A flower in bloom, a carcass decomposing, the bustle of the night sky—there are few photographic techniques as awe inspiring as timelapse.

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Jordan Poste won the inaugural timelapse category at the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2015 with his patient investigation of glowworms in caves around Aotearoa. He takes Emma Smith behind the scenes of ‘Glowworms in motion’ and extols the virtues of taking your sweet time.

What’s the story behind ‘Glowworms in motion’?

‘Glowworms in motion’ started by accident when I decided to try and take some timelapses of glowworms while exploring some caves over the Christmas holiday. The first timelapses were horrific, which only made me angry to try and get it right. At the next opportunity I captured what I could only describe as something magical and from there I knew I couldn’t stop until I had enough footage for a full video.

What has happened in the year since winning the award?

Even with some of the accolades and attention that ‘Glowworms in motion’ received after winning last year, I always felt that I didn’t do a good enough job with it. I wasn’t happy with the quality of a number of shots and also felt certain types of shots were missing. I hoped that feeling would eventually go away but it never did, so at the end of 2015 and part of 2016 I returned to the underground to create a second glowworm time-lapse called ‘Waitomo’s lights’.

How did you get your start in timelapse photography?

I was inspired by a motion timelapse video called ‘Horizons’ on YouTube a long time ago by Randy Halverson, but it wasn’t until 2014 after my YouTube channel started receiving a lot of attention for my other video work that I decided to spend the ‘big bucks’ and incorporate motion controlled timelapse as an ingredient in my films.

What excites you about timelapse photography?

There is a certain hypnotic property to timelapse. It allows us to see things differently than traditional real-time video and I feel it can captivate an audience. Timelapse clips often have greater ‘holding power’ than real-time video meaning longer clip durations can be used for an equivalent scene.

What do you think makes good timelapse photography?

Great timelapse photography reveals elements that weren’t previously considered. For example ‘Glowworms in motion’ revealed how frequently the glowworms actually move, and if you look carefully it also reveals that occasionally they blink on and off in a synchronised manor. That’s something that no glowworm expert has been able to explain to me, perhaps there’s an important scientific discovery to be made as a result…

What are some of the most important things to consider when shooting timelapse photography?

Aside from the technical elements of managing things like flicker and continual adjustment of exposure, one of the easiest ‘cheats’ in timelapse is to not spend enough time with proper composition. In particular with motion timelapse it’s easy to create something interesting even with average composition. The best timelapses out there have taken time to nail composition as well as the more technical elements.

What’s in your kit?

Canon D3MkIII, eMotimo TB3, dynamic perception stage one slider, 16-35mm f2.8L lens, 70-200mm f4L lens and 50mm f1.4.

Jordan Poste_exposure spread

What are the challenges and pitfalls to watch out for when shooting timelapse?

Battery management and lens monitoring is important. An entire timelapse can be ruined if one of your batteries fail or condensation, rain or dust contaminate the shot over several hours of shooting.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Spending New Years eve on Cascade Saddle between a glacier and Mt Aspiring. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve witnessed in New Zealand. It would have been a great scene for some timelapse work but instead I just enjoyed a cup of wine and made sure the image was written in my mind instead of a memory card.

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?

It took me a long time to figure out how to manipulate and take advantage of natural and artificial light and I still feel I have a long way to go in understanding how to use it as a tool to improve my work

Who are your favourite photographers?

Paul Zizka and in general most photographers that focus on mountaineering and rock climbing photography. I have a deep appreciation for photography where both physical and technical ability meet.

Where else do you draw inspiration?

I think the moment is more important than the photograph and photograph should serve as a reminder of that moment. I’m inspired to capture the moments that I want to re-live for the rest of my life and share with my kids.

In how to win this competition, New Zealand Geographic editor James Frankham wrote that if he saw “another photograph of a log on a beach at sunset”, he would puke. Are there any photography clichés that really rile you?

Manufactured moments bother me, for every Instagram photo I see with a tent or kayak set up in a place where the photographer neither camped or kayaked I gag a little.

in the field