Black Oaks, a cinematic study of the prominent deciduous tree in conifer-dominated Yosemite National Park, is newest installment in the highly worthwhile short-film series known as Yosemite Nature Notes.
Park videographer Steve Bumgardner, aka Yosemite Steve (or YS below), shared some thoughts on his latest project, No. 17 in the series, with The REI Blog:
REI: What attracted you to black oaks as a topic for video? What's your attachment to them?
YS: As a recovered Midwesterner [Bumgardner is a Missouri native], I miss the deciduous trees found back east. When I first started spending time in the Sierra Nevada, I quickly bonded with the California black oak since it was the closest thing to the oaks of my childhood.
REI: What was the most surprising or interesting aspect of the trees you learned while shooting?
YS: The more time I spent in the black oak woodlands of Yosemite Valley, the more I realized the connection between these trees and wildlife. If you want to see birds, bears, deer or squirrel in the fall, go to where the acorn is, under the oaks.
REI: It appears you filmed footage in all seasons. When did you begin filming and collecting footing for this episode?
YS: This spring was the first time I started focusing on the black oak, but I'd shot a fair bit of fall color throughout the park last autumn which included a lot of oaks. What I had the least of was winter shots, but I was able to scrape some up.
REI: How many different shoots were involved to gather all the footage shown in the video?
YS: Hard to say, but I'd guess there must have been at least 25 different days that I shot something that you see in this episode.
REI: Where in the park did you do most of your filming?
YS: Yosemite Valley is one of the finest stands of black oak in California, and 90% of the footage in this episode is from the Valley. A few other shots are from up near Crane Flat and along the Tioga Road.
REI: What's the highest elevation where you have found a black oak?
YS: I reckon I've seen black oak up around 8,000 feet or so, but they're usually pretty stunted that high. I think Yosemite Valley [approximately 4,000 feet] has the biggest black oaks that I've ever seen.
REI: What's your favorite season for observing the tree?
YS: Fall is pretty nice on a good year, but for me nothing compares to the wind blowing through the green leaves of an oak tree in the summer. That's one of my favorite things, and again, it probably comes from my childhood, and spending my free summers in the woods of Missouri.
REI: What other memorable impressions did filming this episode leave with you?
YS: In the 20 years I've lived in the Sierra, I've seen hundreds of bedrock mortars that were used for grinding acorns. These holes, along with a few pictographs, remind us about the first people who lived here. Seeing Julia Parker using one of these hole to pound acorns, the way that people did for thousands of years in Yosemite Valley, was an amazing experience that I'm excited to share with others.
REI: What else are you working on?
YS: The next topic for Yosemite Nature Notes is the rock that makes Yosemite the amazing landscape that it is: Granite.
Black oak photo below courtesy of Yosemite Steve.