Finding Oregon: An Exclusive Look at A Stunning Nature Timelapse

ExclusiveDocumenting beauty in nature: an EcoSalon exclusive with photographer Ben Canales and new “Finding Oregon” timelapse.

Sometimes we need reminders of who we are and what is important. Finding Oregon is one of those reminders. Shot in Oregon, and produced by Uncage the Soul Productions, the video is a composite of timelapses, giving us an intimate look at the day and night sky in some of the most remote places in this western state known for its natural resources and beauty.

This video is a fresh respite from our everyday, overloaded, technology dependent, lives. It reminds us of the natural rhythms that we have almost become unaccustomed to, reintroducing us to the power and routine of nature.

Photographer and Uncage the Soul team member Ben Canales knows a thing or two about timelapses, and in this EcoSalon exclusive behind-the-scenes he shares his inspiration and process, giving us a look into the reality of creating a magical 3 minutes.

Finding Oregon from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

How long did you film for?

About 70% of the timelapse sequences were shot in one intense, week-long road trip going to all four of the furthest corners of Oregon, but the remainder was filmed throughout 2010-2011.

How long did a typical shot take?

This is a great question, because we ourselves, didn’t realize just how much work is involved until we got serious about this project. It is shocking how much energy, time, and equipment goes into getting one, six second video clip. For instance, a glowing tent clip from Crater Lake demanded a dedicated three day trip out of town, location scouting in the day to find the perfect spot for the night, a three mile trek through the snow with all the equipment to the spot, setup for an hour and then wait for nightfall.

The actual filming takes 2-4 hours to record a good night timelapse of the stars moving, and then pack up, hike out, and drive home the next day. That is only the work done in the field! Then there are hours and hours of processing, editing, and polishing the final video sequence to get only six seconds of final video.

It is not an exaggeration to say one short, final clip may represent 20-30 hours of planning, driving, hiking, shooting, and processing- all that for mere seconds of video playback. It is a ridiculous labor of love.

What was one of the biggest challenges of shooting this video?

The biggest challenge is the timing lining up to be in the right place at the right time. These starry night timelapses have a surprising amount of requirements to get the bright, beaming epic payoff. First, the moon should be around the New Moon phase (no moon) so as not to outshine the stars, so that means we get a window of about five days a month. Next, weather must be cooperative with a dependable expectancy of cloudless skies. Here in Oregon, only the summer months have a good chance of clear skies. So that means, we have three months in the year, with a 5 day window each month to plan, with fingers crossed, for epic star shooting conditions. That’s only 15 days in a year.

Then, you hope that something doesn’t come up in regular life to pull you away to other obligations on those few days. It is a maddening challenge to get all the factors to line up to be in the right place at the right time. But, when it does happen- it is such a satisfying feeling.

Was there a shot that got away?

*Groan* Yes… it’s painful to think about. We had set up a motion controlled timelapse that lifted the camera over a boulder to reveal a desert arch framing the passing Milky Way and stars. It is a beautiful sight and not one I’ve seen anyone else capture in this location. We were really excited because this shot would be one of the top five sequences in the final video. We spent the first half of the night finding the spot in the dark, lugging the equipment up the hill to the location and then meticulously setting it all up. We were short on sleep, but pushed through the fatigue because the shot was more than worth it.

Finally, everything was set, the Milky Way was fast approaching and showing up in the arch. We fired off a few test shots, turned it on to run the whole night and then trudged back to camp for some desperately needed sleep. Hours later, we came back, excited to see the final result, but it turned out the power cord to the battery was loose and slight movement had disconnected the power source only 20 minutes after we left it. It was a complete loss.

Next summer the stars and Milky Way will line up there again through that arch like it has for thousands of years, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to be back to get it.

Where in Oregon did you film?

We’ve filmed the Columbia River Gorge, Mt Hood and the surrounding area, Mt Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more. We’re proud to have touched all four corners of the state; however, Oregon is the kind of place that the more you see, the more you realize you’ve missed and haven’t seen yet!

Could this film format be translated into other regions/areas of the country?

Absolutely. We were inspired to make this film because of the personal experiences our team has individually had in Oregon. But, we would be honored to have the opportunity to capture and showcase the unique beauty of other regions through our cameras. Hopefully films like this will inspire and excite others to go beyond their normal routines and see some of the beautiful regions beyond their own backyards.

What inspires you to make these types of film? 

This is a question that each of our team members would probably uniquely answer in their own way, so I can only speak for myself in this moment. I am inspired to make this film to share the moments of beauty and awe in nature with those that don’t have the opportunity to see it themselves.

I go to great lengths to get far from the city, beyond its reach, to get to the wild and free places. For me, it is an honor and a joy to try to capture some of these moments and bring back something to share of my own experience. I am literally in awe of the wild beauty of snow capped mountains, immensely flat desert horizons, violently rugged coastal sea stacks, infinitely sparkling starry night skies, exploding colors of sunsets and sunrises, and so on. If there’s a chance I can capture some of that to share with others and/or bring awareness for the need to protect these special places, I find inspiration there.

Learn more about Uncage the Soul Productions work here.

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.