Archive for the ‘Time Lapse’ Category

Turnagain mornings

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Turnagain mornings

On Tuesday morning, I had planned to go out to a spot on the Turnagain Arm and capture the sunrise.  My hope was that the morning colors would be brilliant, as the weather conditions seemed to be right.  I was correct that the pre-sunrise colors were simply amazing; blazing reds fading to pinks and eventually gold.  Unfortunately, the colors displayed a half an hour earlier than I thought they would.  As a result, I was only able to capture the golds by the time I got there.  I lingered for a while, capturing some early light on the Tordrillo Mountains, and made my way around the Hillside area looking for a good angle on Mount Foraker.

The next morning, I resolved to be at the Turnagain Arm much earlier to ensure I did not miss my window.  Unfortunately, the colors did not come this time.  But I noticed the swift outgoing tide, combined with the swift movement of clouds in almost the opposite direction, and decided to set up a time lapse.  Doing time lapse photography is quite a different switch from regular still photography.  You have to commit to the composition and leave it there, without making any changes, trying different crops or angles.  But you also have the pleasure of sitting back and just enjoying the scenery and the moment while the camera does its work.  I enjoyed a breakfast of toast and banana, as well as some hot coffee, while the morning happened, the camera worked, and I could just sit back and relax.

Since I knew I would be creating a short time lapse, I shot in RAW because I was not concerned about card space.  I also used the camera battery instead of any external power because, again, it would be a short shooting time, a total of about forty minutes as it turned out.  The sun never quite made its way out of the clouds by sunrise, so I switched off and headed home.

The next few days call for clear skies, so, with the full moon, I am going to try a nighttime time lapse, perhaps at Portage Lake or some other remote spot where I will not get any light pollution.  Come to think of it, Portage might not work, because Whittier is on the other side of the pass behind the lake and just might produce enough light.  We shall see.

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Up to Chasm Lake

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Up to Chasm Lake

For my “finale” hike of this residency, I decided I wanted to go up to Chasm Lake. I really did not care for the idea of starting the trail head at 2:00 a.m., so I considered options for staying the night near there. The nearest formal campsites are miles away, still not the best for doing what I wanted to do – a full night time lapse and some good morning shots. After some inquiries, I was able to secure a bivy site at Mills Glacier, at the base of Long’s Peak on the back side at Chasm Lake. Normally, these sites are only available to people climbing the mountain. But, when you are the artist-in-residence and you have a project in mind, things can happen.

Needless to say, it is a challenging hike. The first 2.5 miles are not bad, more like a slightly steeper version of the hike from Bear Lake to Lake Helene. Then, you hit the sign post for the spur trail off to the Battle Mountain campground. From then on up, a mere 1.7 miles, it is a one-step-at-a-time struggle if you are not used to this elevation and have a fully-loaded pack. Now, there are all kinds of people who hike this trail in no time – 1 1/2 or 2 hours. There was even a park ranger 30 years ago Sunday who made the hike, made the Long’s Peak summit and was back to the parking lot in 2 hours and four minutes. I am not them. But, I wanted to get this shot.

The 0.7 mile Chasm Lake Trail from the Mills Moraine is the highlight of the trail. It has the highest concentration of columbine I have seen in the park, and has beautiful waterfalls. There are tremendous views of Long’s Peak and its adjacent ridges. But you pay for it all after you get to the ranger patrol cabin. From there, it is a several hundred feet scramble up a boulder field to get to the lake

To keep things as light as possible, I brought only one of my Nikon D300s, two lenses – the 12-24mm and the 24-85. I brought the Lee filter system, Moose’s warming polarizers for each lens, and my Hoya IR filter in case I wanted to do any Infra Red. The last thing I would need is to be miles up a mountain side and see a great possible IR shot, but no IR filter. I also brought my Hassleblad for the really spectaclar scenics, but to also capture a 3-hour star trails while the D300 was capturing the time lapse.

