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The Alpine Team
By day, Nitish lives in Seattle, Washington tackling problems with creativity at Microsoft. By weekend, he roams Canada with Pulse looking to discover "the wild spaces that shape who we are." Here's a short selection of his latest essay, Moments from Canada.
"In these moments, you realize that travel matters. Adventure matters. These wild places matter. We, as humans, are stewards of these spaces and have a responsibility to protect them. Tomorrow, I’ll return to the world of meetings, to-do lists and phones. But for this moment, I stand quietly in awe of an awakening sun and the company of birds."
The Alpine Team
Oregon Trails came together somewhat by accident after I shot a telephoto north star time lapse that I wanted to see as a star trail clip (the opening shot). I loved that first clip so much that I wondered if I could also use star trail stacking to show night shots from my longer Discover Oregon and Portraits of Oregon films in a unique and refreshing way. Over a few weeks, I then reprocessed my files and put together Oregon Trails.
I love shooting time lapse because it gives me an excuse to spend time in beautiful locations and take a part of those places home with me. Most of these shots go toward making longer nature & time lapse films.
Most of this was shot on a Canon 6D, with a Michron or Radian, sturdy tripod, and Rokinon manual prime glass (14mm, 24mm, 135mm). However, there’s a handful of shots in Oregon Trails I captured years ago with my old Canon T2i, a camera I now consider ‘below spec’ for astrophotography. To my surprise, I found that the stacking process can turn even noisy and imperfectly focused shots from an old entry-level camera into beautiful star trail videos.
Depends on where you start counting from! Oregon Trails is mostly a re-imagining of time lapse content that I already had sitting on my hard drives from past and in progress projects. The entire film came together from concept to delivery in under two weeks. That said, the shots took dozens of trips around Oregon and over three years to assemble. A lot of time spent camping out with Tamara Logsdon or Lance Page and a growler of IPA. I even blew out and replaced my 6D shutter at 300,000 actuations a few months ago, but it didn’t feel too much like work!
For night shots, I’m almost always camping near where the camera is, though I have left my camera several miles from where I’m sleeping. I usually try to scout a spot before dark and then head out after sunset to set up the camera. On a bright moonlit night I might get several shots in a night, moving the camera every 45 minutes or so, but typically just one or two on a dark sky evening. Focusing with live view is crucial for sharp stars, and if there’s rain in the forecast I’ll make sure to have a cover over the camera.
After the shot, most of the magic happens in post. I’m a bit unusual in that I render time lapse with Blackmagic Davinci Resolve, which is much faster than After Effects if you have the right computer hardware. For anyone who wants to know my full workflow, I made a full 14 part time lapse course on my process from gear, to shooting, to rendering.
There are a handful of different tools you could use do this, but I used the freeware program StarStaX. Since the program doesn’t recognize camera RAW, I took time lapses I had already rendered into DNxHR 4K, and re-exported them as TIFF stacks via Davinci Resolve. I then ran these 45,000+ still frames through StarStax with a variety of different settings, and used the ‘save after each step’ setting to create separate stacks of TIFF files that showed the growing star trails. Many hours and a few terabytes of data later, I compiled these into videos with Resolve for the final film.
I couldn’t believe how the Radian spins and pans came out. In my first draft for Oregon Trails I intentionally avoided stacking shots with motion control thinking they would be a mess, but did render one as a test. Glad I decided to! Adding camera motion to the spin of the sky led to the wonderful abstract star trail patterns visible at 0:45, 2:44, and 3:47.
The solar eclipse! Have a spot staked out on a family friend’s ranch in Eastern Oregon. Hoping to avoid the crowds and get some shots to bring home. After that not sure, may try to find some lava again…
Eds. note: Here's what Tyler shot during the eclipse.
All my films are hosted on Vimeo either as free shorts or via Vimeo on Demand. The longer on-demand projects are about to go live on Amazon Prime Video, so anyone with a Prime account will be able to watch them there for free soon. For more context on my films, plus my photography and nature recordings, check out my website.
