Drinking beer, playing with tech, and watching the stars at 10,000 feet.

My friend David Besnette and I were up in RMNP Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday night on trail ridge road during the Perseid Meteor Shower doing some time lapse. I am testing out the Canon 60D and the T4i/650D this month so I took them with me.

It was an amazing night under the stars at 10,000 feet and at Lake Irene, it was cold but I got to see some of the biggest meteor trails of my life. There were many people like us up there doing the same thing. It was like watching fireworks on the 4th of July with the, “Oh, did you see that one?!”

Also that I night I got to see my first bear in Estes Park at 1am crossing the street. My friend David thought it was a cow walking across the street at first.

Some Pictures from that day

Me Checking out the Perseid Meteor Shower at 10,000 feet


Canon 60D vs T4i/650D Double Take - They are so Close in Price

Apple Valley Road Lyons Bridge

Rain Coming in to EndoValley RMNP

Lake Irene - RMNP

EndoValley RMNP - Rain Passed

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Note to myself next time

Somewhere around 15 to 20 seconds (ISO 3200) on the 5D3 starts to create star trails with the Tamron 24-70 set at 24mm. Also using the Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned ON (not auto) and The “High ISO Speed NR” on “High” seems to help even the RAW images and adds a lot of time between shots because of the processing. But I have more testing to do on this.

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The time lapse was done with the Canon T4i everything else was the Canon 5D Mark III.

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  • I’ll clic everything you want if you let me know the specs of your timelapse shooting! Awesome vid by the way! 😀

  • Dave, that turned out friggin awesome! Wow! you caught some of the shooting stars! Glad you were able to go – it was a great time and a memorable experience!

  • Love this time-lapse. So much improved over the camping one with the hiker lights in the shots.

    I love the first star photo up top.

    Curious to know the lens as well.

  • Excellent post! I was observing on the weekend as well, but from Australia, so we didn’t really get to see any Perseids. Good work on the time lapse, I did one too, but I’m still processing it. My only suggestion would be that I think your WB was a bit cool. Daylight is the most “accurate” for star colours, but I prefer a cooler WB than that. It’s a personal creative choice of course!

    If you’re interested in getting more into night sky time lapse and photography, please allow me to enthusiastically recommend my friend and colleague Phil Hart’s ebook “Shooting Stars”. You can find it here: http://philhart.com/shooting-stars/

    Happy shooting!

  • Superb work Dave.
    Have you tried astrophotography as well?
    I tried using 50mm f1.8 Mk II lens with Canon 550D it works pretty well.(though not wide view)

  • Nice one Dave, considering it’s a kit lens it came out really well.
    How long were you “timelapsing” for to produce the sweet but ‘short’ video? 🙂

  • Hi Dave, good work on the timelapse. I enjoy using my 60D. It’s great for timelapse, too.

    Are you using the newest Magic Lantern release?

  • @frazzywig nice shot.

    @Sherwin not yet.

    @Ian a little over 2 hours.

    @Justin I focus to infinite and the pull back ever so slightly on my Tamron lens, on the STM lens it was a lot of trial and error, I am not liking that lens for manual focus.

  • i was wondering how did you do that? is it image shot or vdo shot? and how did you adjust the brightnest… u keep on changing the aperture/iso/shutter acording to the light/sky darkness/brightness?

  • Thanks Dave. Hey would you mind elaborating on the issue that you have with manual focus of the 18-135mm STM. I’m looking to pick up a t4i and was planning on getting it with that lens. As I’m going to be shooting primarily video and utilizing manual focus, I’m really interested as to why you say you’re not liking that facet of the lens. Thanks

  • @rinawm tonsing

    If I may provide an answer to your question, it’s done by taking hundreds, sometimes thousands of images, using an intervalometer (fancy name for timer). The great thing is that it’s really cheap; I got mine for $15 and it works great. The only other investment I ended up making, to allow for longer time-lapses, is a grip, a second battery, and a reasonably fast card to speed up processing times. You can set the timer to take 1 shot per second, for example, make sure you set everything to manual (exposure & focus). As Dave said, you’ll want to focus all the way to infinity then pull it back a tiny bit. Framing the shot can be a bit hard in the dark. I usually resort to taking test shots and reframing until I get what I want. I’ve seen that you want to strike a balance between noise and the duration that it takes to get a shot. With my current slow camera, long exposures per each shot will increase the time taken to process each of them, but a higher ISO will also contribute to that processing time. Of course a high ISO will increase noise but keeping it at a lower setting and going with longer exposures will forcefully increase the time between frames and reduce the overall duration of the finished product per your battery power (unless you have the somewhat ridiculously priced ac adapter). I also like to experiment with some test shots of a few stops on the brighter side to see how much stars I can squeeze out of the sky, again not working with the best of tools currently. Beyond that you can just download a free time-lapse assembler or even use quicktime (i think this requires an older version though), encode it at 24fps or less. I find that I can squeeze more time out of a time-lapse without making it too choppy by going down to 12fps or even less.

