Ambitious time-lapse shows weather, circadian patterns


posted Friday, November 25, 2011 at 4:14 PM EST

A blog post today from John Nack, principal product manager (mobile) at Adobe Systems Inc., tipped us off to an interesting project by Ken Murphy, a Californian artist, musician and programmer with an interest in time-lapse photography.

Nicely proving that even long-in-the-tooth digital cameras can offer good results in the right hands, Ken set up a six year old Canon Powershot A520 digital camera on the roof of San Francisco's Exploratorium museum. The A520 was hooked up to a low-power computer, and mounted inside a salvaged NEMA Type 3 enclosure to provide protection from the elements. To avoid potential exposure issues if the sun entered the frame, Ken mounted the camera facing north, and aimed 45 degrees above the horizon to capture a wide-angle view of the sky. Then, he set everything up to capture over three million 0.7 megapixel images at ten second intervals from sunrise to sunset, every day, for a year.

Where it really gets cool, though, is how Ken chose to visualize the results. The resulting half terabyte of photos were turned into 360 separate videos, each documenting one particular day from sunrise to sunset. These were then combined into a single final video, with almost an entire year's worth of individual videos tiled side by side, and synchronized so that at any given moment, all 360 videos show the same time of day. As you play Ken's work, entitled "A History of the Sky", it's easy to see not only the length of the days changing as the seasons progress, but also to spot less more subtle trends in the weather patterns throughout the year.

Ken's website has a lot more information on the project, as well as some ideas for alternate presentation methods, including an interesting multi-screen variation. The project will apparently continue as an active exhibit, with the aim of always including the most recent 365-day period. Very cool!