The Story of Nature Relaxation: A Short Autobiography (with pictures)
Learn how Nature Relaxation owner & founder David Huting discovered his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the challenges and risks he's had along the road to making Nature Relaxation what it is today! (Read time: 30-45 minutes)
Early Years: Growing up in Iowa & Developing My Passion for Nature (1984-2004)
Although one could say that the town of Waterloo, Iowa doesn't quite afford the same amount of inspiration as the mountains that inspired the likes of Ansel Adams, I can vividly remember being in awe of the simple joys of Nature from a very young age: from the trees blossoming in spring to the hundreds of fireflies dancing amid the warm summer nights; from those short yet majestic weeks of autumn's passing to the quiet enveloping calm and peace surrounding a fresh snowfall.
Indeed, I was blessed to be able to enjoy a carefree childhood among the seasons, and my love and appreciation for Nature steadily grew over the course of more than ten years of summer vacations to the glistening lakes and pristine pine forests of Voyageur's National Park, Minnesota. Then, at age 20, I finally obtained my first camera - a little 5 megapixel Olympus digital camera.
one of my first ever photographs, taken on an Olympus 5MP camera:
First Trip Abroad & Discovering My Passion for Photography (2005 - 2006)
College saw me packing my bags and heading to Iowa State University, where I would major in Hotel & Resort Management. It wouldn't be until my junior year at age 20 when I purchased my very first camera, which I promptly invested in after booking a semester abroad to Tasmania, Australia. The camera itself was just a little Casio Exilim 7 megapixel point & shoot, and it was among the first cameras to shoot in video. While my escape to Tasmania would eventually lead me to shoot my first nature video, it was the layover in the islands of Fiji that first intrigued and inspired me to pursue the art of capturing beautiful places on camera. Mesmerized by the remote and exotic beauty surrounding the Yasawa Islands, I quickly discovered that I was a natural at photography. There was one evening in particular that remains with me to this day:
It was late, easily past 2 AM. I lied in my hostel bed at our tiny backpacker resort in the remote, northern area of the Yasawa Islands, unable to sleep due to the hot, sticky air and occasional mosquitoes buzzing by my ears. Restless, I decided to grab my camera and go for a walk out to a nearby beach. I sat there in tropical evening breeze, alone and in complete awe, looking out at the endless lagoons which were illuminated by a sky shimmering with more stars than I'd ever seen before. As I sat there, I felt a strange feeling stir from deep within me, a feeling of excitement and wonder that followed quickly by the instinctive urge to reach for my camera, so that I could attempt to capture the moment. Minutes turned to hours as I laid there fumbling with my tiny tripod and little Casio, transfixed by the tropical night sky, seeking to preserve that fleeting moment of what felt like divine inspiration. While the images themselves were by no means professional, I felt as though something had ignited deep within me, and from that point on I knew that this is where my true passion lie. This is what I wanted to do with my life...
Filming The Very First Nature Relaxation Video in Tasmania - For Selfish Reasons (2006)
After my brief but life-changing experience in the Fiji Islands, I landed in Tasmania, Australia and began a semester in the ruggedly beautiful yet remote island state. It was over the course of my time here that the initial spark of passion for capturing beauty on camera I discovered in Fiji became a full-fledged fire; but for the most part, my focus was only on taking photographs. It wasn't until some friends and I decided to back our bags, rent a car, and journey around the entire island that I decided to try shooting a video.
One morning on the pristine, eastern shores of Tasmania, we awoke in the car to the soothing sound of gentle rocks tumbling as the powerful waves broke at first light. Transfixed by the vivid hues of pinks, purples, oranges and reds, I had yet another instinctive urge - this time to shoot a video. Out came my trusty little Casio and the 6-inch tripod.
But my motivation wasn't exactly unselfish; in fact, it was purely selfish: I wanted to remember this sunrise forever! Plus I knew that shortly after the trip ended I'd be flying back to Iowa just as the depressing winter season would be beginning, and so my inclination was to create a video which would take me back to this idyllic shoreline. In putting the video together in my first attempt on iMovie, I decided I'd pair it with my favorite "sleepy" song by Darshan Ambient, realizing that the combination of waves and ambient music was like a 1-2 knockout punch for my insomnia. Without knowing what exactly I was doing, the first ever Nature Relaxation video was born, which I decided to post on YouTube.
