Friday, December 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Here is a video I made during Thanksgiving in Maine (November 2011). I'm thinking to add more to this video in the future, so any suggestions would be welcome. As before, I'll post some still frames from the video below the movie link.

First is the sunrise I took with my Canon G10 in Av mode. I put it on a tiny gorilla pod and put in the window of the bedroom over the garage and went back to sleep. The time lapse worked well, but I had to separate it into two parts (one at the very beginning and one later on) as a couple times during the sequence, moisture condensed on the window obscuring the view. So annoying! Guess that's what you get for setting up the camera and then going back to sleep.

The next few sequences in the video are of the snow falling the day before I took the sunrise shot above. Mostly they are video taken with a Canon 70-300 mm L lens that I rented. I also did a time-lapse out the window with the G10 and it worked OK, but not as dramatic as I was hoping. The stills of this are a bit boring, so just watch the video. More photos taken with the rented lens appear below.

Then comes the cooking time-lapse clips... These were hard. Thanks to my mom for making an extra pie as the movie of the first one had such bad flicker, I couldn't get rid of it. Stills of this are boring - watch the video.

Then after the cooking comes the second part of the sunrise followed by a few more video clips taken with the 70-300 mm Lens.

Then comes the best part: the three sunsets.  They are all of the same sunset, but I used two cameras. In fact the first two clips are made from the same set of photos, just the second one is digitally zoomed in. Could you tell? It's nice to have a 21 mega pixel camera where you can do that and still have better than full HD resolution.

I was hoping that the sun would catch the stained glass and it would sparkle, but unfortunately, it didn't. Still, I think it is an interesting shot.

For the music, I chose George Winston's 'Thanksgiving' from the album 'December'.

As I mentioned above, I also rented a Canon 70-300 mm L lens and had some fun taking pictures of birds and Rosie, the dog. The weather was kind in that it didn't snow while I was traveling, but it did snow when I was taking photos!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fall 2011 Time-lapses in Seoul

This summer, while exploring a bit in Seoul, I met an elderly gentleman taking photos with which to make a time-lapse movie. I didn't really know what it was, so I looked it up when I returned home. The first link I found was to some spectacularly amazing movies by a photographer named Terje Sørgjerd. Check out some of his videos on (but only after you watch mine, please^^). I also found a few by Philip Bloom including this one he made in Dubai. There's lots more you can find on your own. I was inspired. I had the same camera as those guys, so why couldn't I make similar movies? I did some research, bought an intervalometer and a tripod and set out to try some myself. All set, right? Well, it is much harder than I expected, not only do you have to take photos in the same spot for hours, but it takes even longer to process everything so it looks good. However, the results are so cool, it is worth the effort. I'll spare you the details about the processing. After I get better at it, I might explain in detail, but for now I'll just show some still frames and locations of the results of my efforts.

My very first time-lapse was taken from the roof of the apartment building I live in. In fact, several clips were taken from this roof, or out my window. For my first, I tried to get the "holy-grail" day to night transition. I probably should have startd with something simpler. I wasn't very happy with the result on my first (or second, or third, or fourth...) go around at processing it, but after I got some more processing experience, I think I salvaged this one.

Still from my very first time-lapse on 2011.09.02
For my second time lapse, I tried a sunset - also probably a bit to ambitious, but I think I got lucky and it is one of my best.  It was taken on the Seoul National University Campus overlooking Shillim-dong.

That weekend was a holiday in Korea, so I decided to go to Namsan Mountain and take a time-lapse of the sunset and day to night transition of the city. This one gave me almost as many headaches as the first. First of  all, I carried my camera, computer and tripod up the mountain - which is quite heavy and I was not used to it. Second, the light wasn't that good, but since I'd come so far, I was determined to get whatever I could. Processing was a nightmare (on the first, second, third, fourth... times) but now I think it is OK. I learned a few tricks with Photoshop getting this one to look decent. Definitely a spot I plan to return for another try when the weather isn't so cold.

