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Quintus Winter Storm Time-Lapse

Ahh the life of a photographer…never a dull moment. Perhaps it’s just my [photography] life? Whatever it is, this was certainly an interesting experience. Personally, I think it’s time for an equipment upgrade…but I digress. On to the blog!

The Setup

First, let me take you through setup the process I use when making a time-lapse. Knowing that I’d be staying at my girlfriend’s house for the duration of this snow storm, I had to make sure that I brought all of my equipment over to her house beforehand. Little did I know, I forgot one important piece of equipment. More on that a bit later.

I began set up my equipment on February 15th around 4:00pm. I built a makeshift barricade around my tripod using plywood, bungee cords, and a patio swing frame. I like to wrap the cameras that I use in a plastic bag, using elastic bands to hold everything in place and keeping only the lenses exposed. I also use hand warmers to keep dew and ice from forming on the lens. The most important aspect of the process, in my opinion, is keeping the cameras safe from snow and moisture. Here’s a typical list of equipment I set up for winter time-lapses:

  • Canon Rebel XT
  • Canon T3
  • Tripod
  • Lens Warmers (hand warmers wrapped around the lenses)
  • Wire
  • Plywood
  • Bungee Cords
  • Plastic bags
  • Elastics

On to the Time-Lapse

After setting everything up, I finally started the time-lapse at 4:45pm using my Canon Rebel XT. I’m able to take photos at set intervals using a firmware addon called CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit). I use a specific port (or version) of CHDK for my Canon Rebel XT. I set the camera up to take 1 picture every 20 seconds.

Remember how I said it might be time for an equipment upgrade? Here’s why: I don’t have a battery extender or an AC adapter for my camera, so I also have to use my dad’s Canon T3 to take the place of mine once the battery runs low. My camera battery started running low around 6:00pm, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get outside until around 7:00pm. At that point, I removed my camera from the tripod and prepped my dad’s camera with the lens warmer and plastic bag. It wasn’t until I placed my dad’s camera on the tripod that I realized I was missing a very important piece to the puzzle, his camera remote.

Magic Lantern To The Rescue

I eventually remembered about another addon firmware called Magic Lantern. Magic Lantern is a free firmware/software add-on that runs from your SD or CF card and adds a ton of new features to Canon cameras. It is built by the community, for the community. If you’re into voiding warranties like I am, you should definitely consider adding Magic Lantern to your camera.

After a bit of searching, I found a port that was specifically made for the Canon T3. This version was considered a release candidate, which means that it is close to being “stable” but there could be some small bugs during operation.

You might be wondering why Magic Lantern ended up saving this time-lapse. As a matter of fact, it was a single feature, the intervalometer, which saved the day. The intervalometer allows photos to be taken at set intervals (essentially forever). This would allow me to continue the time-lapse without the remote for my dad’s camera.

Installing Magic Lantern is fairly straight forward. In fact, it was just as easy as installing CHDK so I was done in less than an hour and ready to go. I am very thankful to the developers of Magic Lantern.

A Missed Opportunity?

Unfortunately I did miss some of the most important parts of winter storm Quintus due to this dilemma. The snow was coming down at rates of 2-3″ per hour during that period. In the end, I managed to capture a total of 1,316 images over a time period of about 10 hours. I really like how you’re still able to see the snow piling up about 20-30 seconds into the time-lapse. Overall, I feel that this time-lapse was a success despite all that happened.  What are your thoughts? As a photographer have you ever been in a situation like this? Surely it can’t be just me…

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