Well I'm here to say that it takes a lot more skill than you think. I've watched Preston Kanak's and Vincent Laforet's time-lapse tutorial videos and while it all makes sense, and the end results look stunning, actually getting out there and doing it for yourself isn't as straightforward as it appears.
It's fair to say that I've come to time-lapse photography very, very late. It always looked WAY too complicated and I thought you needed a heap of gear to get the desired result. You don't. A camera, tripod and an intervalometer is really all you need to do the job. For the time-lapse in this post I used the following bits of gear:
Canon 24-70mm Lense
Kenko Variabe ND Filter
Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly
ElektraDRIVE Bundle with Basic Controller
Canon TC-80N3 Intervalometer
I tried two time-lapses before this one and I'd like to share some mistakes I made along the way before I get to the mistakes I made with the cloudscape.
The first time-lapse I set up in my backyard with the same gear as above minus the ND filter. I wanted to get a day-to-night time-lapse but left it too late in the afternoon to make it worth my while. By the time I rigged the dolly and motor, and tried to work out what the best settings would be for the camera and intervalometer, the sun was getting very low in the sky. Plus, there just wasn't enough movement in the shot to make it interesting - no cloud movement and thus a boring time-lapse as there was very little happening in the foreground either.
The second one I tried was at the back of Melbourne Airport. There's a great viewing area where loads of people park their cars and watch the passenger jets come in to land. It's awesome if you love being so close to these mechanical monsters you can almost touch them - not so good for time-lapse beginners.
It was around 11am when we arrived so the sun was probably too high in the sky and I hadn't yet got my ND filter so I was shooting virtually straight into the sun. I fired off about five minutes worth and then changed position so that the planes were coming in from behind the camera. The shot wasn't as good in the sense that you could see a light pole and hurricane fence but at least the sun wasn't causing me any grief. The biggest mistake I made though was the shutter speed and the interval on the intervalometer. In a nutshell the 3-second delay on the intervalometer was way too long and with jets moving about 100 metres per second there may as well have been no planes at all. To compound the issue my shutter speed was too fast which gave what planes I did capture a very staccato-type look.
My third attempt was again in the backyard on a cloudy day but this time using my brand new Kenko ND filter. I set the lense at 50mm (even with a ND I still didn't want the sun to be in frame) and set it up on the dolly with a right to left track. The camera was set to manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/10 sec @ f16. I used the Kessler iPhone app to work out how much data I could get onto my CF card which in turn told me how long the time-lapse would run for. Have a look and tell me what you think but in hindsight I wouldn't use the dolly for this sort of time-lapse again. There's nothing wrong with it, it works perfectly well but the tracking was too slow and to be honest I can't even tell one was used as the rolling clouds disguises any dolly movement.
I think I got the shutter speed and the 3-second intervalometer setting about right but there's potentially one cardinal sin you should never make in the middle of a time-lapse and that's adjust the exposure in between shots. If you or others do it I'd love to know how to fix it in post. Speaking of which I won't go into how I put this together in post unless you want me of course. I'm not being secretive but there's a million and one tutorials on how to construct a time-lapse in post such as these from Preston Kanak (bit.ly/TL2zE1) and Vincent Laforet (bit.ly/10Cmaaa).
A few observations before I go though. Leave yourself plenty of time to set up. Things always take longer than you expect, especially if the gear you're using is new or you haven't set it up in a while. It'd been a few months since I'd used the dolly and motor on a job and while I was farting around trying to put it all together the sun was going down. I'd also recommend keeping your set up really simple. I'd leave the dolly at home next time (I'll get better at the basics first) as the cloud movement was enough in itself to make the shot interesting. The maximum sized card I have is 32 Gb and I was shooting raw which gave me about an hour of shooting time. Probably not enough to be honest. And if it was a longer shoot I'd definitely need an external battery alternative to the LP-E6 I was using.
It only runs a minute and if you've got any constructive feedback I'd love to hear it at firstname.lastname@example.org or @darrenlunny
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