Click the play button above to watch embedded video, or for an high res experience, follow this link to watch the 16:9 HD version on Vimeo.

1400 images over 5 hours, 10 seconds apart, compressed to a minute and a half 🙂

I decided to play a role in this one, alongside a glass of our favorite Husch Sauvignon Blanc and a Rolling Stone magazine. It was WINDY & COLD up there, and a misty drizzly rain started falling when I decided to leave my post, as evidenced by the mist on the lens filter in the video about mid-way through. Instead of bail on the project, I cleaned the filter, tightly plastic bagged the camera and let ‘er roll! Was a fun way to capture the afternoon and early part of the night.

What I’ve learned about time lapse photography over the past few years:

  • Prepare everything in advance. When you’re going to do it, how you’re going to set it up, your composition, etc. Otherwise you end up moving the camera or making other changes on the fly. Follow up point: be willing to adapt. Nothing sucks worse than planning for a 5 hour exposure and then realizing that when you used the lens hood to attach a plastic bag to protect your camera from drizzly rain falling upon it, you left it partially in the frame for 30 minutes of exposures…
  • Use a solid tripod. I never use a tripod in my professional work, so the one I have sucks, it’s one I got as a gift from someone in college like 10 years ago… and in the borderline hurricane force winds on our roof above the Bay, a weak tripod will wiggle and shake as you expose the camera over a long period of time. You can argue that artistically it adds to the experience… but if I had $400 in my photography budget for a nice tripod, I’d have lugged that puppy up there with a big fat sandbag and saved myself some shakin’.
  • There’s no way you’re going to sit there clicking the shutter for each exposure, so use an intervalometer. This gives you time to enjoy the view, run downstairs to fill up your glass of wine, have dinner with your girlfriend, watch an episode of Law & Order SVU, and still have 878 frames left in your sequence… I’m blessed with a sometimes annoying to set up, but conveniently built in intervalometer with my camera. Many new DSLRs have this option built in. On my camera (and possibly yours) the option is placed under the “shooting menu” accurately titled “interval timer shooting.” They all setup a little differently, so poke around your menus or your camera manual until you figure it out. For example, the Nikon D700 has you choose 1) the interval, then 2) # of shots, so you have to do some math depending on how long you want your time lapse to be… (for reference, when you create your image sequence, you’ll want anywhere from at least 15 frames per second to 30 frames per second, so plan accordingly).
  • When possible (and it wasn’t really in this video), use slower shutter speeds for your individual exposures. This will make the “video” you’re creating come together in a smoother fashion as each frame will drag easier into the next, much like, wait for it… a motion picture.
  • When shooting faster moving objects (windy days with clouds moving quickly overhead, sports, etc.) use a smaller interval. You can use a longer one with more static, slower changing elements, or when studying glacial movement over a number of years like these guys: Extreme Ice Survey.
  • Shoot in JPEG. Unless you feel like converting thousands of RAW images into a format your time lapse program can read (and if that’s your idea of a good time, good on ya mate), keep it simple. I chose a 10 second interval here, and ended up with 1400 image files to put together, but if I had used a 1 second interval for the same time period, I would have had 14,000… I’ll get there, just not right now.
  • Unless you’re making a career in it, you can use free software on the web, or give Apple another $30 of your hard earned money and purchase Quicktime 7 Pro. I used QT 7 Pro for both of the time lapse vids on my site. It’s easy to put all of the images in one folder, open the image sequence, and make the magic happen.

A couple of resources I have found useful:

The first time lapse I did from our roof lives here: I’ll have to do a sunset one soon. Tonight would have been a good night… Until next time!

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