First time lapse – Lessons in time


Time lapse in the scorching heat
Time lapse in the scorching heat

Last Monday, 4th of July holiday, I ventured into the depths of Hollywood Beach, Fl to try my first time lapse. Although I went prepared and had researched a few things about how to properly do one, I know now, that the information was not enough to complete the one I was trying to do successfully. Think of this as a time lapse lessons on the field.

Learn from my mistakes.
There are many things that work fine in time lapses, and there are of course some, that don’t work at all. Shadows, clouds, lights are fine examples of what works in a classical time lapse setting. On the other hand, choppy water and fast moving objects are not ideal subjects unless you’re shooting them on purpose, in a staccato fashion. Water masses should be included only at a distance and not ground level, since the water movement will never look fluid, but mostly choppy, due to the daylight shutter speed you need to employ while shooting in plain daylight. Alternatives for this kind of scene would have been better during night time. A longer shutter speed, 1/30 or less, might have smoothed out the water ripples and variation changes thus providing less detail in the texture. Again time lapse lessons.

Timing, tyrant of the universe

I had probably spent about 2 and a half hours recording this sequence and an alternative one from a different angle. I was hoping that the holiday weekend will provide plenty of traffic along the canal. Even though there were many small boats and jet skies travelling by, my main plan accounted for the actual opening and closing of the draw bridge a few times during my shooting time. Draw bridges in South Florida have different rules and schedules. According to Hollywood’s Marina, this bridge was supposed to open every hour and half hour.
During my stay at the bridge, I did not see a single sailboat that might had required  the opening and closing of the bridge, at least not until I was ready to leave. After a very hot morning and noon, a single sailboat was slowly approaching while patiently waiting for the bridge to open. By that time, camera, tripod and lenses were already carefully put away, back into my travel bag. 🙁

Time lapse Post:

Another thing to have in mind is the post-processing of your time lapse.  I first started with Lightroom to properly adjust and correct all the raw footage I captured. As with many things, use the software you feel more comfortable with. After some initial test, I was not satisfied with LR workflow for time lapses and decided to learn how to process them in Adobe Bridge. Yes, In my opinion, Bridge is the way to go. It’s simply a much faster turn around, and when you get thousands of files, this can be a crucial factor.
Once I’ve corrected and adjusted my Camera Raw parameters, make sure you export your files into the proper camera space. If you’re aiming for the best quality, avoid JPG altogether – I know, it hurts – but sky banding is going to be a major problem if you’re downgrading your wonderful RAW 16 bit color space files into 8 bits. Adobe RGB is limited on the amount of colors it can handle, it was mostly designed for print and CMYK printers spectrum. I did not like the results once I try them on this piece, that’s why I had re rendered everything hoping for a better, smoother color transition.