Watch the video from that Tasmania sunrise:
The second video I made from Tasmania - a photography slideshow:
After My First Video Post to YouTube (2006-2007)
Not expecting anything other than to be able to share the video with my friends, I soon was amazed by the heartfelt comments that viewers started to pour in. Comments like "Before listening to it..I didn't realize how much I needed it. I feel completely different after listening to it.. like a pile of stress has been lifted......-now i cant seem to stop watching it!" or "superb, wonderful, this is the way nature shots have to be, nice slow and long shots, i hate it when i look a movie and before the first shot reaches your eye the next shot is already coming, but this... (rated awesome), i wanna see more please you're a natural!" left me intrigued and inspired to continue what I had started! The only problem was now I had to return to finish my last year of college and then find a career!
Back to America And My Waterfall Relaxation Video That Went Viral (2007)
Upon returning to Iowa State, I promptly finished my last year of school, struggling with putting my passion for video on the backburner. As the comments from YouTube kept rolling in, I decided that just before graduating, I would embark on a new adventure - this time seeing me visit a remote and elusive location hidden near the Grand Canyon: the turquoise falls of Havasupai Indian Reservation.
Ready to take things to a new level, I invested in my first true DSLR prior to the trip - the Canon Rebel XTi - and embarked on the 14 mile journey. Rewarded for my efforts, Havasupai was like nowhere I had ever seen before, and it was on this trip that I simultaneously produced my first professional set of images as well as my first true attempt at a Nature Relaxation Video, which swiftly became a YouTube sensation, only further fueling my motivation to do this for a living - only problem was I was just about to graduate with my degree in Hotel Resort Management...
Reality Sets In: Graduating College and Joining Corporate America (2007 -2009)
Upon successfully obtaining my bachelor's degree from Iowa State, I landed my first "big-boy" job, a position as Sales Manager for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. Happy to flee Iowa, I did my six-month training program at the beautiful Coconut Point Resort near Naples, Florida and then transferred to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where I slowly but surely became enamored with the beautiful city and natural beauty that Northern California afforded. As much as I enjoyed wearing a suit & tie, taking a bus to work and kicking back in my own office, the allure of the corporate lifestyle quickly faded.
After only 2 years, re-inspired by the beauty of my new home in the Presidio of San Francisco and by the weekend trips to places like the redwood forests of Muir Woods, the rolling hills and vineyards of Napa Valley, the grandiose granite majesty of Yosemite and the crystal blue lakeshore of Tahoe, I finally decided that I just couldn't settle - the allure of the unknown and the unseen was just too much. So I did the unthinkable: left a high paying & promising long-term career in a down economy, spent all my savings on a professional photography & video filming setup, and moved to the other side of the world on a 1-year working holiday to Sydney, Australia. It was here where I decided I would try and pursue my true passion for exploring & capturing the world's most beautiful places.
The First Two HD Nature Relaxation Videos Produced After Quitting My Corporate Career and investing in the first ever DSLR that shot HD video, the Canon 5D Mark II:
Life Down Under and Landing the "Dream Job" (2012-2014)
It wasn't long after relocating to the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney (near Manly Beach) that I quickly realized I was going to need to find some work to keep my savings from running dry. Struggling to find a position that would utilize my newly acquired set of professional camera gear, I settle for a position as an interior painter. After a few months, eventually I was able to land a position that would at least help grow my expertise in cameras and print production: the store manager of a Kodak Camera store in a small shopping centre. Mundane as though it was, the pay was great, and I was adjusting well to the 38-hour work week and 4 weeks of paid leave that all Australians enjoy. I was doing so well that my employer offered to keep me on long-term and even went so far as to sponsor my visa - meaning I could stay in Australia and eventually obtain my citizenship after working for them for 3 years! But, as fate would have it, just after finishing all the paperwork, I received a new and far more exciting employment opportunity: a paid position as an international destination cinematographer. Coincidentally enough, my first shoot saw me returning to the islands that originally inspired me: Fiji - only this time on a two-week trial shoot to see if I had what it took! Torn between a cozy existence in the Land Down Under and the opportunity to see the world and hone in my skills as a one-man film crew, I did what any 23 year old would have: jumped on the opportunity!
