Time lapse photography is one of those things that we have all seen, probably on nature documentaries. At first I thought, "yeah, that's nice", but it wasn't until I saw some of the stunning work created by the guys on fstoppers that I decided I wanted to have a go. So, I read up about it and set out to make my first time lapse.
Learning the hard way
For my first attempt, I went to the local port. I set up my shot so I had about 2/3 of my frame showing the moored pleasure boats and the last 1/3 the promenade. My intention was to capture the boats moving gently on the water and the people walking along the promenade. I calculated my exposure, set the intervalometer to take a shot every second and I began. After about 10-15 shots it all started to go wrong. My camera was unable to write the image data to the SD card fast enough and it was skipping shots. I let it run to the end of the sequence, packed everything up and came home. Out of a sequence of 250 shots, my camera had taken only about 160. In addition, when viewed the time lapse on my computer there was some awful flickering.
Back to the drawing board
Realising that my biggest problem was transferring the image data to the SD card, I tried to find some information about my camera, a Canon EOS 600D (rebel T3i). Nothing. I've been unable to find any information about the write speed for the camera. So after some more research, I finally understood the issue.
Assuming that a RAW file image is 30MB in size, and you set an exposure to 1/30 sec, your camera needs to write those 30MB to the card in remaining 29/30 sec. If it can't, after a while the cache will fill up with data as camera cannot keep up with the number of shots being taken and shooting becomes impossible. Two factors influence this: the write speeds of the camera and the memory card. Obviously, you need a card with a faster write speed than that of your camera. When you know how fast your camera will write the data, you know how short you can make your intervals.
For my second attempt I decided to stay at home. The wind was blowing in a straight line over the top of my house and the clouds were swirling nicely. I opened my bedroom windows and set up my camera on the tripod. At f20 with a 1/30 sec exposure at ISO400 I started a sequence of 250 exposures at 3 sec intervals. At the end, I imported all the images into Lightroom to make some adjustments, and then used LRTimelapse 5 to create the video at 25fps.
To be honest, it's my first successful attempt but I'm quite pleased with the result. This is very different from normal photography, it comes with its own challenges but I can see myself doing much more of this in the future. So, look out for more time lapse photography from me in the coming weeks.