The Alpine Team
In case you haven’t heard, a complete solar eclipse will take place on August 21st in the USA! This once in a lifetime experience can be discussed both simply (the moon blocks the sun) and as complexly as you can imagine. We’ve done the hard work of sifting through a few dozen NASA pages, photography guides, and misc blog posts and compiled the most important bits for both viewing and photographing the eclipse. We’ve even added a few ideas to help you navigate the circus of people trying to do the same thing!
Even if you can’t make the eclipse, it is really fun to learn about, and you can still watch a live stream of the event. So without further ado, we present the Alpine Labs Complete Guide to the Solar Eclipse. (11 minute read)
Table of Contents:
**We’re also doing an Eclipse Photo, Time Lapse and Writing contest. See below for more info!**
The percentages in this photo show the amount that the moon will block the sun. You will notice that a partial eclipse will be visible all across North America and even into parts of South America. Source: Nasa
While we encourage all of you to just go out and enjoy the eclipse (especially if it is your first solar eclipse!), if you do take photos we would love to see them. So we’re having a contest for Best Eclipse Photo and Best Eclipse Time Lapse for the really ambitious. There is also a separate category for the writers out there: Best Eclipse Story. We’re sure there will be some adventures had and we want to hear about them! Not sure what you want to shoot or where you want to go? Read the full guide below!
Anyone can enter! Just tag #alpinelabs in your photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter or email us your submission within 48 hours of the eclipse.
**The three winners will receive a free Pulse or Spark, and a $200 gift certificate to Adorama. We’ll also feature the winners in our newsletter after the eclipse.
Full details, including terms & conditions are here.
Solar eclipses are rare, very rare. While technically they do happen every few years, they are frequently only partial eclipses (some annular, some hybrid), and they are often in remote locations that are not easily accessible and don’t have easy sleeping accommodations… like the middle of the Atlantic ocean (2015) or in Antarctica (2021). The complete and total blocking of the sun’s light is unique and the last time one hit the United States was in 1979.
In short, the August 21st total eclipse will be visible from a small strip of land that stretches across America, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina.
The eclipse will begin (on land) in Oregon at Lincoln Beach at 9:05am PDT with totality (the brief moment when the moon fully blocks the sun) starting at 10:16am PDT. For the next hour and a half, the eclipse will travel across the United States (and time zones) and totality will finish at 2:48 EDT in South Carolina. Technically you can view total eclipse over both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well if you have a boat, just make sure your GPS is working. If you are not on the “line of totality”, you can still see a partial eclipse, which will be visible as far away South America and Europe.
To see exact eclipse times for locations all across the country, use this map.
If you attend an event (or even just attempt to read this whole blog post!) here are a few words you might want to know:
Totality: The brief moment when the moon fully blocks the sun.
C1,C2,C3,C4: The phases of the eclipse. C1 is the moment the moon starts obscuring the sun. C2 is when totality begins. C3 is when totality ends. C4 is when the moon stops obscuring the sun.
Partial solar eclipse: an eclipse where only part of the sun is obscured. For all locations outside of the eclipse path, viewers will observe a partial eclipse.
Corona: The burning atmosphere that surrounds the sun. This is the part of the sun that is still visible during totality
Umbral Shadow: the shadow that the moon casts upon the earth during a solar eclipse. If you are in the umbral shadow, you are experiencing totality.
Diamond Ring: a phenomena that happens before and after totality as the sun starts to become visible again and the eclipse looks like a ring with a vibrant diamond on one side of it.
Day long traffic jams, cell phone blackout zones, insufficient access to drinking water and restrooms - up to 7 million people from all over the world are estimated to travel to the eclipse path and city populations near or in the path are expected to double or triple over a few days. As amazing and jaw-dropping as this event will be, the day of will likely also be chaotic.
The American Red Cross is preparing for disaster level scenarios - ramping up staffing at hospitals, building emergency support shelters, and generally adding capacity to handle challenges.
In summary, be careful out there. Specifically, bring enough food, water and clothing to take care of yourself in case you are stuck in traffic for several hours or even up to all day. Also print out your directions as your phone’s GPS and Google Maps app will likely not work because of all the people jamming the cell phone towers.
Lastly, please bring your patience and be friendly. Everyone is out there to enjoy this natural wonder.