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can see, Dave wouldn’t have needed to adjust the settings due to changes in brightness of his scene. It looks as if it was just a portion of the night as opposed to incorporating a portion of the sunset/sunrise. The latter is something that I’ve tried myself and found to be fairly difficult to achieve smoothly due to the large degree of change in stops. One thing that I’ve found you can do is to set up your time-lapse in AEB mode so that you can encode with the lighter bracket in the beginning of the time-lapse, the middle bracket in the middle part of the time-lapse and the darkest bracket in the end of the time-lapse in the case of a sunrise. I believe it required that I employ some form of batch file rename software. I can’t remember exactly, either that or I might have just compiled three separate ones and just imported them into a video editing software and cross faded between them.

  • @Dave: how do you set infinity on the 18-135 STM lens?

    or how to do set the focus on the stars?

    first dSLR ever so there’s lots of basics yet to learn. my first attempt yielded some pretty blurred blobs of light.


  • Nice Dave

    No flicker, I’m trying to stop that? how did you get around it?

    Funny that you drink an Aussie beer when filming, I’m in Australia and I prefer to drink Mexican beer during time lapsing….. LOL

  • @frazzywig wow thanks for all the great info.

    @elizabeth as far as I can tell you can’t which made me frustrated with that lens.

    @Colin manual everything, including WB.

  • @Frazzywig thanks for the info. and onemore thing.. what is AEB i hive 550d with the kid lens…

  • You’re welcome. AEB = Auto Exposure Bracketing. It allows you to setup your camera so that it will take a series of multiple pictures for every one frame of your time-lapse. For example, you can tell it to take the first picture 2 stops under exposed, the second propperly exposed and the third 2 stops over exposed. I believe it will also name the files in such a way that makes it easy to separate each bracket into it’s own folder as well. You can find out how to do it on page 89 of your manual. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  • You’re welcome. AEB = Auto Exposure Bracketing. It allows you to setup your camera so that it will take a series of multiple pictures for every one frame of your time-lapse. For example, you can tell it to take the first picture 2 stops under exposed, the second properly exposed and the third 2 stops over exposed. I believe it will also name the files in such a way that makes it easy to separate each bracket into its own folder as well. You can find out how to do it on page 89 of your manual. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  • @frazzywig thanks again.. supose if i am going to do timelapsed shot… i have to do AEB as well ISO too? i have to use Manual mode right?
    Brother Dave.. you got detail bright shining star.. how comes.. coz u used zoom lens with good lens? what lens do u used and what setings u used to shot that star?

  • That inspired me to do night sky photography that day. Although I was just at 164′. Anyway last two days were cloudy and I couldn’t do any photos of night sky. I wanted to do a time lapse.
    This is like a suggestion for you. I wanna make a 5K time lapse video. Or at least 4K/3K/2K video.

    Can you make a 5K/4K/3K/2K video out of this time lapse?

  • @Nico with After Effects and perhaps other programs you can easily make 4k time lapses but the issue is where do you play them back on.

  • @rinawm
    Not exactly, you don’t HAVE to use the AEB to do a time lapse, that’s just something that can help with huge swings in your scene brightness, as in the case of sunrise/sunset. Normal, just night, or just day time lapses don’t really need it. With regard to manual ISO, whatever else, yes everything should be set to manual otherwise you’ll get a flicker effect in the finished product as a result of your camera trying to make small changes while the shots were being taken.

    The large jpg file size for the T4i is 5184 x 3456, more than enough to accommodate 4k. Not sure what 5k specs are but it would seem that it’s enough for that too. Beyond just specifying that setting in camera, using even the freeware Time Lapse Assembler could get you the rest of the way there. I’ve never tried compiling something that size though, and it’s hard to say what kind of processing power it would require. I’m assuming, depending on the specs of the computer that you’re working with, it may just take a while, take a really long time but still complete, or it may just crash and not be able to complete. I’m with Dave though, unless you have some insanely expensive projector/TV, I would think you’ll only be able to play it on your computer if your monitor/video card resolution is big enough. That being said, I know that some people use their computer as a primary home entertainment setup.

