As I sit here typing this, my legs ache, my neck aches - everything aches. I'm still shivering and if there were a human size microwave available, I'd pop myself in and hit defrost! But what's this all about? If you've been following my story for a while, you'll know that every January I'll release a reel of clips and highlights covering my shoots from the previous year. This year, however, has been nothing short of manic and the usually slow January and February in tv land proved to be otherwise so I've not found the time to get round to it. Boo hoo I hear you cry. Well, the thing is, I also wanted to shoot an idea I had and I've been waiting on some decent weather to coincide with my schedule...
I've been editing (I'm using that word very loosely) for a number of years now and although I can piece a few clips together, it's certainly not my forte. I've always wanted to create something different when it comes to a title sequence so I thought of adding relevant bits of kit into it - a kind of timelapse of a timelapse as it were.
First, I thought of a location - I wanted to shoot a day to night timelapse so I chose Durdle Door in Dorset as it's a great dark sky area (if you're looking the right way) and it tends to be fairly peaceful at night.
Secondly, I'd already cut my showreel leaving a gap for the 'intro' so I had my music ready and all I needed to do was a rough storyboard and figure out timings so the action would take place in time with the music - this was going to be a single take without a second shot at it for various reasons!
To bring my idea to life, I was relying on a few things all working out at the same time:
1) Weather - I needed a clearish sky for the sunset and stars so I kept my eye on the forecast for about three weeks waiting for some high pressure to come around!
2) I wanted to use as much motion control kit as possible with varying rigs so I stopped dry hiring kit out when I spotted a small window of opportunity.
3) I had to make a few extra cables which I left slightly last minute, as in I finished them at 3am on the day of the shoot.
4) I needed an assistant who'd be willing to jump in to action without much notice
5) Lighting - the moon wasn't due to rise until 2am and even if it had been a clear sky (clouds would create flicker in lighting levels if lit by the moon), there's be a gap from sunset until 2am so I decided to hire in some lights to do some music-sync effects.
I also used the Photographer's Ephemeris to locate the sunset times and position.
R.I.P. Rob's Back and Right Leg
Strange title but at his request. I've hired Rob Myler as an assistant for a few years now. I got asked to do a shoot and he was provided to me to help out with kit carrying as he also had an interest in timelapse. After spending a few days shooting with him, I realised he was a keeper as he was a fast learner, always eager to help out and very often thought ahead when out shooting. On top of this, we share the same twisted humour and get on well.
Working in tv, the people you work with often become your second family so having the ability to almost 'choose' your family when hiring, it's always nice to pick someone you get on with, especially with timelapse as you're stuck with them for hours (or days) on end! So - I gave my able mate a call and he was up for it, without knowing what he was about to let himself in for.
I've shot many times at Durdle Door and from experience, the trip down to the beach is a mission to say the least. From the campsite we were staying at, it's a half mile (0.8km) walk down to the beach and it's a 331 foot (101 metres) descent. The last 60ft down is just a slippery mud bank where steps used to be but washed away. Unluckily for Rob, one of us had to stay on the beach with the kit to look after it and start setting up while the other made multiple trips up and down with the rest of the required kit. I stayed on the beach mainly because we were running short on time before sunset but also because I've done my fair share of carrying kit when I was an assistant - sometimes life works out great when you're experienced ;-)
In total, Rob made ten trips up and down resulting in a 10 mile (16km) walk and a combined descent / ascent climb of 6620 feet (2020 metres) - in ascent alone, he was just 2.5 trips short of climbing the height of Britain's highest peak - Ben Nevis! For that alone, the man is a legend as it saved me a lot of valuable time and all of this whilst shifting around 220lb (100Kg) from top to bottom!
