Get To Know Craig Shimala From Time-lapsechicago

Introduce yourself

My name is Craig Shimala and I was born and raised in Crown Point, Indiana. I’ve worked at for over 13 years and am currently the Social Media Manager. I also do a bit of freelance photography/video work here and there and also run Time-lapse Chicago.

How was life growing up for you in Crown Point?

Life was good in Crown Point. It was a small town, but only 47 miles from Chicago so I made many trips to the city growing up. My family owned a chain of video rental stores so I was always surrounded by movies and video games. It was called Box Office Video. I actually have the original 8’x8’ sign hanging on my bedroom wall. In high school, my friends and I got into making all kinds of home movies. I’m hoping those tapes (nondigital) will be discovered and find their way onto some found footage site.

It was also in high school that I was introduced to the Graphic Arts. My counselor suggested I sign up for a production graphics class. It hit on everything from darkroom photography to producing signs and books to my first taste of Photoshop in 1997. I haven’t stopped creating since that class.

You’ve been a part of Threadless since 2004.  How’d you find out about threadless?

My intro to Threadless was through Jake Nickell, one of the co-creators and one of my best friends in high school. After I graduated from Purdue, I started helping them out by shipping orders, doing customer service and working with the screen printers. At this time, Threadless was still in its infancy. This was also a temporary job, so I ended up leaving to take on an internship at Leo Burnett that turned into a freelance position doing some digital web stuff. Then at the end of 2003, the guys at Threadless offered me a position to come back full time and I jumped at the opportunity.


When did you start getting involved with videography?

Around the time I returned to Threadless, I had got my first point and shoot camera that recorded video. The Canon Powershot S400. It came with a 32mb memory card! With Threadless still in its early startup years, I started filming us doing stupid stuff around the office and making little shorts based on t-shirt designs. At the time, Youtube didn’t exist so they lived on my own custom built website which if it wasn’t for a recent server change, would still be viewable (I’m having it looked at this week to get it live again). People really resonated with the videos through the years and it eventually turned into my full time job as a content creator at Threadless.

How has it been working at Threadless over the past 13 years?

Man, it’s been a wild 13 years. When I started our “warehouse” was a few rolling racks of tees in a small section of our office. From there it just kept growing and growing. We had one sale where we sold over a million dollars of t-shirts in one day. Eventually, we would grow into a 35,000+ sq foot office/warehouse in the West Loop. One thing that still remains true of Threadless is the people. From the employees to the designers from all around the world that trust us with their art. The friendships I have made all over the world are priceless.

In 2008 you did an interview on threadless blog and you said that you have been on a time-lapse kick. What caused you to first start taking time lapses?

In June of 2007, I joined and started being exposed to all kinds of new video content. One type that really caught my eye was time-lapse videos. There was something about them that immediately drew me in and I Wanted to learn how to create them on my own. Then a few months later, in October, I moved into a new place that had a full unobstructed view of the skyline. It was then that I started to take notice how the weather interacted with the skyline and thought this was the perfect time to ramp up my time-lapse creations.

A lot of people may know you from the timelapsechicago instagram.

Timelapse Chicago came to life when Instagram first introduced video in June of 2013. Prior to that, I was shooting tons of time-lapses, but they would sit on my hard drive until I got around to creating a full on themed video which maybe happened a once or twice a year. When the video feature came out, I thought this is the perfect platform to share my creations in a more timely manner with the Instagram community. It’s been a fun passion project and really fun to see those that call (or have called) Chicago home get a kick out of it.

I have three questions from my friend Matt Andersen. First, have you ever experienced with day to night lapses?

Aww yeah, the holy grail of time-lapsing, the perfect day to night transition! While I have had some success, I’ve had far more failures trying to do them. In fact, the last one I shot was a full 24 hour day to night to day shot. But when I put the memory card in my card reader, everything was corrupt. That sucked, hahahaha. I need to move on from that and do some more!

How about with motion control lapses?

I’m a pretty scrappy shooter and usually on the move a lot so my experiences with motion control time-lapses have been very basic. I’ve only done some simple motion shots with very inexpensive panning heads. One day I would love to take my time-lapses to the next level with a nice motion controlled slider setup.

Lately, I’ve been seeing you use your drone for timelapses.