For my next project, I wanted to try a sunrise, so I woke up at 4:30 am and found a spot in one of the buildings on SNU campus and took about 750 photos. However, it was a disaster to process, and I just couldn't get it to look good. So, sadly, I deleted it. On that same day, the weather was quite good, so I went to Dongjak bridge to capture the sunset. The clouds were really interesting. First I did a wide shot, and then after the sun went down, I zoomed in a bit to see the lights on the bridge and 63 building turn on. The zoom shot is a bit out of focus and over exposed and yellowish at the beginning, but not too bad. Another spot I plan to return in the spring. In the video, there is also a short clip of the cars speeding by on the Olympic highway I took on my way back to the subway.

Back in February, I visited 광화문 and it had been in my mind as a good spot for time-lapse since I started making them.


The next time-lapse was in a spot I saw from the 5511 bus going to the subway station near 승실대학교. The road is called 상도로. This is one of my favorite clips, and I was smart enough to bring along a few episodes of NPR's"Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" to listen to while photographing.


Last year, during late October, we went on a little tour of Seoul with some of the lab members. I remember going to a small island in the Han river called 선유도 and seeing a fantastic sunset. I went back a year later with my fancy camera and took two time-lapse clips.  The sunset clip, is actually not from the island, but from the north side of the river. It was very windy that day, and the clouds looked really cool.


The next clip was just random. I had no plan. Turned out OK, though. Location was near 동대문.

The final clip I took before going to Jeju Island (I took many photos and a video there) and Boston for a couple of conferences was from the window of my apartment. I was working on my presentations for the conferences and suffering from time-lapse withdrawal.

The video is a compilation of about 6000 photos. I had extreme trouble picking music. I settled on a brass arrangement of the final movement of the Winter concerto of Vivaldi's Four Seasons played by the London Brass. You can buy the album here. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Looking forward to some warmer weather so I can do some more video in the spring.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jeju Island 제주도 time-lapses

From November 13 – November 20, 2011, I visited Jeju Island for the 12th Pacific Polymer Society meeting and for Professor Do Yeung Yoon’s retirement celebration. I had heard a lot about the beautiful scenery on Jeju, and was looking forward to taking some time-lapse clips while there.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday morning, our second day on the island and the day I was to give my poster presentation, I slipped and cut my hand… er… um… I mean I was fighting a jeju ninja while saving a damsel in distress and he managed to cut my hand with his sword before I dispatched him. Anyway, whichever story you believe, I had to go to the hospital, which was very small, and got my hand sewn up with 13 stiches. Ouch! Guess how much it cost? Only a little less than 7,000 KRW which is about $6. Needless to say, this tempered my photography plans a bit. However, I was still able to get some very cool shots. And, my hand is healing nicely (now about 1 month later), though I’ll probably always carry a scar.

On the first day of the conference, the weather was quite good, so I left early to capture the sunset on the beach. The conference was at the Shilla Hotel in the south part of Jeju in the Jeongmun Resort area. I walked out past the Hyatt Hotel on the beach and set up to take a time-lapse of the sunset. Below is a map where the green arrow indicates the approximate spot I set up my camera. The Hyatt and Shilla Hotels are to the right.

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I took 619 photos in this location starting at about 4:30 pm and finishing at about 6 pm. It was a bit cold and windy, but not too bad. Birger Freisinger, Michael Meister, Fabain Etzold, and Valentin Kamm, some students from Germany I met over the summer stopped by midway through the shoot which was a welcome distraction as shooting time-lapse clips can sometimes be a bit boring. Below is a single frame from this spot. For those interested the camera settings were 24 mm at F/13 and ISO 100. For shutter speed, I changed 8-10 times during the shot starting with 1/125 s and ending at 1 s.  It was a bit dark walking back, but I'm used to walking on rocks, so no problem for me.

click the photos to see a bigger version^^
After finishing I met up with the German students and the Korean students I was staying with and we had  제주 흑돼지 - Jeju black pork. We also met a nice albino cat with great eyes, who acquiesced to a few photos after we fed him some pork fat. These three photos were shot with my relatively new 50 mm F/1.4 lens. It is good for shooting pictures in low light, but difficult to get the focus exactly where I want it.

Tuesday was the fateful day I met the jeju ninja and he cut my hand just hours before I had to give my poster presentation. Anyway, the only photo from that day was of the clinic so I could remember where it was and go back in two days to get the wound dressing changed. Many thanks to 나니 for accompanying me to the clinic and helping translate the doctor's instructions. I wonder if he found it more interesting than attending the morning presentations at the conference?

