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The Making of Epochs

 

Epochs was filmed between January and November of 2012 in California, Arizona, Utah, and Hawaii. My homemade dolly and rotary table were used to create motion in various scenes, and I borrowed a backyard alt/az telescope tracking mount for a couple scenes. For information about my dolly or turntable, see The Motion Project. A variety of cameras and lenses were used to film this; I borrow gear often.

 

Scene 1: Bay Bridge over San Francisco

7D, 17-85mm f/4.5.6 IS

I've wanted to shoot this angle for several years, since I first discovered the spot while browsing Google Earth. I made several attempts to reach the location, but only was successful on the fourth or fifth attempt. I took a bus from Berkeley to San Francisco, crossing over the Bay Bridge. I took a second bus from San Francisco back to Treasure Island, which is located halfway across the bridge. This enabled me to avoid the island's 45-minute parking limitations, which had foiled me on previous attempts. After exiting the bus at the touristy spot of the island, I hiked along the road back toward the bridge. For the final half mile or so, there was no shoulder, so I alternated between jogging on the highway and walking atop an 18-inch-wide retaining wall, trying to disregard the 20-ft drop next to me. After crossing directly over the Bay Bridge, I descended the cliff face to a small beach with the view that I had been seeking. This is one of my all-time favorite photo spots, and was definitely worth the effort to get there.

5-photo panorama:

 

Scene 2: Yosemite Falls

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

I graduated college on May 14 (UC Berkeley astrophysics, woo!), packed my apartment into my parents' van, and drove toward my home in Southern California the following morning. I met Charles Huang at the half point of the journey a bit before noon. I exited my parents van, got in his car, and we drove like maniacs at a reasonable speed to Yosemite National Park. By the time we had picked up backpacking passes, parked, and caught the bus to the Yosemite Falls tailhead, we were running late. Charles and I, despite carrying 40-lb backpacks, did our best to sprint up the trail and catch sunset from the top. After re-running the same stretch of trail several times, trying to find the lookout spot, we arrived just as the sunset occurred. The sunset was less than exciting (no clouds...), and we set up our tripods and cooked dinner.

Once it became late, we started the cameras and hiked up the mountain to find a camping spot. After 20 minutes, we became annoyed by the complete lack of any flat area and just threw out our sleeping bags in a wide section of the trail. Although this isn't kosher, we reasoned that we would be long gone before anyone who cared came by. Naturally, some guy came hiking by at 2 AM (?!) and scared the heck out of us, and it became FREAKING COLD, and as a result we didn't sleep much. I had set my alarm for 4:30 AM, but by 4 AM we were both tired of attempting to sleep. We repacked our stuff, hiked down, and retrieved the cameras. Mist from Yosemite Falls had blown across the trail in many places, causing it to be treacherously slick. We reached the bottom of the trail by 8 AM, caught the bus back to where we had parked, and repacked everything in preparation for the next (MUCH LONGER) hike. The ridiculous Yosemite hiking adventure continues in Scene 24.

Catching our breath on the hike up:

The letdown of a sunset:

 

Scene 3: Cathedral Lake Camping

5D Mk. II, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8

Two months after filming the above sequence, I was back in Yosemite. My parents wanted to hike the >200-mile John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney, so I agreed to drop them off and pick them up. I wanted to go to Cathedral Lake, but it's one of the most popular hikes in the park, so the hiking passes were reserved as soon as they became available six months earlier. Fortunately, Yosemite holds a few passes for each trailhead for "first come first serve" hikers. I arrived at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center at 7 AM and set up a chair outside. For the next four hours I read a book, watched a movie, and helped a guy fix his car, and finally at 11 AM they gave out the passes. I got one!

I met up with Daisy Leung, a fellow photographer and astrophysics major at Berkeley, and the next day we hiked to Upper Cathedral Lake. Most people stop at Lower Cathedral Lake (which isn't nearly as scenic), and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We set up our tent on a ledge of the cliff overlooking the lake. It may not have been the most practical or accessible campsite possible, but it certainly was the most scenic.

Our campsite:

That night's sunset:

A stack of some of the frames used in the timelapse:

 

Scene 4: 3-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

In May, I did a four-night observing run at Lick Observatory, located in the mountains above San Jose, CA. I was part of a team, so I wasn't completely tied to the telescope control room. I could explore around and shoot photos, which was quite fun.

