If you have ever wanted to create stunning time lapse photographs then you will understand how difficult it can be without the right tools and “know-how”. In fact you don’t need many tools as such, but you do need to know how to create a long exposure. Before we launch into tools and knowledge lets first look at what scenes make awesome time lapse photos.
Time lapse photography can work well for anything that’s moving fast. We slow this down to create a sense of time passing. Subjects such as fast moving cars, planes, people or water make good subjects to create time lapse photos from. Water tends to be more gentle and romantic than urban scenes with fast cars. You can also create something truly ethereal with time lapse water photos.
Water is a very popular subject to photograph. Waves, streams, waterfalls constitute wonderful time lapse photos. As photographers we are drawn to the energy and power of water. Creating a blurry motion effect is the key to successful time lapse photos of water.
So let’s look at how to create a lovely time lapse photo of water. When creating time lapse photos the water will look like a soft blanket of silk. This is what’s known as the “silken effect”. The silken effect occurs when you have a slow shutter speed. The shutter remains open so that the camera can capture every moment. The longer the shutter is open the more likely this effect will occur.
One of the problems with the shutter remaining open for a long time is over exposure. Over exposure occurs when there is too much light. Your scene will have a big block of white and absolutely no detail. The shutter stays open and too much light enters the lens for too long.
So just how do we get a nice amount of silken effect without over exposing the photo? There are two main ways to do this. The first is to shoot at night. Leaving the shutter open for 30 seconds of longer, at night, will usually yield some nice results. You can create the silken effect without much trouble.
What happens when you don’t want to do night photography but still want to create a nicely exposed image and create the silken effect too? You could try using an ND filter. ND stands for Neutral Density. This is a special kind of filter that reduces the light and retains the colour whilst giving you the silken effect.
Don’t forget your tripod. There’s nothing worse that a beautiful exposure that’s blurry in all the wrong places. The trick to this method is to keep your camera still so everything but the water is blurry. Even though the blurred water will create the silken effect, you still want your trees and sky to be sharp into the distance.
Subjects that move are great elements for creating time lapse images. Water is just the beginning. Cars at night create streaky lights. Planes create the same effect. The secret is a long exposure, a still camera and ways to reduce the potential over exposure.