Monthly Archives: October 2013

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On Going Viral – Lessons from the Rim Fire

This past summer started off dry.  I was working for the National Park Service in Yosemite as a Physical Science Technician.  My work was to travel around the park collecting water samples from the rivers for analysis, and maintaining machines that monitored air quality.  The summer was pretty routine until late August when we heard a fire had started north of the Park on National Forest land.

Lesson #1 – Right place, right time

When the Rim Fire started in the Stanislaus National Forest we knew it was dry, but it we all thought that it was unlikely that the fire would reach the Yosemite boundary.  When the fire grew by more than 50,000 acres in a day, we knew it would be different.  I started going up to the Crane Flat Helibase, a short walk from the Tuolumne Grove parking lot, to shoot timelapses.  Working for the Park Service and seeing all the work that was being done to monitor the smoke impacts, I was mostly thinking the footage would be shared among park scientists.  When the NPS YouTube channel posted it, things quickly escalated.

Lesson #2 – Be Prepared

In this case, over a million people watched the video shared on the Yosemite National Park YouTube channel.  Despite most of this video being shot on my own time, I included content from a park service timelapse camera showing the smoke movement away from Yosemite Valley.  Having not had a plan, the only way people saw my info was if they watched all the way through the credits.  While this is how this one happened, I now know to be more active in promoting my website and the original footage on vimeo.

Lesson #3 – Always ask for more than you think you deserve

Corey Rich, now a very well known outdoor and adventure photographer has some great “stories behind the image” (here and here) about how being bold and asking for way more pay than you think you deserve pays off and more often than not the editor or whoever wants the image says “Yes”.  This advice isn’t so easy when a producer from CNN calls you and wants to use your image.  The first time that happened, I said yes to their offer, and as soon as I got off the phone was kicking myself for not asking a lot higher.

Moving forward, a lot of lessons were learned but in the end just getting beautiful content from unique perspectives.