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Long Exposure Time-lapse Essentials

In order to capture a moving street shot, I turned to long exposure. To really see the lights and energy of the scene, I wanted to elongate the action. Heres the logic I applied to the shot.

LETLCompare

  1. First I set the camera to manual mode to avoid any significant settings changes from shot to shot. With timelapse, you want to see variation over time, so the last thing you want is an aperture or shutter changing.
  2. Next I stopped the camera all the way down and shot /22. This let the least amount of light into the sensor.
  3. I set the shutter speed to create the sense of motion. In this case I found that 2.5 seconds was enough for the look I wanted. People and cars standing still (at the intersection) were relatively clear, while those in motion became a long streak. I also wanted the lights to take on a starburst.
  4. Lastly I refined the ISO to achieve a proper exposure. In this case a value of ISO 800 was needed to get the shot. This was due to the smaller sensor of the OM-D E-M1 and the fact that I was stopped down so small.

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Once the shot was done, assembly was easy. Weve covered these techniques already on Photofocus. Heres the highlights of my workflow.

  1. I used Adobe Camera Raw to develop the files and sync the same settings to all images. In this case a slight Clarity and Curves adjustment helped. Noise reduction was also used.
    LETLBA
  2. An image sequence was created.
  3. The image sequence was imported into Adobe After Effects.
  4. I interpreted the sequence at 12 fps (half the frame rate I needed).
  5. I stretched the image to 200% and turned on frame blending. This forces a motion blur between shots (essentially a series os short dissolves) to emphasize the streaking.
  6. I used keyframes to create a zoom on the shot.

All in all, post processing was only 10 minutes to create the shot. I am happy with the end results and continue to explore using smaller apertures and longer exposures when shooting timelapse shots of nighttime activities or subjects that involve water or wind.

Disclaimer: This is just one way to shoot and process these types of scenes.

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