Louisville in Winter

louisville-skyline-winter

First I would like to thank Meadow Ryann for providing the music for this video.  She is a great artist and can be found here: http://www.meadowryann.com/

Shooting a video of Louisville in all four seasons would never have crossed my mind four or five years ago.  I just started a new job after leaving a a startup where I didn’t feel like I fit in and was constantly over worked.  With the start of my new job at the time I had my evenings and weekends back and was able to learn a new skill, timelapse.  It was only after shooting “Louisville in Motion” and receiving such a positive response that I eventually decided to shoot the remaining three seasons of Louisville.

louisville-winter-statue-of-david

Winter is rounding out the last season for the Louisville video collection.  I love the way that snow can totally change the look of a city or landscape, the only problem with capturing it is that it usually melts so quickly around here and it only snows enough one to three times a year in Louisville to make a video like  this.

louisville-winter-barge

This video was shot over two years and I believe I ended up recording one day each year.  The first year was shot with a Blackmagic Pocket Camera on a DJI Ronin Gimbal and the second year was with a DJI Phantom 3 Professional.  There’s not too much else to say about the video, I always appreciate the amount of color correction I can do with a camera that shoots in a raw format.  I ended up changing the color of the river with the Phantom 3 shots from a mud brown color to a light blue.  There is definitely a little color blocking going on in a few parts of the river scenes but I felt that it was small enough and the color correction added enough to make the compromise worth while.

louisville-winter-downtown

I hope the video has been enjoyable and I look forward to putting out more content this year!

Eric

Louisville In Bloom

First I have to give credit to Ben Sollee for creating the song “Unfinished” that was used in the video, if you want want to check out more of his work click this link: bensollee.com

 

Photographing spring is a race against time.  For a fleeting moment each year trees become giant flowers, then transform into the way we see them the 11 months of the year, either with leaves or bare.

The inspiration for this video came after seeing a friend’s photo on Facebook of a street lined with blooming trees.  After thinking about how to show off how cool the rest of Louisville looks during this time, I figured another timelapse video would do justice to this subject.  Normally on a personal project that requires as much time and effort as a timelapse video I’ll shoot over the course of months, however when capturing spring I wasn’t afforded the luxury of time since the flowering trees only lasts around 30 days.  Thankfully for the month of April, when the trees where in full force that year, I was able to shoot every evening except for about three days when it was raining too hard….the camera can handle a little drizzle but not full on rain.

Shooting in Cherokee Park with a slider.

Shooting in Cherokee Park with a slider.

Most of the video focuses on Old Louisville and the Cherokee park areas, it was important to include some other neighborhoods around Louisville and I wish they could have been featured more, but since time was limited to shooting with the few hours of sunlight after work, maximizing the number of scenes shoot in an afternoon was critical.  With the tree lined streets of Old Louisville and the Cherokee park these areas were the quickest way to end up with a bunch of video clips.  Over the roughly 30 days of shooting I ended up with 92 shots.  Of the 92 locations 66 made it in the video.

Louisville Main Library

Louisville Main Library

 

Often when I think of a city known for flowering trees I think of Washington DC with their cherry blossoms, but if you want something a little closer to home with less tourists just take a walk through Old Louisville or around the Cherokee park neighborhoods, they are in incredible site to see.

Eric Stemen

 

News and blog sites are welcome to pull images and text from this site if you’re featuring one of the videos here.

 

Shooting in Old Louisville

Shooting in Old Louisville

Downtown Louisville Spring

Downtown Louisville Spring

Old Louisville at Night Spring

Old Louisville at Night Spring

Old Louisville Spring

Old Louisville Spring

Louisville in the spring

Louisville in the spring

Louisville Timelapses 2012

Louisville Timelapses 2012

First Timelapse Created for Louisville In Motion

First Timelapse Created for Louisville In Motion

On February 28, 2012 this whole project started by accident.  The day was unusually warm and by the evening the temperature was still in the low 60’s instead of the usual low 40’s.  Around the same time I started a new job and one of the employees was into shooting timelapses.  I already had the gear to do some motion control timelapses, but had never learned how to use it until I started at Videobred and had a few days that were pretty slow at work.  I’m not sure what makes someone stick with a hobby or long term “passion project” but having a success or victory early on probably helps.

 

I crossed the second street bridge and drove into Indiana to a park that would have a good view of the Louisville skyline.  Knowing that a foreground element would would be necessary to make the scene a little more interesting I choose to use some plants that the camera would push through towards the city.  At the time I only had the CS3 suite of Adobe programs so I had the camera shoot raw and Jpeg so I could check out the results by using the jpegs and when I bought a new computer and CS6 later I could process the raw files.  This first experiment lasted about 15 minutes.  I had no idea about what would make for a decent pause between shots or how far the camera should move each time.  I took what I had shot home and loaded the jpegs into After Effects and ram previewed the video.  My first thoughts were that it looked sort of neat.  The clouds moving were a pleasant surprise, I don’t even remember noticing them when I was shooting, but the city just looked dull and depressing and I fixated on this and how the plants I used as foreground objects moved widely between shots due to the wind.  “Well, I guess anything that can potentially move is a pretty bad idea for a foreground object.  I won’t do that again.”  It would be almost a year later in early January of 2013 when I would process the raw images and decide that the shot really did turn out pretty good with the fine tuning of colors.