Here's a photo which shows some scale for the telescope:

The telescope of this scene is just visible inside the big dome:

 

Scene 5: Panamint City Ghost Town

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

Panamint City is one of my all-time favorite places. It's a ghost town in Death Valley that is extremely difficult to reach. It had a population of several thousand in the late 1800s, before a giant flash flood washed away much of the city. A small population remained for the next century, and there was some amount of mining going on in the 1970s. In 1983, another huge flood washed the valley down to bedrock, completely destroying the only road to the city. With no route out, everything in the city was abandoned.

Now the city can only be reached by a horrible 7.5-mile hike. There isn't much of a trail, and you have to hike in streams, up waterfalls, and bushwhack for hours on end. Over Memorial Day Weekend, Michael Relich and I make the arduous journey and spent two nights there. There are at least a dozen abandoned vehicles in the city, plus several cabins that have been renovated by backpackers. We stayed in a cabin the first night (although we had to fend off mice in the middle of the night) and slept outside a different cabin on the second night. During the day, we explored the area (the city and its mines are quite extensive).

Hiking up the canyon:

Outside of the second night's cabin:

The inside of that cabin:

 

Scene 6: Big Sur Fog

5D Mk. II, 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6

On the last few days I was in California before moving to Hawaii for graduate school, Charles Huang and I drove up the coast to Big Sur and Davenport. I had plans to film the Milky Way over the Pacific Ocean, but a prevalence of fog prevented me. As a result, this scene of fog coming off the ocean and passing over a Big Sur lagoon is the only decent timelapse I got from the trip. By the end of the scene, my lens was completely misted over.

Heavy winds:

 

Scene 7: Mount Whitney Thunderclouds

5D Mk. II, 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6

Three weeks after I filmed at Cathedral Lake, my parents were finishing hiking the 210-mile John Muir Trail, and so I needed to pick them up at Mount Whitney. I was interested in hiking Whitney, since it's the tallest peak in the continental United States. However, all the hiking passes were reserved months before I considered a trip. Unlike Yosemite, no passes are held until the day before and given out to whoever shows up first, so I couldn't show up at the wilderness station at 7 AM and hope to get a pass. On the other hand, there is a fairly high cancellation rate, and the cancellations are reflected on the Mt. Whitney website immediately. I used a script which refreshed the site every thirty seconds and checked for changes. I ran the script continuously; at night, I turned up the volume of my computer so it would alarm and wake me if anything became available. After about a week, it started alarming one morning at 6 AM. I jumped out of bed and entered my information, but someone else snatched the passes before I finished. I went back to bed, disappointed. At 7 AM, it went off again, and that time I was fast enough to get a hiking pass!

This particular scene was filmed at Consultation Lake, halfway to the summit of Whitney. A thunderstorm was developing as I arrived, and I was concerned I might get caught in it. After filming this, I walked past Trail Camp (the obscenely crowded backpackers' campground) to an isolated spot by Wotan's Throne, at an altitude of about 12,000 ft. I hurried to set up my tent, but it didn't rain, and I went to bed fairly early. I woke up around midnight to loud thunder, bright flashes of lightning, and heavy rains. I ran outside my (ostensibly waterproof) tent and grabbed my backpack. Since the tent was a one-person tent, there was no extra space, and I pretty much had to set the backpack on top of me. To make things worse, the tent's waterproofing failed, and so I had a rather damp night as the rain leaked in.

After attempting to timelapse the following morning's sunrise (there wasn't one), I returned to the trail and hiked to the summit of Whitney. Compared to the Yosemite Falls to Cloud's Rest hiking adventure (Scenes 2 and 24), Whitney was easy.

My campsite, pre-thunderstorm:

 

Scene 8: Mauna Kea Sunset

Rebel XT, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

The first-year astronomy grad students at the University of Hawaii (of whom I am one) were flown over to the Big Island to tour the observatories at Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. After eating dinner at the astronomer's village on the side of the mountain, we raced up the 4wd road, completely drifting the turns, and arrived at the summit just in time for sunset. I filmed this timelapse sequence with my Rebel XT and did still photos with my 5D2. It was one of the most impressive sunsets that I've ever seen.

