Portland Nights – A Time-Lapse Project

Lance Page · November 14, 2011 · Video

Here you have it, my first time-lapse project. Don’t forget to watch in HD! In my last blog I wrote about some statistics of how long this thing took to make and how it started. For this post I’ll go into a few specifics about the video that are worth mentioning and a bit about the techniques that I developed amidst the intense learning curve that came with this beast.

The fact that this was all shot at night (excluding the very beginning and end of the video) was an excellent way for me to learn the relationship between shutter speed and time-lapse. I generally used a shutter speed of around 2 or 3 seconds for everything involving a lot of movement. This creates a blurring effect that ultimately results in more realistic looking motion when all the photos are sequenced together. For the more dimly lit shots that didn’t have as much movement I went with more like 8 or 10 second shutters. Keeping the ISO very minimal.

The first and last shots are very unique in that I shot them using a technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR). For every shot the camera fires 3 times getting 3 different exposures and then in post they are fused together to make one image showing a nice exposure on things that would otherwise be really bright or close to a silhouette. So the bright sunlight on the clouds as well as the city buildings below them are both exposed correctly in the same shot.

There are a couple things in the video that I’d like to point out just for the fun of it. First of all I stirred up a bit of suspicion while getting the two parking structure roof top shots. The reason being I was literally hanging half of the six foot track off the edge of the building with the cart and camera slowly creeping out to the end as the shot progressed. The first one wasn’t too bad, right before I started the shot I was told by a security guard that I had to leave and after about five minutes of begging and pleading he finally told me I had an hour and he’d be back. So that was that, then a couple nights later I had another shot set up on the top of another parking structure and maybe two thirds of the way through the shot I noticed a bright light shining up at my camera. I looked down and saw a cop car blasting its flood light up at me. Then after the time it takes to drive in a circle 8 times there were two squad cars at the top of the building approaching me. I was spooked, thought I was really in for it. The first officer got out, asked me to take my hands out of my pockets and asked me what I’m doing. When I told him he then told his fellow officer “he’s just getting a time-lapse” and they got back in their squad cars and drove off. In the shot you can see the flashing brightness of the flood light and then the brief light from their headlights on the top of the building.

Every so often when documenting the distortion of time, there are sometimes some strange unexplained occurrences that end up in the photo sequences. For instance, during the second shot of the Portland Timbers crowd, there is some sort of weird blurry lens flare looking thing that shows up directly centered around the bright clock as soon as it’s revealed from behind the face statue and then dissipates. A lens flare would make sense if it appeared gradually but it shows up suddenly on one specific photo. It was raining and I had an umbrella over the camera so it’s possible that it’s a small drop of water but that too is a stretch. So if anybody can figure it out be sure and let me know!

I wanted to thank a few people for helping me through some of the production. First of all Thomas and the Momos crew for being so cool about letting me bring all my gear into the bar on such a busy night, Tim O’dell for hooking up that connection, my wonderful girlfriend Mariela Brooks for hanging out with me on some of the shots and putting up with the massive amount of gear I use, Andy Parish for the amazing soundtrack, Jared Yanez for the music connection and everyone who inspired me along the way. This project is for you, enjoy!