In addition to my addiction to aerial photography, I’m also fascinated by time-lapse photography. With time lapse photography, you set up your camera to take pictures on an interval. This could be every few seconds, every few minutes, every few hours, or heck, once a day. It’s really up to you how you want to set up your shots and what you want to shoot. In any case, you can end up with a lot images – each by itself could be great, but it only tells a limited story. However, you can put all those images together in a sequence to create some truly amazing visuals. Subtle motion becomes pronounced, and you can clearly view the passage of time. Often, this ends up with an amazing visual story that would be hard to otherwise capture.
All that you need start diving into time-lapse photography is a camera that is capable of capturing images on an interval – normally there is some kind of time lapse mode that lets you set up your image frequency and duration. Then, once you’ve got your images, you can process them with Creative Cloud tools to bring out their full potential.
Here are two time-lapse sequences I created this week–one a snow storm, one a sunset.
Neither sequence required a lot of specialized or expensive equipment. I used a GoPro Hero 3 Black camera, set it on my window sill, and let it do it’s thing. (I do want to upgrade to better gear, but this still works fantastically, and I love the GoPro.)
The sunset was a ten second interval captured over about 2 hours and played back in 30 seconds. The snow storm was a 60 second interval captured over roughly 14 hours, played back in 40 seconds.
So, you’ve captured the images, what next?
You can check out the video below, or read on for further explanation how I processed and assembled the images into a video sequence, complete with links to Adobe documentation and tutorials.
Before putting everything together as a sequence, I wanted to enhance the photos to bring out as much detail as possible. Here’s where Adobe Lightroom comes into the picture. I used Lightroom to import all of my photos, add them to a collection, and then perform bulk/batch processing to enhance all of the images.
First, select an image to use as your baseline for adjustments. I wouldn’t start with your darkest image, and I wouldn’t start with your lightest either. I normally start somewhere in the middle. Select the image, and then switch over to the “Develop” module. I use the basic panel to make adjustments to this image. For the GoPro, I like to bring up the shadows and bring down the highlights to pull out details out. If I’m shooting a landscape, I also like to bring up the clarity and maybe even the vibrance and saturation – just don’t over do it. You could also use one of Lightroom’s presets if you want; it’s really up to you. Just be extra careful that it is not too dark or too light b/c we’re going to apply these settings to all images in the sequence.
If you want to adjust hue, saturation or luminance of specific colors, you can do that within the HSL/Color/B&W panel. Using this you can make specific colors more or less intense. I normally try to tone down the yellows in my GoPro images after I’ve increased overall saturation.
Since I used the GoPro, there is a lot of fisheye distortion from the lens – the GoPro has a 2.77mm lens whichgives an ultra-wide 170 degree field of view. This makes for some awesome wide angle shots, but sometimes you don’t want that extreme distortion. This is where lens correction gets really handy. Next, I opened up the Lens Correction panel. As soon as you check the “Enable Profile Corrections” checkbox, Lightroom should automatically select the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition lens profile based upon metadata within the image. I didn’t want to fully flaten the image, just reduce the wide angle, so I turned down the distortion correction using the “Distortion” slider.
Once you have your baseline image the way you want it, you need to apply these settings to all of your images in the sequence. Just select them all, and then either click on the “Sync…” button in the bottom right of the Develop module, or use the Settings -> Synch Settings menu. This will apply you changes on this image to all of the images that were selected. This will happen automatically if you are using auto-sync. You can learn more about synchronizing metadata between photos in the Lightroom documentation.
Next, be sure to view several images in your collection, the lightest to the darkest, and make sure they all look decent. If you need to make any changes because they are too light, or too dark, or don’t have the right contrast, then now is your time to fix it. Once you’re happy with the images in your collection you next need to export them. I exported as JPG with 100% quality at full resolution with sequential names.
Now we’ve got a lot of processed images. What’s next? We need to make a video!
