Monday, 29 March 2010

Joe McNally's Blog

Joe has just posted a stunning image shot with a Nikon 24 mm f1.4

Who says you can't use wide glass to get a decent portrait? I know on my portrait workshops I recommend using a short telephoto lens in the 80 - 100 mm range, but once you get the hang of the short telephoto lens, there's nothing to stop you experimenting with wider lenses, especially if they are fast primes and you've got that sort of money to spare!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Portrait Workshop - Park Cameras

I'm just winding down after a great day teaching a superb bunch of photographers the basics of portrait photography. Thank you to everyone for making my day so enjoyable and to our patient model Alexandra Harris for her part in creating some stunning images.

For my part I don't have any images to show as my role is to get the photographers creating images, not creating photographs for my book! With any luck some of the students will post their images on the UK Photo Walks Flickr group for all to see.

A few of the photographers asked what kit I was using for the lighting demonstrations, so here's a breakdown:

  • My camera & lens - Canon EOS 50D + 50 mm f1.4, with the 1.6 x magnification factor for the APS-C sensor is like an 80 mm lens on full frame.
  • My exposure meter is 15 + year old Sekonic which until today hadn't been used in anger for some time. Much of the time I use the histogram to judge exposure with a tad of experience thrown in for good measure.
  • The lights - Elinchrom D-Lite 2/4 IT To Go Kit. 200j & 400j studio flash heads with stands, silver & translucent white brolly, Skyport trigger and two sturdy and compact carry cases.
  • More lights - Elinchrom D-Lite 4 IT To Go Kit. 2 x studio flash heads with stands, 2 x soft boxes, Skyport trigger and two sturdy and compact carry cases.
  • Square soft box - Elinchrom Rotalux 100 cm.
  • Octagonal soft box - Elinchrom Rotalux 135 cm.
  • For the coloured background exercise I used a Rosco Cinegel Sampler Kit which has a selection of colour correction, diffusion and effects gels. Today we used Primary Red 26, Moss Green 89, Pale Lavender 78 on a grey paper background for maximum effect.
  • Reflectors - Kenro Easy Grip Translucent. California Sunbounce Mini Micro, white/zebra. I think the group worked out which is may favourite, and it's not the least expensive of the two! Sorry.
  • Lastolite Tri-Flector and stand. This is the thing with wings we stuck under Alexandra's chin that gave the wonderful fill from just one light. A very versatile bit of kit, but not one for use on location.
Keep you eyes on this blog for news of my new off-camera flash workshop. This will show you how to get the best from your hot shoe flash both on and off camera in a variety of situations.

There was a lot of talk of events photography at the workshop - if anyone's interested in me designing a workshop specific to events photographers do let me know either directly or via the comments section in this blog.

I going to close now as it's getting close to 1:00 AM, the clocks have gone or going forward an hour to Summer Time and I'm knackered.



Thursday, 25 March 2010

Hoodman Hoodloupe 3

I've now been using a Hoodman Hoodloupe 3 for some time now and find it an indispensible aid when viewing images on the screen of my DSLR in high ambient lighting or for checking focus when shooting video.

The Hoodman Hoodloupe 3 is supplied with a well made carry case which can be clipped to your belt and a neck leash or lanyard for everyday use. The eyepiece offers +/- 3 dioptre correction and 1:1 magnification which makes focussing much easier than with a magnifying loupe (such as the Zacuto Z-Finder) as you're not viewing magnified pixels. The Hoodloupe 3 is also a less expensive option than the Z-Finder!

Here's a shot of my Canon EOS 5D Mk II down on the beach with the Hoodloupe 3 fitted. With the angle of the sun there's no way I could have see my LCD screen without the Hoodloupe 3.

It's attached to the camera with the Cinema Strap which holds the Hoodloupe securely in place without having to glue anything to the camera body. The Cinema Strap is fully adjustable to fit even the largest DSLR body. The Cinema Strap & Hoodloupe 3 are also available as a kit.

When working in super-bright conditions such as snow and sun, the Hoodloupe 3 is a great asset. Not only allowing you to preview your images but also check your histogram unimpeded.

