Utah has been a bucket list state for me for a long time. The landscape has always enticed me and I’ve admired many a photographer’s work that I’ve seen on Instagram. When my longtime friend and mentor, Gretchen told me about a joint foxhunting meet happening in Bryce Canyon City in September, 2021, I had to go. I hadn’t seen Gretchen in about 2 years, and this was a perfect chance to meet some amazing people and photograph some incredible sites.
My father passed away about a week before the trip and my plans hung in the balance for a bit. My dad was my best friend, my person, my inspiration. That is all I can truly say because no words do him justice, and the hole left in my heart and life is unfathomable. He always inspired my photography career, and I felt as though he would have wanted me to go. Grief is tough, and it’s hard to do what is best for you because nothing feels right. But I needed to go, I needed to keep going and doing what I love for my dad.
I started off my trip by stopping in Montrose, CO to help photograph a three day long breed show and explore Black Canyon of the Gunnison. As if that wasn’t enough for one trip, I then packed up and drove to Utah, doing a fair bit of bad singing and also crying along to the radio. My dad loved the band Sugarland, and I played some of those songs over and over, enjoying the sweetness of new country and allowing myself to feel and heal. But this trip was tough, not going to lie, it was really tough.
I explored Bryce by myself the first day, taking in all the very orange rock and vastness of the canyons. I went up to Rainbow Point, elevation at about 10,000 feet, and just enjoyed the spectacle. What I did NOT enjoy later was the horrendous bloody nose that I got back at my tent due to the dryness and elevation. It was an absolute massacre, and by far the most embarrassing experience to have the kindest people you don’t even know from Adam take care of you while you’re bleeding out. No joke on the bleeding out, it was seriously horrible!!!
I have always admired Gretchen for her ability to photograph from horseback, and never thought I would get the chance to try, but my opportunity came on day two of the meet. We did a trail ride thru Kodachrome Basin State Park, not far outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. I hadn’t ridden consistently in like, what, 3-4 years??? Yeah, a 4 hour trail ride in a western saddle was a GREAT way to break myself back in. Not to mention while holding a camera the whole time. So, on good ol’ Roscoe, a trusty paint gelding, I set out with my 2K worth of gear hoping that I didn’t come back without it. I had my trusty fanny pack and everything. I was ready. And besides Roscoe falling on his knees at one point (and me gasping like a drowning cat over the possibility of breaking my camera), it was relatively uneventful, and I had a great time capturing the riders and our guide (pictured below) as we toured thru the canyons. My cheeks hurt from all the smiling, and my “other cheeks” were absolutely dying. LOL my butt hurt so bad. But, #worthit!!!
Hunt Day was incredible. We covered several miles of sage brush and more sagebrush that opened up into fields of MORE sage brush, that gave way to mountains as beautiful and timeless as the tradition of foxhunting itself. My mount that day was a side by side with four other die-hard foxhunters and our clever guide who kept us laughing at dumb jokes. I totally nearly fell out of that thing going over all that dang sagebrush, but I survived long enough to get some shots that I could only have dreamed of getting before this trip. It made my heart especially skip when we were at the end of the hunt and waiting for them to gallop in, and my card said FULL… FULL. As the whole field is galloping towards us at full speed, I started cussing like a sailor and fumbling for a new card. I got it in my camera just in time to catch the happy pants of good and tired hounds, and all the giddy smiles that only come from galloping on a great horse.
The week was a blur, and before I knew it, it was time to make the drive back to lil’ ol’ Larned, Kansas. I met so many incredible people, and got to spend time with my bestie, Gretchen. I think she was happy to see me, though she did put me to work as soon as she finished giving me a hug the day we got there. Hard labor is her love language I guess? Anyway, what a trip. The sights, the sounds of the hounds, the photographs, the smiles. It was all worth the sore butt, and did my sore heart some good. But what I would give to have been able to call my dad and tell him about the trip and share the photos with him… what I would give.❤
©Olivia Danielle Photography, 2021
All copyrights of these photos belong to ©Olivia Danielle Photography