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Archive for Sunday, July 20, 2014

Behind the Lens: Turn your camera into a time machine

July 20, 2014

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I recently listened to film director Richard Linklater discuss his new movie “Boyhood” on National Public Radio.

The movie, the story of one boy’s childhood from adolescence to young adulthood, was filmed over a period of 12 years. All actors age before the viewers’ eyes. Linklater’s daughter Lorelei, a co-star in the movie, ages from 8 to 20 in the film’s 166-minute running time, for example. Impressive time travel.

Photographers can create similar leaps in time with time-lapse photography.

Time-lapse photography consists of making a series of still or video images of a subject at variable times and over an extended period. When you combine the images later in a linear format and view them back at a faster speed, the passage of time is compressed.

Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester has created a time-lapse video that documents his daughter Lotte growing up from shortly after her birth to age 14 in the span of 4 minutes, pictured in this screenshot of the short film on YouTube. Time-lapse photography can be a creative visual tool for documenting many subjects and their relationship to time.

Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester has created a time-lapse video that documents his daughter Lotte growing up from shortly after her birth to age 14 in the span of 4 minutes, pictured in this screenshot of the short film on YouTube. Time-lapse photography can be a creative visual tool for documenting many subjects and their relationship to time.

Suppose you took a similarly composed photograph once a day for 80 days of a garden tomato plant. You start at the time of planting through the first red fruit. If you laid the photographs out in order, in a long row on the ground and ran alongside, you would experience the cinematic life of a tomato in a 20-foot dash.

Of course the better option would be to import the photos into a video software program. You could input your 80 photos, assign each a 1/4-second screen time and watch as your baby beefsteak goes from 0-80 in 20 seconds.

There are two ways to accomplish time-lapse projects. One would be to manually capture your images from a similar location and at various intervals. A second option is to use an intervalometer. Intervalometers trigger exposures based on intervals and periods of time selected by the photographer. Some cameras have them built-in, and you can also buy them as a standalone device.

If you have a safe or protected location for doing your time-lapse, you can see why having an intervalometer would be great. You could position your camera, start your intervalometer, and then walk away.

Depending on the length of your project, your main concern would be the protection of your camera, capacity of your memory card and battery life. Because intervalometers are not available for many cameras, most people do time-lapses manually. The key to a successful time-lapse is framing your subject in a similar style and composition so frame transitions are smooth.

Other considerations are changing exposures and focus selection. In most cases a manual exposure setting and a manual focus will provide the best consistency throughout all your shots.

You can find hundreds of great time-lapse examples online on subjects from weather to construction. Two portrait series worth checking out are: “Portrait of Lotte,” short video clips of a girl from 0-14 years in 4 minutes; and “The Longest Way 1.0,” which chronicles a man’s hike through China and the self-portraits he shot over the course of a year.

— Chief Photographer Mike Yoder can be reached at 832-7141. Check out more photos at ljworld.tumblr.com.

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