Here you can see the value of using the Hoodloupe 3 - look at the reflections on the LCD screen. Much easier with the Hoodloupe fitted. The Hoodloupe 3 is very well designed and constructed and easy to hold even with gloved hands.

This is new new manual recording menu within the Firmware upgrade 2.0.4 for the Canon 5D Mk II. And here is the Hoodloupe 3 in position ready for video action beside a busy motorway. One word of advice - learn to shoot with both eyes open, especially when working close to roads or other potentially dangerous locations. It helps to be able to see what's going on around you!

In this shot the Canon EOS 5D Mk II is mounted on a Manfrotto 700RC2 Mini Video Head (out of shot). On the hot shoe is a Rode SM3 Shock Mount with a Sony ECM-909A stereo microphone with homemade wind shield. The mic may be old but the sound quality is excellent - here's an example on this blog recorded using manual levels on the Canon EOS 5D MkII.

This is one of those bits of kit that should be sold to every serious DSLR user. At just about every workshop I run photographers ask me "what's that thing hanging around your neck?". I hand it to them, they try it and then want to know where to buy one. Here in the UK you can buy your Hoodloupe 3 from Newpro.

Adobe Creative Suite 5

Adobe have announced CS5. For more information and sneak peek videos go to:

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kittiwakes at Seaford

Last year I wrote an item on the Kittiwake colony on the chalk cliffs at Seaford in East Sussex, England. The birds are returning back to Seaford now but there won't be much to see until the lay their eggs around about May. For now there maybe some courtship going on and even some nest renovations.

 Nesting Kittiwakes - August 2010

According to my contact at the RSPB there will be some exciting photo opportunities from June & July. The Kittiwakes will be on their eggs through June and chicks should start appearing around the start of July. The juveniles should start to fly around early August.

Kittiwake in flight from the cliff top!

There are some stunning photo opportunities for both birders and photographers. Splash Point at the end of the esplanade will mean you need a 400 mm lens on an APS-C sensor or Canon EOS 50D etc or at least 600 mm on a full frame sensor such as the Canon 5D MkII or EOS 1DS MkII. For the more adventurous you can walk to the cliff top, which is not fenced and subject to landslip - you have been warned! There are some excellent spots here that don't take you dangerously close to the cliff edge for some really spectacular images. Personally, I think it's best to do the cliff top photography as part of a group for mutual safety.

I will be organising some photo walks around the Kittiwake season. So watch this space for further news of the Seaford Kittiwakes and some special photo walks.


Lightroom 3 Public Beta 2 Released by Adobe

It looks like I'm going to have to start getting my head around Adobe Lightroom. Two of the important new features of interest to me are tethered shooting and support for managing DSLR video files.

You can download the new beta 2 by clicking here.

There's no point in me telling you more, everything you need to know is on the Adobe Lightroom 3 Public Beta 2 web page.

Have a great day.


Monday, 22 March 2010

How to never lose your lens cap - Photojojo

If like me you're always losing your costly lens caps, here's a DIY solution bought to via Photojojo in San Francisco and Swedish inventor Benny Johansson.

Get the best from a photo workshop or photo walk

Attending a photography workshop or photo walk is a great way to learn new techniques, explore a new genre, expand your knowledge, have fun and meet other photographers.
Before you attend your workshop or photo walk
  • Think about what you want to learn from the workshop and why you want to attend.
  • Prepare a list of questions as it’s easy to forget thinks when excited or in rush.
  • Ask the workshop leader for specific recommendations that will help prepare for future photo shoots.
  • Make sure that you know how to use your equipment. Unless stated otherwise, photography workshops and photo walks are about creating and making images. You’re at the workshop to learn how to create great images, not how to use your camera.
  • Charge your batteries the night before and make sure that you’ve got a good supply of memory cards.
  • Take your camera and flash instruction book with you. It’s easy to forget how something works, especially if you don’t use the gear regularly. Your workshop leader will be a professional photographer who will be fully familiar with their kit, but not yours.
  • Note book and pens or pencils. Make copious notes for future reference.

