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Denali Through the Eyes of Time Lapse Photography

Posted By: Marshall     All Posts by Marshall  

September 27, 2012

Denali is an amazing place. For me, that amazement seems to be with its great landscapes: tall mountains to low valleys, braided rivers making their way as they please, open tundra and spruce forests, rocky slopes, and dense willow thickets. Denali’s weather also draws the eye. From frosty nights to clouds, rain, mist, and sun, the rapidly changing seasons keep us on our toes.  The green, red and white of the midnight sun or northern lights and the animals (or bugs)-sometimes in great herds and flocks-sometimes very few-really draw us in. A still picture will remember some of it. But a photographer will have a difficult time capturing the wonder of the weather—and with it, the shifting light. The weather can make your hike a seemingly inhospitable venture of cold and wet (perhaps even snow), while you investigate a multitude of hardy flowers. Or it can be in sun, enjoying idyllic vistas, blue-blue skies and puffy clouds—sometimes in the same day. You may venture to the same place many times, but since so much is changing in this landscape, you may continue to find it rewardingly new.

I suspected time-lapse photography would be a way of capturing more of the motions of Denali. This summer I acquired the equipment capable of it: a new camera ($1,200) and an intervalometer ($25). I combined this with a tripod and I was set! I recorded my first set of images in August, in the Polychrome area of the park. The clouds were moving quickly so I set the intervalometer to take a picture every two seconds. I wish I could have taken a picture every second, because that would have allowed me to put more pictures/second of video without making the clouds move extremely fast. Unfortunately the data couldn’t record to my memory card fast enough for a picture every second. With pictures being taken every two seconds, real-time, and being compiled into a video at 30 frames/second (fps), most of my videos compress 1 minute of real-time into 1 second of video-time.

Making a good video from individual images is not easy, at least not for me, yet. In some of the image sets my camera moved, either from wind or my hand adjusting settings. I had to manually align the images so the video wouldn’t be jumpy. I also lost a couple image sets because my camera came out of focus, which was a bummer. Also: it is important to remember to bring an empty memory card and a spare battery on your hike, for obvious reasons! Finally, there is the challenge of compiling and rendering the video: I used LRTimelapse to de-flicker (a problem owing to changing exposure), Lightroom to make the video, and Photoshop to put all the videos together. Quite a process, but certainly worth it! Thank you to all the inventors out there that made this possible. And thank you to the beauty and motion-filled landscapes of Denali!


Watch the two minute video from this summer:



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Denali Dispatch

It is our pleasure to present Dispatches, a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge. Written by members of our staff, Dispatches is an opportunity to peek into the special sightings notebook, brush up on Denali National Park issues, read about our ongoing projects in sustainability, and maybe get a whiff of what’s cooking in the kitchens. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.