Keswick’s landing stages must be one of the most-photographed locations in the Lake District. You can still get lovely images if you choose your time or conditions – early morning mist, still water, autumn colours, even the unusual angle of sunset in late June – but there will always be other people hanging around, and other photographers to avoid. If you do make eye contact with another photographer, you know you share his guilt of laziness in your choice of subject.
I certainly wouldn’t be around that part of Derwentwater in the middle of an afternoon at the height of summer, but last month I had a week up in the Lakes and I simply couldn’t motivate myself to fight the weather. There is a saying that for the photographer there’s no such thing as bad light, just a bad attitude, and it seemed to sum up how the week’s unchanging grey skies had affected me. Sunrises seemed too early, sunsets didn’t really happen, everything was just green, green, green, and so I caught up with some reading and worked my way through the previous weekend’s pictures from Hoghton Tower. But by Thursday, while the skies were still overcast, at least I was beginning to recover and needed to get outdoors.
For me there seems a problem with timelapse photography – I only want to do it when I’ve nothing better in prospect. If the light’s interesting, do I really want to hang around in one place for half an hour, or much longer, while the camera snaps away? But if I shoot a timelapse sequence merely to fill time, when I can’t see opportunities for normal photography, are the results ever likely to merit the effort of standing around all that time? That’s a mental barrier I can’t easily overcome!
I haven’t shot many timelapse sequences and this afternoon I was testing my sense for how to match frame rate to different subjects. I think I’ve settled on 5 second intervals for big landscapes as it allows cloud movement to dominate the movie. The downside is that since 12 frames per minute produces a mere half a second of video, I’d have to stand around for at least half an hour to record a useful 15 seconds of landscape footage. With a busy scene like this, I was trying 2 second intervals and shot for about 90 minutes. It still seemed rather manic, so I’ve halved the speed and plan to use 1 second intervals next time.
Sound required a bit of ingenuity. I tried recording a movie on my iPad so that I could strip the sound off it, but I still could hear the D800’s shutter release from 20 metres away – at least when the ducks and geese fell silent. So when I had finished shooting the timelapse sequence I simply recorded some standard video on the D800.
I am a complete beginner with video editing. I have recently got my hands on Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects, and I am enjoying learning them, but for relatively-simple video projects you can use Photoshop. So here it was Photoshop that was used to splice the sound onto the timelapse movie and then render the final result, and one advantage of Photoshop is that you can use your existing experience and techniques – in this case a Curves adjustment layer darkens the sky, and a couple of other things are going on too.
File format also deserves some thought. Here I shot directly to movie format because my D800 has a timelapse feature that bakes a 1920*1080 pixel MOV file. While this seemed simpler than shooting hundreds of raw files and baking the timelapse movie in Lightroom or Photoshop, the latter approach would allow more scope to adjust the results and more pixels might allow you to add interesting pan and zoom effects during post production. I’m unsure if I would use Photoshop or Premiere Pro or After Effects for panning and zooming, but figuring it out is a big part of the fun.
And isn’t that the point? The weather might be dull and uninspiring, the subject may a cliche, and “l’enfer c’est les autres”, but isn’t experimentation interesting enough in its own right to get you out of the door? It should be, shouldn’t it?