During the workshop or photo walk
  • Be an active participant and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The workshop or walk leader is there to help you. If you’re uncomfortable asking questions in a group, ask the leader in private.
  • Work hard to make to best of your time and take your own initiative. There will be others in the group who don’t.
  • Have positive attitude and be open to suggestions. Participate fully and accept feedback with an open mind. Your workshop leader may identify and help you with your technique and approach. You’re going to the workshop or photo walk to expose yourself to new ideas. Listen to the advice given to other participants.
  • Participate in discussions and share your experiences with others. You may learn as much from other participants as the workshop or walk leader.
  • Don’t expect to be creating great photographs straight away. The time during the workshop to practice and experiment with some expert help at hand. Part of creating great images are practice and planning.

After the workshop or photo walk
  • Share your images or any new images you create with other participants via email or a photo sharing service such as Flickr. Many workshops and photo walks will have dedicated groups just for this.
  • Don’t be shy. Maintain contact with your workshop leader and fellow participants. This way you’ll continue learning and maybe even develop some new friendships.
  • Practice what you have learnt; new approaches, techniques, or even ways of thinking. Follow your workshop leader’s recommendations.
Ian Pack is a freelance photographer & photo workshop leader based in southern England. More details of his workshops and photo walks may be found by visiting:

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Off-Camera Flash - Canon EOS 5D MkII

There's a twice yearly event at the studio which deserves celebration - Ben's hair cut! So this this year I suggested that we (maybe) do a before & after photograph. The initial concept is simple, 2 shots of Ben with & without hair. The execution was quite different. I decided that it would be fun to add a twist. And with the help of Joe we achieved a great shot!

The lighting for the shot was relatively simple: 2 x Canon 550 EX Speedlites and 1 x 580 EX II Speedlite. The two 550's were warmed up with a Rosco 1/4 CTO and snooted with what we refer to as black wrap, but more correctly known as Rosco matte black Photofoil, attached with black hair elastics.

The advantage of the black Photofoil is you can shape it easily to create just the right amount of control. In this case the ends of the snoots were both flared out slightly to allow a slighter wider spread of light, but preventing any unwanted spill. The 580 had a Rosco primary blue and was placed on the floor directly behind me and pointed up at the ceiling.

The whole shebang was triggered via a long (10 m /30 ft) coiled ETTL lead attached to the Speedlite at camera left. This unit was set as the Master, with the other two as Slaves. No correction was dialled in so I was shooting +/- 0 exposure compensation.

Shown below is the chosen frame from the forty or so variations I shot, before post-production with ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) and Photoshop CS4.

This frame is pretty much as it came out of the camera. Can anyone work out how much work was done in Photoshop. No prizes, but it would be good to see some feedback in the comments below.

Camera was a Canon EOS 5D MkII with 24 - 105 mm f4 IS  L Series, focal length (I guess) 35 mm. Exposure was manual (M) f8, 1/100th second. Auto focus centre spot with Joe being prime point of focus. The whole shoot from start to finish took no more than an hour, including Ben being shorn in a more conventional manner.

My thanks to Ben for being a sport. And to Joe McCavana of Headmasters in Burgess Hill for going along with my hair-brained idea and helping to make it work.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

EOS 5D Mark II Firmware Update Version 2.0.4

Better go and do this now. Apparently there is a problem with the manual recording levels in Firmware 2.0.3!

Here's the link:

Don't forget to ensure that the camera has a fresh battery when installing the new firmware.

Have good weekend.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Rosco Lighting Filters

Yesterday I mentioned the Rosco Strobist Collection of colour correction & effects filters. For those of you new to working with lighting filters Rosco have a Tech Info section on their website which should be visited and bookmarked for future reference. Of special interest to off-camera flash & Strobist fans will be the Filter Facts PDF.

This booklet contains a wealth of useful information on controlling light in film and video production which readily translates into stills photography.

