So I actually made this a long time ago but am just now getting around to posting it. It’s a short video of 4 timelapses that I shot on my infrared-converted Canon XTi. One really important trick which allowed me to do this easily was told to me by the guy who did the conversion for me: take a photo of green leaves or grass, preferrably blurred out. Then use that image as the source for a custom white balance. Now if you take a photo using that custom white balance, it looks exactly as you see in the video! No processing required, no color shifting. Now that is a convenient tip!
There’s also a color night sky timelapse from the T3i in there, shot on the night I proposed to my wife. Obviously pretty special to me! The sky looks really awesome in that IR landscape shot. I want to do some more timelapses like this with moving clouds since the sky shows up so contrasty and dark in IR.
Took a visit to Wisconsin to visit family last week and took a bunch of pictures…. more forthcoming, but I thought this one deserved its own posting: A spectacular view of the Baraboo hills with Lake Wisconsin off in the distance. I’d never been to this spot before and wheeew. Literally stunned me.
This weekend I attended a Star Party (aka an astronomer hangout session) with the North Houston Astronomy Club and took along my timelapse setup. I got to meet some cool people who are way into the stars, and got in some solid time staring at the heavens during the Orionid Meteor Shower. I’m pretty psyched about the resultant video below because it combines a whole bunch of techniques and tricks that I have never tried before.
Public service reminder: hit the 1080p and fullscreen it. We’re looking at stars. They’re small!
For anyone who’s wondering, those 4 tall poles in the timelapse where the sun is still going down are actually a radio telescope, set up to listen to the sounds of Jupiter as it passes southernly-overhead in the middle of the night. Bonus points for exotic telescopes!
I had done “star trails” images before by using this simple, free program called StarStaX, but I hadn’t realized that the same program can save a picture at every step during the composite-making process, which gives these really neat star trails videos. I also found a photoshop actions file as blogged about on Owen Scharlotte’s site that let me do the fading-startrails effect. This is my first time using either of those techniques. (UPDATED…TWICE!: Owen had a broken link, which is now fixed! His actions are now more sophisticated as well, so click here to download the version I used, which I’ll leave posted as it was requested of me via email from a reader. Please note: I can’t provide technical assistance with this actions file. You’ll have to read Owen’s website and figure out on your own how it works. You should check out his site anyway, as it’s good.)
As with my last attempt, I did a batch process on all 1,145 photos before compiling them into the video. I figured out how to remove hot pixels from the dark parts of the sky (using a subtraction layer on a noise reference image), but I still haven’t mastered removing them from lighter regions near the horizon. There’s definite room for improvement. Another very cool thing: I learned a few neat, new tricks with Shadow/Highlights in Photoshop as well as Curves; two functions I use all the time. Hah! And I arrogantly had assumed I knew all there was to know about these functions! Enlightening and humbling in the same moment. This whole deal was certainly a beneficial learning experience.
But stepping back from the technical aspect of all this, and speaking of humbling, have a look at those stars. Wowzers.
Something that really knocked me out that night was seeing “the great nebula in Andromeda”, aka M31, aka the Andromeda Galaxy. Maaan. I mean… every star you see in the sky is an incomprehensible distance away from us. Jeez, really I can’t even genuinely comprehend the distance from Earth to Venus, let alone the distance from Earth to Proxima Centauri… But holy %*#^ Andromeda, that’s 2.5 million light years from Earth. And you can see it with your naked eye if the sky has clear “seeing”. Hanging out with a bunch of astronomers and having them point out all these fascinating things in the sky was really inspiring. There’s certainly more sensational things to be seen in the sky (Jupiter and it’s four Galilean moons was truly a sight to behold) but looking up and spotting another galaxy, well that blew my mind. I checked it out through both binoculars and a pretty excellent telescope as well. No matter how you see it, it’s dim. But it’s there, and one of the top mind-boggling sights of my year.