This past winter I purchased my first drone, the DJI Mavic Pro. Now that we’ve fully left winter behind, I’m excited to experiment a bit more with using it as another tool in my time-lapse arsenal.

On average how long does it take to shoot all of the photos, and how many photos on average per shoot?

It all depends on the action of the scene and how much you want it to develop, and how smoothly you want that to happen. Timing wise, it could be as little as a few minutes or it could be a few hours to even a full day and beyond. A number of photos you capture also affects how smooth the final footage will look. The average sunrise time-lapse for me could have anywhere from 450 to a few thousand photos taken over a few hours. If I’m shooting a really fast paced scene downtown with people or traffic I could get a number of shots I need within 10 minutes. The number of hard drives I have filled with photos is silly and scary. Organized backups are a bit challenging for me, hahahah.

On the timelapsechicago page, you tend to be all over. What have been your favorite Chicago places to shoot?

Hands down my favorite place to shoot is from my outdoor balcony or roof. Outside of my home base, the curled pier at North Avenue Beach is my most frequented location. If I’m looking for a highly elevated vantage point, 360 Chicago atop the John Hancock Center is very welcoming to photographers. It’s also a treat to shoot from the Hard Rock Hotel.

Also, you’re always catching those good sunrises. What are some tips to catching a good sunrise?

First and foremost, check the weather forecast. It all depends on what you’re going for, but I usually hope for partly sunny with thin clouds for the sun to interact and create wonderful colors with. You also want to be at your location and setup at least 30-45 minutes before the actual time of sunrise. Every sunrise is different so you have to be ready to adjust with it. You can see a wide range of colors and changes before and after the rise.

You always dreamed of going to Georgia Aquarium. How was it going to see that?

Two things, Whale Sharks and Manta Rays! This is the only aquarium you can view them outside of Asia and in the world’s largest tank! I went with a group of friends but ended up staying another couple hours on my own taking it all in. I was hoping the staff would miss me at closing and lock me in there for the night, hahaha

One of your most recognized, if not, the most recognized timelapse you put out was your Triple lightning strike. Talk us through that night.

That night of the first triple lightning strike, I remember staying late at work to avoid the rush hour chaos. When I returned home, I was in my bedroom editing on my desktop computer and had no idea what was going on outside until someone asked me if I was watching what was going on. I walked over to the patio window and as soon as I got to it, I just remember seeing lightning going nuts. I was like oh man, and ran back to my room to get my gear and started recording video hoping to capture a big lightning strike. I was getting a few strikes here and there but nothing crazy until I went to stop the camera recording. As soon as I touched it, three of the tallest buildings in town were struck by lightning at the same time. Willis Tower (Tallest), Trump International Hotel and Tower (2nd Tallest) and the John Hancock Building(4th tallest). If you listen closely to the footage, you can hear me lightly say “yes!” after the triple strike happens. I knew I got something cool but I kept shooting as mother nature kept delivering more lightning along with a giant rainbow over the skyline. Later that night as I started to edit, I realized the footage was something special but it was 12:46am by the time I finally posted it to Vimeo and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to so many notifications. The video was all over the place and things didn’t really settle down till like a week after. Every now and then it will resurface. The most notable was when The Weather Channel came to my home to film a segment on me for the show Weather Caught on Camera.

I thought this was a once in a lifetime capture, but two years and few days from the first triple strike, I was able to a capture it again during the Derecho Storm. This time I was far more prepared. I had three cameras set up going nonstop. I was shooting and editing at the same time. I ended up dropping a full video on Vimeo of the full storm and was really happy with how it turned out. Some footage from it is in an upcoming blockbuster disaster movie called Geostorm so be on the lookout for that in October. But yeah, anytime there’s a crazy storm forecasted in the city, I’m always on high alert with my cameras ready to capture.

You’ve been able to shoot in a variety of cool places, where are some new places you want to shoot?

Hawaii and Japan come to mind first, as well as Jellyfish Lake in Palau. Antarctica would be pretty wild and challenging. If it can be anywhere, what about outer space!

When its all said and done how would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as someone who loved to show off Chicago, or whatever city I’m visiting, with my own creative spin and had a damn good time doing so.

Written by: Nico Rud