I recently returned from a lovely trip to the Arctic once again, to Ivalo in Finland. My readers will probably know by now that I tend to put a lot of research into each destination in terms of light pollution, easy of access, amenities and available activities.
This time around I stayed at Guesthouse Husky, just a 20 minute taxi/car rental ride from Ivalo Airport. So here is my review on this lovely family owned establishment. I will group my opinions in headings that should be of interest to most Aurora hunters and given them all ratings out of 10.
Northern Lights – 9/10
As a Northern Lights destination Guesthouse Husky ticks all the boxes. Located at roughly 67 degrees corrected geomagnetic latitude its in a great location for Aurora viewing close to the ‘Auroral band’. There is a clear view to the skies all the way around the lodge, with just some tree-lines on the lower horizon. There is also few manmade structures nearby to detract from the beautiful surroundings, the wooden main lodge and outhouses all blend beautifully into the surroundings.
Weather – 8/10
Located further inland than other Aurora destinations at a similar latitude means ‘statistically speaking’ Ivalo in Finland’s weather is a little more stable and is less affected by the coastal weather extremes that plagues much of coastal Norway and some parts of Sweden. Of course there is always the chance of cloud cover in any of these destinations especially when visiting in winter, clear skies are never a guarantee, but during my stays in northern Finland I have generally had a higher occurrence of clear skies the further inland I headed i.e. staying in Finland. Be ready though, it can also be quite a bit colder being further from the coast!
Accomodation – 9/10
The lodge itself is very cozy and welcoming and is based on three floors. There are two entrances into the lodge. One onto ground level from the front of the lodge, and the other to the first level from the back of the lodge. At ground level there’s the reception, and dining area as well as the Sauna. On the first and second floor are guest rooms which are very cozy, warm and spacious, with windows to see outside to check on the Aurora.
There’s also a communal kitchen area on the first floor, I spent much of my time there working on Aurora photos and blogging.
All in all the accommodation is clean, tidy and welcoming and the host Outi is a lovely woman that’s very helpful with any queries you may have.
Food – 10/10
Homecooked food is served if you choose the lunch and/or dinner options during your stay and you should definitely give it a try on at least one of your days. We decided to sample both for most of our stay and the food was consistently tasty and wholesome and we always left with a happy full tummy.
Activities – 7/10
As an Aurora hunter I don’t normally look at activities as a focal point when I visit. But normally end up doing one or two tours depending on budget/time. The dogsledding was a lot of fun and very reasonably priced compared to other operators I’ve used in Norway and Sweden. The dogs are beautiful, well taken care of and so full of zest and enthusiasm. The trail is beautiful and you get to drive the sled yourself and/or share with a second party member.
They also offer snowmobile tours of different durations that also give you the option to visit a Reindeer farm. A good idea if you’d really like to see Reindeer as they don’t come out to play too much in the Winter in the wild!
There’s a bunch of Aurora tours available too, but honestly I found the lodge was perfectly suitable as a Northern Lights base.
My main reason for rating slightly lower here is that I’ve find a few more options in terms of activities in other locations as well as some laid out walking trails.
Atmosphere – 9/10
I felt very at home and welcomed at Guesthouse Husky, the communal kitchen area and main dining area are nice cozy areas to meet other people should you be a lone traveller, and most times people will strike up a conversation about their mutual love of the Northern Lights anyway so its really easy to get to know the people there =)
Overall I would rate Guesthouse Husky a 9/10 which makes it one of the better options when choosing a Northern Lights destination. It’s closeby to the town of Ivalo, yet isn’t affected by light pollution to any significant degree so Northern Lights viewing is easy when there is activity and clear skies. Hosts are friendly, food is available onsite, its easy to drive to from the airport and there are activities available from the lodge, not to mention a stunning beautiful environment.
Thumbs up! 🙂
Here are some photos taken of the Northern Lights as well as general images from the area.
What equipment do I need to capture the Aurora Borealis?
First off lets get through the basics, what do you need? Talking bare minimum, you need the following:
DSLR or Digital Camera – As long as the camera allows you to manually control the cameras Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO settings then you’re good.
