Cool Time-lapse Helper

Oscar Ramirez, an innovative designer has come up with an interesting, inexpensive device for all you time-lapse shooters. The Astro adds panning movement to your camera, allowing you to set up time-lapse programs by defining the duration, the range of movement; which goes from 0 to 360°, and the interval in degrees or seconds in which you want the photos to be taken. All this in a neatly designed 3 x 1 inch device run by 2 AA batteries.

The Astro will be compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Pentax, Minolta and basically any camera with a remote input.

Ramirez and his team is also developing a smartphone app (iPhone and Android) for Astro to run more advanced programs. Features like ramping, continuous movement, presets and HDR will be possible through this App. You will be able to send the complete program to Astro so you don’t have to keep your smartphone next to your camera.

Technical details :

  • Measurements:  3.15 x 1.18”
  • Weight: 0.55 lb
  • Load: The motor can hold up to 11.02 lb
  • Maximum Speed: 30° per second
  • Power source: 2 AA batteries

More info on the Ramirez’ Kickstarter website. Ramirez needs $50,000. by Aug 25 to get this project funded. Looks like he is close to reaching his goal in less than 24 hours!

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!