Helvetia by night
Hunting for stars with Alessandro Della Bella
A visual tribute to the overwhelming beauty of Switzerland at night. This is the only way to describe the stunning time-lapse short films by Swiss photographer Alessandro Della Bella. Using up to five cameras, he produced thousands of images - predominantly on the peaks of the Swiss mountain landscape - on moonless nights, and strung these together to create a time-lapse movie.
Using the project name Helvetia by Night - named after the allegorical Swiss female figure - Della Bella has so far produced a total of six time-lapse films. These have not only received enthusiastic comments on various internet video portals, but have also impressed both international and national press, such as the Swiss newspaper, Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
His choice of location is, in his own words, usually spontaneous. He chooses a target depending on time, moon phase, weather forecast, availability and personal interest. After arriving - often with around 50kg of equipment - he begins the first test shots in order to set up the cameras, some of which are motion-controlled.
Impressive mountain landscape
After nightfall, the work begins, as the focus, exposure, battery, and memory settings must be continually checked. Sometimes, he even finds himself in temperatures as low as -25°C.
However, Della Bella stays put, even under adverse circumstances, giving the overwhelming nature time to impress: "The Swiss mountain landscape is impressive, I am amazed every time I see it. Despite, or perhaps because of the physical exertion, I find the excursions liberating. A clear, cold night on a mountain top is like meditation for me."
The results of his night shoots are overwhelming: the valleys blaze with man-made light, cars shoot like lightning through the darkness, the mountain peaks are combined with the charming interplay of an ever-changing sea of clouds, while above all this, the heavens revolve with their myriad of stars.
Della Bella has been fascinated by the night for years. In the beginning, he still shot on film; he was thrilled that the technical possibility existed to do so. Time lapse photography has opened up new perspectives for him.
When asked about the appeal of the technology, he emphasises his joy in adding the dimension of time to the images. He considers his project Helvetia by Night to be a kind of recreational sport compared to his daily routine as a professional photographer.
The joy of seeing
At the age of 17, Della Bella started, in his own words, to commit himself to photography. His first camera was a Nikon F801s. Nowadays, he prefers the EOS-1Ds Mark III during the day, or the EOS-1D X by Canon for night. However, despite all this technology, it is still the joy of photography that is most important to him. Because, as he points out, seeing is a pleasure for him.
Della Bella is continuously working on development of his recording technology. Here, he uses the key word hyperlapse. In this case, the camera moves over long distances in time lapse. While the camera angle changes automatically on a rail over distances of up to two metres, hyperlapse requires tedious manual work, with tripods over dozens of metres.
His dream location for the project would be the International Space Station. Closer to home, however, there are some waterfalls which appeal to him as a theme. In general, he wants to concentrate on Switzerland for the time being.
Although he receives international orders, he is still inspired by the incredible cultural diversity that the relatively small area of Switzerland offers him. The nature of the country also fascinates him. Raised in Arosa, Della Bella is convinced that we should also protect the nature that surrounds us, as we are ultimately a part of it.
LINK Helvetia by Night
TIP: On the 28th of September, the picture book "Helvetia by Night" will appear in NZZ Libro.