Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Case Study #1: The Easy Expert Method

In this post, I show you how to get the near-perfect results of Expert Method, with just one filter. This keeps your gear to a minimum, and your setup simpler to operate.

I’m really happy with how smoothly GBTimelapse’s AutoRamp function is working. All I needed to do was start up the time-lapse software, watch the progress from my folding chair in front of the sunset, and step in at one point to take the filter off. A side note: I recently made the font on the bulb exposure time larger, so I can sit about ten feet away from the laptop and still keep an eye on it.

You can make great time-lapse with inexpensive gear. Last night I captured a pretty cool time-lapse of a Lake Tahoe sunset followed by the Milky Way. Instead of an expensive Canon 5D Mk II, I used a Canon 60D, which has a smaller and lighter body. And instead of using the AutoRamp Expert method with three ND0.9 (three-stop) neutral density filters, I simplified things and only used one ND1.2 (four-stop) filter.

I call this the "Hybrid Method" - simpler than the Expert Method, but very effective.

You use filters when the sky is too bright for bulb exposure. Bulb exposure settings are not camera presets, they are infinitely variable up to 1/1000 of a second. So, the most precise.

I used a 4-stop neutral density filter to get the initial daylight bulb exposure time to 0.4 seconds. Longer bulb times are better, because they are more accurate and repeatable than bulb times near a camera's minimum.

As the sun set, AutoRamp ramped the Av from f/22 to f/4, the ISO from 100 to 3200, and the bulb time from 0.4 seconds to 30 seconds. As I relaxed by the lake and sipped on a beer, the software automatically ramped down the exposure, ramped up the time-lapse interval, and ramped the white balance color temperature. I did have to get up to pause briefly to remove the ND filter about 20 minutes after sunset.

Watch this video showing the camera and AutoRamp setup...

There was a tiny amount of flicker in the beginning at high f-numbers, but that dissipated once the Av got down to f/4 and the bulb time increased. That little bit of flicker was easily removed using GBDeflicker.

BTW, the Canon 60D battery had no problem with this 3.5 hour and 660 image time-lapse.

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