Shawn Reeder is as outdoor focused as photographer’s and filmmakers come. For years, I have been watching Reeder create time-lapse films showing nature at its finest for years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see buildings in Reeder’s latest film which highlights over two months on Italian soil over three separate trips.
I sat down with Reeder to talk about the making of his latest film, and why he has made such a strong connection with Italy over the years.
You always strike me as an artist who prefers solitude on a remote mountain peak in the far reaching corners of nature. But this time-lapse is a bit different. You spent alot of time in cities and villages in Italy. What makes the Italian villages so easy for even nature lovers to enjoy?
Well it seems as though you know me well as my natural tendency has always been to seek out solitude in nature, yet like most artists, there is more to me than meets the eye. After spending most of my early adulthood fully immersed in adventurous pursuits in nature, my thirties brought about new desires to also explore culture alongside adventure. Italy is the perfect blend for me with some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, a stunning coast, and some of the most picturesque cities and villages you’ll ever come across.
I was introduced to the country through traveling with a woman I love, and that trip set the tone for what has ultimately become a love affair for me. I love the people, the culture, the food, the history, and all of those aspects seem to be built right into the stunning nature that surrounds and encompasses everything. The Italians sure know how to build their cities and villages in harmony with the natural world, and I think that’s why Europe calls to me much more than my home country the US when it comes to exploring cities, towns, and villages. Plus there’s just something about the ancient history of the rich Italian culture and its traditions that feels much more authentic and connected than the disconnected state of American society with our big box stores, isolating commutes, and TV-centric society. Italy has a wealth of experiences to offer the adventurous traveler who is also inspired by exploring a rich culture.
At the 1 minute mark, you are taking a self portrait time-lapse on an incredible lake. Can you tell us a little about that location, and more importantly, how long were you standing still for?
One of my favorite regions in northern Italy is the spectacular Dolomiti, a region of the Alps with a very distinct and unique character. Deep valleys amongst soaring craggy peaks create some of the most gorgeous mountain scenes I’ve ever seen. Lago di Sorapis outside of Cortina d’Ampezzo is a true gem with its unmistakeable turquoise waters and towering mountains. It’s a moderate hike of only a few miles to this backcountry delight, yet be forewarned that a weekend jaunt during prime summer season might make you feel like you’re walking down an alley in Venice rather than deep in the mountains as you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of others making the trek to this alpine paradise. I started to hike out one Sunday afternoon and after only a kilometer or so I was completely overwhelmed and turned around. I came back the next day on Monday and nearly had the trail to myself. I was so enamored by the beauty of the lake and the majestic cirque in which it resides, that I just stood there for about 10 minutes fully taking it in as the clouds danced above and light shone down upon this awe-inspiring scene.
What are your absolute three favorite things about Italy?
It’s hard to nail down my three favorite things about Italy, because it really is a sum of so many aspects that make me fall deeper and deeper in love with each subsequent visit. But a few things rise above the best, and first and foremost it would have to be the mountains in the north. From the stunning Alps on the border with France to the majestic views and picturesque villages of Lago di Como, to the awe-inspiring presence of the Dolomiti, the mountains of northern Italy are some of the most beautiful and dramatic in the world and will take your breath away.
Secondly, I love the slow paced lifestyle and the feel of the culture. As much as it pained me at first, once I grew accustomed to the midday riposo (the Italian version of the common Latin Siesta), I appreciated the midday closure of shops while people took some personal time for themselves, especially in the smaller villages. And when you talk of the culture, you can’t help but mention the food and cappuccinos! My time in Italy really did help foster a love for espresso and I’ve spent my entire life loving Italian food, but even with growing up in an Italian family I never knew just how good it was until traveling throughout the homeland exploring authentic local trattorias. While I typically curtail the amount of wheat I eat when here in the US, I happily ate bread, pizza, and pasta nearly every day in Italy and never felt weighed down like I do here at home. And whatever you do, don’t miss the pesto!!!!
And finally, for someone who has always traveled primary for the mountains and landscape of whatever destination usually calls to me, the people of Italy have touched my heart, opened my soul, and lit the fire of my passions. There are the dear friends who have taken me into their home for weeks on end, cooked endless meals and driven me deep into the mountains all while pondering the meaning of life. And the new friends I met while traveling who enthusiastically showed me their favorite “local spots” whether it was a hidden waterfall or the best cappuccino in town. There is the random conversations on the train and in coffee shops and the smiling faces selling me a slice of pizza at 1am in Rome. The group of students singing on the Spanish Steps, the gifted painter creating art in Varrena and the spontaneous and unexpected lovers who shone light into my journeys, I love you all and can’t wait to return for more time with you. Grazie, grazie!