I have been fooling around with time lapse photography this year. It can be quite rewarding once you have the right tools. All you need is a digital timer, although I have heard that some of the newer cameras come with enough features to cover this.
I found a digital timer on Amazon for about $25. It works great, just set the interval and how long you want the shutter open and your ready to shoot. Obviously you need to do a little setup on the camera to make sure everything is ready to go:
- Auto focus OFF
- ISO set to manual
- Shutter and Aperture set on Manual
I take a few test shots to make sure my focus is where I want it and the exposure is in a good place. Then turn the timer on and forget about it. The big key is to figure out in advance how long you want the movie clip to be. Because most video runs at either 24 or 30 FPS, you can quickly figure out how many frames you need to fill the time. Lets say you want a 10 second clip of the clouds moving across the sky. Well then 30 fps x 10 seconds = 300 frames total. Now all you need to do is figure out how much time you want to compress and divide it out. So 60 minutes of cloud movement into 300 frames = 0.2 minutes or 12 seconds between pictures.
Where it can really get tricky is when you want to shoot star trails at night. This will require the shutter to be opened for extended periods of time, so make sure your batteries are fully charged. To get a decent shot of the star will take about 10 seconds. The Pentax K10 I use has a noise filter that takes a blank shot for 10 seconds after that, so I actually have a 20 second exposure. This means I typically set the interval to 22 seconds, to make sure the buffer has time to clear. At 3 shots a minute, it takes 100 minutes to get the same 10 second video, so again we need to make sure the batteries are charged before we begin. The big problem with time lapse, is that you will put a ton of shutter releases on your camera in a big hurry. This is defiantely a quick way to wear it out. So I have been trying to keep the videos sequences short.
The following video show some of my Time Lapse captures from the summer of 2011 :