Get explicitly NASA approved glasses - like the ones sold here. Sunglasses will not work, and using non Nasa approved glasses brings the risk of damaging your eyes. Nasa says to buy glasses from these manufacturers who have approved materials. Random glasses purchased on Amazon or elsewhere may not be as safe as they claim. You can only look at the eclipse with the naked eye when the moon has fully blocked the sun (totality).
Protect your camera: Protect your camera with a solar filter or Neutral Density filter of at least 16 stops. Anything less and you risk burning out your sensor. Lastly, even with the filter on, do not look through your viewfinder. It will act as a small magnifying glass, focusing the light on your eyeball...kind of like creating fire with a magnifying glass as a kid, except your eye is on the receiving end. Plan to review test shots on your LCD monitor instead and save your eyes. Also note that leaving Live View on exposes your sensor to the sun, again risking damage to your sensor. If you must use Live View only do it for a second or two at a time.
If you want to stay in a town and don’t already have a hotel booked or have a ton of money, you are probably out of luck. Last minute eclipse trips will either require you to do a day trip, or camp in the middle of nowhere (campgrounds will be booked).
What kind of experience do you want?
Experiences can range from sitting in a busy city (Nashville), drinking a beer on an outdoor patio, to having camped in some isolated location in Wyoming for several days, to pulling over on the side of the highway for 5 minutes and watching totality.
Think about what you want from the day, and what you are capable of in terms of time and self sufficiency (take 3 days off? Backpack into a hidden lake? Take one day off and bring some audio books for the traffic?)
If you do go to a city and have the ability, biking and walking around will likely make things much easier. Last thing to note if still you are deciding on where to go, look at monthly trends on weather or if close enough to the day of, just the weather forecast. Clouds or thunderstorms will put a damper on your day.
Trying to decide where exactly to go? Use these maps and recommendations to help decide.
This is by no means a complete list as we trust travelers to know their basic needs. Here are a few key or easy to overlook items that are must haves:
There is a LOT of information regarding best shooting practices and techniques for the eclipse. Below we have three top resources that really dig into the nitty gritty. Fundamentally if you know how to shoot in Manual, it is still the same basic process of adjusting your setting to your desired exposure - especially during totality. Here are our high level recommendations:
Extra Recommended Photography Reading:
Ken Slute, Alpine Labs Advocate and Canon Explorer of Light has created a comprehensive resource on a variety of aspects of shooting the eclipse. This is the most thorough photography guide we have seen and is called Canon’s Total Guide to Totality: Solar Eclipse Photography
Be patient and ready. Totality will last only 2.5 minutes, and from what we’ve read it will feel like 8 seconds. It is best to not just stare at the moon for 2 minutes, as you will miss much of the drama.
As the moment gets closer, look around you to see the little details of how the world is changing. In the final moments before totality, the shadows on the ground will get sharper as the light becomes less diffuse. If you look in the distance you will be able to see the oncoming darkness and depending on your vantage point even watch the shadow line fly across the ground at 16 miles a minute!
As totality begins, you can remove your protective glasses and look directly at the moon. Remind yourself to look around you at the dark world you are now in. Watch the shadow line moving away from you as you approach the center of the eclipse. Look around as not too far away are 360 degrees of sunrises and sunsets happening extremely quickly. Clouds will be colored. Look back now at the moon, and now that your eyes have adjusted to the dark, try and notice more detail. Look back to the surrounding sky and see if you can see any stars. Look back one last time at the moon in the final moments of totality. Notice that is is just barely starting to get brighter and you should grab your solar glasses again. In a moment sunrise will be here and totality will have ended.
Do your best to enjoy the moment and experience the magic. It will be quick. For an inspiring and beautiful essay on what it feel like to be there in the moment and feel those 8 seconds, click here. We've also created an audio guide so that you don't need to look at your written notes for instructions or reminders during the eclipse.
Solar eclipse audio guide
Solar eclipse audio guide with background music
Have plenty of supplies to support yourself, be patient out there, don’t worry about missing the shot, and remember to enjoy yourself. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so if you have the chance to actually watch it in person, don’t sweat the minutiae. You are still getting to experience an incredible astrological event.
