DSLR Time Lapse Short Film in Yosemite

Here is a stunning time lapse film shot on the Canon DSLR 5D from Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty.



It really shows what you can do with a motion controlled dolly, like the one by Dynamic Perception.

I learned four things from my personal experience shooting time lapse with the Canon 5D. 

1) Watch your foreground,

2) What setting to use for your still photographs,

3) How to find where and when moonrise happens and the phases of the moon

4) Benefits of having a real compass instead on the one on my iPhone to find where the moon's coming up.

But for this installment let's just talk about foregrounds, flowing water, size of frame and mosquito repellent.

1) FOREGROUNDS IN TIME LAPSE LANDSCAPES – I was trying to set up a dramatic show with a palm tree in the foreground on a clear night in June when the moon was supposed to be at the fullest.  I put the palm tree in the foreground and took a still frame every 50 seconds.   The sky was not pitch black when I got there so I decided to get the moon about an hour later.  I traced the trajectory and set up my shot so that the moon would "probably" cross through the frame (on a diagonal but that's fine.)  I had a palm tree in the foreground.

When I played back the sequence I had a twitching palm tree in the foreground. It's quivering movements distracted from the graceful arc of the moon and the clearing clouds.  

FLOWING WATER – One of the scenes in the Yosemite film shows the water in the bottom of the frame.  Water time lapse doesn't look as pretty when you set a high shutter speed for each of your time lapse stills.  I would suggest you might want to experiment and lower your shutter speed so you get a more "smeary" frame for the fast moving water. The mountains aren't moving so you don't need to be shooting at a fast shutter speed.

SIZE OF FRAME – Also, don't shoot in "L".  Shoot in "S".  All you need is a frame to fill your 1920 by 1080 frame. Shooting higher than "S" fills your card faster and eats a lot of hard drive space when you go to edit.  

MOSQUITO REPELLENT – Mosquitos know when you're shooting time lapse at night.  They alert all mosquitos in a twelve mile radius.  They know you can't move for at least an hour even if you have a digital controller. You'll be checking your shot and making sure people don't walk off with your tripod.  And they like to land on your lens and watch you freak out as you countdown to the exposure.

WELL-MEANING RELATIVES – Relatives also know when you're shooting time lapse.  I'm on the flat deck of my house shooting the moon moving up slowly through the clouds and they all come up on the deck to see.  And the deck, being a deck sags a little with their weight.  Later in editing I see that the moonrise has a hitch in it.  Not to mention when my relatives were leaving I turned to say goodbye and nudged the tripod.  I tried to get it back where it was, but alas, it was not to be. So now I have a great moonrise with a missing middle.  

LESSONS LEARNED: Be careful about the foregrounds.  In the Yosemite films you can see some of the shots they framed the "twitching" grass out of the frame.  Consider slowing your shutter speed. Set the frame size to "S". Use mosquito repellent. Don't tell anyone you're shooting time lapse.

(more next time)


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