I've been using Rosco filters for well over twenty years and can vouch for their usability and durability. In the UK you can buy from a wide variety of sources including Calumet & The Flash Centre.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Canon EOS 5D MkII Firmware Upgrade 2.0.3 - First Footage

Well, where do I start? After a slow download which was corrupted I finally upgraded the firmware and managed to get out for an hour or so and get a few shots.

Sound Recording
The first thing you notice when navigating through the menus are the addition of the Sound Recording item at the bottom of the screen.

When you select the Sound Recording item you'll be presented with 3 choices, Auto, Manual & Disable.

I'd never advise disabling the sound recording as you never know when you may need the audio tracks. The next screen allows you to adjust the recording level(s) in this case from a Sony microphone mounted in a Rode anti-vibration mount on the hot shoe.

The two dashed lines represent your left and right audio channels. You select the Rec. Level item and use the thumb wheel to adjust the levels of both channels up or down. The blue marker on the top indicator is the set audio level, whilst the white marker is the new level. You cannot adjust the audio levels individually. The audio in the above video is as recorded without any adjustment whatsoever. Had I made the same recording with the audio levels set to Auto, it would have been unusable!

Another new feature is the exposure histogram which unfortunately does intrude into an already clutter screen, but nonetheless is a very useful feature. Remember that when shooting video you ideally need to work with your shutter at 1/50th second if you're shooting to the PAL TV standard or 1/60th for NTSC. You can now use both Tv & Av modes with video on the 5D MkII. The actual shutter speed range you can use in video mode is 1/30th to 1/4000th second. As soon as you get the opportunity, go out and practice and make notes on what you've shot and compare the shots at differing shutter speeds on screen in post-production.

Pulling Focus
I've noticed recently that there are a load of (very expensive) gadgets and gizmos coming into the photography market aimed at video DSLR shooters. As yet, I haven't had a chance to try any of these gadgets, especially the pull focus or follow rigs. These rigs basically transfer the focus mechanism via belts and pulleys or cogs to a wheel at the side of the camera, allowing you to focus or defocus a shot.

You can achieve this very inexpensively by simply applying some white gaffer tape (also known in the trade as camera tape) to the lens focus ring. You then mark the tape with a grease pencil or water soluable marker pen with the start and finish points of your focus pull. The travel between close focus and infinity focus will vary between lenses. I find the Canon L Series 24 - 105 mm IS lens ideal for this as the travel between infinity and minimum focus is only 90 degrees. With practice pulling focus becomes very straight forward and adds another dimension to your video filming. Remember that you'll need your camera on a decent tripod. This is my preferred method of shooting as I like the look of steady shots!

Shameless Plug
If you want to improve your video shooting skills and techniques, we're running a series of video workshops for DSLR camera users. You can find more information at the UK Photo Walks website. And if you're a Park Camera School of Photography student,we'll give you a £10.00 discount.

Focus on Imaging 2010 - Part 2

I had to cut short my post on the show last Thursday so thought now would be a good time to continue. There was plenty to see and do at the show and with only a day at NEC I had to be selective where I visited.

Paramo Clothing was high on my list as sometime soon I'm going to need a new outdoor weatherproof outer jacket that doesn't make as much noise as my current Goretex jacket and also will benefit from more pockets. Fortunately Paramo make a wide range of outdoor gear including the highly specified Pájaro jacket.

There were any number of wedding album suppliers exhibiting, but my long-term favourite has to be G F Smith who have traded in the paper and board market for over a hundred years and the wedding album market for the last 20 years with their specialist Photo Mount Division. Over the last year GFS have invested heavily in new printing technology and can supply just about anything the social photographer would need from bespoke photo mounts for events, a stunning range of frames  and (to my mind) the best range of wedding albums in the business. And unlike the other player in the wedding album game, G F Smith have a dedicated sales team covering the whole of the UK, so you don't have to wait to see their products, they'll bring them to your studio or front room. Over the years I have photographed hundreds of weddings and G F Smith have proven to be the most reliable and helpful of all the wedding album suppliers I've used. Nothing is too much trouble for them.

