Time-Lapse Test: Adding Motion Control


Here’s the movie I show being taken in my previous blog. This is my first attempt at a motion-control time-lapse.

In this movie the camera shifted position during the 3 hours of shooting by sliding along a rail, with the movement controlled by a little computer box that opened and closed the shutter (in this case for 15 seconds for each frame), then between each exposure it pulsed the motor to shift the camera a centimetre or so down the dolly’s rail. 

Pretty nifty! And until this unit, the Stage Zero Dolly, came along this capability would have cost much more money, from some Hollywood cinema supplier.

This was only a test, and I did mess up at one point (where I appear in the frame in the previous blog’s movie) as I tried to adjust the speed in mid-track, resulting in some dead motion for a few frames. So the motion comes to a halt briefly. It will take some learning to know how to set the speed right for the number of frames and exposure times I typically shoot.

But the ramping up in speed at the beginning of this movie is intentional, and is one of the motion control variables you can program in. 

The Stage Zero Dolly unit is from Dynamic Perception LLC. Lots of time-lapse shooters are employing it now, for their cinema-like pans and moves. I’ve been inspired by the work of Randy Halverson at http://dakotalapse.com/ . Amazing stuff — representing a whole new level of time-lapse techniques. 

So now I know what I’ll be doing now on moonlit evenings! 

— Alan, September 12, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Time-Lapse of a Time-Lapse


I’ve been taking lots of time-lapse movies of late. But this one is a time-lapse movie of my other camera taking a time-lapse movie.

Here you see my Canon 7D camera riding aboard my latest tool (or toy!), a motion-control dolly. The camera takes its series of still images (that will be later stitched together into a movie) while it tracks down a rail, riding on a motorized cart.

The unit is called the Stage Zero Dolly, from Dynamic Perception LLC. It is a nifty device that fires the camera shutter for the exposure time and interval you desire. In between each exposure it also moves the camera a small amount down the track. The result can be seen in the next blog, a time-lapse movie with a changing perspective, giving a cinema-style dolly shot. Except, I took this one over 3 hours.

While this scene might look like I took it during the day, it is the middle of the night (witness the moving stars). The blue sky is due to moonlight, from an almost Full Moon on September 10.

The Stage Zero Dolly takes some work to set up and program right, but the results open up a whole new dimension (literally!) in time-lapse shooting.

— Alan, September 12, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Big Dipper over Peyto Lake


 

After taking the twilight shots at Waterfowl Lakes on Sunday night (click back to the previous blog), I continued up the Icefields Parkway, ascending to Bow Summit and the viewpoint that overlooks one of the most famous scenes in the Canadian Rockies, Peyto Lake.

Named for legendary mountain man and guide Bill Peyto, the lake was a favourite place for him, to give him solitude away from the madding crowds of Banff.

As with so many of these places, by day this very spot swarms with tourists by the bus load. Peyto would have cringed. But at nightfall, I am the only one there, enjoying the stars coming out in the solitude of the darkening sky.

Here, we look north, to the Big Dipper and Arcturus over the lake in the valley below.

This is a single exposure of 30 seconds at ISO 800 with the Canon 7D and 10-22mm lens.

— Alan, September 5, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

Moon over Saskatchewan River Crossing


 

This is how the night started, on Sunday evening, September 4 — as clear a night as you could ask for in the mountains. A quarter Moon hangs over the peaks of the Continental Divide, with alpen glow, the last rays of the Sun, illuminating the mountains around Saskatchewan River Crossing, in Banff.

The North Saskatchewan River flows east out of the mountains here, after being joined by the Mistaya and Howse rivers. It was here, in the early 1800s, that David Thompson and his party of fur traders from the North West Company entered the Rockies and heading up over Howse Pass off frame to the right, to trade with the Kootenays in the interior of what is now British Columbia.

This is David Thompson country, named for one of the world’s greatest geographers and mapmakers. He mapped most of western Canada and down into the Oregon Territory. All using compasses, sextants, a Dolland refractor telescope (to observe the moons of Jupiter for telling time), and his skills as an astronomer. The Kootenays called him Koo-Koo-Sint — the man who watches the stars.

It was also here, on these open river plains, that James Hector, mapping southern Alberta with the Palliser Expedition, observed Comet Donati in September 1858.

This is a place in the Rockies with many ties to history and to astronomy.

— Alan, September 5, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

Lake Louise by Moonlight — The Movie


Here is the time-lapse movie I took last Saturday night at Lake Louise, Alberta, under the light of the Full Moon. My previous blog featured a still frame from the beginning of this sequence.

The night starts clear, but as often happens, clouds move in, blowing off the cold icefields of the continental divide. It does make for a nice effect in time-lapse, one of few instances in astronomy where some clouds can be useful!

Also notice how the reflection disappears as the lake breaks up into waves briefly, as wind blows in now and then through the night. The Full Moon is rising behind the camera, causing the lake to light up as moonlight illuminates more of the lake’s surface. Shadows move across the mountainsides. Arcturus is the bright star setting at right. The red object at left is a moored canoe, moving about on the lake.

I took this movie over 4 hours from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am, taking 477 frames with the Canon 7D and 10mm lens. For time-lapse movies like this, I process the full-size RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge, then use Photoshop’s Image Processor to export them all to smaller size JPGs. From that set, I use Photoshop CS5 Extended’s “Motion” feature to assemble the folder of JPGs into a movie, in this case at 24 frames per second, a little fast perhaps for this sequence, but it’s easy to change if needed. Photoshop then renders that image file out as a Quicktime movie. What you see here is a tiny version of the final HD-sized video.

— Alan, August 16, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Lake Louise by Moonlight


This has to be one of the most photogenic and photographed places in the world. Here it is in a different light, moonlight.

This is Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Alberta. A few hours before I took this photo on Saturday, August 13, where I stood would have been swarming with thousands of people. But at midnight there was no one about. I had the view to myself.

This looks like a daytime shot, except the stars give it away. Instead, it is the Full Moon, behind the camera, providing the illumination. Contrary to Hollywood lighting clichés, moonlight is not blue. It is the same colour as sunlight, because it is sunlight, just much fainter, reflected off the Moon’s neutral grey surface.

In this view we are looking southwest, toward the stars of the summer sky setting behind the peaks of the continental divide. Arcturus is the bright star at right.

A calm night provided the glassy lake to reflect Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier.

This is one frame of 477 30-second exposures I took over 4 hours, of the stars turning and eventually clouds blowing in across the sky from the icefields over the divide. It’s rare to get such a perfectly clear night in the Rockies. It was a wonderful to be there, and apparently to be the only one there, to experience it.

— Alan, August 14, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

 

Sacred Site: The Movie


Here’s my time-lapse sequence of the hoodoos at Writing-on-Stone Park lighting up as the Moon rises and the Milky Way sets.

The sky starts off dark but lights up as the waning Moon, off frame behind the camera, rises and lights up the foreground and sky. The sequence ends as the sky brightens with the onset of dawn.

Waning moons are great nights for this type of shooting as the changing lighting produces dramatic effects as the landscape lights up at moonrise. The problem is, the Moon doesn’t rise till very late, making for a long night of shooting.

I assembled this sequence from 290 frames, each a 60-second exposure, taken at 1-second intervals over about 4 hours. The camera was the Canon 7D and the lens the 10-22mm Canon EF-S zoom at 10mm. I also shot a matching sequence simultaneously with the 8mm fish-eye and Canon 5D MkII camera, for an all-sky sequence for planetarium use.

— Alan, July 30, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer