9-year old Gabriel had a wish to be a park ranger. When Yosemite got word of his dream, they stepped up to the plate, in a VERY big way. Working with the Make-A-Wish foundation, little Gabriel, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, was flown to California with his family to be an honorary park ranger for the day. While there, his duties included putting out a wildfire, helping an injured hiker into a helicopter transport and hiking through the lush forests of the national park.
I was asked to be a part of this magical experience for Gabriel and it was an honor to document his day. Here is a look at a day that all of us who were a part of it will never forget.
My AC and I went up to Yosemite one day before Gabriel’s wish to get establishing B-roll and to try and capture the magnificence that is Yosemite. We were by ourselves walking around the park, trying to find beautiful scenery shots, so it was kind of difficult given that we only had 1 day for b-roll. I wish we would have had a ranger or park person walking us around, because the park is so huge. I think we lost a lot of time just trying to find things, even with the map we had. I used the MoVI the entire time with Jason pulling my focus via the Redrock Micro’s wireless follow focus and a small HD AC7 monitor streaming via a Paralinx setup. It was all natural lighting, since we didn’t have time to set up shots. I rocked a Tiffen vari-ND to keep the 180 degree shutter true, also over cranking a lot of shots, since everything is better in slow motion.
For the interviews, I had very little time to set up and shoot them, since the family was on a time schedule with CBS. We only had an hour to set up everything, then had to shoot. I really wanted to shoot outside since this piece was partially about nature, and I didn’t have a gaffer there with all his bells and whistles for lighting. I just used the sun to my advantage. Used a creative light reflector (full silk) up on a balcony cutting the rim (hair light) and used the solid white creative light reflector to bounce the sun back up for the key. I would have loved to have gotten more shape on their faces, but the sun was moving so quickly, and given our limited time frame, there really wasn’t any time to do much of anything, especially when I was also worrying about audio (WHICH I HATE).
I used RedRock Micro’s One Man Crew…a dream to work with. The only limitation is that you have to have the slider around 6 feet from your subject, so you’re a little limited on your lens selection if you want a wide look, but frankly, the longer the focal length, the more exaggerated the move will be.
I have only done one wish video before, and Make-A -Wish always stresses the importance of the wish experience, which I am in full support of. They and I didn’t want to ruin the entire experience for Gabriel, so I wanted to stay on the sidelines as much as possible. Unfortunately, there was a news crew from CBS who got priority access, got to ride in the vehicles with Gabriel, was always on scene first, etc. So we had to stay farther back and get what we could in terms of coverage.
I was operating on the MoVI the entire day and stuck with a focal length of 50mm Zeiss Contax 2.8, since there wasn’t really any time to do any lens swapping. I had the 2nd camera fitted with my 80-200 f4 Contax. He had RED Pro Primes, but I wanted the look to be consistent, plus, the Contax are amazing! I had him on a monopod the entire day so the longer shots would be more stable, as opposed to hand-holding or shoulder-mounting.
We all rode in my truck, so as soon as we would roll up on a scene, Will would bail out of the car as quickly as he could to get some establishing shots. Sometimes, they had already started the next mini event. I would immediately follow with the MoVI. My AC was pulling focus while I was operating in Majestic Mode. Used my Zeiss Cinemizers for framing, these things are AMAZING for gimbal work.
- I had Will shoot at around f5.6, while I shot between 2.8-4.
- We over cranked here and there for effect.
- Shot 5K WS at 8:1 compression.
Edited and graded in FCPX.
We take so many things for granted these days. From not having the latest techy iPhone to having to waiting in line for a ride at an amusement park that is longer than what you wanted (and I’m one of those people). There are so many less fortunate people and children from not only around the world, but right here locally in the USA. Kids with life-threatening illnesses are one of the many who are less fortunate.I have 3 kids of my own and I pray every day that I never have to see one of them pass on before I do. I can only imagine what Gabriel and his family go through every day. Having children changes your world, but having one who’s sick, completely flips it upside-down.
For this very special day, that world was turned right-side-up, and Gabriel, his family, and everyone involved that helped make this day become a reality will never forget the power of a wish. I guess my favorite part of the entire experience was reading what Gabriel’s mom wrote to me:
Alright, so I suppose I have no business on this site (Vimeo), but as Gabriel’s mom I wanted to say thank you so very much Chris for this beautiful film. It is absolutely gorgeous! I have to tell you that I cried at the slower motion smiling shot (that smile without his two front teeth!) after he was asked if he would help them out during this busy time of the year. Thank you for this precious gift, as the day was a tremendous blur of activity.
About the Guest Contributor
Chris McKechnie has been behind the camera for over 20 years (31 years old now) and has immersed himself within all facets of the production industry. He takes a creative approach to every project that he’s a part of–no matter how big or small that role is–because each and every project brings a stronger experience.
Whether it’s diving into an untold documentary, creating a high-end commercial, or even telling a touching story about a local business, every story he helps bring to life, is one he loves. His work can be seen on his website here.