Photographer captures stunning nature time-lapse video using old, basic Nikon camera
posted Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:09 PM EDT
Despite the recent popularity of high-end video and image capture rigs being used to shoot dramatic time-lapses of nature, here’s an excellent example of not needing bleeding edge gear to do it right. Photographer Samuel Orr managed to piece together a breathtaking time-lapse of a forest in Indiana just using a beat-up old Nikon point-and-shoot. Titled "a Forest Year," the video is posted at the bottom of this story.
From 2006-2008, Orr was shooting documentary footage for PBS, and staying in a relatively isolated house outside of Bloomington, Indiana, surrounded by a nature reserve. Much of Orr’s time and gear was taken up by the documentary work, but he still wanted to try a time-lapse capturing an entire year of changes to the forest around the house. So he turned to his scuffed old Nikon Coolpix 5400, a camera we reviewed in the halcyon days of 2003 (we gave it a Dave's Pick). Orr explains it on his site:
“To work, a dedicated camera and tripod were needed (constantly setting up and moving things would introduce error into the framing). I couldn’t use my main camera(s) as I needed them for other things. So in the end, I used a spare Nikon coolpix 5400, which even in 2006 was obsolete. The data port was broken, so it was tricky getting the memory card out to download images (there are noticeable little moves in the framing in the film itself because of introduced error – the monitor was the size of a postage stamp), but in the end the camera sat on the same unmoving tripod for 16 months. I automatically snapped pictures at intervals between every 10 seconds and every 10 minutes at key times of the year (snowfall, spring, fall colors), usually the camera was switched off. Looking back, I wish I had used a better camera as the image quality leaves something to be desired. But it worked, amazingly.
Over 40,000 images were taken, and I made little movies of 5-8 seconds for each of the key days/events/seasons, and blended them together into the finished film at 30 frames a second.”
In addition to editing together those 40,000 images into a single, less than three minute video, Orr also overlaid audio of animals native to Indiana, both current and previously.
Orr is still working on time-lapse photography, and currently has a Kickstarter for another year-long project, this time in New York. He’s going to be using slightly more high-end gear this time, and part of his fundraising effort is to pick up a Canon 7D for a backup body, as well as a few GoPros.
But given how well the original came out, it just shows you can capture something mighty impressive with fairly common gear. And while point-and-shoots might not generally have time-lapse tools very frequently anymore, you can always use a cheap Canon camera and load up CHDK to add that functionality.