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The Human Time-Lapse: Dawn to Dusk

I knew this was no ordinary challenge from the start.

On paper the concept was a simple one: Sit a subject in front of a camera for 48hrs and record the moment with a camera. In reality it was to be one of the toughest challenges I would face as a photographer.

When Martin from Scattered Images and I set about to do this challenge, we had dismissed the outdoors as a no-go situation taking into account the weather conditions, batteries and above all personal safety. Fortunately a friend had recommended we shoot at a new apartment block (Victoria Square Apartments) in the heart of the city and arranged a meet with an estate agent. After a recee, we were sure that the indoor location was perfect and we set about letting Belfast know of our intentions. On Thursday at 6:30am, we were going to start our 48hr human timelapse in the comfort of an apartment.

It wasn’t until late on Wednesday afternoon that we were informed that permission had not yet been authorised to shoot our piece at the apartments, two hours before we had planned to leave to set up for the following morning. This really was the end of the line until Marty put a call in to Ciaran from Kaya Studios at Blackstaff Mill (we had never met him before) and at the last minute he welcomed us down to shoot from the rooftop at his place of work. I am still amazed by Ciaran’s generosity and trust as he left his business open to us overnight and during the day (access to his power outlet) without even catching our surnames. He’s really one in a million and we owe him a debt of gratitude!

If you are a mum or a fitness junkie with a calorie controlled diet I would skip this chapter.  Marty and I headed out that evening at 11pm for supplies for the next two days. Let me tell you there are some strange people grocery shopping at that time of night. I should have guessed that this was going to be a bit of a disaster when I walked over to the fruit aisle and Marty asked “what are you doing over there?”  In truth I was lost and looking for the kids aisle.  We ended up getting cokes, pot noodles and cup-a-soups, savoury scotch eggs and cold cooked cocktail sausages, chocolates and enough crisps to feed a small army.  We did buy oranges and apples but they were really for show.   Eventually when we unloaded our groceries on the roof it looked like a scene from my 10th birthday party.

We were ready for anything.

The Cold
There was a new catch. We were now shooting outdoors in temperatures as low as -6 Celsius without any shelter whatsoever. My only concern was my Canon 5D MKII being able to perform in these temperatures as I had troubles in the past with the shutter and electronics in freezing conditions. What I didn’t prepare myself for was the effect the cold would have on me personally. I’m not your typical survivalist so my cold weather gear consisted of a hoody, scarf, gloves, jeans and a Marmot jacket. The first night saw temperatures of -5 Celsius and my makeshift bed frosted over as I woke from a 20min nap to start my work at sunrise. It was bitter cold, a kind of bone chill I hadn’t experienced before. The day’s sun was our only heat and a chance to catch a few Z’s in between the 40min interval timer press. Martin however was decked out in the latest Arctic attire, one could be forgiven for thinking he had planned a trip to Everest but changed his mind at the last minute! Even with his Arctic gear Marty also had trouble keeping warm as he was stationary and could not move about.

From a technical perspective there were a multitude of problems I had to overcome. The idea of exposing a sunrise/sunset manually was daunting for the most experienced of landscape photographers, but to bring a subject into the equation changed everything. It was the challenge of manually exposing the subject with a household light that sent shivers up my spine! In the time leading up to dawn and dusk, light changes rapidly. This in turn affects the camera’s setting and measures must be taken to ensure the appropriate exposure is dialled in. Meanwhile, the light on my subject is also changing and this too must be balanced with the camera’s exposure – in short, it was a race against the clock.  I timed the shots in 30sec intervals leaving us with a grand total of approx. 6,500 images.

I brought a dedo light in from left of subject at times to give it a bit of extra punch.  The dimmer was a great help when having to change for the amibent light.

We also had issues getting an interval timer to enable us to shoot stills every thirty seconds.  We finally bought ours at Amazon and it thankfully arrived next day as promised.

Thank Yous
There were many people who took time out from their businesses and I’d like to say a big thank you to them:

Ciaran at Kaya Studios – Location, power, and for trusting in us
Kieran McAinden at Creative Juices – photography
Sean Duncan at RedCap Productions – Behind the scenes
Gary McGinstry at Carpe Diem Videography - Behind the scenes
Alan Morton at VisionWorks – Press Release and advice
Vinny Hurrell at The Vinny Show Feile FM – Radio interview and support
Mathias Sorum  for providing the track “Airport” from the Artist Vital (you can download the track free here also)

A big thank you to all who tweeted and texted throughout our time on the roof.  You definitely made life easier in the cold hours!  Enjoy the Video below and some stills from my iphone!


Have a look at what Marty had to say about the experience also.  His new name is the man of steel for sticking it out in the chair for the full 48hrs:  Marty’s Blog

  1. David on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Excellent Rick & Marty, Gotta watch it again to appreciate it more.
    Really like the track… and I did not see one pack of crisps or can of Coke.
    Well done – keep up the pace. D

  2. Melanie on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Super super ridiculously awesome Rick & Marty! Good on ya for staying in that chair *eeps*

  3. Steven Fairfield on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Absolutely awesome work guys. Really love Marty’s quote at the start “All I have to do is sit on my arse for 48 hours” – fair play to you man you made it look easy! Round of applause for both your efforts, excellent result. Well done. Ps. Especially like the choreography at the end – was this rehearsed lol?

  4. Rick on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Thanks folks we had a blast making it .

    Re: Dance moves – I think you can tell by the level of expertise in the moves that there wasn’t much in the way of choreography. I think I’ll sign Marty up for “So you think you can dance” next year. Dark horse!

  5. Mads Hindhede on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Excellent piece of art here!! :-D Rick you are truly an inspiration man!

  6. Peter Connor on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Hey Rick,

    Just got a look at the 48 shot – I like it a lot lovely style and colour tone. Esp like the break dancing at the end.

    Food for thought

  7. Rick on Tuesday 9, 2010

    Thanks Peter.

  8. B Blane on Tuesday 9, 2010

    I must have watched this about 8times now, and everytime i’m spellbound.