Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dancing With Clouds on Whiteface

I love shooting video. Especially with the new Hi Definition cameras we are now using. But one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn over 40 years of filming (from exposing actual movie film to the new digital "Media Discs" of today) is to WAIT for the shot. We videographers who live and work in the Adirondacks have it a bit easier as there is hardly a bad shot anytime of day, any time of year, around here. EXCEPT we still have to learn wait for THE MOMENT.

Take yesterday, for example. I have wanted a time lapse shot of the clouds lifting from Whiteface Mountain, which towers over Wilmington and Lake Placid, NY. In the winter it is like a huge white diamond sparkling with snow and hoary frost. Yesterday, I found myself in the perfect spot for the time lapse attempt if only the weather would cooperate. The forecast was for clouds over night and then clearing during the day. Perfect. I was working on a show at The Lake Placid Lodge and had a room facing Lake Placid and behind the clouds at the far side of the lake lurked my prey. I set up the Sony XD Hi Def camera on the porch of my room and made sure I had batteries and recording media discs at hand. I framed the lake and clouds beyond, hoping the composition would be right if the clouds lifted. I pushed the record button at 10am with the clouds just beginning to lift their skirts at lake level. One hour later, at the end of disc one, the clouds were about half way up the mountain. Things were looking very hopeful as I loaded another disc and check the battery. I kept rolling as, with my other mini HD camera, I continued to shoot lodge interiors, taking time to peek out any window way to often to see how the clouds were coming, or going in this case. And the clouds were lifting slowly. Things were brightening and the the mountain was beginning to reveal it's flanks to me foot by foot.

I was on the third disc and second battery when I began to feel that sensation in the pit of my stomach every videographer feels when things start to go down hill. In this case the clouds around the mountain had suddenly started to move DOWN the mountain. But I kept rolling. Too good a location, too good a forecast, too good of a shot IF IT CLEARS, I kept telling myself.

On my 4Th hour long media recording disc the mountain took pity on me as the clouds started to dissolve as they flirted the summit before, in a matter of seconds, they whisked away featuring the entire snow and ice covered mountain against a azure blue background.

It took 15 years filming in the Adirondacks, 4 hours of recording and the right place, the right time, the right camera and the willingness to wait, but I got my shot! Viewers of MLPBS will see the time lapse shot in an upcoming episode of Roadside Adventures and many other Mountain Lake PBS Productions as the discs will be archived and used when every any one's edit needs THE CLOUD LIFTING TIME LAPSE SHOT of Whiteface in High Definition.

When edited the shot will last about one minute, from total obscurity to a crisp snow covered white diamond glistening in the bright winter sunshine. Shots like this are once in a life time; right place, right time, right EVERYTHING. But more importantly, they are gifts of Nature; rewarded to those who are willing to wait.


  1. Derek,

    Glad to see you've got a blog. I'm living in England (having moved from Saratoga 18 months ago) and getting the opportunity to do a good bit of traveling.

    Unfortunately, the Adirondacks ruined me. There's just no place like them. I'd trade the Eiffel Tower or London Bridge for a bottle of beer at the Wanakena General Store any day. Well, okay, maybe not in the dead of winter.

    Thanks for your work on People Near Here. It's my favorite ADK show of all time. Looking forward to your future posts.

    Peace to you,

    Rob Elliott

  2. Derek, I am trying to find a "People near here" episode PBS store doesn't sell it and its very sentimental since my dad was featured in it. Its the Boomer and the crew dogs episode. If you know where I can purchase a copy please let me know. Thanks