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
Don't fret if your camera doesn't have an intervalometer. The other option is to buy a cable release for your camera that has an intervalometer. Similar to an in-camera intervalometer, these cable releases let you program the delay between frames and the overall time of the sequence.


Once you have the gear needed, it's time to shoot your time-lapse sequence. Start simple; don't go for the three-hour, sunset-to-stars sequence over El Capitan on your first attempt. Better to try a midday shot of passing cumulus clouds over your house.

The first consideration is which camera mode to use. It makes sense to use an automatic mode like aperture priority to adjust for any differences in exposure during the time-lapse. But this can cause a lot of headaches when you seam all the frames together after the shot. Flicker is a common problem in time-lapse movies, and is often caused by different exposures during the sequence.

A better choice is to use manual mode. When I shoot a time-lapse, I go manual on everything with my camera. First, I determine my exposure using manual mode so my exposure stays consistent for every shot. The ambient light in the scene may change during the sequence, but today's cameras have great dynamic range and can handle slight exposure shifts.

Next, I focus on my subject and then turn off my autofocus. If your camera is autofocusing for each shot, it may miss frames as the camera focuses back and forth. I shoot on a tripod to keep each frame identical in composition, critical when you make your final movie. I also turn off my vibration reduction since the camera is stable on my tripod. I also set my white balance to a fixed value. Don't use auto white balance and risk a color shift between exposures.

Once the camera is ready to go, it's time to set your intervalometer. This can be daunting at first. What's the right amount of time and delay between frames for your subject?

Try this formula with simple daylight scenes like passing clouds or flowing water. Set your shooting delay for five seconds between frames and an overall time of 25 minutes. You'll capture 300 frames in 25 minutes, which will produce a 24 fps movie clip approximately 12 seconds long.

For rotating stars at night, try using ISO 3200, a 20-second exposure at ƒ/4 and a delay between shots of five seconds. Focusing at night can be difficult. Try setting your camera to infinity focus or using live view to help focus on stars. Make sure you have a fresh battery in your camera.

These shooting formulas are only the beginning. Experiment with your time between shots depending on the speed of your subject. Busy street scenes with people walking and cars driving past can be shot with a quick interval like one or two seconds. Slow-moving subjects will require a longer interval between shots.

Login to post comments

Popular How-To

Popular Gear

Subscribe & Save!
International residents, click here.