It Only Took 70 Hours?

It Only Took 70 Hours?

For the untrained eye, the snappy, jerky, almost frenzied clicks around a map of the United States may appear random, without aim, but I assure you, this is part of the professional process.  Zoom in, open Google Earth, go to the same spot and look at it in 3D, A thought goes off at the very back of my mind, the foliage won’t really be out yet.  Zoom out, more clicks, more zooms, pans, we fly past different parts of the Pacific Northwest; any storms blowing in around Mt. Hood? Mt St. Helens?  How does it look for an overnight this weekend up toward Mt. Baker?  The weather all looks like a solid gray.  Okay then, it is going to be travel weekend, I conclude with myself.  I pack the standard gear for a timelapse/photo/aerial shoot that night because, why not?

 

Later that day, the mouse wanders further south, a bit further east; eventually I land on the southwest of the United States, looks like potential thunderstorms over the Bonneville Salt Flats, good, more wandering, all the way down to Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona state border it looks like some interesting weather will be blowing through there too, excellent.  With any luck and a lot of multitasking I may be able to make a film out of this trip, I think.  I debate a bit with myself, should I use my miles this trip or make sure I accumulate a bit more so I hit MVP status this year?  I elect to accumulate a bit more and land on Salt Lake City as my entry point, a quick nonstop flight to one of my favorite medium-sized airports in the United States.  

 

The weekend arrives (I paid $50 to upgrade to a first class seat, woo! Warm cookies and champagne… how is this even work?) “We’re landing soon” they say.  I put the finishing touches on a photo I’ve been editing, send it to my phone so it's ready to post when I land.  Wheel’s touch down, luggage gathered, I drive my sparkly, clean, shiny Dodge Grand Caravan (the seats lay flat, that is key for the whirlwind adventure photography weekend rental vehicle) straight to the Wal Mart Supercenter where I get enough water for three days of water bottle refills, Tapitio Doritos, a big bag of small apples, a couple sandwiches and I’m outta there.  Oh wait, and some beef jerky.  And some Red Bull (I’m not proud of it, but energy drinks can be life-savers when you’re driving until 4am each night).  Okay I’m outta there.  First stop: the Bonneville Salt Flats - the plan is to snag a panorama of the Milky Way right when I get there, then get a nap in before sunrise.  It is about 2:30am when I step out of the van into the summer night air on the flats

I try to make the absolute most out of a weekend trip, that means very little sleep. Getting a lot of content in a short period of time is all about inertia and multitasking.  It's about getting to work right when you get there and staying on the move.  After I’m confident I have a milky way panorama I let the incessant waves of need sleep wash over me and I pop my tent up on the salty playa for two and a half hours of dreamless time travel.  I always cross my fingers for a beautiful mirror sunrise across that shallow, still water on the flats.  This trip the flats deliver and the pre-dawn light paints the high clouds and casts beautiful blues onto the honeycomb patterns beneath the water.  

I quickly set up a camera for timelapse, tweak my exposure settings for what I think the light will do as the sun comes over the horizon, ack don’t forget to focus it and set the lens to manual, Will!  Then I quickly grab my drone gear and begin flying passes over the water as the light gets special.  

After the sun is too high to be good light any longer, I pack it all in and look at how many hours it will take me to drive to the best weather on the Utah/Arizona border, looks like it will be Page, AZ; I make that the target and fire my minivan at it.  7 hours later I’m in Page, just south of the Utah border.  I decide on a shoot at horseshoe bend.  

Pro-tip: photography weekends work because for the most part photography is best shot during golden hour, most of the day is not golden hour which means it's prime time for travel and audiobooks… and Tapatio Doritos (or Sweet Chili Doritos if you’re in Iceland, I swear they are fresher there).  

At Horseshoe, the clouds start to roll across where the sun is going to set, and I start to internally cross my fingers that I’ll get a glimpse of the sun just before it hits the horizon. For whatever reason when almost all hope is lost, a TINY hole in the clouds perfectly times out, blows over the sun just as it touches the horizon and I’m able to grab this panorama shot with my D810 and 14-24mm 2.8g lens

[Horseshoe Bend State Park, Page, AZ -- 30 bracketed vertical photos, Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8G]

[Horseshoe Bend State Park, Page, AZ -- 30 bracketed vertical photos, Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8G]

I take several bracketed, vertical photos covering the area, making sure to expose a bit toward the brighter end, in the back of my head I’m thinking, it will be easier to bring up darks and I want as much detail in the lights as possible to get the most out of these clouds/sun.  