Whiskey Row

Whiskey Row

I was driving down Main street one day and noticed the old Whiskey Row buildings were being lit up by reflections from an adjacent building.  Knowing the reflections would move with the passage of time I kept this spot in mind and would shoot it within the week.  My first attempt of showing this was on June 8, 2012.  I tried shooting it from two different locations from inside the stairway of a parking garage and both of them turned out terrible.  The reflections cooperated, but I think this was my first time shooting from a parking garage and didn’t really know what I was doing.  The results were so bad I never bothered to process them into a video.  I still wanted to get this shot so I would come back later and retry since the reflections had already disappeared.  A few days passed and on the 13th I picked out a new location that properly showed the buildings off and the shot turned out great.  Little did I know at the time how lucky I was to have a cloudless sky that day.  I just showed up assuming that the reflections would be there.  Thankfully everything worked in my favor and I didn’t have to re shoot for a third time.

Train Crossing Bridge

Train Crossing Bridge

While riding my bike along the river I notice the city had an overlook that went out over the river’s bank and gave a cool view of the city.  Every time I would ride on the Louisville Loop I would stop at this spot and admire the view.  I’m not sure when this project went from just learning how motion control timelapses worked, to becoming a full on timelapse video of Louisville, but once I determined this was going to be an actual video, I knew that I would shot from this overlook.  The first attempt to pull this shot of was a failure.  I tried on May 26, 2012 for about 45 minutes and used a fence as a foreground object…which seems pretty cliche.  No barges went through and the train bridge didn’t raise up.  I went back and shot again on May 29, 2012 and was determined to stay there until I got what I wanted.  I brought an umbrella with me this time so I would have some relief from the burning sun.  The first try this day lasted from 6:00pm till 6:34pm.  A barge passed but the bridge didn’t move.  I repositioned the slider and shortened how far the camera would move each time.  This time I was successful, a barge passed under the bridge and later the train bridge moved down into place and a train went across.  To get this shot I started shooting at 6:44pm and ended the shoot at 9:30pm.  The timelapse makes up nine seconds of the video but with drive time, setup time and processing of the images the real time was about 9 hours and 51 minutes.  One other interesting thing about this location is that a parking lot isn’t all that close to the overlook so when I parked I gathered all the gear up and rode to the location on a bike.

Downtown Louisville Being Rained On

Downtown Louisville Being Rained On

Since a good timelapse often involves the weather I wanted to make sure and include some rain in the video.  Like the train bridge shot above this proved to be difficult as well.  You can check out weather reports and the clouds and guess if it’s going to rain at a particular time, but you don’t really know where it’s going to rain.  Also water and electronics aren’t the best combination so finding a place that is covered can prove to be a challenge.  A parking garage is a good place to get an elevated view of the city and is also covered with openings to see out of.  I tried two previous times to get a good shot of the rain but failed.  With the failed attempts and the shot that worked, this ended up taking roughly 8 hours and 45 minutes and made up seven and half seconds of the video.

 

Not all shots take multiple tries to get, some work on your first attempt and definitely help keep you going.

H.G. Young Druggest building on Frankfort Avenue and Pope Street

H.G. Young Druggest building on Frankfort Avenue and Pope Street

This is the intersection of Frankfort Avenue and Pope Street.  It’s a place I drive past every day and I think the building just looks neat with the steeple on top.  Instead of doing a day to night timelapse like normal, I instead chose to leave the exposure locked and let the scene fade into darkness as the sun went down.  Seeing the stop lights remain at the same brightness was pleasantly unexpected.

First Hyperlapse next to The Henry Clay Building

First Hyperlapse next to The Henry Clay Building

Keeping on the same theme of things working first try was my first hyperlapse.  I first saw a hyperlapse in a video from zweizwei on Vimeo.  He would do these incredibly long dolly style shots but you could never see any dolly track in his videos and setting up that much track would be expensive and very time consuming.  After thinking about how he could have pulled this off for a few days I decided to try one of my own in a parking lot in downtown Louisville.  I choose to use painted parking spots as my guides to keep the tripod walking in a straight path and a red marker light on a building to aim the camera at.  I would move a foot, level the tripod’s half ball head, re-aim the camera at the marker light on the building and repeat until I had run out of parking lot.  I took the footage to work the next day since After Effects CS3 didn’t have warp stabilizer, but CS5 at work did have it.  Once warp stabilizer had done it’s thing, to my surprise the hyperlapse worked flawlessly and would become one of my most used methods of timelapsing.  Finally I had a technique that could simulate walking while everything around me was moving in fast motion.

