Monday, July 28, 2014

Stars timelapse

Over the weekend I decided to experiment with time lapse a little more having received a little encouragement from friends and family.

On Friday evening we decided to pop down to Lake Samsonvale to try and capture a time lapse sunset. The sun was very exposed and bright so the question was; what are we trying to capture exactly? Not merely the setting of the sun but changing colours, reflections, flora and fauna. 

I wanted to capture about an hour's worth of images at 10 second intervals, about 360 with about half prior to sunset. I figured that I could take images for about half an hour after sunset before running into serious exposure issues so what settings would be best for the transition from full sunlight to full dark without having to touch the camera and risk wrecking the lot. I'm open to suggestion by the way!
I decided to go with Program mode and control ISO whilst leaving all other settings for the camera. One thing I did do was change the format to 16:9 since I wanted wide screen (this can be changed at processing since I'm shooting in RAW but I want to get into the habit of checking and changing all settings quickly and efficiently until they become second nature.)

I set the Sony a99 ISO to 100 in Program mode, using my 18/250 lens at 18mm, aperture to f/4.0 added the Nero and set it to time lapse 10 second intervals and this is the result (no processing other than removing a couple of spots from lens dust).

I am quite pleased with the way this has turned out, and I'll use it in a movie in the future. What do you think?

On Saturday evening I thought I would go down to Woody Point and try a similar shoot but with the weather very different (it was overcast with showers) I thought I might revert back to fully auto on the camera and on checking the shots afterward there was a huge fluctuation of ISO and this did require me to use Lightroom to adjust the luminance in order to reduce noise. To do this I used Lightroom's Metadata filter to select the ISO settings above 800 and gradually increased all the luminance settings playing the Sharpening and Noise reduction settings against one another. Now I know that a lot of photographers are going to think that my white balance is off but I can assure you I checked and rechecked and besides, this is a true representation of what I saw.

I don't think that I will use fully auto again, too much post processing required. This is the end result of this particular event and I'm very happy with it.... yes that is rain and yes I did get caught in it but I didn't have far to go to get to cover (always carry a plastic bag to quickly cover your gear - unless it's waterproof) whilst my camera is weatherproof, the lens is not. Again feedback on this clip would be much appreciated.

Okay so on Sunday I asked Bonnie Ronnie if she would care to join me for an evening shoot up at our (wishful thinking) block on Ocean View Road near Mt Mee, she agreed and so began a semi-successful shoot. Man it's cold up there - love it. The plan was to capture another time lapse but this time I wanted the transition from daylight afterglow to starlight. 

I was sure that there would be no way to capture this transition but I had to try and if I could limit any changes to shutter speed only, I may stand a chance. I set the Sony a99 ISO to 1600 f/4.0 18mm in Manual mode. Using live view I adjusted the shutter speed to 1500 and quickly discovered that I was not going to get enough of the milky way for my star trails (the other purpose of this shoot). As a 'by the by' I use an app on my phone, called 'Sky Safari Plus' (there are free versions available for the beginner) to help me pinpoint stars, constellations, and all manner of celestial movement in the past, present and future so that I know where to point my camera and at what time I can expect events to occur. If one is going to shoot the stars one needs to be as far from light pollution as possible and one should be fully aware of one's bearings so these apps are invaluable. Thank goodness for smart phones.

Anyway getting back on topic, I decided to change camera orientation to portrait and all seemed to be progressing relatively well but this transition from Dusk to Starlight was just too huge a light difference for this process and I wound up with two short salvageable clips. This is the first:

As you can see the orientation is a major issue, also the changes in shutter speed required much editing in post processing in Lightroom and in my opinion whilst this shoot was a complete failure, the exercise was a huge success since I know what not to do. 

The final attempt managed to capture the stars nicely but the orientation just left me feeling flat so I'll try this again but with a wide angle lens (I don't like the one I have as it's a little too soft and distorted (Light's stars etc.) but it may do well for this type of photography- just won't know till I give it a go.

The flashes of light on the old dead tree are from passing vehicles, which I thought were quite cool as it added to the effect. you can see the star trails composition here.

Stay tuned for bigger and better things. Till next time take care and stay safe.

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