Introduction to Time lapse photography

Having recently been asked to make a similar presentation for our local photographic society I decided it may be useful to put down some of my thoughts and some of the lessons I have learned while discovering this side of photography. For the sake of clarity I dont consider myself an expert, im still learning my self and more than capable of making mistakes setting up my time laspe’s most of the video’s below are my own work and have been taken during the journey to where i am now and so the quality differs wildly. You can see more of my work on my YouTube channel.

What is Time Lapse?

I should start by explaining what time lapse photography is and how it differs from a video played back at high speed. So time lapse is the process of taking single images at set intervals and then combining the images into a video with great detail while also compressing time and so capturing movement or change that would otherwise go unnoticed. for example a piece of food decaying or a flower opening or the sun setting over the horizon. It is these examples that drew me to explore time lapse photography. You may ask why not just record video and play it back at high speed but im afraid that this method results in loss of clarity and detail that makes it obvious when this method has been used.

So exploring further there are different types of time lapse photography styles and the required equipment varies depending on which style you wish to create.

Simple Time lapse

The simplest form is stationary time lapse as per the example below. (for the best experience please view full screen and in HD using the gear icon bottom right)

for this type of time lapse you only need a camera with manual control a tripod and an intervalometer your camera may have this function built in but can be purchased relatively cheaply if it hasn’t.

Motion Time Lapse

Motion time lapse adds and extra element in that the camera changes its view on the subject as time passes creating depth and the illusion of three dimensions to the image captured. Here you can start out very simply with something like the TurnsPro and the above intervalomter which rotates the camera over a set period of time, this can add more interest to the time lapse and make your video a little more immersive for the viewer. the main advantage to this type of Motion time lapse is its cheap to obtain the gear and the gear is very portable being no bigger than a spare lens for your camera so easy to travel with. See example of TurnsPro below.

however this method is not as good at introducing the perspective shift required to create the full illusion of 3 dimensions and so a motion time lapse rail gives better results. See example of Single axis Motion Time lapse below.

However these Motion time lapse rails vary wildly in price from £350 to £2000 and above for a complete retail ready to run setup. This can be off putting for most people looking to dip their toe into the water for the first time, and so it was with me, it is for this reason I chose to design and make my own motion time lapse rail. This single axis rail cost around £150 to make and only requires moderate skill to complete.

and it is possible to go further with this Motion Time lapse by introducing more movement with a full 3 axis Motion time lapse rail this means that the camera can move in the slide pan and tilt axis resulting in an even more epic feel to the video the example below was shot at the same location as above but with full 3 axis of movement. See example of 3 axis motion time lapse below.

here you can see the motion is much more pronounced and makes the video more interesting to watch, shame about the lack of clouds 🙁  but im sure you get the idea ( i Chose these two examples because of the shared location only).

ok so here i have dealt with fairly good light conditions and if you have got this far im sure you will have seen some night time / star trail time laspes you could do these as simple Time lapses with no camera movement at all but if you wish to introduce Motion Time lapse for this type of time lapse photography then the movement must be Move Shoot Move and cannot be continuous movement like the TurnsPro as the continuous movement will introduce blur into the shots due to the long shutter time required. Here you would need something like the syrp genie or a move shoot move rail such as my Ooznest ustepper rail . See Turotrial below.

Hyper lapse photography

finally moving onto Hyper Lapse photography, this is where the camera moves a greater distance between shots resulting in more pronounced movement often combining moving and stationary objects. here i have included two video’s that explain it way better than i can with the first being shot by a child and the second by a professional. In the first example the girl is using a very old Canon 300D with kit lens and reinforces the point that an expensive modern camera is not required.

If you got this far im impressed and if there is enough interest i may look at a guide to processing your time lapse images into a final video.

Light painting at Lamaload and the Goyt valley

So having seen the tree at Lamaload reservoir and deciding I wanted to try something different, my daughter Jessica and I went back late one evening way after the sun had set to practice some light painting. We had just done a Light painting  session with our local photographic society and I really wanted to try some wire wool spinning, It was something I had always wanted to try but was worried about being challenged. Having seen it done it really is a lot less dramatic than the images portray. For these shots we used a pixel whip, a home made pixel stick, a battery operated flood light and of course wire wool.


Busy weekend!

Starting Friday evening when I noticed issues relating to the website and its file system i realised its hard drive was failing fast so i spent the evening attempting the save as much data as I possibly could, i thought i was missing out on a photo opportunity at New Mills, luckily as it happens i was mistaken and the event was on Saturday night, i ordered a new hard drive from amazon for delivery Sunday and decided to go out any way on Saturday night.

