The Cadence of the Moving Sky


Saturn, Mars and the Milky Way over the Bow River

Saturn, Mars and the Milky Way appeared in the twilight over the Bow River.

I shot this scene on August 24 from the viewpoint at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, overlooking the Bow River. Mars appears between Saturn above and Antares below, in a line of objects west of the Milky Way.

The valley below is the traditional meeting place of the Blackfoot Nation, and the site of the signing of Treaty Seven between Chief Crowfoot and Colonel MacLeod of the North West Mounted Police in 1877.

The image is a panorama of two images, each 20-second exposures at f/2 and ISO 1600 with the 24mm lens. I shot them just prior to shooting time-lapses of the moving sky, using two cameras to create a comparison pair of videos, to illustrate the choices in setting the cadence when shooting time-lapses.

The movies, embedded here, will be in the next edition of my Nightscapes and Time-Lapse ebook, with the current version linked to below. The text explains what the videos are showing.

 

Choose Your Style

When shooting frames destined for a time-lapse movie we have a choice:

  • Shoot fewer but longer exposures at slower ISOs and/or smaller apertures.

OR …

  • Shoot lots of short exposures at high ISOs and/or wide apertures.

 

The former yields greater depth of field; the latter produces more noise. But with time-lapses, the variations also affect the mood of a movie in playback.

This comparison shows a pair of movies, both rendered at 30 frames per second:

Clip #1 was taken over 2 hours using 20-second exposures, all at ISO 2000 and f/2 with 1-second intervals. The result was 300 frames.

Clip #2 was taken over 1 hour using 5-second exposures also at f/2 and 1-second intervals, but at ISO 8000. The result was 600 frames: twice as many frames in half the time.

Clip #1 shows fast sky motion. Clip #2 shows slow motion.

Clip #2 exhibits enough noise that I couldn’t bring out the dark foreground as well as in Clip #1. Clip 2 exhibits a slower, more graceful motion. And it better “time-resolves” fast-moving content such as cars and aircraft.

Which is better? It depends …

Long = Fast

The movie taken at a longer, slower cadence (using longer exposures) and requiring 2 hours to capture 300 frames resulted in fast, dramatic sky motion when played back. Two hours of sky motion are being compressed into 10 seconds of playback at 30 frames per second. You might like that if you want a dramatic, high-energy feel.

Short = Slow

By comparison, the movie that packed 600 frames into just an hour of shooting (by using short exposures taken at fast apertures or fast ISOs) produced a movie where the sky moves very slowly during its 10 seconds of playback, also at 30 frames per second. You might like that if you want a slow, peaceful mood to your movies.

So, if you want your movie to have a slow, quiet feel, shoot lots of short exposures. But, if you want your movie to have a fast, high-energy feel, shoot long exposures.

As an aside – all purchasers of the current edition of my ebook will get the updated version free of charge via the iBooks Store once it is published later this year. 

— Alan, August 26, 2016 / © 2016 Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com

 

Moon and Twilight Planets over the Bow River


Moon with Antares, Mars & Saturn over Bow River

The waxing Moon shines between Saturn and Mars over the waters of the Bow River.

It was a beautiful autumn evening for watching the twilight showing of the crescent Moon accompanied by Saturn (at right of centre) and the pairing of Mars (at left, above) with his rival red star, Antares in Scorpius (at left, below).

The river is the Bow, with its headwaters at Bow Glacier in Banff.

To shoot this scene I drove to the grounds of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park south of Cluny, Alberta to take advantage of its viewpoint overlooking the Bow River and the heart of the traditional Siksika First Nations tribal lands.

It was here, in the valley below, that Treaty Seven was signed between Chief Crowfoot and Colonel James Macleod in September 1877. Today, a beautiful interpretive centre sits on the hillside at the heart of Blackfoot country.

– Alan, September 28, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

Rocky Mountain Nights – A Time-Lapse Collage


 

My new 4-minute video presents time-lapse and still images shot in the Rockies this past summer.

It’s been a busy summer for shooting. Since July I’ve spent a week each in Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes National Parks shooting nightscape stills and time-lapse videos of Alberta’s famous Rocky Mountain landscapes by night. 

This compilation includes some of the best footage, plus some panned still images, set to a wonderful piece of royalty-free (i.e. legal!) music by Adi Goldstein. 

For many of the sequences I employed “motion control” (MoCo) devices that incrementally move the cameras during the one to three hours that they are taking the 200 to 450 frames needed for a time-lapse sequence. 

I used the compact single-axis Radian, the 2-axis eMotimo, and the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly, now equipped with their new Stage R single-axis panning unit. This was the first summer with the eMotimo and Stage R, so I’m still learning their best settings for speed, angles, and ramping rates. 

