First of all, I do apologize for my lengthy absence. It took a lot of time to plan the next phase of the Destinationwest.org website development and it took even longer to organize the hundreds of time lapse videos that were compiled during two and a half years of Covid isolation camping. I still have many destination articles to publish, so it is back to work for me!
I am JD Lane and I am the administrator of destinationwest.org. The destinationwest.org website is a regional outdoor tourism resource that took shape in 2015. That year was when I earned a Culinary Management BA Degree and I opted for jobs near western national parks, which opened the door for accumulating photos for website content. Today the Destination West Org YouTube channel was launched and more videos will be added soon!
Back in 2019, a six month camping tour was planned from August through January 2020. The goal was to photograph as many western destinations as possible, so there would be plenty of new content. As can be imagined, the Covid 19 pandemic changed everything. I saw the early reports and realized how serious the outbreak would be, so I took preventative action in early December and kept my distance from other people. This was easy to do since I was already camping. As everybody knows the pandemic just got much worse from that point onward, so to make a long story short, the planned six month tour ended up being a 2 1/2 year outdoor adventure!
After committing to the long term camping tour plan, my entire focus was placed upon surviving on a very tight budget and creating content for the destinationwest.org website. I basically lived out of a Jeep and a tent for 2.5 years and to be honest, I wished the venture did not have to come to an end because it was a fantastic learning experience. Plenty of insight was gained about the environment and wild animal behavior.
Staying occupied with content projects and relying upon internet communications is how I overcame the loneliness associated with isolation. Since the park rangers were not enforcing the camping limit rules because of the dire situation, it was okay to camp for an extended time at the same location during Covid 19. This created an opportunity to do a long term study at certain locations. I chose warm spots for a home base during the winter months close to my home town, Las Vegas. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area was where I spent the most time writing travel articles and the wildlife was used to me being there. Kit Foxes used to bark for me to come outside and play at night, while friendly ravens and hawks paid regular visits too.
Since I had so much time to spare, I decided to bear down and learn photography. Previously I was just a point and shoot style content gatherer. I preferred the full automatic camera mode on a DSLR because the keeper rate was much better than the average point and shoot camera back then. Other than pressing the shutter release button, I really knew nothing else about photography in the early days. However, I did thoroughly wear out my old Nikon D90. Because the first thing I wanted to learn was wildlife and birding photography on a tight budget, I purchased a refurbished D7500 crop sensor camera that was good for the task. I also started purchasing faster professional grade lenses to replace my old worn out kit.
Long exposure and HDR landscapes was what I learned next. It did not take long to figure out that I needed a full frame camera for stills. Just like a miracle, Nikon released the mirrorless Z5 Camera for a very low introductory price and I went all in. I ended up using the crop sensor camera for travel website content and wildlife, while the full frame camera was only used for stills on a tripod. The mirrorless full frame camera offered many new functions, which included time lapse, so I had a new toy at a time when my hopes were really down.
After a day of content shooting, it took many hours to process the images on a MacBook. During that time I would set up the full frame camera and shoot daytime clouds time lapse videos in automatic mode. At first, the time lapse videos were nothing serious and they served as personal entertainment while Covid isolation camping. Soon I amassed several dozen and it was then that I gave thought to publishing the material. I also realized I had a lot more to learn, so I took one step at a time.
Power management was tricky when camping. I employed a 60 watt solar panel with a 240 watt hour lithium battery inverter portable power station. I also had a lead acid battery power inverter for cold weather. When considering that processing 250 RAW 24 megapixel images would drain the laptop battery in about one hour, it is easy to see why most of the time lapse videos made during Covid relied upon the camera doing the processing. The picture control, shooting interval, manual focus and frame rate were all that I controlled. However, I did do a few night time lapse videos that had to be shot manually in interval mode, then processed with computer software. I only did enough to learn the process, since interval imagery really drained the batteries.
Later in 2023 after Covid, I purchased a Z6II camera and this is when I started taking complete control of the camera for time lapse video. I started doing time lapse in full frame 4K 25fps instead of HD 1080p 60. I also started using the 4K option with the Z5, even though it is cropped 16:9. The Z6II is capable of doing an automated holy grail time lapse in aperture or program mode and it is one of the best night sky cameras available. It is also fast enough to replace the D7500. Since I was back on a/c power, processing boatloads of interval shooting images was possible, so I started doing more night time lapse videos and star trails landscapes last summer during the huge monsoon season that nearly wiped out Death Valley.
As every photographer knows, the learning process never ends. My first bunch of time lapse videos shot during Covid 19 were not exactly refined, but back then it was the content that counted the most. When doing time lapse of clouds and weather phenomena, it is not always essential to obey the rule of thirds and I often minimized the horizon in order to create a more dramatic effect. I often used a 14-24 2.8 zoom lens, which is notorious for lens flares, so there are plenty to be seen before I got the hang of using ultra wide globe glass. I do not mask out bugs, birds, bats, passing vehicles or jet trails when processing a time lapse video. That would misrepresent the destinations. For example, if I removed the jet trails in a Lake Mead night time lapse and viewer went there expecting clean clear skies, it certainly would be a disappointing venture.
I was one of the few photographers posting nature photos everyday when Covid was at its worst and I put a smile on a lot of faces. Hopefully this collection of time lapse videos does the same. While isolation camping I became adept at creating music with software, so each video has a music soundtrack. There are no words, so if you don't like the music, play your own! It took a long time to sort through several years of video footage on top of all of my other content projects, but the long wait was worth it. I hope you enjoy these time lapse clouds and night sky videos, because this was an important part of my life and I can't wait for the next long camping trip to begin!
Leave no trace!
Destination West YouTube channel! https://www.youtube.com/@DestinationWestOrg
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