Time Lapse Guru Tom Lowe Q&A

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The Astronomy Photographer of the Year award winning image which features features a 4,000 year old bristlecone pine tree against the Milky Way. This photo is actually a single frame of time laps footage featured in Tom’s film TimeScapes.

Recently we caught up with Tom Lowe, time lapse photography guru, to pick his brain about his technique, gear, and adventures! If you’re not familiar with Tom’s work, you should be! Tom and his production company Dreamcore were instrumental in the resurgence of time-lapse photography by pioneering new techniques and designing motorized time-lapse dollies and motion-control systems for capturing the mesmerizing visuals that define the genre. He is also working on bringing like-minded creatives together through his online community forum at TimeScapes.org.

Tamrac: You have done some impressive work with time lapse photography. What is it about time lapse photography that has drawn you to this
technique?

Tom: The main draw for me was the ability to film at night, capturing the stars and the moonlight.  You simply cannot do that with conventional movie cameras or techniques. Second, time lapse is a great way to get into film making, because the gear is relatively inexpensive. When I first started in late 2006, using a $600 Canon 350D Rebel,  I was able to shoot incredibly sharp 1080p+ video that totally blew away the images from Sony’s top-of-the-line, $200,000 F900 digital movie camera.

Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Producer, Tom Lowe

Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Producer, Tom Lowe

Tamrac: Your film TimeScapes [view the trailer at the end of this post] showcases your stunning time lapse photography work and is the first film to be released for purchase in 4K. Along with pushing the boundaries of distribution, what are some of the boundaries of the time lapse technique that the process of making this film gave you the opportunity to push?

Tom: Without question, no film has ever contained anywhere near the amount of dark-skies (Milky Way) astro-time-lapse that “TimeScapes” has.  Director Ron Fricke and  producer Mark Magidson’s 1992 film “Baraka” was and remains a huge inspiration to me, but they were limited in what they could shoot at night due to the low ISO/ASA rating of chemical 65mm film.  Basically, they could only shoot in moonlight, but they could not capture the Milky Way. The higher sensitivity of digital cameras, especially when coupled with modern cinema and stills lenses, also allowed me to really push the boundaries of how time lapse cameras can move.  Instead of just using dollies, sliders and jibs, I was shooting astro-timelapse from moving cars and boats.

Tom attaching his camera to the windshield of his truck.

Tom attaching his camera to the windshield of his truck.

Tamrac: TimeScapes took you 2 years to film during which you spent 250 nights sleeping outside under the stars as your cameras shot through till morning. Do you have any  funny/interesting stories you’d like to share that happened on your two year adventure?

Life of a time lapse shooter. Members of the Dreamcore team, Ben and Mike, camping out on an unfinished tower in Dubai

Life of a time lapse shooter. Members of the Dreamcore team, Ben and Mike, camping out on an unfinished tower in Dubai

Tom: Well, let’s put it this way.  Aside from gas and food, our largest line item production expense on “TimeScapes” was… beer!  At Dreamcore, our motto is “Film like Terrence Malick, Party like Led Zepplin.”  So we had hundreds of epic nights blasting dubstep at
all-night bonfire parties in some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth.

Location scouting and camping under the stars in Yemen.

Location scouting and camping under the stars in Yemen.

Tamrac: What kind of cameras and lenses are you using to capture these images?

Tom: Our main camera on “TimeScapes” was a Canon 5D Mark 2, with a Canon 16-35mm lens.  That is a timelapse workhorse combination.  But we also used a special, modified Canon 1D4 camera with a PL mount, which allowed us to use the 1D4 with the super-fast 16mm f/1.2 Zeiss/Arri Master Prime 16mm lens.  Without the Master Prime, I simply would not have been able to successfully film the “astro boatlapse” sequence at Lake Powell, for example.

Getting ready to shoot with his Canon and Optimo combo in Dubai.

Getting ready to shoot with his Canon and Optimo combo in Dubai.

Tamrac: What kind of equipment are you using to get such fluid camera motion?

