I learned a lot for my next time out at night with the stars.

I have always been a sucker for really well done astro timelapse from people like Tom Lowe, TSO Photography and Randy Halverson.

This past weekend I drove up into the mountains for a camping weekend with my oldest daughter.Β Every so often my wife and I like to split up our girls so we can get some one on one time with each girl. I knew we would get a chance to talk and tell ghost stories around the campfire.

My photography goal for this trip was to try my first time lapse of the stars, I had ideas of grandeur of quality equal to Tom Lowe and others, and I was even more excited to try after I watched Tom Guilmette’s awesome BTS video about Timefest.

When I packed up the car in the morning there was not a cloud in the sky, however as we drove up to RMNP the clouds started forming. The previous weekend with my other daughter I got rain out at night and didn’t want a repeat performance from Mother nature. By the time we setup up camp it started to drizzle.Β  It rained on our hike but after that the clouds started to break up giving me some hope that we would have a clear night sky.

Long’s Peak

The object of the timelapse was Long’s Peak. Years ago I climbed this 14,256′ mountain with a friend in what turned out to be the nasty night camping ever, instead of starting out at 2am to start the hike with a day pack and head lamp on, my friend and I decided to take heavy packs in the afternoon and camp in the boulder field just below the sharp cliffs you see at the top. That night it rained and then started to snow and the wind was blowing at least 50mph, both of us didn’t get any sleep.

After we made s’mores around the camp fire I started to get ready for the night’s timelapse, during the setup I noticed that I forgot to pack the most important item.

It looked like my hopes of achieving my goal were dashed, just as the clouds started clear. Then I remembered I had Magic Lantern on one 4gig card. However that 4gig card had shots from the day’s hike. I then had to do some math to see if I could fit the timelapse on the already used card.

After knowing the number of shots required I went back to see if it would fit on the card.

Now that I am back in business with a card with enough memory and ML providing the remote timer function I started looking for my composition.

I wanted to keep it simple, no motorized slider, just a static shot with no moon, and since I don’t have an iPhone app no idea where the Milkyway might appear. I am mostly worried about exposure, focus and composition for my first attempt.

I studied Randy Halverson’s meta data on Flickr which is giving me a good place to start, 2.8 ISO of 1600 30 second exposure. However Randy was using wide lens like the Tokina 11-16 where my choice of the 50mm created star trails at 30 second shutter. These star trails created a smeary look to my timelapse.

Shutter Can be Loud

At 11:30pm I started the timelapse, it is dead quiet no crickets nothing, just some wind in the trees. Almost all the fires were out and people are very quiet, but the camera is much louder than I thought, about 15 minutes after I start the next door campers return I am can hear a whisper of what is that over there? So I got up and put a sleeping bag pad around the camera and that helped a lot with the noise.

For the next two hours lying in the tent, trying not to remember the story the park range told me about the bears that visit a couple times a week.

At 1:30am two hours later I call it quits and brought the camera back in the tent to scroll through the timelapse.

And check it I was luck enough to capture the hikers headlamps transversing just below the peak, pretty cool.

I don’t think I would hear the words bleeping Epic for Tom Lowe if he saw my first timelapse because of my lens choice and shooting jpg instead of RAW. Also I not sure what these vertical lines are that you can see forming are.

But I learned a lot and had a great time with my daughter.

Gear Used in this Video

Used in the timelapse


Slider Moves
Used in the timelapse
BTS and night vision Sony Sr7, but get the Canon Vixia


  • The tech info mixed with the great storytelling style of this video is AWESOME! I had the same experience of being “self conscious” of my shutter volume on my last camping trip. You really don’t pay much attention to it until your out in dead silence, and others around are trying to sleep. Looks like you got some decent results. Were you happy with them? What would you do different? Great video Dave and as always, thanks!

  • Dave,

    I enjoy all your vids, but thought I would add a few tips here regarding timelapse captures.

    1) Never forget your intervolumeter, camera, and tripod! πŸ™‚

    2) You shouldn’t have to shoot in RAW… I capture my TLs in Small JPEGs. (5D MkII = 2784 x 1856 / 7D – 2592 x1728) which is more than sufficient for 1080p HD video.

    3) To determine the slowest shutter speed without star trails, divide 600 by the focal length. Remember to adjust for the sensor’s crop factor if you’re not shooting with a full-frame sensor. Example: Canon 5D MKII w/ 20mm lens = 30 seconds [600/20=30]. Canon 7D w/ 20mm = 19 seconds [600/32(20mmx1.6x crop factor)=18.75]

    4) In addtion to shooting in Manual mode, set your white balance to Daylight. AWB may result in slight color variations that will appear as flickers in the finished timelapse.