Videos & Images Shot While on My First Paid Shoot to Fiji:(2010)
My Whirlwind Tour As An International Destination Photographer (2010-2011)
Impressed by the results of my trial shoot in Fiji, I was promptly offered a full-time position which would begin with me embarking on a 3-month long adventure through the iconic cities in Europe, such as London, Paris, Nice, Rome, Venice, Prague, Amsterdam, and many more, followed by my return to America, where I would next embark on a 2 1/2 month adventure beginning in the stunning American Southwest. From there, I ventured west to California and up the coast from there, stopping at every national park and major city on the way up to Vancouver, and finally back through the Dakotas to the likes of Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park. I even did a double tour in the awe-inspiring rockies of Canada, beginning in Banff and following along the iconic Icefield Parkway to Jasper, where the mountains seemed to tower higher than anything my eyes had seen before. But although on the surface this position seemed to be the pinnacle position for an adventure-seeker like myself, I began to feel as though I wasn't truly following my passion, which is for Nature - not tourist destinations. While many of the places I toured while filming were magnificently beautiful, I found myself all-too-often stuck filming in shopping malls, zoos, busy city tourist traps and the like. Although I had advanced my technique to an incredible level of speed and steadiness, I felt as though the flame that was my passion was starting to become exhausted. What I did next would leave many asking me..."You did what!?"
A few of the videos I would later produce from the tour:
Quitting the "Dream Job" and Relocating to the Land of Endless Summers (2011-2012)
Upon completing my whirlwind tours spanning a good majority of Europe, the West Coast of the USA, and several locations in between, I found myself ready to take my pack off and stay in one place for a little while. So when winter's first frost showed it's freezing face in Iowa - where I was resting in between my travels - I decided to throw everything I owned into my Ford Explorer ("Eddie") and head to the land of endless summers: San Diego.
Partially because I was seeking a city better than San Francisco and Sydney, and partially because my twin brother was already living out there - I headed west and never looked back! Upon arriving, I quickly fell in love with the southern California lifestyle.
But it wasn't long until I was informed that my travels were due to begin again, and the next tour was shaping up to make my first tour look like a walk in the park: the company I was shooting for wanted me to get ready for a 3-year-long tour of the top 50 cities in the world! Offered a position that most would do nearly anything for, I once again did the unthinkable: I quit! Burnt out on shopping malls and Sea World, I decided that I'd instead try and pursue my passion for Nature instead. Founding Nature Relaxation and Epic Wall Art: And Recognizing the Healing Powers of Nature Video (2012)
Upon declining a position that many would give anything for, I found a place in South Mission Beach, invested in a new iMac, and purchased the domains www.NatureRelaxation.com and www.EpicWallArt.com. Thanks to the huge collection of videos and images I was sitting on from around the world, I decided that I would attempt to create one website to share and sell my high definition nature videos, and another to sell my high-resolution images in the form of epic-sized wall art. This was in 2011. Since that time, it's been a never ending roller coaster ride, filled with its share of ups and downs - but mainly ups.
After enjoying a nice sales boost by Groupon for Epic Wall Art, I started to lose focus on Nature Relaxation, until being approached by various companies in the healthcare industry. Approaching me with the compliments that my work was the best they could find, I soon found myself shifting gears and editing long-play videos designed for patients in hospitals! Not only did the hospitals love it, but so did my fans on YouTube - once again I found myself amazed by the response!
Biking the California Coast, Conquering Kauai's Napali Coastline, and 3 Months Living In Fiji Later... (2013)
At this time in my life I was feeling extra motived for some adventure - so adventure I did seek! Instead of making this the world's longest biography, I will share some of the videos I produced during these travels:
View my signature 5.5 hour A Day in the Napali Coast Trail, filmed after hiking the Kalalau Trail:
The Beautiful Hidden Islands of Northern Fiji (of which I have only released a portion of the content from):
Pioneering Ambient Nature Videos in 4K Ultra High Definition (2014) As with all technology, what is new becomes old very quickly. Surprisingly though, my trusty Canon 5D Mark II served me my entire career up until mid 2014, with the release of the Canon 1-DC, which delivered on the latest and greatest in video resolution: 4K. Although carrying a hefty pricetag I could barely afford (it was $10,000 just for the body!), I knew that to remain on top of the Nature video scene, I needed to upgrade. And so I did. The results - although limited primarily to my home state of California for the time being - spoke for themselves and helped lay the foundation for what has now become our signature product - 4K Ultra High Definition relaxation videos.
A Preview of the first 4K Nature Relaxation Videos (be sure and load in 4K)
EXPANDING THE 4K NATURE RELAXATION LIBRARY QUICKLY (2014-2016)
Little did I know it at the time, but my early jump on pioneering ambient Nature films in 4K UHD created quite a lot of buzz and momentum. It quickly became evident - to me and to many others - that the market for ambient nature films was only expanding with the onvent of 4K TVs and large LED installations in most new businesses.
