Quarry Way

Quarry Way was born out of the desire to to take what could potentially be perceived as an unattractive location to film, and turn it into something out of this world. This idea combined with my keen interest in exploring astro time lapse photography was the key motivation to see this project come to life. 

I wanted to bring it to life and give it a look and feel that could be best described as hyper real, but more importantly all captured in camera. I started the project knowing that I needed to shoot during the new moon, as I wanted complete control over lighting. Any moon light would have been too much for the long exposures I planned. The quarry’s location was equally important for the lighting, it needed to be well away from the bright city lights in order to get a clear view of the sky without any light pollution. Traveling with a close friend and time lapse buddy Sean Moss we stumbled across this location almost 90km away from the nearest city. 

With the recce complete we returned the following day to shoot and I set about finding the best angles. I was looking for angles that could give me a good view of the quarry set against the Milky Way, but  in the back of my mind I new that the relatively short 6′ of dolly track I had on hand would need some close foreground objects to make best use of the camera moves. Over the course of the night I managed to shoot six nice angles with two cameras, the main camera (7D) was attached to the Dynamic Perception moco rig shooting all the cool slider moves, and the second camera (5D) was shooting locked off wide angle shots. You may ask why did I use the 7D for the hero camera and not the 5D, well its simple really, the 5D has a little more resolution which comes in handy for cropping in and creating nodal pan tilt moves in post.

Part two of this experiment was lighting, on hand I had two small 6″ battery operated LED panels. They were relatively cheap and didn’t even have any stands or spare batteries. This was the first time I had lit up a scene this large for a long exposure shot, so it took a few shots to get the exposure just right. My first couple of shots were over exposed because the LED panels at there absolute dimmest setting were still to bright. In the end I walked a single light about 100 meters away from the quarry and faced it toward the sky in order to reduce the amount of light hitting the machinery. The only useful bit of light coming out of that panel was leaking through the bottom of the light in the direction of the quarry. The second light was berried behind a pile of rocks facing into the ground with a white table cloth over it to dim the light some more. At a guess I estimate the entire quarry is lit by no more than the equivalent of two candles.

Post production was very straight forward and quick. The raw files were given a grade in Adobe Camera Raw in conjunction with LR TIme Lapse before being exported as ProRes movies through After Effects. My first pass through After Effects is a full resolution 5K pass of each shot. I run these 5K passes through After Effects again and resize them to HD movies. I treat the 5D shots a little differently to the 7D on this pass with some added camera movement by way of a pan or tilt using After Effects built in camera. 

In the end I was really happy with the results of my first astro time lapse shoot. If I had another chance I don’t think I would change anything, but it would be nice to have 12′ of track, a pan tilt head and maybe some more diffusion to help dim the lighting. 

Time Lapse Cinematographer
Jeff Gaunt