When tasked with writing about the inspiration for ‘Beyond The Wall’, there are few different things come to mind. First and foremost, there is little I can add that hasn’t already been said been by the numerous, hikers, artists, authors and photographers drawn to the savage beauty of the Mournes down the years. As a friend recently and quite rightly put it, it is simply “the best micro mountain range in the world”.
The attraction for me as a photographer is how these peaks combine so often to dramatic effect with the famously unpredictable Northern Irish climate. Sometimes a still image just doesn’t do the scene justice… (I think you know where I’m going with this!) Time-lapse is an effective, if sometimes complicated method of capturing the movement of a scene over an extended period of time.
As this project was my first attempt at using the time-lapse technique, there seemed few better places to develop my skills than up in the high Mournes. What started with a test shoot on Slieve Meelbeg quickly developed into a grander, more ambitious plan for a film that spanned the whole of the mountain range. For the next six months, with the exception of a couple weekends, I spent nearly all my Saturday and Sunday’s on a peak somewhere recording footage for what would become ‘Beyond The Wall’.
Being out on the shoot is the fun part but sitting down afterwards and beginning to sort through the thousands of different photographs that come together to form the film is the part that surely tests even the most patient of photographers. Add to this the fact that I on more than one occasion had to return and shoot a scene again because of some minor anomaly with the first attempt.
Getting Started with Timelapse Photography
Seeing the finished film now though there is a very rewarding sense of achievement- here are a few tips to start you on your way with your own time lapse:
1: PRE-PLAN: There is nothing to stop you going out and recording whatever you find interesting on any given day, but here is my advice for improving your footage- plan ahead. My experience through making the film has taught me that a simple bit of ground work beforehand WILL improve the overall quality of your time lapse drastically. By pre-planning, I mean using tools such as Google Earth to figure out interesting vantage points; using smart phone applications such as the Photographers Ephemeras or PhotoPills to work out where and in what direction the sun will rise or set, and using online resources such as the MetOffice to see the predicted weather conditions for the coming days. If you combine these tools to useful effect and have your entire shoot worked out before you even leave the house, it means you’re unlikely to waste much time organising yourself once you’re out there.
2: INTERVALOMETER. Standing and manually pressing your camera shutter every 5 seconds for 40 minutes isn’t something you want to do, ever. An intervalometer is an essential, cheap piece of kit that will instantly improve the quality of your time-lapse photography. It gives you the ability to set the amount of images you want to take in a sequence, how regularly you want to take them and for how long. Once you’ve composed your scene and set the remote trigger there is nothing more for you to do than sit back and take in the view- the view which so often is easily forgotten when you’re busy taking photographs.
3: SHOOT MANUAL. The most common problem in every time-lapse (including my own) is the presence of flickering caused by the camera shooting some frames of the footage at differing exposures. You are able to largely remove this in post-processing, however you can take a few simples steps at the time of shooting to negate this effect to begin with. My advice, with exception of a few occasions is to always shoot in ‘Manual’ and at an aperture of around f5-f8.
The only time you should shoot in anything other than in Manuel is for a sunrise or sunset, in which instances you’d need to be working in Aperture Priority mode to compensate for the constantly changing light levels. Another way of combatting flicker is to trick your camera into thinking you’re using a manual lens. By enabling the lens release mechanism and turning the lens just a few degrees, it means your camera is no longer sending instructions to the lens and cannot create flicker.
About Ryan Simpson
Ryan Simpson is an amateur landscape and time lapse photographer from County Down, Northern Ireland. Though his job is in the field of architecture, he spends nearly all of his spare time either out on a shoot or planning the next one. In the future he hopes to concentrate more on adventure and travel photography, with a particular focus on the Polar regions.