Behind the Scenes of a New Zealand Timelapse

Unless you’ve dabbled in timelapse yourself, it’s difficult to comprehend the time and effort that goes into the process, but so many photographers make it look easy. During his recent five week trip to the South Island of New Zealand, photographer Matt Williams shot 30,000 still images and compiled the frames into this gorgeous timelapse video called SOUTH:

I asked Williams if he could share a few details about his process for PictureCorrect readers, and he kindly provided lots of background information for aspiring timelapse photographers.

new zealand south island photography

What equipment and software did you use?

timelapse new zealand evening

What were your biggest challenges?

“One of the biggest challenges was keeping power up to my laptop, and also having enough storage capacity for all of the images. All images were shot in RAW, so it was a continual daily system of downloading all of the days image sequences, importing in to Lightroom/Photoshop and then completing any post processing required. The sequences were then converted to JPGs and the sequence created in After Effects. Once the sequence was converted, it was backed up on a separate hard drive, and the original RAW files were deleted to make space. Thankfully, I didn’t have any drama with losing any images at all. Being that we were in a motorhome, we found that we had to get to a van park every 3rd or 4th day (depending on how many sequences I had shot) to recharge my laptop.

Another challenge after I had compiled the final clip was getting some music for the finished piece. On previous timelapse projects I had completed, I had used creative commons music and tried to get something that matched the ‘feel’ of my piece, and then adjusted my individual sequences accordingly. Due to the nature of this project, I wanted to have something written specifically for my images and for the music to complement, and enhance what you were seeing on the screen. I sought out a guy from the US, by the name of Jacob Scott Rakozy, as I had heard previous work that he had done on various other timelapse pieces, and I just knew that he could produce what I was after! Fortunately, Jacob is an awesome guy, and after seeing my movie, he agreed to work on the project. And, as you can tell by the final score, IT IS FREAKING AWESOME! I honestly can’t thank him enough.

Another person that needs a MASSIVE THANK YOU is my wife! She is just the best ever, and was happy to just hang out while I was gathering all of the images needed (and usually make me a cup of tea while I was standing out in the cold!) Crikey, she even got up at 4.30am one morning at Mt Cook/Aoroki when it was -4˚C to hike for close to two hours under the light of a head torch into Hooker Lake with me for sunrise! See, I told you she was the best!!!

Oh yeah, another thing, if you are a photographer and you are traveling through the South Island of New Zealand, don’t take any notice of the approximate times it will take you to get from A to B! At a very conservative estimate, double it (at least!) On one stretch of road heading out to Milford Sound, they said to allow around 2 hours. At the 4 1/2 hour mark, we had to pull up for the day, and we still had about another 50 kilometers to go, and the road was only about 120 kilometers long!!!”

flowing water timelapse

Do you have any words of advice for people new to timelapse photography?

“Words of advice is a funny one. I’ve been shooting timelapse now for a couple of years, and only now do I feel that I am in a position where I can accurately achieve what I am trying to set out to do. This has only come through a lot of practice, and a lot of learning from my mistakes.

Knowing a little bit about the weather helps as well. Shooting digital costs you nothing except your time (after the initial purchase), so get put there and just give it a go. There is so much info available at your fingertips these days, it’s just a matter of then finding the time to put it all into practice. I have spent many a day and many a night out there shooting.

The other thing that I am always conscious of when shooting my timelapse sequences, is whether the individual frame has been composed properly. Coming from a landscape background, I want to be able to take an individual frame from a sequence, and process that as I would a stand alone image. Movement in your final timelapse doesn’t make up for a poorly composed frame.”

night sky timelapse

We see lots of timelapses, but it’s rare to get insight and advice from the photographers behind them. Thanks, Matt Williams for sharing your work and wisdom!

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2 responses to “Behind the Scenes of a New Zealand Timelapse”

  1. Absolutely awesome article! So great to get some information on how this great timelapse was done and all the work that went into capturing and producing it!

  2. Avinash Bhalla says:

    WOW !! Am Speechless…took me a while to regain after the timelapse ended……Thank you for sharing your great piece of work

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