And last, but not least Bogen Imaging, sorry Manfrotto Distribution. Again one of the biggest and most impressive stands at the show giving visitors an insight to the wide range of brands represented, namely Manfrotto, Gitzo, Kata, Litepanels and Visible Dust. I passed the stand numerous times during the day and each time it was buzzing with activity. I did endeavour to look at all the new products but sadly, time didn't permit.

The Strobist Collection from Rosco

If you're a keen off-camera flash shooter I highly recommend buying one or even two of these useful and inexpensive gel kits for your hot shoe flash or speedlites.

The collection of gels contains both colour correction and colour effects gels cut to a size that fits most manufacturers speedlites. To see the gels in use, go to my recent blog entry Canon EOS 7D off-camera flash outdoors.

For more information on the Strobist Collection visit the Rosco website.

Think Tank Photo Logistics Manager Rolling Photo Case

Think Tank Photo have announced their largest rolling case to date, the Logistics Manager. This case has the capacity to carry a large DSLR system and maybe even a flash head & power pack.

For UK stockists visit the Snapperstuff website.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Kelly Moore Bags

These bags are good - sorry guys, these camera bags are designed with ladies in mind.

I live in a home with a wife and two daughters obsessed with handbags, so I should know! Not only are they good looking, but functional with it. They'll hold a DSLR body, a couple of lenses and even a speedlite. Plus, all the other goodies that ladies "must" carry in their purse or handbag, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live.

For more information visit:

I've just sent this to my wife - I wonder how much she'll spend?



Canon EOS 5D MkII Firmware Upgrade 2.0.3

Canon today released the long awaited firmware upgrade for the EOS 5D MkII which allows 24/25 fps video shooting.

The key updates in this version are as follows:
  1. Adds or changes the following movie frame rates.
  2. NTSC:
    • 1920×1080 : 30 fps (changed - actual 29.97 fps)
    • 1920×1080 : 24 fps (added - actual 23.976 fps)
    • 640×480 : 30 fps (changed - actual 29.97 fps)
    • 1920×1080 : 25 fps (added - actual 25.0 fps)
    • 1920×1080 : 24 fps (added - actual 23.976 fps)
    • 640×480 : 25 fps (added - actual 25.0 fps)
  3. Adds a function for manually adjusting the sound recording level (64 levels).
  4. Adds a histogram display (brightness or RGB) for shooting movies in manual exposure.
  5. Adds shutter-priority AE mode (Tv) and aperture-priority AE (Av) mode to the exposure modes for shooting movies.
  6. Changes the audio sampling frequency from 44.1 KHz to 48 KHz.
  7. Fixes a phenomenon where communication between the camera and the attached lens is sometimes interrupted after manual sensor cleaning. (This phenomenon only affects units with Firmware Version 1.2.4.)
As I write this entry I'm attempting to download the the file but Canon's servers are overloaded and only giving me 5.6 KB/sec which means the 9.3 MB file will take at least another 20 or so minutes to download.

You can download the the 2.0.3 firmware upgrade by following this link.

Don't forget to follow the upgrade instructions implicitly - you don't want to render your camera useless and give it an unscheduled trip back to Canon!

As soon as I've had a chance to test the new firmware, I'll report back here.



Monday, 15 March 2010

Great Dixter Garden Photo Workshops

If you're passionate about beautiful gardens and photography then this series of workshops are for you.

In an exclusive arrangement with the world famous Great Dixter Gardens in East Sussex, England. The late Christopher Lloyd created one of the most experimental, exciting and constantly changing gardens of our time. The gardens at Great Dixter incorporate many medieval buildings, with the gardens surrounding the house, each complementing the other. There is a wide variety of interest from yew topiary, carpets of meadow flowers, dazzling colourful mixed borders (including the famous Long Border), natural ponds, a formal pool, and the wonderful Exotic Garden.

These workshops are a fantastic opportunity to experience Great Dixter Gardens and learn some new photography skills. During the day there will ample opportunities for stunning macro and garden images from one of widest ranges of flowering and herbaceous plants in one location. And if we're lucky, we my even meet Head Gardener Fergus Garrett.

