I decided to do a bit of experimentation with time lapse photography during my recent trip to Las Vegas. I was fortunate enough to have a room on the 32nd floor of the MGM Signature Hotel. Since I was nice to the person who checked me in, I was able to get a great corner room facing the Vegas strip. The room also had an open balcony which was a huge plus.
Having decided that I was going to take some night and time lapse photography, I brought the following equipment with me:
1) my Canon 40D SLR
2) my EF-S 18-55mm lens
3) my tripod
4) an intervalometer
Over the next couple of evenings, I set up my camera just before sunset and tried to capture the sunset and transition to night time. In addition, I also tried to captures of sunrise but I found it hard to get out of bed early while in Vegas.
Here is the flow I followed:
Before sunset, I placed the camera on the tripod and placed it on the deck.
I turned off the autofocus (AF). (I found this out the hard way where I used auto focus on the first evening and ruined the time lapse sequence. This is because during the transition to evening the camera’s AF had difficulties and used different focus points for each image. This created jerky final results with several images that had to be thrown away because they were out of focus.
This lens has no image stabilization which was not an issue since the camera was on a tripod. I also used my EF-28-135 which has IS for another sequence and had no issues with the combo of night photography and time lapse.
I shot in raw, center weighted light metering, I composed my image and in the case of this sequence, set the focal length to 33mm.
I also set the camera to aperture priority at f20. I wanted the best depth of field and star bursts of the bright lights. Also, I took a few test shots and adjusted the exposure bias until the histogram was not blown out, in this case I adjusted -1/3 a stop.
I forgot to set the ISO which was defaulted to auto. I think this was a mistake and the ISO adjusted from 400 for the first images to 640 for a few then to 800 in the final images. Next time I would lock it at 800 for the sequence.
White balance was also auto but since I shot in raw, I knew I could adjust later.
I set the intervalometer to delay until when I assumed the sun would begin settings and then to take pictures every 4 minutes. I made sure my 8GB CF card had enough room for the images.
I went downstairs to eat dinner while the camera did the work. It is good to leave the room so that you are not tempted to peak which may move the composition, or any settings. LEAVE THE CAMERA ALONE. The leap of faith of course was that no one was going to come into my room and steal the camera. But that’s what insurance is for, isn’t it.
After a great dinner, I downloaded the images into Lightroom 2.
I then took a peak on the images but decided not to touch them until I got home to play with on my calibrated monitor.
In Lightroom, I picked 26 images in sequence removing some on the front and back of the sequence where there was minimal change image to image. Then to my horror, I found dust on the sensor which as clearly visible across the sky.
No problem, in Lightroom where I was able to select those areas with dust and using the spot removal tool removed the dust form all 30 images in one shot.
I felt I did not need to adjust white balance nor to crop the images in any way.
Next I exported the images to a folder. I found exporting the images full size made it almost impossible in playback. Picking my monitor size was good for playback at home (1280×853) but for the website, I choose a smaller size (640×427). The trick is to make sure the image names follow a sequence. You can start at any number but the image file names must be in a sequence for the next step.
The next step was to purchase Quicktime Pro. (At this writing it was $29.99). (As of Lightroom 4, you can now create time lapse using Lightroom.)
In Quicktime Pro there is a feature “open image sequence”. When you open the dialog first make sure you select frame rate. Two frames per second allows for a slow show, 6 frames per second allows for a quick show. Select the frame rate first (it is at the bottom of the dialog which is counter intuitive) then double click on the first image in the sequence. Quicktime will then assemble the time lapse sequence and bring up the Quicktime player. I found selecting “view/loop back and forth” an interesting way to watch the sequence.
Next you have to save the sequence. Select “save as” then save as a self-contained movie. This way you can put it on your website or show it to your friends.
I hope you enjoy the sequence here