Ode: Tempus Vernum is a love letter.
Every spring for as long as I can remember there are days I look outside and feel a tug somewhere in my chest and I know it’s time. Time to go chase clouds across the Mojave, or get up some new mountain road, or down some narrow trail through some canyon. To get lost. To be happily alone in the wilderness.
Some time ago I started taking photos of those days, and soon after, timelapses.
Timelapsed images show me a dance in the springtime between the sky and the Earth. A dance so slow you can’t see it with your eyes. It has to be captured, quietly, in stillness: one frame at a time. And the large swaths of space in between are dedicated to discovering the next dance: The plan, the drive, the climb, the shoot, the edit. Repeat. The random weekend turned into every weekend. Three hour drives there and back or quick overnight trips 500 miles away became the norm. And flights to adventure somewhere completely wild has become a lifestyle.
Tempus Vernum is the first of two massive timelapse projects I have been working on for the better part of two years. The locations range from the Anza Borrego desert just a handful of miles from the Mexico border all the way up to Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
Alongside my primal need for exploration, I’m endlessly fascinated by weather systems in California. For a few weeks of the year in mid-to-lower California even the smallest amounts of rain can translate into enormous, inconceivable blooms of unimaginable beauty. The air becomes sticky sweet with the scent of a billion flowers and vibrates with insects of all shapes and sizes. The mountain streams begin to run down into the valleys again. Everything turns from yellow to green almost overnight.
And the glory of the Eastern Sierra: I spend hours staring quietly at them, in tribute at the base of the range in awe of spires of granite giving way to slate. Spiking almost 16,000 feet in just two or three short miles from the base, they command their own weather systems. High meadows and canyons winding their way through the range have a delicate permanence, telling a story that started 40 million years ago.
I will never understand it. I will never want to.
The Sierras owe their shape and form to the very same ice that extended all the way up to Alaska in the last great ice age and it was a dream of mine to capture the Aleutian Range. A place so pristine and wild it is incomprehensible, and where the dance of spring takes on its own rhythm.
This is my love. This is my love letter.
P.S. Please make sure this love letter is in HD/1080p on the viewer settings.
My wife Michele is 8 and a half months pregnant with our first child. Last month we were down in the Palm Springs area for the Indian Wells tennis tournament and we took an afternoon to go see the Anza Borrego super bloom and take some portraits.
Nature did not disappoint us.
The full gallery is below ❤
All of the Full-sized Imagery from ‘How the Shot Was Got’ ep II: Go to Interesting Places & Try Not to Die’
I have a fascination with storms. Specifically, desert storms – compact but remarkably tall and powerful storms that sweep across the southwest each year during the ‘monsoon’, which I now know (and have known for quite some time) is a season and not an actual type of storm. Yes, I know I referred to it as a storm in the video, no, you shut up.
A few times a year I have the privilege of hauling out to the desert in some easternly direction to try to capture the fast-moving storms, storms that are quick to dissipate and fall apart if conditions aren’t right.
For this How the Shot was Got episode I found some footage from a few years back when I went out to Arizona during the late summer with no top on my Jeep for the week. Relatedly, that was the week I learned that Jeep Wranglers have little plugs in the bottom of the Jeep floor so you can drain water after your Jeep has 100% flooded in the interior.
I was hiking way back in the canyons, and the storm crept up on me from behind as I trekked for miles off a lone and secluded dirt road to try to get to an arch I had heard about. I made it only far enough to see it, but then I turned around after reaching an open area on a rock face and saw that a particularly low and nasty storm was just about right on top of me. It was pretty scary for a bit as the lightning came down all around me and up on the ridges to both sides. Talking to my phone was kind of the thing that kept me from being scared, and now that I’m putting together these little vignettes it makes for pretty entertaining stuff.
It was a good day, even with about 4 inches of water in my Jeep by the time I got back.
The results from going out in the summer storms are super worth it when you get alongside an open plain and can shoot the wall of water making its way across the desert, or when you get up on a ridge just in time to shoot the clouds exploding upward.
