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Geartrade: “Behind the Photo” with Adventure Photographer Jay Dash

On one memorable trip to the Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah, photographer Jay Dash took one carefully planned photo—and one photo that fate lined up.

“I was camping with friends in the Valley of the Gods,” Dash recalls, “and I really wanted to shoot the Milky Way with Eagle Plume Tower in the shot. I knew the moon and stars were going to be in a good place, and I had my shot all planned out for when it got dark.”

In a twist of fate, when sunset came, a pair of climbers pulled up and set up camp exactly where Dash had intended to take his photo … and they had a bright light on, which would mess it up. After some deliberation, he decided it was worth hiking over to them and asking if they wouldn’t mind turning their light off so he could take his photo. The climbers were accommodating and darkened their camp so Dash could capture the pic he’d envisioned. (Which turned out amazing.)

While they chatted, Dash asked the climbers about their plans for the next day. They said they intended to scale Eagle Feather, a multi-pitch 5.10 trad route on the tower, in the morning. Dash happened to have his drone along with him, so he offered to snap a few pics of their climb just to see if one would work out.

“I hadn’t done much climbing photography with my drone, so it was very tricky to know how the positioning would work out. It was a bit of a challenge trying to line up the shots! I did my best, but I drove away unsure if I’d gotten any good ones. I was pretty happy when I got home and saw this photo, taken high on the third pitch of the climb,” says Dash.

He emailed his photos to the climbers, thanking them for “modeling.” They were immensely happy with their action shots, and Dash relished showing them how cool they looked.

“That’s one of the joys of photography—I can visualize something even if the people doing the sport don’t know how cool it’s going to look. They might just be thinking they’re going to climb an awesome route. They only know how the climb looks close up and couldn’t imagine how rad it looks through a farther-out lens,” says Dash. But once people see how extraordinary those moments are, they realize just how unexpectedly cool their sport looks from a third-person perspective.

It’s a tale of a climbing photo that created a fun new friendship and a memory—and a story about how sometimes the best photos just click into place.

See more of Jay Dash's photography on his website or Instagram.

Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.