Shawn Reeder is a visual artist from California who specializes in photography and time-lapse cinematography. When he was just 18 years old, he won a cross country trip to Yosemite, and it changed his life forever. He instantly knew that he had found his new home: the Sierra Nevada. Following a seasonal lifestyle for the next 10 years, he proceeded to live in and out of Yosemite, but eventually created a home base in the Eastern Sierra, where he stayed yet another 10 years.
Being in such awe inspiring beauty is what inspired me to pick up a camera. I wanted to share with the world just how incredible this Earth we all inhabit really is. Living in the “Range of Light” has brought me a life of exploration, adventure, meditation, capturing moments and creating art. Basking in the glory of these mountains, I’ve developed a deep love for nature and all it’s subtleties of light, mood, texture and feeling. Not only have I fallen in love with the natural world and an outdoor lifestyle, but it’s heightened my appreciation of beauty in profound ways, and through its unique culture, instilled in me a deep revere for traveling and a profound appreciation of the art of life.
Reeder recently turned 40, and he grasped the occasion to release a very meaningful and personal film, called “The Eternal Moment of Now“. Trying to live his life consciously and present, because the past is gone and the future is still to come, has been a mantra for Reeder for a long time. But about a year and half ago, on assignment in the Moab area, he finally conceived the idea to dedicate a movie to it.
I had been noticing how more and more people taking and sharing images of grand landscapes with tiny people. I’ve always loved seeing the interaction between people and dramatic scenery, but I also noticed how the popularity of these types of images on social media seemed to cause a disconnect. People come out to beautiful locations and take beautiful pictures, and then, before even leaving, they took out their phones and they start posting on social media. People are getting more engaged with their phones than with the awe inspiring location they came to experience! That’s when I realized that I wanted to make a film that encourages people to truly drop into the moment and “be” present, not only when exploring beautiful nature, but in life in general.
There’s no denying that it is indeed becoming more and more of an art to fully embrace the present in today’s world of attention seeking distractions. Reeder tells Resource Travel he therefore hopes that his film inspires people to come into the present, to connect with the earth and with themselves, to not just go to beautiful locations for Instagram, but also for the actual experience. He genuinely wants as many people as people to embrace the moment.
This film is dedicated to and passionate about personal growth. When we take the time to be present and appreciate beauty, we will see that beauty inside ourselves, even if we’re not conscious of it. And the more we see and appreciate beauty not just outside ourselves, but inside as well, the more we will help create a ripple effect that goes out into the world of helping create peace and love.
Were you able to enjoy the here and the now during the actual making of this film? Or was it, rather ironically, distracting to know that you were filming, having to think of certain image making aspects?
It was actually the exact opposite. One of the key elements to to make this film work, was to have the person in the shots (mostly me) be as still as possible. What better way to achieve that than to meditate and connect with the earth? The longest shots were an hour, and being perfectly still in some very precarious places, was some of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I failed in many many shots, but the more I tried, the more I learned that the only way it would work was for me to fully come into the moment. I couldn’t fake it. So, as continued gathering shots for the film, I noticed that every time I’d set up a shot, I would focus on my breath. With every inhalation, I would connect deeper with the earth, and with every exhalation, I would offer my love and gratitude to the universe. As soon as my thoughts would wander, I’d start to sway, but when I stayed focused, it was as if the earth embraced me and held me like a statue. Every single shot was a profound experience, and every time I finished one, I had a very sincere feeling of peacefulness.
Did the women in the film have similar experiences?
Well, you would have to ask them to know for sure, but I imagine that for each of them it was a beautiful experience as well. It’s challenging to be perfectly still for long amounts of time on uneven terrain, so I know each of them – four very dear friends – felt great accomplishment when our shots would work out. And every time we were both so appreciative of the beautiful places we were filming and spending time, so there’s some great life enhancement going on right there.
It wasn’t easy for Reeder to name his top spots throughout the making of this film, since he had spent a lot of time in a lot of spectacular locations and therefore constantly was in awe, but he does admit that the Cathedral Peak in the Tuolumne Meadows definitely hit a soft spot. Other than that, he really loved the location from where he shot Yosemite’s Firefall, which was way up above the Valley floor, far away from the hundreds of people shooting below.
How about outside of this film?
Again very hard to say, but I did have an amazing 3 months traveling around New Zealand in a camper van a few years back. The last 3 years, I have also gone to Italy every year, and I am falling deeper and deeper in love with that country each time. And even though I spent most of my travel time in the last 20 years around the American West, it never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
Which “bucket list” destinations or projects does your future hold?
Well, there’s a whole world to see and I don’t have my next trip planned, so we’ll just have to see what comes up next, but the Canadian West and South America are calling me pretty strongly! However, I personally don’t like the idea of a “bucket list.” I never have. I’d much rather fully experience every moment wherever I am, than come up with locations just to check them off a list. I actually heard that a lot during the making of this film: people talking about how they could now check this off their bucket list. They came to this amazing location that often took a long flight or drive and a hard hike to get to, and then they’d just snap something for their Instagram and leave! It’s like they never even truly experience the location, but just ticked off their list. Again, this was one of the main reasons why I made this film: to remind and encourage people to not just go out to show the world via social media that you love to explore nature, but to encourage people to actually experience and explore the nature too, to quiet the mind and free ourselves from distractions and come into the moment.
All of Shawn Reeder’s artwork can be found on his website. His Vimeo-page is also full of awe inspiring imagery, and he is of course also on Facebook and Instagram. And for all you techies out there who would like to know how Reeder shoots: he used a Canon 5D Mark III and a Sony a7s, with an assortment of Canon lenses “and my beloved Zeiss 15.” He also used the Kessler Crane Second Shooter, Cineslider, and TLS system for all the motion control.