One of the most powerful films I’ve seen as a young boy is one most people have never heard of. Cryptically titled ‘Koyaanisqatsi’, this unique film employed only fantastically executed visuals backed by a hypnotic, dramatic music score to tell a story. It was a strange, experimental film, too hard to describe with words, but I was completely mesmerized by it. There was no (obvious) plot to follow, it had no actors or songs, but despite this, ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ was one incredibly immersive experience. Some of the most unique aspects of this film were its groundbreaking time lapse sequences. I was still very young and could not understand how they were filmed, but I do remember the impact they left on my impressionable mind.
Many years have passed since then and I’ve chosen to pursue the art of photography and filmmaking as my career, of which time lapse cinematography takes its biggest share. I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse, because shooting, processing and time lapse films take an immense amount of effort and patience, a fact unknown to most. But seeing the finished product, after all that hard work, still fills me with immeasurable joy and satisfaction. This motivates me to keep on learning in order to get better at the craft.
‘Elysium’ features the skylines of Dubai and Abu Dhabi which are among the most imposing and photogenic ones in the world. The quiet giants, soaring high into the Emirati skies are a source of awe and inspiration for any dreamer or photographer. What gives this film a dreamlike quality however is the elusive winter fog and its mysterious interaction with the tallest structures. Viewed from a high angle, the fog turns the cities into a grand canvas of visual poetry which could only be expressed with a language of time lapse cinematography.
The fog’s formation is very hard to predict and therefore, it’s not easy to film. I was forced to spend many sleepless nights chasing the foggy conditions from various rooftops across the UAE. When the fog finally formed, and all elements came together, it was like witnessing magic. Watching the fog as it rolled between and over the buildings was such a haunting and utterly fascinating sight. It was a quite a logistical and technical challenge to capture all scenes I needed for a film, but it was all worth it.
Various scenes of ‘Elysium’ were captured in Dubai and Abu Dhabi between 2013 and 2017.
Music score: 'Bayt Lahm' by Ryan Taubert
Shot with Canon 5D cameras, CamBLOCK motion control gear, Syrp Genie and Timelapse+ VIEW. Processed with LR Timelapse / Adobe Lightroom and Premiere