Source: Great American Eclipse
If you have any questions about the eclipse, please let us know! We’d love to help out and hope that you can get out there and enjoy it.
- Greg and the Alpine Team
Sometimes time lapse inspiration comes in pretty unexpected ways. We recently rediscovered an amazing video (and story) from yesteryear that will hopefully make you laugh and maybe provide some ideas for your next time lapse film.
Around the time we first started making Michron (one of our very first products), Blake Gardner ordered an extra camera cable from our website. When the package arrived he opened it up to find that instead of receiving the cable, our fulfillment center accidentally shipped him 2 dozen Ninja-Fruit-Watermelons! Fortunately we both no longer work with that fulfillment center and were able to fix the shipment pretty fast.
To highlight the comedy of the situation, Blake went out and by using both Michron and the watermelons, created one of our favorite time lapse videos of all time! Head over to Blake's blog to read his full story. :)
Spark just hit $150k on Kickstarter and tomorrow is Earth Day! As we begin producing a new product, we wanted to give you an inside look at how we operate and what we do to leave the world better off than how we found it.
In celebration of Earth Day, we’ve taken a new step this year and conducted an environmental impact report for Alpine Labs, as well as offset our greenhouse emissions so that we are fully carbon neutral. Though very few companies of our size take account of their emissions or report them, we feel that it's the right thing to do.
We do our best to create photography gear of lasting value that improves people’s lives. The better your gear, the less you need. Throughout our design process our ethos is to reduce waste and increase efficiency and we rely on product designs and production tools that accomplish this. Especially being a hardware company, we are proud of how small our 2016 impact was. We hope that this report inspires other companies and the community to question and reflect on their own impact and what they can do about it.
In total, our actions were responsible for just over 250 metric tonnes of CO2e. That equates to the emissions from 27 houses over the course of a year, or burning the coal carried in one and a half train cars.
Considering that Alpine Labs both makes hardware electronics and that we ship our products to over 90 countries around the world, we are excited about how efficient our operation is. Seemingly small things add up when you do them tens of thousands of times - like working with UPS and our warehouse to design packaging that is lightweight, fits their ideal transport characteristics, and is plastic free and recyclable.
For the first time ever, we are carbon neutral! We worked with Natural Capital Partners a world leader in protecting biodiversity and offsetting emissions. We chose two projects to support, one in rural China to match our manufacturing efforts there and another in New York to offset our US operations. By purchasing these offsets, we are able to reduce the total amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
In China, our offsets provide solar cook stoves to low income families that otherwise burn coal to cook. The solar cookers hugely improve both indoor air quality and the families health and allows them to save about 10% of their annual income that is otherwise spent on coal. In New York, our offsets are used to capture methane gas released by a landfill which is then burned for energy production. These offsets also support wetland conservation in the areas surrounding the landfill and the creation of more than 140 construction and energy jobs.
To see the complete Alpine Labs Sustainability Report, click here.
As a company born through crowdfunding, we feel empowered to think about our impact broadly - from product, to people, to the environment. Our origins also give us the freedom to manage our company as we see best and to do what we think is right. Your support allows us to keep moving forward. Thank you for being a part of the journey.
-The Alpine Team
We’re thrilled to announce that next week we will be launching Spark, the latest addition to the Alpine Labs product family!
More versatile than anything we've designed before, Spark has three unique triggering modes: wireless infrared, traditional wired triggering, and smartphone app control. It also has expanded camera compatibility for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and others.
We've been eager to announce Spark ever since we created the first prototypes. We'll post another blog update before the launch with more details.
The Alpine community hit a new milestone with photographers breaking one million photos taken with Pulse camera remote and intervalometer! Collectively you've been discovering new ways to photograph the night sky, experimenting with new ideas and exposing us to unique ways of seeing things. We wish we could show all the incredible moments captured around the world. Here is a brief gallery of a few that we'd like to share with you.
- A magnificent and otherworldly subterranean adventure by @mr.bootstraps.
- Self portrait by @nitishq at home in the Pacific Northwest.
- Lynn Lewis, a San Francisco wedding photographer, takes selfies too.
- @_calebv_ plays at sunset with some steel wool, a string and fire.
- Bring a wide lens to Iceland for the tall waterfalls as @take_meanywhere did.
