I have been itching to shoot a time-lapse for past couple of years, however without a proper camera timer; I had been unable to do so, till now. However all that changed couple of week back, when the timer I had ordered from Ebay.com, was finally delivered to me.
Since shooting time-lapse involves keeping the camera very still for a long duration i.e. placing it on a tripod, I had little option but to return to one of my favorite shooting place, Lodi Gardens.
I arrived at Lodi Gardens before sunrise and setup my camera behind Bada Gumbad Mosque and here was the result I got from shooting 378 photos in around 32 minutes (5 second interval).
Breaking down the shoot
Now that you have seen the first time-lapse clip I ever shot, here is a breakdown of the shoot.
Camera was setup to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode (evaluative metering), with Auto ISO. Because exposure during the course of shoot was going to change dramatically and I didn’t wanted to guess or tweak exposure mid-way. First image was produced at 1/5, f8 and ISO3200, while the last image was produced at 1/30, f8 and ISO640 i.e. a difference of around 6 stops during the course of 32 minutes!
I also had the lens on manual focus; otherwise camera would have tried to refocus before each frame, causing focus plane issue in the final image. I was also shooting M-RAW (medium resolution RAW), which gave me the flexibility and dynamic range of RAW file, while maintain smaller file size.
Timer was set to shoot at 5 second interval i.e. it shot one image every 5 seconds.
I shot this sequence using Canon 60D DSLR, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 lens, B+W 67mm Kaesemann MRC CPL, Sandisk Extreme 16GB SDHC card, Benro T-800 EX tripod and a cheap Chinese timer (here is a listing of all the timers available for various models of cameras, from the same seller DSLR Timers)
Once I had all the photos from the shoot in place, I sorted them into sub folders, each denoting separate time-lapse I had shot.
Then I used Lightroom 5.6 to process the first image from the sequence, applying contrast, saturation, GND filter, sharpening and lens correction (the usual stuff that I do while post processing any image) and I also cropped the image into 16:9 aspect ratio.
Then I right clicked the image, navigated to Develop Settings – Copy Settings and chose to copy all settings.
Then I selected all the images (ctrl + a) and right clicked the images, went to Develop Settings – Paste Settings to apply the image editing (including cropping) to all the images in sequence.
Once my images were ready to be exported out to a video, I used LRTimelaps’s free time-lapse template (can be downloaded from here and install instructions are here) to export the video. Before exporting the video, I added my copyright mark and a small audio clip (there is an option to add it on the right hand side of slideshow window).
What I learnt!
While my first attempt was far from a resounding success with plenty of flickering, bad sky and other technical errors, this shoot helped me learn quite a few things about shooting time-lapse.
- Always check and setup your equipment, before going out for a shoot. This helped me discover that the timer I had bought was adding 2 second delay to each image i.e. in order to shoot at 5 second interval; I had to set the time at 3 seconds. While this isn’t a big issue, it does mean I cannot shoot images at less than 3 second intervals.
- Always check GPS/Compass for exact location of sunrise, in my case I missed it by a few degrees. While sunset wasn’t even visible, had I been a few degrees to the left, I would have captured little more color towards the end of shoot.
- Varying light isn’t the best time to shoot time-lapse, since you have to either shoot manual and adjust exposures on the go or shoot in aperture priority mode and deal with flicker (it is caused by camera under or over exposing a few frames, due to auto exposure system getting fooled by changing light).
- Shoot enough frames for at least 30 or 60 second video, since 15 second or shorter duration just isn’t enough. Since I export video out at 24fps, it means shooting 1440 images for a 60 second clip i.e. 2 hours of shooting time at 5 second interval.
- Shoot in M or S RAW, if available in your camera. Otherwise shoot in JPEG, unless you have really large memory cards and unlimited storage space on your computer.
- If you have two camera bodies, then use your older body to shoot time-lapse, unless you need dynamic range of the newer body. Because time-lapse will rack up your shutter count like anything!
- For clouds, use longer interval duration eg. 5 seconds or more and for people or vehicles, use shorter interval durations eg. 3 seconds or less.
- Have loads of patience, something to eat and water to drink, while shooting time-lapse.
- Editing these files is a resource intensive task, so if you have an old computer, be ready for severe delays and eventual system upgrade. My 6 and a half year old, Core2Duo system took over 2 and a half hour to export 15 second clip. This prompted me to upgrade to Core i5 based setup, which exported the same file in around 15 minutes!
At the end of the day, I loved shooting time-lapse, even though result wasn’t as good as I would have hoped it to be. On the plus side, the traffic sequence I shot later turned out much better.