Essential Gear for a Simple Landscape Photography Timelapse Workflow
Landscape photography is a genre that never runs out of unique opportunities to show a different view of the world. Whether you’re in on the edges of land shooting seascapes, on top of the highest mountains, in the heart of the Earth’s forests, or atop the skyscrapers of the city, each landscape photograph tells a unique story about the environment, a place, its beauty, and how it interacts with life.
However, a common dilemma in photographing landscapes is that a single frame can often be a limitation in the photographer’s hope to convey a much bigger story about the place. This is where time-lapse photography comes in.
Timelapse photography allows the landscape photographer to go beyond the bounds of a single frame. By capturing the movement and the passing of time from within one frame for hours or even days long, the resulting images and clips brought about by this workflow shows a very dynamic side of the place that would otherwise be invisible to human observation in real-time.
However, such a tedious workflow also means a lot of challenges to face in terms of successful and flawless execution. For one, the process itself is long and the longer it gets, the more prone it becomes to errors. One missed exposure in a time-lapse sequence doesn’t render the output entirely useless, however if it happens in between smooth and constant movement, a missed exposure will definitely be noticed.
This is why, even though time-lapse photography can be done and shot with minimal gear and done manually, the use of reliable and automated equipment minimizes the margin of error and the probability of making mistakes.
Timelapse photography is getting more and more common. Of course even the simplest of cameras found on our smartphones can do time-lapse photography with the press of a few buttons. There are also many specialized compact cameras made to shoot automated time-lapse videos out in the market. However, if you aim to have significantly high resolution output and full control of the parameters of your exposures, the intervals, and the length of your sequences, then high resolution DSLR or mirrorless cameras are still the equipment of choice.
For landscape and cityscape time-lapse photography, a camera with better low-light capabilities would be more beneficial to assure clean and crisp output even at night. It is important for the camera to have manual functions when it comes to exposure, color settings, and even focusing to be able to make the shooting process more versatile and precise.
The choice of lenses and focal length for landscape photography and time-lapse depends highly on the location and the environment you wish to capture. A distant vista is of course best shot with a lens with significant zoom, and alternatively, when shooting immersed into the environment, a wide angle lens is more effective. When shooting time-lapse and star trails at night, it is also more favorable to shoot with a large aperture lens, at least f/2.8 or bigger, to be able to capture the night sky without having to use extremely high ISO and lose image quality in the process.
A sturdy tripod becomes more and more crucial as the shooting process lengthens. This is even more true when shooting from a very windy environment, or when submerged in flowing water. The camera can afford to miss one exposure and shoot the next one properly with a minimal (yet noticeable) effect on the output. On the other hand, the tripod failing would either mean that the camera loses the positioning and framing necessary to make it a time-lapse sequence, or worse the gear gets physically damaged altogether.
A lightweight tripod can be convenient in terms of logistically bringing your equipment to the vantage point, however there has to be a certain balance between being lightweight and being sturdy. The tripod should also be heavy enough to not be blown by the wind and at the same time capable to hold however much the camera gear weighs.
A ball head can be a quick and convenient option in shooting landscape photography and time-lapse. However, for instances when you want to make minute and precise adjustments to your composition and framing, using a geared precision head is more beneficial. Geared-precision heads have individual knobs of panning, tilt, and yaw. These small adjustments can infuse motion into the time-sequence when done consistently over the span of shooting.
When shooting from an urban location, a good alternative is a strong and reliable clamp such as the Manfrotto 035 Superclamp. This eliminates the need for a tripod when the location has usable grills and railings facing the view. This can also be paired with a variable-angle friction arm that makes it more versatile in terms of angles and height.
Since time-lapse photography deals with the same exposure and dynamic range challenges of the outdoors, filters are great to have handy for when you need them. You can consider each frame of the time-lapse sequence as one individual landscape photograph which is why you can also consider using exposure effects on the image to come up with more appealing visual elements and smoothen the motion in the individual images.
For general use, a graduated neutral density filter will come in handy during the bright hours of the day because there will be a need to balance out the luminosity between the sky and the land. When working with a composition that makes use of reflections or one with the blue sky in frame, a circular polarizing filter or CPL will be very useful in managing reflections and improving the contrast in the sky.
At the same time, using long exposures even when there is sufficient ambient light can create smooth appealing textures on what would otherwise be rough surfaces in the scene. This applies to clouds and flowing water. With the use of neutral density filters, you can slow down your exposures just enough to smoothen the textures that would create satisfying movement in the time-lapse clips.
Time-lapse videos are almost always very dynamic. Especially when a lot of moving elements are in frame and at the same time, when the change in the environment is drastic from the start to the end of the time-lapse sequence. Another very effective way to enhance this is to make use of tools that would infuse movement of the camera and of the frame during the duration of the shooting sequence. For the movement to be smooth and appealing, the adjustments in camera position has to be done is very small but consistent amounts. To make this process easier and more precise, there are a variety of automated tools that can be utilized.
One useful motion tool for time-lapse is the MIOPS Capsule 360. This round device which you mount between your tripod and camera not only controls the panning movement of your time-lapse sequences but also serves as the camera remote trigger. The Capsule 360 connects to your smartphone through the MIOPS mobile app on which you can set the parameters of your shots as well as the movement that will transpire throughout your time-lapse sequence.
Another option is a camera slider. The MIOPS Slider+ is a device that allows your camera to move side-to-side or back-and-forth for the duration of the time-lapse sequence. Through the motion created by the slider, your time-lapse videos can have creative reveal transitions as well as immersive movement to complement the motion in the scene. The Slider+ can also be used in combination with the Capsule 360 to complete the range of motion of your camera for an even more dynamic output.
Camera Remote Trigger
For the most precise and foolproof time-lapse photography workflow, a good camera remote is the best tool to have. A device for camera control should be able to trigger your camera to start exposures and count down to the next depending on the interval you set. This interval depends on the rate of movement that happens across your frame and also how fast you want your resulting clips to move. The reliability of the camera remote dictates how worry-free your shooting workflow can be.
On the other hand, there are devices that offer more than just simple camera control. A much smarter camera remote device offers not just an automated way of shooting but also many other features that would make your shooting workflow easier, precise, and ultimately successful. The MIOPS Flex is a smart camera control trigger that offers the most convenient user experience, as well as a variety of functions that give you a more intuitive creative process. The MIOPS Flex offers standard time-lapse intervalometer functions for a secure and effective shooting workflow.
More than that, it is equipped with various sensors that can help you capture even the most elusive environmental phenomena. This camera control device has a light sensor that triggers an exposure when it senses a strong flash of light coming from a lightning strike and this can even be implemented in your time-lapse workflow to shoot Storm-lapse in extreme weather conditions. This trigger can also simultaneously produce HDR frames for your time-lapse clips. The time-lapse shooting modes offer the utmost versatility that allows you to set your camera to shoot exactly how you want it and be able to execute your ideas with barely any limitations.
Meet FLEX, a smart camera gadget for creative photography.
Meet FLEX, a smart camera gadget for creative photography.
In addition, the MIOPS Flex has the ability to complete the production process for you. The MIOPS Flex can assemble your time-lapse video clips on board to give you an instant preview of what you have created. It also saves the individual images as well as the output onto its own micro SD card not just allowing you to properly manage and segregate your files but also to give you a convenient way of assembling your time-lapse output on-the-fly.
Time-lapse photography takes the wonders of photography to a whole new level. It allows us to show and witness how the world changes at a rate that is different from what our eyes witness. The process can be challenging and tedious but with the help of innovative equipment, a more convenient and efficient workflow brings forth extremely satisfying output.
Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela
Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.