Tripod – Essential to Aurora Photography. A lot of Northern Lights photography relies on short to long exposure times, anything from 1-2 seconds to as much as 20-30 seconds. So being able to keep your camera stable the entire time is of utmost importance, or you’ll end up with 00gly blurry pictures.
High aperture lens – You’ll need a lens with a low f number (known as high aperture). Anything smaller than f4 is perfect. The smaller the number the more light is allowed into the camera, so the shorter your exposures will need to be 🙂 I use a Sigma 20mm f.1.8 and Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens.
And some more recommended pieces of equipment:
Remote Switch – This can be either remote or cable release. Extremely handy as it allows you to take pictures on your camera without having to touch the camera. Stops those jitters and shakes from translating to blurry shots (cold can do that to a person!) Here’s an example – Nikon D40, D40x, D60, D80 & D90 Digital SLR Cameras,
Intervalometer – If you’re interested in creating timelapse movies of the Aurora Borealis, you’ll need an Intervalometer. This is a device that takes pictures on a timer, a repeated number of occasions, so you can collate them together later to create a video.
Spare Batteries – If you’re outside waiting for the Northern Lights, chances are it’s darn cold! The cold eats away your batteries life like nothing else. Highly recommend keeping 1-2 extra spare batteries with you, and keeping them close to your body (like in an inside pocket perhaps). When the battery in your camera is running low, switch for one of your warm batteries. Your used battery will regain some of its battery life inside your pocket again and once again you can switch etc.
What settings should I use?
As with most things Photography, this isn’t a precise science. Rest assured, you do have quite a bit of lee way with regards settings, which will still give you nice Aurora shots. Getting the perfect Aurora Borealis photography is all about tweaking your settings around a ‘baseline’ depending on the current conditions. Such as Moon Phase, speed of the Aurora, intensity of the Northern Lights, light pollution etc. Generally speaking the below will give you some nice shots:
Aperture – The wider the aperture the better. This is the f number on your camera. Aim for f4 or wider (i.e smaller number than 4). I use f1.8 on my Sigma 20mm and f2.8 on my Nikon 14.24mm.
ISO – You should be able to find this setting in your cameras menu. Start off with an ISO of 600-800 and see how this fares on your camera. Certain cameras handle high ISO’s better so you may be able to raise this number. ISO is basically your camera’s sensitivity to light. So by raising this number you allow more light into the camera (therefore reducing the shutter speed or the amount of time 1 shot takes) BUT you risk more ‘image noise‘ in your shot. It’s all compromise.
Shutter Speed – This one has a wider range as it depends on the brightness of the Aurora. Generally speaking the following are good guidelines:
Weak Aurora – 10 to 30 second exposure.
Moderate/Active Aurora – 5 to 10 seconds
Active Aurora – 1-5 seconds
So how to set the shutter speeds? You can do this in one of two ways:
Set the shutter speed manually to the number of seconds desired (2 seconds would show up as 2″, 3 seconds as 3″, etc)
Set the Camera to ‘Bulb’ Mode. In this mode you control the shutter speed simply by holding the shutter release down for the amount of time desired.
White Balance – You can find this in your camera menu too. Even though on most DSLR cameras you can shoot in RAW Mode, and adjust White Balance later on, this isn’t always an option with Digital Cameras. Set your White Balance to Auto. This should handle most situations well.
Focus – A lot of people struggle with how to set their focus. It’s pitch dark outside, and it’s hard to get your camera to focus on anything. The rule of thumb with Astrophotography and Northern lights photography, is to set your camera’s focus ring to ‘Infinity’. This will appear as the ∞ symbol on most focus rings. This should mean the stars are in focus, which is what really gives Northern Lights shots their sharpness.
NB – On certain lenses, true Infinity maybe be ever so slightly off the ∞ symbol. Test this out on a dark night anywhere. Set your ring to infinity, take a shot, then zoom in on your viewfinder and see if those stars are sharp. Then remember that focus ring spot 🙂
Settings close to the above will give you some nice Aurora shots =) From there it’s just tweaking things by yourself once you get a feel for it.