If you’re wondering how I got the motion in the time lapse sequence, no I didn’t have the camera moving. There are devices which make this possible, but I just used a video editing trick. The images are 12 MP, or 4000 by 3000 pixels. A “standard” HD video sequence is 1920 by 1080 pixels. The image below reflects this scale – the red area represents the 4000 by 3000 still image, and the yellow represents the 1920 by 1080 video.
You’ll notice that leaves us with a lot of room to zoom and pan around the image. I zoom into the image so that it fills the entire horizontal space within the video sequence – you can zoom in more if you want. This leaves a fair amount of vertical content outside the clipping rectangle of the video. You can use this to your advantage by panning vertically within this area. I just made the pan very slow and deliberate so it appears that there is constant motion of the camera throughout the entire video.
The final result is that the content in the video (yellow area) appears to move because the actual image sequence is moving relative to the video viewport.
Photosynth is an impressive service from Microsoft. It enables you to upload photos and turn them into interactive 360 panoramas, photo walls, spins, or photo walks. The Photosynth team recently announced a new version of Photosynth, and it’s a really cool web experience. It leverages WebGL to visualize the content, and runs great on both desktop and mobile devices (as long as the devices support WebGL).
Those who know me well or regularly read the blog probably already know I have an obsession with aerial photography using remote controlled multirotor helicopters. Once I discovered Photosynth, my first thought was “Wow, these ‘Photo Walks’ will be incredible to visualize flights”. I capture most of my flights in time-lapse photography mode with a GoPro camera attached to a DJI Phantom copter. The time-lapse images are perfect for Photosynth – I normally capture on a two second interval, though the Photosynth team suggested trying an even shorter interval for better results.
To generate the best Photosynths, you need to start with the best photos. This is where Lightroom comes into the picture. Lightroom is an incredible tool for editing photos and bringing out their details. You can enhance exposure, colors, clarity, saturation, reduce noise, and more. Even better, it excels at bulk image editing. Thus it’s perfect for processing your photos for preparation to create a Photosynth.
Check out the video below to get an overview of Photosynth, and preparing your photos with Lightroom.
Now, you’re ready to learn more about both Lightroom and Photosynth, right?
Below are Photosynths from a few of my flights. If your browser supports WebGL, you’ll be able to see the fully interactive experience – you’ll be able to scrub through the photos, zoom in, and pan the images at full resolution. It’s best viewed in full-screen mode.
One of my favorite parts of Creative Cloud is that it gives you everything you need to be creative. Whether you are into photography, video, illustration, print design, web design, or just dabble in creativity, Creative Cloud has everything that you need. I’ve been doing a lot of photography lately. My main tools for retouching images are Photoshop and Lightroom – Photoshop for the heavy edits and re-composition, and Lightroom for retouching/color correcting and bulk edits.
Using either of these tools you can turn images that originally looked “blah” into “Awesome!” – hence my tag line “bringing out the awesome”.
One great feature that I use in both of these tools is the ability to retouch colors using Adobe Camera RAW(In Photoshop CC this is a filter, in Lightroom this is under the “Develop” tab). This gives you the ability to enhance colors, enhance clarity, add effects, heal, and much more, and it is all relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Check out the images below for before and after shots of a photo I recently captured from a flight over Charlotte, NC.
Now, check out a time-lapse video showing the retouching process, to get an idea how this was done (more details below)…
That entire composition retouch only took a few minutes. Here’s what I used inside of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to put it all together.
The “Basic” panel gives you the ability to quickly adjust color temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, highlight/shadows/white balance, and enhance clarity and color saturation as it applies to the entire image. Just drag the sliders to see the impact in real time.
The “Effects” panel gives you the ability to add a vignette effect to your images. You can adjust the sliders to increase vignette amount, midpoint size, roudness, feather, and more.
The “Detail” panel gives you the ability to sharpen or reduce noise in your images. In this case I used it to reduce luminance (brightness) noise on the image, but you can also apply noise reduction to colors.
The Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush allow you easily apply localized adjustments to areas within your image. In this case, I applied two graduated filters: one to bring out contrast and definition in the sky, and another to darken and unsharpen the ground. Read more in the Lightroom documentation to learn how to use both the graduated filters and adjustment brush.
… and that’s all I did. I didn’t even use a big fancy camera to take this photo. I used a Panasonic Lumix LX7, which is a pretty good point and shoot camera, but it’s definitely not a DSLR.
If you want to see a bit more detail, check out a higher resolution variation over on my Flickr page.
Now, get out there and create amazing compositions and images. If you’re not already a member of Creative Cloud, join today at creative.adobe.com.
I have a new “hobby”, and I must admit, I am completely addicted. Perhaps “obsessed” might be the proper term. Luckily for me, it is a great use of Creative Cloud, so I can get away with it! What is this new obsession, you ask? Aerial Photography.
However, I’m not flying airplanes or riding in helicopters. In fact, my feet aren’t even leaving the ground at all… just my camera. It all started a few weeks ago when my friend Tony approached me about getting some aerial photos for experimentation. He knew I already had a GoPro camera, and that I was completely obsessed with it… GoPros take incredible pictures, and are very durable. The only thing was that we needed a reliable way to get it off the ground.
Enter part 2 of the equation, and the greatest part of my obsession: the quadcopter. Basically, it is a multi-rotor remote controlled helicopter.Multi-rotor copters are mechanically very simple, very stable, and versatile. Just check out this TED video to see how agile and versatile they can be.
I had been wanting one of these for a long time. Researching here and there, looking at the DIY and pre-built kits. I wanted something that would be easy to fly, but also capable of outdoor flight and a camera payload. Copters can range from inexpensive children’s toys to high-end hex/octo-rotor professional rigs for many thousands of dollars, and I looked at nearly every one of them. I finally settled on the DJI Phantom.
I chose this copter mainly for two reasons:
It has a GPS guidance system that makes it easy to fly, corrects for wind drift, and even has a “return to home” feature if the battery gets low or if it loses contact with the controller. Yet, it can be very maneuverable and agile.
It is easy to setup, and comes with a GoPro mounting system.
DJI’s promise of “ease of use” definitely holds true. It was setup and running very quickly, with the longest part of the setup process waiting for the battery to charge. Once we finally got it off the ground, there was no going back… Now, with everything that I look at, I wonder “Wouldn’t that be cool to take a picture of from the air?”
A word of warning, once you start down this path, it is very easy to become obsessed – I will elaborate more on this subject in a bit. For now, check out some of my recent photos with this rig. You can see the full collection (and any future photos) on my Flickr photostream.
In fact, we were so excited to fly it, that we didn’t even wait for daylight! The Phantom has a series of LEDs for navigation, so there was no problem flying at night, at all. Here’s a short video from my first quadcopter flight:
While this setup takes amazing still images out-of-the-box, you may have noticed that the video isn’t all that smooth. Some of the shaking can be reduced by refining your piloting techniques (don’t ascend/descend too fast, etc…). However, the default configuration isn’t ideal for video capture. Though, much of that can be corrected with some ad-ons (which I will be investing in), and software-based video stabilization in After Effects. Again, I’ll cover this more in a bit…
My explorations into aerial photography have provided me with some valuable lessons…
Accept the fact that you will crash. Even though the Phantom is very easy to fly, at some point you will, without a doubt, crash the copter. Luckily every piece of the copter can be replaced. If your battery is almost dead and you try to take off, the copter will just flip over onto the ground. If you are trying to land and there is a strong gust of wind, you will likely crash. If you descend too quickly, you will crash. I mention each of these, because I have done all of them.