Wednesday was a much better day for photos. There were absolutely no interesting talks at the conference, so I took two timelapse clips and some video of the waves on the beach near the Shila Hotel. For the first time-lapse, I just set up near the swing where I was resting behind the Shilla Hotel. I used 24 mm F/13 and ISO 160 with shutter speed 1/80 s. I like how the sun peeks through the trees. However, I should have used a shorter shot interval, as the compilation of the images is a bit jittery. Oh, well.

Then while taking video of the waves, I snapped this photo at a shutter speed of 1/1600 s, F/4 ISO 100

For the sunset that day, I saw a breakwater from the beach where I took video of the waves which I thought would make a fantastic spot to film the sunset. It was a little awkward to get to, and from a distance, I didn't see the 5 foot (1.5 meter) high wall that I would need to climb to get my camera in a good spot. Ordinarily, this would not be an impediment, however, as you might remember, just the day before, I nearly cut my thumb off... Anyway, I managed to climb the wall and set up my camera in time to capture the sunset.

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Oh! I almost forgot to mention the mosquitos! They are quite vicious. I had some repellent stored in my camera bag, but even so, I received some awful bites - even through my clothing. Anyway, here is a still frame from that sunset. It was worth a few mosquito bites.

For dinner that night I joined my roommates and we had some typical seafood, including live abalone. Here is a short video of the food I took with my iPhone. Do you think I tried the abalone?

Thursday was quite dreary and rainy, but I did take a nice time-lapse from my friend Manuel Schrader's room at the Hyatt while waiting to move to a different place to stay. Incidentally, the hotels were quite expensive, so it is common to stay in what is called a 펜션 or pension in English. It's kind of like a bed & breadfast in USA. I stayed in two different ones with two different groups of people while in Jeju. The first was called green side pension and was near the Shilla hotel, but without the view.  We shared two rooms between 8 people; 4 girls, and 4 guys and it cost ~$10 each per day.

Friday, the weather sucked, so I didn't even bring my camera around. Also, it was Professor Yoon's retimrement celebration, so I sort of had to stick around. I have to say, even though I find most scientific presentations pretty boring (I know, I'm a scientist, but, well, shoot, most scientists don't give good presentations) these were much better than at the conference earlier in the week. Saturday was cold and dreary, but in the early in the morning, a bit after sunrise, the clouds outsde the place we were staying were quite captivating - so I tried to capture them. Below is a map of the approximate place of the pension and a still image from the timelapse. I simply set up my camera on the balcony and let it take photos!

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Later in the day, I filmed the crashing waves you see in the second half of the video here:

View Larger Map

The two other video clips after the crashing waves were filmed at an extinct volcano crater towards the middle of the island, but of course, I didn't pay attention to where, so I can't show a map.

Finally, Sunday morning our last day, I had the fortunate accident to wake up early enough in the morning to capture the sunrise on the balcony of our pension. This is one of my favorite timelapse clips - and also for those interested in technical details, it was also the first I took in aperture priority letting the camera set the exposures. I usually shoot fully manual and adjust exposure during the light changes myself and creating a lot of work in post processing to even out these changes. Shooting in aperture priority simplified things a bit (and also allowed me to go back to sleep instead of standing outside monitoring the camera). I still had to smooth out some flicker in post processing, but it didn't take as long as it does when I shoot fully manual. However, I think that this will only work for certain types of shots like this one where the light changes are gradual and there isn't a lot going on. For example, some of the street timelapses I've done (and might post blogs about later) wouldn't work in aperture priority.

So, as a final note, I'll tell you that choosing music for the video was very challenging. I basically looked in my iTunes folder and tried everything that was of a similar time to the final edit of the timelapse and video clips. I was quite pleased that one of the Lyric Pieces by Edvard Grieg fit quite well. I really like how the sections seemed to magically synchronize with the musical phrases. I hardly had to adjust the editing at all to accomplish this. Hopefully I will be so fortunate in subsequent projects.

Despite my unfortunate argument with the Jeju ninja, I had a good time in Jeju Island.

Here are a few more photos from the trip
Jeju convention center as seen from Shilla Hotel.  The breakwater is where I took one of the sunset time-lapses

Near the volcano crater