Shutter speeds will have a significant effect on the outcome of your Aurora photography, in particular the shapes and sharpness of the Aurora. You may have sometimes wondered or heard people say that the camera picks up the Aurora’s telltale green colour better than the human eye. This is true to a certain extent. A camera picks up WEAK Aurora’s when we cant. For this reason, a lot of people are able to create beautiful Aurora Borealis pictures by having very long shutter speed / exposure times i.e. 25 seconds +. This allows the camera plenty of time to ‘absorb’ all that green colour. So while very long exposures are not true to life visually, they sure can be pretty =)
Rest assured, the Aurora can be insanely bright and fast! So much so that you need really short exposure times so the Aurora doesn’t overexpose in your shot and look white! Here are some examples of some of my shots at different exposures:
2 second Northern Lights exposure
4 second Aurora Borealis exposure
12 Second Aurora Borealis exposure
NB – If at all possible shoot in RAW mode. DSLR cameras should all have this setting in their menus where you can choose the image mode i.e. JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, RAW. Shooting in RAW mode means you will have much more flexibility later on to edit the image’s color balance, exposure, contrast etc. Jpegs compress the images as soon as you take them and you therefore lose a lot of the data that allows you to make changes.
How will the Full Moon affect my shots?
A lot of people are wary of travelling to see the Northern Lights during the Full Moon. As mentioned in my post about the Aurora Borealis, I love the Full Moon! Unless you’re dealing with a very weak Aurora, Half to Full moons are pretty awesome in that they light up the landscape beautifully and naturally. Here are the pros and cons to different moon phases, and how you might have to adjust your cameras settings :
Gibbous – Full Moon
Pros – Lights up landscape naturally. Give’s more foreground detail so you don’t end up with black foregrounds. Allows you to use a lower ISO or alternately you can shorten the amount of time you’re taking a shot for (exposure).
Cons – Capturing the star field and/or the Milky way becomes very difficult due to moonlight obscuring the universe from us.
Aurora Borealis during New Moon
Aurora Borealis during Full Moon
New Moon – Half Moon
Pros – Easier to see weak Auroras. Allows for more stars in your pictures, possible Milky way if you’re pointing your camera at the right place.
Cons – Foregrounds tend to be very dark with less detail in the other elements of your shot. You may need to compensate and higher the ISO, or increase the Exposure time of your shot.
Here are two examples showing some of my Aurora shots during the Full Moon, and New Moon respectively. Both shot’s are interesting in their own way, but I personally prefer to make my Aurora shots better ‘all around’ pictures, and not just about the Northern Lights.
Worried about your camera in cold weather?
This was initially one of my worries. The first time I really exposed my camera to true cold was when I travelled to Tromso to see the Northern Lights for the first time, back in 2007! At the time, I was using a Nikon D80 and I have to say I’m really proud of how it held up! It saw many cold spells, spent hours outside in the cold, practically got frozen solid but here it still is working perfectly fine =)
There are some simple tips you should follow, and if you do, you should have no problems whatsoever.
Battery Life – As I mentioned above, the cold will eat away at your battery life. So have more than 1 battery, and keep them on rotation. Placing the battery in a pocket close to your body will keep it warm and will also revive a drained battery giving you more time for precious shots =)
Condensation – This is the true danger when it comes to potential camera damage. When you’ve been outside in extreme temperatures, and you go back indoors again, there’s a sudden increase in temperature which can cause condensation on your camera. If you’re unlucky this could damage the electrics of your camera (has happened to a friend so it’s no joke!). A simple trick to avoid this is to place your camera inside a re-sealable plastic bag, or alternately the camera bag. Then take it inside. Don’t remove the camera from it’s temporary casing for a while, let it gradually acclimatize to the new indoor temperature.
Don’t breath on the lens – Easy mistake to make! Try and keep your face away from the front of the lens, it can steam up your lens pretty fast and ruin potentially great shots (doh!).
How to make your Aurora photos stand out
This is probably the most challenging aspect of Aurora Borealis photography. The single most important thing (aside from Auroras ofcourse) is an interesting foreground.
Pictures of the Aurora Borealis are plentiful, but the real gem’s are the ones where the Northern Lights are NOT the main feature of the image, but an complimenting feature. All of my favourite pictures from other photographers involve beautiful foregrounds i.e frozen lakes casting the auroras reflection, pebbles on a lake, cabins, churches etc etc. It’s a challenge because it’s hard enough travelling and searching for the Aurora without having to also find the perfect spot to shoot from! Trust me though, if you can map out your area in the daytime, come night time you won’t need to do it and can just focus on capturing the Aurora.