First Day to Night Shot taken next to The Great Lawn

First Day to Night Shot taken next to The Great Lawn

Another first for me was a day to night shot.  I had seen the outcome from them in videos before and it always impressed me but I didn’t know how to shoot one.  Talking to another employee at Videobred he told me that I would need some software called LRTimelapse and to just change the shutter speed as it got darker.  I decided to give it a try and headed down to waterfront park with my slider on May 10, 2012.  I set up with a railing as my foreground object and the city in the background and let the camera click away for the next 2 hours and 15 minutes and came back with 508 photos.  I had no idea what I was doing so I shot way too much and ended up speeding the video up in post.  The results were wonderful but I didn’t find that out until late December of that year since I was waiting to get some time off work and really figure out how to process everything I was shooting.  Not knowing how to process exposure ramps during all of 2012 I was always uneasy of changing shutter speeds during a shoot but thankfully they almost always turned out fine.

Note the slider in the lower right corner

Note the slider in the lower right corner

There isn’t much to say about this shot.  The clouds were pretty cool, but I’ve included it in this write up because you can see a little bit the slider in the shot….kind of a behind the scenes shot that made it into the video.

Last Shot of 2012 Next to the Slugger Museum

Last Shot of 2012 Next to the Slugger Museum

Going into this project I really thought I would have enough clips to make an entire video with just the scenes from 2012.  I know Louisville is known for it’s Louisville Slugger bats so I thought it would be good to include the large bat in the video before all the leaves fell off of the trees.  So on November 10, 2012 I shot the bat at nighttime with a slider and a turntable attached and figured I would be done shooting the entire video…sure there were lots of other things in Louisville I could record and also wanted to get like Churchill Downs, but I also wanted to release the video that I had spent so many hours on.  I wanted to hear feedback from the world.  Over Christmas and the new year I had a week or a week and a half off and in between visiting family I learned hwo to use LRTimelapse and processed everything I had shot during spring summer and fall then started editing.  I think it was mid January when I realized I really didn’t have enough footage to make a video.  If I let the shots go as long as possible and use everything I had captured even if some of the shots weren’t all that great I could almost fill the entire song I had selected.  I could fill some time with graphics in the beginning and end and have a video, but it wouldn’t be up to the quality I wanted.  I made the tough choice to properly finish the video.  I would wait till spring when the leaves started to show up on trees again and aim for getting it out in late May or early June.  Those deadlines I set for myself came and passed.

Louisville Timelapses 2013

Louisville Timelapses 2013

Hyperlapse While Zooming

Hyperlapse While Zooming

The weather started to warm and trees began to bloom so it was time to finish shooting the video.  I first started shooting the remainder of the video on April 7, 2013.  I had been watching other people’s timelapse videos over the winter to help come up with new ideas of what to shoot and while watching one of the videos I notice someone had incorporated a zoom while doing a hyperlapse.  Thinking it was really cool I wanted to include this technique as well.  While riding my bike on East Washington Street I notice most of the trees overhead were in bloom and the road wasn’t very busy so on a Sunday I set out to shoot.  I started pretty close to the intersection and worked my way backwards while trying to keep the house at the end the same size in the frame by zooming.  In the full length version of the shot you could really see the trees in bloom with their white flowers, but the tripods placement was moving too far left or right to really have a smooth looking scene so I ended up just using a small portion of the total clip, but I still think it’s pretty awesome.

Louisville Water Tower

Louisville Water Tower

Realizing from the end of 2012 I needed more Louisville landmarks I wanted to show off the Louisville Water Tower.  I don’t remember why I choose to shoot this during a storm but I’m glad I did.    On June 17, 2013 a storm had started towards the end of work and knowing storms make for awesome clouds I was pretty excited to go out and shoot.  I guess I had been thinking about the water tower that week so that’s the location I decided on.  While driving out there, the weather was not ideal for shooting since it was raining, but having nothing else to do that day I continued driving and pulled into the complex and waited for a break in the weather.  Eventually around 6:15pm the weather cooperated and the rain let up but I could still hear thunder and see clouds lighting up from the lightning.  I felt uneasy about doing a hyperlapse in this weather but felt that it would be alright since there was a large group of people playing soccer in the nearby field and they must know there isn’t any danger.  This was shot with my widest lens and the camera moved about two feet between each shot.  I choose to use my widest lens, the Panasonic 7-14mm(this would be a 14-28mm on a “full frame” sensor), to capture this.  I really wanted to give the sense of moving in on the water tower and show of the clouds as much as possible.  I shot this another time afterwards since I didn’t know if the shot would be any good; then I was about to shoot it a third time with the motorized slider but by that point the lightning started to pick up and get closer.  I decided the third shot was not worth getting electrocuted for.

