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Time lapse photography

I’m not an amateur photographer, but I wish I were.  Photography interests me, but other than taking pictures of kids on vacation I don’t really have time to get into it.  One thing I would like to try out is time lapse photography.  Over on Instructables are a few projects for taking time lapse photographs with SLR cameras and with cheap point-and-shoot camera.

One way of doing time lapse photography is shown in the photo, where multiple photos are overlaid to show the progression of time in a single picture.  More typically multiple photos are taken spaced apart by minutes, hours, or days, and the resulting images are stitched together into a video.  There are tons of these on YouTube and they’re all fascinating.  There’s a guy who photographed himself every day for the last 17 years,  a baby playing on the floor for 4 hours, ships passing through the Panama Canal, ants eating a gecko, and of course a bucket of fruits and vegetables decomposing.  For some reason time lapse videos usually have banjo music accompaniments.  On the veggie video, it’s a little disturbing to see the tomato in the back that took about a month before it started to change at all.  Probably not an organic tomato I’d guess.

So back to the gadgets.  The first project is an add-on to a cheap point-and-shoot camera.  It uses an AVR ATTiny microcontroller to set the delay, to power up the camera before taking the photo and to power it down after,  and to skip taking photos at night.  Cheap cameras don’t have this kind of external control, so he hacked it into the existing circuitry.  I’ve got an old Canon A40 that would be great for a project like this.

There is also an SLR shutter controller based on a 555 timer.   I almost didn’t link this one as the schematic in the Instructable has errors, but the idea is sound even if the circuit isn’t.  A 555 timer is used in astable mode to provide a periodic shutter release signal to an SLR camera.  The specifics (and connectors) vary by camera but the basic idea is that you can short together two pins found in the shutter release connector to tell the camera to take a photo.  If the camera has a bulb mode then you can use the electronic release to both open and close the shutter, taking photos with exposures of hours.

If you’ve completed all your schooling and your TI graphing calculator is collecting dust, then you can put it to work as an intervalometer for your camera using this Instructable.

Maybe these will inspire you to become a time lapse videographer.  If so, be sure to put a link to your video in the comments below.

Steve Ravet

Design News Gadgeteer

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