I’m victim to this myself, the first time I saw the lights I was completely trigger happy! I look back at those early shots now and think ugh! Each time I go back there I like to think my shots get a little better as I try and incorporate interesting foreground elements.
The good news is, it doesn’t even really need to be a lake, or a cabin, anything interesting in the near foreground will do wonders for your shot! Some ideas of stuff you could use if you don’t have a beautiful natural foreground:
A bench, a snowmobile, your camera on a tripod (if you’ve got a spare), log pile, heck even yourself sitting on the snow, your dog, friend, snow prints, snow mounds…the list goes on. Seriously, having something in the foreground gives the photo real depth and it therefore looks less ‘flat’.
I’ve added some of my older pictures below beside some of the newer ones with more interesting foregrounds so you can see what I mean…
and now some of my later work trying to incorporate the basic steps above.
Dress for the cold weather
Chances are…if you’re hunting the Northern Lights, it’s cold!! Unless you’re in Iceland in which case it might just be decidedly nippy 😉 Either way, you need to make sure you’re comfortable, and dressed safe as you’ll probably be spending hours outside.
So lets start layer to layer basics:
Thermal Underwear – To start it all off you’ll need some good thermal underwear. That includes a thermal top and thermals pants.
Mid Layer – Over your thermal undies you’ll need a good mid-layer. This can be wool, polyester, synthetic fibres, however it must NOT, under any circumstances, be cotton. Cotton is a big no no when it comes to the cold as it absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry. I tend to stick to polyester or woolen shirts and hoodies. They keep my snug and dry 🙂
Outer layer – This is the outer jacket over you mid-layer. This layer has to be wind proof/waterproof. A lot of the better jackets are breathable and use materials such as Gore-Tex.
Socks – This ones pretty important 🙂 A lot of times when I’m shooting the lights, the first part of my body to feel the cold are my feet. Invest in good socks! Honestly, the best socks are those made from 100 percent wool. I use a pair of thermal socks, covered with a loose pair of woolen socks. It’s important not to buy tight socks as your feet need room to ‘breath’ and retain warm air in your boots.
Boots – Pretty self explanatory 🙂 Get some waterproof shoes, snow wets up those shoes fast! So definitely invest in some waterproof boots. The ones with higher ‘heel’s keep your feet warmer as they’re further away from the cold floor.
Gloves – Get yourself some good gloves/mittens. As with the socks, let them be big enough that your fingers have a little breathing room and warm air can build up. I know it’s necessary sometimes to remove your hands from gloves to play with camera settings but try and keep the spells short or they’ll start getting pretty numb =D
Hat – Always wear a good hat. We lose a lot of hear from our heads and our ears are prone to the cold so always keep am covered up.
As far as the camera goes, if you’re not going to be using it for a while, take it off the tripod and keep it close to your body, it will preserve the battery life.
Word of caution! Don’t touch the tripod legs without your gloves on! (Unless you’ve got padded legs in which case you’re golden). If it get’s cold enough can be pretty painful touching such cold metal with bare hands!
When to head outside?
Predicting the Aurora Borealis is tricky business, I go into this subject in some detail in another of my blog posts about the Northern Lights. Like the weather, Aurora Borealis predictions become more accurate the closer we are to dates in question. It takes 24-48 hours for solar wind to reach us from the Sun when Earth facing Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) or Solar Wind Streams leave the sun. So when either of these events are occur we can expect some Auroras.
There are a few websites that give you a good general indication as to present and future activity:
Geographic Institute at Fairbanks University – A popular general prediction model. Good used as a general guideline but not updated everyday. Predictions are made for 5-6 days ahead, however if an event occurs on the Sun, this prediction model will not account for new activity due to it’s update intervals. Take with a pinch of salt.
SWPC Prediction Center – Ovation Model – A good realtime model showing the Aurora Borealis’ current oval over the Earth. The brighter the green (or white) in the model, the more intensely the Aurora can be seen over the estimated geographical location underneath.