Crescent Hill Reservoir

Crescent Hill Reservoir

Another shot involving lightning was the Crescent Hill Reservoir near Frankfort Avenue.  I had originally captured this back on July 15, 2012 but when I processed the image I realized it was out of focus so it would have to be re-shot.  An unfortunate thing about having lenses that are focus by wire is that they apparently focus to infinity if the camera turns off.  I wanted to shoot earlier but waited for probably a couple weeks to get the gate house due to a lack of clouds in the sky, and finally on August 31, 2013 the clouds were finally good….maybe a little too good.  I was going for at least a five second timelapse but was cut short when the lightning that was over a mile away judging from how long the thunder took to reach me, suddenly was within 300 feet of me.  Feeling afraid for my life I compacted the tripod and walked as fast as I could to my car.  I could have run but felt that if lightning did hit me and I fell to the ground I probably would have been pretty scraped up from sliding to a stop if I managed to regain consciousness…at least if I was just walking fast I would probably just go limp and fall down.

University of Louisville

University of Louisville

The most frustrating shot of the entire video was trying to capture something from the University of Louisville.  I initially shot the bell tower but upon looking at the outcome didn’t really think it said UofL.  So I went back and settled on the location above.  Re-shooting isn’t too frustrating if you know it’s going to be a significantly better shot.  What is frustrating is when weather doesn’t cooperate.  To get from my house to the UofL location was 7.5 miles, so even if the clouds looked good where I lived there may have been no clouds around UofL.  On July 20, 2013 after four attempts everything finally worked out, there was just one problem…the clouds.  Don’t get me wrong, the clouds looked fantastic, but they would block the sun, casting big shadows on the lawn and if it can be avoided I would rather have a consistently bright or shadowy scene.  The final shoot probably took five or six tries on that particular day to have a window that let the sun shine down on the campus consistently.

Bardstown Road

Bardstown Road

The most electric looking scene from the project is probably the hyperlapse of Bardstown road.  This was another clip that involved a re-shoot.  The first two attempts were alright but when I processed them didn’t really give me the feeling of traveling through the area.  I drove up and down the road a few times and finally found an area that seemed to have a lot going on and was really lit up with signs and crosswalks.  Once I parked, I walked in the general area trying to figure out how best to show off this unique part of Louisville.  Eventually I figured I’ll just make this look like how it does when you walk down it in real life.  I used a sign in a window as my mark to keep the camera centered up and it turned out great.

Hyperlapse from Second Street Bridge

Hyperlapse from Second Street Bridge

One of the things I was most disappointed with from my 2012 shots was the lack of a good intro that said “This is Louisville”.  I thought about this problem a lot.  One day while trying to get a cool view of the second street bridge I noticed the pedestrian walkway on the bridge and the view from it wasn’t obstructed by the bridge supports, what luck!  I set out to do a hyperlapse from the bridge just before the sky turned completely black.  As I started I had no idea how long this bridge was.  I drove across it and parked in Indiana and figured I would need to have larger moves between each shot than normal so I used some supports in the bridge as my interval that I guess may have been 15 feet apart.  By the end of the hyperlapse I was mentally exhausted.  Doing something very repetitive that requires a good deal of concentration for almost three hours is tough especially after putting in a full day at work.  One of the challenges on this scene were vibrations.  Bridges seem like they would be very solid but if any large vehicles drove over it the roadway and sidewalk would shake, and when shooting at a slower shutter speed I would have to time the shots to miss the vibrations from vehicles.  If this shot took place during the daytime or if there were visible clouds at night it would have been ruined from inconsistencies in timing between each shutter actuation.  As of September 29, 2013 that is the longest hyperlapse I’ve done at right around 0.7 miles in length.

Last Scene of Video

Last Scene of Video

Luck and persistence have a lot to do with a good timelapse and thankfully luck was on my side for the ending shot.  A lot of times I’ll see good clouds while working and think “oh I’ll be able to get some good stuff after work” but when 5:00pm comes around the clouds will have disappeared.  On June 18 2013 everything just worked and I hit the cloud jackpot.  I needed to get some more of the downtown buildings towards the west end of the city so I drove out and first got a shot of the Judicial Center which can be seen below.  Somehow the clouds stopped at the edge of downtown and weren’t blocking the sun.  I couldn’t believe my luck that I actually had a fully lit building with clouds in the background.  This never happens; I couldn’t waste any opportunities this day.  I shot Metro Council in the same general area next.  The clouds weren’t nearly as good looking north but it was still usable.  On the third location of the day I finally ended up with the last shot of the video.  I rode an elevator up to the top floor of a parking garage and started a hyperlapse of downtown.  I started as far over as possible but knew I wouldn’t be able to move as far as I wanted since some of the parking spots still had cars in them.  Thankfully as I was about to reach a car a lady showed up and drove it away giving me a little more room.  I would have loved to have shoot more up there but ended up reaching another car.  I’m still very happy with what I got though.  I ended up getting one more shot from the same parking garage before the winds picked up and started storming.

