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Seeing National Parks through New Eyes

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Jay Strojnowski
Jay Strojnowski has a particular interest in relatively unexplored aesthetic approach to photography and filming.

Situated just half an hour north of the American University (AU) campus on the Potomac River is the magnificent National Park that is Great Falls. Among DC area locals, the cascades and surrounding woods are a treasure. And to AU School of Communication (SOC) Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholar Jay Strojnowski, it’s the ideal spot to launch a revolution in wildlife film.

According to Strojnowski, Great Falls is “incredibly inspirational because it has the three main characters, which are earth, sky, and water. Those aren’t always readily available in all National Parks.” This inspiration and his interest in unexplored visual aesthetics have led him to pursue an experimental environmental film about the area – ALL RED: Great Falls National Park.

The project will be filmed entirely on raw video with infrared cameras. Shooting in raw video is appealing as it allows for increased manipulation of the footage, which is attractive to Strojnowski, a trained colorist. The infrared cameras are full spectrum, meaning they expose ultraviolet, natural, and infrared light. Strojnowski and his team use filters to regulate the amount of natural light to the shot in order to create unique effects.

This isn’t the only kind of experimental and atypical film technology that Strojnowski has worked with. He describes himself as an early adopter, having used 50-foot masts to take aerial photographs before drones took over. He traces his interest in unique perspectives to being “in heart and soul” a still photographer who uses the technique to tell a story. “I just love the adventure element,” Strojnowski says, of exploring unique aesthetics and unusual technologies.

Strojnowski has come to AU from Corcoran College, where he received his MA in New Media. He is currently working on an MFA to refine his storytelling skills, and to be able to serve as an adjunct professor and a colorist. Prior to his career in film and storytelling, he was an intelligence officer in the military and Department of Defense. He says the people in the Center for Environmental Filmmaking brought him to SOC, as well as the inspiration that he finds in the natural world.

ALL RED: Great Falls National Park, is just the first step in an ambitious plan for Strojnowski. He would ultimately like to solicit funding for a series of infrared films exploring major National Parks across the country, like Yosemite. These films would be a gateway for those who have never visited the parks, and those familiar with the parks could view them from a new perspective. In his opinion, telling the story of the National Parks is well served by the medium of film because of its ability to offer light, color, and motion. Because our primal brains are hardwired to constantly search for visual contrast, a good filmmaker can leverage the aesthetic quality to really hold on to a viewer’s attention.

Infrared Test 720nm Great Falls from Jay Strojnowski on Vimeo.