I started the D300 on the time lapse at around 8:00 p.m., shortly before sundown. I set the camera at ISO 400 on aperture priority, taking a photo every ten seconds. I came back after sunset when it was starting to get dark to adjust the exposure settings. No matter what the ISO setting, shooting at aperture priortiy will not get any sort of exposure other than black for nighttime photos, especially during a new moon when it is really black. So, I jacked the ISO up to 3200, set it at f/4.0 with a 15 second exposure, set to take a photo every 31 seconds. Why 31? At 15 seconds, with the long exposure noise reduction, it takes 15 seconds to process the image. Thus, a total of 30 seconds to take and process a 15 second photo. – hence the need for the one second margin.

As I was readying my camera for the darkness that would follow, something small, soft and fuzzy hit me in the back and bounced off. Then on the side of the head. Then in the chest. Moth after moth after moth was coming out, taking the to newly darkened sky, and not expecting my body in their flight paths.  My only light source was my headlamp, and I was able to capture glimpses of dozens of moths within the reach of my beam as they scattered about in the dark night sky.  Then I started to hear the fluttering of wings, to my left, behind me, off to the right. With my headlamp, I was able to determine that the fluttering of wings came from bats that were swooping out in great numbers and going after the moths. It made me think of the flying creatures from “Pitch Black” and how they exploded into the sky once the three suns in the sky set – not the sort of thing you want to think of when you are alone in the dark. In the morning, as the light started to show on the lake, I saw the aftermath of the aerial battle – hundreds, if not thousands, of wings and various moth parts blowing up against the lake shore. I wondered how many bats there could have been airborne at one time, and the sheer magnitude of this event was awe-inspiring.

I came back at 1:00 to start the Hassleblad, which I had propped up on rocks and framed the shot before it went dark. Everything was ready to go – I just needed to set the shutter cable to lock and walk away. At 4:00 a.m., I stopped the Hassleblad. At 4:30, I started adjusting the Nikon D300 exposure to compensate for the increasing light. Over the next hour, I constantly adjusted the exposure, ISO, and eventually was able to get back to aperture priority again, which would be the best way to accurately expose the changing lighting conditions. As soon as first light was in full swing, I stopped the time exposure and went to taking stills of the scene.

 

 

 

Meadows morning

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Meadows morning

I thought I would try again this morning to do the time lapse of the sunrise at Upper Beaver Meadows. The skies were clear to the west and north, but not to the east. That meant that clouds could obscure the early light and thwart the project. But, I headed out anyway, found a good spot, then set up my camera.

It was slow going at first. The sun had obviously come up, but there was no light yet on the continental divide. After a while, hints of light graced Long’s Peak. The light danced a bit on that prominent feature, then subsided. A short while later, it came back, working its way along the peaks from Hallett down to Long’s. After a while, the sun commanded the landscape, and its golden light came down to the meadows. Time to grab the camera and move on.

I wanted to spend a bit of time working around the Montane areas, seeking the meadows and Ponderosa pine groves. I simply worked back and forth between Upper Beaver Meadows and Hidden Valley, looking for things that caught my eye. By 8:00, though, the light was getting harsh and it was time to pack it up for the morning. 

The rest of the day will be errands (I have to run into Boulder to pick up a bivy I ordered), preparing for and delivering my presentation this evening at 7:30 at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium. The subject will be what I have gained, and contributed, from my three very different experiences as an artist-in-residence in the National Park Service.

Here is a time lapse video of the sunrise.
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Transitions of light

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Transitions of light

I had a long administrative day today, working on my Artist-in-Residence presentation for tomorrow evening at 7:30 at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, as well as putting up two blog posts and some other photo business stuff via email. I have to go into Estes Park to do my Internet work, as, not surprisingly, there is no Internet in the historic cabin where I am staying. By the time I got back into the park, it was 7:45. Not having enough time to get to a “good” evening location, I decided to photograph the transition of light from evening to dark.

Evening light is like a creature fighting for its last breath of life. As the sun gets lower, the color on the mountains gets more golden, more rich. When that light leaves the mountains, there is an explosion of golds and pinks in the clouds – if there are any. Once those pinks fade, the last colors breathe their last breath, giving way to the death of color, save for select hues of gray and blue.

I think it is a really magical time, probably the most scientific time for a photographer, as you truly can appreciate how light works as the sun gets lower and its rays have to go through thicker atmosphere. The colors that we see are a combination of refraction, atmosphere, and reflection. The deep blues of glaciers that everyone loves so much can only exist because of the density of that ice, and what it does to the blue spectrum of light. As the sun leaves the sky and gives way to night, everything turns blue, grey or black because there is little or no light to reflect or refract.

Twilight photos or nighttime photos may not be commercially popular images, but I enjoy taking them because they are graphically strong images. They are also more challenging, because there is not the advantage of color and subject available as in morning or evening photos.

After shooting the death of the sun’s colors for the day, I decided to set up a nighttime time lapse from the porch of my cabin. It is not an ideal spot because, as you will see in the slide show below, there are a variety of sources of light pollution – nearby cabins, cars driving by, and, predominantly, the glowing lights from Boulder or Denver, I am not sure which, in the lower left corner. But I wanted to set up the shot to test a new approach for me to nighttime time lapses so I can have the setting s right when I find a more scenic spot to use.

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Nighttime time lapse

Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Nighttime time lapse

While the full moon may thwart my efforts in the last few days to capture a single-exposure star trails image, it sure does help make the nighttime time lapse work better.  Add in a storm with some rain, and then you really get something interesting.  While I slept, my camera worked steadily, capturing one image every 30 seconds for four and a half hours starting at 11:30 p.m.  During that time, the falling rain and moonlight produced something I have never seen before — a nighttime rainbow, called a Lunar Rainbow or Moonbow.  Fortunately for me, I had encased my camera body in a plastic bag in the event of rain.

For camera settings, I chose 400 ISO and set a manual exposure of 10 seconds at f/2.8, with the focal length set at 24mm.  I decided to push the limits of my camera battery, using just the one Nilkon EN-EL3e battery in the body to power the operation.  When I retrieved my camera shortly after 4:00 a.m., there was still one “bar” showing of power.  I then switched lenses, added the Powerbase battery and Brunton solar panel set up to power for a full 24-hour time lapse.  That started at 5:00 a.m. and will continue until sunrise tomorrow morning.

Here is the result of the time lapse from last night.  To see the stars in movement, it is best to maximize the video player.

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Nighttime time lapse

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Most photographers are loathe to share their failures with the world.  Rather, they post their best work on their web site or blog, leading to the belief that they always are successful.  As the Artist-in-Residence, I wanted to explore new techniques and share my creative process through this blog.  Today, I am sharing (another) not so successful effort.  It’s that darn night sky.  First, it was my less-than-successful star trails effort.  Now, it is my first time lapse featuring the night sky.  The objective was, through time lapse, to show the Earth’s rotation through the movement of the stars at night.

As I was not going to have a lot of sunlight during this exposure, I just used the Powerbase battery as my power source.  I set my camera to 400 ISO, aperture priority at -0.3 compensation, and f/4.0.  I was not sure if the aperture priority would adequately expose the night sky, but thought I would try.  That turned out to be not a good idea.  The starry night was severely underexposed.  Even adjusting all of the nighttime shots in Lightroom by increasing the exposure four stops was not enough to overcome.  Next time, I will set the ISO higher and use a manual exposure setting for the night sky to make it show more clearly.

The other problem I ran into was the plastic bag I used to protect my camera in the event it rained in the evening.  At some point in time, it became loose and started flopping about, forcing me to delete many images from the series at around the time of sunrise.  Where is a good roll of duct tape when you need it?  Again, lessons learned.

