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One Day in Yosemite

2013 January 30
by YosemiteSteve

Has anyone ever tried to imagine everything that happens on a typical summer day in place like Yosemite National Park?

On Tuesday, June 26, 2012  thirty filmmakers set out on this ambitious mission. What had started as a casual Twitter conversation a few months before was now finally happening. We had scattered ourselves throughout the park, from the Mariposa Grove to Tuolumne Meadows and spaces in between (map). About half of us could be found in and around Yosemite Valley: at Glacier Point, climbing Half Dome, at the top of Yosemite Falls, and even in the kitchen of the Ahwahnee Hotel (map). At over 1200 square miles, there were vast swaths of the park that we didn’t cover. That’s because our focus wasn’t the empty wilderness, but the popular roadside attractions that the vast majority of Yosemite visitors experience.

From thousands of photographs and hours of footage, we created this window into One Day in Yosemite.

Of course, we weren’t really sure what would happen that day or how we would put it all together. “We’ll find the story in post!” was our joking mantra for the project. We did “create” some situations, such as working with the hang glider pilots, or arranging for Sean Jones and his son M’so to climb Cathedral Peak, but many things just popped up, like the helicopter rescue on Half Dome. (All shooters had a standing order that if they saw a helicopter, SHOOT IT!) Other avenues turned into dead ends, such as the bear-chasing wildlife biologist who never saw a bear, or the group of students from Dunbar, Scotland who were following in John Muir’s footsteps.

Our ambitions were high. Originally we hoped to produce a 40 minute documentary, but after reviewing footage and seeing what we did and didn’t get, we decided to set the bar a little lower, aiming for something under 20 minutes. I spent probably two full months off and on this fall and winter editing the project, and it was only when I gave up the idea of a traditional documentary and started thinking of it as more of an art-doc that things began to fall into place. I was amazed that I was able to whittle it all down to under 15 minutes, keeping it quick and snappy and hopefully leaving the viewer wanting more.

As part of the Yosemite Nature Notes series, this project was primarily funded by the Yosemite Conservancy, a partner of the National Park Service in Yosemite. Since this was such a complex project, we also received support from Kessler Crane for many of the time-lapse shooters who used their awesome gear, and provided dozens of cameras, lenses and other gear.

From concept to completion, my partners in crime on this endeavor were Ryan Christensen and Jonah Matthewson from Bristlecone Media, but the biggest thanks goes to all the shooters who worked day and night to get the shot. Way to go Chris, John, Julie, Andrew, Sheldon, Ryan, Jonah, Ryan, Gustaf, Cody, Shawn, Vanessa, Dustin, Colin, Alex, Brian, Matt, Joe, David, Ryan, Ed, Chaz, Jim, Kris, Garrett, Daniel, Josh, Kristin and Jeff! (whew!) This project couldn’t have been done without all of you!

click to embiggen

Since it was posted to YouTube, it’s already been a smash hit, with nearly 50,000 views in the first week, and I’ve been blown away by many of the comments that I’ve read online. After watching, many viewers talk about the spirituality of Yosemite, and several have said that the film brought tears to their eyes. People who have spent a lifetime exploring the park were reminded of past visits, and those who have never been are planning their own adventures.

As of today, the video has been shared by the Atlantic, Grist (“The Yosemite video to beat all Yosemite videos.”) and the Huffington Post, but my favorite write-up comes from Peter Koch at the Active Times:

“Its 15 minutes tell a deeply human story of one of America’s greatest wild, natural places, and does an awesome job of weaving the two seemingly-at-odds storylines together in a way that reflects what the whole National Parks system represents: Humanity and nature as codependents working together for mutual preservation.”

It makes me very happy to think that we just might have pulled that off. Good work, team!

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