  • @frazzywig thanks.. u clear my doutbts.. i will try it soon… hehe…
    by the ways how many sec. will be good for making time lapased? 1shot per sec. or 1 shot after every 3/5/6/7 etc. seconds?

    how did Dave capture the birhgt sky? is it becuase of zoom lens or he used another filter… and let me ask u other thing.. will ndfilter be good for shoting videos? i plant to buy 1 nd filter which is nd 2 and and 4… i heard ND filter make the shutter speed slower… is that true?

  • @rinawm
    I would just start with 1 shot per second and experiment with longer stuff from there. That’s the shortest interval that my timer has anyway. I usually use that setting. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly things still move at 1 shot per second.

    As far as the great exposure of the large quantity of stars that Dave was able to capture, I’m pretty sure that was just a combination of his location (high elevation and lack of dirty air) his nice new t4i and a long enough exposure per shot at the given ISO. I’ve gotten some shots that were close to the amount of stars that he was able to squeeze from the sky, but not exactly that much. I do live in a rural area but I’m pretty sure if I went the extra mile and went up in the hills a little more and had a slightly better camera, it might do the trick. Just try taking a few long exposure still shots of the night sky a couple of stops past the middle of the meter. I think you’ll be surprised at how much show up.

    ND filters are good for HDSLR video because of the fact that they are still primarily built for photography. A lot of traditional video cameras have built in internal ND filters in front of the sensor. In practical usage terms, ND filters are good for video because your shutter speed should generally be tied down to a figure that is double the frame rate that you are shooting at. So if you’ve chosen the 24 fps setting, for example, you should generally set your shutter speed to no faster than 1/50th of a second. Technically you could purposefully set it faster if you wanted to achieve some stylistic effect like the Saving Private Ryan stuff, but yea, normally no. That makes video more constricting than photography, as far as your ability to change settings that control exposure levels. Sure, you can still change your aperture but that doesn’t just affect the amount of light you let in. If you want to get anywhere near the shallow DOF side of things for daylight video, you won’t want to be forced to close down your aperture for a proper exposure. Anyway, so yea, that’s why effectively putting sunglasses on the front of your lens will give you more freedom to choose the aperture that you want, based on artistic choice rather than the need to get a proper exposure. If you have the extra money to put towards it, it’s usually more convenient to go with a variable ND filter that you can turn (like a polarizer) to dynamically adjust the amount of light that you are blocking out. The standard ones will let you block from 1-8 stops. I personally would recommend the Light Craft Workshop Vari-ND MkII. I think it’s the best deal and pretty good quality. Still there are a lot of people that would recommend regular ND filters in the interest of image quality and they are right but I find the convenience a worth trade off.

    That was pretty sweet! I like your time-lapse with the trees and the water below.

    Check this one out that I just finished up. It’s from the same meteor Shower that Dave’s is. I did some fun stuff to it. Kinda tried to tell a story (don’t forget to click HD): http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151167974436672

  • Cool Dave,
    Looks like you’ll have to do some more time lapse how to’s with 40+ comments. 🙂


  • @John-Mark perhaps the next time I go up there I will make one. There is not much to do once you have started the time lapse besides drink beer and watch the stars so I am sure I can make one.

  • Hello Dave!

    Sorri but my english isn’t a 100%.

    Just a off topic question. Everybody knows that audio is 50% of the video. But, how to find the right song to a video? Have lot of songs on the internet. In my case, always is very hard to find the cool song to a video.

    Will be very very helpfull If you can make a video talking about this. Tell us the process that you do to find the songs of your vídeos.

    Holp you can help me and help many other people with the same problem.


    Fernando Goya

  • Got inspired by you Dave, here’s my first star timelapse! 😀
    Planning on doing this more often.

  • Wow, nice! How did you do those pans? Did you have to do them in post? Really cool location too!

  • Thanks! 😀
    The pans are made in After Effects (Keyframing Position) I have the Canon 550D and the pictures are 5184×3456 so when fitting it in 1920×1080 pixels there’s room to play around. Actually all I did where 2 angles (The 2 wide angles) The other cuts or scenes are parts of those 2 takes.

    I shot in Tampico Tamaulipas Beach in México where I live, but because of the criminal activity (Drug cartels) in my city is very dangerous to get out at night, specially to the beach, but that won’t stop me to finish my timelapse project of my beautiful city! 😀

  • Nice! I’m learning of more and more people that are doing it that way instead of using some EXTREMELY expensive motor dodad. I had originally thought that you had to have a motor to get good pans and that doing it in post wouldn’t yield good results but yours came out really good, so that’s obviously not the case. I’m gonna have to try that some time soon. Be careful out there.

