Whether it is a wall or a ceiling that defines the spatial boundary, the artists at the Sky Factory use the power of unique natural images to confound our expectation for our immediate environment; lying on a linear accelerator table, surrounded by six feet of concrete on all sides, I look up through trees into a stunning blue sky with early morning clouds – and it's so believable!
Even skeptics are lost in the beauty of the high resolution photography and the high definition digital cinematography of natural events that underlie all Sky Factory products.
This is why Sky Factory compositions are best described as biophilic illusions of nature. They deliver the sky's unboundedness and the harmony of natural landscapes where the reality is unavailable – in the heart of the city, behind walls of concrete – Sky Factory brings the vastness of the sky inside.
Enlivening our innate connection to nature – biophilic enlivenment – has well-established benefits for mind and body. This is why Sky Factory only creates images of pure natural beauty without signs of civilization or discernible human intervention – pure nature, even images of pure nature, triggers the most potent biophilic benefits of calm and well-being. Evidence of this philosophy can easily be found west of the Continental Divide.
In America's Great Basin, the low humidity and high altitude is largely responsible for the magic behind the deeper blue hues and rich saturation of the skies. In portions of Eastern Oregon, the amazing range in altitude – from 4,000 ft. to 9,700 ft. – takes place within a mere 20 miles, giving rise to some of the most beautiful and pristine skies anywhere. The atmospheric conditions here are ideal to transmit the healing grandeur of the sky.
This summer a group of Sky Factory artists, photographers and videographers immersed themselves in the changing skies and landscapes of America's high desert. Scouting all day for that undiscovered vantage point from where to quietly observe the way a natural habitat or scene ebbs and flows, each artist was able to contribute to the unique aesthetics of Sky Factory's nature compositions.
Part I – Summer Wetlands
Under the immense skies and wide expanse in eastern Oregon, Sky Factory artists search for beautiful atmospheric conditions at 4,000 ft. above sea level. Ponds, creeks and seasonal lakes here are famous for their concentration and great diversity of wildlife. Hundreds of bird and dozens of mammal species can be observed in their natural habitat using a little bit of stealth, good planning, and the patience to get great footage.
"We aim to record one to two hours of unedited pristine nature," says Radim Schreiber, Sky Factory's award-winning photo/videographer. "When we compose a HD digital cinema shot and press the record button, we remove ourselves entirely from the area to allow the scene to progress uninterrupted. This requires that we observe and record at the same location multiple times. That way, we learn the weather patterns, the movement of the sun, and become aware of wildlife behavior.
"Since we must commit to long recording sessions, we must ensure that our compositions steer clear of the sun's trajectory to prevent lens flares in the image, as well as insure that our camera and audio equipment is set up correctly. We triple check all the fundamentals like the lens's depth of field, tripod mounting, camera exposure, hard drive space, battery life, etc. There's zero room for error in unattended recording since mistakes are costly.
"We also need to remove ourselves from the audio recording sessions to allow the birds to maintain their natural flight trajectories; approaching the filming area rather than circumvent it. Most importantly, without humans present, birds will not change their calls from their usual territorial banter to alert mode.
"As the natural progression from sunset to dusk or from predawn to sunrise gradually moves across the frame, it creates serene transitions of light and shadows that few of us can witness in our daily urban living," adds Radim.
Sky Factory's artists' hard work pays off when patients undergoing radiation treatment, workers in cubicles without views to the outside, or a bed-bound elder experience some peace and well-being by tuning into our installations to witness nature's royal pace. It's an experience of timelessness that's healing and restorative because it reminds us that we are connected to the beauty of the natural environment.
"One night, as we were leaving, we froze in our tracks and witnessed about a hundred white pelicans fly over our heads in their characteristic V formation. We could hear the faint sound of the air as it eddied unseen under their wings," says Radim. "To hear that delicate sound pierce the vastness of that silence was a remarkable highlight of our trip."