Monday, 14 August 2017

Allan Wright - Having a go at time-lapse photography

We have all seen those spectacular time-lapse sequences; you know the ones with powerful light effects careering across incredible foregrounds under extraordinarily energetic skies. They offer a concentrated and breathtaking appreciation of the dynamism of landscape and cityscape. Maybe you have thought I’d like to have a go at that but hesitate because it all looks a bit too techy.

Although have dabbled a bit over the years with just a modicum of success I still think I am still more or less a beginner. Because mostly I tend to shoot “on the hoof” time-lapse sessions are for me a departure from the norm, but I do keep an eye out for opportunities when they present.

One such occasion was during the Photo Collective’s trip to Moroccoo last year. This particular shoot took a little forethought and planning. In Marrakech I found the right cafe that had a suitable terrace looking on to The Square, Jamma El-Fna. Sundown was about 20 minutes away as I sat with my Nikon D500 clicking away whilst I drank coffee with my good mate Kim Ayres watching the seething ambience of street life transform through all the shades of dusk. The Square is an extraordinary place throbbing with the both the “ancient” and the “here and now”.

Most modern DSLR’s and high spec compact cameras will have a time-lapse function. Also your iphone or Android offer apps for this function. I recommend having a go yourself and the basic technique goes something like this;
Tripod is ideal but no problem if you can find a wall or table to use.

Compose - taking account of moving elements that might contribute. Consider where the sun or main light source is at present and how it might look 10 - 20 mins later.

Choose shutter priority mode and set to approx 1/8 h second, a slower speed like this offers a smoother moving image effect. Camera will choose the correct aperture for you (If the light is insufficient you may have to choose a higher ISO or select auto ISO).

Best focus on the scene then switch to manual focus as sometime during the sequence the auto focus will start searching and create minor focus issues.

Choose a shutter interval that relates to the probable duration. For say a 15 minute event a 2-3 second interval would give a reasonable result. Giving you about 4-600 frames in total, in general the sorter the interval the longer the final duration.

To save memory you could control the image size to say 1080 pixels on the short edge which is suitable for an HD video as an end product but don’t worry if you cannot as finishing software will subsequently do this for you.

You can shoot as a normal jpeg and the results will be ok but of you want optimum quality then shooting Raw is a great choice. In this instance you can bulk process all the frames to alter exposure and balance skies with foreground etc. If you have dabbled with or regularly use raw files then time- lapse work benefits enormously from raw controls and will help produce a much professional looking result.

When you have your finished set of images you can create an mp4 video in Lightroom or Photoshop. There are many other apps/programs out there as alternatives some are free and I am sure they will work reasonably well. Adding graphics and music enhancement is also fun.

If you would like to see more Moroccan imagery then pop along to the Lever Gallery in Dalbeattie tomorrow night 18.00 hrs for the launch of Fondouk – impressions of Morocco by the Galloway Photo Collective. Exhibition runs from 16th to the 29th August.

Allan Wright

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