Behind the Scenes of a Spectacular Time-Lapse Film in the Canadian Wilderness

Traveling 5,500 kilometers in six weeks, Filmmaker Florian Nick explored the wilds of British Columbia and Alberta in search of beautiful scenery, capturing 54,000 photos along the way. The result is a gorgeous time-lapse film showcasing the best of the region in stunning detail and sweeping scale. Nick discussed the making of the film with Fstoppers.

"Alive" displays the beauty of this part of the world from sunrise to sunset and into the night, with the core of the Milky Way out in full force. Nick's goal with the film is to be a part of a larger discussion centered on protecting our environment. By capturing and showing people the majesty of Nature, Nick hopes to raise further awareness on environmental issues.

Traveling alone in the Canadian Rockies for six weeks took an immense amount of planning. Nick spent time prior to his trip researching, compiling, and mapping lists of possible locations with hiking directions. He also had to be prepared for bear encounters of which fortunately he had none during his journey. With a bag full of camera and time-lapse gear, Nick chose not to carry any camping equipment. This resulted in times when he spent the night alone in the wilderness after an evening of shooting, waiting for the sun to come back up instead of hiking back to his lodging in the dark. 

I was struck by the opening of the film. Most landscape time-lapse films I see feature epic views from beginning to end. Nick opens with detail shots: raindrops on leaves, mossy stones in a stream, brush on the forest floor. It's immediately engaging and leads quite nicely into the inevitable beautiful wide-angle cuts. “I paid a lot of attention to interesting details around me instead of going for spectacular outlooks only,” Nick said. “By stepping closer to the subject, I tried to approach time-lapse in a little different way then you see in [the] usual time-lapse videos online."

The majority of the shots contain motion, some of which works splendidly and some of which are distracting, pulling the viewer out of the scene. It turns out that Nick had a similar thought. When I asked him what he would have done differently on this project, he replied, “I would probably use less three-axis movement with the time-lapse motion controller. In postproduction it turned out that the camera movement of some shots drew too much attention. For next time, less is more.”

As is always the case with these kinds of projects, Nick had to make some difficult decisions editing the film, with treasured shots ruthlessly discarded on the cutting room floor. He said, “[It] turned out to be a pretty emotional process because every shot has a background story that connects to me personally. It just often felt super frustrating to kick out a shot for which I woke up at 4 a.m. and hiked up a mountain for two hours in order to be there for sunrise.”

Nick said that what he loves most about filmmaking is “how it gives me the opportunity to visually express myself and to improve myself as an artist with every project I do.” You can see more of his work on Vimeo.

All images used with permission.

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2 Comments

Interesting opinion on the use of motion. As someone who was hiking/trekking/backpacking long before I got into photography, I actually think it captures the essence of long-distance hiking quite well... which is that you're constantly moving forward whether you want to or not. There are plenty of times you want to hang out on a peak for a few minutes longer, but if you need to put down 20-30 miles a day to reach your destination, you can't always afford those extra minutes. I feel like a lot of these types of time lapses often don't capture that feeling because they're more stationary. In those cases, if feels more like you're catching the viewpoint of the photographer not while they're moving, but while they're taking a break. Which is ironic, of course, since time lapses require extended breaks.

Aneesh Kothari's picture

Very interesting and a great point. I see where you're coming from on this. In my mind, there's a balance to be struck between using dynamic motion in these kinds of films for added interest and as you say to better reflect/capture the essence of the journey, and motion that distracts the viewer/takes them out of the scene. In my opinion, there were a couple of examples of the latter in Nick's film. Overall though, I thought it was wonderfully done. Thanks for reading and commenting - much appreciated!