Very Large Array

This September, I threw all my camera gear into the car and drove South to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: shoot time-lapse footage of the radio telescopes at the Very Large Array in Socorro, New Mexico.

Sunset at the Very Large Array

Very Large ArrayI’ve been looking for interesting subject matter to use as a basis for motion-tracking and compositing exercises in After Effects, and I thought the VLA would be perfect source material.

Unfortunately, a tire on my car started failing just as I was pulling into Socorro, and I had to turn around and drive back to Albuquerque to get it replaced, which cost me a full night and day of shooting.

Undeterred, I sped back towards Socorro the minute they lowered the car off the lift, and was able to set up the cameras in time to shoot a beautiful New Mexico sunset, and about 4 hours worth of astro time-lapse that night.

Rain at the VLAI went back early the next day and got set up again, managing to shoot for about an hour or so before a nasty-looking storm-front started rolling in, which was a pretty huge bummer.  The clouds looked amazing as they were gathering over the array, but unfortunately, they didn’t move out again, so most of the day I was shooting in the rain, under really flat light, with the lenses pointed at a solid, pewter slab of overcast sky. Not ideal conditions for any kind of photography, and definitely not time-lapse, which depends so heavily on shifting skies to remain visually compelling. Luckily, the scientist/operator made some fairly dramatic moves with the dishes, so there’s hopefully still enough there to hold a viewer’s interest.

I think the footage I managed to get will yield some cool results if I push it far enough in After Effects, but I’d really like to give it another shot this summer. It really was a fascinating place to film, and I’ll definitely be going back soon.

In the meantime– keep an eye on this site. I should be posting the results within the next month or two.


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Posted in Photography, Travel, Video

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