Timelapse - a new world revealed

05 December 2014 posted by: Rosie Pook, WPY Comms Officer

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If you're thinking of entering Wildlife Photographer of the Year's timelapse category, invest in a good tripod and stay in control, says this week's guest blogger, Paul Klaver. Paul is a Dutch filmmaker and nature photographer, and recipient of WPY2014's TIMElapse Award for his winter study of the Dutch Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve. Here he tells us why timelapse is so important to him.


Timelapse transports us to a different world, a world with different rules and perspectives. You can anticipate, but you can never be 100% sure of the outcome. Sometimes things happen as you expect, sometimes nothing happens at all. But occasionally there is that magical moment, the unexpected, wondrous moment that you spend so many hours waiting for. I had that when I saw a tree freeze in the middle of the night, a rainbow form directly in frame, and when the eye of a deer froze solid under a full moon. To experience these moments through timelapse is thrilling and I enjoy looking at the world with a childlike wonder and just living in the moment.

Timelapse can tell us stories of the natural world that still images can't. A still image freezes a moment in time, but film shows us those moments as they happen. With timelapse it's almost like we are looking at the world without time. It can make events and processes visible that we normally could not witness. We see how plants grow and dance, or the movement of sea stars and small crustaceans; we see glaciers expanding and retreating, ice freezing up a lake or how in mere seconds maggots decompose a fish. The how can now be revealed.

Aside from the natural world, I get inspired by a lot of different art forms like music, photography or paintings. But nothing appeals more to me than film. Film combines so many great forms of art, look at The Seven Samurai - the use of sound, music, editing, the camera, the story, the themes, the characters - it's all there on the screen, beautifully orchestrated by its director, Kurosawa. Film transports me to places I would otherwise never see or feel. It lets me dream and it can give tremendous emotional impact - the ultimate form of escapism.

I greatly treasure films like The 400 Blows, Vivre Sa Vie, Persona, Stalker or The Thin Red Line, and they directly influence my own work, I think a lot of the time it is unconscious.

I recently did a personal project in Southeast Alaska that drew on my filmic inspirations. It's about the nutrient cycle, using timelapse in the story to show tidal changes, salmon decomposing and the passage of time during the cycle.



Paul's study of  the nutrient cycle in Southeast Alaska


A lot of my other work, including my WPY2014 winning sequence, was done in the Dutch nature reserve the Oosvaardersplassen. Holland might not be the first place one thinks of for timelapse, but its secrets lies in the smaller details; snow and frost evaporating in morning sunlight, tiny flowers rising and opening, ice slowly covering a lake.



The Dutch Oosvaardersplassen is home to a wealth of natural history 'secrets'


This work all contributed to the  award-winning natural history film The New Wilderness. A large part of that film occurs in winter, I got so much material in that period that I decided to make this little short film out of it too. 



Winning the first ever WPY timelapse award meant so much to me. Adding the category to the competition opens a whole new world of possibilities and gives us even more creative freedom to share the wonders of nature with audiences. It's amazing to be able to share my work with so many people around the world, and to feel that I can inspire others. That motivates me to keep pushing forward, improving and continuing to make films.

My advice to WPY entrants would be that timelapse can be a great visual tool, but think of more than just using it as a fast forward button. It should reveal the unseen, those moments that are normally hidden from us.

You can tell stories or enrich a film with unique scenes, but remember to tell the whole story. A good example can be found in the film Samsara. In the scene at Mount Nemrut in Turkey, we see the large stone face statues at night. The scene starts with a long wide shot, then it cuts to a medium shot and then to a close shot. The details are so important, the different angles and the editing make it cohesive and the story telling element pushes things forward. Also, because this timelapse world is not the world we directly experience, think of all the cool things you can do with sound and music!



The film Samsara uses timelapse to 'tell the whole story', says Paul


Invest in a good tripod. It will be lifesaver on many occasions. I would recommend using a camera that lets you be in full control of everything. So you can set everything manually and independently - the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO - and a camera that allows you to use interchangeable lenses.

This gives you a lot of creative freedom. You don't need today's top-of-the-range DSLR with all the bells and whistles; today's consumer products produce beautiful images straight out of the camera. If you're on a budget, you can find some used mid-range or pro bodies on eBay for a fraction of the cost than when they were first released. And always remember, it's not about the camera, it's what you do with it.


The 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is open for entries between 5 January - 26 February 2015, enter at www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com




Paul Klaver is a filmmaker and nature photographer who has a deep passion for the natural world. He played a major role in the making of the first Dutch nature film for the big screen, The New Wilderness. For this film he spent two years in the field as a cameraman and working with special timelapse techniques. His pictures were printed in the complementary photo book, featuring the best of that two-year experience. In Southeast Alaska he produced a short film about the nutrient cycle. With a non-verbal approach, using music and natural sounds, he was able to tell the story in highly visual and poetic way. He loves to wander and explore places of wilderness and trying to capture an essence of those wild places. Paul is working on an upcoming project of a three-part series in Holland about rivers, to include timelapses with tidal changes and using underwater GoPro cameras. http://www.pklaver.com/timelapse.html


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