Through the Eyes of Savvy

I took my 3 year old daughter on a backpacking trip to do some star time lapse. This is the story through her eyes. 

The Backstory

Savannah is a little bundle of adventure. I took her on her first backpacking trip over a year ago. She was on my back along with our tent, sleeping bags, a bundle of firewood and her favorite book, Winnie the Pooh. She loved it. She still talks about the trip in great detail despite the fact that she was just 2 years old. 

As a filmmaker and owner of Rhino I get to go on a lot of adventures. It was my passion for telling stories of adventure that started it all. One of my goals as a father is to instill in my children the awe and amazement I have of creation.

Often, I take for granted all of the amazing places I go and film. It's easy for me to just hike up to a beautiful ridge and gaze up at the Milky Way and not see it with the same perspective I did the first time I saw it. 

I want to see things new and fresh again. I want to see things they way my children do. Everything is a new discovery for them. Savvy often says, "I never knew that before, Dad" with wonder in her eyes. 

The Trip

So, I took Savvy with me to Snow Lake in Washington State. It's about 3.5 miles in and ends at a beautiful alpine lake. It took almost 6 hours to get to the lake. I didn't have any expectations for the trip except to let her go at her pace and experience nature and the trail in the way that only she does. 



The Story

We started out on the trail around 9:30AM. That is of course after we had our morning snack and obligatory hot chocolate. Our pace was, well, slow at best with many great distractions along the trail. There were three worth noting: dogs, rocks, and snacks.



The Snow Lake trail is very popular since it is only an hour away from Seattle. If you know anything about Seattle you know that Seattle loves dogs. I actually read a statistic that people in Seattle actually have more dogs that kids. Crazy. So you can imagine how many dogs were on the trail. Also worth noting is that Savvy loves dogs and she is not afraid to ask you very politely if she may pet your dog. Not exaggerating, this happened almost a hundred times on the trail. Every dog that walked by was asked to be pet by my daughter. Without fail. 





Enough about dogs, let's talk about rocks. I've never seen my daughter be so adventurous. At almost every bend of the trail she was running off the trail to go climb some rock. I'd film for a bit and once she got high enough I'd run over and supervise to make sure she didn't fall off. It was a joy editing the video and hearing where I'd yell, "Hey Sav, that's far enough. Hold on!".

At the top of the trail before you drop into the lake there is a large rock you can climb and see the lake. Savvy climbed right up the 6ft wall with me holding my hands up in case she fell. Let's just say I was a proud dad watching her find her hand and foot holds without any help from me. 





If you have kids you know they love snacks. I recently asked my 2 year old son Eli what kinds of food he likes. He responded, "Dad, I don't like food. I like dessert though." It made me laugh so hard. With a little more probing I learned that he likes yogurt, pizza, and pancakes. He loves snacks and so does Savvy. 

So, my rational mind led me to the conclusion that if I want my kids to like hiking and the outdoors I should feed them plenty of snacks on the way. It's worked great so far. 

For most of the hike Savvy had her water in one pocket and graham crackers in the other. Our motivation to get to the lake was her being able eat her sucker once we set up camp. I got her out of bed in the morning with a cup of flavored oatmeal and hot chocolate. Snacks. The key to a great hiking trip with your kids :)




The Shot

One of my goals for the trip was to introduce Savvy to the magic of motion time lapse photography. I told her throughout the day that we were going to wake up and see the stars. So, I set my alarm for 11:30 (astronautical twilight). The weather was socked in with fog and rain throughout the day but NOAA forecasted it to clear later in the evening. When I awoke, I was a bit discouraged that it was still foggy. With nothing to show Savvy, I decided not to wake her up but still setup the time lapse anyway. When we woke up in the morning I was pleased to see that the clouds had cleared and I had a decent shot of the Milky Way even with some aurora peaking through on the right side of the frame. But, I had totally missed focus. With nothing to focus on when the clouds were out and using a new lens I botched it. Savvy didn't seem to mind when I showed her the shots on the camera the next morning though. So much grace from a 3 year old. 




The Gear

I shot most of the day hand held on my Sony A7s. I brought my Rokinon 35mm to capture Savvy hiking the trail and switched to a Rokinon 14mm when we got to the lake for the tent shots and time-lapses. The only thing I don't like about the A7s is that the battery is much smaller than the GH4 of Canon 5D. Because of that I need to bring a battery grip along to have 2 batteries for a 6hr time lapse. 



I used the Peak Design Capture clip to hold my camera on my backpack strap. It was absolutely essential to capture the organic moments I did on the fly. I strapped my Rhino Slider EVO Carbon with Motion on my mountaineering pack (Gregory Palisade 80L). My pack was about 35lbs including all of Savvy's gear so it wasn't too bad a of a haul. 

For audio I used the Rode VideoMic Go. I have a couple of the Pros but the shock mounts and the replaceable battery kept it at home. The Go was so nice to not worry about the little rubber shocks coming off or if my battery would run out on the trip. The Pro does have better audio but the Go wins in my book for outdoor trips like this. 




Setting up the shot was really easy with my Rhino Slider. I don't want to toot our horn here too much but it's really the easiest part of the process. Finding the right composition takes so much longer than actually programming my Motion controller. I had my slider setup at a slight incline on a rock to add a better dynamic to the shot. The night time shot was done on level ground so I could use the Power Save mode in the Settings. This cuts the power to the motor in between shots and doubles the battery life for time lapse. 





The Message

I don't want to get too preachy here, but I want to share what I've learned from this trip. If you have kids, take the time to instill a wonder of nature by creating stories with them.  It's amazing to see it develop in my kids. If you're a professional, take time to reflect on your work and remember the moment that inspired you to tell stories in the first place. Maybe it was when you were a child or maybe it was later in life. Use that moment to motivate all of your work. 

If you have moment that has inspired you to tell stories, please share it below in the comments.