Return to Monitoring Change

Do It Yourself

One DIY time-lapse approach, developed by Sam Droege of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, uses simple metal brackets to provide a 90 degree angle where your camera can sit. By keeping the height, angle and direction consistent, it gives a your picture a standard perspective, making it easier to edit together later. The only variable will be the change revealed in front of the lens.

What you’ll need:

Here are a few basic steps to create your own time-lapse project:

  1. Choose your subject.
  2. Choose your composition.
  3. Choose your interval: how often you want to take a picture, and how long the total observation time will be.
  4. Shoot your photographs.
  5. Review your collection of photographs.
  6. Assemble all of your photos together into a time-lapse video, photomontage, or other format.
  7. Add titles, music, etc. (optional)
  8. Share your end product with PBT!

There are endless subjects to explore with time-lapse. Creating a time-lapse for the first time involves getting out there and trying stuff!

Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

The most important parts are selecting a subject and an appropriate composition — or scene — to tell a story of change over time. What do you anticipate? What do you want to reveal? Is the subject big, like a landscape? Or small, like a bird nest? The answers to these questions will help you decide how to illustrate your subject and your scene.

The interval — time between shots — is up to you and what you want to show. What would happen if you took pictures of a sunrise every minute for an hour? What if you took a picture of a tomato plant every day for a month? The best way to figure out an appropriate interval is to get out there and try it! The interval length might depend on how often you can make it to the spot that you’re observing. For this garden time-lapse project, every few days was an appropriate interval.

Your observation time will vary according to your subject, your interval time and the overall story you want to tell. In planning a time-lapse project, ask yourself how much time you have to commit. Daily documentation of a house being built requires more overall time than an afternoon taking shots of a bird feeder at short intervals. But you might end up with the same number of pictures. It’s all about trial and error until you get it right. To see the entire growing season of the community garden, we planned to take pictures from April to October. What do you think is the right formula for your story?

Next, shoot some photos! Be consistent! You’ll figure some important details out along the way. At the garden, the brackets were positioned pointing due east. So, we took pictures in the afternoon to avoid shooting into the sun. We made sure our camera phones were set up to embed time and date data for future reference.

Go try some things out!

Citizen Science

Click here to go to the next chapter.

GO