Tag Archives: time lapse

Trying a Time Lapse of the Eclipse

When thinking about the eclipse and what photos I wanted to get, I did contemplate running a video of the transition.  However, since the start to finish was going to be over two hours, I figured that would be a lot of video that would never get used or would only be seen speeded up.  Therefore, a time lapse seemed like the best option.  I set up a camera with the 100-400 lens on it can’t at an angle to, hopefully, align with the direction the sun progressed across the sky.  I didn’t know how much time it would take to cross the viewfinder so I planned on taking a number of sequences with re-positioning after each pass.

This ran just fine during the eclipse itself.  My only problems came at totality when I really lost the plot on what I was supposed to do, so overcome was I by the sight of the corona.  I initially forgot to remove the solar filter so everything was just dark.  When I did take it off, I had not adjusted from the manual exposure I had been running up to that time.  However, in the scheme of the eclipse, the totality moment was fleeting so is not a big part of the time lapse anyway.

I have edited together the sequences I shot and here is the resulting video.

Time Lapse Up the Old Tower

My trip up the tower at SFO got me thinking about what things I wanted to get done while I was there.  One thing I had in mind was a time lapse.  I was a bit bothered, though, because we would only have about 20 minutes and setting up the camera and getting it going would eat into that time.  Fortunately, Nancy had just given me a new GoPro to replace the one I killed in Hawaii.  This one had a time lapse function built in.  Also, because it is small, it would be easier to get it close against the glass to minimize (but not totally remove) reflections.

When we got up the tower, I went straight to the window, hit the start button and leaned the camera against the glass.  I had no idea whether it was working or not so just left it and hoped.  I then started taking the other shots I was after.  When our time was up, I had to remember to go and get it again.  Only when I got home did I find out that it had taken a steady string of images.  I then processed them using my usual software of LRTimelapse aided by the lens correction in Lightroom for the GoPro.  The result is this video.  It is a little wide angle for some of the distant action and it would have been fun to have a longer time to capture images over but, overall, it worked out quite well.

Hyperlapse Oakland Approach

I was a sitting by the window on the approach to Oakland and decided to play with the video functions on my phone.  I have shot video clips a number of times of the approach but it takes a lot longer than you realize and makes for a very dull video without editing aggressively.  Also, the turbulence when handholding a phone means the video is very jerky.  Instead I switched the phone to time lapse mode and pointed it out of the window.  The result is an accelerated version of the approach.  The bumps are smoothed out by the compression of time and the maneuvers become more aggressive.  I let the thing run until we are at the gate since that provides a more natural finish point.  We spent a lot of time facing the water as we descended which is a bit less interesting than I would like but you can see that we are getting closer quite quickly.

Another Night Launch on a Cold and Windy Night

C59F5307.jpgThe evening launch at Red Flag is something I have had a go at on a number of occasions. Consequently, regular readers that pay close attention may feel that this post is a bit repetitive and they would be correct. I was a bit better prepared for the night launch than on previous occasions. I had brought a cable release and a Gorillapod to allow me to have a bit better a set up for the time lapse video of the launch. Meanwhile, I was shooting handheld with the second body.

C59F5147.jpgSadly, a couple of things were not working in my favor. First, it was pretty windy and, while I had the camera set up on the hood of the car, it was a bit vulnerable to movement as the car moved in the wind and the camera vibrated on the pod. Consequently, some of the video is less than ideal. However, conditions did seem to settle down a bit and the later part of the video seems to steady up a bit.

C59F5534.jpgSecond was that there was no moon. It was very dark and cold out there. I managed to get some shots of the B-1B launches but the only illumination was from the burners. No ambient light at all so they didn’t look as good as on previous attempts. I did try to stay for the whole launch and not to get the time lapse showing things in full swing when it ends but there is a limit to how long you want to hang out in the cold when everyone else has gone. I got most of the launch but I did see a bunch of jets head out as I passed the speedway. I probably should have tried getting some shots from there as they were still in burner at that point.

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Time Lapse Tutorial

I have mentioned in the past some of my interest in time lapse. I recently posted a sequence on here and a friend of mine asked me to put together a guide to how I had gone about doing it so here you go.

When putting together a time lapse, the first thing is trying to establish what will be special about what you are shooting a sequence of that will make a time lapse more interesting than any other form of presentation. Usually this involves something that changes slowly in real time but becomes more dynamic in a time lapse such as a sunset or storm cloud development. Alternatively, it is something where a lot happens over a long time that isn’t terribly dramatic on its own but, when speeded up, becomes far more impressive. This could be a sequence of activities with multiple people or launching airplanes as was the case for the one I recently made.

Once you have established what it is that makes it interesting, then you have to decide how best to portray that. Choosing your location and your angle of view are the next challenges. I was shooting departing and arriving aircraft at SFO so I needed an angle that gave me a good view of them and a field of view that allowed plenty of the movement to be seen without everything being too far away to be noticeable. In this case, shooting at night works well because the lights stand out far more making the aircraft more conspicuous than would be the case during the day.

