Where/what are the Grampians?
The Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is a rugged wilderness of dramatic sandstone mountain ranges, sweeping grasslands, windswept ridges and dense bushland located in the Western Highlands of Victoria, three hours drive from Melbourne.
When I heard they were creating a new multi-day hike that would stretch the full 160km length of the Grampians – the Grampians Peaks Trails (GPT) – I knew I wanted to experience it the as soon as possible. Luckily for me, Parks Victoria had seen the Guardian’s previous hyperlapse video featuring the Bondi-to-Manly march, and was happy to see if it would be possible to create something similar on a larger scale.
How was the hike?
The whole GPT is 160km end to end, but I only had a week off to hike and capture the footage I needed. It took hours of topographic maps and meetings with Parks Victoria to come up with a condensed route that would hit all the major highlights of the trail.
Some days were dropped, others were combined, but in the end we cobbled together a strenuous 120km version of the course that I could complete in seven days.
I combined the first two days of the hike, two of the hardest days, into a gigantic bulge of 10 hour one-day bulges, arriving at Gar’s campsite in the pour as it got dark and in feeling like I had bitten off more than I could chew.
But after this baptism of fire, my hiking legs took over. One of the best parts of a long hike like the GPT is how it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a variety of ever-changing landscapes as you meander through the mountain ranges.
Ironically, the memory of my GPT experience that will stay with me forever did not reach hyperlapse due to low light camera limitations. I woke up last morning to the most amazing cloud inversion I have ever seen. After a night of howling winds where I slept only a few hours, I woke up to absolute silence and the sun rising over a sea of clouds.
On the last day of my condensed GPT, I felt like I could go on for another week…although I was happy to end the hike with a beer in Halls Gap.
Well, the hike looks awesome… what’s a hyperlapse again?
A timelapse is a photographic technique whereby the rate at which a sequence of images is captured is much slower than the speed at which they are played back. You manipulate time to show – in just seconds – events that can take minutes, days or even weeks to complete.
Adding motion to the camera is the next step in the process, turning a stationary timelapse into a hyperlapse. Now, not only are we speeding up time, but we are also changing the point of view.
In the case of a hiking hyperlapse, we are now able to creatively interpret our walking experience over incredibly long distances.
How did you do?
I used the same techniques to create this hyperlapse as for the Bondi-to-Manly hyperlapse – i.e. put a 360º camera in a backpack and go for a walk. But that was where the similarities ended. Every aspect of the GPT hyperlapse was more difficult than the Bondi-to-Manly.
For starters, I didn’t have the two most iconic examples of Australian architecture – the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge – to use as a crutch. To compensate for this, I wanted to get more ambitious with the camera movement, going so far as to stick the camera 360º on a drone so that the hyperlapse soars seamlessly above the orange rock of Taipan Wall.
The length of the hike and the remoteness of some sections meant batteries and memory cards were a constant concern. Disaster also struck when a rock scratched one of the two ultra-wide lenses on day three. Fortunately, the damage did not affect camera operation and I was able to continue recording. But for the rest of the hike, I had to hold the selfie stick and camera in front of me like a standard bearer in a marching parade.
What did you do with all the pictures?
The longest part of this project is also the worst part – post-production.
The excitement and joy of hiking is long gone… now is the time to sit in front of a computer screen at unholy hours, painstakingly shifting keyframes as you begin to question your choice of life.
The biggest difficulty came when I started browsing the images. What I haven’t considered is that the majority of Bondi-to-Manly is on paved paths, boardwalks or flat beaches – this allows for a consistency of footfall that I have never enjoyed.
This consistency creates a smoother passage when the footage is sped up. The majority of the Grampians Peaks Trail is on uneven, if not steep and difficult terrain. Of course, this robustness is one of the main attractions of GPT, but when trying to create a hyperlapse, it can be a nightmare.
Not only do you need to smooth out jitters and spatial motion, but you also need to think about temporal stabilization. Small breaks to catch a breath, adjust a pack or scramble up a steep rock should all be smoothed out by doing an edit and then adjusting the two new clips to match.
Making these hyperlapse videos is such a fun creative process… you don’t really know what you have until you complete the course. They’re much rougher than the traditional content you might see promoting an outdoor experience.
I’ve got my eye on a few other possibilities in the coming year: Tassie…I’m looking at you.