    5) For astrophotography, focus manually, take a test shot, and zoom on the playback image in to make sure the stars are sharp. Don’t trust the cameras’ auto-focus.

    6) To reduce shutter noise, put the camera into Live View Mode – Silent shooting / Mode 1. Save battery by setting the Review time to “Off” and the LCD Brightness to “Low” .

  • hi dave did you shoot the every 30 secons, did you have in manual, and what was the shutters speed. thanks

  • Hi Dave, I watch your tutorials with great interest, the last 2 night I have been camped out in the fontainebleau forest in france, trying to do my first timplapse.

    I use the same camera and lens as you, after reading loads of tutorials I was set, I got some amazing results for the first time

    I set the exposure to 20 seconds F4 with an iso at 1600, shot in large format and not RAW i set the white balance to shady,

    The stars were amazing, I filled up one card pretty quick doing the sun set and other things, But then when the stars came out I put in a new card, which turned out to be fake, so all the pictures I cannot use, but it did manage to buffer enough for 6 seconds of timelapse which nearly brought a tear to my eye after watching it, I never thought I could capture anything like that

    anyway hope this helps, and the ipad ap is amazing to catch the stars you actually want to look at

  • Dave, as I was watching you panic about the remote intervalometer I was willing you to remember ML! I’m glad you did. Its an awesome piece of software. There is also another feature that you might want to try and that is silent mode. With this mode it uses video capture to capture still images rather than using the shutter. Its perfect if you need dead silence during a time-lapse with the added bonus of not eating through your shutter count. Great video again Dave. It is very obvious that you are totally dedicated to your family and including them in your videos/narration makes your audience feel very trusted. Your girls are very lucky to have such a great dad.

  • Hi Dave.

    I’m going to use the word “awesome” because it matches your video and the whole feel of the clip.

    Congrats on your first “starfields” timelapses.

    The ranger’s story added much to the whole feel of the video.

    And…the family time – a must-watch for many parents to get inspired.

  • I have enjoyed all your videos, but this is the best so far. I liked the story, the images were pretty, and information is useful. Great work!


  • Hi Dave.
    I’ve enjoyed your videos from the very beginning, but the quality of the last ones are amazing. I find that you take up a lot of the issues that I’m interested in learning, and you do so in a way that I find most enjoyable.
    I so want to try to capture the milky way, but living in Norway I have to wait a few weeks for the sky to get dark enough to see it.
    Thanks also to Jeff Green for the tip on how to calculate the slowest shutter speed to avoid star trails.
    Keep up the good work Dave.

  • Hey Dave, I have a question about the intervalometer, is it absolutely necessary to have it for this type of shot or is there another way around it. I recently purchased a Canon T2i and i also have the 50mm prime lens but i don’t know what exactly is a intervalometer, sorry if it’s a dumb question i’m a super beginner.



  • Wow Mr. Dave Dugdale that was a really nice piece. Very well written and edited. The time lapse came out great as well. What kind of light was used to light up the bushes. I used an LED panel light on my camera to illuminate the tree in my time lapse video ( youtube.com/watch?v=pQcfhOv0KzA ) and it worked great for me.

  • Hi Dave,

    Nice video, love the story πŸ™‚

    Last week I recorded a similar thing. Unfortunately Hungary is really flat, we haven’t got such an amazing mountains you have, but I tried my best πŸ™‚


    Keep it up!

  • Just wanted to say LOVE the site. Just starting out in the world of DSLRs, love having this great resource. You’ve inspired me and now can’t wait to get out and try some timelapse photography next time I go camping. Keep up the good work.

  • Hello! I’m very interested in your video, because I’m in the same situation (want to go out for my first timelapse). Problem: In because of the music-content you used it’s not possible to watch your video here in germany :/

    I know it’s some work, but is there a chance to upload it again without the music? πŸ™‚ I’m really interested in how your light-setup looks (I found this site when I read your discussion on vimeo with Randy Halverson)

    Greetings from germany, Roland

  • i love the video and as a very amateur photographer i have found that my time-lapse remote only works correctly if my camera is on autofocus, however stars are not bright enough, well not where i live to be picked up, do you have a time-lapse remote with manual focus allowance?