 

Scene 9: Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

In June, Michael Relich and I embarked on what we termed the "Übertrip," a 1,800-mile trip from Southern California to the Rimrock Toadstool Hoodoos, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument. We basically lived out of his Prius for a week, traveling and scouting locations during the day, and hiking and shooting timelapse at night. We slept less than 30 hours over the 7 nights of the trip. It was a trip that I'll remember my whole life. More on this is under scene 12.

On the very last night of the trip, we stopped at Natural Bridges National Monument. After checking out a couple of the bridges, we decided to film Owachomo Bridge, which is the most famous one. For the first time of the entire trip, we set out all our cameras and ran them simultaneously. I set up my 5D2 with 24 f/1.4 on one side of the bridge and filmed this scene, my (borrowed) T2i was put on the dolly on the other side of the arch to catch the North Star (scene 13), and my XT was dedicated to a behind-the-scenes timelapse of the dolly in action. Michael set out his two cameras, and we met Nathan Nitzky, who was running three cameras. Altogether, it was an extremely well-photographed bridge that night.

 

Scene 10: Glacier Point in Yosemite at Night

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

On the final night of Charles' and my start-of-summer Yosemite backpacking trip (Scenes 2, 18, and 24), we drove up to Glacier Point, which overlooks Yosemite Valley. Much to our surprise, we met John Jenkins, a timelapse pro whom I had first met on Treasure Island while shooting the opening scene of my last timelapse montage. He (and a couple of his friends) were also planning to shoot timelapse from the same area that we were. Because of their high-end gear, I calculated that there was more value in camera gear along that 30-ft stretch of cliff than vehicle value in most people's garages.

I find this scene intriguing. I have probably watched this individual scene more than anything else I've shot--there's just so much going on. Did you notice the campfire which is built at the base of Half Dome at the beginning? I'm guessing that it's from rock climbers who will begin ascending the wall at first light in the morning. Someone hikes the John Muir Trail in the middle of the night, goes into Little Yosemite Valley for a break, and then hikes the Mist Trail down just as sunrise occurs--who the heck does a 7-mile hike entirely at night (note: possibly the same person who startled Charles and me at 2 AM in Scene 2)? The Milky Way rises at the very beginning, and there are various flashes in the trees that could be from backpackers.

Here's a nighttime shot from Glacier Point toward Yosemite Falls, where Scene 2 was shot. The zigzagging trail, visible about halfway up the upper falls, is where we set up our cameras. Interestingly, the lights in the top right is about where we camped--there must have been some backpackers there.

 

Scene 11: Honolulu Moonset

5D Mk. II, 300mm f/2.8L non-IS

I would like to claim that I planned out this scene... but I didn't. I was heading out of my apartment and noticed a promising alignment of the moon and the buildings. I grabbed my camera and 300mm lens and started filming, and the moon set in the perfect spot.

 

Scene 12: Hoodoo and Milky Way

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.4

As mentioned in Scene 9, Michael Relich and I did a 1,800-mile "übertrip" through Arizona and Utah. We camped the first night at the Rimrock Toadstool Hoodoos, which was conveniently located near the trailhead for the Wave, an incredible sandstone formation. We hoped to score hiking passes to the Wave the following morning, but ultimately 70 people entered the lottery for the 10 passes, and unsurprisingly we didn't win. Anyhow, we arrived at the hoodoos parking lot in the late afternoon, hiked the mile to them, and explored the area until sunset. After eating dinner, I carried my dolly (the tripod mounts on my backpack ripped out under the weight of my Manfrotto, which made things interesting for the rest of the trip) to the largest hoodoo and set it up.

The trouble began about then. I had just made major upgrades to the dolly interface and software, and a finicky short (which hadn't been there during testing) prevented it from triggering the camera correctly. After half an hour of tweaking wires and failing to find the source of the problem, I kludged in my regular timelapse remote to trigger the camera. Surprisingly, I managed to sync it passably with the movement of the dolly, and miraculously the resulting timelapse wasn't affected. After setting up a borrowed T2i on a different angle (that scene didn't make this montage) and helping Michael with his timelapse, I noticed that headlights were lighting up the area in which we had parked. We weren't sure if it was a day-use-only area (there weren't any signs), and we didn't want to get ticketed/towed, so I left my backpack with the dolly and attempted to run the mile back to the parking lot. There was no cell phone service, it was completely dark, there was no moonlight, and I was jogging a trail under the light of my (rapidly dying) headlamp. After several minutes the trail disappeared, and I realized that I had been following the wrong trail. I turned around and tried to backtrack, but that trail disappeared, too. There were a ton of trails in the area, and it was quite cliffy, so it was impossible to travel in a straight direction. I was without water, I could only see the ground within 10 feet of me, and I was was concerned that my headlamp (which was blinking the "replace batteries" signal and becoming increasingly dim) would die entirely.