Now it is time to get into the technical issues. How long a clip do I want to make? Shooting time lapses means getting a large number of still shots which will each be a single frame of video. Video frame rates vary but I used 30fps for the sequences I make. Therefore, 30 shots will give me a second of video. If I want a minute of video, I need to shoot 1,800 shots. That’s a lot of shots. Also, figure on shooting more before and after the main action since it is nice to have some spare video at each end to play with in future editing.

You know how many shots you need but how long in real time do you want to cover? Are you starting before sunset and finishing well after sunset? Do you have a peak period of activity that you want to cover? Now you can see how many shots you need over a given amount of time so you will work out how long the interval between each shot can be? The interval between shots is critical but you must also factor in how long a shutter speed you want. This is where shooting at night is a lot nicer because you can get nice long shutter speeds. These make for smoother looking videos because there is no jerkiness. Shooting on a sunny day with a very short shutter speed and a few second interval will result in a jerkier output. The “rule” is to have the exposure time at least half the interval. Doing that during the day may require some neutral density filters. At night it is a lot easier to manage.

Now to mount and control the camera. Obviously a tripod is a necessity to make a stable platform for the shots. A cable release is a must have and preferably one with a timer built in so you can program the intervals. However, if you are shooting at night, you can get away with putting the camera on burst mode with a shutter speed to match your interval and then lock the shutter release open. It will then just keep shooting. The other camera thing to consider is image stabilization if you have long shutter speeds. IS can wander around for long exposures making everything blurred. Keep it turned off. I would also switch autofocus off once you are happy everything is sharp to avoid the focus getting changed by the camera. If the conditions are changeable, you might go with something like aperture priority to accommodate changing exposures. At night, manual might be your best bet. Always keep an eye on how the exposures are doing if in a programmed mode to ensure you aren’t exceeding your interval with your shutter speed. There are complex bulb ramping tools available to use if you want to get advanced. I haven’t tried these since they haven’t been necessary for my purposes so I can’t give good advice. I do have the functionality in a cable release device that connects to my iPhone called Triggertrap but I haven’t ever pushed it to its limits.

One thing you will discover is that fixed apertures are not fixed. Cameras will go to a slightly different aperture for each shot which can result in slight variations in exposure. This “flicker” can be managed by clever manipulation of the lens position but I prefer to use software to fix it. The software will also help if you end up tweaking the camera settings during the capture sequence.

Last piece of equipment advice is bring a chair. Once everything is at work, you don’t have much to do. You can shoot with a second body of course or you can sit back and relax. If you have a buddy along, that is not a bad thing! I shoot all of my sequences in RAW format. For night shoots this gives you a lot of latitude for tweaking the exposures. It does use up a lot of memory but storage is cheap these days. With charged batteries and big cards, you are good to go.

Once the shoot is done, you get home with a ton of images that look remarkably similar. First I import them into Lightroom. I will keyword them in the same way as anything else from a shoot including adding a time lapse keyword. Then I will make sure all of the time lapse shots are in one subfolder before jumping over the LRTimelapse. I am not going to try and write a tutorial on using LRTimelapse. The website for the software has far better guides to how to use everything. However, I will focus on the key elements I go for.

The main one is the Deflicker process. This is a routine that analyses each shot and applies little tweaks to the exposure to avoid any visible flicker. You can draw out a box in the image preview to tell it where to analyze. This means you can pick an area that is constant in the image as a reference and avoid areas where there is a lot going on. If the image exposure is gradually changing, it won’t affect that. It will just take out the individual variance. You can see a trace of how the overall exposure tracks during the sequence.

The other element I sometimes use is panning. You can define keyframes in the sequence and jump back into Lightroom to crop each one as you wish. Back to LRTimelapse and it will calculate the individual crops for each frame to make a smooth pan between your chosen keyframes. Quite nice to provide a little variety if you wish. I always crop the images to a 16×9 format since that works nicely for HD output formats.

When all of your tweaks are fixed, you save the metadata files and go back to Lightroom to reload them. (There can be a bit of back and forth like this throughout the process.) In Lightroom, there is an export dialog from LRTimelapse which then renders out the individual files from each shot. These will then be taken by LRTimelapse and rendered as a video clip.

Sounds really simple that way and, to be honest, it is pretty straightforward. A little practice helps of course. When it works out, the result can be very satisfying. Of course, a lot of times, you see something that you really wish you had done differently. That is something you will have to put down to experience and try to remember next time you are out shooting.

One last thought – if you are shooting something that involves light trails at night, consider making each image a layer in Photoshop and blending them together as a stack to see what happens. It can work pretty nicely sometimes. However, you can end up with a pretty huge Photoshop file so your computer may groan while processing it. Happy shooting!

SFO Night Time Lapse Take 2

wpid13560-C59F6490.jpgLast summer my friend Paul had been across and we had hatched a plan to shot some time lapse and night streak shots of SFO from a hill that overlooks the airport. The plan seemed like a good one but it was thwarted by two things. First, there was some cloud in the area which obscured some fo the view. Second, it doesn’t get dark until late in the summer and Paul was on UK time so was pretty worn out by the time we could do anything.

