THE NIGHT SKIES IN NEPAL
KU: Hey Noah! It looks like you’re trip to Nepal was amazing. Before we get into the specifics of your latest work, tell us a little about yourself and your team?. Where do you hail from and what got you into doing time-lapse work?
NOAH: We are a collaborative team based out of Jackson, WY. Kelly and I are both from California. We met in Yosemite National Park. We started doing time lapses about 5 years ago. I have been working in the film and television industry on and off for about 15 years now in various facets, but mainly as an audio engineer. My father was a photographer (trained in the Army during Vietnam) and as a child I was his camera assistant on many 4×4 and backpacking adventures, with his Linhoff 4×5 camera. I think that upbringing led me to a life in the mountains and a passion to share the outdoors and art with people. I’m kind of a nerd and Kelly is definitely the artistic type. Kelly has a unique way of seeing things and a strong attention to detail. She’s an amazing photographer!
KELLY: I grew up in the suburbs of Modesto in Central California. During high school I took a photography class where I learned to shoot on 35mm film and fell in love with the darkroom. While learning film photography I started to find inspiration all around me, in the more “surreal” world of photography. In 2010 I finally acquired a digital camera (Nikon D40x). It was shortly after that, Noah and I began to explore time-lapseing. We were also spending a lot of time traveling and camping in our van. It was then that I became very inspired by the natural world. We developed a strong conviction to share this with those who didn’t get to have these natural experiences. I know this because I grew up fairly disconnected with the natural / outdoor world.
KU: When we watched the time-lapses from your video in Nepal, we were really taken aback by Nepal’s beauty and were instantly jealous we couldn’t spend a few nights at basecamp with you – what took you there?
We are working on a project with our friend, Halina Boyd, who is a professional rider for Jones Snowboards. This entire trip was sort of a scouting mission to check out the terrain for snowboarding potential, as well as immerse in the culture, as we want to include humanitarian issues and womens’ rights in our film. An action sports documentary with a cause. As well as our love for the mountains, culture, and remote places.
KU: What were some of the more interesting scenarios you faced on your trip? At one point in the short piece we noticed an avalanche, fascinating and kind of frightening at the same time really.
KELLY: Yes, the avalanche was pretty wild and the video doesn’t do much justice for its size. It was massive! At first we were in awe and then we wondered how far it would travel… Could it reach us? It was a strong reminder that these mountains are not to be taken lightly. Those mountains are restless and constantly shifting. Avalanches, rockslides, floods, glacial calving, and storms are a constant. The raw nature of the the Himalayas will rip you out of your comfort zone and all you can do is submit and learn.
NOAH: Our 6 weeks in Nepal was life changing… Plenty of challenges to learn from. Traveling to/from and within Nepal is not easy.
I lost all my bags in China, which included the entire TLS and Second Shooter system. So we had to spend a few extra days in Kathmandu waiting for my bags to show up. So I had to wear the same clothes for a while. When my bags and the Kessler gear finally arrived, we were extremely anxious to hit the streets of Kathmandu to do some shooting. It was also the beginning of celebrations for the Nepali New Year (they don’t do the leap year thing, so 2016 came on April 13th.) We headed out to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, where two neighborhoods engage in a giant “tug of war” against each other, trying to drag a 20′ foot tall wooden cart, into their neighborhoods, that the square divides. We decided to find a less crowded section of the square for something to time-lapse. We ended up finding the “Stone Elephant” that is seen in the video.
While setting up this time-lapse, chaos began to break out. Four men came running past us, carrying a recently deceased man, by all four. Followed by a crowd of a hundred or so people that gathered around, as they set him down, 50’ behind our rig. We later found out he was run over by the cart. That time-lapse has an eerie feel to it needless to say.
We finished the time-lapse and decided to move onto the “tug of war”, on the other side of the Square. We found a great location overlooking the event, from high up on the steps of an ancient temple. Shortly after starting, what was supposed to be our 2nd time-lapse of the evening, all hell broke loose. RIOTING between the people and the police!! We tried to keep the time-lapse running as long as possible, but as rocks we’re flying a little too close for comfort, we decided to grab our stuff and start running. (Did I mention that the combination of the Second Shooter and TLS System is really light weight and fast to run with?)… We eventually found a safe way back to our guesthouse (right on Bhaktapur Durbar Square). We were later informed that the riots happen every year. The police seemed to enjoy the riots just as much as the rioters. They came prepared to play. I eventually came to the conclusion that these riots were a sort of mutual recreational violence. The rioting continued into the night on the narrow streets, 5 floors below. We needed to get some sleep as the journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara (where we started our trek into the Annapurna region) is a long day on cramped buses.
