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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buyer Beware?

Please! Release Me! • Portable Printmaking • Finding The Lightning And The Trigger • Rendering Time-Lapse Movies

Labels: ColumnTech Tips
Finding The Lightning And The Trigger
Q I read an article where you suggested the use of a device called “Lighting Tiger,” which you use to catch lightning as it strikes. For the life of me, I cannot find it anywhere. If you would be so kind and let me know where to find it, I would be thankful to you after each lightning strike.
M. Huidobro
Via the Internet

A The device is called a Lightning Trigger, available for $329 from www.lightningtrigger.com, (800) 452-4167. The manufacturer is Stepping Stone Products in Dolores, Colo., where there’s lots of lightning!

So what’s the big deal? Anybody can capture lightning strikes at night by simply setting a looooooong exposure and letting the strikes record as they occur. What makes the Lightning Trigger so special is that it allows the photographer to capture lightning strikes in daylight. A strike in the vicinity of the camera activates the shutter, which captures the lightning if it occurs within the frame. Lightning behind you will trip the shutter, too, but pixels are cheap. If lightning is happening all around you, by the way, it’s time to take cover. I’ve been known to put my tripod-mounted camera outside the vehicle and let the Lightning Trigger do the work while I’m safe inside.

Rendering Time-Lapse Movies
Q Some time ago, you wrote about how to convert time-lapse images into a video. I can’t find the article, so please tell me how to do it or identify the article.
E. Framan
Via the Internet

A The article you mention, “Easy High-Definition Time-Lapse Movies,” was published in Currents, the magazine of the North American Nature Photography Association, back in the spring of 2009, when the publication was in paper form. We’ll give you a summary here.

The basic premise of time-lapse photography is to capture a series of images of a single scene at regular intervals over an extended period of time so as to record changes in the scene, such as clouds moving, astronomical phenomena or other action, and to accelerate the time of the sequence in the playback. One of my favorite subjects for time lapse is the annual balloon festival held in Colorado Springs each Labor Day weekend.

The equipment needed to accomplish time-lapse photography is either a built-in intervalometer (some Nikons) or an external intervalometer/cable release (all Canons and some Nikons) for your DSLR camera. Here are the basic steps. 1) Clean your camera’s sensor because any debris will be evident on every picture in the sequence and in the subsequent movie. 2) Place the camera on a sturdy tripod. 3) Be sure you have adequate power. For long sequences, you’ll need to access a power source beyond the camera’s battery or be there to change it. 4) Set your exposure to “aperture priority” and possibly auto ISO if lighting conditions will be changing and you want to maintain a standard ƒ-stop and shutter speed throughout the sequence. 5) Select the capture interval, e.g., five seconds, depending on the speed of the action. 6) Use the smallest JPEG capture format because this resolution is better than HDTV, and you’re going to be streaming these images, not printing them. You may be taking thousands of images, so be sure your capture media will hold them all. 7) Save all the images to one folder on your computer. 8) Assemble the images on your computer in QuickTime Pro (a $29 upgrade to QuickTime available from Apple for both PC and Mac). Open the program, then File > Open Image Sequence. Browse to find the folder containing the images. Highlight the first image in the folder and click Open, which will bring up a box headed Image Sequence Settings. From the drop-down menu, choose the speed you want the program to stream the images, from 29.97 frames per second (standard video) to as few as 6, depending on the effect you want to achieve. When you click OK, the program processes the images and a finished QuickTime movie appears on the monitor. From the menu bar, click on View > Fit to Screen and View > Play All Frames, and start the movie from the standard video controls that appear at the bottom of the image. Save the movie as a self-contained movie; the result is an .mov file that can be inserted into other programs or played as a stand-alone using the QuickTime Player.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.


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