Little did anyone expect that only months after Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty first met on Vimeo.com that our perception of Yosemite National Park would never be the same again. That’s because the pair of budding California photographers recently completed Yosemite HD – an almost four-minute-long video of stunning time-lapse photography shot throughout Yosemite’s 1,200 square miles of breathtaking scenery.
The project started as a personal foray into the world of time-lapse photography, beginning on the famed angles of Half Dome. “We thought it would take a weekend or maybe 5 days,” remarks Neill. “But we realized the footage was amazing. So what was supposed to be a weekend, turned into multiple trips totaling 19 days of shooting in Yosemite and three-and-a-half months of work.”
It turns out the pair was right about their footage. It is truly amazing. And as of February 2013 the video garnered more than 3.3 million views.
But no matter how well their time-lapse photography project turned out, Neill claims, “There’s no video that could show you everything in Yosemite. It’s hard to describe the place, or even put it into words.”
Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty of Project Yosemite
Ultimately, their goal was modest. “We wanted to create something that would showcase the entire place, not just one location,” says Delehanty. “To show someone how beautiful Yosemite is, and to inspire people to go again, and relive the experience.”
The pair agrees that the sheer size and steepness of Yosemite’s granite faces are something that must be seen in person to be believed. But it’s not just the rocks and trees of Yosemite that you have to visit to experience. “Yes you’re surrounded by a beautiful natural setting, but you’re also surrounded by good people, all in great moods, with lots of awesome stories to tell,” offers Neill.
Logistically, the project involved tremendous effort. First there’s the gear. Neill gives us the list, “Cameras, batteries, tripod, 6 foot rail, essentials and necessities to survive in the woods.”
Then there’s the hiking – lots of it. For example to capture the breathtaking shots atop Half Dome, the pair had to hike 16 miles round trip with all their gear. Such a trek, loaded down with expensive equipment, can be exhausting.
But that’s only half the battle.
Because once situated in a spot, the pair often shot time-lapses from sunset – throughout the night – to sunrise. This grueling technique produced the priceless shots of the moon illuminating rock faces and mesmerizing star filled skies rotating high above. Neill admits that capturing these overnight shots is “a continuous battle of your body being deprived of sleep, and you just have to fight it.”
Only a place like Yosemite has the power to inspire people like Sheldon and Colin to overpower the urge to sleep and overcome miles of obstacles. For Colin it’s about “showing people places they may like to go and getting them motivated to do it.”
For Sheldon it’s about giving people an alternative to the usual, iconic photos that tend to mimic the work of Ansel Adams. He says, “This is our demonstration of the park. To show it in our own way.”
It turns out “their own way” is a true masterpiece, and luckily the power of Yosemite inspired this duo into action to create it.
That leaves us with the question, what can Yosemite inspire you to do? You don’t have to go there and conquer a giant climb on a flat rock wall or an epic hike in the snow, or even create a time-lapse video that enthralls millions of adoring viewers. Maybe you can just take Sheldon’s advice, “It’s an awesome place to relax. Just being there in general, I could be doing nothing and enjoy myself because I’m in pure serenity.”
Oddly enough, for a place that’s beautiful enough to make simply doing nothing fun, it inspires so many of us to do so many amazing things.
Keep your eyes open. Neill and Delehanty to continue to expand their Project Yosemite footage, and plan to have a second video out soon.