For the longest time I’ve wanted to do time-lapse photography. Not video sped up 800% in iMovie, but actual take-a-photograph-every-10-seconds time lapse. And since I’ve got a camera that is suited to doing that, I figured it was time.
A New Tool for my Bag
This week, I picked this up at Amazon, a Shoot remote timer that works with my camera. It allows for timing of the shutter release at just about any interval you can imagine. Set it to start shooting in X seconds or minutes and continue to shoot every X seconds or minutes until X photos have been shot. Or, shoot until you run out of space on your memory card or the battery in your camera dies. Automatically. As a bonus, this also works as a standard remote shutter release. Even without batteries, this feature works.
Then it was time to study up on best practices for doing time-lapse photography. For those of you that don’t know what time-lapse is:
>Time-lapse photography is a cinematography technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that which will be used to play the sequence back. When replayed at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, and then played back at 30 frames per second; the result would be an apparent increase of speed by 30 times. Time-lapse photography can be considered to be the opposite of high speed photography.
History lesson out of the way, I started reading up on the best way to set up my camera. As you can see in the sample below, I still have some work to do, but I’m getting close.
This was shot over the course of about 90 minutes in the heat of the Arizona sun. The camera used was my Canon Rebel XT capturing the photos in jpeg. The timer was set for 20 second intervals which created 145 photographs.
I created a custom action in Photoshop to process the photos. It did some minor color correction (but not enough), image and canvas resizing and some cropping. I fired it up and about 10 minutes later I had a batch of photos ready to put into a time-lapse film.
I used iMovie ’11 this time, but I can tell you from previous experience that Picasa does a better job. Sure there are specialized apps that do this for you, quite nicely, but my budget doesn’t allow for such things.
In iMovie, the shortest interval I was able to set the photos to display at was .1 of a second. That is 10 frames per second. In Picasa, you can set it to pretty much any duration you want, and then import that into iMovie for further editing. We’ll talk more about Picasa later.
Next time I do this for a short interval like this I will be shooting in raw instead of jpeg so I can process the photos better if needed. I also need to pay better attention to the aperture and shutter speeds, which is to say that it’s time for me to become a real photographer, paying attention and learning what f-stops are and how to actually use my camera in full manual mode, not just aperture priority.