Perfect Clouds

Perfect Clouds at a Judicial Center

This project has been a long journey, I started out having never really shot a timelapse with still photos before, and through the project started this website and explored more of Louisville than I ever thought I would.  I still have to use a GPS unit to go to specific locations but I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the different architecture the city has to offer.  I’ve only touched on a small portion of the city and there is still a lot for me and others to explore.  It’s an easy city to get around in both by bike and car, so if you are looking for someplace to visit keep Louisville in mind and check out some of the locations from the video.

 

Eric Stemen.

Eastern Kentucky Pt. 3

Last day and conclusion

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Coal Tipple in Pikeville Kentucky

Coal Tipple in Pikeville Kentucky

On my final morning of the trip I woke up around 10:30 a.m., walked across the street to a Burger King, had breakfast, and then backtracked down the main road to an active coal tipple that could be seen from the highway.  Since this was an active tipple I didn’t want to get to close with the coal trucks constantly coming and going and also didn’t want to get run off.  Well the trucks never touched me but this was the only spot I was run off of during the entire trip.  I had been doing a motorized pan of the location for maybe 15 minutes when what I assume was a supervisor pulled up and asked me what I was doing.  Figuring this gentleman would listen to reason I explained that I had come from Louisville to show others how cool eastern Kentucky looked.  Unfortunately he didn’t believe me and thought I was working for an organization called Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and was there taking pictures to portray coal negatively.  He continued to go on explaining that many coal jobs had been lost because of this organization.  I told him I was sorry for the loss of jobs and just wanted other people to see this neat operation.  He ended up telling me “I don’t see how any good can come from this” and then to leave. Knowing I wasn’t on public property and he could have called the cops I figured it was best to do as he said.  On the plus side, the discussion bought a few more minutes of taking photos and I pretty much got as much of the location as I wanted.  From seeing the two other abandoned coal tipples the previous day I assume eventually there will be no more active tipples at some point in the future and all that’ll remain of these structures are photos.  This encounter was also by far the most anyone talked to me on the trip.

 

Abandoned Railroad near Drift Kentucky

Abandoned Railroad near Drift Kentucky

From Pikeville I slowly started making my way back home stopping at any place that looked interesting from the road.  I came upon a town named Drift and there was some road that had an interesting name which I no longer remember.  I traveled the muddy road and there were some train tracks next to it.  At one section part of the tracks were missing.  I got out and timelapsed this because I found it fascinating since at one point there must have been so much coal in the area that companies could just lay down railroad tracks and when the coal ran out leave the tracks in place and forget about them. I stopped in another couple of places, shooting some houses on a hill and the downtown of another coal community named Garret before reaching my last random destination of the trip.  From the road there was a sign for a park named Car Creek Dam.

 

Hyperlapse at Carr Creek Dam

Hyperlapse at Carr Creek Dam

A dam sounded pretty cool.  I got a couple shots while there.  One was a motorized move of the dam itself while the other was a hyperlapse of the backside of the dam looking off into the distance.  At the time this roughly 400 foot hyperlapse was the longest one I had pulled off, it’s also the opening of the video.  After packing the gear back into the car it was dark and I had decided it was time to get back and not worry about shooting anymore.  Out of the 39 locations photographed, 37 of them made it into the final video.

 

Driving in eastern Kentucky

Driving in eastern Kentucky

It was a fun but busy and tiring trip.  I had been working on shooting a timelapse video on the city of Louisville the summer beforehand but didn’t have a computer or program capable of processing the photos until a couple months before I started this adventure.  While I was shooting in the summer of 2012 I didn’t really know how any of the shots would turn out so I shot at quicker intervals than I thought I would need.  After processing the footage I found that shooting at each spot for an hour wasn’t really necessary since each clip wouldn’t stay up more than 5 seconds generally.  When I went into the eastern Kentucky project I figured I would have each shot last for roughly 5 seconds and shoot at a spot for around 30 minutes during the day to show a decent passage of time.  Upon looking back at the footage compared to other videos I’ve seen online and the Louisville project that is wrapping up, I’ve found that when there are clouds moving at a decent speed it’s probably better to shoot at a shorter interval between shots and stay at each location for maybe 10 to 15 minutes.  I believe for most of the daytime shots had a delay of 15 to 20 seconds and probably should have had a delay of 5 seconds to smooth out the motion of the clouds.  Overall I’m happy with the project and am glad to have seen where others live, while learning more about timelapses.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Eastern Kentucky Pt. 2

Days three and four

Click here for part 1

I woke up around 10 a.m. checked out of the hotel and contemplated driving back home.  “I’m not sure what’s wrong with my car, and I don’t want to get stuck out here.  It’s also cold and if I leave now assuming the car holds out I can be back by dinner and still have 4 full days off until I have to be back at work on Monday.  On the other hand I came out to make a timelapse video of eastern Kentucky, I’ve wanted to do this for a couple years and these 14 shots aren’t enough to do much with, plus I spent about $1000 on extra gear for this trip.”  These were my thoughts when starting the day off.  After doing another visual check under the car and everything looking to be in order I decided to carry on with my original intent for the trip.

