Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Troublesome Time Lapse

Due to an extraordinary volume of work this summer blog post writing has taken a back seat. Needing to fund a final year project has become an obsession and the opportunities to take good photographs have been minimal to say the least.

Tonight has been an opportunity to upload a time lapse (bottom of the post) made especially for a university documentary. The documentary did not go completely to plan and unless there is a particular request people will be spared from the cheesy documentary about a 1-legged Mediterranean gull. 

Several weeks of considering locations for the time lapse and musings on how on earth I would get to said locations all culminated in one night’s hard work, one random impulse and the seizure of an opportunity. Weather preceding this particular night had lived up to the Cumbrian reputation of cloudy with a high possibility of drizzle. After what had felt like weeks of ominous looking cloud cover, the glorious sight of stars piercing through the grim atmosphere greeted me as I prepared for bed. This was it. What felt like the last chance to get the shot I needed. It was already 11.30pm so I hastily set an alarm for 2am and drifted off to sleep with the master plan of cycling to Drumburgh on the Solway coast when I awoke.

Next thing I knew the alarm was bellowing at me, adamant I was going to get up. Luckily it was fairly easy, possibly because it felt like I hadn’t been asleep in the first place. Pulling together all sorts of clothing for warmth I scrambled downstairs to get the bike. As on form as ever, it had gotten a puncture overnight. Not entirely sure how but it seemed determined about the fact I wouldn’t be getting that time lapse. There was no way on earth this setback was going to stop a man on a time lapse mission. Armed with tent, camera gear and tripod my brain concocted one of those early morning, not enough sleep based ideas that will never really work. I set off on foot believing I could make it the 10 miles to Drumburgh. A mile down the road the reality dawned upon me as I stood frozen to the spot, this was impossible. I hailed a cab driver, who seemed relieved at the fact I wasn’t some inebriated teen vomiting over the back seat of his fine car. After explaining my situation (and a brief discussion about football) he said, fairly unsurprisingly, that I might not be able to get to my destination for the £20 I had in my wallet. In response I just said “get me as far as you can then, cheers. I’ll just have to hike the rest”.

The meter on the cab kept ticking: £13, £14..... £18, £19, £20.... £22...
“Wait what?” I thought and had to point it out to him out of guilt. Kindly he had offered to drive me the extra mile for free. Thank you again to that gentleman! Not that he will read this blog but I am still extremely grateful.

After parting ways I donned the head torch and set about setting up the subject of the time lapse; my tent, which is easier said than done in the pitch black of Drumburgh point. It took several minutes of fumbling and spearing myself with the poles to get it set up. With the torch inside the inner tent for a better effect the time had come to start the time lapse.

It was nearly 4am already; time was running out to get enough pictures to capture the transition from star lapse to sunrise... I had forgotten my time lapse remote.

“Right!” I huffed impatiently to the mass emptiness that was the Solway estuary. The camera had to be operated manually. Ultimately the downfall of the whole time lapse was this particular setback. The tripod was cheap, nasty and generally unsteady in the lightest of breezes. How it endured the winds that battered the Solway and stayed upright will always remain a mystery.

At around 5am the sunlight spilled over the rim of the eastern horizon. The transition had begun and so had the temperatures. What had been a mildly chilly evening became a frosty morning. The lens of the camera, despite my best efforts to keep it defogged, had developed a crusty layer of salt combined with small frost particles. Just before 6am it all came to a halt. Two hours of manually operating this camera had taken its toll, the time had come to pack away the tent and camera. Gloves were no match for the chilly morning and it felt like at any moment my fingers would become brittle, drop off and feed the masses that were about to provide one of the greatest spectacles I have ever seen. No word of a lie.

Minutes after packing away, with the sun just coming up over the eastern horizon, hundreds upon thousands of sea birds filed in from from the west. They were flowing inland along with the tide that had started rushing into the estuary. Being amidst this cacophony left my jaw locked open. The sheer volume of the tide rushing in and the thousands of birds is the single greatest natural experience I have ever had in the United Kingdom.

After standing and watching this spectacular natural occurrence, it was time for a 10 mile walk home.  Other than a Mother’s day phone call I am not aware of anything else happening, could have been the severe lack of sleep and freezing conditions. Spurred on by the thought of watery porridge (anything will do after missing breakfast), the journey only took three hours.

Later, all 180 or so pictures had to be realigned in final cut as a result of tripod wobble. This was another 4 hours for what turned out to be 10 seconds worth of my 12 minute documentary... ah well. Totally worth it!

The video below is best viewed in 1080p.

Hope everyone has had a good summer!