Lights, camera, action

Lights, camera, action


The ghostly figure of a ballet dancer rises up in front of Sydney’s glowing skyline - the result of a visual trick created by projecting light onto spraying jets of water.

The display was a preview of the annual Vivid Sydney festival, during which the Australian city hosts an array of spectacular light shows. Reuters photographer Jason Reed captured the event through time-lapse photography.


Thousands of still images shot over four nights were used to make this time-lapse video.

"Every shot I took required careful planning. In one case, I even needed an escort to take me to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge."
Jason Reed, Reuters Photographer

Sydney is one of the first cities to celebrate the coming of the New Year every January 1, and people around the globe are familiar with the spectacular fireworks that accompany many a popped champagne cork as the clock strikes midnight.

When I was a young boy, my family would join thousands of others and find a spot along the harbour foreshore to drink it all in (the fireworks that is!). We never went to the same place twice and it was always an adventure.

Now, all grown up and armed with a camera, I went on an assignment that helped me relive some of those childhood memories. I was covering the Vivid Sydney festival, a spectacle of light, talks and music that is not as well known as the city’s New Year’s celebrations, but still a sight to see.

The light shows that take place there are billed by organisers as “a wonderland of 'light art' sculptures, innovative installations and grand-scale projections”. Covering it for the first time, I was intrigued to find out if Vivid Sydney could match the hype.

As I thought about the event before it opened, more and more potential locations flooded my mind. That’s when I thought outside the box and set myself a challenge - both to transmit images daily for the Reuters Pictures Wire and at the same time to create a time-lapse of all the locations I visited around Sydney.

From moving images projected onto walls of sprayed water, to a building that was transformed into a ‘tree of life’, every shot I took required careful planning. In one case, I even needed an escort to take me to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a bird’s eye view of the spectacle.

The video produced here is the result. It consists of more than 12,000 still images shot over four nights with a Canon 5D Mark III camera and several lenses ranging from 16mm to 400mm.

My other equipment: a heavy-duty tripod, a Kessler motorised slider and head, plenty of batteries, memory cards and a willing assistant to help carry the load. Armed with all this, I was able to make picture sequences consisting of several hundred images each stitched together into movie clips.

As I worked on this story, my childhood memories did come flooding back. I remembered the throng of the crowd and the endless walking to find the right vantage point. The only difference was that today I had over 70 kilos of equipment. Good thing I was too busy having fun to notice…