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  • Neal Barenblat

Storytelling at Mount Rainier

Updated: Feb 20

Using visuals to push a story forward is arguably the most important part of filmmaking. Photography is an excellent form of practice for that, as every picture taken tells some kind of story. For reference, check out any Stanley Kubrick film. Every frame is art.


One day I was attempting to organize a large amount of photos. and I came across several Rainier pictures that I'd simply ignored previously.

The Shadow of Rainier, from 13,500'

The Rainier trip was an interesting event in its own right, and a direct result of video projects. Last year I bartered with a guide and friend, Lhawang Dhondup for his guiding services, and in exchange I'd fly to Berkeley to film and edit his wedding. He and his wife, Dhonga, are both from Nepal, so they incorporated quite a bit of tradition into the big day.


Lhawang and Dhonga, wedding day

She also came climbing with us, which made the experience all the more spectacular.



I've also previously climbed with Lhawang on a number of occasions. I met him in 2016 at Denali basecamp while working for GoPro, and then again in 2018 climbing in Peru filming a documentary, both projects involving Tyler Armstrong.


Trailer for the 2018 documentary:



When I'm doing any sort of photography I'm never thinking too hard - just trying to capture what looks beautiful in the moment. With a fresh set of eyes, though, I started to see motifs in some of the most aesthetically interested photos that I had in front of me, and those motifs told a story.


The lone wanderer, and natural windows. Several photos featured a hiker all alone surrounded by the endless vastness of nature. The windows are clouds that break just enough - and with an enclosed shape - to reveal mountains.


The more I thought about it while I was editing these photos, the more I began to realize that, while I don't consciously think about the stories I'm telling while I'm photographing, the photographs I take do inherently tell stories that can often reflect how I feel about the world in that moment.



In his book "In the Blink of an Eye", Walter Murch lists what he believes to be the most important aspects of editing, in order. They are:


1. Emotion

2. Story

3. Rhythm

4. Eye Trace

5. Two Dimensional Plane of Screen

6. Three Dimensional Space


Forget the last three. The first three are so important. Without an emotional investment in whatever you are putting in front of peoples' faces, the story doesn't matter. Nobody cares about something that is devoid of emotion.



The lone wanderer represents how one may feel while traveling down the road not taken; alone on a mission, without the knowledge or experience of those before him or her. The lone wanderer is exploring new physical and emotional terrain.


The windows into landscapes are the tiny moments that we have into things that are further than our immediate vision...the end goal. How does one get there? Perhaps combining the two ideas, one could tell the story of a man or woman, alone, exploring new worlds and paths to get somewhere, to do something.


And what better place to tell visual stories than at Mt. Rainier.



Weapons Used:


- Sony A7iii

- Tamron 28 - 75 f2.8

- Adobe Lightroom


Full documentary, Reaching for the Andes:




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