Earlier this month, the New York City Department of Transportation announced plans to experiment with 20 mph zones — replacing the city’s default 30 mph speed limit in one pilot neighborhood. Whoever gets the first 20 mph treatment will see benefits that residents of British cities and towns have become increasingly familiar with in recent years.
In the UK, some 3 million people live in areas with 20 mph speed limits. The experience there shows that not only do slower speeds save lives, but lowering the limit to 20 mph improves the way local streets function in more ways than one. According to the 20′s Plenty for Us campaign, the change has produced wide-ranging benefits, including less traffic, increased walking and biking, greater independence for children, the elderly and infirm, better health, and calmer driving conditions for motorists.
A few months ago, I discovered Matt Logue’s Empty LA photographs. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but every time I was stuck in rush hour all-hour traffic, I found myself thinking, “What if tomorrow everyone’s car disappeared?”What would that scene look like? How would people react? How quickly would the atmosphere rebound from centuries of fossil fuel emissions?So I took Matt Logue’s still photography concept and applied it to something that I do best — time lapse. I built a story around the idea of us being shackled to this ball and chain; this love-hate relationship with whom we spend so much time with here in LA.
Inspired by Matt Logue’s Empty LA.
Read more about this video at http://rossching.com/running-on-empty
SAM: It is shot on a Nikon D3 (and one shot on a D80), as a series of stills. I used my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses for all of these shots. Most were shot at 4fps in DX crop mode, which is the fastest the D3 could continuously write out to the memory card. The boats had slower frame rates, and the night shots used exposures up to two seconds each. The camera actually has an automatic cut off after 130 shots, so for longer shots I counted each click and quickly released and re-pressed the shutter release after 130 to keep shooting.
ME: That has to be a lot of stills!
SAM: I shot over 35,000.
ME: Holy shit.
SAM: No kidding.
ME: How did you capture the mini look?
SAM: I did some initial tests a while back using a rented 24mm tilt-shift lens, which is the standard way to do this. However, after my tests, I found it made much more sense to do this effect in post, rather than in camera. Shooting tilt-shift requires a tripod, as it is very hard to stabilise afterwards, and gives less flexibility in the final look. I opted to shoot it on normal lenses, which allowed me options in the depth of field and shot movement in post. I used a tripod for the night shots, and my Gorillapod (which is much more portable) where possible, but many locations—like hanging over the edge of a roof or through a gap in fencing on a bridge– had to be shot hand held, and the inevitable wobble removed afterwards.
ME: That sounds kinda badass.
SAM: Um, sure?
ME: How long did the shoot take?
SAM: The entire shoot was completed in 5 days and two evenings, during the hottest week of August 2009. Many thanks go to all the people who gave me access to rooftops, penthouses and balconies to shoot from.
ME: So, you’re sitting with 35,000 stills. I’d probably have a Virgo-clutter overload and need a beer… But what did you do?
SAM: At first, I had a beer.
ME: Good man.
SAM: The footage was shot as raw NEFs, which I organised and colour graded in Adobe Lightroom. I always shoot raw, as it gives you so much more latitude when grading. These were then output as 720p jpg sequences and quickly stabilised to do the initial edit. Once the edit was mostly locked, all the final footage was re-output at full 2800px resolution, tracked, stabilised and the DOF effect and movement added in Eyeon Fusion, using Frischluft Lenscare. I output the final shots at 1080p. Although most shots stay with the basic tilt-shift effect, some have focus pulls, or more complex depth mattes were built up along with some paint work to allow buildings to drop out of focus next to the in-focus ground. This would not have been possible if I had shot using tilt shift lenses on the camera, which works best with relatively flat landscapes. New York City is anything but flat!