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Mont Blanc timelapse taken by Davide Necchi on 11-12 August 2012.
Photo by Davide Necchi
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Mont Blanc timelapse

14.03.2013 by Davide Necchi

The Mont Blanc timelapse by Italian photographer and alpinist Davide Necchi.



"And once it was night. Or rather, one night 15 years ago I discovered night photography, almost by accident. It was when the comet Hale Bopp made its appearance, I was an aspiring alpinist and an improvised photographer, with few certainties and a great desire to experiment (and, let's face it, a bit masochistic). It was then that I decided the time had come for... some sleepless nights.

I’ve always considered night photography as something totally different, requiring an approach that is far removed from normal photography. While the sacred foundations state that the light at midday is “bad” and that photographing at sunset is a good thing since the contrasts are amplified… for me night photography is beautiful because light… can’t be seen. You need to imagine everything. The viewfinder is dark, displays are non existent, as is exposure, histograms and programs. The picture is framed mentally, all phases of the shot are only minimally supported by automatic programs. In short, you need to completely "invent" the image ... and you can’t simply make a lucky guess!

And so for years now I’ve “wandered across the mountains" in search of scenarios that exemplify the night environment. It is a fun and complex game, one which needs to be planned carefully because without ideal conditions many photos are simply impossible. In some respects it’s like organizing a climb, you need to seize the right moment and this, all too often, is nothing more than a fleeting moment. In the evenings I often used various planetarium software and Google Earth to work out if and when the moon will light up the North Face of the Eiger or the East Face of the Matterhorn. But last year, from one night to the next, I suddenly felt the time had come for change, I needed a fourth dimension: time. I find it hard to deal with classic video production, it’s too hard to construct, too fast and quality always seems to slip into second place, after the plot. And so, almost by chance, I started to dabble with Time lapse, something I consider a form of animated photography. "Physical" movements are practically null or reduced to almost nothing, what moves however is time. In just a few seconds you can show what happens in hours, that what in “our speed” seems still suddenly becomes dynamic. A cloud resting on a summit, for us immobile, transforms into an unstoppable swirl. Even the stars seem to race. Yet what about man? Hence the idea, that came to me by accident, to climb a peak adjacent to a famous mountain and immortalise the ascent with an "animated photo". Why not start with Her Majesty, Mont Blanc?

My simple, complete amateur attempt resulted in far more than I could ever have hoped for. For sure, an expert will notice plenty of flaws, at one point even there’s a sudden jolt… it was 3 am and I had to change the memory card as it was full ... and the images stop just when it’s getting really good because the batteries went flat. Nevertheless, from all these errors to the final assembled piece I ended up with what I had wanted: a "picture" that told a story about climbing Mont Blanc, over time ...

The technique is simple, all you need to do is take a series of photos at regular intervals which may vary from just a few seconds up to half a minute, after which you then assemble them to create a video. The added work is carrying that extra weight and wanting to camp out next to the camera which every 30 seconds makes that classic shutter “click”. Then you return home and you start to make the single images flick by, just like you did as a child with pencil drawings in a notebook.

The sun begins to disappear, in retrospect perhaps a bit too fast, then darkness sets in, the first climbers descend from Maudit, coming from who knows what beautiful route... finally the moon appears and all of a sudden the mountain is alive with countless climbers from Aiguille du Midì and the Gouter hut, ready to start their day… The clouds rapidly make their appearance, but the climbers continue to ascend upwards. You can see the summit. The battery dies. A great pity, it's like abseiling off the last pitch. Although I didn’t summit, it was a great challenge, fun to organise, beautiful to create and with a satisfying, final result. Now I look forward to my next project… the Aurora Borealis."

David Necchi

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