Time-lapse over the seasons

When the idea came up for the Emerald Paradise project, I had very little experience with cameras. Within my friends was a photographer, a drone pilot and a cameraman. They have inspired me and I learned a lot from them. To contribute to the team, I started doing time-lapse photography. I found it an exciting challenge to predict the changes and choose a good perspective so that still pictures became interesting video. I tried everything imaginable and everything I found on the internet I tried to reproduce. However, my focus was in no way on copying something but to find something to do different or even better in order to create something new! At the beginning, I focused on moving time-lapse footage using rail systems and swivel heads. Then I moved on to day-to-night time-lapse with changing light conditions. But this didn’t feel special anymore because many people create similar shots and they can found all over the media.

The idea for improvement came through relatively simple cross fading, like the BBC did in a documentary movie. They only did two shots and slowly faded them in. This inspired me to do many shots to slowly fade them in one after the other. Sounds simple, but its very complicated! The light varies constantly over a longer period and those fleeting changes create a flickering effect and it doesn’t look nice. To avoid this, I tried only then to record a shot when the light and visibility were similar. Therefore, it wasn’t necessary to have the camera out over the whole year but to always replace it identically. We therefore built a special tripod which we fixed with screws and alignment pins to threads inserted into the ground. With a big display and an example picture we were able to do the fine adjustments.

Time-lapses of rivers do not look good because the water doesn’t seem to flow nicely. Thats why, in this case, we recorded video files and not single images like it is done usually. After solving multiple technical difficulties at the beginning, the biggest challenge was to catch the best possible mood at each season and in between. Floods, rain, storm and the missing snow for years in a row reduced us to despair. On top of that, we took these shots at nine different locations that are mostly difficult to access. We climbed there, putting our lives and gear at risk to record flash floods and heavy rain! Even though we took great care to find the right locations with stable ground, a boulder measuring 5 meters in diameter was submerged by water until it sank down and our shot failed.

Despite all our preparations and ensuring the camera was carefully positioned, the post-production of the footage and overlapping took many weeks of work. It took us longer to do the time-lapse shots than all our other work together!