Photographer Julian Bialowas teamed up with the filmmakers of TRUE MVMNT to traverse four states in four days: CA, UT, AZ, and CO. Over the course of their short journey, they stopped to marvel at and document the beauty of some of the country’s most infamous national parks through their various art forms. The result: stunning images and an unforgettable video that will inspire you to discover these landmarks yourself.
Describe “Four in Four”? What does it stand for?
Four in Four is a collaboration between myself and TRUE MVMNT (a collaboration between filmmakers Shara Esbenshade and Wes Walker). Together, we decided to explore four states in four days: California, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.
What was the inspiration behind the trip and what did you hope to accomplish?
I love trips that don’t require a lot of forethought; they usually result in tons of new and unexpected discoveries. I go on a lot of weekend adventures with friends and usually, the only piece we plan is our final destination. In my opinion, as soon as you start “over-planning” – things like researching and booking tours – the magic of travel and exploration is lost. G.K. Chesterton said it best: “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
In embarking on Four in Four, we had three main goals: 1) to go as far and to see as much as we could over the course of 4 days; 2) to capture photos that exhibited the beauty of those places as vibrantly as we saw it; and 3) to share what we felt – not just what we saw – through our respective art forms.
Describe your route.
We traveled through the night from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park. We arrived just in time for sunrise, then hiked Zabriskie Point, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin. From Death Valley, we headed straight to Utah, driving through the night again.
We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park just in time for sunrise. Once the golden light started to fade, we headed south to the Grand Canyon. There, we had a few hours to relax, explore and shoot the sunset before packing ourselves back into the car to drive to the city of Page, AZ.
In Page, we hiked to Horseshoe Bend and then headed off to explore two slot canyons on the area, Antelope Canyon and Canyon X. From there, we drove back into Utah and stopped at Monument Valley to shoot the sunset. After dark, it was back in the car en route to Durango, Colorado. Durango was the last stop on my journey – I flew back to San Francisco the next morning. Shara and Wes stayed in Durango for another couple of weeks.
It was a whirlwind trip, but it was amazing. In total, we drove just over 1600 miles over the course of the 4 days.
Was there a moment in particular that stood out for you?
Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Like most iconic tourist destinations, it’s hard to escape the crowds—and the wall of photographers with tripods at every viewpoint. We decided to hike out to a more isolated spot hoping to find solitude; alas, there were about 10 other people who had had the same idea. I felt disappointed not to have our own space; however, just as the sun started to disappear behind the horizon, something special happened: everyone went silent. We all stood still as statues to take in the grand sunset and it turned out to be an amazing shared experience, not only between all of us, but between all of us and the incredible surrounding landscape.
Describe the making of the film. What did you hope to accomplish by using both photography and video for this project?
Most popular imagery of nature takes the human being out of it; indeed, much of society has come to think of nature as separate from ourselves, and from our modern lives. Wes, Shara and I wanted to erase this dividing line: we wanted to share epic natural locations and not pretend that we weren’t there reflecting on them. To us, the connection between a photographer and his/her environment is as beautiful and endlessly fascinating as is the natural setting itself.
We wanted to make sure that we focused on this connection in both the photography and the film. Additionally, we wanted to create something that would transport the viewer to the various locations we visited in a visceral way. Editing and sound design were huge elements in making that happen.