I recently wrote about a time lapse that I shot while travelling through Europe. I wanted to talk a little about the gear I use on a day to day basis, and more specifically, the gear and tools I used to make this time lapse happen. If you’re a gear head, you’ll want to read the next few bits.
Tripods. Camera stabilization is essential. My first time in Paris I didn’t have any kind of stabilization. I remember being down at Concorde and trying to place my camera on top of my backpack and remembering how cool I thought it was to get the big ferris wheel spinning at night. But, none of the shots were usable because I didn’t have any real stabilization. Fast forward a couple of years and I get a Gorilla Pod SLR Zoom. This was an excellent entry into the world of “I have some kind of tripod thing that I can take with me on trips and isn’t too big and can let me take some kind of long exposure or let me get into my own shot”. Fast forward another couple years and I’ve gone through a heavy aluminum tripod and a pan/tilt head and arrived at a lighter carbon fiber model and a ball head. Here’s the tripod I currently use, the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4.
This tripod is super light, has a center column that can readjust to horizontal on the fly, and paired with the right ball head is very portable. I’m not much a fan of pan/tilt heads for photography and tripods. I owned and used a nice Manfrotto one for a while, but it never felt right. Since then I’ve always used ball heads. A couple years ago I got the Manfrotto 488RC2. This was and is an excellent ball head, albeit a little heavy.
So, I’m headed to Paris. I know I want to take a tripod, or Gorilla Pod, or both. Always trying to cut weight and make things more portable, I picked up a new ball head, the Manfrotto 496RC2. For the price, this is a great little ball head.
I also picked up a new Gorilla Pod, the Focus. This Gorilla Pod is much beefier than my old one, and can really handle heavy lenses with no problem. Here it is next to the Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and also paired with the 496RC2.
From the picture above you should be able to see where this is going. Now I have a very mobile set up. I keep the Manfrotto RC2 plate always attached to my camera, and I switch the light 496RC2 head from Gorilla Pod to tripod depending on need. In this specific case, I carried the tripod all around Paris, since that was my “home base”, and brought the Gorilla Pod with me on the train in order to be more mobile. In each instance I was able to throw the ball head on the “stabilizer of choice” and easily snap my camera on and off.
I picked this bag up about a year ago. It’s the Clik Elite Probody Sport, and, while you can’t like everything about a bag, this one is pretty great. That pocket that you see on the side, right below the Clik logo, if where I can stick the full size tripod or Gorilla Pod and use the bungee up top to secure it tightly to the bag.
I used it to bring a camera (Canon 40D digital SLR), 2 lenses (Canon 17-40mm f/4L and the Canon 50mm f/1.4), the 496RC2 ball head, camera filters, the Gorilla Pod Focus as well as a change of clothes, toiletries, a journal AND a Kindle (Kindles are awesome, get one) along with me on the train for a couple of days. Not bad. I used a lens slot to stash the ball head.
Oh, one more thing. The intervalometer. This is an essential piece of equipment. It allows you to do something like, “in 10 seconds begin taking 1 picture every 3 seconds until you take 77 pictures”. In my case, I generally said, “In 10 seconds begin taking 1 picture every 4 seconds until I tell you to stop”. Yes, the function should be built into the camera, but…well, it’s not . You can get one here.
So, now all the pieces are in place. Now it’s just a matter of standing/sitting/walking around one spot for 20, 30, 60 minutes while you take a time lapse. A spot where you can sit and drink some wine always helps.
Just some math, shooting one picture every 5 seconds for 40 minutes will give you 480 pictures. Each of the 12 time lapses in the video was between 20 and 60 minutes. I literally shot thousands of pictures in RAW, edited and cropped to 1920×1080 pixels in Adobe Lightroom 4, put them together in Quicktime 7 and then edited them down to a 3 minute video of my trip using Final Cut Pro 6 (yea, I use old tools).
Leave some comments or feel free to ask questions about the gear or techniques, I would love to help.