Monthly Archives

July 2010

Photography, Technology

Time Lapse Phtotography

July 5, 2010
This post is more about the journey and the intersection of several interests – or more specifically exactly why this blog was created.

First

The love of photography, I have been toting a camera since I was 12.

Second

Electronics, since taking basic eletronics in vocational school I have been hooked on tinkering, thanks to Mr. Gouge!

Third

Computers & Programming, while I have programmed in many different languages, a new device has piqued my interest, the Arduino.
I have been wanting to experiment with some timelapse photography for many years. Several years ago I purchased a simple Canon remote (not the fancy programmable one) and organized a photo walk amongst some co-workers in San Franciso. However, we only did single long exposures on that trip and played around with some light painting techniques, but I knew I would be revisiting time lapse someday.
Since I am using Canon gear, the interface to trigger the shutter is an ND-3 connector, which seems darn near impossible to source, so I did the next logical thing and cut my Canon remote in half and soldered some connectors on it. ND3 problem solved. Here is what the resulting cable looks like.
Over the next year or so, I discovered the Arduino platform and saw where several folks had used it to trigger their camera.
So, I dug out a few parts, an old radio shack breadboard from the 80’s, setup the Arduino and the stage was set. Wired up the Arduino to trigger the camera, put a few lines of code together from various sources and Viola! Now I have a working intervalometer that I can set the interval in milliseconds and the shutter time in milliseconds (using Bulb setting on camera).
Using a 7.2 NiCd battery pack from one of the kids long ago discarded radio control cars comes in real handy to power the Arduino.
I took 300 photos using manual focus, aperature priority in RAW. In the spirit of keeping things to a minimal footprint, I wanted to see if I could leverage the past 16+ years of Linux experience to keep the costs of time lapse photography to a minimum. I had already purchased Bibble a few years back to process RAW files, and I was able to get a free upgrade (try that with Lightroom or Photoshop) to the latest, which is quite capable and has most of the features of Adobe Lightroom.
Anyway, I processed the RAW files, then as a pure workflow test, I had Bibble export them to 640 x 480 JPGs, then used some command line utilities in Linux (more freebies!) to convert them into a video.
Using Ubuntu Linux 10.04 you can use mencoder to convert the JPGs to mpg.
First install the package with:
sudo apt-get install mencoder
then convert with this command
mencoder “mf://*.jpg” -mf fps=24:type=jpg -o out.mpg -ovc lavc -ffourcc DX50 -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=900:vrc_eq=tex:naq:ilme:trell:cbp:preme=1:keyint=132:mbd=0:qns=1:vme=4:dia=2
Here is the link to the first video produced. Not perfect but is a good start.
Next steps:
  • Add a photodetector to trigger the camera shutter when lightning is detected.
  • Experiment with Nocturnal time lapse ala timescapes.org
  • Add some more features to the Arduino code.