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Dusk at Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle, on the North Wales coast, is a fantastic location for both still photography and time lapse video.

The castle and old town walls are butted up right against the mouth of the Seiont estuary where it flows into the Menai Straits, giving a moving feast in terms of reflections as the tide moves in and out over the mudflats.

I've been wanting to come here to make a time lapse sequence as part of my 'videos from Welsh beaty spots' series for a long time now, and finally all the necessary elements came together on an evening in early July so off we went for a few hours photography and paddling.

But what are these 'necessary elements'?

Well, making a timelapse video sequence isn't the same as taking still photography, and there are a different set of criteria to bear in mind if you want a sucessful outcome.

First, and most important, is that video is a time based medium. Unlike still landscape photography, which relies on light and composition coming together for only maybe a few seconds, a video relies on having interesting things happening over it's entire duration.

In this video of Caernarfon at dusk we have several things happening over the two hours it took to shoot the stills. First we start off with cloud movement over the castle, then we have the natural light fading to sunset while the artificial lights on the castle becoming relatively brighter and finally we have the turn of the tide and its sweep across the expanse of stones in front of the camera.

We didn't just arrive at Caernarfon on this particular evening on a whim, but the date and tme were carefully chosen based on weather forecasts, sunset time and direction and tide tables.

There may only be a few evenings a year when all these factors come together, so you have to be prepared.

Secondly, taking stills for a timelapse video requires a different mindset from taking a 'normal' landscape photo, as you have to allow for changes in light levels over the course of the video's duration rather than optimising the exposure for a single frame.

Taking this video as an example. As I knew the light levels would fall over the course of the shoot I started off taking stills that were deliberately over-exposed, knowing that the exposure would come correct about halfway through the sequence of stills, and then go under-exposed towards the end of the evening.

I could adopt this approach knowing that I could compensate to some extent for the over and under exposure by using the highlight recovery, fill light and black point controls in Adobe Camera RAW. I was shooting in RAW format of course, to give me the ability to make these severe exposure corrections later on without destroying the colour integrity of the individual images.

So there you go, that's just a couple of the differences between still and time lapse landscape work.

It's a good job I enjoy learning new stuff so much, as I feel I've still got a long way to go with this time lapse lark!

Video data

Filename - caernarfon timelapse 01.mp4

Camera - Canon 5D

Lens - 17-40mm zoom

Location - Caernarfon, North Wales

This clip - HD 720p