KU:There’s a point in the video that you can be seen trekking with the TLS rail in your backpack – give us a little feedback on what it was like to hike with the gear.
NOAH: Kelly and I hiked a total of around 160 miles (257 KM) through the Himalayas on two different treks. Annapurna Base Camp took 14 days and then to the Lang Tang Valley which was 10 days. In order to pull this off we spent a lot of time in planning our packing job. Simplicity is the name of the game. Less = go more! Aside from our time-lapse and camera gear, we only traveled with one pair of clothes for each environment, Jungle and Alpine. As well as our sleeping bags and very basic life essentials.
We did have one guide and a porter (to carry some basics, like our computer, lenses, etc.) but I carried the entire Kessler System throughout all of our trekking in Nepal. The Kessler TLS and Second Shooter are amazing to hike with! I loved being able to have it off my backpack, setup, leveled, and ready to shoot in well under 10 minutes. Allowing us to work in a more creative way when moments inspired us… All while not ruining my back and making our hiking experience more pleasurable.
KELLY: The people of Nepal are some of the most friendly and curious people we have come across in our travels. They were very interested in what this “thing” was on Noahs’ back… Which was awesome because it opened doors for us to engage with the Nepali people.
KU: What is some advice you might give to folks looking to do a similar adventure? What are the essential do not forget item(s) you would recommend?
NOAH: I would say, one of the most important things to remember, when on trips like this, is that you are there to learn, and its not always easy. And learning to “just roll with it” makes this kind of work extremely rewarding!
As for gear… Having Kessler Kwik Release receivers everywhere has cut our setup times drastically. Less time tinkering means more time being creative.
KELLY: Always have a backup plan! Power was a big issue and developing a power management system is crucial as recharging and weight is an issue. Thats whats great about the MagPak. We can shoot for most of the day and not worry too much. This allowed us to not have to ration too much when we were hiking and couldn’t recharge for awhile.
KU: How did the weather affect your shooting? The images showcased an extremely dynamic and diverse landscape and environment, was there a lot to consider before even beginning?
NOAH: The weather played a huge role.. You can make plans for your day, but you have to understand that anything can happen at a moments notice, in the Himalayas. So extra time and patience is a must.
We had thunder/snow on 4 different occasions. Temperature swings from 70F to 20F (21 C to -6 C). We carried handwarmers to keep the cameras warm on cold nights and some simple rain covers for the more wet moments. Many times we would head out to setup for a sunset, only to have a large hail storm shut us down within minutes, for the day and night. But it’s all part of the beauty that makes Nepal amazing. Those mountains teach you to let go a little more.
KU: Back to gear, well because we are obviously gear geeks – having used lots of time-lapse tools in the past, how did the TLS/Second Shooter combo compare?
NOAH: It’s simple, but not lacking in features… The TLS legs are probably my favorite thing about the TLS. We can setup in more precarious spots, quickly, and still have options to position the system in a stable manner.
The Second Shooter interface is streamlined very well! I love being able to just set the keyframes, interval, and number of photos, quickly. And then going back and changing a keyframe is just as simple. And when we’re done with the time-lapse, we love throwing a video pass in with the same keyframes. Also we love the integration of the Ramper Pro for “Holy Grail” shots.
KU: We’d like to consider ourselves adventurous eaters at Kessler, what was the best and the craziest food you encountered in Nepal?
NOAH: Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour!!!! Dal Bhat is the standard dish when trekking in Nepal. It usually consists of rice, curry, pickled veggies, and lentils. Perfect for sustaining you’re energy in that sort of environment.. Many Nepali people mix it up and eat it with just their hands… Nepal is sandwiched between India and China, and the food reflects that.
KELLY: Dal Bhat is usually refillable, which is good because we couldn’t eat enough. Masala was my favorite flavor. It’s used in Curry and they even have masala tea everywhere.
KU: Finally – what’s next for you?
HAHAHA! Time-lapsing from space. Going back to Nepal next March to snowboard.