I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Will & Jim Pattiz of More Than Just Parks; a team of videographers who create spectacular films featuring our national parks. They have traveled all over the country creating awe-inspiring productions, instilling wanderlust in anyone who watches.
In tandem with the release of their NEW film on Joshua Tree National Park (which I reward you with at the end of this entry), I wanted to interview MTJP so YOU could better know who's behind the camera. So here goes nothin'!
1. When did you first begin the MTJP films and what inspired you to start?
Believe it or not, my brother Will and I visited our first national park in 2012. We had decided to go on a roadtrip out west with a couple of friends to see the Grand Canyon. Along the way we stopped at Petrified Forest National Park near the Arizona-New Mexico border, which was our first national park. Being from a small town in Georgia we had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Petrified Forest. To be honest, we were only expecting to see petrified wood, which would've been cool, but this park was so much more than that. The vast, endless vistas, blue mountains where dinosaurs had roamed, and the incredible painted desert, were like something out of another world. That park allowed us to realize that they are more than just parks. Visiting a national park can be a transformative experience, one that cannot be fit into a description in a brochure or a guide book. More Than Just Parks was born from that experience and that idea.
2. What is your goal?
Our goal at More Than Just Parks is to raise a greater awareness of America’s most treasured possessions - our national parks. In doing this, we hope to inspire exploration and conservation of these incredible natural wonders and the great outdoors.
[I hear ya loud and clear on that one ;) ]
3. How long do you typically spend in a park to produce a film?
Typically we spend just under a month extensively filming each park. We try our best to work our way around the entire park in somewhat of a circle - ending up where we started. We do make many deviations from that plan, but that’s usually the rough idea.
4. How do you manage to get such stunning scenery from each park?
When selecting a park one of the major factors that goes into that decision is the time of year. We want to try to film a park when we think it’s at its best. But once we commit to a park and get out there, there’s no going back! We have to make the absolute best film we can regardless of the weather. Some days we may only get one or two usable shots. But that’s just how it goes sometimes when the weather is ugly or spots we thought would work end up not panning out. Clouds are especially tricky, there’s seemingly always too many or not enough, and they can really make or break shots. Wildlife is also tricky, you can’t ever count on wildlife to cooperate, which is why you don’t see a bear in our Smokies film!
Watch MTJP | Great Smoky Mountains below:
5. Have you ever accidentally kicked a dolly in the process of capturing a timelapse? If so, just how much fun was it to redo the shot?
I love this question. You’d better believe we have. The slightest nudge or bump can ruin a timelapse, whether its a motion timelapse or not. Many times it can be something as simple as the wind that nudges the camera or shakes it, so that can certainly be frustrating. Actually if you watch MTJP | Olympic, there’s a climactic point in the film where the camera completely tilts over on it’s side. That happened on a mountain ridge in the wilderness where we had run into a friendly backcountry skier who happened to be a former ranger. While we carried on an interesting conversation with him, our camera slowly tilted until it fell completely over! When we discovered it, it was barely hanging onto a small backpack strap! But it ended up making a great shot that really added something to the film, so you never know...
And it’s tons of fun setting it back up and trying it all again with completely different light than what you initially set up for! Many times if the timelapse gets bumped it’s game over and we are forced to move on because of the dramatic change in light. It can certainly be frustrating, but it’s an incredibly rewarding process.
Watch MTJP | Olympic below:
6. Do you generally hang out as your shots are captured, or do you venture offset?
That depends on where the timelapse is taking place. Sometimes we can be doing them in some very precarious places and have to stay with them the entire time. Other times we love to “set it and forget it” as I like to say. Then we head off with another camera and look for wildlife or interesting flora. Often after you’ve set up a timelapse is a great time to just walk away with no camera (or as I sometimes refer to it - the ball and chain) and just enjoy your surroundings and get lost in them (figuratively!). It can be easy to get caught up in trying to get the best shot and make a great film and lose sight of the spectacular place that surrounds you. So it’s important to take in the sights and sounds without looking through a viewfinder.
7. What is the farthest you've trekked with packs full of gear to capture that perfect shot?
That’s a good question and an easily overlooked part of making these films. There’s a lot of equipment that goes into obtaining the shots and that equipment has to be carried to every location. Needless to say, we get lots of comments from puzzled hikers about the wacky gear we’re bringing with us. It’s difficult to pinpoint the longest hike, but one that sticks out in my mind was a 12 or so mile roundtrip hike off of Obstruction Point Trail in Olympic. We had decided we wanted to get up with the peaks and ridges and the snow (in August!). We actually ended up going off of the trail at some point and following an old unmarked trail that continued along a high ridge line that involved lots of scrambling. It was no picnic, but we got some spectacular vantage points and had several exciting run-ins with wildlife along the way. Many of our best shots in the Olympic film were obtained along that ridgeline. It was an awesome hike.
8. Out of the parks you have visited thus far, which, if you were forced to choose, is your favorite and why? And if it wasn't clear, I am forcing you to choose :D
How did I know I was going to get this one? It’s a difficult question to answer because each park is so unique and different from the rest. But if I was forced to choose which one was my favorite to visit, I think I would have to choose Sequoia National Park (thus far). Now I’m not speaking for Will here, I believe his is Olympic (now I spoke for him), but seeing those gigantic Sequoia trees was an unbelievable experience. There’s really nothing that can prepare you for seeing something so spectacular, and so other-worldly. To walk in silence (what else can you do?) among a forest of ancient giants, with only the sound of cheerful birds and your own footsteps to fill your ears, is nothing short of incredible. No amount of pictures can even begin to do those trees justice, it’s something you have to experience.
So there you have it, a closer look at how these gorgeous films are produced and who is creating them! Check out more of their work on their website and blog, and don't be afraid to watch ALL of their magnificent films.
TODAY marks the release of MTJP | Joshua Tree film, which you need to watch to feel the natural wonder. Or just gaze at some awesome eye-candy, your choice. Find it below!