It’s just not maybe the safest thing to get caught under them, because the temp drops to about 45 degrees and you get hailed on and possible electrocuted.
The full gallery plus some other good storm shots is below past the timelapses (or similar ones I’ve already uploaded) featured in the video.
Recently I started putting together the second timelapse compilation (there will be Spring and Desert, the latter of which is getting a custom score!) and I realized I had a ton of behind the scenes footage from being out and about in the world. So I started putting it together in fun little vignettes that I’m excited to share.
The footage is vertical because that’s how the majority of it was shot on my iPhone, so I wanted to bundle all of the full sized imagery here if people wanted to view it as it was meant to be viewed.
The images are in the gallery below the timelapse files.
Lightning at Quartzsite
Taken off the 10 fwy in the middle of the night, I chased this cell for at least two hours before I caught it. It was massive, and had moved just over the hill by the time I got to it. Still a spectacular show.
I took this after hiking up a steep incline for about half a mile in the hot desert mid afternoon heat in March of last year. It’s like being on another planet out there – there’s just nothing for miles.
Eastern San Joaqin Valley Storm
This is one of my favorites. We caught an amazing storm coming out of Yosemite last spring, and set up just off the highway. Shortly after we packed up as the last bit of light started to fade to the west, a small tornado touched down in the distance.
Tunnel View Sweeping Fog and Rain
This one was a spectacular gift. On a whim I packed my camera gear to maybe shoot on a drive back to LA from SF, and decided to hit Yosemite on the way home. I was definitely rewarded by some great footage. Bonus: a man named Yousiff saw me standing there forever in the rain, dutifully wiping my lenses again and again and gave me his umbrella before he left.
Gallery of images from the locations shown in the episode:
I’m sounding like a broken record but I’m still processing timelapses from Arizona back in August whenever I have free time but recently I tried my hand at photo stacking again and was floored by what I got:
About a little more than a year ago, I drove out about 5 hours to a magical little place I know about and waited until the moon set. I then hiked out a mile or more and set up to take a timelapse of this gorgeous, 4000 year old tree.
The timelapse is okay, the collapsed photo stack is about a million times better in my opinion. I don’t understand masking (yet) but I understand the way my brain processing the concept of masking is inverted; so I’m trying to re-train my brain to think in Photoshop terms. BUT, I was able to stack these images and erase the background “static” stars from the base layer image that sits underneath the rest of the 100 or more images that create the star trails, and that made me really happy.
I lit the tree in one 20 second exposure with my headlamp and it turned out perfect. I’m not psyched on the red light trail in the lower right; but I was too lazy to retrace each layer to find that one image and reprocess so there it is. All red up in there.
But for someone who doesn’t work in Photoshop often, this is without a doubt the coolest image I’ve ever done. I had no idea I was even positioned to capture the North Star perfectly – the happiest accident. I hope you enjoy it!
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This turned out cool. Doing the other one now too.
I took about four timelapses last month out in the eastern Sierras during the Perseid meteor shower. I still need to finish editing them but in the meantime here’s an image I created playing with photostacking. It’s not super awesome, but I don’t know Photoshop that well so this is as close as I got to what I was imagining.
I created it by going through the 300+ photos I took at ~20 sec @ 2.8 with around probably 4000 ISOish, and selecting the frames that had decent streaks captured and then using Photoshop’s image stacking process. I was following a How-To online but it was a while ago and I can’t remember which site I was referencing.
Using a shot after the moon had already come up as the background image the rest of the images are filtered so that only bits that are “lighter” than the background image show up – hence, star trails.
One thing I notice while posting this now is that there’s still the static stars in the background image, which makes it look weirdly contrasted and well, amateur. I need to go back and erase that section of the background image somehow. I tried to use all 300 photos in one image stack for crazy star trails but it would have taken forever to process and I gave up.
Composition, especially for night shots, remains a challenge for me but I’m relatively happy with how it turned out for now. I’ll have more to post soon. I just need to edit edit edit.