Blog     Photos   

Blog

“National Parks Adventure” filming on location in Glacier Park, Montana – what it was like

"National Parks Adventure" filming on location in Glacier Park, Montana - what it was like

“National Parks Adventure” filming on location in Glacier National Park – what it was like. 

Packing a million dollar camera down a rough trail, by hand, in the middle of darkness for a one minute movie clip may seem extreme. Maybe so, but this shoot was for the just released, IMAX film, “National Parks Adventure.”  MacGillivray Freeman Films produced the film to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

imax film crew filming in glacier national park, montana national parks adventure

Behind the scenes photograph of “National Parks Adventure” movie crew filming along the shore of Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana.© Tony Bynum

Our caravan arrived and parked on the gravel, next to a wide opening in the forest that led to a narrow trailhead. It was well before sunup, and unfamiliar territory for the group made worse by the ongoing construction to rebuild the Going to the Sun Road. Car doors opened and the dim warm glow of dome lights provided some illumination. Everyone knew their job, they were prepared. Immediately upon exiting, bright headlamps shined around in the sky. Beams of light showed up on trees and bounced of mirrors and vehicles like jousting light sabers. After everyone had organized their gear, I led the guys down a short trail to where they would set up a very rare, IMAX film camera (one of only three like this one in the world). We were filming the infamous, “Wild Goose Island” sunrise scene over Saint Mary Lake – likely one of the most iconic national parks scenes in America.

Still in the dark, I showed Brad Ohlund, Director of Photography, the exact locations where I thought the scene would best be captured. I’ve been here to shoot this image 100 times, so I had the best spots surveyed out well before we ever arrived. As a side note, early on in our planning, I had made sure to discuss the camera’s field of view so I could replicate it on my own camera. I wanted to be able to see exactly what the IMAX camera would see. After Brad surveyed the sites, he directed his camera crew to set up the massive camera and tripod in the exact location he thought he could best capture the sunrise scene. Brad, as the director of photography is responsible for everything that happens on the “set.” Brad’s been at this for over 25 years. He was on the team that took the the IMAX camera to Mt. Everest to film the movie, “Everest.” That same year, a deadly disaster took the lives of 8 people. Brad was present when Rob Hall, and Everest expedition leader passed away from injuries suffered during the avalanche.

glacier national park, imax behind the scenes wild goose island "national parks adventure"

Predawn, behind the scene photograph of the IMAX film camera setup to film the Wild Goose Island shot on Saint Mary Lake, in Glacier National Park, Montana. Rob Walker, second camera, was set up just below the IMAX camera to shoot the similar scene with a Red Epic camera. The light in the far distance is from a vehicle driving up the Going to the Sun Road. © Tony Bynum

As the sky began to brighten, Brad, working with his team, checked the light with a portable light meter, set the aperture, and focused the camera, he was ready to roll. Everyone anticipates the camera rolling. It’s drama of a different sort. The camera is at the center of focus so to speak, as we wait for the light to arrive. Soon, Brad starts the camera. It clatters away, film reeling from one canister though the camera, to the canister on the opposite side. As I listened to it clicking away, everyone intensively watching the camera, then snapping my neck around to catch a glimpse of the scene, then back to the camera again, I couldn’t help but think of the bygone era of mechanical film cameras. It was a nostalgic moment for me. The truth is, the detail captured by the film in this camera is still the gold standard for mega screen IMAX movies. Digital IMAX and 3d would be used to film parts of the movie “National Parks Adventure,” but the film camera, for these scenes produced the best results.

wild goose island, glacier national park, dramatic colors and sky, summer, crown of the continent, montana, usa (tonybynum)

Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park, Montana. © Tony Bynum

After the Wild Goose Island shoot, we packed up and soon were on to a new location. We managed two to three locations per day. For each day we planned a morning, and an evening shoot. Morning and evening offer the best light – you’ve all heard of the golden hour, well, that’s when we had to be ready to shoot, come hell or high water. For our second location, the evening shoot, we changed location. We moved to another part of Saint Mary Lake. The image below is what it looked like as we waited for that golden moment. Understanding the local weather patterns was critical to this shot. I anticipated that the light would improve as it peeked through, and below the clouds, as it often does as the clouds build over the lake during the late summer and early fall.  Below, is the dull, cloudy image showing why we were forced to wait. The rest of the crew knew that something magical could happen, but they, like me, were nervous that it may not. As luck would have it, the sun broke though, as predicted, and what a scene it was. It was, by anyone’s standards, worth the wait. As the sun peeked though, I’m sure we all heard the same whimsical music in our heads – it was absolutely heavenly.

saint mary lake

Saint Mary Lake, sun setting, Glacier National Park. We waited on this scene for the sun to peek through the clouds. It was hard to wait for what may never happen, but that’s part of knowing, based on local knowledge, what could happen. When it finally did, it was heavenly. © Tony Bynum

photograph of filming imax movie national parks adventure in glacier national park

Brad Ohlund, Director of Photography, and crew working on the camera during the filming of “National Parks Adventure” along the shore of Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. The sun is just starting to peek through the clouds. © Tony Bynum

imax film crew filming national parks adventure imax movie in glacier national park

Behind the scenes photograph of filming the IMAX movie “National Parks Adventure.” The movie crew filming along the shore of Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. The sun is in full view now, better get that camera rolling! © Tony Bynum

photograph of sunset over saint mary lake, glacier national park, montana

Sun setting over Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. This scene lasted only a few minutes. © Tony Bynum

The following day lead us to the shore of another lake, Lake Mcdonald, in Glacier Park’s west side. The lake is near the Park entrance at West Glacier, Montana. In these images the camera was set up at the water’s edge to put the end viewer front and center. Motion in IMAX film helps keep the viewers attention as many of the shot sequences are on screen for a minute, and sometimes more! That’s a long time for any scene to stay on screen. It’s possible to leave one scene on the screen for that long because of the immense size of the screen and the extreme detail captured with this camera. It gives people time to look around and really take in the entire experience brought to you by an IMAX theater.

Brad Ohlund, Director of Photography, filming the "National Parks Adventure" movie along the shore of Lake Mcdonald, glacier national park, montana. © Tony Bynum

Brad Ohlund, Director of Photography, getting ready to film a clip on the shore of Lake Mcdonald for the “National Parks Adventure” movie. Glacier National Park, Montana. © Tony Bynum

Behind the scenes photograph of filming the imax movie "National

IMAX film crew setting up the camera to shoot Lake Mcdonald in Glacier National Park. © Tony Bynum

The next stop was along the Going to the Sun Road, just inside the Park’s eastern entrance at Saint Mary’s, Montana, a small town on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and boarding Park.

Behind the scenes photograph of "National Parks Adventure" movie crew setting up to film along the going to the sun road in glacier National Park, Montana.

Behind the scenes photograph of “National Parks Adventure” movie crew setting up to film along the going to the sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. © Tony Bynum

After this shoot, we planned to reshoot the Saint Mary Lake, Wild Goose Island location the next day. Unfortunately, when we arrived the wind’s were typical for Glacier Park, blowing and spitting rain, not the best conditions for filming. We waited around for the wind to die down, but it never did. We regrouped and the team packed up and headed off to their next destination, Devils Tower in Wyoming to film Conrad Anker climbing the Tower.  All in all, it was a fantastic shoot, and I’m happy to have been a small part of this historic documentary film.

Location Expert – How I got the Job and Pre Production

For me, the entire project started about a year before the shoot. MacGillivray Freeman Films called me to discuss the details of filming locations within Glacier National Park. They wanted the epic, grand views, the ones most of you have likely seen in photographs. I pulled together a set of digital maps, with photo points linked to photographs I’ve shot over the past 15 years, and sent them on to MacGillivray. Creating maps with key photo points linked to photographs allowed the team to share the critical planning elements among each other, without having to have everyone in the same room. They could simply bring up the maps, click on photo points, and reference the images of that location on their smart phones, tablets, or computers.

