Milky Way Timelapse: Poetry In Motion [Video]

Dakotalapse 2012 Milky Way

The Milky Way, when viewed from a camera lens, often elicits a shiver of existential wonder from the soul. That’s part of what draws us to timelapse astrophotography, as previously reported in the Inquisitr. Timelapse astrophotography allows the naked eye to see what lays hidden beyond our world; we are a tiny part of the universe but by looking at the larger picture, we are connected to its majesty.

A combination of time and light pollution blocks us from seeing the Milky Way. Most of humanity lives in urban areas which produce light pollution that often gives the sky a hazy, starless appearance. To see the Milky Way, national parks and dark sky preserves are often utilized, but all that is required is a lack of man-made light.

Light takes time to reach us, so it can seem as if nothing but the brightest stars are visible from Earth’s surface. With timelapse astrophotography, light from the Milky Way is gathered in each shot over a specific length of time. The resulting photographs are stunning. Even more so are the videos put together of timelapse shots which show the awe-inspiring beauty of our world and its skies.

Each shot can take an average of 30 seconds to capture.

Anyone with a Twitter account or a Facebook page has, at one time or another, seen photographs of the Milky Way from a variety of sources. A search of the topic on either of these social media platforms brings up a plethora of breathtaking pictures which, at first glance, could seem Photoshopped. Often, the most beautiful ones include the dark horizon shadows of trees and mountains, a stark contrast which gives an immediate depth to the image of what can be described as the movement of light and time.

Dakotalapse Still of Milky Way

American photographer Randy Halverson, 47, spent 40 nights between spring and autumn of 2013 (eight months) gathering timelapse photographs of isolated areas in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah. Among these shots is breathtaking footage of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights. From it, he created Huelux, a video which reveals the beauty of the American midwest.

A native of South Dakota, Halverson has been involved in timelapse photography for over four years. One of his timelapse videos of the Milky Way can contain 6,000 individual shots, each one averaging 30 seconds long. In them, rural fields and tranquil lakes provide a setting for the jewel that is the ever-changing sky.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Randy explained:

“I use DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] cameras to shoot long exposure timelapse at night with up to 30-seconds per frame. I then assembled the individual frames into the timelapse on my computer. I spent a lot of time with the hue settings and white balance during the month-and-a-half edit. I did get some of my best Milky Way shots of the year in Wyoming. The clouds did make for some good sunrise and sunset shots. Some of the Aurora I shot were unexpected with no advanced notice. Several nights I was setting up Milky Way shots, when I noticed the glow in the sky to the north.”

It’s poetry in motion that has been captured 30 seconds at a time.

The American Midwest night sky as seen through timelapse photography shows the Milky Way.

The process is anything but poetic. The camera must be set up on a dolly that moves smoothly in time with the sky. Most timelapse shots take several hours to create and at night, the land can get very cold even during the summer months and there are storms, too. The astrophotographer battles the elements to get his shot at the Milky Way.

Randy works under difficult environmental conditions to create his timelapse videos. It’s a labor of love.

“The weather in 2013 made it difficult for me to get some of the shots I wanted. There were many times I planned to shoot the Milky Way or Aurora, and the clouds would roll in. I thought it was interesting how you can see thing you don’t normally see. Like storms building up and Aurora moving across the sky. The long exposures also help you see things like the Milky Way and Aurora, much better than you can with the naked eye.”

Another of his timelapse videos, Tempest Milky Way, has previously won Best Overall and Audience Choice at the 2011 Chronos Film Festival. A short preview video of it still manages to captivate with its haunting piano music, a piece called Eclipse, created by Simon Wilkinson.

The full-length award-winning video can be found here.

You can follow Randy’s work at his webpage, Dakotalapse, and find him on both Facebook and Twitter. His videos are also available for viewing at Dakotalapse’s Vimeo page.

[Images Courtesy of Dakotalapse]