Immediately replace the nuts that hold the propellers onto the copter. Within the first week of owning the Phantom, I lost a propeller and the copter came plummeting to the ground. Luckily, I was only about ten feet off of the ground when this happened. The “dome” nuts that ship with the copter look pretty, but are not reliable. Get some new nuts with lock washers, Nylock nuts, and/or some thread lock to prevent the nuts from loosening due to vibration. If you use thread lock, just be sure NOT to get any on the plastic propellers. I have heard it will do bad things to them.
Be prepared to obsess over the ways that you can use and modify the copter. This leads me to my next section…
If you are like me, you will immediately want to explore all of the ways that you can use the Phantom once you get it. This will lead you down the road of watching countless YouTube videos that others have created, reading DIY instructions for modifications, and scouring the web for upgrade options.
Extra batteries. The Phantom comes with one battery that lasts 10-12 minutes. You will want more batteries for additional flight time.
Better nuts to secure the propellers.(See my lessons learned above)
Of course, not all modifications are “must haves”; here are the next few options that are on my list. If anyone is looking for a gift idea for me, look at this list! 🙂
Travel Case. Without a doubt, you will want to protect your copter. I have mine in a cardboard box lined with bubble-wrap to prevent damage from travel and toddlers. If you plan on travelling with your copter (which I do), you will want something like one of these.
Upgraded Propellers. Larger propellers provide additional lift. Balanced propellers provide less vibration. Stiffer propellers also provide additional lift. The Phantom ships with 8″ plastic props. I’m looking into 9″ wooden or carbon fiber, balanced propellers.
Camera Gimbal System. A gimbal system will keep your camera stable, regardless of the pitch or yaw of the copter. This will make a huge difference if you are producing video. There are lots of options, from DIY kits, to the official DJI/Zenmuse Gimbal system that was just released today. I am drooling over these options.
Vibration Isolation Mount. If you have a gimbal, you probably already have this, but if you don’t, you might want one. A vibration isolation mount will reduce the copter vibrations that are transferred to the camera. This will result in better quality images and videos, and less “jello effect”.
ND/Polarized filters for the GoPro camera.ND filters and polarized filters can help improve the captured image or video, and can minimize the “jello effect” due to vibrations.
FPV Video Navigation System. An FPV (First Person View) video system gives you the ability to see exactly what the copter sees when you are flying. This can be really useful for framing of photos, or flying beyond line-of-sight. Most of these will require you to modify your copter. You can use the GoPro app as a limited FPV system; although keep in mind that it operates over an ad hoc wifi connection. If you lose the connection, you lose the video feed.
I mentioned that people are creating amazing images and videos with this rig; here are just a few that blew me away…
So, I’ve written all about the copter so far, but what about Creative Cloud? How does it tie into quadcopters? Creative Cloud enables you to do more with the aerial imagery that you capture from the quadcopter.
When taking still images, I setup the camera so that it will automatically take two pictures every second. When you’re flying for 10 minutes, this ends up being a lot of images. Lightroom enables you to quickly import, tag, develop, and publish your images.
Many of the images need additional editing before they are suitable for your final product. Whether you need to remove objects (such as landing gear, shadows, people, etc…), or you want to tweak clouds or make other dramatic changes, Photoshop enables you to do these things. Photoshop enables rich editing and retouching of images.
Of course, it’s not all about still images. Premiere and After Effects enable editing and production of your captured videos. You can use Premiere to arrange multiple clips into a broader sequence, and you can add post-processing effects and image stabilization with After Effects.
…and what is a video without audio? Audition provides you with a rich environment for audio production. Whether it is editing the captured audio, or producing new music and soundtracks, Audition has you covered.
Here’s another video that I produced using Premiere for edits, stabilization with After Effects, and Audition for audio tweaks. Granted, I do not have a gimbal or other stabilization system, so bear with the quality!
This is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”. Creative Cloud gives you the tools you need to create amazing multimedia content, and the means to make that content engaging and interactive – from hobbyist to die-hard professional.
Once you’re happy with what you’ve got, don’t forget you can share it on Behance via your Creative Cloud membership!