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Sunrise at Lake Lauerz, February 2016


An eventful year

With the Olympiads in Informatics giving me the chance to see much more of the world than I'd ever have by myself, I was more and more enamoured by nature's variety and beauty. It started out with the blue mountains in Australia, then the Krka waterfalls in Croatia, the mountain landscapes of Taiwan and finally the steppes of Kazakhstan. While I tried my best, there was never much time for more than a few snapshots. In 2014, I started experimenting with time lapses as a way of capturing nature in motion. They were nice, but rather boring on their own. So the next year I'd start some attempts at moving the camera itself, which is rather tricky without any special tools. I tried my luck macgyvering a grip to my tripod that'd let me use it for stabilization. That didn't work very well, but made it clear that I would no longer be satisfied by static photographs. I wanted to add something more dynamic and individual to my recordings. From a technical perspective, there were three main ways of achieving this: fixed mounts like cranes or rails, stabilization as you get with a steadycam or aerial photography with a drone.

When exploring nature, you never see a landscape as a static picture. Instead, it is usually a panorama that slowly unfolds as you're taking a corner, scaling a peak or leaving a forest behind. I wanted to capture this experience in my videos. In 2016, I was finally able to afford a Glidecam, which is portable enough to take with me and doesn't need much setting up between shots. I chose it over a drone since I felt that it lends itself to inherently more natural and fluid camera movements. Not that this couldn't be achieved with a drone, but would be much harder.

My first video shot like this was in February 2016 around Lake Lauerz. I chose the location since it was close enough to Zurich that I could get there by public transport before sunrise and it offered a valley towards the southeast, just right for the sunrise. The first day I went was directly after a night of rain, so I was guaranteed some nice, thick fog over the lake. I got to capture some beautiful views over the valley, but unfortunately the weather kept getting foggier after sunrise, so I didn't get much more than an hour of shooting time. The next day, I'd come back to much clearer weather which let me take the photo you're seeing titling this page. Having shot all the footage I needed, I found a nice piece of music from a young Italian composer called Mattia Cupelli who let me turn my footage into his official music video.

Euphoric from just how nice this first video turned out, I went on to my next project. Since I didn't want to lower my standards, this time I was in for the long haul. It started off on March 24 with a hike from Zug up to the peak of the Gnipen and then back down to Arth. This was mostly a learning experience for myself on how hard it is to hike up a mountain in Winter. While I'm usually much faster than indicated hiking times, this was the opposite. For every step forward, I'd slide back down half a step. In the end I barely made it to the peak for sunset and got a nice clip there, which was about it. On April 10, my friend Peter gave me a ride to Lauterbach, since I didn't have a driver's license at the time. We first got some nice shots of the Trümmelbachfälle, a waterfall within a system of caves, and later hiked around the area for a bit.

Two days later, I took the train to Ausserberg near Visp, on the other side of the alps where I had read that I'd find some caves. When I arrived, the hiking path was closed off due to damage from the past Winter. I still tried my luck and ended up spending a lot of time climbing over fallen rock fields. I did stumble upon a nice tight tunnel and old water conduits for irrigation. Unfortunately the bad shape of the trail slowed me down a lot and I found myself spending less time filming and getting more and more worried about the time. The problem being that I was on a mountain with infrequent public transport connections and with the alps between myself and my home in Bern. By the time I made it to the next bus station, it was already way past sunset so I had to wait forever for the bus. Once at the main station in Visp, my fears came true and the last train through the alps had already left, so I'd have to spend the night at the train station - if it wouldn't have been for one kind woman that saw how lost I was walking around the train station. It may sound like a fairytale, but is truly one of the best moments of kindheartedness I have experienced. She took me home to her family where I could sleep in their bed, eat breakfast with them and then take the train back the next morning.

On August 26, the adventure continued with a trip to Adelboden. A seemingly boring venture after the previous experiences. The weather was nice, it was warm and I got plenty of shots of lush grass and beautiful mountainscapes. On September 27, I took another train ride to Spiez to get some establishing shots of the sunrise by the lake. The final trip of this project was on October 4 where I invited my friend Pascal to join me. We started off with some more establishing sunrise shots over the lake and then took the train further into the valley towards the Engstligenfälle. They are large waterfalls that look very impressive with the sun illuminating the water droplets. Unfortunately it was too late in the year and the sun didn't reach properly into the valley, so the shots didn't look quite as good as I'd have wished. Back home, I took all of the recordings and sorted them by speed and time of day. So the video could start off in the morning, slowly build up momentum and then relax into the night. In the end the video might not be the best and the effort certainly slowed my enthusiasm, but the memories are here to stay.

On December 30th, still in 2016, I heard on the news that there was ice forming on the Oeschinen Lake. With each year being hotter than the previous, this was a chance I was not going to miss out on. I invited Peter and we made our way up there. Unfortunately we were a bit late in the afternoon and there was no more direct sunlight on the lake, so most of the footage ended up looking rather dull. I decided to make my way there again on the first day of 2017. This time I took the first train in the morning to make sure I'd catch some good sunlight. In the gondola I met up with a family of active ice skaters. It turned out that this day the lake was officially opened for ice skating! By pure luck, I was there first in the morning on the first day of the lake opening, and I met a family that I could accompany. The lake was still covered in perfectly clear, blue ice which made for some incredible shots. This one lucky day certainly paid back for all my failed efforts of the past year.

