30 YEAR TIME-LAPSE
30 YEAR TIME-LAPSE
"This is about NYC changing but staying the same. I'm here to document the grand changes like the construction of skyscrapers – but also the small things that are equally important, like a sailboat passing by."
Q: How do you protect the camera from the weather?
A: The camera is installed inside my living room, so it's safe from the weather.
Q: What if you move? 30 years is a long time!
A: That's the first question people always ask! I own the apartment, so if I move I would just make an agreement with the renter to keep the camera in the window.
Q: What camera are you using for this project?
A: So far, the project has been shot on a single Sony a7s, which has been taking a photo every 30 seconds for over four years. It's never been turned off once in four years! The a7s is an incredible camera. I use it not only for time-lapse photography, but for concerts, music videos, interviews and still portraits. It took me over three years to find the right camera. I was initially convinced that I could make the project work with a GoPro - but in the end, I could not.
Q: How do you get the images off the camera?
A: It's actually a whole system. The camera is tethered to a dedicated laptop, which has two dedicated external 6TB hard drives – all of which are connected to their own uninterruptible power supply in case of a blackout. The whole system is controlled by a series of AppleScripts I wrote that run on a schedule. A homemade Arduino IR Intervalometer triggers the camera to take a photo every 30 seconds. On the laptop there's a script that activates one minute after midnight and creates a new folder with yesterday's date – and then moves all the images created the day before into that folder. At 30 minutes past midnight, another script copies that folder onto the backup hard drive. Meanwhile, another script is constantly checking to see how many images have been made. Essentially, that script is looking after the other scripts like a tattletale. If there aren't enough images in the capture folder, that tattletale script sends me three text messages and an email - all one minute apart to be as annoying as possible.
Q: So the time-lapse is made from still photos as opposed to video?
A: Exactly. Photographing one image every 30 seconds yields 2,880 images per day. I use those images to create the time-lapse videos that I post.
Q: You must go through a ton of hard drives!
A: I do. I generate around 36GB of images per day, which adds up to roughly 16TB per year. That's all multiplied by two since I keep backups of everything, so I spend around $2,000 a year just on the hard drives.
Q: How many photos do you take each year?
A: It's funny, but it works out to just over one million photos per year – which makes the math easy for me. I'm looking forward to eventually having over 30 million photos in total.
No Film School