We’ll soon be setting out on our drive to Yellowstone National Park to film a brand film and shoot a library of photos for our client, a new camper brand called Dunraven Campers. My name is Brian Bishop, and I run a small content marketing company called Real Original. The reason we are going to Yellowstone is because the brand is named after Dunraven Peak, part of the Washburn Range in the Northeast part of the park.
This part of Yellowstone holds a special place in my heart. I worked in Canyon for a summer after college, just south of Dunraven. We had a hair-raising full-moon hike down Mt Washburn (across from Dunraven) in my time there, thanks to some very large grizzlies.
Today, we are setting out to tell a story of why nature is so amazing, and something everyone should make time to explore. The story direction for this festered in my brain for months, and just recently came together with the help of some colleagues. I’m beyond excited about what I’m envisioning this to be, and hopeful we can put the film in my mind on the screen in front of you.
Filming in Yellowstone is no easy feat. It’s more like a logistical chess match that I’m really hoping to win. First there is the film permit that I’ve been working on for over 2 months. 20+ emails, forms, fees, multiple calls, an orientation and we JUST got the film permit 2 days before departing!
Then there is lodging - because we didn’t book a year out, finding something in good proximity for an affordable price was impossible. Visiting the most popular national park at the height of the season doesn’t help our cause. Long story short, our production team is tent camping in the park, and the owners of the camper company will be using their camper to camp. While I love camping, for a film production, it adds yet another layer of logistical complexity: all of the camping gear on top of the camera gear, plus a lack of power to recharge camera batteries. We’ll be using a couple of GoalZero Yeti 3000s for power while we are there. To add to the fun, we’re camping in bear country. Grizzly country to be more precise.I’ve already lectured our crew… “Absolutely NO FOOD in the tents. Ever. No toothpaste, no soda, no gum, no chapstick, no whiskey. If you’re not sure about something, it’s a no.”
Our crew has traveled and worked together on many occasions. The original plan was one photographer, one videographer, and myself (producer, behind the scenes filmer). But once I nailed down the story, it became evident that we would need an additional shooter. Last minute favors were called in, and another videographer was added to the crew. We’re renting a super sweet minivan to get there, transporting all the camera gear and our personal gear. All of our camping gear will ride up in the back of the truck pulling the camper.
THE PACKING LIST
I bet you’re wondering “what do you pack for a summer trip to Yellowstone?” Well, short answer: EVERYTHING! We could literally encounter any type of weather there this time of year...hot, cold, dry, rain, snow, etc. The year I worked there, we had a snowstorm with 3 feet of snow that shut down the park at the end of June. Weather is not looking ideal for this shoot - good chance of rain and cool conditions each day we are there.
The logistics of a trip like this are complicated. Lots of gear, long drive, and limited space. Our friends at Deuter hooked us up with a variety of gear to help. Perhaps most critical were their new line of waterproof duffel bags in the AViANT series. These are awesome for this sort of trip for many reasons...space for gear, packing in vehicles, and as it turned out, being waterproof in a rainy, outdoor environment.
Next Deuter provided our on-camera talent with various daypacks to appear in the shots we are filming in Yellowstone. These fun and functional packs were a big hit.
Last, packs for our crew filming gear. Deuter doesn’t have a dedicated camera bag, but the combo of the Deuter Rise 34 and SKB Cases insert made for a perfect setup. These packs helped us easily transport our gear wherever we were filming in Yellowstone.
Our crew used a variety of equipment for this shoot. Primary filming cameras were both REDs, with secondary filming cameras being Sony and Fuji DSLR cameras. To assist with filming, we had tripods, gimbals, sliders, and a jib for a crane shot. Drones are not allowed in National Parks, so we utilized the jib to get a top-down shot of the truck and camper moving by. In addition, we filmed some behind the scenes shots with an iPhone XS and gimbal. For photography, we utilized a Canon DSLR and a variety of lenses. Add in camping gear and food, and we had a pretty crammed minivan with 4 guys.
The drive from Colorado was long, but fairly uneventful. We got up at 3:20am to get ready and finish loading, then were on the road by 4am. The camper left the day before, and we caught up with them about halfway to Yellowstone. We helped open the coffee shop in Laramie on the way (laid down their rugs, etc), then we caught up with the camper in western Wyoming. We captured photos and video of the camper along the way, then made it to Grand Teton National Park. To enter Yellowstone through the south entrance you have to go through Grand Teton first, which isn’t a bad thing. The Tetons are a marvel themselves.
From the south entrance of Yellowstone, we still had about 35 miles to drive to our campsite. Doesn’t sound like far, but traveling in Yellowstone is never fast. Slow speed limits, animals on the road, and random traffic jams can make that 35 miles last 2 hours. Along the drive to our campsite, we had a brief rain shower, but it didn’t stick around very long. We saw a few animals along the drive: elk, a few bison, and a black bear. We had to do site checks for our Saturday locations, plus prep gear and set up our campsites. That took us into the evening, and we hit the tents fairly early to get a little sleep before an early day Saturday.
