“When you say The City, there is only one city you could be referring to — New York City.”
The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. The capital of the world. Gotham. These are just a few of the nicknames New York City has acquired over the years. It’s a city that leaves a lasting impression and delivers an experience like no other around the globe.
Master photographer Aaron Keigher delivers a taste of this timeless appeal with his latest time-lapse film, NOSTALGIC IN NEW YORK. From Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, Aaron manages to capture that classic New York feeling in this modern day metropolis.
Now that he’s finished snapping thousands of cityscape photos, Aaron Keigher found some time for an interview:
For those who might not understand, can you explain the process behind creating a time-lapse film?
AARON: To create a time-lapse video, we take many individual photos over a period of time and then combine them together into one video. By doing this we are able to speed up the motion of what we are filming and now things that took place over 30 minutes, an hour, two hours or more, can be played back in just a few seconds. To get technical and geek out for a minute, most films are shot at 24 frames per second and played back in real time at 24 frames per second, while with a time-lapse, we might only shoot two frames per minute and then speed that up and play it back at 24 frames per second.
What inspired you to choose New York as the location for your latest time-lapse film?
AARON: I grew up in the New York area and lived there most of my life, so when you say The City, there is only one city you could be referring to — New York City. I had gotten into time-lapse photography after I had moved to Los Angeles, but always wanted to go back home to shoot a time-lapse of the city I grew up loving. The architecture, lights, cars, non-stop movement, energy, everything… It made New York the perfect place to time-lapse at night.
How long did it take you to shoot all the images used in “Nostalgic in New York”?
AARON: I shot the footage for “Nostalgic in New York” over the course of around 10 days this past August on a trip back to the East Coast for work and to visit my family who still live there.
Do you set a shot list or outline before you arrive on site?
AARON: Absolutely. For this short film I made a pretty intensive location list with the help of a few other photographers, my own knowledge of New York and a whole bunch of Internet research and then started to work on a plan for how to get it all done in the limited time that I had. I find it very helpful to be able to at least have a general plan when working on projects with heavy time constraints. That being said, I did build in plenty of flexibility into the schedule to allow for things like changing weather conditions, traffic, construction, and so on.
Anything surprise you while you were shooting?
AARON: The one thing that surprised me the most was that New York City seemed to be emptying out around 1:00-2:00 am on weekday nights. I could have sworn that I remembered staying out much later during my college years in NYC, but then again, that was many years ago. Another thing that pleasantly surprised me for the city, but was an issue when it came to shooting was all the construction that is taking place in the city right now. It’s a wonderful thing to see the city continue to grow, but at times it made it difficult to get the clean compositions the I wanted. I was also surprised that more Police officers didn’t stop me when I was walking around Midtown Manhattan with a six-foot long camera slider and dolly on my shoulder or I had my camera mounted to the top of my car for the drive-lapses. I get asked a lot of questions because the gear I use isn’t just your standard camera on a tripod. They are things that unless you have seen them before, you have no clue what they are for and in some cases can look suspicious.
Is there something about the project that you wish you could get a ‘do-over’ on?
AARON: I wish that I was able to have gotten in a few additional days of shooting in New York to get deeper into some of the outer-boroughs. I had to cut my trip out East short to fly back to California to film some night sky time-lapses in the desert for a new TV show and lost the last 2 days for my own personal project.
What do you hope to reveal about New York and each of the cities you’ve captured?
AARON: I really hope to capture the motion and fast paced energy of the city — its true lifeblood. When I thought about making a time-lapse of New York City I knew it needed to do two things — capture the true timeless essence of New York and in some way stand out from the other hundreds of time-lapses that people have shot. That’s why it seemed obvious to do this in black-and-white. New York is a city that for all the changes throughout the years, has been able to remain that classic American city. For me, the look and feel of New York is best captured in Woody Allen’s classic film “Manhattan” The black-and-white feel that he uses, perfectly captures New York City. It is the classic Metropolis of the old Superman films — Batman’s original Gotham.
How did you get into photography and time-lapse filmmaking?
AARON: As a kid I started studying music and ended up getting my college degree in it. However, with the time constraints of real life and a full time job, I wasn’t able to keep my skill level to where I wanted it to be. So I started looking for other artistic outlets and fell in love with landscape photography. I studied that for years before moving out here and becoming interested in shooting astrophotography. Over time I met a number of amazing time-lapsers who inspired me to give it a try (even though I thought I was way to ADHD to sit there in the dark, alone for hours in the desert, waiting on a shot) and I fell in love with it and it has become a huge part of my job and my passion!
Have you set your sites on the next city yet?
AARON: I don’t have a specific city chosen yet, but San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Washington are obviously high on the list. I am currently working on fleshing out the concept for my next landscape based time-lapse project and am also hoping to find some additional time-lapsers to collaborate on a joint project like I did for my film One Night in Vegas. It was so much fun working and hanging out with other filmmakers because most of the time, time-lapse is a solo sport.