Moments In The Cambridgeshire Countryside is a short journey remembering fleeting moments in time. A personal project I started in 2014, when shooting my first time-lapses of the Cambridgeshire Countryside.
The short film is a collection of some of my favourite and most successful time-lapses captured in 4K, edited as a story showcasing the beauty of nature and life. For best viewing experiences, please view full screen.
I decided to start the film with a quote from Blade Runner which explored the importance of time. The quote means a lot to me personally, besides being one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. It fit the theme of time-lapses, and I wanted to immediately put people in the headspace of realising the value of time and how every moment, worth remembering or recording, is something which is truly fleeting.
My feelings towards the Cambridgeshire countryside have always been somewhat consistent since I started out as a photographer. There really isn’t much variety in the land. The time-lapse compilation was an idea to capture lots of different seasons, lighting conditions and rare and unique moments. I believe that the right light and the right moment can make a place really shine. Even in a land which doesn’t offer much visually for an artist, there are short pieces of time worth capturing and remembering.
The project started in 2014. I knew I wanted to create a time-lapse compilation featuring the Cambridgeshire countryside, and it had to be in 4K. I spend a lot of time around here trying to find something new, and something which I can put my name to visually. It’s tough, but it’s where I live, and knowing your local area as an artist can help a lot when you’re time is limited.
I have shot with a crop sensor camera for my entire time as a photographer. It’s certainly limiting in ways, but it’s also not something that will stop me from putting out a format which is still to this day being developed. I do realise I had problems understanding the best ways to go about capturing the different scenes in the ways that I did. An example being, the dynamic range of my camera being fairly limited. I had planned out a shot featuring a day to night transition. With the basic tools I had, it wasn’t possible to do it in one simple take.
There are certainly things which I have learned and could have done better over the years. I was a different person back in 2014. Looking back, it’s amazing how far I have come as an artist too. Not everything was worth capturing though. I had recorded over 40 time-lapses in the period which I was working on this. 26 made the short movie. It was going to be much longer, but not all of the footage was usable, and I definitely learned a lot about capturing. There were a lot of sequences which I really did not want to cut, but inevitably, for the sake of the quality and the story, I had to.
Creating keyframes to organise the sequence
I’m not going to go into specific details, because there are already a million other blogs out there which cover that. I will however, share my personal lessons learned throughout this experience. A good tripod, almost any modern camera and a lot of patience will get you some incredible results.
To record the time-lapses, I set out scouting for locations which normally yielded some good success as a photograph. It’s important when you shoot a time-lapse to realise that you’re shooting lots of individual images which when views in a sequence will capture more than what a single picture can capture. That is to say, do not neglect a single frame. Planning is key, you’ll want to plan out your shot before hand. A change in wind direction, a badly positioned frame during a sunset or an overhead storm can really ruin your day, or make for the key feature in your shot. If you’re shooting a moving object, such as the moon, make sure you keep in mind the rate at which it moves, how long you’ll be capturing it for and where it will start and end in your frame. If you plan on shooting it to the right of your frame, you don’t want it moving off frame within 10 minutes of setting up.
When it came to picking the days, it was easy. If I had time, and if something special was going on, I was planning on adding it to my project. Working locally has both its problems and its highlights. Most of the shots were within 10 minutes of driving from my house. This worked very well with the story i was telling and the fact that I could roll out of my room and start shooting within 20 minutes if I was ready for it. It made getting the key shots very easy, such as the lightning sequence. You can’t really plan for that, or for a spectacular sunset, so having somewhere locally in mind to shoot is brilliant if you want to work on a slow burner project like this. I also had a sequence which had the solar eclipse. I couldn’t use it however, due to the bad shooting conditions. I’d always recommend gloves or a warm coat, even on a moderate day.
A frame from a time-lapse that didn't make the cut
Once I captured my time-lapses, I used Lightroom to edit. Lightroom was something I picked up late 2013, early 2014, and decided to use predominately as my image editor of choice over Photoshop. They are both equally brilliant, but for a time-lapse, having Lightroom’s copy and paste settings really helped a lot for making sure you were not editing every shot individually. I had a quick look over the sequence, and edited a shot at the beginning, middle and end of the sequence. The differences in processing allowed me to work for a middle ground which would work across the whole sequence. For a longer time-lapse you’d need to use a different method, since the information can change an awful lot form one hour to the next.
I exported the individual full jpg’s from Lightroom to a folder and added the sequence into After Effects. I used this for stabilisation and creating a movie. The key part of this is making sure your raw files are great. You can’t always save something with stabilisation, and on the windiest of days with the most horrid of conditions, you’ll loose a lot of good shots if you’re not prepared. All it takes is a few frames, a misstep of your foot knocking the tripod or a rogue dog running into frame ruining hours of work. I collected all of my sequences and brought them into Premiere where I sequenced them all. While editing in 4K, this was my first mistake. the feedback was incredibly slow. If I was to do this again (which I will) I would make sure to export both the full size and a preview/edit size which was more workable. It’s easy to replace footage and sequences once you’ve edited them how you want with Adobe products.
As I mentioned in my description, I was going for a very particular type of story. I wanted to make every shot make sense in the sequence, and not have too much of a random eye fatigue throughout. I wanted dark to go into light, and vice versa. There’s a loose editing style which follows night to day, to sunset again, but I didn’t want it to be overly strict, since i was never able to capture every season and every time of day.
Creating a draft sequence in Adobe Premiere
The music was written and composed by myself using Ableton Live. i wanted to create a slow, brooding and dark atmosphere. I tend to have a very dark style with my art and photography. There are signs of nature in there too, with the rain sounds and thunder, mixed with the evolving drones and pads I used. I wanted it to climax around the lightning storm and cloud formation sequence. This is where the chorus kicks in. I used both natural sounds and digital synthesis, which I felt fit the style of my editing very well. I certainly don’t claim to shoot naturally and I wanted to explore that a little further with the music.
Using Ableton Live 9 to produce a soundtrack
Overall, I’m fairly happy with the turnout. I really wish I had more shots to include, but I already had over 1TB of collected footage (which is actually quite small all things considered). I had a lot of problems with flickering, stabilisation and image quality which I have learned from, and I think given the basic tools I used, the longer period of collecting shots allowed me to make up for the lack of professional time-lapse tools. I certainly do have another short film like this in mind.
All audio, video and creative direction by Adam Marshall.
Canon EOS 70D
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8
Canon 70-200mm f/4.0
MeFOTO RoadTrip Tripod
Lee Filter Foundation Kit
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Media Encoder
Red Giant MisFire Grain
Ableton Live 9
Native Instruments Massive
Apple Logic Pro
Shot on location at Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom, from 2014-2017
A special thank you to my friends and family who took the time to give me advice during my early drafts and through execution of the project.
If you would like to work with me on a similar project or have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org