Illusion of Lights Timelapse Explores the Natural Night Sky

There’s a crazy statistic out there that of the roughly 3.5 billion people who live in major cities around the world, 3 out of 4 of them have never seen a clear, pristine night sky. That means they are unable to see the Milky Way, constellations, they can’t count the stars—all because of light pollution. Landscape astrophotographer Brad Goldpaint was one of these people when he lived in L.A., so he came up with an idea to escape the city lights, reconnect with the night sky and bring awareness to the light pollution problem through timelapse video:

Illusion of Lights: A Journey Into the Unseen explores the vast beauty of the sky at night. Shot over three years (and counting), the film aims to capture the current state of our night skies.

Due to the incredible amount of artificial light being emitted from cities—building lights, street lights, cars, billboards—living in these areas means the night sky will be washed out. That’s sad on its own, but light pollution is also causing problems that aren’t so obvious, and Goldpaint wants to bring attention to the issues.

milky way timelapse

Goldpaint began filming Illusion of Lights in Oregon in 2012, but doesn’t expect it to be complete until 2017. There are still plenty of locations on the bucket list that he wants to include in the film.

In Oregon, he was surrounded by some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the US, and that motivated him to use photography and videography to educate people about the disappearing night skies. He and his wife, Marci, decided to fully commit themselves to the project so they left their jobs, moved into a motorhome, and hit the road.

illusion of lights photo

Filmed in various locations around the Sierra Nevada mountains and deserts of the Southwest, the couple traveled to some pretty amazing places that allowed Goldpaint to film clear, untouched skies, including seven national parks, four national forests, five state parks, and three wilderness areas.

The images capture beautiful scenes from high up in the mountains and from low desert floors. But the message is always the same: from these natural areas, the dark sky is absolutely wondrous.

clear view of stars photo

Goldpaint uses different Canon and Nikon cameras and lenses in his long exposure timelapse cinematography. It just depends on if he’s specifically shooting the night sky or landscapes. He also uses the eMotimo TB3 and Dynamic Perception Stage One for 3-axis motion control.

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