Sunday, June 20, 2010

Early morning timelapse photography

I got up at five this morning and took a taxi down to the waterfront, where we spent a few fractious minutes looking for shelter from the incoming rain, and then set up my camera and laptop with a view of the harbour. Then there were two less-than-exciting hours of listening to the camera taking a photograph every five seconds, before the laptop battery died and we decamped to the Flying Pan for breakfast.

Once you have 500 photographs taken 5 seconds apart, you can upload the whole lot of them into Lightroom and then output them again as a slideshow - choose to have each slide shown for 1/24th of a second, and bosh: there you have it, a time lapse movie of the sun coming up over Hong Kong.

There's a few extra bits and pieces that are useful here: some instructions and a template from LightroomNews that I used (I couldn't get Lightroom to export the slideshow cleanly the way I wanted, and rather than put the extra effort in I figured it would be easier to clamber onto the shoulders of giants that had gone before.) The export itself is a bit odd; it's come out as a file that Quicktime will happily read, and export to a format that Youtube should be able to consume, but as yet I can't get something that I can show on the web to you. What a tease, eh?

Other things I've learned from this:

  • on an overcast day, when there's almost total cloud cover, Hong Kong is, well, grey. So I've got thirty seconds of grey buildings, a grey sky, and grey water. Lovely. I could fiddle around in Lightroom trying to make it look nicer, but I think I'm going to have to look for some more pleasant (or at least more colourful) areas of Hong Kong to shoot next.
  • It's all very well getting up early, but if you've gone to bed late, you'll feel ruddy awful. After breakfast we went back and spent an hour packing (getting ready for the move on Tuesday) and then at the point where I thought I was going to faint, we went back to bed and didn't wake up until almost 2pm - at least I got my eight hours' sleep somehow.
  • Using a 4 year old laptop with a fairly worn out battery to trigger the camera isn't optimal; I'd prefer something that would run for longer (eg my little MSi Wind, which would easily sit there for four hours) but unfortunately as that's running Ubuntu I can't use Canon's tethered shooting utilities. There are some libraries available to do the same thing on Linux, but that requires reading up; on the positive side, they'll probably allow shooting at a different rate to Canon (with the EOS utility you can't shoot quicker than once every 5 seconds).
  • Weather proofing would be nice. With more expensive cameras this probably comes as part of the package, but I just had my EOS 450D with a plastic bag over the top of it, and the hope the rain didn't blow the other way and kill my venerable old laptop. So it's useful to be prepared, or at least find a location that's safe from rain pouring down on you. Or remember an umbrella. Duh.
  • Finally, exposure was a bit of a problem; meter for the light at 5:30 and by 7am everything is blown out. You can deal with that afterwards, but then you've got to make the early shots too dark, or there'll be a strange part in the video where the brightness will fluctuate some. I suppose somebody may have written a script by now to apply a increasing/reducing exposure curve across the set of photos that you build your slideshow from, but I haven't got to it yet.

[Photos and video to follow...]


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