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California Timelapse Compilation

4 Sep

 California is the most populated state in the United States, and the third largest. It’s almost double the size of the United Kingdom and slightly larger than Japan. If it was it’s own independent country (as it was briefly for a few weeks in 1846), it would have the 8th largest economy in the world by GDP.

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It contains the highest summit and the lowest desert in the Continental United States (and the second-lowest point in the world), both of which are in the same county.

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It’s most known for movies, technology, wine, and national parks, but also grows more than a third of the vegetables consumed in the US, two-thirds of the fruits and nuts, and an unknown but presumably huge percentage of marijuana.

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It contains every major climatological biome except tundra. More important than those facts, to me, is that I was born and spent most of my life here.

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My goal was to cram all of the visually stunning things about the entire state, from coastline to mountains to deserts, from cities to wilderness and national parks, into four minutes. I intended to use as a pitch for work from the California Board of Tourism, but now I’m sharing it publicly.

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The average clip took 1-3 hours to film and another 3-10 hours to edit. Several cuts are from clips more than 24 hours long. I shot 423 clips over four years to make this, but the majority of the 67 clips ultimately used were shot in the last 12 months.

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The music is “Intense Rocks” by Sebastian Watzinger, licensed from Audiosocket.

Most of the individual clips are available for license via Getty Images, Dissolve, or directly. Many of them feature in the Magic Window timelapse screensaver for Mac.

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Paris When it Drizzles

1 Sep

At the end of 2013, I’d been living with my now-wife’s family in Yorkshire, England. With my 30th birthday quickly approaching in January, she asked me what I wanted to do for the occasion. “I want to have sushi for dinner”, I had decided. I’ve done this every year on my birthday since I was a kid. With there not being very many options for Japanese food in Northern England, our plans evolved to the point where we’d decided to spend a week in Paris. I took all the camera gear the Eurostar would allow me to cram on board (the timelapse dolly kept in a ski bag, as skis travel for free), and so spent the week filming time lapses in Paris’ rainy January weather.

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After a few days of carrying camera gear around in the rain, Lizzy asked me “Do you really want to spend your whole birthday trip filming stuff?” I paused, thought about this question for a second, and replied “Yes. Yes I do,” before clamping my 6D to a metal guard rail on the roof of Printemps.

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And yes, we did eat sushi on my birthday.

All but a few of these clips were shot in one week in January of 2014. A small handful were shot on a previous trip to Paris in October of 2012.

Music: “Wreck Beach” by Sean Bayntun

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Timelapse London

5 Nov

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I just spent the last week at iStockalypse London learning from fellow iStock and Getty Images staff and contributors. In between seminars, lectures, and drinking, I managed to squeeze in two days of lugging two cameras and a motion control dolly through the tube to capture the patterns and pulses of human and vehicular traffic in the city.

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After letting my body recover for a few days, I processed the scenes I shot, and edited together this little video. Have a look, and let me know what you think!

Frankfurt Flughafen (Airport)

25 Apr

I recently had a short layover in Frankfurt, and wandered around and took a few photos while I was waiting for my flight back to the United States.

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At one point, I hung out and waited for other travelers to walk past this sign, which I thought was visually intriguing.

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I don’t have much to add to this post, but I just found the airport to be one of the more photogenic airports I’ve had the opportunity to travel through.

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Also, despite it being a new and modern airport, they still have the analog flippy departure boards, which are really cool to watch update:

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Tahoe Blue

17 Apr

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A few weeks ago, Josh and I shipped Tahoe Blue, basically a Lake Tahoe version of Magic Window, which is a live desktop and screensaver for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android.

Our timelapse demo video has been making the rounds today (thanks LaughingSquid and San Francisco Chronicle!), and I realized I never posted it on my own blog. So here’s the video:

Editing was done by Josh, and the music is Justin Lassen.

For those who have been following this blog for awhile (basically four of you according to my web statistics. Hi mom!), you may remember this post from 2011, where I chronicled locking ourselves in a cabin to write code and get our shit together. We shot about 20% of that video on that trip, so I thought I’d include some behind-the-scenes photos of the project.

All the equipment used to shoot it:

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Josh working away on the software-side of things:

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The camera running all-the-while:

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“That’s a nice view”:

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Sunset at Sand Harbor:

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View from a highway turnout we found on the Southern Nevada side:

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Moonset from Sand Harbor:

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Instagram From Paris

9 Apr

I’ve found myself defending my use of Instagram to other photographers.

I’ve heard the saying that goes “the best camera in the world is the one you have with you”, which oftentimes is just my phone. Even when I’m carrying a full SLR or two with me, I’ll still take my phone out and take pictures, to the amusement of people around me.

Below are some photos I took in Paris on a recent trip there.

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On this flight, I was required to check all of my camera gear, so the only camera I had was my phone. This is a moment that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise.

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Often some of the photos I take are relevant in the moment, but having a small, ubiquitous camera allows for capturing images that have a feel all of their own, a feeling of spontaneity. If I were to take a full DSLR out, meter, get the settings right, the moment would be over. Sometimes, there are just situations where it’s just not really appropriate to whip out a 5D.

