Timelapse of the observatories atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The summit is at an altitude of nearly 14,000 ft and is the premiere site for astronomy in the Northern Hemisphere. As an astronomy graduate student at the University of Hawaii, I've enjoyed excellent access to the facility. Some of my favorite still images of Mauna Kea can be found at sgphotos.com/photostories/maunakea.
This montage was filmed on three nights in April (I was observing on one of the telescopes and would walk outside when things got boring) and four nights during summer 2013. More information (i.e. "What's up with the lasers?" "What gear did you use?") can be viewed at sgphotos.com/portfolio/timelapse/makingmaunakeaheavens/.
Music: "All is Violent, All is Bright" by God is an Astronaut.
Standard disclaimer: Mauna Kea contains delicate ecosystems and is sacred to the Hawaiian people. If you go there, please be sensitive to the cultural role of the mountain and obey the rules contained at ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/visiting-mauna-kea. Permits are required for large groups or commercial filming, and more information can be found at the link. And above all, please be safe—accidents are much more likely when you combine high altitude, sleep deprivation, cold, snow/ice, and darkness!
Production: Staud Studios
Director: Susi Sie
DoP: Thomas D. Spitzenberger
First Assistant Camera: Nikolas Meyberg
Editor: Maximilian Schwarz
Grading: Peter Hacker
Sound Design: Clemens Haas
Entry from July 27, 2009 "We are jet-lagged and exhausted. The alarm blared at 4:30 am. Without opening my eyes I hit the snooze. "Just five more minutes" I told myself… "Lets go dude" a groggy voice commanded from the background. I didn't move. Out of nowhere, a pillow slammed down on my head, the mattress is lifted out from under me, and I hit the hardwood floor just missing my camera bag. "Ugh not again" I thought, but I knew he was right, we needed to hustle across the city and get our cameras rolling before sunrise. "
We were in Paris with only a week to shoot. Armed with top of the line cameras, fresh batteries, memory card wallets, and our favorite glass. The game-plan was to shoot as much as possible and to motivate each other when we were exhausted from staring down the viewfinder. Time-lapses were just an afterthought. Seen a couple. Heard a bit on what it takes to get one done. But when we stepped off the plane in Paris, we had never seen the sky as beautiful as it was. Some twenty two hours later, we slept...at least tried to...
We had never shot a time-lapse before, we had never put one together. We were just two guys who came to Paris to photograph. To make beautiful images. And we did. And we didn't stop. It became a battle against our batteries. " Why take one when you can take one-thousand" we'd laugh. Sometimes staying at a spot all day. Biking or walking from place to place. Mispronouncing words we didn't know. Two more packs of Camel's gone. We shot and shot and uploaded wherever we were. Even ran through the terabyte we brought with us and had to buy another one at Rue Montgalet ( nightmare ). Fell asleep on the Alexander III bridge while the clicks of our camera shutters became an urban lullaby.
Wandering around the streets of Paris armed with $20,000 in gear, we took Paris head on.
Its a scary feeling when you burn through a 32 gigabyte card before the day is done. You don't see what you're shooting. You compose the first frame and let your subject do the rest. We would wait for that perfect set of clouds or that perfect flare or trail from a plane. And all the while we didn't know what the final product would look like. We were shooting blind. But we wouldn't have had it any other way. The unknown kept us moving. Kept us thinking about what could happen when we return. Kept us thinking about what all these different pieces might say in the end.
Changing glass as much as we did, we didn't factor in the amount of sensor dust that would build up. We could never just shoot something once, from one angle, without doing brackets and panoramic builds. It became an obsession. And our shutters paid the price. Back home, it took weeks to get organized. Then it took months working between all these side projects, our main gig at BorrowLenses.com, and the Paris project. Just beginning to think about what we would do with all the clips became overwhelming. There wasn't an obvious flow. There didn't seem to be a complete overall puzzle that could even be constructed with the pieces we had. And the pieces were in pieces.
We started building each clip in After Effects. Render. Smoke. Chill. Re-Render. Smoke. Chill. We built around 150 clips out of the time-lapses we shot in Paris. They were flickery, noisy, grainy, bandy but they were ours. And we spent more time trying to fix them than we ever imagined. They were the first of the series. And from a single Clint Mansell song from "The Wrestler" sparked a vision for the Volumes. And once we put the first ones on Vimeo, we knew we had something going. We built the second one with a Tycho song. The third from Flying Lotus. The fourth from Pelican City. And after the fourth volume was built, we saw all these comments about the sensor dust. And THAT ate away at us.
So we started from scratch; as if we had just hoped off the plane from Paris. Reorganize, re-edit, recolor, re-render. Days and days of work. Going through entire albums trying to find that one song that would go perfectly with all the clips strung together. But we didn't know how they would all hold together. There was no obvious order again. And we didn't think we could fill the twenty volume quota that we had promised to our fans. So we settled on doing a Director's Cut. A montage of all of the clips: Paris Volume 5.
Enter Pigeon Point. We had been shooting a new series called the California Coastline. And we went to Pigeon Point down in Santa Cruz with our friend Matt. At first it didn't seem like a prime spot for time-lapses. But Matt didn't tell us the most amazing thing about Pigeon Point. They installed a new temporary 6-beam setup while the main lighthouse wasn't operational. We shot through the night, edited the next day, and posted on Monday. While we were editing, Mogwai popped into the playlist. To be honest we never sat down and listened to Mogwai with our work but it turned out that Friend of the Night fit that piece like a glove. And so we chose 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong for the first part of Volume 5. And we chose Explosions in the Sky, First Breath After Coma for the last part of the volume. It was perfect.
We knew what we did best….Own a spot. Literally shoot the shit out of it. We learned a lot since Paris and shot a ton of other projects since we returned. The constant was a pattern. A style, a flow, a complete piece each in its own right. And we laid down the tracks, and then each clip, piece by piece. We cut and recut and re-rendered and fill gaps and cut tighter and sharper. We began to complete the puzzle. And it became what you see before you.
Enjoy it. Its been a long time coming but we think the wait is well worth it.
Thom & Vin
Mogwai - 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
Explosions in the Sky - First Breath After Coma