The beauty in time lapse photography lies in capturing the unseen. For the same reason Macro photography lets us see what is too small for our eyes, Time lapse allows us to see the passage of long periods of time in seconds. We get to see clouds moving and forming, the sun traveling across the sky, or taillights of cars whizzing through city streets.
Here’s one example of an amazing time lapse video of our home town, America’s Finest City:
Even though the final product may be a video, the best way to capture the files needed for time-lapse is through still photography. Depending on your desired frame rate, you can capture anywhere from 24 to 60 pictures for a second of time-lapse footage. There may be a little simple math involved to find out how many pictures you will need to take and the interval between the shots.
Many cameras have Auto modes which change shutter speeds and aperture values for each shot depending on the lighting conditions. However, for time lapse, we want to keep the settings the exact same for every shot to keep a consistent look to every single frame. Any necessary processing can be done in after effects or photoshop.
Ideally, shooting in RAW offers the best quality and most versatility in post-production. RAW files can be 10 times larger than JPEG’s, so it is essential to have larger memory cards on hand. 32GB is a good starting point, but 64, 128, or even 256GB cards are available, albeit more expensive. The write speed of said cards is equally important as well, and it’s best to go with nothing less than a class 10 memory card.
Sliders add a whole new dimension of movement and composition to a time lapse shot. Unfortunately, many motorized systems are very expensive and aren’t really practical for a hobbyist. However, there are many DIY solutions for a slider and an accompanying simple electric motor, which may require a little more know-how than your average handyman.
The best way to get a feel for time lapse is just to get out there and try it. Get a solid tripod, set the camera to Manual, set an interval, and watch the sun travel across the sky like you’ve never noticed before.
Here are a few more great examples of time lapse:
Written by Erik Ruppert Persistence of Motion