Monday, December 14, 2009

Still Photos Tell Time With Time-Lapse Photography

With some basic experiments in time-lapse photography I’ve been tackling one of the conundrums of multimedia audio slide shows, how do you depict the passage of time with still photographs that do not move.

You may click on photo to see larger.

Below is a 12 second Quick Time movie depicting stars rotating around Polaris - the North Star - in Everglades National Park earlier this year. Or click here for a full size version. A photograph was made every four minutes over 72 minutes, from 12:38 Am to 1: 50 AM, and when assembled to play over 12 seconds, the rotation is really cool.

Slide shows posted to the web have to grab the viewer’s attention and keep it or they will click onto something more interesting, like kittens clapping their paws in time to music on You Tube. Keeping the story’s pace moving and varied is important and can be done in several ways;

  • limit the time each still photo is on screen to under six seconds or so
  • vary the screen time from image to image
  • utilize close up detail photos to balance wide scene setters
  • make sequences of the same portrait setup varying subject size & placement in frame
  • pan across a photo with a “Ken Burns” effect
  • and lastly, utilize time-lapse sequences of still photographs

In the above 22 second Quick Time movie shot on South Beach this Fall at sunrise, 55 photos were captured at five second intervals over just five minutes. A full size version can be seen here. By the way, all three movies attached here are accompanied with natural sound recorded on scene.

Cinematographers have been using time-lapse photography since the early days of movies by capturing each frame of film at a rate much slower than will be played back. A regular feature film is shot at 24 frames a second, and when projected at the same frame rate the motion seems normal to us. Filmed at a much slower rate but played back at 24 fps, the action is sped up. (If shot at a faster frame rate, but played back at 24 fps, we perceive slow motion. ) We’ve all seen time-lapse sequences of flowers blooming, where one frame is shot every hour or so and petals slowly unfold, or a glacier receding from year to year, with one frame per day captured.

Changes across time too subtle for the human eye to detect, such as stars moving in the sky or the sun rising, are slowed down for our study and enjoyment by a slower replay frame rate

From the 47th floor penthouse looking South in August down Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, the Atlantic Ocean on the left and downtown Miami at upper right, shots were made every 30 seconds or so over 37 minutes for this 21 second Quick Time movie. Full size version available here. I enjoy seeing the clouds slide by, a boat zip up the intra-coastal and post sunset glow settle onto the city.
This sequence with fewer frames included opened the multimedia show I wrote about here.

Time-lapse photography is adding a fun dimension to my multimedia projects by allowing me to show the passage of time. And I'm combining the outdoor and skyline photography I love with my photojournalism and environmental portraiture.

Here's a link to more Miami multimedia photography.

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