After wandering in circles for a while, I stopped and oriented myself using the stars. I started to hike in the direction that I thought was the primary trail. It was with great joy that I found it, and 15 minutes later I returned to the car. Michael, who had been waiting there and considering his options for 20 minutes, was about as happy as I was when I turned up. We declared it the "crisis of the trip," and I vowed to not get lost alone in the middle of the night with a dying headlamp without water or cell service again.

Big hoodoo is big!

 

Scene 13: Owachomo Bridge North Star

Rebel T2i, 11-16mm f/2.8

While my 5D2 filmed the Milky Way from one side of Owachomo Bridge, I set up a borrowed T2i on my dolly on the other side. I put a CTO (orange) gel on my headlamp to cast a bit of light onto the bridge.

 

Scene 14: Milky Way Eye Candy

5D Mk. II, Canon 50mm f/1.4

Michael Relich bought an alt/az telescope tracking mount which permitted the attachment of a camera. We used it a couple times during the Übertrip, but unfortunately it was extremely buggy and prone to failure, and Michael decided to return it. The day before he planned to return it, I borrowed the tracker from him and drove the three hours to the nearest location with dark skies, which was Joshua Tree National Park. After overcoming various bugs, I aligned the tracker and pointed the camera at the Milky Way with a 50mm lens. I filmed until first light, and then waged war against the morning rush hour to get back home.


 

Scene 15: Double Arch, Arches National Park

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

This is truly the scene that got away. Never before have I been so frustrated at the failure of a timelapse scene. I anticipated that this would be one of the best scenes in the montage, but I was foiled twice. On our first night in Arches National Park, Michael and I set up his 5D2 with a 14mm lens on the telescope tracking mount under Double Arch, a truly incredible rock formation. The Milky Way would pass through the arches, and partway through the scene a crescent moon would rise and illuminate everything perfectly.

Because the first part of the scene would be completely moonless, we spent a large amount of time working to light paint the two arches so they would not be black silhouettes. In the past, I've only ever needed to use one headlamp for light painting. My headlamp allows dimming and has multiple beam widths, so it works quite well for light painting applications. However, the scene was far too wide to be illuminated with just one headlamp, so we used Michael's headlamp also. Unfortunately, even on the dimmest setting, his was far too bright and had a narrow beam with hard edges. After much adjustment of the two headlamps, I had about three neutral density gels, a diffuser, and several CTO gels duct-taped onto his headlamp. We finally started the timelapse scene, with the camera slowly panning from one arch to the other, and hiked back to the Prius to sleep for a couple hours. When we hiked back to the tracker before sunrise, we discovered that the gels had blown off Michael's headlamp during the night, causing a giant blow-out spotlight to appear on the arch partway through the scene. This four-second scene is the entirety of the timelapse prior to the lighting failure.

We decided that the scene had too much potential to just give up on. We had planned to spend the final night of the trip filming in Monument Valley, but we dropped that location in order to spend another night in Arches NP and re-film the Double Arch scene. We spent the second night in the park at Delicate Arch (Scene 17), and returned to film Double Arch on the third night. We set up the headlamps with fewer problems (and with much more duct tape holding the gels in place), programmed the tracker, and started everything running. We returned with some amount of optimism in the morning, but discovered that failure had struck again. The tracker jammed soon after starting. The stalled motors drew too much power, completely draining and damaging Michael's $200 LiPo battery. Pressure developed inside the battery and it visibly puffed outward, and we ultimately taped it inside a metal box and spent the rest of the trip concerned that it might explode. Although the timelapse itself was the duration planned, the sudden cessation of motion a few seconds in made it unusable.

