24 September 2013

Barcelona




We are in Barcelona for a week to get some big city time-lapse. Yes, our Camino is taking a far from traditional route. A wonderful friend from uni has given us a place of our own, right next to Gaudi's amazing park. There is so much to shoot here it feels a little overwhelming. And the police don't seem to like tripods (just as they don't in London) so stealth mode is required for some shots. Never give up! Never surrender! :)

Video Diary - Week 2


20 September 2013

Camino de Santiago - Chapter 1



We have spent the last 2 weeks enjoying the splendid views and tasty pleasures of the first 50 km of the Camino de Santiago - the Napoleon route. We walked with kit and tent attached to our backs from St Jean Pied de Port in France, over the Pyrenees to Pamplona in Spain, stopping here and there along the way, whenever we saw a potential time-lapse.  We camped on the edge of a cliff in crazy winds, deep in a forest valley next to a magical flow of sparkling water, out in the open surrounded by horses with bells, and every night under the twinkling milky-way.  We are still ironing out a few technical issues but nevertheless proud to present the first instalment of our time-lapse series.

The technical bit: 
Shot with Canon 5D and 600D, using the 16-35 mm, 24 mm L-series and telephoto lens 100-500 mm.
The motion control was achieved with a Digislider add-on to a 1m track, with a 9v battery powered slow motor and 3 axis motion control head - the Orion Teletrack, powered by x2 9v batteries.
There are not many electric plugs in nature, so we made good use of a 10W solar panel from Voltaic. It charges camera and 9v batteries, and powers the laptop long enough to off-load pictures (Raw files can eat up the card pretty quickly, 32 gb card is full after shooting 2 time-lapses) Unfortunately the solar panel does not give enough energy to the laptop to process all HDR shots, but we are looking to solve this issue in the future somehow. Please feel free to comment if you have nay suggestions on this front:)
For HDR batch processing we used Photomatix Pro.  We also used Panolapse http://www.panolapse360.com . We used both of its really great features - the extra panning movement that warps the image to any set lens size (in those times when 9v batteries decided to have a day off) and also the RAWblend option - to stabilise the flicker in the morning/evening shots when light is changing rapidly. Very happy about the smooth results of this program, as sometimes we had some issues with the automatic Bulb ramping option on Magic Lantern, which is otherwise an amazing software hack for your canon camera, that gives you good consistent HDR bracketing and intervalometer functions. In our final shot, the one with the band stand lighting up, we manually adjusted the shutter speed, and it seems to have worked pretty well.  
Patience is the name of the game in time-lapse.
For the final edit we used Final Cut Pro. 
Music: Tarja - New Land 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the video, specifically your thoughts on how we might be able to improve what we do.

Enjoy :) 
You are the answer that makes my questions go away

To say that life began two weeks ago might sound somewhat cliché for a 37 year old, yet as I put pen to paper for the first time in an unforgivably long time, with nothing to bother me at all but the distant sound of a playing child and the faint whirring of my time-lapse processing laptop, I cannot describe how I feel any other way.  

Today I find myself enveloped by the comforting arms of Pamplona, a place I know of only through its ancient tradition of bull running and a vague memory that Ernest Hemingway once lived here.  I am here because it is the first city between St Jean Pied de Port in France and Santiago, some 800k away on the other side of Spain.  

I have had the strangest yet reassuringly pleasant sensation since arriving that I have been here before.  It is something close to the feeling of coming home after a long time away.  Perhaps in another life I lived within the security of these walls, for inexplicably I instantly seemed to know my way around.  And honestly, even after quite some time in a place, this is a quality I am not usually associated with.

The story of how I arrived here is certainly a story of note, and one I would like to tell, but this will remain for the moment the story of my present, not my past.

So, to Pamplona.  And that warm feeling of misty recognition.  Of all the streets that my bare feet have trodden, these are unquestionably the most comfortable.  The cobblestones are large and warn and more than this they are perpetually clean.  Every morning at the respectable time of 9am a water truck hoses down the preceding nights dirt into carefully placed gutters.  Inside the huge walls of this once impenetrable city no street is left unwashed and my feet & I remain eternally grateful.

This morning I opened my door to what is usually a quiet, narrow back road to be greeted by the sounds & colours of a marketplace.  The thick scent of firecrackers and upbeat hooting of a wind band filled my sluggish morning senses with information and a smiling woman not more than a few steps from my door sells me a tube of her homemade fluoride-free salvia toothpaste.  She tells me that every street in the city has its one day of the year when it becomes a market street party, like a birthday celebration.  How wonderful that I should catch the day of joy for the street in which I am staying.  Fortuitous?  Perhaps.  After everything I have been through to get here, coincidences designed to enhance my enjoyment of the moment are nothing short of commonplace.

