Graphically verifying time-lapse intervals using ExifTool (and Excel)

Timestamp plot - annotated

Here’s a quick and easy way to check time-lapse intervals using a combination of ExifTool, (a great command-line application for reading and writing image EXIF data) and a program such as Excel to process and plot the data. Continue reading

Canon 5D Mark III astrophotography

The Bulge

“The Bulge”; Single exposure, ISO 5000, 24 mm, f/2.8, 20 sec

If anything shows off the low light capabilities of the 5D Mark III, it’s astrophotography. For me this doesn’t go any deeper than wide angle shots of the night sky, but luckily I got to try out the camera on some really dark nights at Siding Spring Observatory earlier this year. What strikes me about the 5DIII’s high ISO noise performance is how much colour and contrast detail you can retain. Bear in mind all these shots are at f/2.8.. if only I had a 1.4! Continue reading

Canon 5D Mark III built-in HDR mode

HDR sunset 1

Canon 5D Mk III HDR mode; ±3 EV; “Art Vivid” style

I thought I’d try out the in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode on my 5D Mk III during a recent trip. In this mode, the camera takes three different exposures and blends them together in order to capture a wider range of brightness levels in the scene.

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Photographing the Transit of Venus 2012

Transit of Venus 2012 sequence

The transit of Venus 2012: Six frames at equal intervals throughout the transit, starting here with second contact (top left), then along each row until third contact (bottom right). The sun is shown with its south pole at the top, and in sunny false colour of course :)

On 6 June 2012, Venus passed directly between Earth and the Sun. This ‘transit’ won’t happen again until 2117, so I’m happy that I got some photos of it! I was asked to write a few words on my experience for the August 2012 issue of the AAO Observer newsletter, so in lieu of rehashing the same story, here’s what I wrote for the article.

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Hyperlapse photography test using existing structures

I’ve long been a bit of a time-lapse junkie, so when I saw this video of Moscow a few months ago I was really impressed. People have started calling this technique ‘hyperlapse’, and it’s a combination of time-lapse photography with a large but calculated movement of the camera between shots. I thought I’d have a go without using any special rigs or mounts – instead of worrying about moving the camera precise distances, I thought I’d find some existing structure to do the measuring for me.

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Creative commons music photography

Metallica (World Magnetic Tour) @ Acer Arena, Sydney 18/09/2010

Metallica (World Magnetic Tour) @ Acer Arena, Sydney 18/09/2010

Recently I decided to release nearly all of my music photos on flickr under a Creative Commons license.  Essentially this means that people can freely use the images without seeking permission first.  This move isn’t a big deal – I don’t have a spectacular portfolio of breathtaking concert photos – but to see images of this kind, released in this way and by people like me seems extremely rare. Continue reading

PIR motion sensors for time-lapse photography

Using a household security sensor to trigger time-lapse cameras “when stuff is happening”

How do you efficiently capture something about as big as a truck being sporadically hand assembled over a period of one year?  This is a question I recently faced when setting up time-lapse cameras on a major instrumentation project at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO).

A typical time-lapse approach is to take photos at fixed intervals for the duration of whatever process you’re trying to capture.  The AAO’s assembly schedule for HERMES, a high resolution astronomical spectrograph, didn’t lend itself to this approach for three reasons: i) nothing was going to happen on evenings or weekends; ii) there would be many ‘dead’ periods when work was being done outside of the main assembly area and therefore out of shot; and iii) it would go on for a year, which meant camera shutter life might have become a limiting factor.  What I needed was for photos to be taken only when work was being done, and to do so at short intervals so that these events translated into a reasonable number of frames in the final video.

I decided to use a Passive Infra-Red (PIR) motion sensor to govern when the cameras were triggered.  These sensors are used all the time for outdoor security lights, and they’re super cheap (about $20 from a DIY store).  By using a PIR sensor, the cameras would only fire when someone was in the room, i.e. “when stuff was happening”. Continue reading