Hyperlapse video: hiking the epic Grampians Peaks Trail in 5.5 minutes | Australia holidays

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Where/what are the Grampians?

The Grampians (Gariwerd) national park is a rugged wilderness of striking sandstone mountain ranges, expansive grasslands, windswept ridges and dense bush located in the highlands of western Victoria, three hours drive from Melbourne.

When I heard they were creating a new multi-day hike that would stretch the entire 160km length of the Grampians – the Grampians Peaks Trails (GPT) – I knew I wanted to experience it as soon as possible. Luckily for me, Parks Victoria had seen the Guardian’s previous hyperlapse video showcasing the Bondi-to-Manly walk, and were happy to see if it would be possible to create something similar on a larger scale.

Grampians Peaks Trail is a 160km challenging 13-day/12-night hike through a variety of terrain in the Grampians (Gariwerd) national park
Grampians Peaks Trail is a 160km challenging 13-day/12-night hike through a variety of terrain in the Grampians (Gariwerd) national park

How was the hike?

The entire GPT clocks in at a lengthy 160km from end-to-end, but I only had a week off in which to hike and capture the footage I needed. Hours poring over topographic maps and meetings with Parks Victoria were required to come up with a condensed itinerary that would hit all the major highlights of the trail.

Some days were dropped, some days were combined, but in the end we concocted an arduous 120km version of the trail I could complete over seven days.

A spectacular view from day two of the Grampians Peaks Trail, a newly-built 160km hike in western Victoria’s Grampians national park. Photograph: David Fanner/The Guardian

I combined the first two days of the hike, two of the hardest days, into one gigantic, 10-hour, bulging blister of a day, arriving at Gar campsite in the pouring ran as it grew dark, and feeling like I had bitten off more than I could chew.

But after that baptism of fire, my hiking legs took hold. One of the best parts about a long hike like the GPT is how it affords you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a variety of ever-changing landscapes as you meander up and down the mountain ranges.

An encounter with an echidna along the Grampians Peaks Trail
An encounter with an echidna along the Grampians Peaks Trail. Photograph: David Fanner/The Guardian

Ironically, the memory from my GPT experience that will stay with me forever didn’t make it into the hyperlapse due to the limitations of the camera in low-light. I woke up on the final morning to the most incredible cloud inversion I’ve ever seen. After a night of howling winds where I only slept a couple of hours, I awoke to absolute silence and the sun rising up over a sea of clouds.

Cloud inversion phenomenon in the Grampians National Park – video

By the final day of my condensed GPT, I felt like I could continue on for another week … although I was happy to finish off the hike with a beer back in Halls Gap.

Well, the hike sounds great … what’s a hyperlapse again?

A timelapse is a photographic technique by which the capture rate of a sequence of frames is much slower than the speed in which they are played back. You’re manipulating time to show – in only a few seconds – events that may take several minutes, days or even weeks.

Adding movement to the camera is the next step in the process, turning a stationary timelapse into a hyperlapse. Now we are not only speeding up time, we’re also changing the point of view.

In the case of a hiking hyperlapse, we’re now able to give a creative interpretation of our experience walking incredibly long distances.

How did you make it?

I utilised the same techniques for creating this hyperlapse as I did for the Bondi-to-Manly hyperlapse – that is, stick a 360º camera in a backpack and go walking. But that was where the similarities ended. Every aspect of the GPT hyperlapse was harder than the Bondi-to-Manly.

David Fanner hikes through the Grampians National Park with a 360º camera sticking out of his backpack
David Fanner hikes through the Grampians national park with a 360º camera sticking out of his backpack. Photograph: David Fanner/The Guardian

For starters, I didn’t have the two most iconic examples of Australian architecture – the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge – to use as a crutch. To compensate for this I wanted to get more ambitious with camera movement, going so far as to tape the 360º camera to a drone so the hyperlapse would seamlessly take to the air over the orange rock of Taipan Wall.

The sheer length of the hike and remoteness of some sections meant batteries and memory cards were a constant concern. Disaster also struck when a rock scratched one of the two ultra-wide lenses on the third day. Luckily the damage didn’t affect the functioning of the camera, and I was able to continue recording. But for the rest of the hike I had to hold the selfie-stick and camera in front of me like a standard bearer in a marching parade.

Walking with a giant selfie-stick and 360º camera as part of the Grampians Peaks Trail hyperlapse
Walking with a giant selfie-stick and 360º camera as part of the Grampians Peaks Trail hyperlapse. Photograph: David Fanner/The Guardian

What did you do with all the footage?

The longest part of this project is also the worst part – post-production.

Long gone is the excitement and joy of the hike … now is the time of sitting in front of a computer screen at ungodly hours, painstakingly moving keyframes around while you begin to question your choices in life.

Post-production on the GPT hyperlapse was long and complicated
Post-production on the GPT hyperlapse was long and complicated

The biggest difficulty arose when I started going through the footage. What I didn’t consider is that the majority of the Bondi-to-Manly is on paved footpaths, boardwalks or flat beaches – this allows for a consistency of footfall that I never appreciated.

That consistency creates a smoother passage when the footage is sped up. The majority of the Grampians Peaks Trail is on uneven, or even steep and difficult terrain. Of course, this ruggedness is one of the main attractions of the GPT, but when you’re trying to create a hyperlapse it can be a nightmare.

Not only do you need to smooth out spatial shakes and movements, but you need to think about stabilisation temporally as well. Little pauses to catch a breath, adjust a pack or climb over a steep rock all need to be smoothed out by making an edit and then adjusting the two new clips to match each other.

Before and after comparison of GPT hyperlapse footage
Before and after comparison of GPT hyperlapse footage

What’s next?

Making these hyperlapse videos is such a fun creative process … you don’t really know what you have until you have finished the trail. They’re much more rough around the edges than traditional content you might see promoting an outdoor experience.

I’ve got my eye on a few more possibilities in the year ahead: Tassie … I’m looking at you.

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