After a few weeks looking over locations, and discussing the types of scenes the director was looking for, they hired me as the location expert and I become part of the team. As the location expert, it was my job know everything there is to know about the place. From how to get around in a timely manner, to knowing where the light’s will be and when it’s going to be right. One of the most most critical parts, is knowing what to do when plan A does not go as planned. The camera man has the ultimate say on the shot. It was my job to show the camera man the locations that I thought were best for the shoot, and discuss all the variable of each location in order for him to be able to make a wise choice about capturing it on film.

The IMAX Camera

IMAX film cameras shoot a maximum of 3 minutes of 77mm film. That’s right, it still uses real film. Typically a rolling film shoot in the IMAX camera lasts from one to three minutes, one minute being the minimum. The camera holds three minutes of film, and a full film canister weighs 50 pounds. It takes about a hour and a crew of 3-5 people to set up the camera to shoot one to three minutes of film. If the film runs out, a new, full film canister and an empty receiving can is swapped out. The canisters are pre loaded and stored in a truck near the shoot location.

The entire camera package is bulky, heavy, and cumbersome to move. Getting the camera and support gear into remote areas is a major, time consuming and very labor intensive endeavor. An interesting fact about filming in IMAX format is that it cost about $1000 per minute to run the camera. $1,000 dollars a minute!  Of course you’d be captivated, anyone would be, by a camera that can spend more money in one minute than your entire day’s wage!

National Parks Adventure IMAX Movie Trailer 

Here’s is the 2 minute trailer to the film, “National Parks Adventure.”

Finally, I’d like to thank MacGillivray Freeman Films, Brad, and Rob, and the rest of the crew for putting up with my humor and for trusting me to provide them the very best, most trusted and knowledgeable service possible. To the National Park Service, Glacier National Park, for providing us with a fantastic park service monitors, all were helpful, polite, and did their jobs well!

"National Parks Adventure" movie crew above Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana.

“National Parks Adventure” movie crew above Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. © Tony Bynum

I encourage all of you to go watch, “National Parks Adventure” in an IMAX theater.

If you can please leave a comment, or ask any questions, I’d be happy to share additional thoughts or answer questions.

Sincerely, Tony Bynum

 


Micro four thirds and 4k video – is it time to switch?

Micro four thirds and 4k video - is it time to switch?

I’ve mentioned micro four thirds, aka “mirrorless,” in previous posts. As fast and as far as technology has taken imagery, there still are trade-offs no matter the type of photography you choose. 35mm digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR), along with crop sensor DSLR’s are used by most outdoor photographers due to their size, availability, quality […]


The Ansel Adams Act- “to restore the first amendment rights of photographers”

The Ansel Adams Act- "to restore the first amendment rights of photographers"

The Ansel Adams Act of 2015.  H. R. 5893. To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers. Man photographing Glacier National Park winter scene. The Ansel Adams Act would return restore first amendment rights to photographers on public lands.  ©tonybynum.com Exert from the bill: “Prohibition on Fees, Permits, or Insurance.–No Federal Government agency shall require fees, permits […]


2014 – What Makes a Great Outdoor Photography Year?

2014 -  What Makes a Great Outdoor Photography Year?

2014 is history. It’s been a great outdoor photography year – I’m blessed. What makes a great outdoor photography year? To start, both myself and my family all are happy and healthy. Beyond that, the rest was about the experience of the adventure and living life to it’s fullest. In brief, here are a few […]


Photography Quotes – 10 photography quotes that you should read

Photography Quotes - 10 photography quotes that you should read

Photography quotes help to remind us of the most important aspects of photography. I’m always trying to distill photography down to as simple a terms as I can. Having rules and remembering small anecdotes and quotes helps me stay focused. There is one quote that stands out to me, more than any other. I”ll share it […]


Breaking my own photography rules pays off with this Montana photograph

Breaking my own photography rules pays off with this Montana photograph

I arrived at the lake. Calm morning, no wind, perfect reflection, great light, nice color, no people, just what makes my office so desirable! But wait. The clouds. The clouds were covering the peak of Sinopah Mountain. Oh shit, now what? I was ready to pack it in and go home. I’m one for breaking photography […]


Drones, Photography, get your footage before it’s too late!

