“Never forget that all the great photographs in history were made with more primitive camera equipment than you currently own.” – Brooks Jensen
No doubt that first time you said “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to dabble in DSLR photography? You know, just as a hobby.” Your financial counsellors, or your spouse for that matter, broke out in budget busting hives.
There probably isn’t a more gear focused group of enthusiasts out there, but don’t worry, taking that step into time-lapse photography doesn’t require much gear to begin – and the extra gear that can really take your time-lapse to the next level is more affordable and easier to use than ever before.
Whether you are a brand new time-lapse photographer or an experienced shooter looking to unleash full creativity with time-lapse motion control, this article will provide a launch pad for your next steps into one of the most emotionally connecting, and at the same time freeing, creative photographic endeavours.
Your minimum gear checklist for time-lapse photography
Chances are good if you’re already a DSLR shooter you almost have everything you need to get started. These four things are essential.
- A tripod
- An intervalometer
- A Camera
- An ND filter
A closer look at a good time-lapse support system
Rock solid stability (or precise controlled movement) is just about the most important and most essential component for good time-lapse photography. Keep in mind a good tripod that meets your needs will outlast several cameras so consider budgeting a little more time and possibly cash to this category.
- Consider the materials used – weight and strength
- Check the load weight – avoid sagging and flexing
- Height – eye level without using the centre column
- The right tripod head for your work – ball heads versus pan and tilt
Unleashing your creativity with advanced time-lapse equipment
Time-lapse photography is benefiting from a dramatic flow of new ideas. The level of innovation, especially over the last few years, is incredible. Not only are we quickly fixing problems that have plagued photographers for years, but advanced camera controls and processing tools that used to be cost prohibitive, are now becoming affordable for the most basic hobbyist.
Advanced camera exposure control
The Timelapse+ can operate as a universal intervalometer for nearly any camera that supports a remote shutter release, and IR remote, or USB tethering. Bulb-ramping is its claim to fame. The Timelapse+ can perform keyframe-based, guided, or fully automatic bulb ramping – and for cameras supported by USB control, the Timelapse+ can also seamlessly integrate ISO control to smoothly ramp across a wide exposure range, making the “holy-grail” transition from day-to-night or night-to-day easier to achieve. Extended and long-exposure HDR sequences are also made easy with the Timelapse+.
Simple and powerful advanced time-lapse sequence rendering with LRTimelapse:
In a nutshell LRTimelapse takes changes and corrections you make in Lightroom and then smoothly applies them throughout the entire time-lapse sequence. By altering either the first and last image, or several images throughout the sequence, LRTimelapse can quickly fade the changes we need to only the parts we want. Deflickering can also easily be accomplished in the exact same way by flattening out big exposure jumps.
Here’s a simple workflow for editing timelapse images and rendering a movie using Adobe Lightroom and LRTimelapse.
Advanced motion control
The last few years have shown incredible advances in the field of manual and controlled camera movement, so much so that the
average photographer can now afford motion control devices that were once only available to big budget productions. We’re talking precise, rugged and lightweight panning (left and right), tilting (up and down), and dolly movements with simple controls, such as a smartphone app, that make setup easy and intuitive. Control over motion and time combined with an interesting subject can produce what I believe to be an awesome trifecta of emotion eliciting imagery – some of the most engaging and lasting photography you’ve seen.
Yosemite HD II, an incredible example of time-lapse and motion:
Dolly motion shots can add multiple points of interest by highlighting components of a scene’s unchanging foreground and the larger time-altered background. The movement shots in the wave video move the camera along the jagged rocks, while the waves are slowed in the background. Some of the most popular time-lapse clips feature this kind of extreme moving contrast in many shots too. By moving the camera slowly from left to right on a horizontal track, or flipping the track system almost vertically to instead change the elevation of the camera, we can highlight stationary foreground objects in incredible ways.
The next two axes of movement can be accomplished by camera rotation – aptly named a motorized panning and tilting head. Then combining panning and tilting on a camera slider to achieve 2, or 3 axis of movement simultaneously can dramatically elevate the interest level in a shot.
Do you think advanced time-lapse work should be left to the pros?
Eric Warren of Matadornetwork.com posed a related question:
“Pros are the guys you call when you want to put a time-lapse in your car commercial. And while we tend to put pros up on a pedestal, they are often bogged down by their clients’ needs. Most commercial advertising doesn’t push the envelope of an art form.
That job often falls to the independent artists, building their own equipment, and often not [caring] about whether their work is going to sell. Not that I want to be too demanding here, but I want to see something mind-blowing. Either something I’ve never seen before or something familiar, shown in a new way (one thing time-lapse excels at.) ….
Consider this a call to all you independent filmmakers out there ready to push the limits of one of the most striking visual art forms.”
Time-lapse has a way of slowing the world for the photographer while at the same time accelerating it for everyone else. Shooting time-lapse alters the way you think, it challenges your view of the world and teaches you things about our world you can bring back and share with everybody else.
Get out and start shooting. Render some footage and break some rules. Most importantly know that you are not alone. The time-lapse community is more connected today than ever before. You have friends all over the world ready to help you get the shots you imagine.