"The Unseen Sea": A Foggy Time Lapse

Apr 25, 2012 at 1pm

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15069551

This time lapse video of the fog above San Francisco is so delicate and gorgeous. It is quite the perspective to see our little city sandwiched between the heavy waves of the Pacific and the light, cauldron-esque flow of the sky. Here's to the unique mix of climate, geography, and topography that made these three minutes of loveliness possible.

I got in touch with Simon Christen, the Swiss artist behind the video, and asked him a few questions about the year-long process of capturing SF's iconic fog into a condensed little glimpse.

TBI: How did you get stationary shots at such high altitudes. Were you in a plane, blimp, or on top of a mountain? How did that happen?

SC: Quite a few people have asked me how I got the shots from high altitudes. I wish I had a plane or blimp at my disposal, but all of the shots are taken from the surrounding hills of the Bay Area. Most of the shots are taken from Tilden Park, right behind Berkeley, and one of the shots is from the top of Mt. Tam in Marin. I spend quite a bit of time exploring and scouting for nice vantage points; be it driving around or online using satellite images on Google Maps.

TBI: Do you stay with the camera while it's recording? How long do the shots typically take and what do you do to entertain yourself while you're waiting?

SC: I always stay with my equipment. Most of the sequences take a few hours to shoot, even if I don't end up using the full time frame. With time lapse you never know when something interesting is about to happen, so you just point the camera towards the most promising spot and hope for the best. Sometimes it happens that the clouds and fog are doing something really interesting just out of frame but at this point it's usually to late to adjust the camera.

Sometimes I bring a book or just watch the scene unfold in front of me. It's extremely relaxing watching the light change. Other times there are other people around and we start a conversation. Once the light is drastically changing, I have to keep adjusting the exposure on the camera which keeps me busy...

TBI:Why did you decide to shoot this video?  

SC: I have been living in the Bay Area for the past 10 years and currently live in Oakland. (Though I'm presently back in Switzerland.) The Bay Area is ideal to shoot time lapse because of all the crazy weather... The fog wasn't the main focus from the beginning and just slowly became the subject.

TBI:Did you have to check forecasts for especially foggy days?

SC: I am usually checking the weather and fog forecast and also keep an eye on the various public webcams that are available to get a better idea if it's worth driving up into the hills. Currently I am working on a new project and am always on the lookout for ideal conditions.

TBI: Does spending time with the fog from above change how you experienced it in day to day life on the ground?

SC: I love the fog. I enjoy a foggy, rainy day as much as a sunny day. I think we are pretty fortunate having a nice balance in the Bay Area. I lived in LA for a year and a half and got really bored of the constantly sunny weather. I think growing up in Switzerland conditioned me for embracing different weather.

Simon estimates that the 3 minute video would take 5 to 10 hours to watch at regular speed. It's always really nice to see everyday things captured in slow-mo or time lapse. There are so many things we don't pay attention to at the speed of normal life. 

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