By P. Erik Meyer ’14
Michael Heiland ’14 has been taking photos since the sixth grade, but his recent pursuits have launched him into a bit of the spotlight.
“I always had a camera in my hand after sixth grade because my dad had a digital camera. I finally bought my own camera sophomore year and that’s when I got really serious.”
Heiland gave up one long time activity for what would become another.
“The reason I got serious is because I played club soccer, forever, for 12 years and then that is when I stopped when I got the camera,” Heiland said. “So I dropped soccer and picked up photography.”
For Heiland, photography was always self-taught until his Brophy career.
“Most of the photography I did up until last year was self taught until I took Mr. Mulloy’s photo classes,” Heiland said. “I am doing AP Photo, which I learned the most in because I actually have deadlines. Mr. Mulloy makes us responsible.”
In October, Heiland completed “The Valley,” a time-lapse photography project consisting of scenes from across Phoenix.
“I had always seen really cool videos online and cool pictures and I wanted to do that,” Heiland said. “I had always wanted to make a time lapse and I realized that no one had done a time lapse of Phoenix yet, so I thought this was my time to shine.”
He said the project could not have become a success without the support of some generous donations.
“I thought I could make it with just a tripod and a camera but I wanted motion,” Heiland said. “As you saw the whole video was motion controlled and so I emailed this company and I was like, ‘hey, I don’t have any money, I’m a high schooler can you guys hook me up.’ And so they hooked me up for more than half off, it was almost three fourths the price so this company pretty much sponsored me even though I was only 17.”
“The Valley” required a summer long effort.
“So they sponsored me and gave me some pretty cheap equipment and I think I stared the project the very first day of finals last May and that was a full learning experience,” Heiland said. “All summer I learned how to do time lapses and then I got really serious when I got back and after school I would just go out everyday, I was out at least three days a week up on a mountain.”
Heiland did not do the entire project alone. Brian Smith ’14 helped throughout the process.
“He was there easily 80 percent of the time, so he wasn’t there when I was learning over the summer but he helped me carry equipment up at four in the morning on Squaw Peak,” Heiland said. “Brian was a huge help, he didn’t have many of his own clips in the video but he helped with a lot of my shots.”
Smith and Heiland met coincidentally online, unaware at first that they both attended Brophy and were in the same class.
“Michael posted on Reddit asking for locations for his time lapse and I saw it and I responded not knowing it was him and then he replied and we figured out we went to school together so he’s like ‘Hey lets go do a time-lapse over the summer,” Smith said. “So we met up and from then on we just kept going out and taking time lapses over the summer. “
Smith who has been taking photos since freshman year, said he provided support to Heiland.
“I was a pack mule, I would carry stuff up and I would set up my camera or watch his camera while he went up and set up another shot,” Smith said.
According to Smith, he and Heiland plan on working again together this summer on another time-lapse project.
“I’ve learned a lot making ‘The Valley.’ Honestly I think it’s a learning experience, its not the best video,” Heiland said. “What I’m doing right now is ‘Discover Arizona’ or ‘Hidden Arizona,’ so what I’m going to be doing is basically, it’ll be about half the time of ‘The Valley’ but its going to be all nature shots, there are going to be no people, just going to be epic night shots and epic sunset shots. I’ll probably be living out of my car in the middle of nowhere for a solid month taking time lapses. That will be a much more professional shoot and also the sponsor guys are giving me more stuff, which is really chill.”
Heiland’s plans don’t stop this summer however. He plans on pursing photography as a career path.
“I’m going to the UofA next year for film school and so I’ll be learning how to make obviously films and stuff but I’m also going to take a bunch of photo classes too and so I don’t really know what the plan is,” Heiland said. “I know what I want to do but there are so many different paths to go down. Doing time lapses professionally would be cool, I wouldn’t mind being a time lapser but then doing wedding photography on the side just to make money, we’ll see what happens.”
The Valley from Michael Heiland on Vimeo.