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TEDxSF

Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

June 11, 2011

Nature’s beauty can be easily missed -- but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day. (Filmed at TEDxSF.)

Louie Schwartzberg - Filmmaker
Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life -- revealing connections, universal rhythms, patterns and beauty. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
When I graduated UCLA, I moved to northern California,
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and I lived in a little town called Elk
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on the Mendocino coast,
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and I didn't have a phone or TV, but I had U.S. mail,
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and life was good back then, if you could remember it.
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I'd go to the general store for a cup of coffee
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and a brownie, and I'd ship my film
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to San Francisco, and lo and behold, two days later,
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it would end up on my front door,
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which was way better than having to fight the traffic
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of Hollywood. (Music)
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I didn't have much money,
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but I had time and a sense of wonder. (Music)
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So I started shooting time-lapse photography.
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It would take me a month to shoot a four-minute
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roll of film, because that's all I could afford.
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I've been shooting time-lapse flowers continuously,
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non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,
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for over 30 years, and to see them move
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is a dance I'll never get tired of.
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Their beauty immerses us with color, taste, touch.
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It also provides a third of the food we eat.
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(Music)
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Beauty and seduction is nature's tools for survival,
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because we protect what we fall in love with.
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It opens our hearts, and makes us realize
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we are a part of nature and we're not separate from it.
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When we see ourselves in nature, it also connects us
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to every one of us, because it's clear
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that it's all connected in one.
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When people see my images, a lot of times they'll say,
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"Oh my God." Have you ever wondered what that meant?
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The "oh" means it caught your attention,
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makes you present, makes you mindful.
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The "my" means it connects with something deep
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inside your soul.
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It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up
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and be heard. And "God"?
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God is that personal journey we all want to be on,
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to be inspired, to feel like we're connected to a universe
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that celebrates life.
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Did you know that 80 percent
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of the information we receive comes through our eyes?
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And if you compare light energy to musical scales,
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it would only be one octave that the naked eye could see,
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which is right in the middle?
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And aren't we grateful for our brains that can, you know,
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take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy
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to create images in order for us to explore our world?
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And aren't we grateful that we have hearts
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that can feel these vibrations
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in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure
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and the beauty of nature?
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(Music)
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Nature's beauty is a gift that cultivates
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appreciation and gratitude.
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(Music)
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So I have a gift I want to share with you today,
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a project I'm working on called Happiness Revealed,
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and it'll give us a glimpse into that perspective
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from the point of view of a child and an elderly man
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of that world.
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Child: When I watch TV,
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it's just some shows that you just -- that are pretend,
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and when you explore, you get
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more imagination than you already had,
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and when you get more imagination,
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it makes you want to go deeper in
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so you can get more and see beautifuller things,
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like the path, if it's a path, it could lead you to a beach,
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or something, and it could be beautiful.
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(Music)
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Elderly Man: You think this is just another day in your life?
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It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you
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today.
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It's given to you. It's a gift.
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It's the only gift that you have right now,
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and the only appropriate response
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is gratefulness.
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If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response
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to the great gift that this unique day is,
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if you learn to respond
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as if it were the first day in your life
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and the very last day,
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then you will have spent this day very well.
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Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised
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that you have eyes you can open,
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that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us
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for pure enjoyment.
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Look at the sky.
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We so rarely look at the sky.
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We so rarely note how different it is
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from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going.
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We just think of the weather,
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and even with the weather, we don't think of
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all the many nuances of weather.
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We just think of good weather and bad weather.
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This day, right now, has unique weather,
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maybe a kind that will never exactly
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in that form come again.
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That formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same
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as it is right now.
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Open your eyes. Look at that.
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Look at the faces of people whom you meet.
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Each one has an incredible story behind their face,
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a story that you could never fully fathom,
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not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors.
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We all go back so far,
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and in this present moment, on this day,
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all the people you meet, all that life from generations
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and from so many places all over the world
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flows together and meets you here
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like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.
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(Music)
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Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization
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gives to us.
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You flip a switch and there is electric light.
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You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water,
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and drinkable water.
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It's a gift that millions and millions in the world
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will never experience.
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So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts
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to which we can open your heart.
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And so I wish you that you will open your heart
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to all these blessings, and let them flow through you,
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that everyone whom you will meet on this day
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will be blessed by you,
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just by your eyes,
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by your smile,
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by your touch,
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just by your presence.
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Let the gratefulness overflow
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into blessing all around you,
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and then it will really be a good day. (Music)
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(Applause)
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Louie Schwartzberg: Thank you.
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Thank you very much. (Applause)
09:34
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Louie Schwartzberg - Filmmaker
Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life -- revealing connections, universal rhythms, patterns and beauty.

Why you should listen

Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer whose career spans more than four decades of providing breathtaking imagery using his time-lapse, high-speed and macro cinematography techniques. Schwartzberg tells stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries and wisdom of nature, people and places.

Schwartzberg's recent theatrical releases include the 3D IMAX film, Mysteries of the Unseen World with National Geographic, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and the documentary Wings of Life for Disneynature, narrated by Meryl Streep. Mysteries of the Unseen World is a journey into invisible worlds that are too slow, too fast, too small and too vast for the human eye to see, while Wings of Life focuses on pollination and the web of life. Schwartzberg also directed Soarin' Around the World, an international update to the original Soarin' ride now showing at Disney Parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Shanghai.

Designed to inspire, educate and evolve our perspective on the world, Schwartzberg creates and curates Moving Art videos, which can be found on your smart phone and Netflix. The Moving Art series will be expanded from six to thirteen videos in early 2017.

Schwartzberg's Gratitude Revealed series of shorts were launched on Oprah.com. Supported by the Templeton Foundation, with science and analytics by the Greater Good Center at UC Berkeley, the series explores the multifaceted virtues of gratitude. Schwartzberg is the first filmmaker to be inducted into the Association for the Advancement of Science and the Lemelson Foundation’s Invention Ambassadors Program.

For Schwartzberg, the greatest satisfaction is creating works that can have a positive effect on the future of the planet. "I hope my films inspire and open people's hearts," he says. "Beauty is nature's tool for survival -- we protect what we love. Nature's beauty can open hearts, and the shift in consciousness we need to sustain and celebrate life."

The original video is available on TED.com
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