Gorgeous Time-Lapse Video Highlights America’s Great Spaces

By Will Halicks

It’s a classic 9-to-5 daydream: Quit your day job, grab a couple of friends, and hit the road.

This summer, photographer Shane Black turned that fantasy into reality. Adventure Is Calling is the result: a beautiful time-lapse video made from about 10,000 images he shot on a journey across the United States he took with two photographer friends.

Black said the trip began as a joke among the three of them. But as plans got more serious, they all committed to leaving their jobs to travel for two months.

Black had worked at the Scotts Miracle-Gro headquarters in Marysville, Ohio, for six years, assisting with research and development. Part of his duties included feeding the cockroaches kept on hand for pesticide trials every Thursday morning.

But the job wasn’t leading him where he wanted to go, and Ohio held scant prospects for the landscape photography he wanted to pursue.

He gave his manager a month’s notice before setting off on a nearly 13,000-mile (20,921-kilometer) journey in a Dodge Caravan without cruise control. The photographers managed to visit 32 states and 13 national parks.

Teaching photography workshops in major cities across the country helped them finance their journey. The online photo-sharing site Flickr and soft drink giant Coca-Cola also supported the trip.

The workshops turned into their own kind of day job for Black, who spent his off-hours shooting time-lapses of America’s great spaces, often after his friends turned in for the night.

“Most nights I’d actually drop them off at a hotel around 10 or so, and head back out for shooting the stars until about 3 a.m.,” he said.

Black faced plenty of challenges along the way. His external hard drive crashed in Los Angeles while he was backing it up, wiping out some of what he’d shot at Grand Tetons National Park.

Fortunately, many of those sequences survived, including the one at 01:47 in the video, in which he captured a lightning storm flashing beneath starry skies. (Learn more about Grand Teton National Park.)

Even when things went smoothly, finding the perfect vantage point often took serious legwork. It was a grueling trek to Crater Lake in Oregon, where he captured one of his favorite sequences—a segment starting at 02:53 in the video.

“That hike up there with about 50-plus pounds of gear was awful,” he said. “Especially because I was running on about two granola bars, so I had no energy.”

His reward: getting to see the Milky Way in its full splendor.

Black and his friends are already making plans for another workshop-anchored trip in summer 2014. In the meantime, he plans to move from his native Ohio to the Pacific Northwest, land of “mountains and dark skies”—the stuff great time-lapses are made of.