SWPC KP Model – The Kp model is an indication of the current Aurora’s activity level over a 3 hour period. Kp values of 3+ are considered to be conducive to Geomagnetic storms and more intense Auroras. However, Kp’s as low as 1/2 can sometimes spark some wonderful Auroras, especially if you’re situated directly underneath the Auroral band. This is because there could be isolated substorms that do not last for a long enough period to register as a high Kp number, so the average will be lower.
Astronomy North – These guys tend to be pretty accurate with predictions and likely monitor events on the sun as well as current solar wind data.
The most important thing to remember with the Aurora is that you need to be patient. She could make you wait hours but it will be totally worth the cold and frustration when she finally puts on a show for you.
I personally use a combination of current Solar activity and Solar Wind readings from the ACE satellite, and generally know when to head outside to within an hour of activity. But the above should get you on the right track 🙂
To conclude, I really hope you find the above information helpful and are now well on your way to producing your own Aurora Borealis photographs. I would love to see any attempts and am happy to offer advice/suggestions.
After several months of practice and trying to perfect my technique I thought it was time to share what I’ve learnt. Hopefully with the help of this tutorial you’ll all be creating beautiful timelapse movies in no time!
What is time-lapse photography?
Basically, time lapse photography is the process by which multiple photographs are taken, at fixed intervals over a certain period of time. Normally the idea behind time lapse photography is that you can capture something that normally happens over a large time frame, and compress it into a short, high speed movie. In this way long term changes are much easier to see! Plus it’s a really cool effect. Examples are sunsets/sunrises, cloud movement, milkyway movement across the sky, flowers opening, night time photography, to name just a few.
Here’s an example of a time lapse of Casemates square in Gibraltar
What do I need to create time lapse movie?
DSLR / Digital Camera – You’ll need a DSLR camera, or any camera that allows you manual control over ISO, Shutter speed and aperture.
A tripod – The camera needs to remain completely still while taking snaps. Any movement of the camera will become really obvious when you try to create your final movie. So steadyness is key!
Intervalometer – An interva wha? This is a nifty little device that lets you program your camera into taking pictures at certain intervals. For example, I can use my intervalometer to tell my camera to take a picture every 5 seconds, and to use a shutter speed of say 2 seconds. I can also specify how many times I want it to do this i.e. 100, 500, 1000. There are certain DSLR cameras and digital cameras that have one of these babies built in! Like my trusty D700. So check first you might not need one.
A computer – Sounds obvious but you will need to transfer all your pictures onto your computer afterwards.
Software – There are many software solutions out there that allow you to create time lapse movies. A quick google should reveal a few good ones. Personally? I find the quickest and easiest way to create these movies to be using QuickTime Pro (Thanks to my good buddy Tony Loewen for this recommendation! Such a simple program to make time lapses got me started in no time!) Another good solution is a program called VideoMach which not only lets you create time-lapses but allows you to add video effects, transitions, music and watermarks. I’ll walk you through the simple steps for both programs later in this tutorial. Finally, theres a third alternative, VirtualDub (I like this one too as it has a deflicker plugin you can use)
And that’s it! If you’ve got all of the above you’re ready to go. What’s my first step?
NB – Before we get into specifics, its very important that you have your camera set to Manual mode so you have control over aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Otherwise your camera will start making it’s own adjustments to the environment and it’ll just mess stuff right up. Also set your White Balance manually (anything that looks good to you here, just don’t leave White Balance on AUTO as it’ll also cause fluctuations in our final video).
Ok so you’ve got all of the above and you’re ready to go. You might be thinking, I’ve no idea what shutter speed, interval, ISO settings to use for my timelapse arrrgh!
Worry not =) There are good generalised guidelines as to what settings to use for certain scenarios. Good news is, these guidelines produce pretty nice results! You can always tweak them yourselves once you get the hang of it. Trust me, after your first time lapse things will really start to make sense and you’ll get a feel for all of this and will adjust settings accordingly. So here are some general guidelines for certain scenarios you might wish to capture:
Night Time Photography (Shutter Speed – 2-5 seconds, ISO 400-800, Interval 5-10 seconds)
This could be anything from the movement or vehicles and people during the typical night, or the passage of the moon across the sky. It’s quite a fun subject as you can get those cool car light trails that you see in long exposure night time photography, or the blurry movement of people on a night out.
