Yosemite Time Lapse

Half Dome on a recent stormy spring morning ©2012, Michael Maloney

The Nose of El Capitan ©2012, Michael Maloney

I love Yosemite, especially in the winter and early spring months when the storms are rolling through. As a photographer,  I find cloudless skies boring…give me storm clouds any day and I’m a happy shooter.

I would like to share with you a recent time-lapse video I shot a few weeks ago while in Yosemite. Time-lapses are simply a number of still images shot at a slow frame rate, and then sequenced together and sped up in the finished video. An intervalometer is used to actuate the shutter and the camera is placed on a tripod and usually not moved, although some really cool effects can be made with a motorized motion rig that will move the camera between shots creating a dynamic, cool looking video.

In my video below however, I kept it simple, locking the camera to my tripod. I shot 1 frame per second and continued at this frame rate for 30 minutes (total number of photos : just over 1,800). That gave me a finished video of 1 minute and 15 seconds when put on a 24 frames per second timeline. To add a bit of camera movement, I zoomed slightly into the image in post.

I shot this from Tunnel View. Those of you who have been to Yosemite know exactly where this is. It’s the classic spot to get in one frame the entire Yosemite Valley with the two iconic granite landmarks, El Capitan on the left and way off in the distance, Half Dome. That’s the Three Sisters and Bridalveil Fall you see at the right. On this particular late afternoon, an approaching storm was coming in so I knew it would be a great opportunity for a time-lapse

I chose the 1 frame a second interval because the clouds were moving fairly quickly and I wanted a smooth look. Had I chosen 1 frame every 2 seconds or more, the cloud movement would look more stuttered -not the effect I was after.

A B+W MRC circular polarizer was used on my lens to bring out more definition in the sky and I kept my exposure set to manual to avoid any flicker issues that auto exposure can create.

Time-lapses can be done with any camera that allows you to set the interval of your shutter release. Some cameras have built-in intervalometers (most newer Nikons). Others allow you to plug in an intervalometer.

Here are a few tips that will help you shoot a successful time-lapse :

1. Use a tripod and don’t move the camera.

2. Turn off image stabilization.

3. You can use aperture or shutter priority, but if you don’t need to, don’t. Using a set manual exposure will help eliminate flickering.

4. Turn auto focus off.

5. Set white balance. Don’t use auto white balance.

6. Determine your shutter rate. 1 frame per second will look smoother than 1 frame every 2 seconds, or three.

7. Unless you’re great with math, use this app to determine how many photos you need to take to get a video of the length you want. In my video, I shot 1 frame per second for 30 minutes, giving me a 1 minute and 15 second video. (based on a 24 frames per second timeline)

8. Make sure you have a fully charged battery and a high capacity memory card if you plan to do hours of time-lapse.

9. If shooting at night with long exposures, lock the mirror up to avoid any vibrations. Shooting in live view mode if you have it can also work however it will drain your battery quicker.

10. Have fun!


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4 thoughts on “Yosemite Time Lapse

  1. Michael, thanks for awakening my creative juices! I think I’ll drive out to the Marin Headlands and play!!

  2. Michael, this video is awesome! It would be great to have a future class on this? Thanks for the great tips and info on how-to for this.

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