The world is a fascinating place — much of it still needs to be explored. We recently had a chance to chat with Luke Humphrey, who is trying to “[capture] motion-controlled time-lapses of locations that are not super accessible to most people”. In the video above, Luke traversed the North Cascades with the Kessler Pocket Dolly and was able to capture an amazing light show.
Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little about yourself.
Luke Humphrey (LH): Any creative interests I have primarily stem from being a fan of film and music. I’m a big fan of visual filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Carl Dreyer, Stanley Kubrick, etc. There’s something about a moving camera that can really create a heightened emotional response in the viewer. I think guys like Tarkovsky and of course Malick or von Trier really know how to take advantage of camera movement to draw you into their worlds.
Classical music is also very motivating for me creatively. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the mountains these past couple of years and it can be harsh/lonely. Listening to music while in these settings can be inspiring, especially when you’re tired and cold might just want to want to stay in a warm tent/sleeping bag vs. exploring the night.
KU: Would love to know more about your trip. What was your motivation for this trek?
LH: I’ve been working on a project for a while now around capturing motion-controlled time-lapses of locations that are not super accessible to most people. These can include remote locations that require carrying an extremely heavy pack (70 pounds) for sometimes up to 30+ miles, and often on potentially dangerous terrain like crevassed glaciers and steep scrambles with some exposure. This particular trip was to a beautiful area in the North Cascades, WA where you’re surrounded by all of these huge glaciated peaks, lush river valleys, wildflowers, giant waterfalls, etc. There’s really nothing else like the Cascade range in the contiguous United States, especially the more remote Northern section where even a small population of Grizzly bear still roam.
KU: The shot you posted is spectacular! When you first saw the final shot, what thoughts were going through your head?
LH: I setup the sequence and noticed in the test shots that the sky was turning colors. I thought by white balance was off on the camera, but it wasn’t. The Aurora was starting to show itself, but you couldn’t see the ribbon effect yet. I went to bed not really having any expectations. When I looked at the shots in the morning by flipping through the LCD, a big smile went across my face because I was not expecting such a dramatic showing of the Northern Lights. It’s more common in Alaska and other northern locations (we’ve all probably seen a lot out of Norway, etc), but the Aurora is relatively rare in Washington State. I wasn’t chasing it at all, I just was in a great location at the right time. If my buddy hadn’t told me it was going to be out I probably wouldn’t have even pointed my camera north that night.
KU: I noticed that you used some Kessler gear on the shoot. Why Kessler gear?
LH: First and foremost, the Kessler stuff is extremely easy to use. I appreciate design that serves the artist trying to realize a vision, vs. requiring someone super technical to be able to figure the thing out. Also the gear has been pretty solid/reliable, and Eric and his team are super responsive if any issues arise. I’m pretty brutal with the gear due to the nature of where I take it. It’s held up to a lot of abuse. Every ounce makes a difference when you’re dealing with a huge pack across longs distances/elevation gains, so you can’t take much in the way of protective cases, etc.
KU: What was it like using the gear? What kit did you choose to hike with?
LH: Again it’s super easy to use, so I can focus more on the artistic side of getting a sequence vs. worrying about all of the technical details of how the gear works. I use the Pocket Dolly due to the lower weight and the Oracle controller for the motion control. I’ve removed things where I can off of the controller and the dolly to shed as much weight as possible.
KU: What’s next from you?
LH: I’m going to spend the rest of the climbing season getting more footage and then put something together. I have a lot of stuff stored up that I haven’t shown yet form a lot of locations that I don’t think have ever seen a motion-controlled dolly setup. I’ve taken the gear up to 11,000 feet on Mt. Rainier a few times, but I’d like to take it all the way to the summit and get some unique sequences there. I’m not aware of anyone doing that on this mountain (which is the tallest glaciated peak in the contiguous US), so it would be an interesting challenge for me.