You can see it, as my camera saw it on the left. I drew in purple dashed lines connecting some of the nearby stars in the Andromeda constellation that make it easier to spot. The galaxy itself is circled in green. As you can see it’s not much more than a faint blur. But man oh man, did those photons ever come a long way before, by sheer random chance, happening to land upon the image sensor of my camera. At the time that those photons left the Andromeda Galaxy, the genus Homo had literally just begun. Homo Habilis was the species. Definitely still very very ape-like. By contrast, Homo Sapiens emerged 250,000 years ago; an order of magnitude more recently. Wow.
Even though there are fantastic pictures out there of such objects as Andromeda, it’s still so very powerful to see it with your own eyes–to have your own retinas collect some photons that traveled 2.5 million years to reach them. Seeing that is ….. well it’s breathtaking.
Meeting other people who are jazzed about the sky was a highlight of the evening as well. One thing I had hoped to do was learn a bit about telescopes since it’s somewhat of a long-term goal of mine to acquire one. I met a guy named Rusty who had just gotten a brand new Orion model off eBay. It was his first real night out with it, so he was still getting things dialed in, but overall he had it in pretty great form. Seeing his excitement over the new instrument was infectious and definitely made me want to go do some further research. But talking to him at length also made me realize that I have 100% no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to ‘scopes. It’s going to be quite some time before I know enough to even consider a purchase. In the meantime, I think I might invest in a good, lightweight, comfortable pair of binoculars. I had read people saying that this was a great first step into astronomy online, but I sort of scoffed at the idea, thinking, naahh, what I want is a badass telescope! And yes, that IS what I want, but still, a good pair of binoculars is certainly a fun, portable, and instantly-maneuverable way to check out the sky. I think I will be getting a pair.
A short timelapse video I made, showing the night sky from 12:30am-3:30am. I used 830 images to make this, and you can see the corresponding startrails images in the previous post! Don’t forget to hit fullscreen and 1080p on the video. A tiny preview doesn’t do the stars justice!
I’ve wanted to get into making timelapse like this for a long time, so it’s rewarding to put one of these together. I did a batch process on all photos in Photoshop before compiling into a video, which was an awesome idea; definitely want to do more and get better at all of this. Check out that SKY!
I’ve been up to my usual shenanigans tonight, which involve staying up till all unreasonable hours of the morning. While doing so, I set out the camera and captured this sweet startrails image from 12:30-3:30am. Saaweeeeet!
Since the above image is actually composed of 800+ individual 10 second exposures, I also made this version which is only a short part of it; a good stretch without any clouds. And just to keep things fresh, I flipped the canvas horizontally. Because, ya know, why not?
Note that clicking on either of these will unleash the 1920 x 1280 sized versions.
Tuesday was the first day since I’ve gotten my new T3i that I didn’t take a picture on it. This is probably because I fell asleep early by accident!
Something that occurred to me is that using this new timelapse remote is going to completely blow up the count of shutter actuations on the camera. The outgoing champ, my Canon XTi, has about 6,400 pictures on the counter. So far with the T3i I’m already up over 600… in less than a week! Whoa.
In a way it’s kinda scary how quick these will add up, but really it’s a good thing–I’m gonna USE this puppy. And I should. It’s got the great ISO range I’ve been wishing for, and pretty much all the movie-making goodness a camera-nerd could wish for. Ahhhhh
I have been doing some trial runs of timelapse, some of which I’ll begin posting on here soon. I thought some of you might like to see my setup for doing these, so below is a picture. We’ve got the Canon T3i with Meike Powergrip (intended for 550D/T2i, but it still works 100%), a simple Studiohut intervalometer, and the Tamron 10-24mm superwide zoom for some large sky coverage:
It took me a while to figure out how to set up the tripod for a full view of the sky with no trees or house in the frame. At first I tried putting the quick release on backward, which let me tilt in a more favorable direction (as shown above), but that still wasn’t quite what I needed. The real trick is to put the quick release on sideways (90 degrees off, instead of 180), so that instead of left/right tilt, the mount itself moves up and down. THAT’s how it’s done! I’ll post a picture of that method sometime later…