I love Orange County Parks! I actually completed two videos for them for the Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center.
The first video, “Caspers Wilderness Park: Orange County’s Treasure,” was completed in 2005 and won Telly awards in the Environmental, Cinematography, and Government Relations categories. It was a pleasure to make!
Times change, and in 2011 I completed, “Caspers Wilderness Park: Find Your Place in Nature,” to replace the 2005 video for the Nature Center. It was wonderful to be back at the park and meet new staff and volunteers!
After completing the videos, I had hours of footage on the cutting room floor, so I decided to make an 11 minute video montage (just video and music) to capture the beauty and serenity of the park.
And I love still photography. With more than 4,000 stills, I decided to put some together and created a 9 minute slideshow. Just images and music. Again, capturing the essence of my time at Caspers Wilderness Park.
The Making of the Caspers Wilderness Park Videos
Caspers Wilderness Park is an amazing place! You wouldn’t believe that it’s part of Orange County. It’s over eight thousand acres of protected wilderness just 7 miles from San Juan Capistrano. With 35 miles of trails, it’s a perfect place for hiking and camping, and gives you an experience of what this part of California used to be like.
I took the iconic photo above from a helicopter piloted by an amazing guy (an environmentalist!) whose day job was working as a Hollywood stunt pilot for the camera crews. He flew barefoot and was nice enough to remove my door. What an adventure!
Lee Waian and Steelhead Trout
I was actually working on a project to help my friend, Lee Waian, at the time. Lee had retired as the Chair of the Environmental Studies Department at Saddleback Community College, and was passionate about steelhead trout.
Once abundant in San Juan Creek, the steelhead had been declared extinct in Southern California, but one of Lee’s students actually documented their existence in a nearby stream.
In order to move Lee’s project forward, it was essential to document the conditions of San Juan Creek and Trabuco Creek and any potential obstacles steelhead would face on their migration inland from the ocean. Lee found the helicopter and pilot and my job was to get the footage.
It was Lee’s dream to see steelhead in Orange County again some day – a hope many of us share.
Introduction to Caspers Wilderness Park
I had never been to Caspers Park, and Lee spent lots of time there. I joined him for a day, and learned lots about the park and its residents. I was immediately at home – Cliff Swallows were nesting at the entry booth. A good sign!
At that time, I was ready for a new project and the park needed to update the video shown in the Nature Center. Perfect timing!
The rangers (John Gannaway, Donna Krucki, and Stan Bengtson) all had their turn showing me around and introducing me to some of their favorite places.
I learned where the hawk nests were, and where the owls hung out during the day. They are invisible unless you REALLY look into some of the tree cavities.
I was able to watch countless avian parents raise their chicks – hawks and cactus wrens and acorn woodpeckers and cliff swallows and quail … I considered myself blessed to witness such devotion.
And as luck would have it, Pete Bloom and his research assistants were at the park banding hawk chicks. He is an internationally respected wildlife biologist, specializing in raptors. He travels throughout the world to consult with other countries about conservation issues and does amazing work. It was an honor to hang out with him and his group.
One of my most exciting times on this project was actually getting usable acorn woodpecker footage. These little guys are all over the park and they are very charismatic. But every time I got my long lens all set up, they would fly away … and laugh at me! It was a great game for awhile! But I finally got shots of them rearranging acorns and feeding their chicks. Gotta love these guys!
I was also thrilled to get a great bobcat shot.
They are such beautiful creatures, and to catch one napping in a great oak in the afternoon sun … magical!
And it was always exciting to get shots of front ends of deer. There are lots of deer in the park (and where there are deer, there can also be mountain lions …), but by the time I got my gear ready, my shots were mostly their rear ends as they moved away. The bonus was that they didn’t laugh out loud at me, like the Acorn Woodpeckers did!
I always looked forward to the Campfire Shows and the Sunday morning Nature Walks with the Rangers. There was always something new to learn about the park and all its special residents! And each changing season offered a new lesson about the park and the web of life it supports.
I learned so much about the native plants, and I fell in love with the new pink buckwheat buds … and the poppies … and the lilies …
I was blessed to meet so many great people – staff and volunteers and park visitors – who love the park and are committed to preserving this amazing place for future generations to experience and enjoy. And I’m grateful to Orange County Parks for giving me the opportunity to honor the wild things at Caspers Wilderness Park!