There is something enchanting about the night sky, so there is no doubt as to why it is the subject for many photographers. But I bet you've never seen the night sky as beautiful as it is in Greek Skies, a gorgeous timelapse shot by our good friend Panos. What you don't realise when you are captivated by the video, is that it took a whole year to film. That's 825 hours of shooting, 55,000 photos, and 650 hours of editing. We feel tired just thinking about it! We had a chat with Panos to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on everything that went into creating Greek Skies.
Tell us about the Greek Skies project!
It took me over a year to shoot. I had to stop many times and change the plan, but never the goal. I don’t usually work with projects like this, but this time it was something different that made me produce a film of this scale. It was at the moment I lost my dad to cancer. I had already talked to him about the video I was planning to do. His passing away was something unexpected, and I decided I had to make it although I knew he wouldn’t be here to watch it with me.
Why did you choose to shoot in Greece?
The idea was born in LA during one of my trips, meeting with Greek people that live and work there and in many other states. They asked me, “Why don’t you do something in Greece to promote Greece’s image as it should be abroad?”
The initial plan was to shoot entirely in Mount Athos where we had managed to get permission to use cameras–it is a holy place–and shoot Greek skies over the darkest places in the whole of the Mediterranean. No light pollution, amazing scenery of monasteries and wild places, nature with rock formations that no one has ever seen before! But due to capital controls I had to change the plan. The film was shot in multiple locations: Pelion, Volos, Kalambaka, Meteora, Thessaly, Antiparos island, Kalavrita, Patras and many more. Some locations were so remote that you had to leave the car and carry 90 kilogrammes of gear more than two kilometres. For some reason (weather, clouds, sudden wind) the location wouldn’t be perfect for the shot. So I can admit that I had many disappointing nights.
What made you choose to shoot a timelapse instead of a video, or still photographs?
The fact that the whole project was focused on skies as mentioned above, there was no other choice but timelapse. I wanted to shrink time and give people the essence of travelling through time under Greek Skies. Shooting at night was also a big contributing factor when choosing timelapse. At night we can't shoot anything in video.
What was the most challenging thing about the project?
The most challenging moment of the project came when we were in Greece, shooting, and the government imposed crisis measures on the banks. Imagine being on the road, moving from place-to-place, when overnight you can’t get any cash, there’s no petrol, and everything feels as if it is grinding to a halt. That was a game changer! For a moment I thought I would give up and try next year, but thanks to a phone call from my mum I decided to stay. We decided to shoot in Meteora, another holy place with monasteries on giant rocks.
You got to shoot in some beautiful places - which was your favourite?
Definitely Meteora! Sleeping on top of those rocks in a three-by-three metre cell with only the bare necessities, napping for a few minutes here and there, and being able to gaze down upon the Thessaly Valley was priceless. It almost felt as if the oxygen were too much for your lungs and you can get so close to nature. I’m planning on going back and making a documentary about Meteora.
What kit were you using to create your timelapse?
Here is a list of the gear I used to make Greek Skies happen:
1 × Nikon D810
2 × Nikon D800
1 × Nikon D610
1 × Nikon D7000
1 × Nikon D7100
1 × Canon EOS 6D
1 × GoPro 4 Silver
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm ƒ/4G ED VR
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm ƒ/1.8G ED
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED
Canon 17-40 ƒ/4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8
Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art
Samyang 14mm ƒ/2.8 for Nikon
Samyang 14mm ƒ/2.8 for Canon
Star Adventurer Skywatcher
2 × Digislider Timelapse & Video Kit
4 × Manfrotto 190XPOB ballhead
2 × Benro Travel Angel III
Tablets & smartphones for using Triggertrap
What post production software did you use?
I used Lightroom to process the images from Raw to JPEG. LRTimelapse sponsored the whole project and we used that piece of software to deflicker the sequences. Finally we used Final Cut Pro for the video editing and music effects.
Did you learn any new techniques while you were out shooting?
I have never done such a big project, or one that took so long, before and to be honest it was a bit scary. But along the way, things fall into place. People help you. Things that you don’t expect to happen, happened. As a result, I learned many valuable things during this project, from technical to theoretical to practical, but if I had to answer the most valuable one, I would say it is the ability to improvise.
It might not be a technique, but I do think it’s a skill! For example I couldn’t afford a 3-axis system for motion control so I ended up making the most of my gear to achieve the effects I needed. I aligned the rails on the tripods according to longitude and latitude in a triangle so that I could follow the earth’s rotations. Using my Vixen Polarie as panning gear I managed to have movement (slider) & panning (Polarie) & elevation (tripod triangle). So in some way I managed to learn how to make the most of my gear and achieve 3-axis movement without 3-axis gear.
Finally, if someone were embarking on a similar project to you, do you have any top timelapse tips or essential gear recommendations?
Panos gave us such an awesome, detailed answer to this question that we just couldn't pass any of it up! Head over to our Timelapse tips from the creator of Greek Skies article to get the low down. In the mean time, you can see more from Panos over on his website, http://www.panosphotographia.com/. To get the latest on his work, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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