Do It Yourself

One DIY timelapse 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 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:

  • Any kind of camera
  • Simple hardware to create a fixed camera point

A simple bracket allows for a consistent vantage point to observe change over time at the community garden. Pictures from multiple observers, and from multiple devices, can be stitched together in a final timelapse product. Photo by Kat Shiffler.

Here are a few basic steps to create your own timelapse 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 timelapse video, photomontage, or other format.
  7. Add titles, music, etc. (optional)
  8. Share your end product with PBT!

Different heights and angles allow for different perspectives. These bracket positions give two different views of the garden. Experiment to see what you want to focus on. Photo by Kat Shiffler.

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

Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

  • Sunrises or sunsets
  • The night sky
  • A tree branch budding and blooming
  • A garden growing during a season
  • One plant in a garden during a season
  • Fruit rotting/ice melting
  • Human activity; a street scene or inside a crowded building
  • Construction of a building
  • A tree changing colors and dropping leaves in the fall
  • Stream levels

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.

Consider perspective: Do you want to see the profile of garlic growing from the ground? Photo by Kat Shiffler.

Or focus on one plant from above? Photo by Kat Shiffler.

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 timelapse 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 timelapse 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?

Hint: Use stationary landscape features to frame the shot. What changes occur inside this circular path? Photo by Kat Shiffler.

Next, take 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 ensured our camera phones were set up to embed time and date data for future reference.

Go try some things out!

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