The change of seasons is such a self-evident phenomenon that we take it for granted yet we struggle to catch it in the act. Look outside: nature seems so static compared to the hectic lives we must live. At best, we might notice a sudden heatwave or an unexpected freeze, a violent storm or a particularly vibrant sunset. But in fact nature is everything but still – it’s in constant motion changing and morphing, we just function on different timescales. Maybe that’s the reason we sometimes struggle to grasp bigger shifts such as climate change?
The obsession with trying to bring those timescales closer for me started with timelapses with relatively simple techniques I could speed up hours and translate them to human-perceptible seconds. I was fascinated by the results, but soon after found myself wondering: what’s next? At the dawn of drone photography, I briefly played around with aerial time-lapses, but the results were somewhat lacking. That is until the spring of 2019 when I asked a simple question: what if I could somehow speed up the change of seasons and at the same time showcase the nuanced beauty of Latvia which just happens to be blessed by proper four seasons? And do it in the most dynamic way possible to pay homage to the fluid nature of nature (what a mouthful!).
About 30 locations all around Latvia were chosen, from the iconic bends of river Daugava and the lake district of Latgale to the ancient valley of Gauja National park to bogs of Ķemeri National park, the rocky beaches and rolling hills of Vidzeme, pine forests of Kurzeme and agricultural lands of Zemgale. Unsure how much of it would end up in the final piece (in fact, more than half of the material didn’t make the cut), I kept driving thousands of kilometers, returning to the same locations over and over again. Amidst all the logistics and technicalities thoughts about the meaning of it all kept creeping in. The value and fragility of the present, the coming of better times and the passing of bad ones, the inevitable cyclicity of it all yet at the same time the uniqueness of each cycle. In this case, nature is a mere catalyst for the philosophy behind it.
At first, there was an urge to create a conventional story, but the more I tried to build a narrative the more I felt no need for it. There was no clear beginning or an end to this story as it is with nature itself. I ended up choosing an arbitrary length for the video fully realizing that some viewers could exit at any point (based on statistics of any video, most do just that) and some could be left wanting more or using the video as a pure background piece.
While researching the nature of change, the texts of French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his process philosophy resonated deeply with what I was trying to convey using my moving images so much so that I included a couple of his quotes in the video. To expand on that would mean a long and uneasy read, but here’s an excerpt from Henri Bergson’s series of lectures “The Perception of Change” (“La perception du changement”) which introduces his school of thought and is also applicable to the context of this project:
Change is absolute and radical: it has no support. We are misled by sight, which is only the avant-garde for touch: it prepares us for action. But if we switch to hearing a melody, we have a better sense of indivisible change, although we still do have a tendency to hear a series of notes. This is due either to our thinking of the discontinuous series of efforts needed to sing the melody, or because we see the notes on the conductor’s script. But if we come back to sight and think about what science teaches us, we see how matter is dissolved into action, how there are no things that move, but only changes in the rhythms of motion. Nowhere do we see this “substantiality of change” better than in our inner life. We are misled by thinking of a series of invariable states with an unchanging ego for support, like actors passing over a stage. But there is no underlying thing-ego that changes. All we are is a melody; this is our duration (interfused heterogeneous continuous change), although we are led by practical interest to spatialize this time.
The full Landscapes of Change project including technical information, details of production, and the method of post-production can be read in a detailed blog post on Baranov’s website.
About the author: Arvids Baranovs is a multi-disciplinary visual creative having worked through various digital media from web design to graphic design from new media installations to typography, but in recent years has settled with filmmaking as his main occupation. He creates short films for the travel industry (but not limited to) as well as pursues personal projects that are on the crossroads between nature/travel documentary and experimental art. This story also appeared here.