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Tom Lowe Interview




Hello timelapsers!

We want to inaugurate the blog “” with a triumphal beginning. We have interviewed probably the best timelapser in the whole world. He feels a fierce respect and admiration to the “visual poet”, Terrence Malick; because our interviewed, a part of being a genius in timelapse-technique, he is a writer. His night-timelapses are completely inspirational. He has decided to follow the advices of Joseph Campbell, and to live his life happily doing what he really loves. He is, Tom Lowe.

Tom Lowe When did you start to feel something special for this amazing technique, called timelapse?

Tom: Well, like anything good, I totally stumbled into timelapse.  I was out location scouting for a feature film in Lone Pine, California (Alabama Hills).  I was camping one night, sitting beside a campfire under thousands of stars, when I noticed how beautiful the stars looked silhouetting the strange rock formations out there.  I immediately began to think and dream of how a scene like that might look in a movie.  Could it even be done?  Anyway, I pestered all the camera department guys and cinematographers I knew about how someone might be able to shoot the stars in the sky at night, for a film.  At first, some guys were mentioning that it might be possible on a Panasonic Varicam with a custom intervalometer (I was like “intervalom—what?”).  Then someone mentioned to me that it could be done with a Canon still camera.  So, I purchased my first DSLR, a Canon 350D (Rebel XT), then I got a TC-80N3 intervalometer and went out to try some shots during the day near my house.  I was amazed that it worked!  I even added a little fake tilt move to the shot in Premiere Pro. After that, the next day, I packed my gear and drove straight out to Joshua Tree National Park to try some night shooting, which was my real goal.  I remember walking around out there under a full moon, and the whole place was magical.  Joshua Tree, that night, was like walking through a dreamland or a dreamscape.  I wanted to capture that experience on camera.  And it worked!  Then I began to try some shots in the Sierra mountains, looking up through huge, towering pine trees at the stars and the Milky Way.  There is something very primordial for humans about staring up at the night sky.  It’s in our DNA, because our ancestors spent hundreds of thousands of years lying on their backs looking up at those same stars, wondering what exactly they were, or perhaps imagining mythical stories about them.  For me, looking up at the night sky is a very spiritual thing.  That’s why I always hope that my timelapse clips move people on a spiritual level.

tom1 I guess you have watched the movie Baraka, o Qatsi trilogy. What do you think about them?

Tom: Speaking of spiritual!  Of course, I worship those films!  I saw Kooyanisqatsi first, and was completely mesmerized.  I was entranced as I watched it, which probably had something to do with the fact that I had smoked some weed before viewing it… but that’s a different topic.. hahaha.  I had never seen anything like Kooyanisqatsi.  Then I saw Baraka and in some ways my life was changed.  I had to literally scrape my jaw off the floor after witnessing the last 5 minutes of Baraka.  This was pure art.

tommalick Is this technique your way of living or is it just how you spend your free time?

Tom: When I first started, my brother and I owned a technology company that kept me very busy, but now I have more free time, so I am spending nearly all of it shooting timelapse.  I also work as a writer, which is something I can enjoy doing during the days, because I shoot timelapse mostly at night.  My ultimate goal is to become a feature film director, like Terrence Malick or Stanley Kubrick.  Timelapse is great because it can be done on a very low budget, without any crew or cast.  I am hoping that timelapse is one way to break into the filmmaking business.  Writing is another.

tomstarry Are we able to know what photographic equipment do you use on your work?

Tom: Right now I’m shooting almost entirely on the Canon 5D Mark II, which is a technological marvel.  This camera truly amazes me.  Many of the night motion shots I have been working on would simply be impossible to shoot without the 5D2.  I’m sure the Nikon D3X can probably do them, but that camera is $8,000!  I use the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 as my main lens right now, but I am really looking forward to getting the Nikon G 14-24mm lens.  I recently received a custom Nikon G>EOS adapter which will allow me to put the 14-24 on my 5D2.  Most people agree that the Nikon 14-24G is the most baddass wide-angle still lens on the planet.  On my 5D2, I shoot regularly at ISO 3200 at night, and the results are beautiful.  On my old 350D, I could not shoot any higher than ISO 800 or there would be terrible noise.  So the 5D2 is the champion of the night!



tommachine In some of your videos we have seen a few of the machines that you have designed to create time-lapses effects. Do you have any new invention on your mind?

Tom: Oh, I have hundreds of ideas in mind, but only so much money and time to actually do them.  I have dreamed up some incredibly wild moving night timelapse shots, but they would require incredibly expensive gyro stabilizers.  Maybe if I get hired on some bigger movies or television commercials I can try to get my hands on some of that kind of gear! What does come to your mind when you are in the middle of a desert under the starry sky?

Tom: Everything, anything, nothing.  Those are my most peaceful, thoughtful, and beautiful moments.

tom2 Do you think that patience is the best secret that a timelapser possesses?

Tom: I think there are many professions that require a lot more patience.  Being a teacher of school-age kids, for example, requires an incredible amount of patience. With timelapse, I think it requires more dedication than it does patience.  I mean, you have to drag your ass hundreds of miles into the boondocks, and sometimes hike with very heavy gear into the mountains or whatever.  That takes dedication.  But once your gear and the shot are set up and the camera is “click-clacking” away, it doesn’t require any patience at all!  I usually crack open some beers, or maybe watch a movie on my laptop or iPod, or read a book in my tent.  At that point, it’s the camera doing all the hard work! Thanks to websites such as Vimeo, time-lapse technique has become one of the most  audiovisual phenomenon demanded; Do you think that  Vimeo is a good platform to get world recognition?

Tom: I absolutely love Vimeo.  Blake and Dallas and the guys there are awesome.  Every single time I have sent in a little PM about some possible additions or features, they always respond; but even better, they actually get it done.  In terms of whether it’s a good platform to get noticed worldwide, I think the answer is yes, and more so every day.  It is gaining popularity with filmmakers and industry people every day, I think.  I often send producers and production companies a link to Vimeo, rather than my own home page, just because Vimeo is so cool with their system and all the positive comments and everything.  I don’t even bother with youtube. If you would have to give an advice to someone that is starting to learn this technique, what would you recommend?

Tom: Just shoot.  Timelapse is all about getting out there, and trial and error.  Thankfully with our new forum, and other such places on the net, it’s much easier today than it was even 2 years ago to get help and advice very quickly.  When I first started shooting timelapse in late 2006, I felt like I was the only person on the planet doing it.
Generally speaking, I am a disciple of Joseph Campbell.  His motto was “Follow your bliss.”  If you love what you’re doing, and you always trust and follow your dreams, they will never lead you astray.

Publicidad And the last question. Would you like to visit Spain one of these days to make a time-lapse or at least to drink some beers with us?

Tom: Hahaha, I love Spain!  I have lived in Barcelona twice.  Once in 1998 when my girlfriend was studying abroad there at the University, and then again from March – August of 2003.  Both times I stayed in a little Pension inside Placa Real, with a window overlooking the plaza.  Barcelona is, hands down, my favorite city on Earth.   I have so many great memories from there.  I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Madrid and Seville.  I am dying to get back to Spain! Thank you so much, Tom, for your time and dedication, we really appreciate it.

Tom: Thanks for this interview, and for your interest in my work.

Timescapes Timelapse: Learning to Fly from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo.


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