Henry Jun Wah Lee recently released Ascendance, a short film shot around Joshua Tree and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. We recently had a chance to talk with him about his film.
Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little about yourself.
Henry Jun Wah Lee (HJWL): I’m an international filmmaker based in Los Angeles. I am also a physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In many ways, my films are an extension of my healing work. Being in nature heals the body, mind and soul. Through my films, I hope people discover a new-found appreciation for nature, and get inspired to make their own journeys into the natural world.
KU: Would love to know a little more about the film.
HJWL: Ascendance is a tribute to nature’s unpredictable power and beauty. I originally traveled to Joshua Tree and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest simply to film the Perseid meteor shower. But I encountered so much more.
In Joshua Tree a thunderstorm roared through the desert in the afternoon and evening. As the stars came out overhead, the storm lingered in the distance for hours and provided an amazing lightning show while meteors streaked across the sky.
A few days later, in the Bristlecone Pine Forest, an unexpected rain storm passed to the south and east at sunset. I was able to capture amazing sunset colors as well as a double rainbow. The rain clouds continued to move through as night fell, bringing another incredible display of lightning.
When you are out there, you never know for sure what nature will bring. Always be ready for a magical experience.
KU: The film is absolutely stunning. Can you talk a little about the experience shooting this?
HJWL: Heading out to the two locations, nothing in the weather forecast indicated rain or thunderstorms. I was only expecting clear skies — perfect to film the meteor shower against a background of stars and the Milky Way. So encountering rain and lightning was a pleasant yet uncertain surprise that kept me on my toes. Especially in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, this can be a little dangerous because I’m filming at the top of the mountain with little protection in case of lightning. Luckily, while rain was almost all around, only a few sprinkles landed on my cameras. This allowed me to capture a lightning storm as it passed. As the clouds started to clear and move away, the lightning made for an amazing pairing with meteors and stars.
KU: What was it like using the Kessler gear?
HJWL: I love using Kessler gear because it is well built and dependable. On this film, I used the Pocket Dolly for many of my shots. I’ve taken my pocket dolly to deserts, mountains, beaches and forests. Its been through rain, snow, cold and heat. It has survived airport security, checked luggage and countless miles of travel. And it just keeps on working. I also like the fact that I can use the motion control not just for slow time lapses but also for realtime or slow motion dolly shots. The joystick on the Oracle controller is easy to use and intuitive.
KU: What can we expect next from you?
HJWL: I have a few film destinations on the horizon. Australia and New Zealand this fall. Myanmar and Iceland in the winter.