Note this is a filming page
Principal photography began in October 1988, in and around Los Angeles, California. Shortly before the beginning of location shooting, Hollywood union truck drivers or teamsters went on strike to protest pay cuts and overtime changes. With deadlines looming, the production searched for non-union drivers, aware that the Teamsters might retaliate by sabotaging equipment or flying airplanes above the filming to ruin audio recordings. After one of the production's camera trucks exploded in the studio parking lot, the non-union drivers headed to Yosemite National Park under cover of darkness with a police escort.
The film's Yosemite scenes were all shot on location. Long shots of Kirk scaling the mountain were filmed with stunt doubles, while Shatner's closer shots had him on a fiberglass set positioned in front of the camera, with the real mountains visible in the background. Aided by two trainers, Shatner had spent weeks at the Paramount lot, learning to climb a wooden replica. Laszlo scouted out a tall peak on which the production created a rock face with safety net. The overhead shot gave the impression Kirk was climbing at a great height, while unnatural background features such as swimming pools were camouflaged. In the scene, Spock watches Kirk's ascent, and saves him when he slips and falls using levitating boots. Most of the shots framed Nimoy from the waist up; in these scenes the actor was supported by a crane that gave the appropriate "float" to achieve the effect. Bluescreen footage of Shatner falling was shot later at Paramount and composited, while stuntman Ken Bates set a record for the highest American descender fall by plummeting off El Capitan — with a wire support rig — for long shots. In reviewing the dailies of the first two days of shooting, the production realized that a pine tree in the frame during Kirk and Spock's mountain dialogue ruined the illusion of height, while a shot of Shatner clinging to the face of El Capitan appeared muddy due to clouds obscuring the sun and ruining the depth of field. The scenes had to be reshot later.
After the Yosemite shots, location shooting moved to desert locales. Nimbus III and its town, Paradise City, were recreated in the Mojave. The town was created as a haphazard collection of spaceship parts and futuristic scrap. Shatner "cracked" during the filming in 110 °F (43 °C) heat, insulting the head electrician and ignoring Laszlo's request for additional setup time. When a driver failed to appear and stranded Shatner and a skeleton crew, a park ranger came to the rescue and the production managed to film scenes of Sybok's followers before they lost daylight. Shatner called the resulting half-jogging pace of the dehydrated extras "the Sybok shuffle". The production spent three more weeks filming the rest of the desert scenes, finishing the last night scene shortly before sunrise and the trip back to Los Angeles.
At Paramount, the crew filmed all the scenes that would take place on soundstages, including the Enterprise and Bird-of-Prey sets, the Paradise City interiors, and the campfire location. Production was smoother on set, and the crew shot scenes ahead of schedule. The crew fabricated a stand-in set for the God planet location, where additional scenes were filmed to combine with the location footage. Spock's catching of Kirk as the captain falls off El Capitan was filmed against a set that replicated the forest floor and was rotated ninety degrees.
Shatner scheduled the campfire scenes to be the last ones shot, after which the cast and crew had a small celebration before a traditional wrap party later. The cast celebrated the end of filming in the last week of December 1988, and gave a press conference on the set of the Enterprise bridge on December 28. Shatner returned to Paramount Studios a few days after principal photography had wrapped to organize the film's post-production schedule. This included showing a rough cut of the film — minus the special effects — to studio personnel. Shatner recalled that the film received praise and left the screening "reveling" in its reception; it turned out to be a "momentary victory" once he saw the special effects.