Doing a Time-lapse (Part 1)

I've just walked to the top of the long and thin hills that run parallel to the equally long and thin City of Karratha*. It's just past four, and the afternoon is perhaps thinking of cooling down after a high of thirty-two degrees.

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Actually, is that the minimum? A thirty-two degree day is a blessing up here in the middle of summer. I check the weather again: thirty-two maximum, twenty-four minimum. Not bad, and I'm glad for it since I'll be spending the rest of the day outside.

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This is my third time in three days up to the top of these hills. The first was a long walk with my brothers for the sunset. The second, a drive that took us around the backside of the hills and up a well-used four-wheel drive track to what may very well be the town lookout (despite refusing to be marked on most of our maps). This third time though, the going has been a bit tougher since I've dragged up much of my camera equipment (including my Canon with a heavy 14mm lens, my trusty Fuji, and the tripod), as well as a camping chair. As I write this blog post, the DSLR will sit on the tripod and I'll sit on the chair.

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Yes, this is Real Time Writing (RTW) that's happening. Live from the scene of action. Here, I'll prove it to you. A man is walking up the track just near me now. He is wearing boardies and a black shirt with some picture on it, while he holds two water bottles in his hands. I've just given him a half-hearted wave of greeting to which he has either ignored me or not seen. Let's hope it's the latter because I don't want to be thinking about how awkward that was for me just now.

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How does that prove I'm here right now? Quite simply, I wouldn't have remembered any of that detail if I wasn't writing it down just now. Although I will remember that wave I gave him. That was so awkward.

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So, yeah. I'm shifting around, trying to find a comfortable spot for the chair while hoping the wind doesn't rip the hinges of my laptop off. The click you've been hearing, well that's the Canon working away. I've currently got it set to take one photo every fourteen seconds**, meaning it'll take more than two hours to fill up my 16GB memory card. At that point I'll take the card out to do a quick transfer of the images to my Mac before resuming the image-taking process.

Time-lapse and chill.

Some of my Settings...

(Skip this section if you're not a photographer)

I should note here that I shoot all my time lapse photos in RAW so that I have a great amount of control later on in editing. It's best to get things right in camera, but over a few hours a lot can change and you don't want to be stuck with JPEGs when putting your time-lapse together.

As for those important camera settings, I've got the camera on manual exposure with the aperture at f10ish, the shutter at 1/800s and ISO at 200. I suppose I better explain why I've got those settings set to what they're set at. Set.

Firstly, why do I bother having the camera on manual exposure? Mostly to stop any drastic changes in exposure. The wind is making the clouds move pretty steadily over the landscape, which means that the camera might try to compensate too much for when the sun disappears behind a cloud (since it gets darker). I'll change the settings quite a bit as the sun sets (probably to aperture priority) but for the moment this should stop any "flicker" in the final product. Flicker is where a frame or two (i.e a photo), is brighter or darker than the rest. It ruins the experience of watching a time-lapse, so you'll want to avoid it.

The rest of the settings are a bit easier to explain. The aperture is at f10ish so that most things in the frame are in focus. I say "ish" because the lens is a manual one and, having a look at it, it's somewhere between f8 and f11. Either of these apertures will usually be the sharpest parts of the lens, so I'd advise going for that. 1/800s is what the camera came up with as what I needed for good exposure, while ISO 200 should minimise any noise I might get.

I think that's all for now. I might read a book while I wait for the sun to set. It's still gonna be another two hours, then I'll probably hang around for another half-hour or so until I'm making my way down the track in the dark. See you back in the studio.

Sunset

No wait. I'm still here. The wind is still blowing like crazy, but the sun has just set. And wow. What a sunset it was. That'd make for a good time-lapse. Except my camera is pointed in slightly the wrong direction, so that it just catches the eye of the sunset.

AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH.

Oh well, I suppose. Live and learn.

Taken with my Fuji, who decided to run out of battery right around sunset. I had to keep turning it on to take a quick shot before it turned off again.

My excuse is that I didn't think it was gonna be a great sunset (yes, I know, I was wrong), plus I wanted to get more of the town than the hills over which the sun set. Plus I do like the composition I've got on the camera. Maybe next time though I'll just aim to get the sunset and not worry too much about the rest.

But enough complaining, I'll have to get back to the computer before I really know how it's turned out. Sooooo... back to the studio.


This post was going to be just the one, lonely blog post, but after writing it I've decided to split it into two. The next part is more about the editing and putting together of the video using Lightroom and LR Timelapse, with a few technical details for those who want them. If you know of someone who might want to learn how to make time lapses with their DSLRs, be sure to share this (and the next post) with them.

If you want to keep up with the blog and my photography, you can like my Facebook page and/or follow me on Instagram. In the meantime, here's one of my earlier time-lapses.

JR

This time-lapse from a week or two back was taken out at the Dampier Salt mine along the Dampier Highway. It was after this one that I think I got hooked. Although, it's early days yet... BTW, the full video (including when the stars come out) can be viewed on Facebook.


*Karratha is a "city" in official terms, but in actuality is more of a large town.

**I use Magic Lantern's intervalometer for my time-lapses. Basically, ML is a hack for certain Canon DSLRs that opens up a range of possibilities, especially in terms of video. For example, I also use focus peaking thanks to ML before taking shots with my manual lenses. If you don't have ML, you can always use an intervalometer either in-camera (if you can) or off-camera.

Joel Gibson

Read more posts by this author.

Perth, Western Australia

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