Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Time Lapse Part 1

I’ve recently been trying my hand at a bit of time lapse photography, I’d seen some amazing videos online so I thought I’d give it a bash. And although mine are not up to a particularly elevated standard, they were fun to do, and it was interesting to learn the process.

Taken at sunset looking over a flooded field. I thought the reflections might add a bit of interest. But the breeze kept the water moving about. Only up until sunset though, then you will see the water suddenly go very still.

It was not actually that difficult to put together, and while I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t yet become a fountain of knowledge on the finer details of the subject, probably more of a dribble to be honest. I still thought it might be useful to put together a couple of quick, rough and ready tutorials for those interested in having a go. This one deals with setting up for the shoot, and the next one will be about processing the images, and creating the video in Windows Movie Maker.

First up, and I would say, most importantly, the images need to be got. Find somewhere that has a good view of the sky, as moving clouds are usually the most interesting effect that can be had in a time lapse video, and try and include something stationary in the foreground or midground that will help emphasise the movement in other parts of the picture. A tree is a perfect subject for this.

This one was taken on a very windy evening so the shots were spaced 2 seconds apart to capture the movement in the clouds. You can see the colour soon disappeared as I hadn't got there early enough.

Once the location is found, then you have to decide how long the video will be. On my first few attempts at sunset, I got there far too late, (if I was taking stills it would have been perfect) and while I did get some sunset colour, once all the frames had been put together and speeded up, I was left with only 2-3 seconds of good light, with the rest of the video simply getting darker and darker.

So if it’s sunset you’re after, then get there in plenty of time, so you end up with the sun dipping towards the horizon and the sunset colours appearing while you’re shooting. The video at the top of the page took around 1 hour to shoot, taking a picture every 5 seconds, this left me with about 730 images which made 23 seconds of video. So you can see how quickly it speeds though the frames.

An interval timer is essential for this type of shoot, unless you want to be standing there, pressing the shutter every few seconds, which might get a bit boring. I use a wireless remote which I attach to one of the tripod legs with a Velcro strip, plus the lack of wire means it doesn’t get blown about if it’s a bit breezy.

I use a Hahnel Giga T Pro II which does the job admirably
Another thing that’s vital is a tripod, unless there is a very stable surface to rest the camera on knocking about, which can’t be guaranteed. So it’s probably best to bring the stable surface with you. Once the camera is set up and pointing in the right direction, there are a few settings to tinker with and it’s all systems go.

First of all set the white balance to something other than auto, set the exposure to manual and (once focused) turn off the auto focus, this will only drain the battery if it re-focuses every time it shoots. The reason the other settings should be changed is so the look of each image is the same from shot to shot, otherwise the finished video will have a flickering effect, because the exposure and white balance levels move as the ambient light changes.

In this short video the clouds were moving very slowly so the shots were spaced 10 seconds apart. I didn't keep shooting for long enough, as there was still some colour in the sky, (which I brought out in post) when I prematurely called it a day. Live and learn!

It’s worth considering how the light is going to alter throughout the shoot when it comes to setting the exposure. As this exposure has to last the duration. For the video at the top of the page, I was starting with a bright scene, looking into the sun, but I knew that as the sun went down, it would get darker. Obviously. So to make sure the recorded images weren’t pitch black after the sun had set, I had to over expose to begin with and hope I could pull some detail back in post processing.

And finally, I shoot small, good quality jpegs as they are a lot quicker to deal with afterwards, plus, unless you have, for example, a paid account on YouTube or Vimeo which allow HD uploads, they are going to get compressed when put online anyway, so there is no point starting out big.

And finally, finally, set the camera to Live View, that way the mirror is always up, and so eliminates camera shake from that particular operation.

Then it’s just a case of pressing start and then finding something to occupy yourself with for the next hour or two.

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