Sick Video Uses Full Moon As Backdrop During A Highline Walk

Adventurer Dean Potter is the subject of a Nat Geo project called "The Man Who Can Fly". For part of this project, filmmaker Bryan Smith with shooter Michael Schaefer worked on this stunning clip of Dean doing a highline walk in Yosemite with the moon filling the sky. Read on to find out how he got such an amazing perspective.

Bryan says he used a camera with an 800mm Canon lens with a 2x extender, and had to position himself over one mile away. The planning and execution for this clip is really amazing, and the results show it.

Below is the 48 minute piece by Nat Geo about Dean Potter, "The Man Who Can Fly."

[Via This Is Colossal]

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How is this real.... I dont understand how using a zoom lens could possibly give you a massive view of the moon while the subject still appears a normal size... I guess I never attempted this kind of super telephoto work before it just boggles my mind.

Focal length changes perspective. Generally it is teach that changes the factions of the person, better with tele, distorted with wide angle. But it also changes the perspective of the subject with what its around him. 

You probably have seen a shot of someone with a very wide lens, the relationship between the persona and what is beside him is crazy. He looks of normal size, and everything behind him looks small. That is a typical effect done with wide angle lenses. Things behind the person looks small and far away.

Obviously you get the exact opposite effect when using a tele lens. Things behind the person/subject looks closer than what they really are. Of course you add something that shows us that are far away. Depth of field blurs the background. But if you manage to not blur the background, things in the background would look bigger than what they are. Here are the typical photos that show the effect:

Check the last row of pictures, those at f22, 27 and 32. See how by changing the focal length, the wider, the chairs at the back look small, and with 200mm, the chairs look close to the girl.

Another example:
Ignore the 2 with blured background, Check those that say A and B. See how the red car looks far with the wide lens, and looks close with the tele lens. Of course this ilution works with a wide depth of field. The moment the background blurs we know it is far away, but if everything is in focus (with a very small aperture) you have this effect.

Photographers in studio use this to be able to have a smaller background. With a tele, you dont need a big background, you need one just a bit bigger than the model. With a wider lens, you would probably need a bigger background to get all in the frame.

So, this is what is done here. A tele, with a very small aperture, to get this effect.

I don't know how I've gone so long having absolutely no idea about this....

Jens Marklund's picture

Yeah, that moon is huge. And you can easily see how it moves.

I wonder what focal length was used here. Probably some 800mm...

To quote the article you just read (you didn't read it, did you...):

"Bryan says he used a camera with an 800mm Canon lens with a 2x extender"

Guilty as charged :D

i get the focal length performance what I have trouble wrapping my head around is the lighting and focus aspect.  What kind of fstop/iso would keep the moon well exposed and also the walls of the rocks?  Technically this is gorgeous and I could care less about the dude doing the rope walk...  

Approximately full moon at moonrise = the sun is just setting/has just set behind you. If there are clouds overhead/behind, you'll also get much more light from the sun even after it has set.

800mm + 2x extender = f/11 max. If you've ever shot the moon, you know that you can easily shoot this at ISO 100/200 with a slow shutter. The moon is actually pretty bright.

It is the foreground element detail/lighting that had me most puzzled. The setting sun had to have been radiating light. Good analysis.

I love what nerds we are not even acknowledging dean potter gettin all nasty... but how it was shot :P

I've been a huge fan of Dean Potter's climbing since 2000.  Slacklining at that height without a safety tether takes HUGE cajones and huge skill, but this is a guy who solos the Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite and flies with a wingsuit in wild locations.  He's from another planet.  To have his talent combined with this great concept and have it all executed so incredibly well is a big accomplishment.  Congrats to all involved and thanks to fStoppers for putting it out there.