What is time-lapse photography?

Simply put, time-lapse photography is the technique used to photograph something that is happening SLOWLY (like a flower opening up) to produce a “faster version” in a video clip of just a few seconds.

Let’s say you take a series of 200 or even 2000 still images in a specific timeframe of 1 hour or even 1 week… When the time has lapsed, you then edit the still images together creating a video clip, more commonly known as time-lapse photography. You need 25 photos (or frames) to create 1 second of video footage. Today, this technique is widely used in TV productions of all sorts.

Experience seamless day-to-night transformation thanks to time-lapse photography.

How did you get into the time-lapse niche?

As photographers who particularly love travelling and nature, we wanted to take our landscape and travel photography to the next level. With Joe always looking for ways to keep his hands busy, he became somewhat bored with stills. Scouting, planning and setting up shots always ensures much excitement, but then you have to wait… for the best light and the best moment until everything is just right, and click.

So, Joe ventured into the world of video. It wasn’t long before we realised that whenever he was filming, he put the camera on a tripod and let it record until the tape was full, only to speed it up afterwards in post. This was in fact time-lapse! Over time we learnt that “true time-lapse” is shot with a still camera and we both became fascinated with the technique, learning as much as we possibly could on the subject.

What is your favourite part of a time-lapse shoot?

Being out in nature, facing the elements while searching for shots, planning and setting up, no matter how long it takes! You do what is needed to get the shot done.

On our most recent trip to Namibia, we spent over 6 hours in the sun to set up a specific shot. It took another week of shooting; waiting for the ideal timing and light conditions (and probably another 6-hour session of readjusting the composition perfectly).

From A to B with construction site time-lapse photography.

What gear do you need to capture professional time-lapse videos?

I have to add that we don’t like to do much “gear talk” as people tend to develop mental blocks about gear. Too many people believe that they need to have this and that gear before they can start shooting something. And other people believe that it is the camera that “takes nice photos” which is simply not true. If you don’t know how to operate your camera in the first place, it’s not going to magically produce good results.

The basic gear list:

  • A camera
  • A fast memory card with large capacity
  • Fully charged batteries – lots of them!
  • A sturdy tripod
  • An intervalometer

The detailed gear list:

  • We use Canon 5D Mark III cameras with Zeiss lenses. (Manual focus lenses are ideal for time-lapse shooting.)
  • We primarily use Lee filters.
  • We use self-designed motorised dollies for our linear and vertical shots, which operate with both stepper and DC motors.
  • We have a number of controllers (to operate the dolly with) along with a pan-tilt head and follow-focus systems.
  • We make use of bulb-rampers for shooting day-to-night transitions.
  • We have “self-made” solar battery packs to power the cameras and dollies for hours on end.
  • We have a truck full of tripods and a trailer full of sand bags!
  • We have a whole bunch of cables and other nitty gritty’s which are way too much to mention.
  • We trust nothing other than Pelican cases to protect our equipment.
  • I suppose it’s only fitting to mention our Land Rover Defender as part of the list as we wouldn’t get to all these wonderful locations without it!

Experience business development in real-time.

What valuable lessons have you learnt over the years?

You can never have enough time and you can never be too early for a shot! Setting up is way more time-consuming than you might think; the sun waits for no one!
And don’t forget power – make sure you never run out of battery power!

You need way more patience for processing than shooting. A huge misconception is that people think they can do time-lapse on the side while focusing on other photography or filming because the camera does all the work by itself (right?). That’s not quite the reality. Many people quickly lose interest as time-lapse is very time-consuming and requires a lot of dedication. It’s a fantastic way to have some fun, but if you want to get serious about it, it will require your full attention.

What are the basics for creating time-lapse footage?

Have a look at our previous Outdoorphoto Blog posts – it’s literally like a mini online workshop. Please note that the software has improved since publishing our previous blogs. Everything else is still applicable. Essentially, when you shoot time-lapse you must try and find something that hasn’t been done before.

“Where We’ll Go” by TIMELAPSE SA.

What and where would you shoot if you could shoot a time-lapse video anywhere in the world?

Seasonal changes, anywhere and everywhere! We’re really fascinated with the long-term changes of landscape transformation from one season to the next.

Extreme weather conditions are another exciting topic such as sand or rainstorms. Locations would include places like Aldabra (an atoll in the Seychelles), Antarctica, South America, and much more. Spending six months in places like the Central Kalahari, the Okavango Delta in Botswana or the remote desert sand dunes of Namibia would be top-notch!

Time-lapse test shot on a JIB.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are very excited about our latest project that started shortly after the release of Where We’ll Go, which we have been working on (on and off) for nearly 2 years now. Although the planning started much earlier, we only started filming in October 2015 and just returned from our third trip at the end of January 2017. If need be, we might go again on another occasion. Without spilling the beans, we are happy to share that it was shot in Namibia, which obviously means dry desert and harshness along with magical night skies and spectacular landscapes. Be sure to keep an eye on our social media pages for all the behind-the-scenes to follow. We have yet to set a release date.