In recent blogs you’ve seen many still images shot as part of these sequences, or with other cameras dedicated to shooting stills. Now you get to see some of the time-lapse videos that represent many nights of shooting, and many hours sitting in the car waiting for the automated camera gear to finish its shooting task. 

Time-lapse shooting is an exercise in dedication and self-denial!

I hope you enjoy the result. Do click on the Enlarge button to go full-screen. Or visit my Vimeo site to watch the video, and others, there.

– Alan, September 10, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

Moonbow at Bow Falls


Star Trails & Moonbow over Bow Falls

A small moonbow forms in the light of the full “super moon” at Bow Falls in Banff.

This was Sunday night, August 10, on the night of the bright “super moon” that lit the landscape. In this case, I was at Bow Falls, a popular tourist spot in the townsite of Banff below the Banff Springs Hotel.

However, by night only a handful of people appeared, including two who stayed still long enough to record on one frame, above.

The sky, however, is made of many frames, exposed over an hour to add the star trails. But the landscape is from one exposure, and includes a short arc of a moonbow, a rainbow created from moonlight.

Big Dipper Star Trails over Bow Falls

In an alternative version, sans moonbow, I shot one short and several long exposures to capture the stars of the Big Dipper streaking over the falls.

These are two more examples of how magical the mountains are by moonlight. And how quiet the usually busy tourist spots are!

– Alan, August 15, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

 

Andromeda Rising


Andromeda Rising over Bow River

The stars of Andromeda and Perseus rise over the Rockies and Bow River in Banff.

It was a beautifully moonlit night last night, in Banff National Park. I shot the images for this star trail at a well-trodden viewpoint overlooking the Bow River. We’re looking east to the stars of the autumn sky in Andromeda and Perseus rising over the Front Ranges of the Rockies.

The waxing gibbous Moon behind me lights the landscape and sky.

The photo is a stack of 5 images: one a short 40-second exposure at ISO 1600 for the point-like stars, followed after a gap in time by a set of four closely-spaced 6-minute exposures at ISO 100, to give the long star trails.

Shooting a handful of long exposures is the alternative to shooting dozens or hundreds of short exposures when you’re after star trails, and you don’t have any desire to collect a set you can turn into a time-lapse movie.

Indeed, shooting any time-lapses from this spot would have been futile – the location was a busy rest stop on the Trans-Canada Highway with cars and trucks pulling in, their headlights lighting up the foreground from time to time. But for still images, the site worked fine.

– Alan, August 9, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

Waxing Moon on the Water


Moon over Middle Lake HDRThe waxing crescent Moon shines over water at Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta.

What an excellent evening this was. On July 2 I was at a newly discovered spot, the Whitefish picnic area, in Bow Valley Provincial Park between Calgary and Canmore, Alberta.

I was there with colleagues doing a shoot for a promotional video for a project I’m involved with. But after the business shoot, I stuck around to take my own shots for time-lapse movies and still images.

In the scene above the Moon is reflected in the still waters of Middle Lake in the Park. It’s a high dynamic range stack of seven exposures.

Crescent Moon over the Bow River

Here, a little earlier in the evening is the scene on the banks of the Bow River, with the Moon over the swiftly flowing waters of the glacier-fed Bow. Its waters nourish much of southern Alberta, making farming, industry and life possible in an otherwise dry, rain-shadow climate.

Though a year ago its flood-swollen waters were bringing disaster to many people along the Bow.

Shooting at Bow Valley Park

This evening I shot motion-control time-lapses by the Bow, using some new gear that slowly pans or turns cameras during a time-lapse shoot. This is me playing with the new eMotimo controller, while the Dynamic Perception dolly does its thing below.

Lots of fun!

– Alan, July 4, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

McDougall Church under Moonlight


McDougall Church in Moonlight #1 (May 14, 2014)

The historic pioneer church at Morley, Alberta stands under moonlight on the banks of the Bow.

Last night, after presenting a talk on time-lapse techniques to the Cochrane Camera Club, I headed west on Highway 1A to the historic McDougall Memorial United Church, long on my target list for time-lapse photography. It was Full Moon, which helped mask the lighting from nearby town lights and the urban sky glow of Cochrane and Calgary.

The wooden church stands on the benchlands north of the Bow River, near Morley, Alberta. Rev. George McDougall built it in 1875 to minister to the Cree. He lies buried on the Church grounds — that’s his grave in the foreground in the main image above, with the Full Moon shining above the headstone.

McDougall Church in Moonlight #2 (May 14, 2014)

In this image, Mars stands directly above the Church steeple. The Full Moon shines in the clouds to the south. Both still images are frames from time-lapse movies, shot with two cameras. One was on the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly, the other was a static tripod-mounted camera.

This little compilation shows the movies I shot last night, under moonlight on the banks of the Bow. It may take a moment to load. I hope you enjoy it!

— Alan, May 15, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer