South America – Morten Rustad Time-Lapse Adventure

A while back Morten reached out to us with this crazy idea: he wanted to travel across South America for a year for his most ambitious project yet, visiting remote locations that had never been time-lapsed before.

Ever since, we have been following his trip from behind the curtains. Regardless of whether you have watched these BTS episodes or not, his final video is going to leave you wanting more.

We are really happy to have been part of such an ambitious project and more so to share it with all of you. One whole year of South America travels condensed to eight minutes.

Scroll down to read more about this project.

Gearing up for a long (and we mean very long) filmmaking trip

Even though 9 countries might not sound like much, South America is big and the terrain can be challenging. Morten knew this in advance and didn’t want to rush his trip. He took one-year off to complete this project and he faced many challenges along the way.

Travelling is stressful enough without the added worry of having to load up all your necessary gear for the time that you’re going to be away. Morten always tries to pack as light as possible without sacrificing quality. He was going to carry this gear on his back for months, travelling across very demanding landmarks, like the Atacama Desert, the mountains of Patagonia and the Amazon rainforest.

Plus when you have a limited amount of time at each location, you need to have reliable gear that is easy to set up and that will not stop working in the middle of nowhere while you’re in the process of shooting an epic time-lapse.

So we were wondering, what did Morten pack for this super long time-lapse adventure?
“At the start of the trip, I had one camera for time-lapse, the Sony A7Rii with one lens (Sony 16-35mm f/4) and a Panasonic GH5 with 4 lenses used for the behind the scenes shots. For motion control, I used the original Syrp Genie with a Genie Mini and the Syrp Magic Carpet Carbon Fiber track with two pairs of extensions. I also packed two very lightweight carbon tripods.” – said Morten.

“As the project went on and I got more ambitious, I saw the need to upgrade the kit. Buying gear in South America, in general, is extremely difficult and expensive. The city of Santiago (Chile) was the best place to gear up. Once there, I got a Sony A7riii with Sony 24-70mm f/2.8, a Sigma 14-24 f/2.8, a Canon 70-200mm f/4 and a Sigma 20mm f/1.4, plus Syrp sent a pre-production model of the Genie II 3-axis kit. My bag got a lot heavier, but it opened a whole new realm of creative possibilities for shooting time-lapses.”

During our interview, he told us that at one point, his Android phone stopped working, so he had to buy an iPhone. A few days after, he travelled deep into the Colombian jungle without internet when he realized that he didn’t previously download the iPhone version of the Genie II App (only had the Android version on my previous phone). At this point, there was little that he could do about it, so he had to improvise and set up the Pan Tilt using the on-screen controls and putting the slider on top of the Pan Tilt to use it as an arm. It ended up being a super cool shot!

Planning the adventure

Everyone usually underestimates the importance of planning a filmmaking trip. This first step of the project is critical and there are many things to take into account. Morten’s goal was to shoot the best time-lapses ever across South America and put them together to create a film that will inspire others to follow his footsteps.

With this in mind, he had to research every location, city and country that was going to be involved in the shoot. The goal is to estimate a shooting schedule and budget. Things changed for Morten along the way, but with all this research, he could anticipate some events and create an ideal production calendar.

We were very curious about why Morten decided to start this project.

He explained it to us –  “I had done several time-lapses from my home country Norway, and I was ready for a project abroad. The landscapes of South America are varied and completely different from what I’m used to, back home. Most of the locations there haven’t been time-lapsed properly before. Plus I have friends there and was already familiar with Brazil and Venezuela. The people are generally very friendly. The more research I did, the more locations I felt that I just had to go and shoot a time-lapse.”

As it normally happens when you plan a trip for a long time, that initial idea changes as you go due to external factors. For example, Morten wanted to shoot the colourful river of Caño Cristales when he was in Colombia in January but couldn’t because it only blooms from July to November. So he decided to go back in August to this amazing location never time-lapsed before.

One place that he had to leave out of his shooting schedule and regrets? The Chapada Diamantina in Brazil.

On the road

Morten didn’t want to only capture the must-sees of South America. He also gets off the beaten track and shoot those landmarks that are unknown for most of us. By doing so, he guaranteed more than a passing understanding of the cultural and historical flavour of the places that he visited.

He shared these adventures on his YouTube channel so we had an idea of all the challenges and obstacles he overcame to be able to film the time-lapse film that he is finally sharing with all of us.

Some locations are more challenging than others and Colombia wasn’t the easiest for Morten. He spent six weeks there the first time, but the weather was always a bit off (either too sunny or too grey). The landscape was very beautiful, but not the kind that is easy to capture in a time-lapse. However, he ended up getting some of his favourite time-lapses here, so it was definitely worth it.

Meeting locals is definitely a plus and can completely change your experience by taking you places that are under the radar. One of the places Morten enjoyed having a local guide was in Roraima (Venezuela) because he got to understand the history of the place and the indigenous people living there. This inside knowledge can make you experience a place completely different.

Astro-timelapses and other magical moments

The Norwegian, well known for capturing stunning changes in nature across long periods of time, combines in this film amazing astro-timelapses with day-to-night transitions and long exposures among other techniques.

In his film, location plays a major role. For this reason, for the opening astro-timelapse of this video, he travelled to the remote Atacama Desert in Chile. He wanted to avoid light pollution and get the Milky Way at its best.

He had a long bucket list of places to visit, but on the other hand, he also wanted to shoot landmarks that were unknown and new for most of the viewers. Morten wanted to capture the beauty and essence of these landscapes like no one before.  For example, did you know that there’s a river in Colombia nicknamed “the liquid rainbow” for its unusual colours? Morten feature’s Cano Cristales river on his film.

“When people think of South America, lot of us picture the Amazonian rainforests. I wanted to show that South America is so much more than that. I wanted to show diversity. Some places I feature, like the Salt Flats and Patagonia are well known, but others are hidden gems.” – said Morten.

His favourite location was Mount Roraima in Venezuela. “It feels otherworldly, difficult to even describe it properly.” This is a table-top mountain or tepui in Venezuela, on the border between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. It has vertical walls raising 1000 meters up from the jungle and the top is completely flat. Often you can look down at the clouds in the lowlands. It makes you feel like you are on top of the world.

The ultimate South America time-lapse

After months of travelling and shooting, Morten faced his next challenge: post-production. Compiling a time-lapse is never an easy task, but with productions as big as this, this process can be daunting.

He combined the post-production of the final time-lapse with the release of several behind the scenes episodes. In this videos he talks more in-depth about each leg of his trip.

“The episodes are very honest YouTube vlogs, showing both my ups and downs as a time-lapse photographer. I hope people get a sense of adventure, maybe motivate people to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Dont follow everybody else. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should travel the world for a year. You might find your own adventures in your backyard like I always did before this experience abroad.” – Morten commented.

Morten has spent a countless number of days compiling this time-lapse. “My biggest challenge is probably that I am never fully satisfied. I’m very critical with my time-lapses. Any flicker or birds, people, cars, whatever, is a no-go. I spend a lot of time fixing this. When I think I’m finished I notice something else that must be fixed. Also, working with 8K footage is never easy. Everything takes a lot longer than with HD and 4K, so you really need patience.”

We think that the final result is outstanding. A filmmaking piece of art.

What do you think?

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