New Perspective

Time-lapse images give unique look at Dakota sky

Randy Halverson doesn’t stop going to the field when his farm work is done. In fact, people are starting to expect the Kenebec farmer to be back in the field after the crop is in the bin or long after the sun has set. Halverson, a 1990 general ag graduate, has become an award-winning time-lapse photographer.

His images of the South Dakota landscape can be seen at

Click to view video.

At the inaugural Chronos Film Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nov. 3-5, Halverson’s Tempest Milky Way entry won best overall and audience choice.

His award included an impressive package of innovative tools for filmmakers from Kessler Crane, a $500 check from presenting sponsor Vimeo, a chance to be featured on the Time Warner channel in the “Spotlight Segment” of INd TV, and Production Premium C5.5 software donated by Adobe.

What viewers saw was three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of wheat, corn, sunflowers, clouds, stars, and lightning.

The subjects are routine for Midwesterners. The presentation is anything but. Set to pulsating orchestration, the stars move through the sky like falling snow. Clouds move over the landscape like a passing airplane. Dramatic angles and flickering celestial lights build anticipation as one scene blends to the next.

Images are taken with a still camera on a dolly—a six-foot-long aluminum rail—taking pictures as it moves.

“It makes people feel like they’re walking through it,” Halverson says.

Developing a big following

A viewer on his Web site says, “I have never been able to view the sky as you have captured it, and the motion and music enhances the gorgeous imagery. I keep imagining your work on a large IMAX screen . . . The images deserve that type of venue.”

Halverson has a lot of followers—5,600 on Facebook alone, 5,000 on Goggle+, and 1,300 on Twitter.

“Whenever I put a video out, the numbers kind of jump. That’s how a lot of people see it and that’s how it ends up on the bigger Web sites. This morning I put up a ‘behind the scenes’ video, and LA Times Photo retweeted what I put on Twitter. They have 160,000 followers,” Halverson says.

While the numbers don’t outnumber the stars he photographs, they are impressive when considering his tenure.

Halverson didn’t create the Dakotalapse Web site until December 2010 and has only been doing time-lapse photography for about two years. He blames the Internet for his new hobby/occupation. “I was already doing stock video footage and was looking for something different to do,” when he discovered time-lapse photography on the Internet, he says.

So far he has completed five videos with the sixth just waiting for the music from an LA producer.

History Channel a client

Some of Halverson’s time-lapse footage was licensed for History Of The World In 2 Hours—5,000 Years Before Us on the History Channel. In addition to selling footage, he also sells prints from his Web site and has advertisers to generate a little money.

“I want it to pay for itself,” says Halverson, adding that he doesn’t figure his time into his expenses.

For his solid income, he relies on what grows from his 1,300 acres of central South Dakota farmland. For his avocational income, he relies on a new moon, meteor storms, and approaching storm clouds—much of the same things he observed before the farmer became a photographer.

Producing a time-lapse video may take even more patience than being a farmer.

Time + technology = art

His three-minute and thirty-nine second Tempest Milky Way video was shot in a span of a month and a half. “You can shoot when there is a full moon, but it won’t look as good. I try to get out under a new moon or when the moon isn’t out,” Halverson says.

He uses two cameras when he shoots and it takes four hours of time-lapse photography per camera to generate fifteen seconds of video.

But Halverson is excited to be part of a growing niche of artists taking advantage of technology to produce astro art. “New cameras with the high ISOs make the images look a lot better. Ten years ago it would have been a lot harder to do,” he says.

His best work—Temporal Distortion, shot in South Dakota, Utah, and Colorado—is yet to come, he promises.

Dave Graves


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