From previous trips to the area, I have a few priority spots that I have mentally tagged as places I’d like to shoot.  I grab a few winks of sleep and after I have some wits back in me I pull out one of those mentally tagged spots, Monument Valley, it is really close to the Utah/Arizona border -- instead of sleep I decide to drive there that night to catch sunrise the next morning.  Never having been there I drive through the area in the dark and hope against hope that where I am when light starts to creep into the sky will be photo-worthy.  

As the first blue light scrapes across the dry landscape and the land gains some relief it turns out I’m in a great spot for aerial views, I set up a few timelapses with all three of my cameras and then do some 4K flights back and forth with my DJI Inspire 1 Pro.  

After making myself a cup of coffee and starting up my brain for the day I browse the weather outlook on my phone with a few different apps and sites, clouds are moving into the area and I want to make sure I’m at a good place to catch the light, I make a snap decision to drive back to Page.  I do, and as I sit in a Denny’s munching on an okay breakfast, reviewing photos, editing one for my daily Instagram post, I realize that it's getting too grey outside, I check the weather again and, after having driven a 100+ miles for a Denny’s visit all the way from Monument Valley, I decide the weather looks better back over there for sunset.  I can just make it.  So, me and the Grand Caravan dash back over just in time to enter Monument Valley park.  In between intermittent monsoons and fast-moving thunderheads I am able to grab a few photos and some timelapses

The sun sets and, still wanting more content from Horseshoe bend, I make the dash AGAIN across the border, the desert and the night.  I catch a nap and wake myself up before sunrise in the dirt parking lot for Horseshoe Bend State park.  

I drive a bit further south outside the state park to grab a few aerial views

Exhausted from the morning of shooting, I make it back to the van and let my head hit the sleeping bag.  I let the heat of the day wake me up after a couple hours, pack my things and head for the SLC airport, dust and sand in everything, hair is static-frozen up like I’ve been electrocuted, I drive, wishing I had a day or two to hit Moab. I tag it in my head, Next trip for sure.

 

So, what was that about making something in 70 hours?  Well, it turns out I was able to make that film, and, after a couple hundred hours of editing, here it is! 

 

 

What gear I use most for landscape photography and timelapse:

Nikon D810

Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8g

Nikkor 70-200 2.8g

Sony A7R II

Sony/Zeiss 55mm

Zeiss Batis 25mm

Rokinon 8mm

Novoflex Nikon f-mount to e-mount adaptor (for use specifically with my Nikkor 14-24mm, doesn’t work with all Nikon lenses)

Nikon D800

LEE Superwide Filter Holder for 14-24mm Nikkor Lens

Glass ND and Grad ND filters

 

What app I use for planning:

PhotoPills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Milky Way in Your Composition

The Milky Way in Your Composition

Capturing the Milky Way requires planning for it as a compositional element, a shot of the stars and milky way on its own won’t be captivating enough.  For the professional-feeling Milky Way shot, take some time to plan out your location, take some hikes during golden hour and use an app like PhotoPills to think about where the Milky Way will be with a composition and foreground element(s) that will make the overall image truly sing.  

The Milky Way rises from the distant mountains like being released from a forge... (Two-exposure blend, used PhotoPills app to predict where the Milky Way would be at what time of night)

Behind the Image "Beam Me Up"

Behind the Image "Beam Me Up"

Hey, I thought you may be interested to know a little about the basics of what goes into creating an image like "Beam Me Up"

So, first off, there is like, a bunch of stuff I'm not going to talk about in this post, but let me know if you'd be interested!  The stuff I won't really cover in this in the hopes of keeping this pretty clear and simple and short-ish.  That stuff is mainly research, camera settings, camera details, composing the shots, apps to figure out where the Milky Way will be, etc.  This post is about putting the image together:

Step 1: Get all the photos and stitch em together.  For the complete image I stitched together two different panoramic images created from 6 vertical exposures.  One panorama is for the milky way, exposure and settings in the camera are set to get the best image of the milky way/stars.  The other panorama is a set of vertical exposures with camera settings that are meant to cut down on noise in the foreground of the image/rocks.  (see below for all exposures used)

The above image is just to illustrate three vertical photos being brought together.  The stitching process can be done in Adobe Lightroom and/or Adobe Photoshop.  For this image I used Photoshop.  I used the camera raw filter to create the .dng raw of the stitched image.  

