Yesterday, I released a new short timelapse piece called After Midnight: One mile above Los Angeles during the early morning hours. This is a short video that highlights just one of the many locations I’m visiting around LA for an upcoming project.
LA has a reputation for being an early city. The bars close at 2:00am, and many people don’t even make it that late. Yes, there are pockets of late night activity to be found around the city, but all in all, LA is sleepier than many big cities during the early morning hours.
But, when viewed from a more macro perspective, it is obvious that the city is still very much alive, pulsing with activity and lots of people moving around. During a recent shoot at Mt. Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains, I ended up staying fairly late and became enthralled with the level of activity in the city below. I made a number of subsequent trips back to see and capture more during the early morning hours. I was also lucky enough to catch the entire LA basin fogged in one night, resulting in the dark night sky making an appearance above the shrouded city.
I’ve grown to have a fond appreciation for Mt. Wilson after going up there over five times in the last month. I touched on this in a recent post. The view of the city and its scale is mesmerizing from up there, especially on a clear day or night. I shot a sweeping day-to-night panning timelapse up there a few months ago on a very clear day that remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever shot (this one will appear in an upcoming project!).
Many people take the drive up there, soak in the view for a few minutes, and then leave, but the magic up there comes from sitting and observing. Watch the sun set and the city lights come on. Go at night and watch the thousands of lights below move and flicker, nearly as far as the eye can see. All while sitting in complete natural serenity, with no noise to be heard except for the crickets and the occasional small animal moving through the bush.
Night owls will also appreciate the fairly rare occurrences when the entire LA basin is covered in low clouds, which usually only happens late at night. I had wanted to get this shot, which is the closing shot in After Midnight, for quite a while, but the conditions were never right. But one night, after shooting all evening in the Malibu hills, the clouds kept growing thicker, so I made the drive all the way from the western Santa Monica mountains up to Mount Wilson, arriving around 3:00am. The forest seemed so dark on the drive up, and I almost didn’t believe my eyes when I came around the bend on Mt Wilson Red Box Road, when instead of seeing the bright and vast glow of the city below, all I could see was darkness. The long exposures really brought up the illuminated clouds and made them visible, but there was barely any visible light to the naked eye.
The towers, partially featured in the beginning of this video, add another dimension. Mt. Wilson, with its unfettered view of metro Los Angeles, is home to an array of communication towers, beaming out every major radio and television station to the US’s second largest media market. The amount of technology and electromagnetic waves coming from this place, deep in the Angeles National Forest and high in the mountains, is incredible. It adds another layer of contrast to the area and is quite a sight up close. Just make sure to leave your unshielded electronics at home.
Mt. Wilson is only one of over 50 locations I’m visiting around the LA area for an upcoming project. I can’t wait to share more of this city, both the known and lesser known. Suffice it to say, there is much more to LA than most people imagine.
Thanks for watching, and please share if you like it!