Lance Page of Page Films constantly pushes the boundaries of time lapse. In ReflectionVOID, his latest film, he set out to study the human perspective of outer space by photographing mirror reflections and examining the images that result from moving both the camera and the mirror.
As Lance describes, “a man finds a portal in the desert, a window into another world that seems to have a mesmerizing pull. As he approaches and discovers his reflection, we as the audience suddenly enter the VOID. The desert is now black with scattered portals reflecting the harsh landscapes and starry night skies. The plants and rocks feel threatening and a mysterious human-like figure appears to blend in with the desert grit. The VOID represents a new perspective, an apprehensive curiosity of the unknown. The more the stars dance around in portal reflections the more it becomes clear that we are in a beautiful place and the mysterious figure is simply celebrating the Universe around us.”
As always, please let us know if you need anything. We're a team of real live humans and are here to help!
- The Alpine Team
As we prepare for the holiday weekend and head into December, we wanted to send you an update with a couple pieces of news: Black Friday, your latest inspiring photos, and a cool new photography gadget we found!
This Black Friday, we will be donating 100% of profits to the National Park Foundation. When we first started this company much of our inspiration came from visiting and taking photos of wild places such as Yosemite. Sharing these moments and experiencing them with friends motivated us to help others do the same.
The Thanksgiving Holiday is meant to be a time of gratitude where we celebrate the things we love. At Alpine Labs, we’re doing that by giving back to the places that both helped us get here and continue to inspire us. We hope all of you are able to spend some time with the people and in the places that are important to you as well. Happy Thanksgiving!
- A few members of the Alpine Team celebrating in Rocky Mountain National Park.
In the last couple of months over 300,000 photos have been taken with Pulse! We’re thrilled that all of you are out there shooting and creating with Alpine gear. Below are just a few of the photos you’ve shared that have inspired us!
Also, on a quick technical note: there are Firmware and App updates for both Pulse and Radian 2, so make sure you are running the latest software!
-Kickstarter backer Brian Drourr getting wild with some long exposure light painting. 104 seconds of an open shutter, some steel wool, and LED’s.
-Not sure if this was photographed and then digitized, or just painted from the beginning. But either way a great piece of art by @salmanlp
- Incredible fall colors shot by @Travellers_Art
Our friends over at Lume Cube launched their first product on Kickstarter a few years ago. This impressively powerful little device can be used for epic lighting (or light painting) with anything from a DSLR to a cell phone. If you’ve never shot with external lights, Lume Cube makes it easy. They also just launched a new Kickstarter for their latest product the Līfe Līte. This device packs 1000 lumens (that’s 300 more lumens that a car headlight!) into one extremely portable tool. We just backed for three and can’t wait to test them out.
That’s all for now. We’ll be taking Thursday and Friday off this week to spend time with friends and family. If you need help with anything shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you as fast as we can next week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and happy shooting!
- The Alpine Team
The Alpine community has been shooting really amazing photos with Pulse the last couple weeks. From epic long exposures to a new National Park time lapse video, here are some of our favorites!
Will Pattiz shot this self portrait in the Uinta National Forest - a quiet and rarely visited corner of Utah. The Mirror Lakes Scenic Byway takes you right through the heart of the wilderness and you’ll probably have the place to yourself.
Kickstarter Backer @kylekleinphoto shot this 3.5 minute long exposure from the top of the historic Lombard street in San Francisco.
Winter comes early to the high elevations of Colorado. Red Aspens at Bear Lake hold onto the last of their color as the first snows arrive in Rocky Mountain National Park. - Shot by Bob Parkinson
The Pattiz brothers took their Pulse to the desolate Voyageurs National Park up in Minnesota and experienced some spectacular moments. After two weeks of shooting time lapses they’ve got another video for us to enjoy which will also be launching on Nov 2nd!
“The Diamond” on Longs Peak makes for an epic complement to the midnight stars. At an elevation of 11,803 ft, Chasm Lake is both a cold and beautiful place to pitch your tent. Shot by Alpine team member @greg_horvath
Pulse gives you the power to get the shots you’ve only imagined. Join the community and see what you can create.
-The Alpine Team