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24.09.11 | Timelapse Macro Photography
Filed under: Art — Tags: , , — Dr. Ivan @ 11:16 — Comments (0)

In recent weeks I have been doing a lot of timelapse photography, so I thought I would share some of my experiences and thoughts on the subject in this quick post.

Still photography vs sped up video

In my setups I rather prefer using my Canon 400D rather than my camcoder. There are several advantages to using a DSLR still photography for shooting timelapse photography. At first the better resolution might seem superflous – current techology effectively capping video resolution at 1920×1080. However, it may come in handy if your object is not stationary – in this case you might opt to utilize the extra res for post-production semi-automatic stabilization (as described here). In short, this centers each image individually based on user input and crops it to HD aspect ratio of 16:9. In general, possibilities of adjusting images after shooting is greater, especially if you save photographs in raw format, and can be performed on per-frame basis.

Quality should always be a concern, and a DSLR is actually the cheapest way to go. No consumer or even prosumer level video camera will give you the flexibility of an average mid-range $800-1000 DSLR. Furthermore, being able to shoot at very slow shutter speeds gives the huge advantage of allowing larger depth of field which is rather crucial for any macro timelapse. The usually larger sensor will also give far better quality in low-light situations.

Lastly, want to make a still photo chef-d’oeuvre from your timelapse? If the only recording you have is from a camcoder – good luck with compression problems, blur and interlacing! If you used a DSLR – you are already good to go!

Tips on achieving best results

While doing timelapse photography I have learned quite a few things, some of the most important of which you will find below:

  • Whatever you do, do not forget to charge the batteries so that you do not need to change them during the shoot. If you do, you will get a displacement of the object visible on film. If at all possible – use an AC adaptor.
  • When forced to use battery, LCD display can be turned off to conserve a considerable amount of energy.
  • Always use a tripod and a remote intervalometer. This reduces movement of camera helping center the object.
  • In any natural setting, manually adjust white balance. If you are afraid of comitment, shoot in raw and adjust white balance for the whole shoot later.
  • Use aperture priority mode. In macro timelapses it is often important to achieve as large DOF as possible – so go as high on the f-stops as the focal length and your lens allows.
  • If possible, focus and then put the camera in manual focusing mode. This works best with stationary objects and very small aperture for maximum DOF. It conserves battery power and helps preventing stutter in the assembled video.

A sample timelapse

Here is my latest timelapse – a very traditional object (a melting ice cube), but really fun to watch nonetheless! Enjoy!

Technical details: This shoot was done with a Canon EOS 400D with standard kit lens mounted on a tripod and connected to an intervolometer. Aperture priority mode was used, target aperture set at f29, yielding shutter speeds around 1-2.5 seconds. The ice cube is placed on a chinese yixing tea cup turned upside down.

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