My First Attempt at Time Lapse Photography

Hey everyone,

I discovered that I can do time lapse photography, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was actually very easy (See below the video for a description of what I used).

Now, doing it well and just doing it are pretty far apart, and I know I’ve got a long way to go, but for all being done within the first 24 hours of realizing that I had the capability, I’m pretty proud of what I came up with and I thought sharing how easy it is to get started might be beneficial.

The music is something that I composed and played in MuseScore a while back (it was sitting around, so I thought I’d use it). I’m not a musician, so forgive its simplicity and the fact that the instruments are all midi simulations rather than… something that sounds good.

For those that are interested, the shot locations are as follows:
-First two clips with the water – Calavara Lake in Carlsbad, Ca
-The ants and two oak tree clips – Buena Vista Park in Vista, Ca
-Last shot with the grass – out my window in Vista, Ca

 

The camera I used is a Cannon PowersShot SX160 IS with CHDK installed on it. I’ve had the camera for a few years now and I like it, but if I were shopping for it all over again, I would choose something else for one simple reason: this specific PowerShot eats through batteries like a puppy through pizza (maybe a little less messy). The other models of PowerShot I had in the past were not this way. It’s powered by 2 AA batteries and can’t (as far as I’ve figured out) be powered externally (if anyone has any suggestions other than the toothpick trick, please share). Just in the shots used in this video I went through 12 AA battieries; I’m a MONSTER! They are still half full for many other devices, but the camera says they’re dead and turns off. They worked long enough to get these shots, but if I wanted to shoot over a time longer than about 45 minutes (and I do), this just isn’t going to cut it.

CHDK is a set of firmware updates that you can use to increase the functionality of Cannon PowerShots. Model specific downloads and directions can be found here: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK
CHDK is temporary. You just run it off of the memory card and it allows you to run scripts on your camera. The CHDK download for most PowerShots, I believe, come with an intervalometer script. That’s the one I use. It is very simple once you figure out the menus. You set up your camera ready to go with whatever settings you want, then you tell the intervalometer script a time interval, and launch it. It then takes an image every time that interval is up. For example, if I set it to 10 seconds, it will take an image every 10 seconds until I tell it to stop or it runs out of batteries and turns itself off (the latter usually being the case for me). I did find that, because the camera takes a moment to take and save the images, if you set it too short, it will just take an image whenever it is ready. The clip with the ants, for example, was supposed to be a 1 second interval, but it took one image every time it was ready, which was somewhere between 6 and 7 seconds. The rest of my clips were set to 10 seconds or longer and worked like a charm.

A tripod is a good idea. None of these were taken using a tripod, and I think it shows. My tripod was broken, and the one I ordered was sitting on my doorstep when I got back from the last shot for this. One thing that was kind of cool, but 100% unplanned was the sort of droopy panning effect in a couple of shots. Those happened because I set the camera on its empty case and over the course of 45 minutes or so, the whole thing settled. While it worked out this time, I can see how it could completely ruin a set and is probably impossible to plan exactly where the camera ends up pointing. I don’t know how professionals do the fancy pan shots (hey, I’ve only been at this for a day) but I’m 97.46% sure it has nothing to do with setting the camera on a cloth sack propped against a rock and hoping for the best.

Once I got the shots and made it home, I used the OpenShot Video Editor in Linux. OpenShot allows you to import sequences of pictures. It uploads them like a video clip, with some set number of frames per second and you can manipulate it just like any other video clip. OpenShot is free and very intuitive.
I had a few issues, however. OpenShot uses sequential numbering on the file names to determine which files to include and their order. My camera uses a 4 digit number in the file names. There’s some sort of bug (that took me a while to find talk of on the internet) where if the first image in the sequence has more than a 3 digit number, it tries to upload, then the clip just says “INVALID.” So, I rename all the files to have 3 digit numbers. No, I don’t do it by hand. There are many ways to do this. I had a python script already set up to do something like this, so I just re-purposed it and it works. I have a suspicion that I’m going to get told that the easiest way is to use a BASH script. Feel free to tell me, but I already made my Python tool… so… there.
OpenShot is a little lacking in control of the rate that it plays the images. You can not adjust how many frames per second it shows (I don’t know what the standard is, something near 30?). You can have it double of triple each image while importing if you want it to play 2 or 3 times more slowly. I doubled the images on 3 of the clips because I thought they were too fast, but, for the most part, I feel like being able to speed up or slow down these clips would be handy.Another issue I had with OpenShot is that it is, at least on my computer, very slow with videos of this resolution. You may notice that in the above video the syncing of dramatic moments in the music with clip changes is a bit off. This is because I had to export the video each time just to see if it worked, because the playback option in OpenShot was sketchy and would get stuck. When I reduced the resolution, it worked just fine, so that’s a potential solution as well, but I think I might try experimenting with some other software (any suggestions?).
I feel the need to repeat myself here, though… OpenShot is free… So, that’s really nice.