Instead, we concluded that a second attempt would be made when he was over during the winter. So it was that we found ourselves back up on the hill. We had come well prepared this time with sturdy tripods and good cable releases. The only thing I had forgotten was the chairs since you have a lot of time to hang around on a dark hillside taking shots like this. I took a long sequence of shots that would be edited into the time lapse. When I got home, some quick work in LRTimelapse and the video was together as you can see below. I also decided to see how well the sequence would blend together to get a streak image. I have never tried to work with quite so many layers in Photoshop before. It certainly struggled with it but it did work. Unfortunately, there must have been some very slight movement on the tripod because the ground lights did not exactly align which made for a blurry foreground when using the Lighten blend mode. To counter this, I duplicated one of the base layers and masked that back in to give the ground a clearer image. The blended version is the one at the top of the post.

Night Launches

wpid13242-C59F8185.jpgWhen the daylight flying activities are over, there is still the night and Red Flag has a night mission that is flown on most days. Therefore, after dinner, you can head up to a spot north of the speedway where there is a great view over the base with Las Vegas in the background. It is dark up there so there are not many good chances for shooting the jets but you can sometimes get some shots of stuff flying over if it lights itself up.

wpid13240-C59F7969.jpgHowever, you can get some shots of the base with the launching jets showing up either from their afterburners or from the heat distortion they leave behind.

wpid13238-C59F7906.jpgThe other thing is to run a time lapse and see the jets moving around on the base and then streaking off into the sky. I ran a couple of them over two nights. Below is the result of one of them. Two things to note. First, the launch was very spread out. The main jet launch was actually quite late and I was tired and cold so cut short the sequence while they were still heading out. The second is that a weird optical effect shows up in the video. It is a movement of the image a bit like heat haze. However, since the shots are taken over such a long period of time, you would think that would not be an issue. Something is going on though so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Golden Gate Sunset Time Lapse

After my buddy John had headed back into San Francisco, I had the choice to go home or to head back to the Marin Headlands to see whether I could get some shots across the Golden Gate to the city. The sunset was not too far off although the cloud levels looked like they might take away the best light. However, I figured the transition might make it worth a time lapse attempt.

I had come prepared with both a tripod and an intervalometer. As it turned out, I thought I had got this wrong when the intervalometer had dead batteries. However, I did have a backup plan with the Triggertrap iPhone app. (It turned out later that I had brought spare batteries with me for the intervalometer so I actually had more redundancy than I realized. However, I did manage to harm things a bit by nudging the tripod a couple of times when shooting so it didn’t all go well.

Even so, I did get a good set of shots to process. I was more conscious this time of having some spare footage before and after the sequence to make sure it didn’t have a sudden ending or one that cut off some aspect of motion. This ended up being the tour boats. They come out to the bridge and turn around. They provide some good motion in the sequence but also need to be complete or the eye is too aware of their sudden demise. Consequently, after shooting the sequence I wanted, I had to keep it running for a while in order to avoid the boat suddenly vanishing.

All of this was then processed in Lightroom and LRTimelapse, a program I have posted about before here.

Night Star Trails

wpid10634-C59F2512.jpgMy buddy Paul was in town and we had a day of shooting and exploring planned. However, we wanted to have a go at star trails in the evening as well. Consequently, we set up at Schellville as the sun went down to shoot the trails around the Douglas DST parked on the field. I set up two cameras at different angles and with different lenses to try and maximize what I got. The sun was still going down when I started so the exposure was varying a bit more than I was prepared for but a little tweaking in post got things back together. We also did some light painting on the airframe in a couple of frames to make the scene pop a bit more.

wpid10636-AU0E9010.jpgThe biggest thing I learned during this was to start when it is darker and to take mosquito protection. I got badly bitten during the early part of the shoot and the bites reacted quite severely! Also, doing this in the winter so you don’t have to wait so late for it to get dark might also be a good plan. However, it went reasonably well and I have a few things I will know to do differently next time. I might also try a trail on one camera and a time lapse on the other.

SFO Night Approach Time Lapse

wpid10427-C59F8422-Edit.jpgMany moons ago (pun intended), my buddy Paul was visiting and we decided to have a go at night light trails at SFO. However, we had not come well equipped so headed to Best Buy to pick up cheap tripods. They were very cheap and performed as might be expected. However, with Paul coming back, we decided to have a second go at this and to prepare properly this time. We also scoped out some locations that might be suitable to get good angles on SFO.

Two things conspired against us this time. First, SFO is having runway upgrades installed so the pair of 28 runways are the only ones in use. This cuts down on the possible angles for a while. Second, the great weather forecast turned out to include some low cloud over the location we had scouted out. The aircraft rapidly disappeared from view as they climbed. (It later turned out that they were still in the clear but above the thin layer of cloud which we were under.)

We went with a plan B and found a location along the lake-shore that would provide an alternative. It was not as good but it did work. I had actually brought a spare tripod in case Paul didn’t have his so I set up two cameras. One was running long exposures that I intended to blend together to get light trails. The other I point out onto the approach which was quite busy at that point and take a lot of shorter exposures for creating a time lapse. The blend is above and the time lapse video is below. Let’s hope for better weather next time. I shall also remember that warm weather does not include after sunset and bring something a bit ticker to wear!