The event was the annual Lantern parade and I wanted to take the time lapse rig along and try to capture the event as it happened. I think it turned out quite well and was pleased with its popularity on social media, here’s a link to the time lapse which compresses 1 hour 45 minutes into 50 seconds my settings where 1 shot every 4 seconds on my Canon 100D with the Samyang 8mm fisheye mounted on the Turnspro camera mount. best viewed full screen in HD 1080p

My Daughter and I also managed to capture some still images during the evening also, these can be found and downloaded from our Eyefi Cloud account.

So when the replacement drive arrived i had to attempt to clone the old drive to the new drive and rebuild the mess, this took all of Sunday evening and the site still wasn’t rebuilt until Monday evening. Also affected by this fault was Castleton & Hope valley photographic societies web site as this is also hosted on my web server  and for the most part this seems to be working with the loss of some image data.


Time lapse photography

Thought I should post an update as to what i have been doing lately…

I had seen a lot of time lapse videos on Youtube and coupled with my interest in electronics I decided to attempt to make a time lapse rig of my own. I made a shopping list and even though i had a couple of the items already instock I still had to obtain a couple of missing parts from eBay, approximately 4 weeks later I had the materials required to complete my timelapse rig. I tried to document my project as best I could although looking back I wish I had had the foresight to break the project up into smaller chunks including the software side of the development as this was something I had to do pretty much from the ground up, and to be honest i really enjoyed the challenge. It was also interesting how I went from a fixed speed device to a device that could be adjusted and tailored to suit any situation using IR remote control this made the interface almost entirely software.

Once completed I only had to wait for some good weather, my first time lapse went reasonably well although I was more focused on hardware and forgot my photography head. Looking back I feel I should have spent a little more time on composition instead of the hardware.

Still moving on I tested the slider further and found that the little stepper motor needed a little more poke and therefore a slightly upgraded power supply. So back to the drawing board i upped my motor voltage to about 9.5v instead of 5v this improved the sliders accuracy and also allowed me to traverse the camera uphill more reliably. I learned a few more lessons in terms of stability as you can see in the next video i placed the camera on a wooden bridge and I found out halfway through the slide that the camera was moving every time someone walked on a loose plank on the bridge and this resulted in an unstable timelapse.

So steady base and good composition are essential, but as I need to do these timelapses in full manual on the camera, also very important is exposure, not just at the start of the slide but at the end as well, particularly with sunsets. This means i have to try and predict what the light will do, this took a little trial and error to master but I think I cracked it in the end as you can see from this compilation of timelapses.

I find people and animals interesting but also the movement we don’t see such as the movement of the clouds and sky, I intend to explore this more and more in the future. I have some good ideas for timelapse subjects and having done the process once there are a couple things I would do differently if I were to do it again. A bigger drive motor for sure, a slightly longer rail but not bigger than 1m and a couple of small software changes to allow longer shutter times, otherwise im more than pleased with the homemade slider.

Ok so what does the finished product look like well here it is…


if want to see more timelapses you can find them on our YouTube channel

Maybe I have inspired you to create your own timelapse slider, if so then you can find instructions to my first prototype slider on an instructable I created for this purpose although if I were going again I would go for this mechanism as the backbone, its longer with a more powerful motor and comes with ready made motor mounts. The only issue here is there are no tripod mount or legs provided so your would have to engineer your own. if you do decide to make your own then feel free to make contact I would be more than happy to help with the process and would love to see your slider and your timelapses.

Photo shoot for Bars@Yours

Well this weekend we had a last minute booking to shoot some product photos for a Bar hire firm called Bars@Yours . I had just enough time to convert their logo for use with our pixelstick and I think we captured what their company is about and we had a good time doing it also. The Guys and Gals at Bars@Yours are a lovely bunch of people and are focused on making sure your party goes with a swing if you’re in need of party services check them out.img_0174



Halloween Fun

Some Halloween fun with lytro images and fancy dress.

 Little Dead Riding Hood



He’s behind you!


Autumn leaves

Flowers in Autumn?

and some light painting fun with sparklers!!


1.6 sec. f/11 ISO400 Compulsory Flash

And if you want to try this for yourself you will need a camera with some manual controls and a flash. Set the shutter speed to around 2 seconds, we need enough time for your subject to leave as long a trail as possible. next set your aperture to around f11 this reduces the camera’s light sensitivity slightly so if there is some ambient light it doesn’t washout the sparkler trails, experiment here a little making the aperture larger (smaller number) say f6 or f4 will tend to lighten the background of the image moving the aperture smaller (larger number) to say f16 – f20 will make the background darker and finally we use flash to freeze the movement of the people in your image.