I don’t know about you, but I’m mesmerized by timelapse photography. I could spend hours watching sunsets and cloud formations, tides coming and going, and stars streaking across the sky. Do it right, and you get silky smooth video that look like you’ve just caught the world breathing. Do it wrong, and your video flickers like your dance partner’s face at a Barcelona night club.
For you beginners out there, timelapse photography is taking a few hundred or thousand photos of the same scene over a period of time and stitching them together to create a video. Filmmakers like myself also use timelapse to show a passage of time, or to create an edgy feeling that can put you on the edge of your seat, such as in Breaking Bad.
As an avid photographer, I didn’t want to wait until my director of photography on Love is Now got out the Nikon D800 to run some tests. I decided to head out and capture some sunrises, and figure it out for myself. The great thing about the Nikon D800 is the built in intervalometer, under the camera menu settings at the back. There are two settings that you can use. The dummy proof ‘Time-lapse Photography’ function, which creates an entire 1080p movie of the image sequence in camera (you will not retain the original photos with this function) or the ‘Interval Timer Photography’ function.
A few things you will want to know to get the best results.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PLENTY OF MEMORY
The first morning I went out, I forgot to take an extra memory card with me, and I learned that the Nikon D800 is pretty brainy. It will not allow you to start a timelapse movie without enough memory to complete the task. In fact the functions will be greyed out on the menu. So make sure you have a fresh memory card, particularly if you’re opting for the ‘Interval Timer Photography’ function, as it shoots with the full sensor, and will retain each photograph at the image quality you have set.
Make sure you set the camera to manual settings, and manual focus. Otherwise you can get some unwanted flicker throughout the timelapse sequence. If you want to experiment with variable settings, one trick I learned was to use auto ISO, and set your range to get the best out of the sensor (100-1250).
CLEAR DAY vs. CLOUDY DAY
In my experience, a clear day is often not as spectacular as a cloudy day, particularly when it comes to timelapse photography outdoors. Of course you can get spectacular results watching a cityscape or a landscape change as the light changes, but there is something magical about watching clouds move across the sky, or seeing the sun climb through a wall of cloud.
SHOW AND TELL
Here’s one of the tests I did with the Nikon D800, but I’m still experimenting to get the best results.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights about timelapse photography. Leave a comment and share some of your own timelapse tips and experiments of your own.