As dark as it is, you can still see the stars rotating and some aircraft moving through the sky.  You will need to maximize the slide show to see everything.  The pixelation is the result of a smaller format jpeg needed to create a smaller slide show that can be uploaded to the web.  Enjoy!

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Anatomy of a time lapse

Monday, April 20th, 2009
Anatomy of a time lapse

My original plan was one photo per minute for a full twenty-four hours.  But, as I mentioned in last night’s post, a thick band of clouds – which persisted through this morning – rolled in and ruined my plans to include a starry night.  So, I collected my gear, downloaded the images and went to work.

To start, it is difficult with digital cameras to do a long exposure project like this in a remote location because camera batteries normally cannot keep a charge that long.  Most photographers who do time lapse do so when there is a power outlet nearby into which they can plug their AC power cord for the camera.  I decided I would bring the plug-in out to the field.  I wanted a steady power source that would provide the AC needed, but did not want to be constrained to doing this near a building.  So, pulling together a few ideas from different sources, I came up with a power source that would likely be able to keep a camera going for longer than a mere 24 hours.  After a Google search, I found a company, Outfitter Satellite, that is normally focused on satellite phone rental.  But, they also provide flexible, portable solar panels for use out in the field.

In the end, as  you can see in the picture above, I came up with a Brunton solar panel, which hooked into a Powerbase battery.  I picked up both items from Outfitter Satellite.  Why not just run power from the solar panels?  The power output would not be consistent, as it would come and go with the availability of sunlight.  But, by plugging it in to the battery, it would keep charging the battery as the battery provided the steady power output needed.   But, the battery did not have an AC output either.  So, to bridge the gap between the battery and my camera, I connected the battery to a Belkin AC/DV inverter.  There, I was able to plug in my Nikon D300’s AC power cord.  All this and I have regular, steady power for my camera.  As the sun goes down, the solar panels stop charging, but the Powerbase battery has sufficient power to keep the shutter going once a minute through the night.  And if that somehow runs out, the AC power cuts and the camera battery kicks in.  Then, the sun comes up, and the Powerbase starts charging again.

Then comes taking the photos.  What is required for this to work is an intervalometer.  Fortunately for me, Nikon has built one directly into the D300.  Most camera owners have to purchase one separately and then interface it with their camera.  You can set the camera to take however many photos you want, up to 999 at a time, at whatever intervals are desired.  It can be set to start immediately, or commence at a particular time.  Once I was set up, I had my camera take a single photo once a minute starting at 5:30.  At 999 photos, that would have taken me until about 10:00 p.m., which would have been perfect, as I would set the camera differently for nighttime photos.  For additional camera settings, I deactivated auto focus and set the manual focus to infinity, set the ISO at 400, selected aperture priority exposure -0.3 compensation, and at f/8.0.  I selected JPEG file size large at normal compression.  I wanted all of the shots to fit on one card.  For something like this, you do not need to use RAW because there is never any intention to make a print from the images.  At around nine o’clock, with the clouds rolling in, I turned off the camera and brought in the gear.

I imported the photos, approximately 885 of them, into Lightroom.  Then, without making any adjustments whatsoever, I exported the files at 400 pixels long at 72 dpi.  This export was specifically for creating a web-suitable flash slideshow.  There are two easy ways to create the time lapse film.  One is with Quick Time Pro, importing the images through “File” and then selecting “Open image sequence.”  There are a variety of frame speeds available – I selected 10 frames per second.  The other option, which created the time lapse for this post, is to create a slide show using Pro Show Gold.  I imported all of the photos into a slide show, then set the transition time at 0.0 seconds and the duration of each 0.1 seconds – ten frames per second, the same rate as the Quick Time show.  Why do it both ways?  Quick Time outputs as a .mov file.  Pro Show Gold has several output options, including Flash and You Tube for web publication.  You can also create executable files and DVDs from Pro Show Gold, so there are far more options.

So here is the result, approximately 15 1/2 hours of a scene condensed into 1:29.  I will be creating other time lapse shows from other locations in the park as time goes by.

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