Peter exploring the Trümmelbachfälle
Glidecam + Snow = Tripod
This goat didn't make the cut
Neither did this sunrise

Dinner 4/5 at Gaskessel in Bern, March 2019


Can I make money with this?

For my last concert in the Gymnasium Neufeld school choir, we were singing a newly composed piece about light. Fittingly, there would be a laser show to accompany the music. As in the previous years, I would help out with sound recording of the concert, but since this would be quite the show, Pascal and I also made sure to make a video of the entire performance. Valentin, who was hired for the laser show, saw our hard work and invited us to make a video of one of his other shows. So this is how we landed our first gig, a concert of the band Sirion in July 2015 at the Dachstock in Bern.

One trick that I had to learn to make good videos of laser shows, is to overlap exposures. Since the laser projectors work by scanning an image similarly to a CRT screen, you can never capture the entire image in one frame. The frequency also varies depending on the amount of dots displayed, so it'd be very hard to match frequencies. What I ended up with, was to maximize the shutter angle of the camera and then calculate each frame as the average of itself, the next and the previous frame. That way it was possible to capture more of the projection at the same time without lowering the frame rate.

Valentin seemed convinced by our performance and recommended us to Martin, the organizer of the Seelandindoorcycling event. This is a yearly event where cyclists meet up to spend twelve hours riding, some without even taking a break - motivated by trainers, loud music and a light show. This would turn out to be one of the most labour-intensive gigs, since we were supposed to not only record for the entire day, but also create a live slideshow of images that we edited and updated during the show and then edit a video of the full twelve hours. We did the same again in 2016, this time adding in the glidecam which made the video much more dynamic. Unfortunately, that would also be the last major gig for us.

In parallel, my university roommate Daniel was creating a startup that offered steerable helium balloons. They could be used for advertising or just as a fun attraction during events. I joined him for most of his events and created videos from them. There I learnt to never again film at an ice hockey game, since I was nearly doused in beer from the fan stands.

A few years after these gigs had passed, in March 2019, a friend recommended me to the jazz band Dinner 4/5. Independently, one of their members, Joel, had actually studied Physics with me at ETH Zürich. They were having a one hour concert at the Gaskessel in Bern. This came perfectly for me, since I had always wanted to make a music video. It was a rather tight space, but the mood was great and thanks to being the camera man, I even got a perfect place to watch from. No matter the video, the experience was definitely worth it.

In the end, I never got to the point where I could really call myself a professional, but I gained a nice view into the event business from many different perspectives, saw how other people work and collected some nice memories. If you wish to do a project with me, please check out digitalwing.ch or contact me directly.

Shooting a Sword Fight, Creux du Van, June 2017


Guns or swords?

As a kid I enjoyed action movies, so obviously I wanted to make my own. Thanks to YouTube, I quickly learnt how to use Blender, After Effects and Premiere to make my own special effects. In 7th grade I met Pascal who had similar interests, and we soon started our attempts at making short movies. Most ideas didn't get anywhere, and those who did didn't make for the best results, but we still tried our luck. If you ever wanted to read the worst script some teenagers could come up with, you can read the script of Absconditum here. At least I had some fun building our own lights and a camera adapter to fit a cheap telescope since we lacked a proper telephoto lens.

During Gymnasium, Pascal spent a year in Chester to improve his English. He passed much of his time there with his newly made friend, John. When I went to visit him for a week, we had to make video together. The game "The Stanley Parable" had just become popular, so we decided to make a short movie titled "The Artist" based on a similar idea. We'd also never have such easy access to a native English voice actor as John.

In 2015, I went to create a video of the medieval fair in Kiesen. My brother had recently gotten into medieval showfighting and this was his first show. With his help and the video of the fair to show for it, we were able to motivate another member of the club, Marco, to join us for a short action video. In March of 2017, I went on a location scout at the Creux du Van near Neuchâtel. It seemed like a nice location for a video. So later that year, on a nice sunny day of June, we went to shoot the fight. Since neither Pascal nor myself had a driver's license at the time, we got our friend Dario to lend us a ride. He also ended up starring in the video. The shoot went without any major issues. Especially for a nice day in a well-known tourist location we didn't have to clean up too many shots in post. At the end of the day, there was still a surprise waiting for us. For some reason, the car battery had discharged and we had to find somebody to jump-start our car. We would've even had an extra car battery with us, hadn't we already used it to recharge our batteries.

Orion Nebula, January 3, 675


Grasping for the stars

After joining Gymnasium Neufeld, I soon befriended my physics teacher Erich. He'd help me out with experiments that I couldn't do at home. Most importantly, he is part of the team running an observatory in Uecht. There he could show me the way around the night sky and help me get some great photographs. In total we went there three times, on Nov 1, 2015, May 27, 2017 and Jan 3, 2019. Most of the images shown here are from the most recent date.

Me, one of our toys and Erich
Jupiter, stacked and deconvolved from 250 frames
Saturn, stacked from 75 frames
M1 Crab Nebula, A Supernova Remnant
M13 Globular Cluster
M31 Andromeda Galaxy and its companion M32
M33 Triangulum Galaxy
M51 Whirlpool Galaxy with its neighbour
M78 Nebula is part of the Orion Constellation
M98 Spiral Galaxy
M106 Spiral Galaxy