Time-lapse Photography

by matt on January 5, 2012

I‘ve always liked and been amazed with some of the time-lapse videos I’ve seen so I decided to try making my own.  I thought a bit about what I wanted to create and finally decided to mount my camera in the back seat of my car with a wide angle lens and shoot while I drove through the city.  I really had no idea what I was doing but one of the best ways to learn how to do something is to experiment.

The equipment I used included:

I set the tripod in the back seat with one leg wedged into the back seat crack and the other 2 legs on the floor of the car.  I used a heavy sandbag to brace the rear leg and boxes between the front seats and tripod legs to keep the tripod from moving.  I mounted the camera on the tripod and adjusted the view so that I included as wide of a view as possible.  To get this I used my Canon 17-40 f/4L lens set at 17mm.

I took a few single test shots to make sure I was getting a proper exposure.  This was really just trial and error to see what I liked best.  I used aperture priority mode but afterwards I think I should have used manual.  With the camera operating in Av mode the shutter speed would vary and I think the effect would have been better had both aperture and shutter speed been set.  I’ll have to try this again with manual.

I focused the camera on the dash of the car and then turned off auto-focus so that the camera would never shift focus while driving.  While I generally shoot RAW, in this case I shot large JPEG so that I could more easily import the frames into Adobe Premiere without having to do excessive post processing.

I then attached the Phottix TR-80 and adjusted it to take one frame every 5 seconds.  If you are planning to shoot time-lapse an intervalometer is an invaluable piece of gear.  You will definitely need it.  With my interval set and my camera settings locked in I simply drove around town.  Well, I did drive a few blocks and then stop and checked to make sure the images were exposed correctly.  After that I drove around for a bit.  I ended up with 363 individual images which if my math is on target is about 30 minutes worth of driving.

The next step involved pulling the images off the card and putting them into a folder on my computer.  I used Adobe Premiere CS5.5 to make the video but honestly I don’t have a clue what I’m doing in there and didn’t really know how to import the folder of images into Premiere.  My first guess was to import the images individually but that was a mess.  So Google to the rescue I discovered that you can import in a series of images as a clip.  It’s really simple.  In the Import window select the first image of the series.  Now down at the bottom left of the window is a little check box labeled Numbered Stills.  Check that and then Open and #BOOM all the images are imported in as a clip.  Pretty sweet!  I’m sure there are lots of other video editing applications that will work as well.

Now that the clip is in Premiere there are an unlimited number of things you can do with it.  I slowed the video down a bit by stretching the timeline out and added some simple text.  Below is the end result of the video.  Not the greatest but I think it came out fairly well for my first attempt.

I definitely plan to do some more time-lapse photography and have a few ideas on what subject I’ll attempt next.  It’s always good to be learning and trying new things so don’t be afraid to give time-lapse photography a try. If you have any questions about my experience feel free to ask away in the comment section below.  Have a time-lapse video to share?  Post a link below.

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