Cheesman Timelapse Installation

September 8, 2015

Mike Farrell, Mike Forsberg, and Jeff Dale all set the frame of the timelapse camera at Cheesman Reservoir. 

Let me introduce you to our latest permanent timelapse cameras located in the high country of the South Platte River Basin, 50 miles southeast of downtown Denver. These two cameras are capturing change over time at the Cheesman reservoir and spillway. Cheesman Dam became the world’s tallest dam at 221 feet when construction finished in 1905. In 1918 the Denver Water Board purchased the reservoir and its facilities. The South Platte River, dammed behind the reservoir, flows down Cheesman Mountain and supplies 80,000 acre-feet (or 26 billion gallons) of water to 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. With Denver’s population expected to double within the next 50 years and weather patterns becoming increasingly extreme and unpredictable, it will be interesting to watch the reservoir over time.

Looking down at the South Platte River from Cheesman Dam.

This past summer, I accompanied PBT leaders Mike Forsberg, Mike Farrell, and Jeff Dale to install the two new cameras. This was my first time witnessing the process and let me tell you, a lot more goes into it than simply sticking a camera in the ground and turning it on.

Folks from Denver Water accompany PBT members to install a timelapse camera looking downstream from the Cheesman Spillway. 

Members of the Platte Basin Timelapse team do hours of research to decide where the camera should go, why, and what it will reveal. Once a location is determined then the property owners of the desired location must be contacted, and this could take days, weeks or months to reach and establish a relationship with the property owners. If the property owners give us the green light to install, then we start planning a trip to the location.

PBT camera engineer, Jeff Dale, shows a Denver Water employee how the timelapse camera work. 

Coordination schedules, booking hotels, driving 8+ hours, and gathering equipment are just some of the elements that go into installation trips. Once we arrive at the location, there’s a lot of digging, nailing, hammering, and sweating that goes into building the base structure of the camera. Next, Jeff Dale, our camera engineer, uses a solar panel and handmade technology to take over the brains of the cameras and set them to take one picture per hour of daylight. Lastly, we take the time to find and line up the perfect frame for the camera.

Watch what it takes to install these cameras and see the payoff from all of our hard work.


Cheesman Spillway

Cheesman Reservoir


PBT team photo. Summer 2023

About PBT

We are a group of storytellers using timelapse photography and multimedia storytelling to explore watersheds. PBT has been in motion since 2011.

Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about stories, projects, and other things we’ve been up to.

You have Successfully Subscribed!