So upon confirming this belief which was validated after filming with the Canon 1-DC in California, I quickly used my nearly maxed-out credit card (while I was beginning to earn some income at that time, I was in still debt more than $30,000 in credit cards which I used to help launch Nature Relaxation and fund gear/trips) to self-fund some trips to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Banff,Oahu, and South America - including a one month trek to Iguazu Falls, Patagonia, and Salar De Uyuni among other places. I was in debt up to my ears, but the content I returned with was world-class and therefore worth it!
ENTERING THE STREAMING VIDEO SUBSCRIPTION MARKET BEFORE IT WAS A "THING" (2015-2016)
In 2015, internet speeds were just finally catching up to the huge amount of bandwidth required to steadily stream 4K video. After initially forming the Nature Relaxation business model around selling videos as instant digital downloads & DVDs, I quickly realized that convenience was of utmost importance to viewers (myself included). Also, I learned the hard way that selling digital video files left most customers confused with how to get them to playback properly on their TV and other screens.
Therefore, I partnered with the best developer I could find - VHX (Now owned by Vimeo) and Nature Relaxation On-Demand was born, as a web-only subscription service for $5.99 per month.
RISE OF THE DRONES & SWITCHING TO SONY (2016-2017)
Similar to when 4K Ultra High Definition first came out, there was a new buzz in town - and for good reason: aerial cinematography thanks to drones by DJI. When the Phantom 1 first came out, it had a mount to attach to a GoPro 4 and there was no way to view what you were filming in the sky - very basic. While I purchased one right away, after being thoroughly unimpressed by the technology and quality of the video (very shaky and fisheye), I proceeded to let mine collect dust in a closet in San Diego.
At the same time, Sony was releasing more and more new mirrorless DLSR cameras - and with the release of the now infamous A7RII, I decided it was finally make the switch from Canon. So I reinvested nearly all of my earnings from selling content once again - this time into a bundle which included some of their Grand Master lenses for maximum quality. I then proceeded to self fund trips to the Caribbean and New Zealand, which helped further expand the Nature Relaxation content library.
THE RETURN TO FIJI & THE FIRST EVER AERIAL 1 HOUR NATURE FILM (2017)
At last, DJI had finally released a drone that was capable of producing similarly high quality 4K videos - the Inspire1 X5. Without any previous knowledge of flying drones (other than a failed attempt with the Phantom1), I promptly purchased their top-end model and booked a return trip to the islands that originally inspired me, determined to capture them from above.
Despite the overwhelmingly massive size of the drone and backpack, and the risks of packing them on the tiny boats needed to reach the outer islands, I was successful in completing a Yasawa Islands trip and proceeded to release what was at the time the first ever feature-length ambient nature film produced with a drone in 4K. It quickly reached 1M views, and from there on I could never quite look at ground-based cinematography the same. My horizons were expanded.
View the film "Above the Fiji Islands":
THE RISE OF THE APPS (2017-2018)
Thanks to the expansion of the development team for Nature Relaxation On-Demand with the acquisition of VHX by Vimeo, our development team was able to offer convenient mobile apps and apps for TVs. This includes iOS, Android, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon FireTV, AndroidTV (and now most recently in 2019 Samsung TV). This only helped make bringing Nature Relaxation videos to people's devices easier and more convenient, and thus aligning perfectly with the original vision I had for Nature Relaxation - to reconnect people with Nature more often.
TAKING AERIAL CINEMATOGRAPHY TO GREATER & GREATER HEIGHTS (2017-2019)
After realizing the success of my 1 hour Fiji Islands film, I quickly realized this was going to take things to a while new level (literally). My head was spinning with all of the possibilities, and that combined with inspiration thanks to continual support from YouTube and our licensing clients around the world created the perfect recipe for more and even better Nature Relaxation Aerial Films. Additionally, I began collaborations with some very talented filmmakers - Stefan Zimmerman, Peter Schneider, and Noel Thomas and more which helped us expand the overall content library faster without sacrificing quality. One video in particular caught fire on YouTube - Flying Over Norway - and to this day is still our most-viewed video, approaching 10M views in less than 2 years.
View Flying Over Norway:
Upon the success of Norway and our other Signature Aerial Films, I had the idea to combine many of the most popular films together into extended length, seamless compilation films. The first attempt at this was and still is a huge hit - Earth From Above - with nearly 6 million views in just one year!
View Earth From Above:
2020 AND BEYOND:
(To Be Updated)
MY FAVORITE QUOTES I READ WHEN IN NEED OF INSPIRATION:
All-time favorite: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."-Mark Twain"
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." -John Muir