Exploring Savage Territory with Gary Orona

By Gary Orona on July 06, 2023
6 min read

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Gary Orona is a native Californian now living in Green River, Utah amidst the sublime canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau. He is an international, award winning filmmaker and wild landscapes fine art photographer.

He spends approximately 300 days a year trekking into rarely visited, off-grid wilderness in search of photographic locations for his Savage Territory Fine Art Photography Galleries.

What makes you a KÜHL Kid? How do you live the Mountain Culture?
I’ve been smitten by the canyons and mountains of Utah and Colorado for over 3 decades now. Back in the day when I was producing and directing films and TV shows I’d create projects which would take me into these places for long periods of time. I’ve spent so many years exploring these magnificent natural places that at this point I think it’s altered my DNA! It’s in my blood and it flows strong every day!

A landscape view of Canyonlands National Park, Utah as photographed by Gary Orona A landscape view of Canyonlands National Park, Utah as photographed by Gary Orona[/caption]

What's your most memorable adventure?
It’s impossible to choose one favorite adventure since I’ve had hundreds (maybe over a thousand at this point?) Every adventure has its own flavor and I love them all regardless of whether they’ve been full of enlightenment or physically miserable. At the end of the day they all become pieces of a wonderful 'life quilt.'

If you could adventure anywhere in the world for a week or two, where would you go?
How does one choose in a world full of so many epic spots?! I haven’t been to Iceland yet. And since I spend so much time in places that are above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it could be quite the photographic challenge.

Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by and highly respect people who are not afraid to shun convention and take those leaps-of-faith into unknown territory. In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes about standing at that gate of adventure. Some choose to step into the unknown, into that wild amorphous world where anything can happen, while others choose to reject this path. I’m inspired by those who walk through the doorway into the gauntlet of adventure.

What's your favorite piece of gear?
My favorite piece of gear is of course my various cameras. They are the magical tool which allows me to capture my minds eye. My favorite apparel in the wilderness is hands down Kuhl (they move and contort like human beings do) and my favorite boots are Keen (they fit like gloves).

What's your worst habit?
My worst habit is caffeine. Never smoked, rarely drink, no drugs, but caffeine oh boy... Sometimes that coffee or energy drink is all that’s keeping these legs moving when I’m miles and miles from civilization!

What's your favorite food and drink after an adventure?
A Red Bull (there’s that caffeine thing) and salt and vinegar coated almonds. Yum.

What's the best way to end a first date?
Well I’ve been married for many years so... My wife is with me on many adventures so I’m going to call that a ‘date’ and our best end-of-dates is on the drive home, talking about the day's adventure. We’re like kids, full of excitement.

What's hot/what's not?
Genuine, soulful respect for our natural landscapes and wilderness is hot. Disrespect for the great outdoors is not.

Gary Orona in the the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Gary Orona in the the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.[/caption]

What's the worst injury you've sustained from adventuring and how did you recover?
I’ve been incredibly blessed with no major injuries. Now I make up for that with zillions of bruises, dry and bleeding appendages, sun baked skin, torn off toenails, knees and ankles that scream for a hot tub, shredded skin, scabs, screaming tendons and ligaments, and so forth, almost daily!

If your life was turned into a movie, what actor would play your role?
Harrison Ford in his role as Hans Solo. I’m always out there in the unknown places, and the last thing I could ever handle is a typical civilized life. Nope, nope, nope. I’d go crazy. I’m not the domestic type!

Genie gives you three wishes and you have five minutes to decide all three. What are they?

  1. Tolerance - every human on Earth now has amazing tolerance.
  2. Respect for the wilderness and the natural world in general - every human on Earth is now incredibly respectful of the great outdoors.
  3. A camera backpack that doesn’t feel like a torture device.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Endless Stamina. Sometimes my mind wants to keep hunting for secret locations but my tortured body says, “no way Gary.”

A photo of filmmaker and photographer Gary Orona while on location in wilderness. A photo of filmmaker and photographer Gary Orona while on location in wilderness.[/caption]

What law(s) have you broken that resulted in a good story? What’s the story?
I was producing/directing a movie in Antigua, Guatemala in these old ancient Catholic Church ruins. We had permission to be there. While filming my partner and co-producer (who owned an estate there in Antigua) gave us two real handguns and blank bullets to use for a shoot-out scene. All was fine until we used the guns, with their VERY LOUD blanks and Federal Police showed up with their AK47’s leveled at our heads! Apparently my co-producer did not have required permits for these real weapons! We were all marched down to the local jail and held while they interrogated my partner. Eventually we were all released except for my partner who ended up having to pay a very steep bribe to the local judge to avoid years in a Guatemalan prison. You don’t want to end up in a Guatemalan prison...trust me! Moral of the story; don’t use real guns for your movie in a third world country that’s recently ended its civil war!

What's your favorite thing about KÜHL?
KÜHL employs the best design of all outdoor apparel manufacturers. Period. I’ve had and abused just about everything out there. I’m completely hooked on Kuhl work pants. They move and flex like I do. I’m a human being not a posed model or a mannequin! My work demands flexibility when in very rugged locations.

What's your favorite piece of KÜHL clothing? How do you use it?
My absolute all-time favorite men's pants ever were the Crag Series (now discontinued) but The Law pants have taken their place. They’re perfect. Almost every day that I am out in the wilds I wear The Law pants. This may sound trivial but it’s huge in my work: the lower side leg zipped pocket fits a pair of reading glasses perfectly, and it’s positioned in such a way that the glasses don’t get crushed now matter what I do. Brilliant.

If your best friend already had your favorite piece of KÜHL gear, what would you recommend to him/her that functions just as well playing outside as it does in the bar at the end of the day?
KÜHL Wunderer shirts are excellent outdoors in the wilds and very stylish and nice for a night out. I have all the colors. Highly recommended. I’ve worn mine out in the wilds and all the time at night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gary Orona
Gary Orona


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