I'm not a fan of people telling me I'm very lucky because I have an amazing job. I'm a firm believer that you create your own luck (unless you win the lottery!) and I have - over five years, I've aimed to spend creating at least one timelapse every day, countless hours invested and also a permanent state of jet lag due to random shooting times! It was, however, Friday 13th when we started shooting so I was a bit more cautious! The only thing that could go wrong was the weather. The night before I had a quick scan and it was supposed to be raining until around 5pm then clear up for the night. I wasn't that bothered about an amazing sunset as the majority of the shoot would be at night so I was willing it to keep clear!
At 3:30pm, I set the camera up on a 4ft Dynamic Perception Stage Zero track and used the eMotimo TB3 Black - I'd recently taken delivery of three Stage R rotary units from DP but wanted to use these in-shot which is why I used this set-up. I hooked up the Elysia Visuals Ramper Pro so I could ramp the exposure from daylight to stars and we started shooting at 5pm.
As predicted, the sunset was fairly average but the location more than made up for it! As night fell, I noticed the first star, then two, then holy sweet mother of Darwin - the sky was full! The odd faint cloud whisked by but it was gorgeous to view, and I never tire of seeing it even though it was only 1 degree Celsius!
I'd set the interval up for 60 seconds and needed to shoot 481 frames to sync to the music and the gap in my edit - roughly an eight hour shoot. I'd mapped out which frames needed some action and prepped the kit to place in shot. Doing this in the daylight was simple, but in the complete darkness without using a light meant we both developed an intense sense of touch crawling around on our hands and knees searching for kit!
The only lights that show up in shot are the 'flash' effects that I'd planned apart from when I got...
It was around 9pm when I was checking timings on the ramper when Rob said "Did you see that light appear on the arch?" to which I replied 'no' as my eyes were adjusted from having just looked at a bright screen. I turned away to look at the looming cliff behind me and looked back at the arch and I could see it being lit up by some unknown source. At first it looked like someone was doing their own light painting long exposure shot but it was a bit random for that.
Next minute, two men appeared with what looked like the power of the sun harnessed shining brightly from their heads all over the place. Now, I didn't pay for a private beach location and I couldn't lay any claim any more than they could over who should be shining lights but it was cold and knowing I'd only got one shot at this due to a lack of time, and I'd put a lot of prep into it, I snapped and shouted 'turn your f**king light off mate!'. I'm pretty sure they didn't hear me over the sound of the waves so I sent a calm Rob up to see if he could do anything. Friday the 13th strikes!
As we were both used to navigating in the dark, Rob decided, by accident, he was to climb up the cliff without a head torch and scare the shit out of them! A man appearing from out of the darkness on top of the cliff would freak most people out I'm sure. After they realised he wasn't a ghost or a late night murderer, he explained what we were doing and asked kindly if they'd be ok to dim their torches a little. I watched as they made their way down and it turns out they were down there to do a bit of night fishing. They did apologise as they walked past and a typically British sorry was exchanged a couple of times - I felt a bit guilty afterwards as I obviously had no right to say anything but Rob had handled it well for me!
Genuinely lucky this time, their lights had not appeared in shot when I checked back through them - they had timed it perfectly between each exposure!
Having felt a bit bad for treating Rob like a touristic Donkey, I called my mate Jon who happened to be coming to roughly the same area for the weekend to see if he could help out and after much persuasion, he agreed on the count it wasn't raining! He turned up around 10:30pm, brewed us a few coffees with his superfast water boiling jet stove and even bought us a couple of sandwiches - another legend on the shoot!
At 2:30am on a crisp, damp and very cold Saturday morning, we packed up and Rob and Jon started making the trips required back up to the top. But wait I hear you scream - why didn't I make any trips back up? Well, I'd spent the best part of 11hrs on my knees, belly and arse and having not moved around much to keep warm, I was pretty much broken, with the addition of only having had 3hrs of sleep on Thursday night! I did carry one bag and a peli case back up on the final trip but it was more of a creaky shuffle than a walk having completely ceased up!
May I present to you my highlight reel of 2014 - with the addition of my first 9hr full on day to night sequence - inspiringly called: 20 Fourteen ;-)