Entire Waldo Canyon Fire captured in 16 minutes

Aug. 27, 2012

April Wefler
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While the Waldo Canyon Fire was on the warpath, evacuating more than 32,000 residents and amassing a two-person death toll, Stephen Moraco’s camera was snapping away.

Moraco, a junior at Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, grew up in Colorado Springs and took courses at UCCS while attending Colorado Springs Christian School.

His mother, Donna Moraco, works as director of the Center for Excellence in Languages and is an assistant professor, attendant rank.

Moraco was visiting for the summer when the fire started, and a friend suggested he start time lapsing. “I’ve been doing time lapses for a while, just for fun,” he said.

Moraco set up a camera to take small photos and swapped out the memory card every day or two. He then took all the pictures and developed them into video segments, making each one 24 frames per second.

The final video was then uploaded to his YouTube channel, Lovinlifesm, on June 29. At press time, the video had received over 441,000 views.

“Five days goes by in 16 minutes,” said Moraco. He added that the process was complicated and the time lapse killed his camera, a Canon 7D.

“I believe it’s rated for 100,000 pictures, and I was already well past that (before taking 32,000 over the course of a week).”

Growing up, Moraco was an avid photographer. “He’s had a camera ever since he could walk almost,” his mother said.

He shot his first wedding photos at age 11, put them on a DVD and handed it out to his family. However, it wasn’t until high school that he started to take himself more seriously.

“I still don’t take myself that seriously,” said Moraco. “I won the CSCS Evening of the Arts in 2008; it was delightful. It was a picture of the 16th Street Mall in Denver.”

Donna Moraco remembered that her son obtained his first professional camera during his sophomore year in high school.

“That was the turning point. We knew this was going to be something more serious than just picking up a camera and shooting a picture,” she said.

At the end of high school, he had to make a career decision: programming or photography. Moraco chose photography and chose SCAD for its photography program.

Moraco’s parents encouraged him and provided the means for him to do it on his own. “My husband and I both wanted Steve to pursue his passion,” his mother said.

She added, “He’s got strengths in other areas-he’s very good with computers and would’ve been a natural in the engineering fields, but photography was where his heart was.”

Despite currently living out of state, Moraco said that he likes the community here. “You don’t realize until after you leave how great it is. Colorado Springs is very unique.”

Moraco and a friend of his are now collaborating on a project that they’ve decided to call The Waldo Canyon Interviews.

“We’re interviewing a lot of firefighters and families, relief effort folks and businesses in the community that are giving back – [those that are] involved in fighting fire, fixing it [or] hurt by it.”

He noted that so far they have 40 interviews, five of which are already posted on the project’s website (waldocanyon.org/). “The firefighters from out of state that we interviewed said the community support was unparalleled for any disaster they’d ever been in,” Moraco said.

He added that many of the firefighters had been involved in the Hurricane Katrina effort and the space shuttle cleanup, but “they’d never seen any place like Colorado Springs.”