If you’re a regular reader of Arizona Highways, you’ve probably noticed that we rarely (if ever) feature people on our covers. June, however, was one of those “rarely-if-ever” exceptions. It was our hiking issue, and after much discussion, the team decided that the cover would need cover models. So who is that young supa’ star on our June issue? Well she is future journalist and photographer, Molly Smith. Molly just wrapped up her sophomore year at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State, where she met her mentor (and our boss) Robert Stieve.
Since gracing our cover, the world has truly become this college kid’s oyster. We decided to catch up with Molly to find out exactly how her life has changed.
We’re happy to report, fame has not gone to her head.
How did you feel when you were asked to be on the cover of Arizona Highways?
I was surprised, and then very excited. I’ve had my photo in the magazine before—I tagged along on a restaurant shoot with Paul Markow and Jeff Kida last year. Paul took my photo outside Fournos in Sedona, but this time, the shoot was planned. When I went on the restaurant shoot, I was just there to observe and carry some gear, the photo happened out of chance. For the June cover, I was asked a few months in advance to go on a hike and have my photo taken. It was a great opportunity and I really enjoyed the trip.
Is this something you’ve always aspired to… to be an Arizona Highways cover model?
Initially, I aspired to have my work published in the magazine, and I’ve had that chance twice now. Then, I wanted to work at the magazine, and it looks like that will happen next semester when I’m the photo intern there. After that, I guess I just have to land that coveted space on the cover!
Were your friends jealous?
They’re more jealous of the fact that I got to hang out with Paul, Jeff and Robert for a day. Several of my photographer friends wanted to know if I learned any inside tips from them.
How did you prepare for the shoot?
I tried to get my beauty sleep the night before, but my plans were foiled by an ill-timed karaoke night. We were staying at the Molly Butler Lodge, and the bar was right down the hall. I lay awake in my room listening to classics like, Love is a Battlefield and I Will Survive until midnight, only to wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready.
Luckily, the morning air was chilly enough to wake me up. Once we got to our location, I was a little nervous, but Robert, Paul and Jeff cracked jokes the whole time and put me at ease.
Afterwards, Paul, Jeff and I geeked out with our cameras for about an hour or two in the woods. We photographed everything from moss and flowers to lizards and dead trees. Even Robert tried to get into the spirit with his iPhone camera.
Have people started recognizing you on the street or while you’re in line at the supermarket?
I’ve only had one person say something about it and that was when one of my elementary school teachers found me on Facebook to congratulate me. Robert once told me he’s had people recognize him in the doctor’s office or out at lunch, but I have yet to achieve that level of fame. As for being recognized in the supermarket, I’m tempted to buy several copies of the issue and see if the cashier recognizes me.
Maybe I should start carrying around a pen for autographs.
So how do you plan to parlay your new found fame into something even bigger?
I guess if my career as a photographer doesn’t work out, then maybe I can be a model for hiking gear—I’ve already got one cover photo in my portfolio!
What is Robert like as a mentor?
Robert has been a fantastic mentor. He’s a bit goofy sometimes; Kelly once likened him to Willy Wonka, which is a description I’d agree with. He’s taught me a lot about the way the magazine works and he’s always willing to answer the many questions I have. Plus, I’ve discovered some great new lunch spots in the Valley—he seems to know his way around the best local places to eat.
Relating to the trip for the cover photo, Robert spent the whole drive back in awe of the clouds. It was a beautiful day out, but I must have heard him say, “Wow, check out that sky!” about 20 times. It’s nice to see someone so passionate about the outdoors. He knows the state very well, and I always know who to call if I need a good trail to hike.