Tips on capturing hi-quality night time-lapse videos with your DSLR camera:
The Internet has many "how to" web sites on photography, with some pages detailing the process of making time-lapse videos/movies. The
following Tips pages here take a closer look at the necessities for capturing remarkable time-lapse video in extreme low-light outdoor
conditions. This helpful information is intended for experienced photographers who are very familiar with modern digital single-lens reflex
(DSLR) camera systems.
The following may help fill-in some of the missing pieces for you, steer you away from traps and difficulties, and ultimately help take you
to the next level in the process of creating wonderful motion imagery of night sky *landscapes and scenery.
* Click image for choices: Flash (SWF), Windows Media (WMV)
Photographing night sky landscapes, like those found here on
Cosmotions.com, will reveal just about every possible characteristic of a camera lens - good or bad. Sharpness, contrast,
vignetting, chromatic aberration, flare, internal reflections, etc., will all become clearly evident. Your glass needs to be fast (f/2.8 or
better) and high-quality. It's best to choose a system of lenses before choosing the camera. For example, Nikon lenses are not
designed to work on Canon cameras, and visa versa. Adapters are made to mate different brands of equipment, but there are compromises in
Updated June 2012
Prime lenses can offer the best overall combination of lens characteristics, but your bag-o-glass can be cumbersome and you'll find yourself
changing lenses often or having to adjust your location for composition. You can certainly use zoom lenses, with fast high-end par-focal
zooms being much preferred over those of lesser quality. Zooms are very convenient, but in almost all situations, you'll want the focal
length to remain constant during your shoot.
Whether you choose fixed primes or zooms, or even a combination of both, you'll want a variety of lens focal lengths handy, from fisheye to
long telephoto, in order to have complete flexibility in image composition - and to be prepared for unplanned opportunities. Note that those
lenses that compensate for camera shake or motion (Canon "IS" lenses and Nikon "VR" lenses, for example) offer no practical advantage in
nighttime still or time-lapse sequence photography. Also, note that auto focus is unreliable - if not useless - for low light subjects. Your
lenses will need to be focused manually, which you'll have to do under very dark and often moonless skies. The pinpoint light from stars
demands an accurate focus, which will be clearly revealed in your images. Focus takes patience and practice or an extremely well
implemented camera 'live view' feature.
Front-heavy lenses that don't have a tripod-collar built into their design can present issues. The heavy Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, for example,
disproportionately shifts the center of gravity out in front of your camera, requiring extra rigidity and stability from your tripod system.
The tripod collar on the heavy Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L, for example, provides a more center-weighted positioning of the
camera/lens. A tripod collar feature not only helps balance the weight of your camera/lens combo but it makes for
quick reorientations of your composition (portrait/landscape). Further, it keeps the camera/lens as center-balanced as practicable in any
orientation. Other lens-related information can be found as you read further here.