 

Coal Tipple in Lynch Kentucky

Coal Tipple in Lynch Kentucky

A few months earlier I came out to Lynch Kentucky with my girlfriend to check out the Kentucky Coal Museum and Portal 31(a tour of a former underground coal mine).  I knew the coal tipple at Portal 31 would make for an interesting timelapse so off to Lynch Kentucky I headed.  On the 27 mile drive to Lynch the car again started making the clicking sound when it got over 45mph constantly making me second guess not to turning back, but at least it was daylight outside and finding help probably wouldn’t be too difficult if the transmission had a catastrophic failure.  I arrived in Lynch and parked across from Portal 31 and shot in the surrounding area for four hours.  Nothing much out of the ordinary happened.  I grabbed 4 shots of the old coal facilities then saw a boarded up school in town that was the “colored school”.  I found this very interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything outside of museums or in old photos hinting to this era in history and to just find it out in the open was so odd that I had to record it.  Unfortunately my camera started messing up telling me that the lens wasn’t attached even though it clearly was so I ended that hyperlapse early out of frustration.  Looking back I assume the contacts on the lens were dirty since it’s worked fine since then.

Motion Control Setup for Cumberland Nightfall

Motion Control Setup for Cumberland Nightfall

 

Nightfall on Cumberland Kentucky

Nightfall on Cumberland Kentucky

I planned on ending Wednesday back at Kingdom Come State Park doing another day to night but this time I would capture Cumberland Kentucky from the same location where I ended the day yesterday during the star timelapse.  This ended up being another of favorite timelapses on the trip.  The camera is on a slider and starts out slowly moving left and all that’s really happening is the trees seem to be moving some which by itself is pretty boring.  As the sun sets, the street lights power up in the valley turning the trees into silhouettes and the warm glow of Cumberland is seen below.  This was the longest manned timelapse of the trip taking 3 hours and the camera firing off a photo every 1.5 minutes.  The only downside to having a large time interval between shots  is that it makes matching the exposure jumps very difficult.  If you watch the final video the jumps aren’t perfect, but the reveal of the city below is still pretty cool.  Feeling exhausted and not really wanting to spend another night sleeping in my car I searched for lodging in my GPS.  Nothing close came up.  This wasn’t much of a concern as my maps were outdated by four years.  I headed into Cumberland stopped at a Dollar General and asked for directions to a hotel.  After searching for half an hour and not finding this phantom hotel I gave up.  It was already 10 p.m.  I could drive 45 minutes back to Whitesburg and hope there was still a room; find a parking lot in town and sleep; or get another star timelapse.  I didn’t find any parking lots I felt comfortable with in town so I went back up to Kingdom Come Park and set up a timelapse of the stars again.  I wanted this one to cover more time than the previous star timelapse and knowing the battery would run out if the camera used its internal battery I decided to run on AC power, the only problem with AC power is finding an outlet nearby.  The campsite didn’t have electricity, to overcome this I carry a 140 watt hour battery that has cigarette lighter adapters attached that I can plug an inverter into.  This is a pretty good solution to run a camera a few hours or to recharge the internal camera batteries if you don’t want to keep your car running when you are stopped.  The camera clicked away for 5 hours while I kind of slept in my car.  That night it got down to 19 degrees, I kept my shoes on and stuffed extra clothes in the sleeping bag to try and stay warm.  While asleep I thought I was secure in my car since I had the doors locked, but when I got up at 3a.m. I realized the driver door to my car was shut but not latched so looking the car was really of no use.  I threw the gear in the trunk as quickly as possible and tried to get some sleep.

 

Sunrise at Kingdom Come State Park

Sunrise at Kingdom Come State Park

My alarm was set for 6:30am so I could capture the shadows disappearing from the hills below but when the alarm went off I didn’t feel up for shooting and considered just skipping the idea and going somewhere else.  Thirty minutes passed and I decided that I probably won’t be back again so I would try to salvage what I had left of the sunrise.  Luckily the daylight had just barely hit the top of the hills.  There wasn’t enough time to set up a motorized timelapse so I grabbed  an intervalometer and tripod and had the camera fire away.  I would sit in my car with the heater running and check on the camera every 5 or so minutes to make sure everything was still working properly.  It seems I should have been checking it  more often because the battery ran out.  It was replaced as quickly as possible but there’s a little jump in the disappearing shadows towards the end of this shot…it’s subtle but there.

