By Janelle Hoh (@janellekh192)
Just about the only way to truly appreciate the ever-changing nature of the Adirondack landscape, beside being there in person, is through time-lapses. For those unfamiliar with the area, the Adirondack Park is located just south of the Canadian border, stretching 6-million acres across Upstate New York. Untamed wilderness is a dominant feature of the region, and the tallest mountains in New York State can be found within the Blue Line that defines the Park.
Nick Faiello, an independent filmmaker from Syracuse, New York, set out on a journey to capture the remarkable beauty of the Adirondacks in his latest project The Adirondacks through the use of time-lapse photography. He has climbed some of the most demanding mountains, gear included, to experience and share breathtaking scenery. But every trip into the wilderness presents certain challenges. Faiello hopes to show the world the beauty of this often overlooked wilderness area.
What got you interested in filming? Is “The Adirondacks” your first project?
First things first, thank you so much for having me for this interview. Since I can remember, I’ve always gravitated towards the making of images. Whether it was video or still photography, I was that neighborhood kid that always had a camera and was constantly (read: annoyingly) using it. The Adirondacks, while by far my most ambitious project to date, is not my first. I have done a handful of smaller scale projects in the past—one of my more recent ones being titled Shades.
Why the Adirondacks? Why did you choose this place as the subject of your project?
Why not the Adirondacks? Often when people think of great American wildernesses, images of places like the Yosemite Valley, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone come to mind. Yes, these are absolutely breathtaking places and deserve their established recognition, but what can be seen and experienced in the Adirondacks is just as awe-inspiring as anything I have seen across this country. Through this project, I hope to begin to give the Adirondack Park the recognition it deserves.
What kind of gear do you use for time-lapse photography?
I shoot on a Canon 6D with primarily two different lenses: a Canon 24-105mm f/4L for general landscape shooting and a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for shooting the night sky. As for time-lapse specific gear, I use an intervalometer application on my phone called Triggertrap to tell my camera when to take photos in addition to a motorized camera slider made by Rhino Camera Gear to add movement to my time-lapses.
I know I have a hard time just getting myself up some Adirondack mountains. I can’t imagine it’s an easy feat climbing with all that extra gear on top of regular hiking gear. Is it difficult filming in such remote locations?
Absolutely. The thing about documenting the wilderness is that you must first get to the wilderness. The Adirondacks, being a true wilderness in many places, does not make that task easy. Luckily for me, more often than not I am able to hike with pack mules- I mean, a close group of friends who have made a habit of sharing the burden of carrying camera equipment with me.
What’s been your most rewarding shot you’ve got so far? Have any scenes been particularly challenging?
I’d have to say that my most rewarding shot was probably during my second time on the summit of Gothics. My first ascent of that mountain led to unusable shooting conditions as the summit was completely covered in clouds and visibility was close to zero. It was late fall when I returned to Gothics for my second attempt. Snow and ice along the cable route made for a particularly challenging climb, but the views from the top made the challenge that much more rewarding. Low lying clouds were crashing over the summits of Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, and Marcy making for an incredible set of time-lapse images.
While every shoot comes with its own particular set of challenges, the scenes that I have captured while the Sun is down have proven to be the most difficult as a whole. Between frozen fingers, trying to frame a scene you can’t see with the naked eye, headlamp lit hiking, and scrambling in the dark to set up before the Sunrise—shooting at night only adds more difficulty to an already difficult task.
Everyone always says “if you don’t like the weather in the Adirondacks, wait 5 minutes.” That saying seems to lend itself nicely to time-lapse photography. How long does a typical scene take to shoot? Have any of your scenes been “spoiled” by unexpected weather?
They say it for a good reason. Once you are on these mountains, the weather can, and will, change in an instant. The length of the shooting time of a particular time-lapse fluctuates just as much as the weather. If there are fast-moving clouds or quick hikers moving through the frame, I can wrap up a shoot in as little as 15 minutes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the ultra slow-moving objects such as stars making their way across the sky. This type of shoot can take upwards of two and a half hours to complete.
As far as ruined shots go, I have had plenty of my time-lapses disrupted by changing weather. Most notably was while I was shooting images of the Milky Way from the summit of Owls Head Mountain. I had set up a tent in the foreground of the frame to create contrast with the night sky. It was an ideal night—not a cloud in the sky or a breeze to be felt. The time-lapse was progressing nicely when, out of nowhere, strong winds began buffeting the summit, lifting the tent off of the ground and throwing it towards my camera. The shot was effectively ruined at that point, leaving me to head home for the night with very little to show for it.
You released a trailer for your project in September 2015. Do you have a release date for the final project?
Since releasing the September trailer, I had run into an unexpected issue which rendered me unable to continue production for some time. After spending a sleepless night on the Summit of Mt. Haystack shooting time-lapse of the night sky, I took a fall on the descent off of Mt. Haystack into Panther Gorge, consequently smashing some of my gear. This led me to spend much of my time (time I had scheduled for shooting) working to rebuild my time-lapse rig. While I do not have an official release date for The Adirondacks, I plan to finish within the coming months and will be updating Facebook (facebook.com/theadirondacksfilm) and Instagram (instagram.com/nickfaiello) with more information.
Do you have any fun or exciting stories to share from your experiences in the Adirondacks?
Fun and exciting in the Adirondacks? There’s honestly too much to choose from. Every second that I’ve spent on this land has been full of adventure. However, there is one story that does stand out in my mind. After the rewarding second ascent of Gothics that I had mentioned earlier, three friends and myself were making the descent off of the mountain via the Orebed Brook trail. The Sun had set so we had just begun to use our headlamps. At about five and a half miles away from the trail head, we happened upon a party of three who were positioned off to the side of the trail. Realizing that something was wrong, we started asking questions to see if we could help. Quickly we found out that our newly found trail mates did not speak English as all of their responses were in French. From what we could gather, one of the members of their group had broken her ankle. After some discussion, two members from my group stayed with the injured party while the other group member and myself made the two and a half mile hike to the DEC Interior Outpost to get help. Once we had reached the empty cabin of the Outpost, we saw that there was no one there to help us. Instead, we were greeted by a sign that read “in case of emergency, break in through back door and radio for help,” and so we did. On the radio, the ranger dispatch station had one of us stay behind while the other headed back up trail to assist in the carrying of the injured hiker. Knowing the trail well, I set back out into the darkness bringing a latter with me to use as a makeshift stretcher. Luckily for me, the rest of the group had made it the majority of the way to the DEC Interior Outpost by carrying the injured hiker. Eventually, an emergency extract ATV and rangers had arrived at the Outpost to assist the injured party.
Wet, cold, and tired—we still had three miles of hiking left until we reached the trail head and could begin our trip home. It was definitely a night I will soon not forget. Like I said before, it is always an adventure in the Adirondacks.
Do you have any suggestions for others who may want to try time-lapse photography?
Research and practice. The first thing you’re going to want to do is find the most beautiful place you can and start shooting time-lapse, but it’s important that you know what you’re doing or you could walk away empty-handed. I spent the better part of a month shooting test time-lapses around my house before I ever stepped foot on trail to start work for The Adirondacks. It’s also important to remember to appreciate your surrounding as you’re shooting. The great part about time-lapse photography is that once you begin shooting a sequence, you can, more or less, leave the camera alone and enjoy the scenery around you.
Are there any other projects you want to start somewhere down the road?
At the moment, no, I do not. My main priority right now is finishing The Adirondacks. Once the project is completed, you can expect to see time-lapses of my various travels posted to my Instagram account.
We’d like to thank Nick Faiello for his time and the photos he provided. We’d encourage you to follow them at the links above.