Saturday, 13 October 2012

Time-Lapse Photography - Part 3

(See below for time-lapse and location details)

The one thing that most people would have already realized is that, you'll have more fun when you understand the limits and capabilities of your equipment (i.e. camera). I guarantee that if you don't know how to use your camera you will find yourself witnessing an unbelievable sight only to start fumbling with your camera trying to find the right setting to capture it adequately. Invariably it'll accidentally turn out blurry or IN SEPIA!!!! (Murphy's Law!!!)

The GoPro for example, i have discovered that in slightly cold conditions (i.e. Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park - talked about in the previous post), it functions much slower. My default time-lapse setting is set at .5 seconds per shot. However, when in Montana and Wyoming for the first minute or so, the GoPro was shooting at about 1 - 1.5 seconds a shot. Eventually it did however, ramp up in speed later on.

Knowing your equipment is only half the solution.....knowing yourself and your capabilities is the other half. This leads me to my next tip.

Tip #6. Plan your trip

By plan i mean: Scout your location a day or more, before actually heading out there.  In doing so you'll see how long it actually takes to drive and/or hike to your location and also find a good set-up location. You'll also have a vague idea of the trail route and conditions (i.e. is it mountainous, are there multiple tracks, are there sighs/markers along the way to remember etc.), these are all important things (as i will explain). By knowing the condition, distance and route, you will be able to calculate when you need to wake up or leave in the morning to arrive in time to set your equipment up and catch the sunrise.

I was able to "plan" out my trip in Montana and even in Wyoming, however when i got to Moab -Utah, it was a different story. Due to the sheer number of activities i undertook (mountain biking, white water rafting etc.) i was not able to scout out the route to Delicate Arch. So on that morning i got up at 4:30am, got to the trail head started walking. I quickly found that when you hike in pitch-black darkness (with no moon and only a little torch), it is so easy to lose your way. For beginning portions of the track it was easy to stay on the path and also easy to see the footprints of previous trekkers.

The hike to Delicate Arch however also takes you over "slick rock" which is a smooth rock surface, great for mountain-biking, terrible for leaving any footprints!! Because there were no footprints i lost my way a few times (finding the track in the dark is a hard thing to do). To help you navigate "people" (not sure who) have put up "cairns". Cairns are little piles of rocks stacked on top of each other to help mark the way. HOWEVER, it quickly became evident that some TOURISTS who saw these cairns thought it would be fun (or funny) to make them too (PLACING THEM IN ODD LOCATIONS / DIRECTIONS!!!).

So here I am, in the dark, trekking up the slick rock, trying hard to keep on the right path, and suddenly I'm faced with  a hill LITTERED WITH CAIRNS ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!! Needless to say i got lost a few more times there too.

I eventually made it to Delicate Arch but due to my lost time (following the wrong path), i was not able to set up before first light. I was there before sunrise but the sky was already slightly lit and i had missed my opportunity to get the shots from darkness.

IF Had i scouted the location beforehand i would have at least known the route, known it would be significantly challenging hiking in the dark while staying on the right path and also compensated more time for getting lost (i always compensate for getting lost but this time it was frustratingly ridiculous!). This comes back to knowing your own capabilities and having confidence in yourself. I had confidence in hiking in the dark (yes it can be dangerous but i've done it enough to know that i would be able to trek safely). I also had confidence in my ability to navigate, so i knew that if/when i got lost i would always be able to guide my self back to a path or (if it were an emergency), back to help/civilization.

Having said that though i did not let this get me down because i was there, i had set everything up, i caught the sunrise and i had now accomplished one of my life's goals!! :D



Tip #7. Bring spare batteries

Now, this tip is especially pertinent when you're taking time lapse shots!! The one thing you'll need is enough battery life to last the allotted time (hence the term time-lapse). If you know your existing batteries will not go the distance then find a way to supplement what you already have.

WARNING:  You do NOT want to be taking your camera off the tripod, fiddling with it while replacing your battery, trying to replace your camera back onto your tripod and then after all that hoping it is in exactly (and i mean totally EXACTLY) the same position it in was before you moved it. Once you touch your camera it is near impossible to get back the same location and you will get a "skip" when you process your time lapse.

This is my suggestion to you. If your camera is able to take an external power/charging source, then you may want to get yourself one of these and MacGyver yourself a solution:

Not necessarily the solar charging panel but more so the rechargeable battery pack. This pack contains four rechargeable AA Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries (rated at 2000 mAh each). The battery pack has two charging inputs: 1) a Solar panel jack and 2) a mini-USB jack; and more importantly, one output port in the form of a normal USB port. This USB port will output 5 volts at .5amps, meaning that if you've got the right adapter, you can just about charge any phone, gps OR CAMERA that takes that voltage/current!!!!

By connecting a battery pack to your GoPro, your usage time essentially DOUBLES (in fact at times it lasted more than twice the normal usage of about 2 hours, making it about 4). So with a 32 gig SD card and this battery pack connected, you'd have more than enough time-lapse battery life to capture a a sunrise AND a sunset (if you use your space sparingly!!)

The whole set up should look something like this:

 (I thought my MacGyvered solution was rather clever!)

If you can spare the extra cash, the whole "Goal Zero" package of the solar panel WITH the battery pack is very handy, especially if you do a lot of hiking. Hooking the panel onto your backpack and walking for a day will guarantee you a good charge of your phone/gps/CAMERA during the night, no need for electrical outlets!!!!



So where did this all take place???

Location:                                  Arches National Park

Camera:                                    GoPro HDHERO2
Settings:                                   11 mp on .5 sec interval
Time of Arrival:                       6:15am
Duration of Time Lapse:          2 hour 5minutes
Number of shots in sequence:  3770
Total size used:                         19.1 Gigabytes
Wind condition:                        Negligible
Temperature:                            10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 - 59 degrees Fahrenheit) keep in mind this was early in the morning. Arches NP can get quite hot during the afternoon hours!!
Hiking time:                             45-50mins from trail head (if i remember correctly)
Lessons learned:                       Known how fast you hike and how long it will take for you to get to your destination. Work backwards and find out what time you need to leave/wake up!! Always factor in a buffer time just in case you get lost. And, always ensure that your battery life is long enough to capture whatever it is you are may only get one chance in your lifetime to do this so MAKE IT COUNT!!!

(click to enlarge the map above. The red dot is the location of Delicate Arch in the National Park)

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