2014 was a stellar year, seeing him work on a series of high-end projects including the upcoming One Planet series for the BBC Natural History Unit, a short promotional film documenting McDonald's entry into the Vietnamese market, a city video of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and a 30-second introduction for Tiny Times 3 – one of the year's top-grossing international films. He also won the Gold Award at the Time-lapse Showfest in Spain for Barcelona GO, a viral video commissioned by the Catalan tourism board, along with Best Experiment Film at the Tiburon International Film Festival in the US for his mesmerizing time-lapse, This Is Shanghai.

A Nikon man through and through, his current cameras of choice are the D810 and D3200, shooting NEF (RAW) files which he then painstakingly assembles into his finished eye-catching sequences in post-production.

How do you describe yourself – as a photographer or a filmmaker?

Good question. I've always seen myself as a photographer – my degree and background are in photography – but a few years ago this interesting thing happened... this strange record button started to appear on DSLRs and then it all got a little murky. With time-lapse I believe it's murkier still. Is it photography or is it filmmaking? Whatever it is, I love the sense of technology creating new potential and options that are waiting to be explored.


Who are your main clients?

They're all a bit varied and I like it that way. I'm working for quite a few tourism boards at the minute, but also with the BBC Natural History Unit and other, more bespoke, clients. Every project seems to be different, with a definite sense of levelling up.

What got you into photography?

I come from a family of creatives. The only problem was that I've never been much for drawing and consequently, I didn't think it was for me. I would love to be able to say I picked up my first camera and it all made sense, but it wasn't until A-levels that I really got into photography.

My degree was focused on advertising and editorial photography – very studio and lots of lights. I graduated from Norwich School of Art & Design in 2005 and typically all roads point to London from there. The slight problem was that London never really interested me. Building a career in Norfolk was challenging. I worked for two great guys – landscape photographer Tom Mackie and art photographer Richard Osbourne – and got to learn from them about architectural and landscape shooting, as well as the business side of stuff, particularly dealing with clients (I'm still learning this).

Why did you move to Asia?

Because of a girl, and because it was something new and exciting. It had got to the stage in Norfolk where it was time to set up my own business and London still wasn't of interest, so I moved to central Vietnam instead, where I spent a year living off savings and just shooting things that interested me.

Were you doing time-lapse prior to moving abroad?

I've always loved time-lapse or, rather, documenting the passing of time, this unseen world. One of my first A-level projects was shooting still-life plates over several weeks, documenting their transformation and decay. It wasn't until about 2008 that the commercial potential of what until then had been a hobby dawned on me. It's gone from being a strand of what I do to most of what I do. Obviously, as part of shooting time-lapse I do generate a lot of stills, but it's been a while since I went out with the intent of solely shooting a still. I have a lot of fun with my iPhone but I'm not sure pictures of my dinner tonight or a funny road sign would interest many…


Which Nikon cameras do you use, and how do they enable you to get the results you want?

We live in a golden age of photography. I love the D810; shoot it five stops under and you can still turn a pedestrian in a cityscape into a portrait. It's amazing the quality that thing can deliver. It really makes so much possible. I guess the main point is that you can rely on it. Whatever the conditions, so long as you get a few things right, the shot will look amazing.

And your favourite lenses for time-lapse?

It's more about the right tool for the job than any go-to lens. I'm currently torn between the 16-35mm and the 14-24mm. Both are beautiful lens. With the first you can use filters and with the other you have to be careful your feet aren't in the frame. I also love my primes.





How many shots are typically involved in a time-lapse video, and how tricky is it to set everything up?

It's not easy to put a number on it – it really depends on the storyboard. One to two weeks shooting is average; however, I've just finished a seven-week shoot in Dubai. I've been lucky with recent shoots because the permissions have been sorted out for me. Shooting from the right location is everything.

Generally manual settings are the way to go to make sure everything is locked down. On occasion, auto settings are a necessity, when access to a camera is tricky, but they're generally best avoided. The built-in intervalometer is a lifesaver and really great feature. Picking the right interval is key and varies from 4fps to 1 frame every few minutes, depending on the subject.


What’s involved in post-production?

I like the analogy that shooting is getting the ingredients, but post is where it's all cooked up together. I would guess it's 50/50 regarding time between shooting and post. After Effects, Lightroom and LR Time-lapse get a lot of use. With the D810's 36-megapixel RAW files, I can zoom in and crop a lot in post, which gives me huge flexibility.

Your favourite time-lapse so far?

I'm pretty excited about my next video, the Dubai one – it's set to be launched mid-February.

The last video I made before that was Barcelona GO. The cool thing about that was just working with such beautiful ingredients; in Barcelona there's a stunning scene on every corner.


What was your first big time-lapse success?

In December 2011 I launched my first video, Traffic in Frenetic HCMC; just me, a laptop, my wife (the girl) and the jungles of central Vietnam for company. Within three days it had received 700k plays and international media attention. It wasn't my big break in the Hollywood sense but things have been on the up since then.

So what’s coming up for you next? Will you be staying in Asia?

I'm writing these answers sitting on a flight to Sydney. There is a pretty exciting six months lined up, then we'll see. I do love Asia – it has an irrepressible excitement and energy to it that I find very infectious.

Did you ever think you’d get this far when you first started out?

It's all been a little crazy for a few years now. I'm sure there will be moments to take stock and appreciate what has been happening, but now doesn't feel like the time. More, please!

For more information visit www.robwhitworth.co.uk