“Adventures don’t always have to be huge,” photographer, Brad Pearson, tells me.
We’re walking through the plains of Utah, the colors so strikingly intense — blue, snow-tipped mountain peaks against a grey sky, contrasted with the bright marigold of prairie grass — that it feels like we’re walking through the middle of a painting. We’re searching for giant beasts in the wilderness, pushing through grass as tall as our heads, and each sweep of our hands fills me with childlike wonder.
I realize it’s the feeling of being small that I connect to. A tiny spec in a grand, impossibly beautiful world, adventure always at the tip of my fingers, new sights just behind the next bend. The sky above my head is clear, the plains are vast, and anything is possible. It’s a mini adventure that feels like an epic voyage.
That you can have adventures in only an hour or two and that they can be just outside of a major city, is a realization that has slowly dawned on me in recent weeks. I’ve been traveling around the country searching for natural experiences near America’s biggest cities. And these trips have opened my eyes to how much beauty we have here. I consider myself an adventurer and thrill seeker. I’ve spent a lot of time flying internationally searching for the next big thing. But the last few weeks have reminded me that true adventure can find you any place and at any time.
For this trip, I met with adventure photographer, Brad Pearson because I was impressed with his incredible landscape photos. He has an amazing eye, and gets these raw, majestic shots of nature that need very little post-processing. More than that, it’s the stories he tells with his work that really draws you in. It’s almost like he’s creating a scene in a video, but just pulling out a single frame.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to take stunning nature shots, and I figured that Brad was the best person to learn from. He’s not just outside to take a pretty picture, he’s truly an outdoorsman and adventurer all around. He grew up in Idaho, moved to Utah because he loves skiing so much, and every weekend he’s in a different park, hiking and enjoying nature. Along the way, he takes striking photos. His unique style has given him a large Instagram following, but he doesn’t do it for that.
“I just really want my photos to tell a story and I want them to look good,” Brad says when I ask him how one would build a following. It’s a refreshing and almost wholesome, old-fashioned approach to social media. Create art out of what you love, do good work, and people will notice.
When I arrive in Salt Lake, Brad suggests we head to Antelope Island, a nature preserve just outside of the city. He’s been chasing a perfect, very specific shot of a buffalo for years now, and Antelope Island has almost a thousand of them. That number feels crazy when you consider just how close we came to buffalo going extinct over the last 150 years. There used to be 20-30 million buffalo in North America, but by the end of the 19th century, hunting and development had sliced that number to just over a thousand.
Now, slowly, through conservation and preserves, their population is climbing back up. There are currently about 500,000 of the animals in the wild and Antelope Island — whose population was once totally depleted — hosts a thriving community.