So often we look UP at the wonders of our state -- towering snow-capped peaks, lofty red-rock spires, looming sandstone arches.
That view is about to change as Utahns get the chance to look DOWN on our pretty, great state from one high-flying tricked-out whirlybird.
Film crews from "Aerial America," a Smithsonian Channel television series, recently spent a week in the Beehive State documenting its amazing sights from the vantage point of a helicopter.
The "eye" of the copter is a high-definition camera that can "see" everything from the wide horizons of Utah's West Desert to the tiniest of hikers trekking up Angel's Landing at Zion National Park.
"To see your own world, your own state, from the air, you just get a different perspective than you do from the ground," said producer Toby Beach as the helicopter was being readied for its first Utah flight in mid-May at the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan.
The lights-camera-action moment for the Beehive State is part of the "Aerial America" series of one-hour programs on each of the 50 states. The Utah episode will air in late 2013 or early 2014.
The series, taglined "One Nation. From Above," highlights a mixture of each state's well-known landmarks and lesser-known attractions.
"We try to come up with a list that is not just the places everybody knows about," said Beach, armed with a three-ring binder stuffed with 63 Utah locations to shoot. At the same time, he added, "If we didn't shoot certain things, then we wouldn't be representing the state."
You can't do California without the Golden Gate Bridge, for example, or Maine without its lighthouses.
Or Utah without the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The iconic Salt Flats will have to wait, however, because bad weather grounded the "Aerial America" crew during the last two days of filming here in mid-May.
"We didn't make it north to Ogden, or to the Great Salt Lake, so we will have to come back for those things," Beach said following the visit, in a phone interview from his Berkeley, Calif., production company Tusker Television.
The crew is plotting a possible return in August, during prime racing season on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Beach said. Other items on the to-do list will include the Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
"I feel like we haven't quite done Utah justice yet," Beach said.
Even so, he admits to being "blown away" by the sights he did see, from the green-blue waters of Lake Powell to the spectacular mountains of Zion National Park.
"Compared to other states, (Utah) is just amazing -- the diversity of it," Beach said after four days of flying over locales scattered from Park City to Kanab.
"Aerial America" strives to capture a combination of scenic wonders, architectural marvels and signature wildlife, so the Utah episode may feature anything from Canyonlands National Park to Salt Lake City's Mormon Temple to the bison roaming Antelope Island.
One "powerful place" was the Topaz Internment Camp in the desert outside Delta, Beach said, where the outlines of the camp's streets are still visible from the air -- along with signs of a former school and Buddhist church.
As for surprises, how about that Mars Desert Research Station, northwest of Hanksville?
The landscape there looks "otherworldly," Beach said, in the same way that Utah itself must have looked otherworldly to the early pioneers who came here to settle.
Viewers enjoy "Aerial America," which began in 2008, because they are proud of where they live, said David Royle of the Smithsonian Channel. No matter how much folks know about their state, Royle said, they will be in for a few surprises, too.
"I can guarantee you there will be information about Utah that the average person has never heard about," said the executive vice president of programming and production, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.
Utah is the 32nd state to be filmed in the series, Royle said -- although he quickly added that certainly doesn't mean it ranks 32nd in importance.
"We actually look at them all as magical in their own way," said Royle, who came up with the idea for "Aerial America" several years ago, when high-definition television was becoming popular for its new and detailed way of seeing things.
Looking at the nation from the air, rather than the ground, also offers a whole new perspective, Royle said, explaining, "The angle from above is not the angle most people get to see America from; it is revelatory."
The seasons play a role in when states are filmed, Beach explained. Minnesota was shot in autumn to capture its fall colors, and Nebraska is next to be filmed, during the upcoming week, because of its corn-growing season.
As for Utah, the producer said that finding some snow still on the mountains was one of the reasons for the May visit.
No travel show
Movement across the landscape is one of the things Beach is looking for while shooting, be it a train or a boat, a surfer or a mountain climber.
Or just one horse -- Super Saver, winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby -- was singled out by the camera's eye, from hundreds of fields of horses in Kentucky, the state the crew was filming in just before arriving in Utah.
"Aerial America" isn't a travel show; the aim is to weave the history of a state into its 21st-century life while telling interesting stories, Beach said.
Extensive research is done on each state before filming, and folks can make suggestions on the "Aerial America" website (click on "shows" at www.smithsonianchannel.com) about what they'd like the helicopter to fly over in their state.
"Aerial America" offers viewers more than just pretty pictures, Royle said, in keeping with the reputation of both the Smithsonian museums and the Smithsonian Channel.
"They come for the entertainment, but they also come to learn something new," he said.
In this celebration of the nation, "We're breaking out of the museum -- this is the America you can't bottle up and put in a cabinet."