Time-Lapse Video of the Pier 24 Photography Exhibit A Sense of Place

Today I was lucky enough to visit the Pier 24 exhibit A Sense of Place before it closes at the end of May. Pier 24 is an amazing, free photography museum right under the Bay Bridge. Only 20 people are allowed in at a time to view an amazing selection of photos. This exhibit explores how photographs shape our perception of environments. I really enjoyed seeing work by Paul Graham, Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Edward Burtynsky, Todd Hido, and Rinko Kawauchi. The absolute highlight was an entire room full of Lee Friedlander's America by Car series. Unfortunately this book is currently out of print. And speaking of print, Pier 24 has exhibition catalogs from some of their previous shows available at very reasonable prices. The next exhibit is scheduled to open in August of 2014.

Time-lapse technical details: The time-lapse was shot with a Ricoh GR camera on a strap around my neck. The exposures were 1/30 at f/4, ISO 800. The camera was set to shoot small jpegs every 2 seconds. The resulting 1,425 images were minimally processed and then cropped to 1280x720 in Lightroom. The time-lapse was assembled and output in Photoshop. Titles and music were added in iMovie. The music is Perfect Dream from the 2006 self-titled album by Natural Dreamers.


Pier 24: About Face Portrait Photography Exhibit Time-Lapse

Pier 24 is a free photography museum in San Francisco, and one of the premier venues for viewing fine art photography. This time-lapse of the current About Face exhibition shows some of the almost 1000 portraits on display. The photos range from 19th century to current. The video condenses a 2 hour gallery visit down to a little over 3 minutes. Book your own appointment to see this show on the Pier 24 website.

The time-lapse was created using a GoPro HD Hero worn around my neck on a shoestring and set to take one photo every 2 seconds. The almost 3000 resulting images were processed in Adobe Lightroom. I used the virtual copy feature to make duplicate frames of the photos that I wanted to pause on. Then I exported the images at a smaller size, which created extra jpg files to alter timing of the video.

Next I used QuickTime Pro to assemble the images into a video at 12fps. The titles and music were added in iMovie. The song is "Loss" by A Certain Ratio. From about 41-48 seconds the camera freaked out due to the lighting, or possibly because of the powerful wall of Lee Friedlander photos. What an amazing show.


Time-lapse: First roll with the Franka

Last month I received a wonderful birthday gift -- a 1950's Franka Solida III medium format folding camera. The camera shoots 6x6 images on 120 film. The Franka features a very sharp 80mm Schneider f/2.9 [sic] Radionar lens. For this first roll I shot Kodak E100VS slide film and then cross processed in C-41 negative chemistry. This roll of film was in another camera and then got pulled out and used in the Franka. Due to these shenanigans the roll wasn't wound tightly and light leaks are visible on the edges of some images.

The Franka is really fun to use. Here's the shooting process:

  1. Open the case if you're using it.
  2. Press the button on the bottom of the camera to release the lens. Unlike many folding cameras of this vintage, the lens opens from the side.
  3. Use the rangefinder to figure out the focusing distance.
  4. The rangefinder is not coupled to the lens, so next you focus the lens.
  5. Set the aperture and shutter speed.
  6. Cock the shutter
  7. Press the shutter release.

Once you get the hang of it, this isn't a lot of work. The camera is very compact when folded up, and was only about $200. The eBay seller Certo6 has a very informative vintage folding cameras website. The shutter on my Franka seems spot on, the lens is very clean, and everything works really smoothly. I'm looking forward to more shooting with this beautiful little classic.

Time-lapse technical details:

  1. The images were shot with a GoPro HD camera set to record a photo every 2 seconds.
  2. The results were imported into Lightroom 3, developed, cropped to 16:9, and settings synchronized.
  3. Next I made a collection in Lightroom with the time-lapse images and the film scans from my first roll.
  4. Using Lightroom's slideshow module, I set each image to appear for 0.3 seconds.
  5. In order to show the film scans and a few key frames for longer than 0.3 seconds I made virtual copies of those images.
  6. I tried exporting the slideshow from Lightroom but the pacing seemed a lot different than the preview I was seeing from within Lightroom. I used ScreenFlow screen capture software to record the preview, add the end titles, and upload the 720p video to YouTube.