I'm really looking forward to leading these workshops and sharing with you some of the experiences I have gained over the years.

For more information visit:

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Focus on Imaging 2010

I would have posted this sooner but have been busy with photo shoots and post-production since Monday. I visited Focus on Imaging on Sunday and arrived just before 10:00 AM thinking that I'd walk straight in -NOT. There must have been over 2000 people waiting to enter the exhibition halls. For me the show was a great opportunity to catch up with old contacts and make some new acquaintances.

Waiting to enter the show . . .
Very soon after entering I came across the Daymen stand (Lowepro & Giotto's to you & I). You could hardly miss it with the massive back drop and a very well thought out display with some interesting new products including the Pro Runner AW which replaces the classic Mini Trekker which I've owned in various guises for longer than I care to remember. Lowepro set the standard by which all other bags are judged. Lowepro are certainly upping their game with their newly designed backpacks and rollers. The Pro Trekker backpacks are now much lighter with capacity for personal gear and a water bladder.The Sling bags are both better looking with easier to access the gear than the Kata 3 N 1 series.

Helen and the crew at Snapperstuff did a sterling job of dealing with the crowds at stand C41 (no cross-processing jokes, please). Doug Murdoch one of the founders of Think Tank Photo was there - good to meet you Doug, keep up the good work, together with James Madelin inventor of the must-have flash modifier for off-camera flash users, the Orbis Ring Flash. Throughout the day James demonstrated the Orbis and its' capabilities. Though not cheap, it's a very versatile accessory.

Keep an eye open for Nissin hotshoe flash units. The Di866, Di622 and Di466 are all Canon E-TTL & i-TTL Nikon compatible. The Di866 can be used jointly with Canon & Nikon as either the Master or a remote slave unit. I've a feeling that they will offer and less expensive alternative to the OEM units. I can't wait to get my hands on some to test and report here.

The Adobe stand in the foreground overlooked by Canon's "Perv's Perch" - sorry long lens gallery!
Throughout the day the Adobe stand had a steady stream of punters overlooked by the long lens gallery on the Canon stand, aka the "Perv's Perch"! Canon, just a thought. Why not give the punters something to look at that really shows the capabilities of your wonderful glass? Why not have some life-size images printed and placed on the far wall of some of the wildlife your ambassadors photograph?

Must close now as the 'phone's going and I should really be preparing for my next portrait workshop in a couple of weeks at Park Cameras.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Making a Time Lapse Movie

Time lapse is a movie making technique where time appears to be compressed or made shorter. For example a whole 24 hour day into 24 seconds on screen! This article is intended to give DSLR photographers to knowledge to begin the process of creating time lapse movies with their DSLR camera by shooting a series of still frames and combining them in Adobe Photoshop or Apple Quicktime Pro.

A time lapse movie need not be a single shot with the camera locked-off for the whole movie. With some planning and forethought you can combine real-time footage with time lapse sequences to great effect. The movie below was created over two days. It starts and finishes with real-time footage shot with a Canon 5D Mk II outside at the beginning and a Canon 7D inside at the end. The intervening time lapse sequences were shot at around one frame every 20 seconds. There were one or two sequences where this frame rate was reduced to one frame every five seconds where the action happened much quicker.

At first time lapse shooting can be quite daunting, but like any photography or cine/video photography, practice will build your confidence. What I intend to do here is share with you the whole process from start to finish covering everything from equipment, frame rate and conversion to a simple movie clip.


Contrary to popular belief you do not need a DSLR with a video facility to make a movie. A movie is simply a series of still frames combined to create a moving image file such as .mov (Mac) or .avi (PC). If you’re using a Canon DSLR (like me) you’ll need a TC 80 N3 remote release or On One Software’s DSLR Remote with your camera tethered to your MacBook or PC laptop. For ease of use and portability, I generally use the TC 80 N3 remote release with a Canon 50D. For Nikon users the D3 D300, D300s, D5000, D3x, D90 and D700 all have a built-in interval timer. For other Nikon DSLR cameras the Timer Remote MC-36 is available.

