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IMAX film takes a big-screen tour through stunning national parks

By Bryan Alexander | Gannett News Service

The National Park Service is getting the perfect present for its 100th anniversary in 2016: its very own stunning 3-D IMAX film highlighting national treasures.

“National Parks Adventure,” opening Feb. 12 at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, will take viewers on what director Greg MacGillivray calls the ultimate off-trail adventure through many of the nation’s most beautiful wild parks, narrated by environmentalist filmmaker Robert Redford.

“There have been films about the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park,” says MacGillivray. “But an overall film about the national parks waited until this 100th anniversary. It’s now so much more poignant and meaningful, and celebrating 100 years is a wonderful thing.”

The film follows world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker, his adventure photographer stepson Max Lowe and artist Rachel Pohl as they rock climb, mountain climb and hike through Utah’s Arches, Canyonlands and Zion national parks.

MacGillivray also utilized time-lapse camera crews, a helicopter camera and a 3-D IMAX camera to gloriously depict more than 30 national parks over 400 shooting days on rich IMAX 15/70 film.

“The big thing about this kind of photography, as Ansel Adams would tell you, is patience,” says MacGillivray. “You have to get to the place and figure out what kind of shot you want. And then you wait for the lighting, the clouds and all the conditions to be right. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t.”Featured parks include some of the most famous locations in the world: Yellowstone, the Everglades, the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon. But “National Parks Adventure” also showcases relatively undiscovered gems such as the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in upper Michigan.

Shooting this winter landscape required snowmobile trekking and two weeks of frigid work. But the ice-filled scenes were so spectacular that they became the film’s end sequence.

“It was completely unexpected and incredibly beautiful. The lake is frozen, so it had this stark and arctic feeling,” says Anker, who ice climbed the area. “Normally, you’re either thinking Yellowstone or Glacier National Park, but to see this kind of ice beauty in the Midwest is truly a treat. It’s wonderful to bring it into the national park conversation.”