Posts made in Tips & Tools


A Time-Lapse Helper

I’m just now beginning to do some experiments into the world of time-lapse photography.  Nothing to show or report yet, but I’ll return to the topic later, when (and if) I find enough success to talk about.  But, in the beginning stages, I found out that one of the first challenges is to determine how many exposures, over what period of time, how long the video result will be, and at what framre rate.  I visited a few tutorials and even attended one of the feature sessions on the subject at Photoshop World.  Alas, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one who struggled a bit with even figuring out the initial stats without a calculator.

So, I created this little helper for myself.  I shared it with a few friends and found out that others might find it useful.  I printed it out in color, trimmed it to 4″x6″, laminated it, and keep it in my bag as a “Cheat-Card” to get me to first base in shooting time-lapse.

In short, it is a two-part chart where I can start with the time-span I wish to cover (such as the two hours of sunset, or the 6 hours of a storm event, etc.).  Using that as a starting point, I determine (guessing would be more accurate) of what the interval should be for the exposure frequency.  There are a number of guidelines out there for various intervals paired to the type of situation (such as moving clouds, slow construction, etc.), so for now, I won’t comment on that until I have more time-lapse experience.

After chossing the desired time-span and shooting interval, the chart shows (Side 1) the total number of exposures to be taken.  This may not sound important, but I quickly found that exposures numbering in the high-hundreds or even over a thousand, one has to take memory storage and power supply into account.  Taking the time-span and shooting intervals used from Side 1, the second chart (Side 2) shows the ultimate video play-length based on one of the most popular frame-rates of 30fps.  I’ve also included the formulas to help me determine time-spans, shooting intervals and frame-rates not charted (in case I have my iPhone calculator handy!).

It’s not meant to be a complete tool, but again, was originally intended for my personal use, so please don’t expect it to tell you how to do time-lapse, or anything else other than basic data.  All I ask is that you do me the favor of replying that you’ve downloaded it, and of course, to let me know of any errors you find or comments that you have.  Oh, and by the way, since most of us don’t expect to shoot more than 1,200 exposures, or to want final video times of less than 2 seconds, I’ve blanked out cells outside these ranges in the charts to make them less cluttered.  If you’re interested, it can be downloaded by clicking this link:

Download TimeLapse Helper (PDF)


Hope you find it helpful.



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HDR at the Rail Museum


A Day at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum – Perris, California

I’ve toyed with High Dynamic Range, or “HDR”, photography off and on for a few months now, but I’ve resisted fully going down that road. It’s very common now to hear the term “HDR” touted as though it was the latest cure-all for ignoring what used to be careful lighting, thoughtful composition, and the tedium of waiting out, or searching out, a scene that was within the tonal range of the camera’s capabilities.

In the days of film (B&W especially) and Ansel’s Zone System, we could readily hit a 9-stop range, and maybe even push it some. With today’s typical digital sensor limitations of 5 stops, or 5½ at best, those shots we chased or had to wait for are not within the range of the cameras that most of us have today.

Thus opened up the HDR world. I lagged behind for quite a while trying to avoid 8-stop or greater scenes, or more troublesome yet, trying to light interior or wide-range shots with flashes, reflectors or other traditional fill-light magic.

I still find myself bristling when I hear someone say, “Just use HDR and bracket it”, as though tht will magically cure a bad or highly contrasty image. It’s sort of like when a scene didn’t materialize without content conflicts or compositional mistakes, the catch-phrase became, “Oh, just Photoshop it out!” I hated it before, and I hate it now. (And I really hate to hear “Photoshop” used as a verb!)

But slowly, and with no small amount of coaxing and coaching from some of the those whose opinions I value, most notably my good friend and mentor, Robert A. Hansen (, I began to see, like much that I had grudgingly come to accept in the digital world, that HDR is just another of those techniques that can be used either badly or to combat and bend the limitations of our equipment and situation. So, I’ve decided to give it a fair try for a while and see what happens.

I went on out to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California, home of the world’s largest rail junkyard, to give HDR a good try. I remembered my former trips to OERM from the Ilford and Tri-X days as a great location for details, shapes, forms, shadows and, of course, subject matter that wasn’t everyday. And, I figured that there would be plenty of opportunity to shoot images that were well beyond a 5-stop range and still had plenty of interest in the darker, or highlighted details.

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Winter Shooting Tip: Protect Your Gear From Fogging

Hey, just a quick reminder now that winter cold has set in and it’s the season for winter pix of the family or from the chairlift.  Take some precautions for your camera and lenses.

Some don’t realize that when your camera and other equipment have been out in the cold for even just a few minutes (the colder it is, the less time it takes), it can get a lot colder than the air temp.  That’s due to a bunch of things like radiant heat loss, bouncing molecules, air movement, and other factors that aren’t important to understand.   But, the results are crucial.

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