File Size

Yes, size is important. For standard stills photography you’ll no doubt be shooting RAW files and jpeg files at the largest size possible in your camera to obtain the best quality images, which means not many images to your memory cards. For video the maximum resolution you’ll need is 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels. So you’ll need to go into your camera menu and select a jpeg file size equal to or slightly larger than this. With the Canon EOS 50 D I use 2352 x 1568* pixels and shoot jpeg only, unless the situation demands RAW capture or you have high capacity memory cards. Invariably you’ll need to crop the image as the aspect ratio (shape) of the DSLR frame is approximately 3:2, whereas the HD TV frame is 16:9 - which means you loose a bit at the top and bottom of the frame. For those of you who use a Canon 5D Mk II or 7D you’ll see in video mode that the top and bottom of the LiveView screen is darkened to show this. You may want to mark your LiveView screen with a chinagraph pencil to show this crop for time lapse shooting.

Remember you’ll not be able to see how many frames are available to you as the frame counter on most DSLR cameras only goes to 999. The easy way to calculate the available number of frames is to put a clean low capacity (512 Mb) memory card in you camera and set the file size and ISO, then see what the top plate LCD shows. On this basis with the Canon 50D I can get around 272 jpeg files on to a 512 Mb CF card at 100 ISO. Sometimes more, depending on the subject matter. So, with one of my 2Gb CF cards I can expect to store around about 1088 jpeg files of 2352 x 1568 pixels. Or 43.5 seconds of finished time lapse sequence at 25 fps.

Camera Settings

This is the bit where your experience comes into play! Sorry, this is not a basic camera setting tutorial. You need to make a decision based upon the situation you’re shooting, the local lighting and the look or effect you want to achieve. If you are confident to using manual exposure, this could be a good choice for clouds moving over a landscape. Av or aperture value maybe a good choice if you’re aiming for a shallow or deep DoF effect. This choice is down to you.

Use manual focus where possible so that the autofocus doesn’t “hunt” for a point of focus if the subject is continually moving. You don’t want focus differences between frames!

Frame Rate or Shooting Interval

This can depend on a number of factors such as the duration of the scene, event you’re filming or the duration of the final clip or piece.

In the UK and Europe TV and motion picture frame rates are around 25 fps (frames per second). Whilst in the US 30 fps is the norm. Motion picture film runs at 24 fps. So, at 25 fps, one minute of on screen time is equal to 1,500 frames.

The sequence below was shot at approximately one frame every 1.5 seconds and lasts 2 seconds or 50 frames. The less frames per minute you shoot the more pronounced the effect will be. Initially, most photographers aren’t too concerned about how long the time lapse sequence is, just so long as they capture something. Do remember it’s better to shoot too many, than too few frames. You can always remove frames from the sequence for a different look and feel later on. REMEMBER that creating a time lapse sequence is not a quick process, so be prepared to hang around for some time!

Here’s a quick example of the calculations of frame rate for a 15 second sequence, shot over one hour: 15 seconds = 375 frames; 1 hour = 3,600 seconds; 3600/375=9.6 or 1 frame every 9.6 seconds. I’d err on the side of caution and shoot a frame every 8 seconds.

Creating the Time Lapse Image Sequence

In order to create the movie sequence you need to combine the individual frames in either Adobe Photoshop or Apple Quicktime Pro.

Adobe Photoshop

Download all you image files into one folder per sequence (it makes managing the clips easier later on). Go to File > Open > and select the folder with the images for the sequence. Select the first image in the sequence. At the bottom of the dialogue there is a tick box “Image Sequence”, make sure you check this box. Then click Open. You’ll then see a dialogue where you set the frame rate. For the UK & Europe 25 fps, US 30 fps.

Save the image sequence first as a PSD file, this gives you a master file which you can return to and edit at a later date. You can view your sequence in Photoshop by opening the Animation dialogue accessed from the Window menu at the top of the page.

