I think we all know what time-lapse photography is.  Typically, it’s shooting film at 1 frame-per-second or less…. instead of the normal 24fps.  As a result, time gets compressed and everything happens quicker… a flower blooms, clouds race through the sky, suns set, night traffic creates ribbons of light and a building get built in a couple minutes.  For the Project Rebirth film DP Tom Lappin, is shooting 1 frame very 5 minutes to chronicle the the construction of World Trade Center 7, the first building due to be completed at Ground Zero. For more information visit:  http://projectrebirth.org/film/timelapse.html   Here’s a short video about film project… which I DP’d.)

My project will be far less interesting and challenging but no less exciting… well maybe a little bit less.

Getting the right exposure when using film for time-lapse photography can be tough, especially when shooting outdoors or at night.  During the day, light levels change when clouds pass through or as the sun rises or sets.  When shooting at night, it becomes difficult to measure the ambient light accurately or the light level of say, on a sign or building.  A spot meter will help immensely but still, unless you’ve run tests, you are still somewhat guessing how some areas of the picture will look.  (Of course when shooting negative, you always want to error on the side of overexposure, since film has far more overexposure latitude than underexposure.)  However, on this project, I plan to use my digital camera, to take out some of that guesswork and get the exposure just where it needs to be… at least in theory.  With this sort of application, the digital camera, in practicality, becomes my light meter.  But then there’s reciprocity failure, which is not a problem with digital cameras but is a problem with film, requiring longer exposures times to get the same degree of change.  Log exposures with digital cameras makes for noisier images which doesn’t happen with film.  “Back in the day”… we used Polaroid cameras to check exposures (and lighting ratios)… but because the cost per print was high, it wasn’t used much.

I also plan to experiment with making some longer exposures… a commonly used still photography technique of  keeping the shutter open longer than normal on each frame to convey movement or create unique images.  Using a film camera in the same way, creates a sort of dreamy effect, especially at night and when the objects move and stop.  Determining the proper exposure gets even trickier, but eagin, that’s where I hope the digital camera will help.

Extend Exposure on a Single Frame

Anyway, I’d better get to it.  Hope to have a couple new projects to show you soon.  Please post your questions and comments… or you can email me.