Daytime crowds, slow moving clouds, city life etc (Shutter Speed – 2-5 seconds, ISO 100-400, Interval 1-5 seconds)
Crowd movement is always a pretty awesome timelapse subject. This could be the London underground, the streets surrounding you, local market. The movement of clouds in the sky over a landscape is also lovely to watch, in fact I always prefer when its a little cloudy for time lapse photography, it makes it all look so much more interesting.
Star / Milky way movement (Shutter Speed – 10-30 seconds, ISO 800-1600, Interval 15-30 seconds)
A personal favourite of mine. It is so amazing to actually be able to see the movement of our universe. This type of time lapse requires much higher shutter speeds and ISO’s, since we’re trying to get the camera to take in as much light as possible from the stars. We can’t go over 30 seconds shutter speed or each photo will begin to show star trails, we need each photo to have stars look as pinpoint as possible. Nice and sharp =)
Possibly one of the coolest time lapses! Time lapses have an amazing way of showing us movement where we don’t normally see it. This is more obvious in the movement of the moon, or clouds, but never obvious with the opening and closing of petals lets say. We need a larger interval time here so that there is a difference in position of the petals. How do I program my camera to take these timed shots?
So to get into the specifics of any of these subjects, we may decide we want to capture a typical night of activity on our local streets, so we decide on a shutter speed of 3 seconds, an interval of 5 seconds, and an ISO of 800, we’re basically taking a 3 second exposure photo, every 8 seconds (8 seconds? Why 8 seconds?) Basically, the interval is the time between the camera finishing one shot, and taking the next one, so if the interval is 5 seconds…and the camera is taking a 3 second exposure, you’re looking at a photo every 8 seconds.
NB – If using an external intervalometer, you must match the shutter speed on your camera, to the set shutter speed on the interval, or they wont match up. On most intervalometers the shutter speed is the ‘Long’ setting.
Bear in mind, all of the above settings can be tweaked to your requirements. Later on in this tutorial there are examples of the common pitfalls and/or visual imperfections that can occur in timelapse…and how to tweak your settings to sort them out.
So there are two ways to actually program these settings.
My camera has a built in intervalometer
If this is the case great =) You should be able to find the Intervalometer settings in your camera’s menu. It should look something like the first image below.
For my Nikon D700 it’s in the Shooting menu and is called Interval Timer Shooting. Press OK.
The next screen (or the second image below) is where you tell your camera how often you want it to take a picture. The time format is HH:MM:SS where H is hours, M is minutes and S is seconds. So if you’d like it to take a shot every 5 seconds, just change the last 2 digits to 05. Or if you’d like your camera to take a shot every minute, change the middle 2 digits to 01 etc etc.
On the last screen you just tell you camera how many shots you actually want it to take. My camera gives me the option to take upto 999. You’re all set! As soon as you enable this time your camera will get started.
I have an external intervalometer
These little things are pretty similar to the settings on your DSLR’s menu, theres just a few small differences. On most Intervalometers you’ll notice the words Long, Interval and possibly also Delay on there. All of the below are in the format HH:MM:SS
Long – The shutter speed of each shot (This must match the shutter speed setting on your camera)
Interval – The amount of time inbetween shots NB – This is the time between a completed photo, and the start of the next one. So if the interval is set to 5 seconds, when the camera completes each shot, a 5 second timer is started before the next photo is taken.
Delay – This is just a timer you can use to delay the start of the whole time lapse procedure. I normally set this to 5/10 seconds to eliminate any camera shake that might have occured from me touching the camera or tripod. Really just to give the setup a chance to stablize.
There will be a fourth setting, on my Nikon intervalometer its the letter N, and it’s how you set the number of photos you want taking.
Photos taken…now what?
Ok great! So you’ve got all of your photos ready. Could be 200, 500, 1000 or many more! Next step is to connect your camera to your computer. I normally prefer to copy all of the images files off the camera to a folder on my PC. The computer will read it faster that way.
For the purposes of this tutorial I’ll be creating time-lapses in both Quicktime Pro and VideoMach so you can decide which program you prefer. Quicktime really has everything you need for a quick and simple timelapse, VideoMach has a few extras that let you customize the timelapse afterwards.
