Mt Bromo TimeScapes: The Birth of the TimeScapes Project
For the kickoff of my ongoing TimeScapes project I went to one of the most incredible locations on earth, Mt Bromo volcano at Indonesia. During a full month I shot day and night to capture the footage for TimeScapes. A project which is about capturing time and light in a new and innovating way. Yes, light trails and time slices have been done before, but I’ve taken photography’s meaning ‘drawing with light’ to a whole new level by blending up to a 1000 photos for a single image. Read all about here below and find the complete TimeScapes project at my portfolio.
Capturing time and light at one of world’s most amazing locations; Mt Bromo volcano, Indonesia
When I started doing photography and would observe nature for the best timing of my shot, I became fascinated by the changes in the sky; from the growing and evolving clouds to the changing of the colours during a sunrise or sunset. It was that fascination that got me started into time lapse photography. As years passed I often thought about ways of capturing that passing of time in images instead of videos.
As I learned more about photography, I became to understand the importance of light. Photography actually literally means ‘drawing with light’. But in photography there isn’t much ‘drawing’ involved, except for maybe for certain types of long exposure photography and light drawing. But the latter is actually drawing within a photo, not with photography itself. As ideas evolved for TimeScapes, I wanted it to become about capturing time ánd light.
Mt Bromo TimeScapes
While visiting Indonesia for 5 months this year, Mt Bromo was at the top of my bucket list. A location that I had been wanting to visit for years, ever since a saw the first photo of it. But I wanted to do something, photography- and time lapse-wise, that no one had done before. I realised this was the perfect time and place to (finally) work on my ‘TimeScapes’ project. I didn’t just want to experiment with photos, but with time lapse video as well.
My initial plan of spenting 10 days at Mt Bromo became a full month thanks to the uncooperative weather conditions. Many days and most nights were impossible to shoot at. Dew ruined many of time lapse scenes and I just wasn’t prepared (I didn’t expect it here) to deal with the problem. I had to sacrifice the rest of my Java trip to get the footage I was after. And in the end still I hadn’t been able to get all the shots I wanted unfortunately, but my visa was expiring, so I had so choice but to leave it for what it was.
During the time I basically had 4 projects to work on: my regular photo series, my regular time lapse, my TimeScape video and my TimeScape photo series. Although i have some more ideas on how to capture time within a photo, for now there were 4 photography themes I wanted to work on: Time Motifs, Time Slices, Time Stacks and Time Trails. More about that further down.
TimeScapes: ‘Drawing with Light’ video
In my TimeScape video I wanted to take photography to a next level by interpreting ‘drawing with light’ in a most literal way. A regular time lapse (watch my Mt Bromo time lapse!) shows the passing of time as well, but only is a fast-forward way and images occur just as regular photos. What I wanted was to show the passing of time by overlaying images using transparency techniques. This could be done in Photoshop, but that would be very time consuming. I found Starstax to be the perfect program for it, because it does the overlay effect automatically. It gives you various transparency options and can save every step, creating an image sequence to be used for a video scene.
A lot of experimenting was involved, because although I had an idea, I had not yet found a way to put it into practice. But Starstax really was the answer to create these videos in the easiest way, or at least as I’ve found out. What it basically does is maintain the light throughout the different frames, thus showing the movement of clouds and the changing of light. To have a nice effect you need a proper scene with nice movement (clouds or Milky Way) and a nice changing of colours. Mt Bromo turned a fantastic location for it, the smoke coming out of the volcano works magically in these scenes.
TimeScapes: Time Motifs photos
Time Motifs shows the motifs/patterns of the sky. By overlaying images shot in certain intervals, it captures the rotation of the sky that occurs during the night. Instead of using all images, which would result in long light trails, it now shows certain moments that result in a rotating pattern. The effect reminds in some cases of the patterns on seashells.
TimeScapes: Time Slices photos
Time Slices shows the colour changes of the sky during a sunrise or sunset in a single images by ‘slicing’ the image. By showing only a certain part of an image, the complete images shows various moments of time. This way a single Time Slice image shows a complete sunrise or sunset.
