Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Still In Motion

If you recently went to the movies, watched TV or surfed YouTube videos, chances are good you've seen some time-lapse photography.
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Still In Motion

If you recently went to the movies, watched TV or surfed YouTube videos, chances are good you've seen some time-lapse photography. Time-lapse photography is all the rage right now.

Feature films and documentaries have long used time-lapse photography to wow viewers. Remember watching the flower grow from seedling to mature plant in mere seconds in a film at school or watching the stars rotate in the night sky over a jagged Himalayan peak in a TV commercial?

Time-lapse photography used to be a complex process reserved for high-end productions, but not anymore. Today, this dazzling technique is available for any photographer, and it has never been easier. Some DSLRs even create the movie in-camera. It's time to get out and shoot some time-lapse!


Time-lapse photography involves shooting a large number of frames over a long period of time and then merging them into a movie. Two hours of shooting time and hundreds of frames can be merged into a 10-second movie clip, in essence, speeding up time from hours to seconds. On the extreme end, some time-lapse photography involves shooting over the course of weeks and months, and then merging the sequence into a few brief minutes of footage.

The possibilities are very exciting. Imagine watching your next two-hour photo shoot from start to finish in a 10-second movie or seeing the transformation of light from a rosy sunset to a starry night in 30 seconds of video. See interesting clouds passing overhead? Some of the best time-lapse sequences include passing storms and interesting clouds streaking through the sky.

The gear needed for time-lapse sequences is minimal. Depending on your camera system, you may only need a camera and tripod. The third item needed is an intervalometer, which allows you to set up the time-lapse sequence. First, you determine your exposure, and then you set the intervalometer for the delay between shots and the total sequence duration. Once the intervalometer is programmed, you start the sequence and come back minutes or hours later when the time-lapse is finished.

There are two popular options for intervalometers, either in-camera or an intervalometer cable release. Camera manufacturers took note of the popularity of time-lapse photography, and a number of cameras have intervalometers built right into the camera.

I use a Nikon D4 for most of my time-lapse photography, and the camera has an intervalometer option in the shooting menu. All I have to do is set up my sequence and hit the shutter button. Nikon takes this a step further, and even offers a time-lapse movie option where the camera actually creates the movie once the sequence is complete.

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