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Sometimes I just like the aesthetic, and the instant filters available. Half the time I can have a polished, processed image right away, something I’d be happy with if I had later edited the image with the computer.

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And other images I don’t think I’d have bothered to take out a DSLR to shoot, but in the moment, seemed like an interesting composition, and later, I was glad I did.

These I took while bored and waiting for a train:

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These I took because it didn’t seem appropriate to take out my DSLR at the time, although in hindsight I wish I had:

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I think the “tilt-shift” filter can be super cheesy sometimes, but when used in certain contexts, has a really nice effect:

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And, of course, I seem to have a strange obsession with stairs.

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You can follow me on Instagram if you want to see my phonecam images as I take them.

Japanese Vehicles

2 Apr

Now, on to some backlogged travel posts.

I got to spend a month in Japan last year, and I got to looking through a lot of the photos I’d taken there. I’m going to make a few unconventional posts, starting with this one, of the random things I’d noticed walking around while I was there.

It took me awhile to realize it, but I tend to photograph bicycles a lot. I do enjoy bicycling and tend to use a bicycle for my primary form of transportation when I’m not working, but there is also a nice pleasing aesthetic to bicycles as well. In older and/or denser cities, like those in Japan, much like Northern Europe, bicycles are the most practical form of transportation, and so bicycles tend to be utilitarian and designed with reliability in mind. We’re talking baskets, panniers, fenders, and chain guards.

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The other thing I noticed, is that much unlike the US and Europe where bicycles tend to get stolen and are locked well, Japanese bicycles tend to be left unlocked, or at the most have a simple locking mechanism that locks the rear wheel to the frame. Petty theft just doesn’t seem to be an issue in Japan, and I’ve heard stories from friends there that have had lost wallets returned to them with cash still in them.

Bicycles more often than not seem to be left standing upright in their most convenient location.

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There are, of course, also bicycles that have been tricked out to be unique and match the rider’s personality:

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As with most dense cities, there was no shortage of motorized two-wheel vehicles, but they tended to be economical scooters. I didn’t see too many motorcycles, and the ones I saw were simple and small.

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There were also lots of cars I hadn’t noticed anywhere else in the world, like this squashed-looking compact van in Kyoto that seemed to typify most of the cars I saw in Japan:

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 Or this typical taxi cab:

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Interestingly, every cab in Japan has a little button that the driver can press to automatically open and close the rear door. Upon returning to the states, I stood in front of a cab for several long seconds before realizing that the door wasn’t going to open automatically for me.

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Japanese taxis also seem to have their side mirrors placed really far forward, and I never asked why.

On Interfering with Local Culture

21 Mar

Yesterday was the Equinox. How do I know this? Yesterday evening while I was shooting a 3-hour timelapse for Magic Window, my carefully selected spot was briefly the prime spot for a large effigy burning.

Let me explain.

While traveling for Magic Window, I have a pretty good system worked out for picking locations. Before I even head to a new city, I tend to study Wikipedia, Flickr, and maps to decide what I want to shoot and where best to shoot it from, taking into account angles, where the sun will be setting and at what time, and how busy a location might be. In a tourist city like Prague, this is very important. Once I get there I usually spend a few hours location scouting earlier in the day before I commit to a location for three hours.

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My location today was a small island in the middle of the river with a direct view of the 14th century-built Charles Bridge, also an internationally-known landmark slammed with tourists. Shooting on the bridge itself can only be accomplished at sunrise, and I haven’t done that yet.

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So, at around 4:30pm, I get to my previously scouted spot to find absolutely perfect conditions, and few people in sight. Without too many people around I’m free to relax and not worry about being sold trinkets or being distracted by hustlers and pickpockets, both of which have happened, although I’ve yet to have anything stolen.

The location was quiet, with the occasional couple holding hands and looking at the scenery or a tourist coming by to snap a few photos and leave.

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I set up my camera at the very apex of the island, and noticed a rock with some kind of symbol embedded in it, which i thought nothing of besides “that looks interesting”. Deciding that this was the best location to get the widest shot, I set the timer and sat down under a tree a few yards away.

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A little over an hour later, I noticed a large group of people walking towards me banging drums and singing, a few with dogs and small children. The children and dogs immediately ran towards the water, making me very nervous. For a few long minutes I did nothing, until the children decided to duck under my tripod legs while playing. I lept up and started shouting at them “Too close! Don’t touch it!” over and over again, which meant nothing because they didn’t speak English. One little girl stuck her tongue out at me and ducked under the camera again. Never having dealt with this situation before, I had no idea how to handle somebody else’s misbehaving children that didn’t speak the same language as me. Eventually an adult came over, scolded the children in Czech, and pulled them away. Meanwhile people were coming up to the rock-symbol, rubbing it, and walking away.

I stood by my camera uncomfortably, trying to keep an eye on it as well as my backpack with my other camera, iPad, and a half-dozen lenses in it. I had no idea what was going on but I was in the very center of it. Eventually an adult with a camera came up to me.