Drones, Photography, get your footage before it's too late!

I have to share an article about drones and photography, but before I do, I’ll make a comment or two. After using drones on and off for about a year now, I can say that they offer an amazing new way of capturing a scene or event that before was only the domain of the most […]


Why we are Photographers – dedication, passion, purpose

Why we are Photographers - dedication, passion, purpose

We are photographers because it is who we are. I have run across few things that explain the details as well as Dave Black, Robert Beck, George Karbus do in this video by Cory Rich. If you are a photographer, you might not be able to get through this without sharing Dave’s reaction yourself. Don’t blame […]


Two Days with Montana Photographer Tony Bynum – once in a lifetime opportunity

Two Days with Montana Photographer Tony Bynum - once in a lifetime opportunity

You have until Friday evening to get your bids in for two days of private photography with Montana Photographer, Tony Bynum. Tony Bynum is donating two days of private, one-on-one photography to the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Anyone can bid. Better hurry, winner awarded Friday night, […]


The Crown of the Continent – “The Crown” roundtable video

The Crown of the Continent - "The Crown" roundtable video

People from around the “The Crown of the Continent,” gather once a year to share their stories of conservation, life, and the challenges facing the geographic region. The Crown of the Continent, called by the Blackfeet, “the backbone of the world,” is locationd in Northwest Montana, and Southwest Alberta, Canada. People come from all parts […]


Winter on the Edge – Glacier National Park – East Glacier Park, Montana

Winter on the Edge - Glacier National Park - East Glacier Park, Montana

Winter on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park, in the small town of East Glacier Park, Montana, is known mainly to the few people that make this place their home, and a few travelers. Life in East Glacier Park is nothing like life in the more well known and often cited West Glacier (the […]


Simple tips to improve your outdoor photography – take more outdoor photographs – 5 tips

Simple tips to improve your outdoor photography - take more outdoor photographs - 5 tips

The secret to good outdoor photographs starts by taking more of them!  Consistently good outdoor photographs are the results of practice, hard work, and a commitment to a goal. Make this years goal be, take more outdoor photographs! Outdoor photography to most means nature photography. Wildlife, landscapes, etc. But, outdoor photography can be any photograph […]


Professional Outdoor Photographer – is there a future for professionals?

Professional Outdoor Photographer - is there a future for professionals?

Is there a future as a professional outdoor photographer? As a professional outdoor photographer, I think about the future of outdoor photography, and where the art or profession is headed as a way to make a living.  I’m asked questions like, “aren’t you afraid that you wont be able to make money,” and “what about […]


Montana Photographer Tony Bynum Interview – Exhibitions without Walls – “images should stand on their own.”

Montana Photographer Tony Bynum Interview - Exhibitions without Walls - "images should stand on their own."

Montana Photographer, Tony Bynum sat down recently with Ed Wedman, creator of “Exhibitions without Walls,” a website dedicated to showcasing unique digital talent from around the world, for a short interview. Exhibitions without Walls, also operates a fantastic juried competition with some great prizes! Here’s the link to the Tony Bynum interview  http://www.exhibitionswithoutwalls.com/tony-bynum-2/  


Adventure, Outdoor Camera – Nikon does it first! – Nikon 1 AW1

Adventure, Outdoor Camera - Nikon does it first! - Nikon 1 AW1

It looks like the day has finally come, an adventure, outdoor camera with interchangeable lenses and RAW file format!  Are you kidding me? Nope –  according to Nikon, it’s on the way. The Nikon 1 AW1 is the first waterproof, dustproof, freeze rated, interchangeable lens digital camera ever made. I’m excited.  I’ve been waiting for […]


Mindshift Rotation 180, Photography Backpack – Thoughts From the Field. . .