To make your movie file go to File > Export > Render Video . . . where you’ll be presented with a series of options. For now stay with the defaults. This article is about getting basic time lapse sequence, not the technicalities of video formats etc. The movie may take a while to render, depending on the specification of your computer.

Apple Quicktime Pro

Again, you’ll need all your images for the time lapse sequence in one folder. Go to File > Open Image Sequence and select the first file in the folder, the click Open. You’ll then see a dialogue. For this exercise choose 25 fps. There are plenty of other options to play with at your leisure. It’s worth experimenting with the different frame rates to see they affect your sequence.

The sequence will then open and in probability exceed the size of your screen. This is because the dimensions of the movie file exceed the pixel dimensions required for TV formats. To fit the movie to your screen hit cmd + 3. To save the movie go to File > Save As . . . create a file name and make sure you’ve selected the “Save as a self-contained movie” button. Your time lapse sequence is now ready to view or edit with the video editing package of your choice.

The movie at the beginning of this article was edited with Apple iMovie ’08 on a 13” MacBook Pro. On a PC I wouldn’t recommend using Windows Movie Maker, but suggest you invest in Adobe’s Premier Elements 8, which unfortunately is not available for the Mac.

This sequence was then cut together with others to create the short movie below.

Time Lapse Sequence Ideas

Any subject where there is change or movement.

  • Moving clouds
  • Waves crashing on a beach
  • Crowded streets
  • Traffic moving - you could combine this with slow shutter speeds to create a blur effect.
  • Plants growing. Quite easy in controlled conditions. Just remember your camera will be out of use for other projects for days or weeks.
  • A building site or development.
  • Start lit sky. A tricky one where there’s heavy light pollution.
  • Transit of the moon.
  • A car or cycle journey

As with any photographic or cinematic technique. You need to practice, practice, practice to perfect the skill. Don’t forget to make copious notes that you can refer back to when something goes right or wrong!

Time Lapse Shooting Check List

  • Camera & Lens
  • Tripod or other camera mounting device
  • Interval timer remote release
  • Camera settings - ISO, Exposure, White Balance, File Size, Focus
  • Spare batteries or mains power supply. As a rule of thumb, I get approximately 2 hours continuous shooting from a Canon 50D or 5D MkII battery at normal temperatures, say 20 degrees Celcius/68 degrees Farenheit
  • Spare memory cards and some way to back them up if you're in for a long session

And finally, one of the best examples of a movie created using a Canon 5D MkII DSLR. I’ll not say anything about this one. You can make your own judgements.

Death Cab for Cutie - Little Bribes from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

Enjoy your movie making.


* 2352 x 1568 pixels far exceeds the 1920 x 1080 pixels required for HD TV. You’ll have to crop your PSD file down to 1920 x 1080 pixels at 72 dpi in Photoshop to get a workable file size.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Photographer Caught Naked

Well not quite! The standing joke with my kids is "Dad is naked without a camera" and yesterday was a good example.

I was on my way out of the door. The camera bag was loaded; my man bag (with G10 & iPhone) was loaded. I needed to get something form the studio and upon my return a Great Spotted Woodpecker was pecking away on the trunk of the apple tree in the garden next door. And where were my bl**dy cameras, in the bl**dy car! By the time I'd hunted out my old Fuji 9500s, batteries and a CF card the damn thing had flown way.

A missed opportunity.
The view from my studio window. The arrow shows where the woodpecker was from the wide end
(28 mm equiv. on 35 mm full-frame) of the Fuji Finepix 9500s!

Now can you see why I always say to aspiring photographers to always have a camera with you, as you'll never know when you'll need it. Needless to say, the Fuji Finepix 9500s is loaded and sitting next to me ready for action.



Monday, 1 March 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe

BBC Radio 4 is playing in the background and I woke up (joke) when Book of the Week came on. This week's book traces Patti Smith's relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe died in 1989 but his iconic works live on. Take a few minutes to look at his work you'll not be disappointed. The portraits are stunning, his flower studies sublime and his nudes sometimes controversial.

What I like about Mapplethorpe's work is the understated simplicity. No complex lighting or trickery. Just images created by a master of his art.