Finally got all the TL frames processed – all 7500 of them LOL. The frames were shot over two photo excursions to the San Francisco Bay. I posted earlier about these two trips here:
It took me a while to find a soundtrack that channeled (or at least came close) the energy of the experience for me. The music is composed by Ben Beiny. The Bay Lights are a wonderful art-meets-technology showpiece. If you haven’t visited San Francisco since it’s installation, I highly recommend a trip to the city. If you are too far or cannot visit, then hopefully this video will give you a decent idea of it’s scale. You can also find out more about The Bay Lights and the artist behind them – Leo Villareal – at the following link:
Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Be sure to view it in Full HD – 1080p for the most detail.
Yesterday was another lovely day chasing sunsets and the Bay Bridge lights. I decided to seize the opportunity presented by ideal photography weather conditions in the Bay Area. Most ideal was the low (sometimes none) wind speed. This means very calm bay waters, relatively speaking, which in turn means an opportunity for a dramatic light show through sunset and through the night.
The Port of Oakland
My strategy started out with the port of Oakland. From a google maps survey of the area, most of it looked restricted so I looked for a backup vantage point and settled on Potrero Hill which may warrant my next photo excursion to SF. I was unsure about how much access I would have to a coveted view of the bay. I definitely wanted to at elast have some shots from the Oakland side of the bay, especially during sunset. I arrived at the port by mid afternoon and began to scout the area. Portview Park was my ideal view but it was slightly obstructed by the restricted docks area – I wish I had a way of gaining access to the port docks. That in and of itself would make for not only an ideal perspective but may prove to be a treasure trove of industrial and gritty photography goodness. I moved on to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park where I found an outcrop nature preserve with trail access. The view was a bit too distant and less than ideal but then again if I’ve learned anything, it’s that nothing ever is.
With my location sorted out I proceeded to wolf down a Subway sandwich while waiting for the sunset. I parked next to a really nice, clean Nissan 300ZX. Being a car enthusiast myself I began to talk cars with Allan the owner. I drove down in my roadster so it was all around cartalk. Allan was very laid back, easygoing and ended up just handing out through the sunset into the evening. Very nice guy. While I was setting up and shooting another great gentleman showed up. He was a port customs agent who just happened to carry his Digital Rebel everywhere he went. He had just got off work and decided to come take in the view as well so we all hung out and talked everything from cars to logistics to photography while shooting the sunset. It made for a great evening and great new friends.
I took a 2 hour time lapse of this scene with the 7D + 17-55mm f/2.8 while shooting stills such as the one above with the 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4. It will take a while to process all the time lapse frames and will present that compilation in a separate post. Unfortunately the Bay Bridge lights were not visible from this vantage point. It turns out the lights are angled slightly towards the city of San Francisco. I later found out this was for the simple reason to avoid interfering with drivers’ view coming into the city.
The Bay Bridge Lights
Finally after dark we all packed up and left. I headed over into SF to do another time lapse from the peer 14 perspective. There I met more interesting folks. First was a cool guy named Brian visiting from Chicago. He’s into photography and cars/hotrods as well, so you can pretty much guess what we ended up talking about all night out there on the peers. I took two time lapses of that view as well while shooting stills, HDR shots, panoramic shots and several 1080p video takes of the bay lights to capture the more subtle action that would otherwise be missed in the time lapse. I ended up shooting late and into the early morning when yet another pretty cool laid back guy by the name of James stopped by for a chit-chat. I got a lot of good tips on accessing some vantage points I’ve been wanting to shoot for a while now. Very nice guy. In all it was a great SF excursion, with lots of great people and a really relaxing time in a great city.
I did time lapses of both scenes above and below as well. Will post those once I’m done processing all the frames.
Finally finished my DIY (do it yourself) time lapse track and dolly setup. I started this little (not so little) project last fall but stalled as the cold winter set in and I didn’t have good reason make use of it with the cold months. There were a few ideas driving my final design. I wanted the cheapest possible solution as this was meant more for my personal projects and would not be used for any paid projects. I also limited myself to using readily available components around my workshop and home. Buying a ready made solution was too costly. Most DSLR time lapse track/slider rigs were starting at over $1000. I’ve seen a lot of DIY solutions out there but honestly they just seemed too unnecessarily complicated with PLCs, Arduinos, Raspberry Pi, custom PC boards etc.
I do have a background in Electronics Engineering and a Software Engineer by profession so I am by no means intimidated by the various DIY solutions I found nor did I find them unapproachable. However I just felt that they would only serve to derail my passion for photography at the time. I have only a limited amount of time to explore my creative photography projects and I simply did not want to spend it tinkering with circuits.
With that said all I wanted was a somewhat sturdy track that was longer than the 3-4ft tracks I was seeing out there. I felt this would make for more dramatic slides/pans across a scene. I settled on a simple design using two 8ft Aluminum L-channel beams and some square tubes with butterfly/wing nuts and bolts so I could disassemble and haul it around fairly easily in my Nissan Murano.
As for the drive mechanism I eventually realized the LEGO Mindstorms set I had laying around unused was exactly what I needed to drive the dolly. It also came with 3 very capable stepper motors which when combined with the very simple but advanced LEGO Mindstorms program/design/robotics software allowed me to control the movements with great accuracy and precision.
The only hack I did was to reverse engineer the wiring and set one of the motor ports to drive two simple relay switches that would in turn drive the shutter release/remote for my DSLRs. I could also program the relay activation duration and intervals to accommodate single shot lapse or HDR bracket shots. The computer brick also packed enough power to crank out multiple hour time lapses, one after the other, all weekend long.
It is far from perfect; there are already several changes I would like to make to the drive setup but for the most part it works great and delivers suprisingly good shots for how much I have invested in it – about $240 (I bought the Mindstorms NXT set at a $140 bargain and spent about $100 on Aluminum, nuts, bolts and bearings). Below is a short video of my first test run and the compiled time lapse. I think it’s funny how slapped together the solution is, but I can’t argue with the results…LOL.