Tom: I used Kessler and camBLOCK motion-control gear on “TimeScapes.”  We actually invented some new rigs while shooting as well, like the Kessler “Timelapse Crane” setup. That piece of gear was spawned from an informal phone conversation I had one morning with Eric Kessler.

Sunset time lapse with the Kessler Crane CineDrive motion control system in Jordan.

Sunset time lapse with the Kessler Crane CineDrive motion control system in Jordan.

Tamrac: You sent us a really cool picture of a number of Expedition backpacks piled in the back of an SUV getting ready for a shoot. So how many Expeditions are you using for all your gear and what is it that you like about your Expedition backpacks?

Loaded up with Expedition 9x after Expedition 9x.

Loaded up with Expedition 9x after Expedition 9x.

Tom: Haha, we probably have 15 or 20 Tamrac Expedition 9x bags. The 9x is our main method for moving gear around, whether we are talking about motion-control kits, lighting, or cameras.  We actually keep our Red Epics totally built inside the 9x… that’s one of the main reasons I love it, because I hate disassembling cameras.

Packing up the Expedition 9x's for a shoot.

Packing up the Expedition 9x’s for a shoot.

Tamrac: What are some words of wisdom you might share for someone interested in   trying time lapse photography for the first time?

Tom: If you really want to become a great time lapse photographer, it’s not patience that you need, it’s dedication.  It’s easy to pass time while the camera clicks away, but it’s hard to get your ass up at 3am in the freezing cold and move a camera dolly up the side of a  mountain. Dedication is the key.

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Tamrac: How can people find out more about you and your work, and keep up with what you’re doing?

Tom: They can follow me at

http://www.facebook.com/tomlowefilmmaker
http://www.facebook.com/DreamcorePictures
http://twitter.com/DreamCorePics

View the TimeScapes trailer!

TimeScapes: Rapture 4K from Tom Lowe on Vimeo.

And they can purchase “TimeScapes” here:
http://timescapes.org/products/default.aspx

Thanks so much to Tom Lowe and his crew at Dreamcore for answering our questions! We’re excited to see what you guys will come out with next!

For more information on the Expedition 9x backpacks. Check them out here:
http://www.tamrac.com/frame_exp.htm

 

Maring Visuals Q&A

CharlesandJen_Bio_8x10_300Maring is an International Award Winning studio where creative storytelling shines. We’re a group of photographers, cinematographers, graphic designers, master printer artists, and book binders working in unison to bring our clients a one of a kind experience where the words “artistic integrity” ring true.
We tell stories in print, on the big screen, online, and we even design custom mobile applications for smart phones and tablets in which we blend the creative content we produce into gorgeous interactive publications that can be private or monetized online.
Often we get to photograph and create content for some well known personalities and companies like Donald and Melania Trump, David Tutera, Star Jones, Tom Clancy, Disney, American Express, etc…
You won’t find Maring everywhere or advertising in local magazines, etc… Instead, we work primarily on referrals from past clients who know that we will deliver on our promise of excellence. Whether your project is personal such as a wedding, private party, or a family portrait…. Or, your project is commercial as an interactive catalog, a business portrait, or a viral video.

New York Wedding

Tamrac: How did you get into photography?
Charles/Jennifer:  Both Jennifer and I are lucky in that both our fathers were into photography. We both come from families that were experimenting in the photographic processes, both behind the camera and in the darkroom, our entire lives. So, it’s something both of us have always held close to our hearts and something we dreamt about growing up.

Tamrac: You guys excel in shooting diverse photographic styles.  Do you have a favorite?
Charles/Jennifer: Thank you for noticing this… We don’t really have a favorite style. We simply like telling great stories. We have just as much appreciation for photojournalism as we do for pro-active work. We strive to be the best we can at both and feel there is a time and place for both as well.

New York Photographer

Tamrac: You guys created a really cool app for the iTunes store called Modern Light, can you describe it to us?
Charles/Jennifer: Modern Light is more like an interactive book that an app per say. It covers a lot of basics, terminology, light shaping tools, etc… for those that are just getting started. However, we also included videos, diagrams, and examples of how we personally use these tools in a variety of ways from lighting reception halls to celebrity portraits to fashion. It chronicles some of our shoots over a 6 month period and shares advice on how to light with purpose.

