So I've been experimenting with time lapse photography. There's a lot of these videos on the interwebs now and some classic examples. I wanted to see how difficult it was and this is my third short attempt. Discussion as follows:
a) I used a Nikon D90, Tokina 11-16mm at f/18, a Hoya ND8 filter, a Manfrotto 785B (compact) tripod and an eBay special Intervalometer set a 1 second intervals. My only concern for these windy, fast moving cloud sequences was that the wind was occasionally buffeting the camera+tripod causing some minor movements. I can now see why professionals use the bigger tripods for the money shots, but on time lapse it makes it even more important. Annoying really, because carrying a 1Kg tripod is far more convenient than something twice, or more, the weight.
b) The dreaded exposure flickers! I quickly learnt that you need to set it in Manual mode in Manual focus to keep exposure and focus consistent, otherwise there's a lot of flashing going on which is distracting. Turns out that's not the end of the story due to imperfections in camera+lens aperture irregularities. I had to fix this in most clips with LRTimelapse 2 demo (limited to 400 shots in demo mode - I will probably buy this as it's a good tool that does more than just deflicker). The tips to do a lens twist (i.e. get aperture in right position and then disconnect the electrical contacts in the lens) sounds like a bit of a Heath Robinson solution, but the theory is good apart from the obvious risks of the lens dropping off mid-shoot and losing the EXIF data. Still need to test this to see if it removes the need for software deflicker.
c) Scene movement - a lot of the professional videos use physical dolly and slider contraptions which are costly pieces of kit. The results are very good, but it's not practical for those on a budget wanting a light payload. Personally, I'm only interested in pro-hobby results shared at a web resolution and bandwidth, so I've always wondered whether it is sufficient to just do a software pan for the same effect. This video uses the LRTimelapse functionality to do a gradual crop move from start to end keyframe. I think it comes out OK and at a perfectly acceptable quality for my needs. Let me know your thoughts if you have any.
d) Post image processing - before the discovery of LRTimelapse, I was following the useful vimeo.com/38598208 video to import into Final Cut Pro X with each image representing 1 frame. I could do some video colour adjustments on the final compound clip, but I missed the ability to do fine grained photo adjustments like I'm used to in Lightroom 4. LRTimelapse brings back that ability which was fab and let's you do single adjustments applied across the range of hundreds of individual photos ... "Simples!" So the video above has some basic enhancements in terms of exposure, shadows, highlights, graduated filter, etc. which gives it a more idyllic feel where natural timing is not quite on your side.
e) I initially started out shooting DX large size images at 4288 x 2848 pixels, but this fills up my 8GB SD card after about 15mins and causes extra processing delays in production. Given that I'm exporting at 1080p, I quickly figured that this makes no sense so switched to the Small size format at 2144 x 1424 pixels, still giving me a bit of crop allowance at 1080 vertical lines. I'm still not fully sure whether shooting Small is the best option or whether there are other advantages to shooting Large? Maybe somebody can explain the benefits of big?
Other than that, I'm pleased with my two days of experimentation and I'm ready for an upcoming trip to Iceland in a month's time. Shooting Northern Lights time lapse presumably introduces some further challenges, but I'm glad I've worked through these basic problems and can at least knock out something to a quality that I'm happy with. Please feel free to add your comments below, especially if I'm missing a few tricks. Thanks.
One Sunday Morning by Wilco