“You speak English?” he asked.

“Yes!” I said, thankful that somebody else did.

“Is this a timelapse you’re doing?”

“Yup. Can I… Leave this here?”

“How long are you going to be here?”

“Oh, until it gets dark. 7:15 or so.” (A full hour and a half)

“Oh. Do you suppose you could come back tomorrow?”

“Aaaahhh…  Errmmm… No… I’m only here a few days, and I’ve been here an hour and a half already, I’m kind of committed to this location now. There was nobody here when I got here, and I didn’t know you guys were going to need this spot. It’s too late for me to find another one now. I feel bad though, but this is my work and I came here from California to shoot timelapses in Prague.”

“Okay, okay, I understand. We’re going to burn a large doll and throw it in the river. We do this every year for the equinox to celebrate the end of winter. Is that okay with you? This -is- the prettiest spot in Prague!.”

Now, at this point I had no idea how I had convinced him that he now needed my permission. I felt very weird about it though, after all they were locals, this was their city, not mine, and I was in their yearly equinox spot, literally on top of what appeared to be a sacred symbol, and I had just shouted at their kids. I was keenly aware that the “right” thing to do was to pack up and go, and I was already mentally prepared to do just that. All this was running through my mind, and what came out of my mouth was “Of course! Please do!”

“Okay. We can throw it over that way if you like.” He gesticulated away from the camera. “But we usually throw it over here. I don’t want to ruin your shot,” he said without any trace of sarcasm.

“Oh, that’s fine, no problem!”

“You should take pictures!”

I had just noticed that I had an icy death grip on my second camera, which I had hastily taken out of the bag for protection. The man walked off, talked to someone else, and immediately a large effigy that I hadn’t noticed before was lifted up to loud applause, a surge in drum beating, and some chanting in Czech.

Within moments it was on fire. Another man waded out into the water, shouted something in Czech, and threw it as far as he could. There was much loud applause as the smoldering mannequin drifted down the river and under the bridge.

I’ve synced the timestamp metadata from my two cameras (one was on an intervalometer, the other handheld) on the photos below and put them in order:

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15 minutes later the group had broken up without anyone else speaking to me, and I was left alone again for another hour and a half as daylight melted away on the last day of winter.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I’m not sure if it’s “be more respectful to local cultures” or if it’s “be assertive and people will respect you”.

Either way, I felt like kind of an asshole for most of yesterday evening.

…That is, until I downloaded the photos and realized that the kids had indeed bumped my tripod and I had to spend 40 minutes lining everything up in post.

More photos from London

13 Mar

Yesterday I posted photos from the countryside, but in between shooting time lapses I’ve been racking up some nice shots from around London I thought I’d share.

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Tilt-shift shot of Big Ben.

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A street near Holborn that I thought looked visually interesting.

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#63 bus outside of St. Pancras Station

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Travelers inside St. Pancras Station

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Had to get this one out of the way.

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Commuters waiting for a London Overground train at Highbury & Islington

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Soho, view from my friend Peter’s living room window.

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Another tilt-shift view from the same window.

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The Eye.

London Countryside

13 Mar

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I landed in London a few days ago. I’m a huge fan of London, and the UK in general. In a lot of ways it feels like a far-flung older European extension of America, and in so many others I’m constantly reminded that it’s still an entirely different country a world away.

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This is my third visit to the United Kingdom, but up until now I’d never been outside of London. On Sunday, I rented a car and met up with my friend Peter and his girlfriend Sakura to head out into the countryside. Since it was my rental car and I was supposed to be the driver, I gave it a good effort.  I made it about a block and a half before I encountered my first right turn, and, of course, wound up driving on the wrong side of the road. Between trying to shift with my left hand, keeping the car centered in the road when I’m used to sitting on the left side of the car, and not hitting pedestrians, keeping the car on the right (left) side of the road was too much. Less than a mile later we did the ‘ol Chinese fire drill at a stoplight and I gave the driving over to Peter.

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We stopped at a lovely 16th century-era restaurant for Sunday Roast, which is not really “a thing” in America, although I wouldn’t mind if it was. (Sooo much meat!)

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The restaurant abutted the Grand Union Canal, another centuries-old piece of English infrastructure. We didn’t see any boats go by, but there were plenty of ducks, and I shot my first experimental tilt-shift time-lapse. It came out pretty good, here’s a frame:

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We spent the rest of the day wandering around the countryside, first stopping to shoot a scene at the Berkhampted Castle Ruins:

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Then making our way over to the Stocks and Pond in Aldbury:

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Then to the Monument in Ashridge:

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And finally culminating in a 3-hour long stretch of shooting the sunset from Ivinghoe Beacon, the flagship shot of the day:

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After returning the car, I decided that I’m permanently opting out of driving in countries that drive on the left. I don’t much care for driving in general, especially in cities, but flipping left and right around and trying to keep two tons of steel from hitting other cars and crushing bicyclists is too much.

I’ll stick to the double-decker bus.

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