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Portals on Mauna Loa

6 minutes

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Journey into the deep history of the cosmos via the Mauna Loa volcano

Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i is perhaps best known for its weather observatory, where scientists have been tracking changes in the atmosphere, especially the progression of climate change and the advance of ozone and pollution, since the 1950s. More than a few have expressed surprise that this observatory cast its gaze over our planet and not the cosmos beyond, because the view of the celestial sea from these peaks is more spectral, haunting and dramatic than from most other places on Earth.

The cinematic possibilities were not lost on the filmmaker Lance Page, who was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he lives today. Over the course of 17 years, working across various media, Page ultimately came to specialise in dynamic time-lapse and motion control cinema, both techniques he could wield to capture sections of the sky continually or in bursts. Ultimately, he could condense images taken over the course of months or years into a few seconds, blending the natural movement of stars into short films where the trajectories were sped up so that months or years of choreography across the sky could be represented in seconds for us. ‘I like to blend the two into collages of deep dives into our vibrant reality,’ Page explains.

The results could not be more exquisite. For four years, from 2014-18, Page captured the eruptions at the Kilauea Volcano in a series of short takes. As a follow-up to the series, he filmed the movement of the cosmos from the same region, pioneering the use of time-lapse to track the rotation of the stars from Earth in his film Ride the Sky.

His next short film, ReflectionVOID 1.5: Portals on Mauna Loa, featured here, filters images of the starry skies over the volcano through Page’s artistic lens, giving us a time-lapse of the cosmos we could otherwise never glimpse. The images of incoming light, planets and shooting stars, presented through cascading, colliding portals in the film, are arresting not only for their beauty, but also for the deep history they tell. After all, starlight itself travels light years across the void, meaning that everything we see in Page’s film has happened in the past. Light from our neighbouring star, Sirius, takes up to nine years to reach us; most of the cosmic bodies dancing across Page’s filmography have travelled hundreds or thousands of years to light up his lens. Their separate histories can be traced to different cosmic epochs, but they are comingled for us here, at last.

Page shot ReflectionVOID1.5 in 12 nights over three new Moon phases at an altitude of above 9,000 feet on Mauna Loa during the summer months of 2020. The film features the Comet Neowise. To produce the music, Page explains that ‘many different sonic layers were combined together to create the endless voice of space’.

To enjoy this video, we recommend viewing it in a dark environment, on a big screen, and with the best sound system you have.

Director: Lance Page

Music: howardAmb, John Fryer

20 January 2021