Traditions seem to rule the various cultures of this planet and this place is no exception.  Coffee, cigarettes and alcohol are fairly universal to Europe but it is rare, certainly in the UK to see grey haired ladies puffing away outside every bar, sipping on beer or vino tinto well before lunch time.  With tradition comes a pride that seems as unflinching as these city walls.  The people here run with bulls because this is what they have always done.  There is no competition during the week of running.  No winner to uphold.  Only the chance to run alongside an animal made of muscle.  A petrified beast with intent and ability to crush your bones in an instant.  Identical red on white outfits are worn by all in attendance, runners and non runners alike.  Despite the annual certainty of brutal injuries, there has not been a human death for many years.  It seems sad to me however that the same cannot be said for the bulls.

The weekend begins on a Thursday night and the doesn't end until Sunday morning.  The remainder of the week takes on a more somber shape and the popular bars and cafes no longer prevent movement through the streets, unless of course you are prepared to sift through hoards of upbeat, marijuana-scented youngsters, which frankly, I quite enjoyed.

The tradition on Thursday night is something similar to the English bar hopping concept, only it involves the local version of tapas, known here as pintxos, pronounced pinchos . Each bar, and there are many, prepares a wonderful display of their intricately designed pintxos, protected behind glass.  The competition between bars is evident in the quality of both presentation and taste.  As a vegetarian it is almost impossible to sufficiently nourish myself here, especially when taking part in the Thursday festivities.  Almost all the pintxos feature the wafer thin cured ham of the region and the crunchy baguette-type bread.  The baguette it seems has been hailed as the perfect accompaniment to every meal.  I noted in the streets that every second person clutches one under their arm as if it were a fashion accessory to go with their already exquisitely stylish attire.  I had hoped to buy some simple inexpensive closes here but the shops are not the kind in which a barefoot man feels comfortable.

Within hours of arriving we had befriended a lovely Portuguese resident by the name of Carlos.  Unshaven, paced and constantly smiling, he guided us around his favourite haunts and between the bar hopping snack treats and a long awaited joint overlooking the night lights of Pamplona, we had what I can safely describe as a night worthy of recollection.

There is an energy that is hard to describe: an ancient buzz that moves from street to street with the sun.  The bleached colours of the old buildings proudly adorned with flowers and flags are not fully appreciated until the streets have been trodden well, for each one comes to life at a different time of day, only when the sun creeps into the high walled pathways to illuminate their essence.  The people seem happier here than the city folk I remember.  Perhaps it is the free Pamplona wi-fi in every public square, or perhaps I wonder, as I listen to the sound of a skilled pianist playing Beethoven three floors up aside their open window at 11pm on a Tuesday night, perhaps they smile the way they do because this is what they have always done. 

With each passing moment I fall more and more in love with this place, yet with each passing moment I become more and more aware of the stark difference between those who live here and those who are just passing through.  The clomping of expensive walking boots and brightly coloured heavy laden backpacks suspended behind tired yet excited eyes, relishing the first real taste of civilisation for over 50k, wondering where to eat and sleep.  They are evident from a distance.  And I see them because I am one of them.  Or at least I was a week ago.  

We are known as peregrinos - pilgrims.  And yes, we are only passing through.  The road to Santiago has been trodden by many and as we well know, it is not the destination but the journey that enlightens the questioning mind.  For this reason Pamplona offers only a single nights' refuge for most, before they rise in the darkness of a day yet begun to continue on with their search for what they hope will be answers.

Unlike many of the peregrinos I have spoken to, I walk the Camino in search of nothing more than the joy and beauty I know is within me.  And I am not in a hurry.  For I already have everything I both want and need.

With the alignment of happiness comes the alignment of our true creative nature and it has been an absolute joy to pick up where I left off in South Africa and get back to creating time-lapse again. 

I hope the film that Dominika and I have put together comes close to expressing the completeness of our experiences on this, the opening leg of the Camino de Santiago.

And yes, travelling sweet traveling, you are the answer that makes my questions go away.

I am grateful already for the road ahead.

7 September 2013

Civilization a few days away

We are now half way between our starting point and Pamplona. Getting some great timelapse. Watch this space!



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