Opened on the 30th June 1894, Tower Bridge in London is a combination of a Bascule and Suspension Bridge.  It's recently undergone a makeover with the addition of glass floor sections in the East and West walkways which gave me an idea...

I genuinely get excited at the prospect of travel.  Be it a road trip, flight abroad or just a tube ride in to London, my passion for the undiscovered and new drives me to explore.   I have a love hate relationship with timelapse; I love to shoot but I hate it when I 'see' a shot but I'm on my way to shoot something else.  My list of most-wanted locations grows everyday and as timelapse photography is both my full-time job and hobby, it's hard to find the time to fit everything in!  Tower Bridge has been on my mind for a number of years now and with the new glass floors, I decided it was time to make time!

So without further ado, here's how I created the video:

The shoot

Finding the time to shoot this was pretty difficult as I was booked in for various shoots around the country but when you want something bad enough, you'll make the time.  Unfortunately, this meant I'd only had two hours of sleep before my alarm went off at the now familiar 3am. 

I'd hired an assistant for the day mainly to help me lug around the 40Kg of kit around and partially to keep me sane and to fulfil my coffee requirements.   I'd planned out the shots I wanted to try and get and as I'd already bought the music in advance, so I had an idea of how I'd edit it and in what order. I wanted to try and emulate 'a day at Tower Bridge' kind of affair.

The majority of the shots were static with a few motion control shots thrown in using a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Slider, and an eMotimo TB3 Black pan and tilt head. 

The tourists

Filming in and around busy tourist attractions brings it's own challenges.  I'd already warned my assistant that he'd inevitably be approached by a couple or a group and be asked to take their photo using their camera.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a complete monster when I'm asked but as I typically shoot from the more popular locations, it's an occurrence that eventually distracts me from my work.  Last year I was shooting the London Eye in the height of summer and both me and my assistant were hounded for the best part of eight hours!

I still find it difficult to decline politely and people don't understand when you say no as it 'only takes a second'! The problem is, I'm working and I need to concentrate on what I'm doing - mainly to stop someone walking into my tripod (any movement of the camera will ruin the shot, of which rage will ensue if I've been stood there for an hour) and secondly, to monitor progress and exposure levels etc. 

It's probably the only job where people assume it's ok to ask because you've got a pro camera on a tripod.  I've toyed with the idea of role reversal whereby I ask them what they do for a living then proceed to burst into their office and demand them to type a letter for me, as it only takes a second ;-)

The Hyperlapse

As far as timelapse techniques go, I'd give the Hyperlapse department an 8 out of 10 in difficulty.  The basic method is to move your tripod / monopod a set distance whilst keeping framed on your subject.  Personally, I flick the camera in to Live View and use a marker to retain the same point of 'match' for each frame.  It's not going to be 100% spot on with each capture so you'll need to stabilize it in post - I use the warp stabilizer in Adobe Premiere.

As I had a whole list of shots to capture, the hyperlapse in this video was a bit rushed.  I gave myself 6 second intervals to capture each frame, move one metre, re-frame and repeat.  There's quite clearly a few frames the stabilizer couldn't cope with but considering I was aiming to get at least 30 shots in the day, it turned out ok!

The Skater Dolly

I'd posted this pic online with various questions ranging from 'what the hell is that' to 'eh?'.  The kind folk at Offtrax supplied me with a dolly which I wanted to use to shoot the inside of the walkway.   It's got three rotating wheels which you can set at any angle, has a low-profile for getting low shots and can be motorised.

The first shot inside was done with the camera mounted to a magic arm to give it some elevation.  As I only had just over an hour to grab shots before it was open to the public, the rig wasn't the most pleasing to the eye but it did the job!   I wanted to convey a feel of walking / floating through the walkway for this so instead of the traditional 'mechanical' feel, I decided to change the direction of the dolly from time to time and then stabilize it afterwards.

Not the best quality of video but my iPhone was the only camera I had left! 

The spin

You'll notice a shot looking through the glass that looks like it was rotated in post.  It wasn't - I set the dolly up to rotate in a circle whilst looking down.  I turned my back for a second to set up my second camera and the thing was doing doughnuts like something out of Fast and Furious. 

The edit

The transitions in the music are what I'd describe as 'bendy'.  The dubstep-esque basslines were a perfect find for what I wanted to do in the edit and that was to 'morph' the shots together.  I used a program called Fanta Morph which is fairly straight forward.  I left gaps in the timeline to coincide with the musical transitions and then took the last and first frame from the gap and imported into Fanta to create the transition.  Once rendered, I'd then drop the short clip into the timeline making sure it sat one frame in and out of the gap (to cover the existing frames I'd taken).

The Kit

Canon 5D II, Canon 5D III

Dynamic Perception Stage Zero

Skater Dolly + Motor

eMotimo TB3 Black

One worn out assistant

Hourly coffee top ups

Video and article featured on:

The Independant

Mail Online


London Live

If you've got any questions, feel free to ask away below and thanks for reading!