New York Photographer

Tamrac: You guys have been on several episodes of My Fair wedding.  Can you tell us about that experience?
Charles/Jennifer: Yes we have… We actually photographed David Tutera’s personal wedding quite a few years back after he fell in love with our style and quality. We went on to co-produce several books with David on entertaining, and just recently photographed him and all of his commercial brands as well for upcoming product launches. Our work with My Fair Wedding was really more behind the scenes although we appear many times and are the focus of a couple of shows. David came to us regarding creating a My Fair Wedding book. So, most weddings had their own photographer, and our job was to capture the details of the design and from a behind the scenes perspective. It was a lot of fun to work on set with cast and crew as well as to be a guest expert.

New York Photographer

Tamrac: Do you have any unique or funny moments while shooting on location?
Charles/Jennifer: Nothing to crazy that happened to us personally. Luck favors the prepared mind I guess. I’ve dropped a few lenses over the years, but have been quite lucky.  But, we have seen some crazy things. One time at a wedding the grooms mom got out of a Lincoln Town car at the ceremony, which was driven by a neighbor. She walked behind the car and the neighbor ran her over breaking her leg severely. Luckily an ambulance arrived to bring the grandmother at the same time, and they had an extra wheelchair. In trauma, the grooms mom refused to go to the hospital. So the overall view of the ceremony was with two wheelchairs on each side of the aisle. Looking back, that was kind of lucky as well as the shot balanced quite nicely.

New York Photographer

Tamrac: What are projects are you working on that we can expect to see soon?
Charles/Jennifer: We are working on numerous projects right now on the personal front. We never sit still, and if things are slow on the client front, we ramp up personal projects. We are very passionate about personal work above all else. Too many photographers focus only on client work instead of their own ideas and dreams. In the end it is personal work that ultimately feeds client work somehow in our experience. Plus you may succeed or fail in the end, but what matters is that you grew in the process, and have something spectacular to show for it.  On the video front, we shot several short films this year, along with a feature film, with the New York Film Group. This is a creative group of directors, producers, writers, actors, and cinematographers, and we are one of the key players. Some members are seasoned professionals that work in broadcast, others are students, and still others are aspiring. We team up to help each other get projects off the ground and, as a group, we see them through to completion and off to film festivals. The group has nearly 200 members, but is growing at incredible speed. We expect 1000 members by the end of 2013. So, we are working on finding meaningful scripts, and producing several shorts and two feature films in the coming year.  We also have been shooting stills, video, and time lapse films of the growth of a new park in NYC called the High Line for the past few years. We are on the verge of launching the pilot issue of a magazine called HighLine, which will be available on the iPad summer of 2013. The magazine has interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, gallerists, etc… and is a publication that brings the area to life in a new creative way. Digital publishing is the next wave, and we intend to be on it.

New York Wedding

Tamrac: What Tamrac gear do you use?
Charles/Jennifer: Since we are in NYC, well-made roller cases are big for us. The rolling studio cases are incredible because we now do so much high production value video work. On set, everything remains organized, visible and easily accessible.  As you know, we shoot weddings and portraits as well… We absolutely love the line of Tamrac Messenger bags because they piggy-back the big wheels speed roller cases. This is ideal for travel as it all fits as a carry on.

Tamrac: What do you love about your Tamrac bags?
Charles/Jennifer: What we love about our Tamrac bags is that they are extremely well made, and they last a very long time. They are also well thought out in terms of ergonomics.
Feel free to drop us an email or give us a call. We hope that you’ll expect the best, because that is what we strive to deliver!

Behind the Scenes of NBA Photographer Andrew D. Bernstein

You’ve seen the images, now hear the stories behind them!  LA Lakers, Clippers, Kings and NBA Photographer Andrew D. Bernstein will be at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles on March 21st to talk about his experiences shooting some of the most famous athletes in the world.  Come to get a rare glimpse behind some of the most iconic sports images from the last 30 years.  To learn more see below:

To purchase tickets got to: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5413660404/eorg#

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