Changing Planet

New Mountain Timelapse: A [Sound]Garden of Night Lights

Regardless of whether you like classic Soundgarden, anyone growing up in the 1990s probably recalls the eerily morphed faces of suburban America that made the music video for “Black Hole Sun” such a memorable part of the MTV rotation.

Almost 20 years later, videographer Christoph Malin has found his own way to tie this particular rock song to some unforgettable imagery.

In a new timelaspe video, Malin brings us views of the night sky in motion over Tyrol, Austria, and La Palma in the Spanish Canary Islands, set to the astronomically titled tune.

What’s especially moving about this video is how well it illustrates the problem of light pollution: These hills are not only alive with the sound of music, but also with the glare of lights from towns in the valleys below.

In several scenes, clouds roiling across the dark skies glow with reflected light, serving as pretty darn good indicators of how much illumination even a mountain village can send skyward.

At about the 3:25 mark, the familiar constellation Orion rides across an otherwise clear sky—but then sinks into obscurity due to light pollution.

Contrasted against these images are scenes that showcase the beauty of a clear night sky.

This includes the glorious arc of the Milky Way as well as a fun sequence of the space shuttle Discovery during its last ever departure from the International Space Station.

(Also see “Best Night-Sky Pictures of 2011 Named.”)

As a bonus, Malin studded the end of the show with a few stills of his setup, which included several Nikon cameras (D3X, D700, D7000, D300) and the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly system.

On a total tangent, I was a huge Soundgarden fan in 1994, but the title of this song always bothered me: Our sun isn’t destined to die as a supernova, which is what it takes to make a stellar-mass black hole.

Stars that are about eight times the sun’s mass or more are the ones that are massive enough to go supernova. The core of the exploded star can either become an ultradense neutron star or a black hole.

Less massive stars, including our sun, quietly puff up as they die and eventually shed their outer layers, leaving behind dense cores called white dwarfs amid clouds of gas and dust.

Binary white dwarfs feeding off each other can also trigger supernovas, but not so for solitary stars like the sun.

If the band wanted to be technically correct (which I hear is the best kind of correct), they should have titled the song “White Dwarf Sun”—but I guess that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

  • that_guy

    but its a song about a cup of coffee

  • Jane T.

    Great video ruined by an out of context audio track. Another example of talented photographers who have no idea how to create an apropos soundtrack.

  • freezebox

    I do not agree… What a great great Vid. I wouldn’t rate the soundtrack as the wrong choice in any way. BHS is just leaving enough space to fill it with visual creativity, and this is exactly what Malin did with excellence.

  • coyote

    The universe is so incredibly beautiful

  • […] via (contains an analysis of the […]

  • 1+1=2

    excellent footage on difficult conditions, great editing to a rock classic. awesome moonlight segment at 02:20. hope to see more from you! kudos to VJ for sharing this! soundgarden can be proud.

  • […] […]

  • […] So this got me interested, and one year later my new astronomic time-lapse Video “Black Hole Sun” is featured on National Geographic News: […]

  • Axel K

    Awesome video, great song, great editing, period. Thanks for sharing!

  • Chris Malin

    Thanks for sharing my work!! I have updated the Video recently with new scenes (eg from the Dolomites) and a “surprise & takeouts” section. have fun!

  • Steve Flat

    Chris, another follower of your Video from Vietnam. Moved to Saigon years ago from Bavaria due to business. It’s a 3hr travel into backcountry here to see a clear nightsky again. Saigon is extremely light polluted. thank you so much for showing me my home mountains again, my family loves it!

  • Joe Gatt

    Excellent, beautiful work. Never seen the mountains like this. Hope to see more!

  • VB

    Great – stunning cinematographic work, Christopher. Nice to see that you add new scenes for refinement. Hope to see more from you, and don’t worry about the soundtrack. Your video rocks, and that is the huge nice difference to all other timelapse with cheesy, battle-of-honour soundtracks. They all sound the same. Yours rocks!

  • Giena

    Really great work you are doing! Movie and photographs are really inspiring!

    All the best!

  • Chris Malin


    I am happy to announce that ESO has used some of the footage to illustrate light pollution in their ESO popdcast:

    Chris Malin

  • Mike Kann

    Talking about being technically correct quite a number of the sequences are taken from the Sella Pass which technically is in Italy, not Austria. Ahhh that feels so much better 😉

    Nice video!

  • […] New mountain time-lapse: A [Sound] Garden of Night Lights […]

  • […] seem simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. The video, which has already been featured on National Geographic News, was followed up with a guest post over at Nikon Rumors explaining how Martin became a fan of […]

  • […] Resultate seiner Arbeit kann man unter anderem bei National Geographic und demnächst auch im Bayrischen Rundfunk bewundern, denn Christoph hat sich zusammen mit […]

  • […] My new TimeLapse project "The Island" is dedicated to this beautiful and lovely Island of the Canaries… Note: this is my second TL project, the first one – "Black Hole Sun" – was reviewed nicely on NAT GEO daily news. […]

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