Paul's Junkyard Sunset Time-Lapse

This sunset time-lapse is from the September 2011 Paul's Junkyard Night Photography Workshop. A GoPro Hero HD camera was mounted to the window of a giant Caterpillar metal cutter using a suction cup. The camera shot a frame every 5 seconds for a total of 412 photos (about 35 minutes). The time-lapse was created in QuickTime Pro at 10 frames per second, and titles were added in iMovie. The music is from the great early 80's album Noir Et Blanc by Zazou/Bikaye/CY1. That's my co-instructor Troy Paiva along with repeat workshop offenders and talented photographers David A. Evans and Tor-Erik Bakke. Hope you had a great full moon!


Sweeney Ridge SFO Time-Lapse: Airplanes, Cars, and Clouds

Sweeney Ridge Nike missile site

The weather forecast and sky chart for Pacifica looked promising, and I've always wanted to shoot the ruins of the Sweeney Ridge Nike missile site at night. SF-51C was an Integrated Fire Control (IFC) site to identify targets, and then the missile would be launched, guided, and detonated. The Sweeney Ridge site now contains 4 buildings in various states of decay, perched on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Airport on one side, and the ocean at Rockaway Beach on the other. On a clear day or night the views are incredible.

Sweeney Ridge is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), and is legal to visit at night. In addition to the former Nike buildings, Sweeney Ridge is also where the Spanish first saw the San Francisco Bay in 1769. Captain Gaspar de Portola and 60 men rode up from San Diego, looking for the Monterey Bay. They were smart and visited in October. Fall is a great time to visit this location, and spring can also have clear weather and wildflowers.

Hiking up Sweeney Ridge

The easiest way to get to the Nike site is to take the Sneath Lane exit from Highway 280, and drive up the hill to the end of the street. Hike 1.3 miles up the paved path to the ridge, and turn right to follow the paved path another 1/2 mile to the Nike site. Bay Area Hiker has some good information on the flora and fauna. Bring lots of layers -- it can get windy up on the ridge.

We started our night hike with relatively clear skies lit by the full moon. As we ascended the hill we were met by cold blasts of 20 mph winds. Uphill into the wind with 25 pounds on your back is a good workout. Just when we got to the top of the ridge the fog and clouds started moving in. We explored the building interiors and saw some fresh graffiti and a huge rat. There appeared to be someone sleeping in one of the buildings. So much for shooting interiors. The weather was still reasonably clear over the Bay and SFO, so I decided to shoot a panorama. The wind was really ripping, and the clouds and fog kept obscuring the view. I switched gears and decided to do a time-lapse instead.

Shooting and Post-Processing the Time-Lapse

The camera was set to a manual exposure of 6 seconds at f/8 ISO 400. I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70/2.8L lens set at 43mm. The exposure was biased to protect the highlights in the airport and city lights. The full moon helped bring just a little bit of blue tonality to the sky. Color temperature was set to 3400K. I shot in high quality small jpeg mode which yields a file that's 2784x1856 pixels. This allows a little bit of room to crop while still maintaining a file that could be full 1080 HD.

After I was happy with my exposure and white balance, I set the camera to continuous drive mode, and locked the cable release. This setup will keep shooting 6 second shots until you run out of batteries or space on your memory card. I ended up shooting the time-lapse for just about an hour. The resulting images were imported into Lightroom where I applied a little bit of highlight recovery, fill light, and sharpening. Next I exported these files at 720x480 at about 100KB each. I used Quicktime Pro to put the time-lapse sequence together, and after some experimenting decided on 10 FPS. I imported the resulting mov file into iMovie to add titles, credits and music.

iMovie File Quality and Compression

The mov file looked great when I played it in Quicktime. After importing the file into iMovie, the video quality looked terrible. The video compression in iMovie was causing pixellated clouds. After a lot of searching and experimenting I figured out a fix to balance the video quality and file size:

  1. 960x540 is the native size for the Large import setting in iMovie. Using this size for the video that you import, means iMovie doesn't have to change your file size. This size works just fine for the 480 setting on YouTube. I went back to Lightroom and re-did my export at 1080x720 with 140KB files.
  2. Using H.264 compression in Quicktime Pro leads to a better quality file than letting iMovie compress your video. After creating the time-lapse in Quicktime Pro, I exported the file with the following settings: Best quality, H.264 compression, multi-pass encoding, 960x540 letterbox.

The resulting file was imported into iMovie, and the video quality looked way better. If anyone has alternate ideas for using iMovie to add titles and music without losing video quality I would like to hear your technique. I hope these technical details are helpful, and that you have fun making your own time-lapse videos!