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Monthly Archives: May 2010

I went down to Yorktown very early this morning to do time-lapse, and I just happened upon a 3 masted sailing ship that was docked on the river….

"The Peacemaker", Tall Ship at Sunrise.

"The Peacemaker" Tall Ship at Sunrise. Yorktown, VA.

"The Peacemaker", Tall Ship at Sunrise. Yorktown, VA


Hey Daniel,

Generally, how are you doing your timelapses? I have the Canon Rebel T2i/550, and I can only record for 10minutes (4GB) at a time before I have to push record again, and with a 16gb card, thats about 40 minutes. My camera also tends to start getting pretty hot after recording for longer than 1.5 hours…Can the 7D record straight to a harddrive or a computer? Or are you doing things like I am where I’m baby sitting the camera and changing out SD cards and batteries?



You’re thinking video, which is the hard way to do it. With an HD-SLR, you’re not taking video continuously.. you’re taking still photos and then animating them with QuickTime Pro (or another program like VirtualDub or Adobe After Effects)… this allows you higher image quality than 1920×1080 and much greater flexibility with post-processing.

So.. you’ll need an intervalometer or a laptop in order to time the shots. I have a Satechi intervalometer that I bought from Philip Bloom’s Amazon store for $70. Order it ahead of time, it will take 8 days to arrive unless you live in California.

You can hook the Canon 7D straight up to a laptop with the included USB cable. I suspect the T2i has the same interface.  In most *internal* aspects, the 7D and the T2i are basically the same camera.

That allows you to completely control every aspect of the camera; it can function as an intervalometer, and you can record to the camera, laptop hard drive, or both.

I don’t have a laptop, so I use the intervalometer. The laptop offers the additional benefit of showing you the image in much greater detail, allowing you to fine tune exposure and focus.

For daytime shots, I take one picture with aperture priority at the lowest ISO that lights the subject as desired; then I’ll mirror those settings in manual mode.

Changing light; like a sunset, is a whole diff ball-game, it’s 100% aperture priority with hacks to reduce flickering. Go visit Tom Lowe’s site at and visit the forums for a LOT more information on this issue.

Picking an interval:

For daytime shots in normal light.. it depends on how fast your “subject” is moving. But for arguments sake, start with 10 or 12 seconds. That’s a good interval for clouds. If your subject is a group of people doing something active, or perhaps car traffic…you’ll want to use shorter intervals, even down to 1-second intervals sometimes.

For night time shots, I have to take longer exposures, anywhere from 3-30 seconds. I give the 7D at least 2 seconds to record the exposure before activating the shutter again.

So…For a 30 second exposure, I usually set a 32 or 33 sec interval… For an 8 second exposure I’ll set a 10 second interval, etc.

My settings for getting the stars: Manual, 10 to 30 sec exposure with anywhere from 240 to 1600 ISO; AWB=flourescent (more clear) or tungsten (more hazy or sodium background light).   The more haze and background light, the lower the ISO.  If I’m away from background light, and the sky is really clear, I’ll crank up the ISO to try and get more stars. 

At 800 ISO, away from city light and with a very clear sky (and no moon!) you will can photograph the Milky Way galaxy moving through the sky. EDIT: I’ve now realized you can use much higher ISOs (up to 1600), but I still don’t like the noise beyond about 640-800 ISO.

When I’m taking a lot of images, doing time-lapse, I have, in the past recorded my images in Large JPEG and not RAW mode*. I have a 32 Gb card, but RAW images are like 20mb each, way too big for the 1000’s of images I’m usually taking.

Postscript: now I’ve changed to using RAW; I have purchased a 64Gb CF card.. but let’s not get confused, RAW vs. JPEG is another entire discussion

Check your Auto White Balance (AWB) setting. You NEVER want this set to “Auto” for time-lapse, or else your frames will flicker and show different shades of color.

Start with something simple. Go out on a cloudy day and take 240 JPEGS of the clouds going by at intervals of 10 seconds. You can use Av mode, Aperture Priority, if that makes it easier. The reason not to use AV mode is that it can cause your timelapse to flicker if the light changes up and down.. like if clouds are rolling overhead.. But don’t worry about that too much your first few times out. Just try to get the mechanics right at first.

You’ll want to process these photos with image software (I use Digital Photo Pro, which is what was included with the camera). This is where you can tune the color, and trim and resize for your final output format.

This is part of the flexibility I was talking about. For example in my clip All Stars, All Night, I made 2 scenes from different areas of the same single set of photos.

You’ll have to purchase QuickTime Pro ($29), but it’s the best money you’ll ever spend, because it can take these image sequences and animate them at various framerates, creating MOV files. Later on, If you really want to shell out the big bucks, Adobe After Effects can create lovely MOVs directly from sequences RAW files.

After that, you’ll have a MOV video file, at that point it’s in the hands of Final Cut Pro or your video editing software of choice.

[eyeball close up]

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