Learning Time-lapse Photography

AKK_0011It’s been a long summer – and an even longer pause in this blog. I’ve been working on several projects – as well as reading and thinking a lot. Mostly about the future of the industry which has provided me a living for the past twenty-five years…

Not moaning and reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” but more trying to be proactive, to see where we are heading. And trying to come to some decisions and act accordingly – as ever since my return from the Sochi Olympics it was obvious a chapter had closed. If you read Finnish, check the piece I wrote last week to Journalisti and you get an idea of where I think we should be heading.

But more about that later.

One of the projects I set myself to do this summer was to learn the workflow of high quality time-lapse. You know: those fast passing clouds, the candle that seems to burn real fast and so on. I.e. the super fast video typically shot with a dslr as still images and then edited into a video. Like this one (my first ever TL, and it shows…):

kynttila

This is crap. It’s boring. And filled with flicker. Anyone can do that. And much better. Easily.

There is more to it than just setting the camera on a tripod set to aperture priority with an interval timer. If you want to do a good job, it requires a bit more.

And I wanted to learn it. So during the summer vacation I carried some extra toys with me, determined  to learn and master how to use them and understand the workflow.  Tripods (couple of carbon Gitzos), a motorized slider (Kessler with a 1:27 ratio stepper motor), and a motorized head/driver unit (Emotimo TB3). Powering the whole thing up with XTPower 22Ah lithium-polymer battery.

Camera used in all of these was Canon 5Dmrk3 and lenses 14mm and 35mm primes as well as 16-35 and 24-105 zooms.

During the summer we sailed for about 8 weeks, first around Gotland and then spent the rest of the time in the Stockholm archipelago. The family took a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki, as the kids had to get back to school and I took Princess Sophie back home alone.

Quite often, when we came to an harbor or anchored on a quiet island somewhere I took the toys out to shoot the sunset. And often as well, I got up about three in the morning to shoot the sunrise.

Why? Well as I said, I wanted to learn the workflow and the gradual change day-to-night and night-to-day is one of the most challenging scenarios. How to harness up to 16-20 stops of dynamic range – so that the viewer only sees a smooth transition.

AKK_3349I will not give you a full rundown of my workflow, there are some great tutorials out there. I hope to talk more about the workflows in our DocImages blog one of these days.

But a brief overview: I shot with the lens uncoupled (very dangerous, as you might drop the lens, but as it jams the aperture by disabling the diaphragm blades, it enables you to get rid of the flickering), programmed the TB3 to shoot typically some 400 frames RAW-files under a time period of 30-60 min, typically at 4-10 sec. intervals. Quite often using a slider with ramping and a second camera on a static tripod. Basically thus giving with 25 fps video c. 15 secs of footage.

I post processed with Lightroom 5 using the LRTimelapse pro plugin, occasionally stabilizing with After Effects. The accumulated data (as we are talking about raw-files) tends to build up, so I transferred everything thru a 11″ Air to a thunderbolt LaCie 1tb disk while still on  the boat.  I should have mirrored everything – if this were a client project I would have – now I only made backups when I came home to my main computer. The idea was – and still is – to turn my images into an iPad publication of some kind one of these day.

AKK_0504I actually write this as a thank you note  to lots of great people we met along the way. Quite often people – when they saw me getting out of the boat in the evening with my rig – asked me “what an earth is that for?” and the next question typically was “Can we see your work somewhere?”

So I promised to post something on this blog.

A special thanks goes to the family of “Anassa” ( I hope I spelled it right) whom we first met on Stora Karlsö – and then in almost every harbor we came to all the way up to Gotska Sandön. They lent me a small foldable bike in Lauterhorn so I could pedal to Helgumannen – with 20 kg of equipment on my back – to see the sunrise.

Three o’clock in the morning… An essential ingredient in this line of photography seems to be lots of coffee.

I made a simple trailer (below) out of some of my favorite images – starting from Gotska Sandön and Stora Karlsön to Helgumannen. It’s not out of this world – I’m still learning the ropes. But it gives you an idea.
Just to show that – at least I think – it was worth it.

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