Featured here is "A Forest Year," a fantastic little timelapse that distills 40,000 photographs into a single three-minute video. It's undeniably beautiful (the dramatic seasonal shifts visible at 1:00, and again around 1:35, are particularly breathtaking), but its picture quality definitely leaves something to be desired. To be totally honest, when the person behind it first tipped us off, we were kind of underwhelmed. But then we watched it again. And again. We were impressed. So we went and learned a little more about it. Let's just say we're not necessarily posting this video for its pixel count. We're posting it for the story behind it.
The video was sent to us by its creator, filmmaker Samuel Orr. Between 2006 and 2008, Orr was on assignment, collecting images and video for a series of PBS documentaries on the natural history of Indiana. During that time, he lived in a little house on a remote plot of private land situated smack in the middle of a nature preserve in Bloomington. His two nearest neighbors each lived hundreds of yards away. He was, for all intents and purposes, utterly alone. The kind of setup that's perfect for pretty much two things: slasher films and shooting nature documentaries.
Orr had recently gotten into timelapse, and it soon dawned on him that the middle of a forest in Bloomington, Indiana was damn excellent timelapse territory. And while his professional camera gear was bound up with his documentary work, he did happened to have a spare Nikon point and shoot lying around. Even in 2006, he says, this thing was obsolete. Its megapixel count was just silly. The slot for the memory card was busted. But all he really needed it to do was sit still on a tripod, which was something it happend to do rather well.
For 16 months the ramshackle Nikon sat motionless in Orr's window, snapping pictures at intervals ranging from every ten seconds to every ten minutes at key times of the year. "Over 40,000 images were taken," he writes on his website, "and I made little movies of 5-8 seconds for each of the key days/events/seasons, and blended them together into the finished film at 30 frames a second." Pretty awesome. But we were curious about the audio. Were these just random nature sounds, or were they chosen for a reason?
The audio was added to give another dimension. I tried to put in wildlife songs and calls appropriate to the season. For instance, the honking during what is late winter are Sandhill Cranes, which used a migratory flyway that passed directly overhead. Many of the calls were recorded on sight, others were from elsewhere in Indiana. Animals heard include migratory songbirds, spring peepers, tree frogs, cicadas (periodical and annual), turkeys, coyotes, elk, and wolves. While there are no wild wolves or elk native to Indiana aymore, but for hunting long ago they would still roam the surrounding hills. Maybe they'll be back some day.
You can read more about the project and the rest of Orr's work on his website. And if you're looking for something with a touch more production value, check out New York Day, a four-minute preview of a longer project Orr's hoping to bring to fruition. You can read more about it over on his Kickstarter. Check it out — it's genuinely captivating stuff.