The music was composed in MuseScore in Linux. It is also free and pretty neat. MuseScore is composition software with a midi simulation playback option which is fantastic for someone like me with no idea what they are doing. It has it’s limits, though. The midi playback IS still midi, and it sounds like it… but it was sort of fun getting to output my song as an mp3 and use it in the video. Maybe someday I’ll use music from real instruments, but for goofing around and learning, I think it works just fine.

I hope you found this enlightening or helpful. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions… though… remember, I’m figuring it out as I go along. In all liklyhood, questions will result in us trying to figure it out together rather than me already knowing the answer. That’s the fun part anyway, though, right?

A Single Flower

First off, apparently May 10th (last Wednesday) was my Blogiversary! My blog is 4 years old! YAY!

Okay, now onto a piece of flash fiction.

Trigger warnings: Depression, alcoholism, death of a loved one.


The empty scotch bottle slipped out of his fingers and settled next to the single flower growing from her grave. Tears ran down his cheeks into the stubble that had formed on his chin over the past week and a half since the night of the accident.

She was gone and it was his fault.

His back starting to cramp from his hunched, crumpled position leaning over her grave, he laid back onto the ground and looked into the trees, listening to the gentle hum of insects and the soft rustle of leaves in the breeze. He took a deep breath in an attempt to make the world stop spinning. The air was thick with the pungent smell of the bottle of Glenfarclas that had half gone down his throat and half gone into the ground. A warm, smokey flavor lingered in his mouth and he thought, “I better appreciate the taste now, because I doubt I’ll be able to stomach it tomorrow.” This was the sort of bender that turned one off of specific types of booze.

They had been saving this bottle of scotch for a special occasion. There would be no more special occasions now.

He had never been a big drinker, but he had been drunk that night – the night he had killed her – they both had.

For what seemed like the millionth time, the way her neck had felt beneath his hand when it snapped ran through his mind and he could almost feel it again. His stomach churned, from the booze? From the spinning sky? From the memories? Yes. Probably all of the above.

Tears had stopped flowing, but his body still went into convulsions, and his chest still tightened while he quivered in dry sobs.

He hadn’t meant to, he had loved her with all of his heart, but she was just so damn fragile. One moment she had been shrieking with laughter while they wrestled in the bed, her trying to lick his face because he had complained about her breath. The next moment they had tumbled out of bed and his hand went out to catch them. Somehow – and he still couldn’t piece it together – her neck had been twisted between his palm and the floor as her head hit the ground.

He had felt it snap and she had gone limp even while they were still falling off the bed.

One poorly placed hand. One fragile neck. Two lives ended.

The tears came back now. They tore through him as he curled into the fetal position on his side facing her grave. She had been his everything and he had killed her.

“Lance?” a small voice broke through his sobs.

He sat up and looked around frantically. It was a small, frail voice, but it was hers for sure. Was he losing his mind?

It came again, repeating his name, “Lance?”

It came from the flower. He looked closer. The flower turned towards him, petals framing a tiny face. “Lance, is that you?”

“I… I… How…?” was all he could get out and the flower smiled.

“I’ve been brought back to you, my love.”

“But,” there was a panicked tightness in his chest while he struggled to catch his breath. How was this possible, “How did you-”

“It doesn’t matter, Lance. I’m here now and we can be together.”

He crouched down so that his nose was inches from the flower.

The broad smile was strange buried between petals of a flower, but it was undeniably hers and it warmed his heart and he started to smile for the first time since she had died. “Stop crying; this wasn’t your-” she stopped short with a gasp.

“What’s wrong?”

“It wasn’t your-” she paused, the smile fading. Then the flower whipped around, looking at the ground, “GAHHH!” she cried, “My roots are burning! Make it stop! Make it-” She fell silent staring at the empty bottle of scotch on the wet soil.

“You DIDN’T!” she screamed in anguish.

“What?” he asked.

“OH god, the SCOTCH IT BURNS!”

The scotch? He grabbed the bottle. It was 120 proof, plenty high to kill just about any plant.

“You stupid son of a-” she continued, “OH DAMNIT IT BURNS!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

“I worked so hard to get back AND YOU’ve POISONED ME!” The flower was leaning to one side and convulsing now.

“I’m SORRY,” he bawled, not knowing what to do, dropping the bottle and cradling the flower in his hands. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

But she was gone again.

The small, single flower wilted and died.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, rocking back and forth, “I didn’t know.”


Listen to it here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/9es9atuty2hob55/ASingleFlower.mp3?dl=0

Stand Up to the Monsters

This week, I thought I’d share two pictures with you that I drew.
I thought they were fun and speak pretty well for themselves. 01

02

You can order these designs on RedBubble:

https://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/26318946-stand-up-to-the-monster

http://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/26319502-stand-up-to-the-monster-2