 

Old mining houses in Wheelwright Kentucky

Old mining houses in Wheelwright Kentucky

Hardees was the only fast food place in Cumberland serving breakfast.  Unfortunately they didn’t have wifi to help me scout new locations but that was alright since the town of wheelwright was cached in my Ipod from the night before.  Thanks to coalcampusa.com I found other interesting looking cities and it seemed that close to Cumberland there was an old coal town named Wheelwright.  Wheelwright was established in 1916 by the Elk Horn Coal Company so I was sure to find some old company buildings.  I spent 2 hours getting 3 hyperlapses in the town.  The former company houses were between two hills all lined up along the road through town.  It’s kind of depressing to realize that the sun sets before it really should in the area.  Since some of these towns are built in a valley when the sun dips below the top of the hills or mountains it gets dark before the sun goes below the horizon.

 

Abandoned Coal Processing Facility in Price Kentucky

Abandoned Coal Processing Facility in Price Kentucky

The next stop was an abandoned coal tipple in Price Kentucky also found on coalcampusa.com.  I figured finding this would be pretty difficult and would have to turn down many wrong roads. Surprisingly it was right next to the main road and I just pulled off and parked next to the processing building.  It’s amazing that these structures are still standing.  The processing building was made out of brick as if it was designed to last for hundreds of years, even though it was only in use till 1991 and built in 1951.  I set up for a vertical movement next to a small bridge over a creek.  The creek would have been perfect and if I lived there I would have spent many hours playing in it during the summer if it weren’t for one thing…lots of trash.  From the road most of eastern Kentucky looks gorgeous but when you get out and walk around you notice just how much litter is around.  I guess when you live in one place long enough the magic wears off and everything seems normal so why bother to keep an area looking nice.  Another disappointment was drifting my way as well.  While looking up the creek bed I noticed this fog rolling through, it seemed odd that fog would be appearing around 2pm, but I’m not from the area so I guess it’s possible.  As the fog hit me I realized it was smoke and the particles falling from the sky were cinders from trash being burned somewhere.  I can only imagine how pretty this place was a couple hundred years ago.

 

Idle Coal Tipple in McDowell Kentucky

Idle Coal Tipple in McDowell Kentucky

Heading on to the last location of the day I figured there would again be a lot of searching to find the next abandoned coal tipple near McDowell.  Fortunately like the previous location this was easily seen from the main road and was only five miles away.  Nothing interesting happened here, the camera did a push in on the coal tipple with railroad tracks as the foreground element and it took about 30 minutes to complete.  Feeling worn out from from the night before, I decided to call it a day and headed to Pikeville.  This was the biggest city I saw with a population of 6900 since leaving Louisville four days earlier.   It was amazing to see familiar chain stores all over the place, it gave a feeling of being less isolated and alone.  Arriving  before 6 p.m. I figured finding a hotel room wouldn’t be much of a problem.  I pulled into what might have been a Days Inn at once and the only room left was a smoking room, I wasn’t looking forward to smelling like smoke, but I was beat and didn’t want to do anything else.  Even with the slight smell of cigarette smoke the room was amazing.  There was a bed, heat and most importantly a shower.  The cable TV and internet were also luxuries to be thankful for.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 3

Eastern Kentcky Pt. 1

Days one and two.

In late 2009 I was riding in the back of a van headed to a mountaintop removal site in eastern Kentucky to get some interviews for a video.  Having never been to this area before I loved getting to look out the windows and see the scenery.  As we got further in our trip the land became more mountains and the main roads were higher than some of the towns resting in the valleys below.  I was stunned that I had a birds eye view of these cities we were passing through and knew that someday I would come back to record these wonderful views and share them with others who would never be able to see the area for themselves.  A little over three years passed and I felt that I had found a good way to show the scenery in a unique way, so I scheduled a weeks worth of vacation and prepared for the trip.

 

Hyperlapse in Hazard Kentucky

Hyperlapse in Hazard Kentucky

I started the trek late on a Monday leaving Louisville, Kentucky and driving about 180 miles to the first spot that looked cool from the road which was Hazard Kentucky.  I arrived around 9 p.m. and from the road I could see down into this city of lights, it was pretty amazing.  Over the next hour I tried to find a way to shoot that would give others an idea of how gorgeous the city looks.  I finally settled on the edge of a large parking lot higher up a hill and started a hyperlapse.  This was my first time using the Panasonic 20mm lens for a timelapse.  Most of the time it seems like prime lenses don’t really give the desired field of view I’m looking for so I go with zoom lenses, but it’s a treat to use a prime when I have the chance since there is no risk of accidently changing the focal length during a shoot.  The hyperlapse took about 40 minutes to get and I wanted to capture a couple clips the first day so I drove through the city and found another  overlook at the community college.  I set up the slider for a vertical move and half an hour later packed up and drove the remaining 30 miles to Whitesburg.  I found a somewhat secluded parking lot and fell asleep around 2 a.m.

