CamDo customer Nick Holshouser, aka Pisgahtime, recently sent us some gorgeous footage taken from Blue Ridge Parkway in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. When he's not doing his day job, Nick is an aspiring photographer/filmmaker and has an affinity towards time lapse photography (for reasons that we go into below).
Below is one of his captures. He was lucky enough to get from a winter storm last year, setting up the camera the day before a big storm came through. The location is above 5,000 feet in elevation and it gets near zero degrees there. But he went back five days later and the GoPro camera and Blink were still running perfectly, despite the harsh conditions.
He was gracious enough to give us a deeper look into his setup, process, challenges and approach to time lapse photography. Keep scrolling for our short interview with him.
Winter storm time lapse in Pisgah National Forest.
How did you get into time lapse photography?
I travel for my day job and I miss getting out into the woods when I’m gone. I know a lot of interesting things happen out there every day and so I started setting out time lapse cameras to see what I was missing. Time lapse is like instant replay. I started with cheaper cameras nearly three years ago and got lucky with some interesting weather - I was hooked but kept looking to improve the photo quality. Then I found CamDo and switched entirely to Blink and GoPro. I’m up to four full GoPro/CamDo setups and looking forward to expanding into night time lapse once I can get a HERO5 and the new Blink into the field.
What were the settings used for the time lapse videos?
Typically I set the cameras for a 1-minute interval between astronomical sunrise and astronomical sunset. That’s roughly 90 minutes before sunrise to 90 minutes after sunset. In all that’s about 16 hours a day here in summer. Before sunrise and after sunset, I use Night mode to get up to 2-second exposure. I follow the time lapse guidelines from CamDo that were published in theblog.
I like the 1-minute interval as it makes a nice video length per day - 16x60 minutes gives you 960 images to work with. I’ve started capturing 24 hours a day, but overnight I use a 15-minute interval which actually makes a really nice night-to-day transition. So basically, it’s about 1,000 images per day which gives a final video of 30-40 seconds depending on your final frame rate.
What makes Blue Ridge Parkway so special to you/such a good spot to time lapse?
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an amazing roadway that splits hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest. That means a lot of long range views with little-to-no civilization. The Parkway is really popular, so a lot of people are familiar with the landmarks and views and that itself creates interest in the videos - since so many people have been there and like to visit virtually later. The other thing I love about the Parkway is that the weather is VERY dynamic. We get it all, and Pisgah National Forest is a temperate rainforest climate so there’s rain, sun, wind, clouds, lightning, rainbows, you name it, all day long. In the winter there’s snow and ice and some pretty extreme conditions. That’s when it gets hard to maintain the cameras in the field - with sub-freezing temps, snow, ice, wind-chills down to zero and oh, they gate the Parkway so some locations are 8-10 miles round-trip by foot and/or bike.
What did you find most challenging about creating these videos?
It’s been a long process of getting my setup right. There are a lot of variables, certainly with regard to the equipment and especially in regards to mother nature. With the equipment you have to consider everything - Blink, batteries, cables, enclosure, memory cards, and then securing it all at the location so it doesn’t get disturbed. With mother nature there’s all the elements of weather and the additional factor of wildlife. My locations are also pretty popular with bears and so I have to be careful for my own safety and accept that every now and then a curious bear is going to come across the camera and be, well, curious. I’ve had camera enclosures clawed, bitten, moved, and yes, even knocked off the mountain. All my enclosures are locked in place using padlocks and cables - both to keep them from getting stolen and to keep them from tumbling down the cliff when a bear doesn’t like their placement. Winter weather adds a huge challenge - access to the locations is never sure as they’re well above the snow line here. Power also becomes a problem since the lithium batteries don’t like the cold and I have to switch to HEAVY lead-acid batteries.
Any tips or tricks that you've learned that you'd like to share with our readers?
Keep records of all your cameras and equipment used every time you reset them. I track the GoPro#, battery, SD card, and Blink used every time. I can track if a certain component is prone to failure or gives me trouble and eliminate it from the setup.
Have a checklist of everything I do to set a camera - I’m not going to see it again for days or weeks so it needs to be perfect.
- format the SD card
- check read/write speed SD card (yes every time, they can deteriorate over time)
- check the Blink schedule (sunrise/sunset times change throughput the year)
- check battery in always-on mode
- run the schedule for 30 minutes prior to putting camera into the enclosure
- record all equipment used, location and time of placement
When I reset a camera I record a summary of the result:
- number of images gathered
- battery state
- schedule check (after you download the images you can check to see if there were unexpected gaps in the schedule)
I always power the GoPros only by connecting the Blink USB to the battery. GoPros will inevitably hang and if you power them directly (via USB or battery) then they’re hung until you can power-cycle them. With power only to the Blink and no battery in the GoPro then you are power-cycling them between every interval so hangs are nearly impossible.
What are some of your other upcoming projects?
I’m currently in collection mode for the summer. I have multiple cameras in different locations and I’ll gather it all up and see what I have. There are plenty of interesting weather events to make highlight videos from - rain storms, rainbows, crazy clouds, sunrise/sunset etc… Hopefully I’m going to get some cool eclipse footage in August.
About Nick Holshouser:
By day, Nick is a Software Engineer working for SAP Labs, LLC. Outside of work and outside in general he’s an avid woodsman, amateur naturalist, and aspiring photographer/filmmaker. He spends as much time as possible in the woods, camera in hand. He’s constantly working to improve his photography skills over the last several years and is hooked on time lapse & remote nature photography. Follow him on Facebook & Vimeo.