By Ken StoneJack Fusco grew up in Toms River, New Jersey — about 15 minutes from the Atlantic. But in one of the most densely populated states, stargazing was difficult.
But when he moved to Del Mar a year ago, a new world opened up — especially for his time-lapse cameras.
Fusco took his high-tech Sony and Nikon gear to some of the most primitive, and beautiful, venues in San Diego. He captured more than two dozen scenes of skies-over-time grandeur. Locales included La Jolla, Solana Beach, Anza-Borrego Desert, Julian and Carlsbad.
The result is “Wonder Endlessly,” posted a week ago on Vimeo.
“A few of the shots that made the video took three or four attempts for everything to line up right,” he wrote. “It can be frustrating at times, but that’s all part of the adventure. It’s impossible to match that excitement felt when everything finally comes together.”
Over the weekend, Fusco aggravated an ankle injury when he spent time in the desert. But he shared some of the secrets behind the 3 1/4-minute video that could set the standard for time lapse locally.
Times of San Diego: Where did you learn to shoot timelapse?
Jack Fusco: For both photography and time lapse, I’m completely self-taught. I bought my first camera before joining a new band and going on my first European tour. After I stopped touring, I played guitar less and began to take photography a bit more seriously. I learned by reading as much as I could online and then headed out to just experiment until I figured out the right way.
Why did you pick these venues and this subject?
From the moment I first took a photo of the stars, I was hooked and haven’t really looked back. There’s a certain feeling when you’re out photographing the night sky that’s always exciting. When you slow yourself down and think about how that bright dot in the sky is another planet or that you’re looking up at the Milky Way, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
Those are the types of things that really don’t become any less exciting regardless of how many times you see them. I’m very thankful to being able to capture some of that and share it with people.
How long did it take you to collect your shots?
I started shooting some of these sequences just before summer. Unfortunately, I injured my ankle in July and ended up on crutches for three months. After going two months without shooting, I attempted to head out while still on crutches.
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Even though I fully knew it wasn’t a great idea before I tried, it became very obvious that I was going to have to wait to finish shooting. After I was back on my feet, I was out as often as possible and finally finished in early December.
Which scene was the hardest to do?
Any of the scenes shot from inside the sea caves required a good amount of planning and timing. These locations can be very dangerous if you attempt to access them at the wrong time or even if you end up staying too long. I had a small window to get it right and make sure I would be able to leave safely by the time I finished things up.
On top of the logistical challenges, the actual shot itself can prove difficult as well. The exposure has to be the right balance to capture enough detail inside the cave while not overexposing the sky.
How long did it take to edit it?
With this project, I spent a good amount of time finding the right music and then making sure the placement of each sequence made sense. I wanted it to seem like more than just a collection of time-lapse clips stuck together. Editing this type of project can also be very intensive when it comes to computer hardware.
I would generally start working on a sequence and then let it render for a bit before returning to continue working on it. I’d say each of the 26 sequences may have taken anywhere from 1-3 hours each to edit.
What’s the longest real-time clip you shot — one that took the most time?
The sequence from Clark Dry Lake Bed (starting at 1:08) in the Anza-Borrego Desert took around four hours of shooting.
How often did you baby-sit your setup? Did you leave cameras for hours at a time?
Even though all of the sequences take a quite a while to shoot, anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours, I’m never far from where my camera is set up. I generally have spent a good amount of time researching my shooting location, so I’m always excited to be there. Whether I’m near the ocean and listening to the waves or in the desert just enjoying a sky full of stars, those are some of my favorite moments.
Did you change settings for shots that go from daylight to nighttime?
In order to capture those sequences, a technique called exposure ramping is used; this basically means the exposure time will change as the light changes. Since the amount of light available before sunset and then once stars are visible is so drastically different, your exposure time will start from just a fraction of a second to 10+ second exposures at the end.
What software did you assemble the shots with?
All of the photos were initially edited in Adobe Lightroom. From there they were either imported into a Adobe After Effects or LRtimelapse to help turn them into video. After each individual sequence had been created, they were then brought into Adobe Premier to work on the sequencing and syncing everything up with the music.
Now that iPhones and Android smart phones have time-lapse functions, many people are trying this out. Aside from using a tripod, what tips can you give?
I like to approach framing a time-lapse scene the same way I would a still photograph. You still need to take light and composition into just as strong consideration. From there, I figure out what type of movement there would be in the frame and if that would make for an interesting or aesthetically pleasing sequence. If you’re looking for a place to get started, moving clouds or changing tides can make for a really interesting time-lapse sequence.
What are your hopes for this video? Do you think someone might buy rights for commercial distribution?
I really hope it inspires people to get out and find an adventure of their own. One of my favorite things about living in San Diego is how easy it is to access locations with truly dark skies. That’s something a good amount of the population shares and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I’ve been lucky enough to see some of photography and time lapse used in some really exciting places. It would be great for something similar to happen with “Wonder Endlessly.”
What’s up next? Any time-lapse projects you’d like to tackle?
I’ve actually already started working on the next few time-lapse projects. I’ve had ideas for a few different themes that I slowly started working on while in the finishing stages of “Wonder Endlessly.”
It’s a bit early to reveal too much about them, but I’m excited to kick them into full gear. There are still a number of new locations that I’m really excited to explore and shoot, too. I’ll be posting news on my website and of course all of my social media accounts when the time is right.
Anything else our readers should know about you or your timelapse?
There’s actually a single frame with a small coyote in it. I’m hoping at some point someone will spot it!
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