 

6:30 a.m. came too soon but it was time to get some early morning photos on a pull off I noticed from the previous night.  There was a slight drizzle this morning so once the slider was set up I put an umbrella over the rig, set up the camera and let the slider do it’s thing.  The shot turned out alright but wasn’t really what I was expecting, I should have set up earlier to get a night to day shot.

 

Downtown Whitesburg Kentucky

Downtown Whitesburg Kentucky

Rainy timelapse in Whitesburg Kentucky

Rainy timelapse in Whitesburg Kentucky

I stayed in Whitesburg until early afternoon and got the closing shot of the video before heading on.  I was in the downtown area and could see mountains as the backdrop for the city with these really low clouds that would sometimes completely hide the mountains while other times they would hug and flow over it.  I took too long to show the clouds completely enveloping the mountains but the shot still turned out well.  I packed the gear into the trunk and was extremely  happy to get in my car and head somewhere else after this.  Whitesburg is a great place but I was damp from the rain and had been shooting outside in the upper 30 degree weather for about 5 hours I was freezing and the warmth from the car felt amazing.  I would become very grateful for the heater on this trip.

 

Pine Mountain Warning Sign

Pine Mountain Warning Sign

After grabbing lunch to go at McDonalds, I headed out of the parking lot and saw a flashing sign to my right saying the weather could change at anytime on Pine Mountain.  I assumed this meant the road went pretty high up which would probably make for a cool overlook.  Not having a plan on what to shot next made this seem like a great idea.  The road snaked along the edge of the mountain and the higher up it went the further into the distance I could see, it was a thrill to drive on.  Approaching the top I  pulled over onto a scenic overlook and after being mesmerized by this view for a few minutes I set up some motion control gear and started shooting.  The next two and a half hours were spent playing around with different setups and shooting the area.  Doing justice to the area is almost impossible but I gave it my best attempt, cameras just don’t seem to give a good idea of what it’s like to look over a guardrail and show how high up you are.  During the stay on Pine Mountain no one else pulled over at the overlook, thinking back it’s not really that surprising.  To the locals it’s probably just a road that puts more wear and tear on their vehicles with the engine having to work harder to make it up the mountain and the brakes wearing out faster on the downside of the mountain.  To an outsider however the landscape is spectacular.

 

Sunset at Kingdom Come State Park

Sunset at Kingdom Come State Park

A couple days before leaving on the trip I figured it would be a good idea to do a little bit of research to find what else might be cool to photograph.  On one site I saw a picture taken from another overlook at Kingdom Come State Park.  The park would be the next location since it was only 15 miles away and the sun was going down.  A few wrong turns later and after going down a road in the park that was somehow considered a two way road even though only one car could make it at any time I found the vista I came for.  Upon getting out of the car I was greeted with a sign warning visitors to beware of black bears.  Feeling uneasy about this I continued to the overlook and hoped the animals would be hibernating during the winter months, if not the tripod with spiked feet would be the only thing to ward them off.  Thankfully no bears were encountered, but the cold was terrible.  I had on a hoodie, winter jacket, ear muffs and a pair of gloves.  When the wind wasn’t blowing the 36 degrees was manageable, but this was on top of a mountain and the wind was almost always blowing with nothing to break it.  I was going for a day to night on the overlook but ended up leaving after about an hour.  The thought of having to walk back to my car with only my headlamp and black bears around was too intimidating, plus I was really cold.

 

Timelapse of stars at Kingdom Come State Park

Timelapse of stars at Kingdom Come State Park

One of the coolest things about being away from larger cities is the lack of light pollution.  I messed around with shooting some star timelapse stuff back in 2007 but didn’t have an intervalometer, or a fast wide lens so I was anxious to give it another try now that I had the right tools.  While driving back down Kingdom Come I pulled off to the side of the road and shot the stars through the trees in the foreground for an hour.  During the shoot I noticed something even cooler than the stars, to my right was a city peaking through trees in a valley below.  If it all possible I would come back and get this.  On the drive back to Whitesburg to find a hotel and take a much needed shower my car started making a clicking sound.  Earlier in the day the car bottomed out while pulling off the road and now I was concerned the transmission was messed up since the noise started happening at a certain speed.  Very relieved to have made it to Whitesburg I pulled into a Super 8 did a quick check under the car, didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary and I wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway so I got a room and some food from the Wendy’s next door and settled in.  I never realized how much I take a heated room for granted until spending all day outside.  I had internet, a TV with cable, and a shower.  I’m pretty sure the amenities the room came with were way better than anything kings or queens had a few hundred years ago.

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3