Step 2: Bring all the images together...

There is a lot to do this well and that process on its own is worth a dedicated post, but these are the basic three images brought together to create the image.  Take note that one panorama has a sharp milkyway and stars, but the foreground is too dark and the second panorama, the stars are blurry because of how long the photos were exposed for but have some light inside the rocks of the foreground and midground.  

There is a lot to do this well and that process on its own is worth a dedicated post, but these are the basic three images brought together to create the image.  Take note that one panorama has a sharp milkyway and stars, but the foreground is too dark and the second panorama, the stars are blurry because of how long the photos were exposed for but have some light inside the rocks of the foreground and midground.  

Step 3: Color temperature, dodging (brightening) and burning (darkening) color adjustments and sharpening

Consider supporting the production of this art and these behind-the-image write-ups for 1/5 the cost ($2/mo) of a monthly Hulu subscription!!  1/3 of the money is donated to the Nature Conservancy.  

It's Done!  Watch Origin Now!

It's Done! Watch Origin Now!

Ten days, napping instead of full nights of sleep, semi-cold, icebergs, delicious gas station sandwiches, waves, the unknown, a Land Rover, a few cameras, a drone, FRESH doritos, and now, a movie!  A four minute-long one!  Watch it now!

Consider becoming a patron for $1/more per month to help support more frequent production of these films! https://www.patreon.com/posts/yahoo-youre-or-7197462

<3

-Will

We've Launched a Patreon!

We've Launched a Patreon!

The Patron model has existed for more than a thousand years.  For centuries rich king types and poor-as-hell artist types have had a special kind of relationship, that of the patron-artist variety. In exchange for financial support, people with money have been able to establish a special relationship with an artist whose work speaks to them and in exchange the artist can make the art they're passionate about creating and sharing with the world.  

Patreon.com now provides this century's version of that model and myself and the rest of SKÝ FÓLK have launched our bid at patronage.  The patronage model fits us because we want to give it all away.  I sell prints and teach photography and I also work a full time job at Microsoft to offset the very expensive pursuit of giving.  In addition to that 1/3 of all money that SKÝ FÓLK brings in is donated to The Nature Conservancy -- conservation of our natural world is one pillar of SKÝ FÓLK's mission.  We want to add to life, preserving the environment is one big part of that.

If you like the sound of this so far, consider visiting my Patreon page and pledging any amount that makes sense for you.  

Any amount of pledge comes with rewards of course!

  • For $2/mo Patron's will receive these four custom phone wallpapers
  • 1/3 of your money will be donated to The Nature Conservancy
  • One Patron-only behind-the-scenes post about our upcoming film "Origin" that was shot entirely in Iceland

Our New Film is Finally Done! "Ancients"

Our New Film is Finally Done! "Ancients"

We recently released our latest film, "Ancients" it marks the first longer collaboration for SKÝ FÓLK between Will Christiansen (directing/shooting/editing), Robbie Elias (sound direction/design), and Giuseppe Caiazzo aka SMHERTZ (Musical Elements).  

The film celebrates the ancient forms of the southwest.  Most of the area used to be a deep seabed, over time it was upturned, exposed to elements out of the salt water and carved on by water and wind for millennia for us all to eventually see and explore.  Enjoy!

The film was recently on Right This Minute!  -- check out what people are enjoying about it, it has been really fun to hear what they enjoyed about it.  

http://www.rightthisminute.com/post/another-film-released-will-christiansen-and-robbie-elias-over-sky-folk-will-have-you-booking

48 HOURS: OREGON

48 HOURS: OREGON

Where can I go in 48 hours?  I want to drive, I want to fly, I want to sleep on a cracked, flat, desert.  Go.

In the latest installment of SKÝ FÓLK's adventure series, Will Christiansen travels to the Alvord Desert in Oregon to get away from everything and take pictures.... and make movies.  --

The Making of a 'virtual photo'

The Making of a 'virtual photo'

How can we take a real place (in this cause the summit of Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii), photograph it and process those images to re-create it virtually for other people to experience?  I've been exploring photogrammetry and I recently wrapped up a really fun panoramic photography project with Valve for the release of the HTC Vive.

