This is a place Court and I love, and its arguably the most incredible place on earth.

We camped out on some BLM land just outside of Moab which has become our go-to spot for Friday nights. Vince got real into making fires and cooking over them each night. During the day, we explored Mill Creek North Fork just outside of Moab, where we hiked up a stream and got to a standing pool and waterfall. Afterwards, we headed over to hike to Jeep Arch by the Potash fields! It was an incredible weekend and one I bet Vince will never forget.

Shot Lists

For this video, I wanted to capture a friend’s first experience in the desert. So I chose to pick shots and get footage of his reactions to everything we were doing all weekend. Everything from seeing the place for the first time, to chopping wood and building our own fire. The hikes we did, neither Courtney nor I had done before, so it was fun to experience it all together. So to capture Vince’s reaction when we crossed the few, ice cold streams were priceless.

The story carries on the whole weekend from campfire to campfire where it ends because the following day was really cruddy. And to move the story along, I used shots from the desert and hike to showcase the scenery and the landscape we were moving though. I like to change up the shots as much as I can. By that I mean close-ups, medium shots, and long shots. The medium and close-ups are shot from my Panasonic G85 camera, using my short 14-42mm lens and the 45-200mm respectively. For the long shots, my go-to is the Drone. That is the best way to capture campsites, driving down dirt roads, and then pull aways from where you’ve hiked through. And without changing at a too rapid pace, I like to mix up the shot styles. Trying to keep pace as we are moving along the hike without doing too much panning that gets the audience sick of looking left and right.

Editing and Production

When bringing the shots into Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), the first thing I do is to break the video clips down into good shots. Since this story was told chronologically, it is easier than having to organize shots based on dialog, scenery shot, drone shots, etc. After getting all the clips I wanted to use, I start bringing them into the timeline. I personally like to use slow motion to draw out a shot and to make some shots more interesting. For example, the campfire and hanging around shots which are already relatively motionless, look much better in slow motion with the flames moving slower and facial expressions being drawn out.

For music, which is always a challenge since it sets the tone and mood of the film. I’ve chosen to challenge myself by using only royalty free music. The quality of music is not as good, but that is the challenge of it. Trying to keep the audience attention and focus, without them knowing any of the music I use so that the story itself is what captivates them. Do I do it? That’s debatable. I used to use Epidemic Sounds for all my music, and even though the subscription model is relatively cheap, I wasn’t making enough videos regularly to justify the cost. I also used to use, but that website has been shutdown. So I’ve reverted to use previously used music I’ve paid for and YouTube’s own Audio Library. I chose to start off with a slow, happy melody to allow the focus to be on Vince’s intro and my background voiceover. Then I found a classic rock song that was perfect background music for the mood I wanted to set. It wasn’t too overpowering, just a consistent repeating chord progression. Get’s the audience excited, engaged, and compliments the shots.

Lastly, the color grading. I personally like to use a CUSTOM LUT called M31 – REC.709. It brings out a much warmer color scale which blends perfectly with the desert shots. It does wash out blues, but the sandstone comes out even more orange and red than when shooting Raw or using a Cinelike D filter.

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