Haunting Video of Māmane at Kohala
A new time-lapse video captured by photographer and filmmaker Gary Yost will surely give you “chicken skin.”
Yost has been taking pictures for 40 years (much of them while also working as a software developer), and today he is a photography teacher as well as a budding filmmaker. His work with time-lapse photography led him to create “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout,” a short film that went viral last year. And while it’s certainly worth watching, his latest video is especially striking… and will surely resonate with people in Hawaii.
“Hawaiian Tree Bones” is a time-lapse video filmed with an infra-red sensor, which instantly adds an otherworldly quality to the images. But the subjects are equally remarkable: “skeletons” of māmane trees, an endangered Hawaiian species found at high altitudes. Once used for wood (including to make land sleds), the tree’s survival is vital to the survival of the critically endangered Palila bird. As Yost notes, both the tree and bird were part of a landmark court ruling in which the two species were the plaintiffs.
The māmane trees captured in Yost’s video died long ago, but their remains now serve as stark monuments to their once abundant past. Like ghosts, they haunt the cattle grazing fields that were their undoing, standing still as time and clouds swirl and pass above.
“I obtained permission from the folks at Parker Ranch on the Big Island this summer to create a short film about the amazingly beautiful Māmane tree skeletons on their property,” Yost tells me. “These Māmane trees are reminiscent of the ancient Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains in California, and I fell in love with them years ago.”
The music in the video is an ancient Hawaiian chant, “Ku’u wahine i ka ua ‘Ulalena,” by Charles Albert Manu’alkohanaiki’illili Boyd. And if that’s not enough to stir your soul, Yost added a finishing touch to his film, combining the time-lapse imagery with slow-motion infrared video of “an ancient [Hawaiian] akua,” or spirit.
“To me, these tree bones, which only exist in Hawaii, are a powerful metaphor for how the endemic ecology of the islands has been altered by time and events,” Yost explains. “It has been an honor to make this document of such powerful ancient tree spirits.”
Watch the video, and read Yost’s notes on how and why it was created, on Vimeo.