Behind the Scenes of an 8K D850 Time-Lapse in the African Desert

Late last year, Photographer Marsel van Oosten received one of those phone calls that we all dream of: Nikon rang to ask if he would be interested in shooting a time-lapse to promote the global launch of their new, groundbreaking camera: the D850.

Van Oosten has put together a fantastically detailed article on his website that explains the entire process of creating this remarkable time-lapse film. Highlights include many of the tiny factors that go into making time-lapses at this level of technical (and creative) quality, aspects that only really become apparent when you've spent years encountering challenges and learning how to overcome them. In addition, there are some other moments that even the most experienced filmmakers and photographers couldn't anticipate, such as having all of his gear held by the South African police as the specific Pelican cases that van Oosten chose to use typically contain hunting rifles.

When presenting Nikon with the list of gear that he required, van Oosten didn't hold back: five D850s (of which he received four) and a stack of lenses to go with his existing kit. The snap of all of the equipment laid out is a little eye-watering, especially given that, right now, D850s are like hen's teeth. It's worth noting that these prototypes are branded "D000."

One of the interesting parts of van Oosten's article discusses the advantages of shooting 8K at a time when other technology is not quite up to speed. In addition to performing a few subtle digital zooms, downscaling meant that van Oosten could shoot at a wide angle and thereby reduce star trails before cropping the frame slightly tigher during postproduction.

Van Oosten also espouses the joys of the new D850 and its potential to crossover so easily between landscape and wildlife photography; the 153-point AF system with its 99 cross-type points, the 9 fps (when used with the MB-D18 battery grip), the huge buffer, the massively extended battery life, and the improved weather sealing. Also noted is the ease of setting up in-camera 4K time-lapses (see video below) as well as the focus shift feature.

Many of us are used to noting which way the sun will be heading when we recce locations, but the level of planning that went into the preparation will impress most readers. Van Oosten used his vast experience to guess the varying exposures of rising and setting moons, and his meticulous preparation for understanding the movement of the Milky Way ensured that he didn't lose any time once out in the field. Knowing exactly what the sky would do was essential to every composition. “Whenever possible, I like the Milky Way to complement my compositions instead of looking like an afterthought,” said van Oosten. “This means that quite often I wasn't able to shoot certain compositions because the Milky Way would show up at an awkward angle, or just not in the right place.”

Improvised methods of avoiding lens flare from a light source that's not going to appear for several hours. Image courtesy of Marsel van Oosten.

Motion slider setup with pan-and-tilt head. Image courtesy of Marsel van Oosten.

Still from "Hercules Rising." Image courtesy of Marsel van Oosten.

Marsel van Oosten and his wife Daniela Sibbing run Squiver and run photography tours across the world. Be sure to check out the full article for every detail of how this film was created. 

All images are used with permission.

[via NikonRumors]

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

Log in or register to post comments

Its an 8k timelapse uploaded in 1080p? Am I missing something?

As far as night time lapse in the desert kinda boring. Repeats of the same tree location.