Sunset / Moonset Time-Lapse

Oh, I’ve got it bad.

I really feel almost addicted to making these movies. I know they’re not really any good, but I think they’re interesting (at least). And they’re helping me to understand how to create time-lapse movies, what works, and what doesn’t work.

Yesterday afternoon, I set up my camera and time-lapse equipment on the upstairs patio of my house, pointing at the sunset. Then I let it go, shooting one image every 20 seconds. It was nearly 11 PM when I turned it off. By that time, the crescent moon had set, too.

The resulting video included a lot of blank sky. My exposure was not lengthy enough to capture the stars after sunset, although one very bright star does set with the moon when it finally makes its appearance. I cut the video into two pieces: sunset and moonset. Here they are.

Sunset Time-Lapse

It was a pretty good afternoon for shooting the sunset. In Arizona, we don’t get clouds very often — although this year, our annual monsoon may be starting early. Yesterday afternoon, there were a lot of clouds out to the west — enough to completely filter the sun and give it something to paint with color as it set.

I should mention here that this is the same sky you can see in the time-lapse I did earlier in the day of the saguaro flowers. I just moved the camera upstairs and excluded anything other that the sky (and a tiny bit of a distant tree — darn it!). The only thing I wish is that I’d begun the time-lapse before the sun entered the camera’s frame. I think it would have been more interesting to see it drift in and then set.

I also need to point out that this video (and the one with the cactus flowers) really illustrates what I find attractive about time-lapse photography. It isn’t showing us anything we can’t see on our own. But it’s speeding up the process, making it possible to see motion where we normally wouldn’t. For example, this video is 20 seconds long. I created it using images spaced 20 seconds apart, then put them together in a 15 frames per second video. Do the math: 15 x 20 x 20 = 6000 seconds of real time. That’s 100 minutes. Would you sit still for 1 hour and 40 minutes to watch a sunset? And, if you did, would you see the clouds and sun moving as they clearly are in the video?

Moonset Time-Lapse

I cut out all the boring black night sky to produce this short video of the setting crescent moon. Not terribly exciting, I’m afraid.

One of the things I learned here is to set the exposure manually so all shots are the same. Let’s face it — the brightness of the image shouldn’t change. One exposure should do the trick. If I’d made a longer exposure, I would have had a brighter moon and more stars. And if I’d fixed the exposure to be the same for every shot, the brightness of the moon wouldn’t change from one shot to the next. (I sure hope some more knowledgeable photographers out there will correct me if I’m wrong on this.)

What Do You Think?

I’d love to get your feedback about my time-lapse mania. Are you enjoying them as much as I am? Am I wasting my time? Do you have any specific topics you’d like to see in time-lapse? Use the Comments link for this post or any of the other time-lapse posts to let me know.

What do you think?