Here is a quick overview of how I'm going about building virtual photos.

Here are SOME of things not covered at all or covered in very little actual detail:

  • How to shoot the photos and which equipment and settings are best for the panorama and the methods for shooting the photos needed to extract a 3D model
  • How to process images from your panorma using PTGui and KRPano to build the 6-side images that will be used by Unity for the scene's skybox
  • The best way to process photos in aDOBE lightroom to retain as much dynamic range as we can (without shooting HDR images)
  • Methods for using Agisoft's PhotoScan software AND WHAT "PHOTOGRAMMETRY" IS
  • How to adjust our model and align it using Maya
  • How to set up a unity scene that uses SteamVR (Vale makes this wonderfully easy!!) and how to align the model to your panorama

-Will

The Future is Us Literally Stepping into Photos

The Future is Us Literally Stepping into Photos

Virtual spaces, augmented reality, "room-scale" virtual reality -- these are a few pieces of our daily lives that are rapidly becoming commonplace, and they're also terms that don't really mean that much to most people.  Here is what they all really mean for us though: the near future is us, literally stepping into photos. 

The ability to not only look at photos but to step into them is one of the exciting new spaces to explore for SKÝ FÓLK.  Will Christiansen, the owner of SKÝ FÓLK recently worked with the team at Valve to shoot & process the panoramic images that shipped with the HTC Vive VR headset which is powered by Valve's SteamVR platform.  The idea was to create several images that would act as staging-area backgrounds inside the virtual environment that the Vive provides, like a desktop background wallpaper on your computer or mobile device except you get to stand in the middle of it and explore it as if you were there.  

If you'd like to learn more of the project done with Valve and would like to have a look around the images that you can stand inside, check out the VR section of our site!  I recommend grabbing the nearest Vive headset and switching between the backgrounds inside it, they are specifically designed to feel great in that environment and all of these photos are available through SteamVR and the workshop.  

So, what's next?  What does the future look like?  A few problems to tackle are about people's perception of space inside VR, what tends to happen is very distant objects ad the horizon are correctly perceived as far away by the viewer but as objects get closer to the viewer, we need to perceive actual depth and mass to the objects we look at and we need to be able to look around at the environment as if our eyes were looking at real 3D life, the nature of photography has been two-dimensional for far too long and that alone isn't ultimately going to give us what we want because a 2D object in 3D space is perceived as infinitely far away.  In our quest to share beautiful experiences, we are taking photography!  We are currently working inside of 3D game engines like Unity and Unreal, applying techniques that can extract 3D models/textures from multiple photographic exposures of an object/scene called photogrammetry and compositing both normal, panoramic photographic elements with 3D models/textured extracted from several (hundreds of photos) photos of an environment to allow people to step into photos in a more realistic way.  Look for future posts on VR and photography as we explore this area further.

How Does SKÝ FÓLK Define Success?

How Does SKÝ FÓLK Define Success?

When I think about our mission going forward, I envision a collection of inspired people making and doing inspiring things – How can SKY FÓLK have this at its heart?  By co-inspiration, not necessarily collaboration, by people creating their life's work in closer proximity to each other, and by all of us feeding off each other’s energy, work, and creativity.  

SKÝ FÓLK is a company that's sole purpose is to amplify the work of its people.  SKÝ FÓLK takes everyone's individual ability, passion, and visibility and uses it all to benefit everyone else. 

SKÝ FÓLK is about great people doing the great things they are passionate about, near enough to each other in real time and space (or not), so that a ripple effect of co-inspiration flows easily back and forth.  The time is ripe to evolve SKÝ FÓLK from a long held concept to a solid practice. 

So, how does this company define success?  If all work is owned directly by the people that make it, and everyone is focused on different work – how does a company benefit if it doesn't take a cut or own the work that is produced?  

SKÝ FÓLK success is defined by the accumulated successes of its people.  The people at SKÝ FÓLK are SKÝ FÓLK.

The growing visibility of the company name becomes the visibility of its people and our work, which in turn enriches everyone directly – whether the riches are money, awareness, calls to action, and/or education.