Best of the Northwest Cinematography 101 - Best of the Northwest Best of the Northwest

Best of the Northwest Cinematography 101

 Top 10 Shots that Make a BOTNW Trails Video



Filming with kid in-tow. Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River Oct 29, 2005

Filming with kid in-tow. Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River Oct 29, 2005

We love getting out on the trails year-round.  In 10+ years of carting video cameras from smart phones to high end cameras through Washington trails.  These are some tips we picked up along the way of how to get the best footage of your outdoor adventures.

I remember taking my first camcorder out with our twin babies.  Excited to capture every moment I filmed too much and tried to get every spectacular vista in one shot.  The result ended up being jerky pans and too much bad footage.  Over time I started to think of using a video camera more like a still camera.  Planning each shot with a specific intent helped to frame the shots while avoiding the dreaded “Blair Witch Effect.”  150 trail videos later and I started to notice a pattern of shots that all edited well together giving unique perspectives to the nature and feeling of a trail at a specific time of year.  Slowing down with the kids and seeing plant and details of nature through lenses I found to be rewarding and an enriching part of each outing.

In video, no one stand alone shot is everything.   Capturing vignettes of each experience in a variety of shots, angles, and perspectives edited together can effectively demonstrate the nature of the trail experience.  Before you pack up and head out make sure to be familiar with your camera equipment and make it accessible as you are moving, so it is easy to get out without being too disruptive to the hiking experience.  I like to pack a GoPro in a front pocket and a small digital SLR that isn’t too bulky to run  with.


How to capture the top 10 shots used in a Best of the NW trail video.

When edited with peppy music and an iconic voice over giving a short narrative we are well on our way to coaxing viewers off their couches and onto the trails.

  1. The Hero Establishing Shot – Long still shot goes underneath the logo build to demonstrate what makes that objective unique.
  2. Where Are We – Short depth-of-field close up Trailhead sign with subjects passing by in the background to give interest.  Helps to identify the correct start of the trail.
  3. The Down Low – On the ground perspective of foot passing by to give the texture and character of the trial surface.
  4. Setting the Scene – Wide wrap-around shot shows more of the landscape and scenery, giving context to the environment of the trail.  Works well as fast-forward of subjects moving on trail contours through the frame.

Alternates for setting the scene include Ariel perspectives: drone, hot air balloon or helicopter shot where available and legally permissible.

  1. The Jean Kirby – Close-up slow pan flower, plant or animal detail shot.
    Taking time to smell the flowers.
  2. The Switchback – Going and coming around a switch back shortening of space achieved by use of Long-lens.
  3. Point of View – The herky-jerky action shot, make them short and make them count, Go Pro mounted on head, chesty, handle bars or anything.  Use sparingly to achieve sense of movement and action.  Over do it and get the dreaded “Blair Witch” effect.  Fun to shoot, not fun to watch.
  4. The Red Riding Hood – Close up detail of obscuring rock or tree to reveal to subjects moving off into the distance.
  5. The Jaques Cousteau – Underwater Reveal upward tilt from beneath through the water surface to reveal the landscape above.
  6. We Have Arrived – Wide-angle slow landscape pan of destination or scenic overlook.

Tilt-shift and time-lapse techniques are time consuming to create, but are welcome footage submissions as well.

That’s about it.

Look for future video footage collaboration requests.

Lets get out the door and explore the Best of the NW!

Other locations that belong in Best of the NW.

Looking for Footage Contributions on these classic trails for upcoming BOTNW videos:

Day Hikes
•  Point No Point, Salish Sea

•  Norway Pass, Mount St Helens

•  Cape Flattery, Olympic Pennisula

•  Robe Canyon, Mountain Loop Highway

•  Lake 22, Mountain Loop Highway

•  Surprise Creek, Stevens Pass

•  Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades

•  Cutthroat Pass, North Cascades

•  Image Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness

•  Grove of the Patriachs, Mount Rainier

•  Palisades, Mount Rainier

We welcome other suggestions as well.

Alpine Traverses
•  Tatoosh Traverse, Rainier

•  Ptarmigan Traverse, North Cascades

Chiwakum Traverse, Stevens Pass


Email: for more details on submitting footage.

HD 1280×720 Video files: MPEG, MOV are preffered.

Please zip video clips 3-5 second each and upload to to

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