Getting your images ready for time lapse software
NB– Before we use any software, here’s a nifty little trick to stop you running into problems when trying to load all your lovely new images. All of the time lapse software requires images to be named sequentially, i.e. image001, image002, image003 you get the idea =) Unfortunately cameras don’t always do this for you and this could result in the time lapse program not knowing which the next image is!
In the folder where you’ve saved all your time lapse images (I normally stick them on a folder on desktop), select all of your images, right click on any one of them, and click Rename.
Type anything you want that represents the timelapse i.e. sunset, or busstop. Anything will do. The moment you press enter with all the images selected, all of the images will automatically be assigned numbers. Presto!
Creating Time Lapse videos with Quicktime
Click on the File Menu, then click on Open Image Sequence.
Navigate to the folder you copied all of your time lapse images to and select the very first photo.
Select a framerate from the dropdown in that same window. You want it looking as smooth as possible so around 24/25fps will look good.
Quicktime will automatically move on from the first image sequentially and create a movie, this might take a few minutes but once the next Quicktime popup opens, you’ve got your video!
Press play check it out 😀 This is the best bit!!
Now all you need to do is Save the video and hey presto you’re done.
Creating time lapse movies with VideoMach
Once you’ve downloaded this free program, open it up and you’ll be presented with the window shown below:
From here do the following:
Click on the File menu, then click on Open Media Files.
Navigate to the folder you copied all of your time lapse images to and select the very first photo.
Make sure to select ‘Open entire sequence starting with this image‘ when prompted. Then press OK.
Now you should notice on the bottom left window, 1 line that should have in brackets (sequence of xxx images). xxx being the number of images in your sequence. Right click on this line, and then select Speed and Direction.
Now you can set the frame-rate of your movie, 25 fps is a good value to use for PAL devices.
Click on the floppy disk icon which is the Save button.
A new window will open up, with 3 tables, Files, Video and Audio. Most of the time we don’t need to bother with the Audio tab so for the purposes of this tutorial we can ignore this. In the Files tab, select a video format (i.e. MPEG, Avi) and select where you want to save your video.
Then click on the Video tab on top, and in there click on Final Resize. In here, underneath the Output heading, change the height to 1080 and press enter. There is no point going anymore high rest than this as 1080i is pretty much the highest TV’s go at the moment.
Press Start. You’re done!
Creating Time lapse movies with VirtualDub
VirtualDub has the added benefit of a deflicker plugin that you can download. So if you really wanted to capture a sunset or sunrise (more info on how to do this here), and wanted to use Aperture priority mode, then you could create your time lapse here, and apply the deflicker filter to sort any shutter discrepencies.
After downloading VirtualDub, extract the contents anywhere you like. I like to keep it simple and extract to somewhere like C:\VirtualDub
Open up VirtualDub. You’ll be presented by an ugly bare grey screen. Don’t be put off, it’s pretty easy 🙂
Click on File, then Open Video File
Navigate to the folder you copied all of your time lapse images to and select the very first photo. Make sure the ‘Automatically load linked segments’ checkbox is ticked.
Now we’ll change the frame rate, click on the Video menu on the top then click Frame Rate. Set this to 25 fps (or whatever fps you’d like to have in your time-lapse).
We now need to resize the images. Click on the Video menu, then on Filters. When the new window pops up, click on the Add button. Navigate for the resize filter and press OK.
Where it says New Size, click on the Absolute (pixels) radio button, and set the height to 1080. Then press OK, and OK again to close the Filters window.
Save your video! Click on the File menu, then Save as Avi, give your file a name and save. You’re done.
Why is my video flickering?
So you grab all your shots, stitch them together and when you play the video you notice there’s some sort of flicker effect. There are 2 main reasons for timelapse flickr:
Aperture is too high – The fixed aperture used to take all the photos was too high (e.g. f22 being high, f2.8 being low). Basically, when at rest the cameras shutters are wide open. If you choose an aperture that is too high, the shutters have to move a greater physical distance for each shot. This results in minor fluctuations of the shutter blades each time a shot is taken, and can result in time lapse flickr. To avoid this, stick to wide apertures i.e. apertures less then f8. Basically lower f numbers are better.