TimeScapes: Time Stacks photos
Time Stacks blends time and light. By overlaying images and keeping the lightest part of each image, something completely new occurs. You don’t see ‘time itself’ anymore, but you see the ‘drawing of light’ that occurs in a certain time.
TimeScapes: Time Trails photos
Time Trails shows the passing of time and light of the night sky. By overlaying all images of a time lapse, all the light remains, resulting in light trails. Although similar to a very long exposure, these images can show the time and light that occurs over many hours, up to a full night.
Watch the full Mt Bromo TimeScapes Project!
Gear & Software
Cameras: Nikon D750 + D800 + Sony RX100iv.
Lenses: Nikon 20/1.8 + Nikon 16/2.8 fisheye + Nikon 28-300/3.5-5.6
Tripods: Sirui N2205 tripod + Cullmann mini tripod
Apps: Photopills app for planning. QDSLRDashboard for time lapsing.
Software: Bridge + Photomechanic for image viewing. Photoshop + Lightroom for editing. LRTimelapse for creating smooth time lapses and deflickering. Starstax for image overlay effects. After Effects for composing the time lapse movies.
(Music ‘Chrome Skies’ by Simon Wilkinson, www.thebluemask.com)
The whole project sure came with its challenges. Temperature dropped till about 10 degrees Celsius. I had to rent a jacket, buy gloves, a hat and scarf and still many nights I was freezing cold. There are no good shelters anywhere and the wind is just horrible. But what made the shooting really hard, was the mist and dew. Of the whole month, I was only left with a handful of nights that were good to shoot. I spent dozens of hours by myself at night, waiting for the weather to clear up or to find out that my lens had dew on it. I worked some long nights as well, shooting from sunset to sunrise, staying up all night.
Especially during the first 2 weeks there were a lot of electricity problems in the area. Quite some times I wasn’t able to charge any of my gear. One of my DSLR’s suddenly had some serious flicker problem, making it unusable for time lapse photography. Then my drone fell from the sky from 2,5m height and the gimball hasn’t been working properly since. For some reason one of my lenses doesn’t focus properly anymore with my D750, although manual focus gets around that.
What was great, was that I had managed to rent a motorbike, so I was free to go wherever I wanted. But at night sometimes the Bromo park area would get very foggy and you don’t want to be in it. I was in it one night when I was shooting near the crater, it was very hard to get out of the park! So to avoid that, I would have to drive to viewpoint 1 (through the park) before the fog would set in (but you never know). A few nights I found myself at the viewpoint, fog in the park and unsuitable shooting conditions. I ended up staying at the viewpoint the whole night, without getting any footage… Long, cold, boring, frustrating nights, I tell you. It was anything but comfortable or glorious.
Editing had its challenges as well. Blending so many images not only takes a huge amount of time, but also lots of noise and disturbing elements appear. Sometimes I had to go back to fix my RAW files and re-render, or fix things (trails of planes) in various files or clone up to hundreds of specks. In a few cases I couldn’t be bothered anymore. I’m a perfectionist, but even that has its limits.
Facts & numbers
The project has been my most time consuming ever. Capturing ‘time’ (as time lapses) takes a lot of time, but the editing process just as well. Besides TimeScapes I was still doing my regular photo series and time lapse movie. Altogether roughly 500 hours have been spent on the total Bromo project.
I shot over 50 time lapse scenes with more than 25.000 photos. My 1,2 tb folder contains 108.000 files. Some weeks I spent 100 hours on the project, busy from when I got up will went to sleep. An intense time, tiring, but enjoyable.
But despite the challenges and hard work, I loved it all. It was amazing to work at such an amazing location, focus on my project completely and create something stunning and unique. Hundreds of people visit Bromo every day, most take photos, some even some night sky shots, a very have done a time lapse. But no one’s ever done anything like this here. It’s too bad I didn’t get to show the locals what my end result was. They were wondering what this white guy was doing the whole time, driving into the park in the middle of the night, spent up to 15 hours in a row there. They had no idea, I tried to explain, but they would have to see it to understand it. I hope they see it some day, they will know it was me, the ‘take away sandwich’ guy.
Don’t miss the complete TimeScapes portfolio section!
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