 

Scene 16: Mount Whitney under Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills

5D Mk. II, 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6

Alabama Hills is a boulder field at the foot of Mount Whitney. There are numerous arches and areas of petroglyphs, and I spent a night there before hiking Whitney (Scene 7). I wanted to catch the first rays of light hitting Whitney in the morning, so I started the timelapse at 1 AM and let it run until after sunrise. In order to deal with the huge change in lighting accompanying sunrise, I carried my laptop out to the arch and tethered it to the camera, previewing the images as they were shot and adjusting the camera settings using the Canon software. This way, I could stay in manual mode the entire time and not have to touch (and inevitably bump) the camera changing the settings every other image.

Starting the dolly under the full moon:

Behind-the-scenes timelapse:

 

Scene 17: Delicate Arch

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

On our second evening in Arches NP, we headed to Delicate Arch, the unofficial emblem of Utah. After cooking an early dinner in the obscenely hot parking lot, we joined the hordes of photographers and tourists on the hike up to the arch. As soon as the sun set, however, the crowds packed the trail back down and left just Michael, me, and some random couple which made out under the arch until Michael started shining lights on them and setting up a camera 20 feet away. After starting our timelapse sequences and chilling on the warm sandstone until midnight, we left the cameras and hiked back down in the dark.

Around 1 AM, just after we reorganized the car to sleep in it, headlights blasted our car and we nervously watched as another vehicle pulled up alongside us. To our shock, out stepped Jack Wolberg and Erik Weiland, two guys who we had met the previous night, and entirely coincidentally they had decided to do night photography at the same spot as us. Jack and Eric dropped out of college and raised $2,000 for an epic two-month photography road trip around the United States. They said they planned to backpack to Delicate Arch, do night photography at the top, sleep there, and shoot the sunrise. We gave them a two-way radio, and they said they would retrieve our cameras for us in the morning. After sleeping a few hours, I woke up and radioed them. They reported that they were entirely lost, had never located the arch, and were attempting to find their way back to the parking lot.

Since a few other people had arrived to the parking lot and started the hike to the arch to catch the 5:30 AM sunrise, and our cameras were abandoned at the top, I quickly packed my backpack and basically ran up the trail, passing almost everyone. Half an hour later, I arrived at the arch, and thankfully no one had absconded with our gear. I shot the sunrise and hiked back down. Meanwhile, Michael, Eric, and Jack had set up our stove in the 85* parking lot and were scrambling eggs and frying sausages, eliciting stares and comments from numerous passersby. We enjoyed breakfast, packed up, drove to the nearby city of Moab, and spent the next six hours hiding from the daytime heat in an air-conditioned coffee shop. We bought enough iced drinks that they didn't get angry at us for egregiously setting up computers, using their internet, charging rows of batteries, and lingering for most of the day.

Giant pre-sunset crowds:

 

Scene 18: Glacier Point Sunset

Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4

This was shot just before Scene 10. My Rebel hadn't been used for a couple months beforehand, and it turned out that the batteries were nearly dead. I have three batteries for it, and over the course of this timelapse all of them died. I had to sit next to the camera, watch to see if it turned off, and then swap in a new battery. The third battery lasted just long enough for the stars came out. Given the amount of interaction I had with the camera, I'm impressed there aren't any big jumps in the video.

 

Scene 19: Inversion Layer from Hale Pohaku

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

When astronomers observe using the telescopes on Mauna Kea, they sleep during the day at Hale Pohaku, a dorm complex on the side of the mountain. Mauna Kea is the premiere Northern Hemisphere astronomy site because it has stable, dry air and few clouds--the rain clouds typically sit at an altitude of 7000-8000 ft, and the summit is at nearly 14,000 ft. After returning to Hale Pohaku after a 14-hour observing run on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (Scene 20), I noticed that the inversion layer (where the clouds stop) was moving through the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Instead of going to bed, I hiked up a nearby hill and filmed it.

 

Scene 20: James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Caltech Submillimeter Array

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

Professors often need warm bodies (i.e. grad students) to go to Mauna Kea and collect data for them. I wanted to film timelapse at night there, so I volunteered when a request was sent out for someone to help with a four-night run in November on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a giant submillimiter dish. Unfortunately, it was extremely cloudy, and I was not able to film anywhere near the quantity of timelapse that I wanted. I filmed this on the first night, which was the clearest. The JCMT is the large telescope on the right in the video. Interestingly, you can't see the dish itself; a Teflon canvas (the big white thing in this clip) covers the dome to protect the dish from the elements. The canvas is completely transparent at submillimeter wavelengths, so the telescope can see through it without any effect on the data. The telescope on the left is the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. This timelapse includes the JCMT dome opening at the beginning,.