Mindshift Rotation 180, Photography Backpack - Thoughts From the Field. . .

While I was home briefly, I made some time to take the MindShift Rotation 180 photography backpack to the field for an authentic, live test. The Mindshift Rotation 180 backpack was developed though a crowd soured model – very cool concept!  Think Tank is the parent company to MindShift and the Rotation 180 is really […]


Are you Stealing Photographs? – top 10 lame responses – photography, copyright, social media & the internet

Are you Stealing Photographs? - top 10 lame responses - photography, copyright, social media & the internet

Are you stealing photographs for a blog, twitter, instagram or facebook page? Is your employee stealing photographs? You don’t know? Well, if you don’t know where the photograph or image came from, or you don’t have written permission from it’s owner to use it, DON’T – period! I agree, stealing might be too strong a […]


Nature Photographs – 10 musts for consistently good Nature Photographs

Nature Photographs - 10 musts for consistently good Nature Photographs

If you want to consistently capture great nature photographs, the following rules apply. . . 1. Great Nature Photographs come from getting up early and/or staying late – not even Photoshop can make this rule go away; 2. you must use good technique and quality lenses; 3. great Nature Photographs mean you can’t be afraid […]


Wildlife Photography – Glacier National Park New Wildlife Photography and Viewing Policy is Unrealistic

Wildlife Photography - Glacier National Park New Wildlife Photography and Viewing Policy is Unrealistic

Most people enjoy wildlife photography. In fact, the chance to see and maybe photograph wildlife is among the top reasons people go to Glacier National Park. Are you aware that there are new viewing rules in place than may surprise you? Today, wildlife viewing and wildlife photography may be a bit more challenging based on […]


Great Outdoor Photography – you just need a little luck sometimes

Great Outdoor Photography - you just need a little luck sometimes

Ring, ring, ring – “hello.”  “Hi, my name is Harry, I love your photographs, I’m planning a trip in July to photograph wildlife, can you tell me where is a good place to find mountain goats?”  My first reaction is usually a deep sigh, followed by, “July is not a good time to photograph mountain […]


Nature, Wildlife and Outdoor Photography – who inspired you?

Nature, Wildlife and Outdoor Photography - who inspired you?

My answer, a true legend in the outdoor media world. Marty Stouffer is at least partly responsible for inspiring me to become a nature, wildlife, conservation and commercial outdoor photographer! As much as I like to think that my inspiration came completely from the heart, I must admit it did not. The passion, commitment and motivation comes from there, but the inspiration […]


Montana Nature Photographer Tony Bynum and Science Teacher Stacy Dolderer Dive Deep into the Montana Prairie in Search of Wilderness Characteristics

When Erin Madison, (@GFT_EMadison) outdoor writer for the Great Falls Tribune (@GFTribue) called us to do an interview about the Montana prairie project we worked on recently, we were happy to say yes!  As many of you know, my partner Stacy Dolderer and I spent several months bouncing around the prairie lands of Montana last summer. […]


The Holy Grail of Photography In one Quote – Antonin Kratochvil changed my mind. . .

I finally found what I think is the holly grail of photography in the words of Antonin Kratochvil – “You should never use camera to make your pictures. You use yourself, your experience, to make the pictures with the camera. Not the other way around.” For years I’ve been trying to put this concept into words.  I’ve […]


How to Ruin an Outdoor Photography Career with One Email

“My photographs have better colors than the one’s you’re using on the covers of your magazines. . . when you’re ready to work with a real professional, give me a call” – source: unnamed “professional” photographer. Those are the paraphrased words from a real freelance photographer to a magazine editor asking if the editor would […]