I Love Time Lapse

The sky was actually quite dull and featureless. It’s only when in motion this way that you see two opposing layers of clouds and all sorts of action.

Sequence 01.Still001

Among the things digital photography unleashed was the easy ability to shoot time lapse. It’s the technique which speeds up action so you to see patterns and movements not normally noticeable.

It looks tough to do… and there certainly are a lot of steps… but it’s really simple. The camera automatically clicks the shutter every ‘x’ seconds. Software combines the stills into a movie. Boom, zing. A little polishing in the editor and here it is.

The sky was actually quite dull and featureless. It’s only when in motion this way that you see two opposing layers of clouds and all sorts of action.

I expected blah, but got one of my new favorites.

Today’s The Photo Walk

My goal is to experiment with very slow shutter speed, the exact opposite of the way I usually shoot. The neutral density filters will block light. It will be daytime, but my camera will only have as much light as it gets at night. The shutter will have to stay open longer. That changes everything.


Clicky and I are driving to Seal Beach this afternoon. It’s the annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk. There are over 1,000 walks scheduled with 20,000 scheduled to attend.

Volunteers around-the-world organize groups of photographers who meet and take photos nearby. We’ll start at the Red Car Museum (if you saw “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” those red cars… well, the real ones) then end at the beach for sunset.

I’ve done these before with my friend Steve. We did the New Haven and Brooklyn Bridge walks a few years back. Lots of fun.

IMAG1510[1]Overpacking has been a problem for me in the past. Today will be different. Three wider lenses, neutral density filters and a tripod–that’s it! No long impressive football sideline telephotos. It will all fit in a shoulder bag.

My goal is to experiment with very slow shutter speed. The neutral density filters will block light. It will be daytime, but based on incoming light my camera will be set as if it was dark. Shutter/aperture combinations not normally possible will be needed.

It’s an experiment. My experience with this kind of shooting is near zero. It’s a radically different way of taking pictures. Who knows if it will work when I try it?

By the way, I know no one who’ll be there today. Looking forward to it.

Sunset At Laguna Beach









It was a pretty good night for photography at Laguna Beach. I packed my gear and arrived around an hour before sunset. Heisler Park was crowded. There were three others with sophisticated cameras. It’s easy to understand why.

I’m starting to think more about very slow shutter speeds for shots like these. Having the iris open a long time smooths the water surface. It also means using a tripod. Neutral density filters arrive tomorrow to allow these shots in full sun.

There are still some HDR shots to process. A few more timelapse movies too.

The first photo is going over our bed.

Hello Hummingbirds







One of the biggest surprises in SoCal living has been my hummingbird feeder. It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase, now suctioned to a window from our family room. The birds hit my feeder dozens of times a day, year round.

Photographing hummingbirds is tough. Their wings flap rapidly. Very high shutter speeds must be used.

High shutter speed means less light gets in the lens. Even in bright daylight my camera, a Canon 7D, is being pushed near its limit.

Everything happens quickly. No time for autofocus. My lens is open to f/8 and pre-focused where the birds are most likely to light.

Sometimes that works. Most times it doesn’t. Over 300 photos for the six you see here!

Magic Lantern software loaded into my camera controls when the photo is shot. It looks for changes in the frame, then shoots three times.

There are lots of out-of-focus snaps and plenty where the bird is partially out-of-frame. Sometimes a puff of wind will rock the feeder and… click, click, click. It’s expected most shots will be deleted.

This is a technique thing. If you know how to do it and spend enough time, you’ll get the shot. Otherwise, shooting hummingbirds is nearly impossible.

Something I Noticed While In The Desert

desert birdie

Cousin Michael has decided to become a birder. He was on-the-lookout for birds as we walked in Red Rock. As I mentioned earlier, we found one.

I wanted to come back to this bird (Click the photo to see a larger view) because he/she&#185 received a generous serving of evolutionary help. In real life she is as well camouflaged as any animal I’ve seen. She looks like the rocks she frequents!

We’re not sure what she is. Michael says Canyon Wren. I say Rock Wren. They’re both native to the Southwest. Neither Michael nor I are qualified to make a definitive call. Our opinions are based on web knowledge.

This shot was taken from fifteen feet. It’s cropped, meaning the bird fills more of the frame than she did when the shutter clicked. I didn’t have a long lens with me.

She was hopping from rock-to-rock, sometimes ducking in the little spaces between two. When she flew, it was low and not very far.

Like so much else on the desert, she favors gray.

&#185 – Wikipedia says “There is no sexual dimorphism in the plumage of wrens, and little difference between young birds and adults.” That means you can’t tell the sexes apart by look alone.

The Hummingbirds Come Into Sharper Focus

Photographing hummingbirds has gone from experiment to obsession. That didn’t take long!

Yesterday I set up my camera with Magic Lantern firmware and shot away. Today I made more modifications. The lens is longer, bringing me closer (though these are still cropped images). The light is a little better.

My shutter speed still isn’t fast enough! 1/1000 second doesn’t freeze the hummingbird’s wings.

If I speed up the shutter and leave the aperture where it is I’m going to start adding too much noise. Where’s the balance? Still to be determined.

Here are the best four of 136.





Awaiting Results

“Clicky” is on a tripod pointing toward my family room window. Its lens is focused on the hummingbird feeder that’s suctioned on. All the photo settings have been manually dialed in. The shutter is fast, trying to freeze wings that are always in motion.

“Clicky,” in real life a Canon 7D camera, has been loaded with aftermarket firmware called Magic Lantern. With its new extra brainpower it has been commanded to photograph the bird feeder only when something in the shot is in motion–like a hummingbird.

This is really a learning experience. There are many steps before a shot like this works. It’s doubtful all will be right on the first try.

Hopefully, some nice hummingbird shots before the day is through.