When photographer and cinematographer Zach Rogers watched Timescapes back in college, he was instantly blown away by the open scenery. He was still living in Lansing, Michigan at the time, and remembers that place as being “as flat and busy with foliage as it gets.” He immediately wanted to try and figure out how the film was captured, and sees that as the first part to developing any skill: curiosity. Rogers moved to Las Vegas, Nevada once he earned his associate’s degree and started shooting everything around him.
I had no real sense of composing a shot, so what I ended up with after a few months, was extremely underwhelming. My time lapses were noisy, flickering like crazy and frankly just made my eyes hurt when I would watch them. I was bummed to say the least.
It wasn’t easy for Rogers to learn how to shoot good time lapse material. He discovered there are way too many variables involved to have one simple answer to how to make everything look acceptable. But he learned more and more of those variables throughout the years, and claims it took “lots of trial and error before I was happy with anything.”
The failures don’t discourage me. I find them humorous in a sad kind of way. They are what I learn most from. If you want to create a stunning time lapse, just create a terrible one. Keep it private. Figure out why it’s terrible and don’t make the same mistakes again. Ask questions and answer them yourself if no one is willing to share.
Recently, Rogers published his amazing “passion project,” as a sort of “recap” of what he has been doing over the past three years. “Awake” is comprised of 6,870 photographs, which were selected out of roughly 50,000 photographs from two main cameras, shot with Canon 7D, Sony A6300, and a few shots from the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D.
There were times when I would shoot something every week. I barely had the money to travel everywhere I wanted to go, but I prioritized and made it happen anyway. I would spend days on the road, eating ramen and PB&J everyday, and sleeping in my car when I wasn’t allowed to camp for free. The most frugal of trips were the most memorable ones. I made myself uncomfortable and it made the amazing sights that much more rewarding, especially when I was lucky enough to get a good shot.
Then came the editing process, also filled with lots of trial and error. But through experimentation, Rogers found that the combination of Lightroom, LRTimelapse and After Effects did the job quite nicely. He also used Neat Video for noise reduction, and did a bit of work in Davinci Resolve to edit the foregrounds and skies separately.