Shutter speed is too short – Being a mechanical device, there are small fluctuations in the exact amount of time it takes for a cameras shutters to complete one shot, even when set to a fixed shuterspeed, there will always be little teeny differences. These are much more noticeable when using a fast shutter speed. So generally, any shutter of 1/100th or longer will reduce the effects of shutter speed flickr.
A camera that is left on Automatic mode will also almost surely result in time-lapse flicker as the camera will attempt to make light compensations in the scene. For best results always ensure you are working on Manual mode, or at worst Aperture mode if you really want to capture scenes where there are light changes i.e. Sunset, Sunrise.
My video appears to stutter, objects appear to move too randomly
This could be because your interval time is too high. If you’re timelapsing moving traffic, and you leave too long in between shots, the vehicles will have moved too great a distance inbetween shots and when watching the movie will appear to just appear in different parts of the viewing area.
To avoid this, play around with your interval settings. Try lowering it a little maybe from 10 seconds to 5 seconds for example.
NB – For time lapse photography, since there are always gaps in motion between shots, it really helps to add a little blur to your photos. This is why shutter speed in time lapse photography generally isnt any quicker than 1/100th of a second. The slight movement blur in your shots does a really good job of giving the impression of fluidity in your final video.
I just don’t have enough space on my memory card for so many shots.
A pretty common problem with time lapse photography is that it can require many shots, depending on the subject. You’ve got 2 options…either get a bigger memory card, or more practically, don’t shoot in RAW (change to JPEG Fine). You could further increase the amount of photos your camera can take by reducing the resolution of each shot in your cameras menu. This should help a ton! Also relieves your computers Hard drive a little, those RAW files can get pretty cumbersome!
My camera seems to run out of battery before I’ve finished my timelapse!
Time lapses can be pretty power intensive and a real battery drain on your camera. Especially if the weathers cold (the bane of all Aurora photographers!)
A piece of equipment called a battery grip can help out with this. It allows you to add a second battery to your camera, effectively doubling your shooting time!
Or, if you’re feeling lucky, you could always replace the battery in your camera for a newly charged one in between shots! But that runs the risk of moving the camera, so steady hands people!
What if I want to timelapse a Sunset or Sunrise?
Due to the changes in light during both of these scenarios, using full manual mode on your camera will result in either underexposed, or overexposed shots are some point in your video.
The way around this is to use your cameras Aperture priority mode. This way, the cameras aperture remains fixed, but the shutter speed will change accordingly. Therefore, the camera will make the necessary adjustments so that your shots are always correctly exposed. Make sure your cameras ISO is set to manual though! You don’t want that changing too. You might have guessed by now, variations in shutter speeds may result in time-lapse flicker, and you would be right. However, there really is no way around this for scenes where the light changes so drastically, and fortunately, you can always fix this type of time-lapse flicker later.
What if I want to create a fixed duration time-lapse?
Say you want to make a time-lapse movie that’s 1 minute, or 60 seconds long.We need to do a little mathematics here, don’t worry it’s not too bad 🙂
First thing to consider is what frame rate your time-lapse movie will have. The average time-lapse should be around 24fps (or 24 frames per second). So if you want a 60 second video, and each second of video footage has 24 frames, then you need a total of:
24 frames x 60 = 1440 frames (or 1440 photos)
Quite a lot of photos in there. You’ll notice if you browse around, time-lapses don’t tend to be that long, unless they are a mesh of several different time-lapses My average timelapses last around 10-30 seconds. This if of course entirely up to you and how fast you want events to unfold in your video.
If you increase the interval between shots, you lessen the amount of shots required to capture an event, but dont increase the interval too much, or you risk jumpy movement in your videos.
You could lower the frame rate to 15fps, therefore you’d need only 900 shots instead of 1440, but the video will be a little less smooth than the 24fps version.
Or you could just have as many frames as you wanted 🙂 You’re only limited by the space on your memory card really…
It’s all playing around with settings to see what works for you =)
I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful and are on your way to making your own time lapse videos. Please feel free to leave constructive criticism on how this can be better structured. Any questions just ask 🙂