My Adventures In Photography

A while back I started a photography column for my hometown's local newspaper — you'll find all of my columns from those pages here as well as new ones that I write.

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Showing the passage of time

With the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair just wrapping up last week, I thought now would be a good time to use some of the photos I took from that week-long event to explain a cool technique: Time lapse photography.

During the fair I set up my tripod and I took different series of photos to create time lapses for a video project (you can view that video by clicking here). 

Time lapse videography is a fun project that is actually photography in disguise. You simply take a photo every few seconds and once you put those images into a video editor it looks like time is fast-forwarding when played back. To create this kind of video, you’ll need a tripod and something called an intervalometer to activate the shutter release button at set intervals.

Time lapse photography is similar to the videography version, but instead of seeing time passing faster than usual you’re actually seeing time pass all at once in a single image. A good example is this post, with the Bay City fireworks as the featured image.

The images I took at the fair for the time lapse video were taken 15 seconds apart right at dusk. Each exposure was 10 seconds long with a five-second gap in between each shot so I could briefly see how each exposure looked. I especially like that each shot was a long exposure so when the rides moved they created light trails.

For the video, each image was a single frame and each second of video contained 30 frames in it. For each series of time lapse video I took 120 images (or frames) so that equates to roughly four seconds of video.

I shot each image in RAW for maximum image quality and for the best dynamic range just in case I needed to adjust the exposure of each shot in Adobe’s Camera Raw plug-in in Adobe Bridge. It’s a good thing I did, because each shot did need some adjustment.

Once I color-corrected all of the images in Adobe Bridge, I went up to Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers to open up a single Photoshop project with each image as a single layer. This feature saves a lot of time. Back in the day you’d have to copy/paste each image into a single project and it would take forever. However, don’t assume it will be a super quick process either — integrating each RAW file into a single Photoshop project takes a while, especially when you have 100-plus images.

Once all the images were loaded, the next part was easy. I simply selected all of the layers and changed the Blend Mode to Lighten.

What that did was make all of the images I just put into the project converge on each other and each area of light in the images overlapped one another.

For example, take a look at the ferris wheel — the final image shows the ferris wheel in a bunch of positions all at once. That’s because at each position the ferris wheel had a certain amount of light cast upon it (even when it was spinning) and by changing the Blend Mode of each image to Lighten I told Photoshop to show all of that light all at once.

Other photographers enjoy doing this kind of photography during the day time, and I do as well, but in this particular scenario I preferred the night shot with the rides the best. During the day, if you shoot these kinds of images outside, the clouds will look like they’re painted across the sky.

This technique can be used for more than just time lapse photography, too. If you’re an avid shooter of the night sky, using this technique can replace a single long exposure and decrease overall noise in star trail images as well.

I’ll definitely be playing around with time lapse photography in the future. Although this technique is time consuming, it’s a good way to show the passage of time and create some cool projects.