Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Aug 27, 2010

My First Attempts at Time Lapse

Posted by Amami Superman

Well, this is my first attempt at trying to make a time lapse movie sequence. I've seen plenty of very nicely put together time lapse movies and I thought I would try my hand at it.

Attempt #1

This video contains 133 photos taken about 40 seconds apart. My camera and settings were: Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 15 seconds, f/2.0, ISO 1600. The exposure program was set to manual, auto focus turned off as well as white balance. The photos were put into sequence using Quicktime 7 Pro with 24 frames per second, if I remember correctly (I forgot to write it down when I saved it). I had too much time between shots and it was pretty jerky at lower frame rates.

Let me start off by saying, I understand this isn't very good (actually craptastic more like it). For quite some time now, I've wanted to go out and take photos of the stars on a clear night. While searching the interwebz for some information and advice about this, I came across several places that had time lapse movies for star photos and instantly thought I need to learn how to do it.

It just so happened that yesterday we went to the mountains to play at the river and have a barbecue when my wife dropped my mobile phone in the weeds before returning home. After returning home, I taught a few classes and went to call one of my students, but couldn't find my mobile phone. I asked my wife and she said she put it in the bag, which is wasn't in. We searched the car and came up empty handed. We finally concluded that we must have dropped it while loading our things into the car at the river. Since I had to drive to the mountains anyway to look for my phone, I decided to bring my camera gear and see if I couldn't take some time lapse photos.

It took a little over an hour to get to the spot were we parked by the river and it took me a few minutes of searching before I found my mobile phone. After that I decided to head deeper into the mountains were I could get further away from city lights and the like. I don't think the conditions could have been worst besides it being completely cloudy and rainy. It was cloudy with lots of patches of starry sky which I thought was OK, but it did sprinkle rain a few times. Luckily, I was set up under the back lift door to my loaner car we're using, so things stayed dry. We had some car troubles last week so we took it to the Honda dealership to get it worked on and I forgot my nice tripod in the back. Because it has been obon, the dealership has been closed and I had no way to get my tripod out the back. Instead, I had to settle with using kind of flimsy aluminium tripod I borrowed from my friend Shoriki. I figured if I kept it low and didn't extend the legs, it should be steady enough to take the kind of photos I wanted. If you look closely at the movie, I think I bumped it because the angle drops a bit part way through.

So it was partly cloudy with some rain at times, I didn't have a decent tripod and to top it off, it was a full moon and very humid. It was pretty clear despite the clouds and then a fog came creeping out of the jungle. But did I let this discourage me? Not the least. I'm going to learn time lapse photography and since this was my first time, I figured no matter how bad it turned out, I would have a better understanding of what I need to do and do things better next time. Oh, and you're probably wondering how I timed the shot intervals? "One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand..." And I used my remote to trigger the shutter. I know there are plenty of devices out there to time shot intervals, but I haven't decided on one to buy. I also looked at time lapse software that I can tether my camera to a computer and use. I found a great application for Nikon cameras and Macs called Soforbild. I actually hooked up my Nikon D60 via USB to my iMac and took some time lapse shots inside my classroom. I thought it worked great. Now I just need a Macbook to bring with me when I go out to take time lapse photos.

When I first set up everything and took a few practice shots, the first thing I noticed is that long exposure shot under a full moon can look exactly like daytime. I was so surprised. When I hit the playback button and seen this really bright daytime looking photo, I thought maybe I hadn't taken the photo in the first place. With how foggy, cloudy and humid it was with the full moon, I didn't think I was going to get any shots of the stars that night. So instead, I decided to take over exposed photos that look kind of like daytime and see what the clouds would like like. The above movie is what I ended up with.

Some mistakes I figured out right off, is I can't shoot in RAW format. It takes too long to save to the memory card and it's too taxing on my camera battery. I had a fully recharged battery and I only got off 133 shots. Now here's a kicker, the battery I used when I first got there when I was setting up taking practice shots was only about half full. Earlier in the day, it only had one battery level on the charge mark and before I swapped it out for a new one, it was back up to 2 out of 3. So I figure it was probably around half full. I switched my camera settings just a bit and also switch to normal JPEG format and swapped back to my first battery. I was able to get off 109 shots before the battery ran out of juice. Here is the movie for my second attempt.

Attempt #2

I basically just turned my camera facing the opposite direction for these shots. This video has 109 photos taken at 25 second intervals. My camera settings were: Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 8 seconds, f/1.4, ISO 400. Again, all manual and no white balance. I put it together using Quicktime 7 Pro and this time the frame rate was 15 frames per second. I accidentally threw in a test shot at the first of the movie. That's why it jumps at the very beginning.

So these 109 photos were taken with only a half a battery. It makes me think how many I could take with a fully charged battery or maybe even a battery pack grip, hmmmm. It also makes me think what it will be like on a clear night with no moon. *smiles big*

Although these two time lapse movies are completely sucktacular, I still feel pretty good about them. It was my first time trying out something like this and I learned so much from this experience. I'm excited to get out again in a few weeks when there's no moon and see what kind of photos I can take. There's so much more I want to write in the post, but I think I'll cut it off here.


Jeffrey Friedl said...

First off, Earnest, this whole post epitomizes what makes you a great photographer: humbleness, willingness to experiment, and innate skill. I look at your photography and post processing from a year ago and now, and wow, you've come so far but you don't seem to realize it.

It's a real surprise that #1 is at night... if you subtitled it "Amami Nights" or the like, that'd be a great tease for the text of the post.

About your battery, something seems wrong... perhaps your battery is bad. I just got back from a 5-week trip where I took 4,000 photos, and charged my batteries (one in the body and one in the grip) just once, and I still have half the juice left, so in effect I got 4,000 RAW D700 NEFs for 3 batteries. I don't use the automatic after-shot image display, so perhaps I save a lot of battery there, but it sounds more like your battery is bad.

About an intervalometer, I suggest getting one Nikon makes, called "D700" ;-)

But if you'd like a more economical option, consider the $25 MC-36 knockoff sold by Green Life:

I have bought that product from that company, and can recommend both. I also replaced the cheap plastic screen protector on my bodies with the glass one they sell.

Amami Superman said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with the camera or battery. As you said, I can also take loads of photos in RAW format and fill up an 8GB memory card a couple times over with the 3 batteries I have. But, when I start taking long exposure of more than a few seconds, the camera actually has to use power to keep the shutter open the whole time. What I'm actually surprised at is how long it takes for the data transfer to the memory card. It takes just as long to transfer it, if not longer, than it does to take the long exposure photo. I'm not saying a 30 minute exposure would take 30 minutes or more to transfer, but my 30 second exposures usually take longer than 30 seconds for the data transfer.

Unfortunately, the D60 only has a LED remote sensor so the intervalometer you mentioned wouldn't work with it. On the other hand, I plan on getting a higher end camera in the future and it will be on my list of things to get, if it doesn't already have one built in.

Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated.

Che-Cheh said...

This is great. I like both day and night attempts. I want to try something like this too. Shall find the time 1 day.

Amami Superman said...

Actually Che-Cheh, they're both at night. Because it' was a full moon that night and I used a 15 second shutter speed, it looks likes it's day time. It was actually at night after 10:00pm and well after midnight on the first movie. The new moon is on the 8th of September and I plan on going out that night and seeing what I can do again with no moonlight. Hopefully it will be good weather, but we have a few typhoon coming through at the moment and I'm hoping it will clear up before then.

So yeah, I too found out that a fullmoon, with longer exposures, looks just like the daytime. I thought that was pretty cool.

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