An idea that emerged from passively looking at default images on his MacOS 10.9 and indulging in day-dreaming about seeing these places for himself, Andrew’s dream finally saw the light of fruition when he assembled a team of three and set off on a week-long adventurous journey to recreate the wallpapers that are featured on the gadget. The team, including Andrew Levitt, Taylor Gray and Jacob Phillips, the two people Andrew considered to be the best landscape photographer and the best videographer and who were also his friends, shared in on a unanimous enthusiasm for the project and left with their photography equipment.
The MacOS model has 7 wallpapers from the time Apple changed its wallpapers from cats to locations in California. The OS X Mavericks are the tenth in the OS X series and released in 2013, which is around the same time Apple changed its wallpaper collection. As luck would have it, all the spots were within a day’s drive from Andrew’s home, which “sparked an idea for an epic road trip”.
They started off from San Jose, California with a few destinations in mind- the locations of every new Apple Mac 10.9 Mavericks ever, in just a week. Their first spot was MacOS Mojave in Death Valley National Park, which Andrew describes as the “hottest place on earth” in the video and if you consider the kind of heat in the middle of the desert in July, you would sympathise with the team too.
Their supplies included several litres of water and umbrellas, as far as one can make out from the clip they shot at the supermarket. As soon as they set out, an epiphany brought them back to reality- the heat measured up to 115 degrees and the warning sign which clearly read “STOP- Extreme Heat Danger- Walking after 10AM not recommended” did little to dampen the enthusiasm the trip exuded.
With miles of sand ahead and the rays of a raging sun raining down on them, the three started their journey and immediately met with an obvious ordeal in the middle of a desert where everything looks the same- uncertainty. As Andrew jokingly puts it “we were looking across dunes like Marlin looked for Nemo” for the exact dune with mountains on both sides that Apple had photographed but confusion enveloped them just like the sand enveloped their footprints just as they moved a little ahead from the place they were exploring minutes ago.
The perfect shot for them would entail capturing the picture in the small window of time when the sun’s rays would illuminate the left side of the dune, which they missed for they lost a lot of time looking for it, thereby missing a day entirely. They went back the next day and with a few difficulties with trying to align the dune with the mountains flanking it, they could recreate their goal which they realized was “most likely photoshopped”.
On the third day, they reach Alabama Hills in Sierra where they prepped until dawn to take the shot at the perfect moment. Needless to say, their car needed renovations before they reached their third destination, High Sierra, as a realistic contravention to one particular Youtube comment by Taslekia Taslekio which read, “What these people did is what car commercials imagine everyone doing.”
The aesthetic cinematography would make any movie buff recall the forest trails in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (minus the leeches) and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Day four took the trio to Yosemite National Valley in El Capitan. The image taken there did miss out on snow caps on the mountains but were uncannily similar.
As Taylor started looking through his photographs of Half Dome in Yosemite, their next spot, he found one which looked almost the same as the Apple wallpaper. A quick montage of their journey simplified their ascent to the top but even to naïve eyes, it seemed like a mammoth task to complete. They playfully enjoyed the day, basking in their utopian surrounding of tall, green trees, a stream and mountains, for their photographic requirement instructed them to shoot Half Dome right before sunset. Their rendezvous upon the lonely ridge overlooking the object of their desire brought what Andrew describes as a “perfect bookend to the trip”.
From this destination, Taylor has happy recollections. One of his Instagram posts reads: “A Yosemite classic... Taken this past July, a time of year I swore I would never visit the valley. Tourists and traffic clog the roads and viewpoints, making it difficult to get from one place to another... yet here I was.
View this post on Instagram
A Yosemite classic... Taken this past July, a time of year I swore I would never visit the valley. Tourists and traffic clog the roads and viewpoints, making it difficult to get from one place to another... yet here I was. But even amongst the throngs of people, I was still able find those quiet moments of solitude – like this one here perched 3,200 feet above the valley floor. I think on this trip I learned to appreciate the masses of tourists and the fact that we all want to get out and enjoy the beauty of this park in our own way. Our national parks system is really amazing in that sense and I’m grateful for all of the efforts that go into making it possible to support so many people and their experiences in the outdoors.
But even amongst the throngs of people, I was still able to find those quiet moments of solitude – like this one here perched 3,200 feet above the valley floor. I think on this trip I learned to appreciate the masses of tourists and the fact that we all want to get out and enjoy the beauty of this park in our own way…”
The conclusion of their journey did come with a few realisations. In spite of seeing the pictures on their Macs innumerable times, they did not anticipate the kind of experience each photograph hid within itself. Andrew, in his voiceover, admits: “In the end, the pictures we took were not a perfect match. We did not go during the right seasons or wait for the best conditions but that was not what the trip was about. The trip was about the chase. It was about searching for some of California’s greatest landmarks and seeing these places for ourselves, because as amazing as these wallpapers, snapped at the perfect time under the perfect conditions, they still will never compare to seeing them in person.”
View this post on Instagram
Just posted the “We Recreated Every Apple Wallpaper” video, linked in my bio. From hiking sand dunes in 122° heat to swimming in freezing lakes in the High Sierras, this trip through California’s most iconic locations had it all. Easily one of my favorite trips ever! 📸 @taylorgrayphoto
Andrew recalls his journey on his Instagram page with fondness: “From hiking sand dunes in 122° heat to swimming in freezing lakes in the High Sierras, this trip through California’s most iconic locations had it all. Easily one of my favorite trips ever!”
As the ambient soundtrack to the video, Still Waters Run Deep by Ten Towers came to an end, viewers were reminded of the last destination, Mavericks, which they clearly had not forgotten about and which would bring their journey to a titular full circle. They jokingly admitted that the shot would require them to return to the place next season and would probably give admirers of the video they made hope for something to look forward to.
View this post on Instagram
My favorite shot from the Apple wallpapers video... the sun had just gone down and we were relieved to finally not have the sun beating down on us.. That was short lived because @taylorgrayphoto spots the moon rising over the dunes and starts sprinting to get in position with his giant lens and tripod. We only had about 10 minutes to coordinate the whole thing while yelling across the windy dunes to each other as the moon slowly would rise out of frame.
With a million views and more than 67k likes on Youtube already, viewers have showered them with appreciative comments like:
“Man, this is top-notch content. Great storytelling, great music.”
“Video is going to go viral. I just got recommended by YouTube algorithm.”
“This is the best content I’ve seen in a long time.”
“The quality of this content is way too good for YouTube.”
It is also surprising to see the sharp rise in their subscribers as they started out with a thousand in the beginning and now Andrew stands at almost 25k. Their story stands as stark evidence of the extents to which content creation has reached in this age and contrary to traditional knowledge systems, that is not always a bad thing.