Photographer's 6-year project gives incredible view of Northwest's natural beauty

A love for photography and nature has culminated in a feature-length film where the Pacific Northwest is the star.

Don Jensen, whose time lapse videos have been featured in this blog numerous times, just finished a 6-year project that covered thousands of miles, hundreds of thousands of images, and dozens of sleepless night amongst the stars to create: "Cascadia: Where Worlds Collide."

"A total of 325,000 individual images were taken and 3.5 hours of footage was captured to bring the best 53 minutes to the film," Jensen said.

The film is broken down into 14 sections of time lapse photography; each chapter focusing on a different element of state.

"There is a near equal amount of night and day scenes, and most of the night scenes were actually shot under moonlite to showcase the beauty of the landscape," Jensen said. "There are a total of 12 scenes that take the viewer from either day to night, or night two day. Each of these scenes required constant monitoring as you are adjusting the camera for the light. When all is said and done, I had to change the exposure value by a factor of 2-6 million times over the course of roughly 2 hours."

He said those shots in particular require even extra time to process to smooth out all the changes of exposure and white balance. "These are all my most memorable and my favorite scenes in the movie because they really allow the view to watch how the beauty of the northwest doesn't go away from day to night, rather it presents a different kind of beauty," he said.

Jensen gave me a sneak peek at one part of Chapter 2: "The Lake"

"This is one of two chapters that cover 15 hours compressed down to two minutes and shows everything that happens from before sunset until after sunrise," Jensen said. "It captures how the alpine lakes calm down just at sunset as the winds begin to slow which is something that happens frequently in the mountain lakes. The purple sky at sunset actually happened and was caused by smoke from wildfires in Eastern Washington blowing over the mountains.

"You can also watch as Mount Rainier creates her own weather patterns at evening as clouds swirl around the summit. At night, you can watch as climbers ascend the mountain while the Big Dipper spins overhead."

Jensen says over 3,000 images went into this one scene: "I had to double the exposure value 23 times at night, and then cut it in half 23 times the next morning. This was actually one of the more challenging scenes to shoot due to the fact that I had to babysit the camera for so much of the shoot. Later, I spent hours working to smooth everything out."

Overall, the photos for the film were taken from about 50 trips covering 200 miles of local trails, spread out across five years. It then took another year to edit, process and configure the video to precisely synchronize to the music track.

And those trips weren't just pick up a camera and go -- he was hiking with a 65-pound backpack.

"I had to carry two DSLR cameras, and two tripods. I also had to pack a 15 pound, 6-foot long rail that moves the camera to capture all the motion scenes. These are done by using a small computer that automatically takes a picture at a given interval and then moves the camera before taking the next shot," he said. "Even after reach trip, there were hours of processing involved. On average, each 1 second clip took almost 2 hours of travel time, shooting, processing, and editing. You are looking at over 7,000 hours of work to get all the footage that was acquired."

Some of the trips required him to stay up for 24-40 hours straight to monitor the camera.

"I shot the footage from an elevation of sea level to over 9,000 feet," he said. "I hiked and camped out in temperatures that ranged from just below zero all the way to the 90s."

The result is one incredible journey through our backyards.

Jensen is selling the video in 3 HD formats: 720p , 1080p and 4K. through his Facebook page or on his website. (Through Monday, Jan. 16, you can get 20% off using coupon code "cascadia20")

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