Inside the dome:

 

Scene 21: Hanauma Bay

5D Mk. II, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8

Hanauma Bay is a popular snorkeling spot during the day, and I realized that it also would be a photogenic location for timelapse of the Milky Way. Jason, Louis, and I drove there from Honolulu one night, hopped the gate, and hiked to a hill overlooking the bay. It was much cloudier than expected, but we shot timelapse anyway. We attempted to re-film this scene twice on other nights, but both times the conditions were even worse.

 

Scene 22: Manoa Valley, Honolulu

5D Mk. II, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

This scene almost ended very badly, but instead we just got a $35 parking ticket. 'Nuff said.

 

Scene 23: Lick Observatory Domes

5D Mk. II, 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS

Ahh, this scene got me caught in the crossfire of a feud between the locals at Lick Observatory. While observing there, I decided to film a scene of the telescope domes with the San Jose city lights behind them. The angle I had in mind was obscured by trees, and I was told by a couple people that I could climb a water tank to see over the trees. While attempting to climb onto the water tank (my master key wasn't opening the lock to the ladder...), some local residents showed up, assuming that I was a terrorist hell-bent on poisoning their water supply. I told them that I was one of the observers and just wanted to take photos, and they escorted me back to the telescope, where I proved I wasn't lying to them. They told me to stay away from the water tank and left.

Determined to film the scene, I returned to the hill. I didn't go on the water tank, but climbed onto some parked sailboat on a trailer and set up my fully-extended tripod, which could barely see over the trees. Over the next couple days, I became "that guy who tried to climb onto the water tank." Assorted people came up to me and told me that the residents that had chased me off were idiots and were totally overreacting, and it should be fine for me to climb the tank. I learned that there was tension between the residents over the water tank and issues of self-policing, and I had become caught in the middle of it. Fun times.

 

Scene 24: Yosemite from Clouds Rest

5D Mk. II, Canon 50mm f/1.4

On the second day of Charles' and my Yosemite backpacking trip (Scenes 2, 10, 18), after hiking the 3 miles, 3000 vertical feet down from Yosemite falls, we repacked our backpacks in Curry Village and began hiking again. Over the next 9 hours, we hiked 10.5 miles, 6000 vertical feet to Clouds Rest, a peak that overlooks essentially all of Yosemite. We were carrying 40-lb backpacks and were ready to quit after completing just a third of the hike. We planned to camp on the summit, but there was no water there, so for the last 4.5 miles we took turns carrying a 1-gallon water bag, which we rapidly termed the "brick of death." We were completely exhausted when we reached Cloud's Rest. After watching the sunset, we set up our tent and spent the night there; we didn't see anyone else the entire time. The Half Dome cables were down at the time, so there were few people on the trails.

The lights on the horizon are from the California Central Valley, over 100 miles away. On the left is Half Dome, and just to the right of it is Glacier Point, where I filmed Scenes 10 and 18 the following night.

Approaching the summit:

Pondering the view as the sun set:

Our glorious campsite:

 

Scene 25: Subaru and Keck 1 Observatories

5D Mk. II, Sigma 50mm f/1.4

I filmed this on the second night of observing at the JCMT. The weather, which was mediocre the first night, deteriorated further over the next three nights. When I filmed this scene, the cloud cover was so thick that I could only see a couple stars. There was no moonlight, and most of the starlight was blocked, so I was forced to shoot at f/1.4 and ISO 6400, which revealed far more stars than I could see at the time. Subaru, the telescope on the left, was scheduled to use their adaptive optics laser, but it was too cloudy. Coupled with the next two nights, which were too cloudy to observe at all, I have tried to photograph adaptive optics lasers five times. Every single time they've been cancelled due to bad weather. Someday I will be successful...

On the left is Subaru, an 8-meter telescope operated by Japan. On the right is Keck 1, which is the second-largest optical telescope in the world. Keck 2 is just outside the timelapse scene, but is in the photo below.

Clouds make for poor star trails...