Saturday came early; 3:30am wake up to get ready, eat breakfast, load gear and make coffee (critical for any early morning production). Then is was off to meet the park ranger at 4:45am, discuss our intentions, and head up to our scouted spots near Dunraven Pass. These driving shots are critical, so it was important we were there ready to shoot at first light. Part of the challenge with filming outdoors is being at the mercy of Mother Nature. Right as the sun started to show, a big cloud moved in, setting our start back by an hour when the cloud finally moved out. But, we finally got those critical shots on a beautiful morning. We quickly packed up after, and moved onto shots with our 9-year old talent on the trail. She rocked it, giving us some great shots of her running in the trees on the trail.
Proper light for outdoor content production is a matter of racing the clock. To much light and your shots are washed out. Too little light and you can’t see enough definition in what you’re shooting. Then there is the magical “golden hour” when the light and shadows all look perfect. Time for this is very limited, and we were on the cusp of having too much light in the trees this morning.
After getting the hiking trail shots, we continued to another trail to get some shots of our talent checking out a cold mountain stream. It was indeed a cold mountain stream, but she endured through multiple takes to get just the right shot. Nothing a little hot chocolate can’t fix after.
Our filming plan was to film early in the day and late afternoon into the evening. This was for a few reasons… a) light, b) to not disturb park guests during the busy hours in the park, and c) to get a break for our crew after a very early morning. After a great first morning of filming, we took a break for food and a nap. The nap was brief in the middle of the day, so we decided to walk down to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone (a 310’ waterfall) to scout and capture audio of the falls.
“It’s just a 5 minute walk past the village,” I told the rest of the crew. Having worked in this part of the park 18 years earlier, I was sure I knew what I was talking about. Well, I was right about the 5 part...but our round trip became 5 miles, thanks to a bunch of new (to me) construction in the village. Just as we were getting back to camp, it started to downpour. It kept raining for the next 5 hours, which was less than ideal for our filming plans that afternoon/evening. After a lengthy delay, it cleared up enough for us to film a bit in the evening. We captured some campsite and campfire footage, but had to delay the rest of the shots due to lack of light.
After moving our tents away from flowing water in the campground, we finally turned in for the night. It was a rough night...wet, with temps in the low 30s, we all slept very little that night. At one point, there was a small stream flowing right under our tent. Not ideal.
On Sunday, we were up early again at 4:30am. Bitter cold from the overnight, we all layered up more and made a big pot of coffee. Today’s plan was to capture wildlife and scenic shots. It was still dark, but we could tell there was a lot of moisture in the air. As daylight started to break, we could see that we were in a dense fog. We got on the road and, at times, could only see a few hundred feet in front of the car.
We slowly drove through a herd of bison on the road, which we couldn't see until we were almost on top of them. We were able to get some great shots of the bison and some elk in the fog, which makes for a super moody setting. Shooting with wild animals carries a level of danger, especially with large, unpredictable animals like bison. At one point, a young male bison was sizing up our photographer, but decided to move off with his friends instead of seeing how far he could toss him.
After a brief stop to check weather, it looked like more rain storms moving in for the afternoon. We decided to keep shooting as the fog burned off, catching up on the shots we couldn’t get the night before. Part of the unheralded job of a producer is to move things along to make sure we capture what we need, even though the shooters may not have gotten the perfect 5th or 6th take of a shot. That became critical this morning for us to catch up, and eventually try to get ahead before the rains started again. As we were nearing the end of our shot list at about 2pm, the rain began. Our team had a brief meeting, and decided it would be best to pack up and head back to Colorado. We had nearly every shot we needed, and with rainy weather, the only shot we didn’t have was not in the cards. It took a couple hours to prep to leave, so it was after 6pm by the time we got on the road.
It was a tough drive home...we had to be cautious in order to avoid hitting any deer, and we ran into 3 crazy storms (8” deep hail, torrential rain, wicked lightning). We finally made it home at 4:30am. The trip was cut slightly short, but we had nearly everything we set out to get and all of the critical elements to tell the story we are creating. Despite the challenges from Mother Nature, we were very happy with what we captured.
After returning home, we all got some sleep and then set to work on the edits. It’s always great to dive in while everything is still fresh in your memory. The finished product is looking amazing, but is still coming together. We’re excited to get it out to the world. With productions like this, you can plan for months (as we did), but there will always be a wrench in the wheel somewhere along the line with you’re dealing with elements (weather, animals, travel) that are beyond your control. It’s critical to be able to shift with things as you go, adapting the important story elements to work in the conditions you’re given. This is part of the fun and challenge of creating this type of content. We love it.
Ready to see the film? View our finished product and enter the Deuter and Dunraven contest here.