Whether you've just started out shooting timelapse sequences or have been doing it for a while, here's ten nuggets of advice to help you out!
1) Leaving your camera unattended
It may seem an obvious one but people do do it! Picture this: You're out in what seems like the middle of nowhere. You've driven many miles and then hiked up into the wilderness for a few hours. Once you've set up camp it's a clear night and you're after that killer milky way shot on a moonless night but you're tired after a long day of driving and hiking so you set your camera up and return back to your tent thinking all will be safe.
It might well be nine times out of ten but it only takes one person a couple of seconds to grab your gear. Even if you know the area well and you're convinced nobody would be here at this time of night! There's not an insurance company in the world that would cover this so unless you're some sort of millionaire timelapser with money to throw away, guard your kit!
If I have to get some sleep, I'll try and set up camp next to the camera location itself and then I tie a discreet fishing line to it back to my tent and attach a bell. Be prepared for a lack of sleep though as for some reason, all manner of animals like to ring my bell.
2) Leaving your lens switched to Automatic Focus
It's an easy thing to forget, especially if you're setting up in a hurry. My best advice is to get into the habit of doing things in a certain order. All of my cameras get used for a variety of shoots and very often just to take pictures when I'm out and about so I'm always switching between manual and auto focus. Whatever order you decide when shooting, make it into a list and practise that until you can do it in complete darkness!
3) Touching the camera mid-shot
Again something which comes with practice but touching the camera mid shot can cripple your end result, even if you think you've been gentle. There are times when you might need to check something like battery level etc but it's good practice to build your confidence when you don't have to touch it at all. If you're going to have to touch it, be gentle.
4) Leaving your white balance on AWB
Automatic white balance may seem like a good idea for capturing day to night shots or vice versa but it's best to do that in post having shot in raw. Your camera is a clever little beast but don't be fooled as leaving your white balance settings to auto will give you ever-changing colours, if only very discreetly.
5) Adjusting your shutter / aperture mid-shot
Unless you're embarking on a manual sunrise / sunset shot, leave it alone. A sudden change in shutter or aperture settings will change the exposure mid-timelapse and you'll not like the results when you put it together in the edit! The only time I've done this is what I'd call a fresh start, where I've started the shot and something has drastically changed so I need to start again.
6) Placing your tripod or slider in the way of public
Apart from an incident with a curious crow landing on my camera for a selfie, I've not had any problems when shooting out in the countryside. My most stressful shoots are the city based ones and living and shooting timelapses in London have seen me develop a sixth sense when it comes to tripod placement. Apart from rooftops, it doesn't matter where I put the tripod or slider, people seem to be attracted to it so I've grown accustomed to standing guard for hours whilst shooting!
If you can, try and stay out the way in a busy city and build a barracade / fort with your kit bags or cases. Not only does this make your kit look more of an obstacle but it can be seen from afar and people will walk around it. Unfortunately, you'll not be able to do anything about the type of idiot who likes to walk and use their phone at the same time, which brings me onto...
7) Not having any insurance
Should Mr 'I like to check my emails whilst walking around oblivious to anything that may harm me' trip over your tripod leg, you may find yourself in financial ruin. Even if you're just shooting timelapse for a hobby you can still potentially get sued by one of those no-win no-fee 'companies'. Disappointingly, our society is now one which has become accustomed to claiming for anything whereas in the old days, it was often labelled as stupidity or a lack of common sense.
Over in the UK, we have to by law (if you're a limited company) have Public Liability Insurance. Even though I'm well practised at keeping my kit out of harms way (and most of my shoots are in the middle of nowhere), I pay a handsome sum each year so people without common sense can make a claim should they trip over my tripod and fall over a cliff etc. Seriously though, if something should happen, it's worth getting if you haven't got it. It's also definitely worth taking out insurance for your kit as well but that's a subject I'll talk about in it's own blog post!
8) Shooting on private land without permission
It's easily done. You're scouting for a location and you can't quite seem to get the angle to capture the sunrise but you spot a hill in the distance with a gap in the hedge so you make your way up there. For me, this resulted in a heated argument with a farmer and his shotgun. Luckily for me I didn't argue back much and having apologised for not knowing it was private land I walked away unscathed! This was a long time ago but a very valuable lesson learned.
If you're not sure, then ask or try and find out. This doesn't just apply to rural areas though. Most cities have huge chunks of land that are privately owned and the ever-greedy corporate man wants money in return for shooting on his said land. Just because there's general public walking around doesn't necessarily mean that it's pubic property as I've discovered time and time again whilst shooting in London (even when the shoot has been organised by a production company!) so do your research beforehand and find out. The worst thing is setting your shot going and being moved on ten minutes in by a security guard.
9) Losing your Faith
Back in the day when I used to shoot timelapse as a hobby many years ago (yes - that would be on Super8 film if any of you can remember!) I would very often make the mistake of turning my camera off, pack up and drive away too early. I'd look in my rear view mirror only to discover the best sunset I had seen in my life was happening and I'd missed it!
You've already spent a lot of time on the shot so even when you think it's all gone bad, it's often worth hanging around for that extra 30 minutes or so just in case. That's the beauty of timelapse as you'll never know for sure what's going to happen!
10) Ignoring the Public
Apart from shooting on rooftops, up mountains at night and places where polar bears have been my only company, I always get asked by members of the public 'what are you filming?'. As tempting as it is to spurt random crap at an inquisitive (or nosy) person, my best advice would be to embrace it. Annoying as it is when you're trying to do your job, this person could be your next twitter follower, video viewer or even, to my personal delight, a producer that hired me for numerous shoots and continuing work. I always try and keep a handful of business cards with me and hand them out at every opportunity. Someone taking an effort to ask what you're doing is basically free advertising and you'll never know where it may lead!
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