  • @frazzywig i dont get you in this part

    shutter speed will tied down and Double the frame rate(supose i used to shot at daylight using 100ISO and shutter at 160/280)? how if i used nd filter which one will be double? ? when ever i read article about video they Alys mention Saving Private Ryan… why is saving private Ryan so popular? which part?which effect? time and second please… so that i can watch the movies and will notice the trick/effect…

    when i shot video with my 550D i mostly i used 50fps with my kid lens i,e… 18-55mm lens how much shutter & exposure should i used in normal daylight? so that i can understand Double the frame rate…
    when editing in Sony Vegas i used to put it down to 24/25fps. As a beginer i dnt see ND filter, GND filter with my naked eye yet, aswell as Light Craft Workshop Vari-ND MkII too… so i think i better go for ND filter which is more cheaper… for me 1-8 nd filter is abit costly… 1-4 nd filter is almost half the price of 1-8nd filter… will 1-4 nd filter works properly?

    @ALPHA D

    what lens did you used to shot ur time lapsed? and what settings… exposure,ISO and shutter speed.. like 1shot per second.. etc.. coz i have 550d too… and for how long? i try once but i dint get the result as i like…

  • @rinawm tonsing Here the specs:

    -Camera Canon 550
    -Lens Tokina 11-16 2.8
    -Sturdy tripod
    -Memory SanDisk Extreme 32Gb 45Mb/s class 10

    I shot a picture every 35 seconds, 30 seconds of shutter speed (f/2.8 ISO 320 exposure +1) and 5 seconds to let the memory record well the files (Memory took 3 seconds to save and let 2 seconds free for the next shot). At 11mm (Widest of the lens) with focus at infinity. Everything just in RAW to save space. (I always shot in FAITHFUL from camera).

    I choose this settings because near the beach (2Km more less) there is an oil refinary that has burners that light up the sky at night (I wouldn’t go farther than where I was for safety, there are darker areas of the beach but dangerous as well, eventhough I’m already planning how to record from there)

    What I observe is that 30 seconds of shutter is a little bit too much cause the stars seem like eggs, maybe 15 seconds should do it fine (Although I must rise the ISO and my camera doesn’t have that great quality when ISO is too high, at least I have magic lantern for better ISO values)

    The refinary helped a little bit to light up the sand and the “palapas” (Don’t know how are they called in english, sorry).

    For setting the camera I lasted like 30 minutes checking angles and light, then I left the camera like 1 and a half hours in each angle. My advice is try and error. This was my very first star timelapse (And my second timelapse attemp ever) and learned a lot for the next one.

    Note: Be aware of light polution, every light counts, even the most tiny one, the darker the ambient the better the star timelapse! I hope this helps! 🙂

  • @Alpha D

    thanks for ur kind info. how did you set this part?”5 seconds to let the memory record well the files (Memory took 3 seconds to save and let 2 seconds free for the next shot)”.
    I thought Magic Lantern ISO and the Camera ISO are link… You set the Sec. from Magic Lantern too? so what about the exposure… u Do it in AUTO mode?
    Here is the thing i never understand and cant think it out… i,e… If i timelapsed sun falling down or sun raise… do i have to put my ISO,exposure and Shutter in AUto? or do i have to Manually adjust while i’m taking the timelapsed shot?

  • @Alpha D
    You mention shooting Raw to save space, but RAW records alot of data. If you save the Highest quality JPEGS you will have a lot smaller files to work with. the advantage of RAW is that you can change the White balance and picture style (faithful vs neutral vs standard) later. If you do shoot JPEGs make sure to set your White Balance manually!

  • @rinawm tonsing

    I set up the memory thing like that because the memory seemed to last 3 seconds to record the photo that was taken, so I let 30 seconds of shutter speed and 5 seconds left because if you set up the camera to 30 seconds of shutter speed and 30 seconds interval there will be no time for the memory to save the file. When I checked the timing there were 2 seconds left in the interval for the next shot to be taken.

    I use magic lantern for the intervalometer function and the ISO values, intermediate values are better sometimes (Between 100 and 200 there is 120 and between 600 and 700 there is 640 and so on).

    For Timelapse I go FULL MANUAL MODE. UNLESS there is a sunset or sunrise involved. In that case I use Aperture priority mode! Then in After Effects I use a plug in called GBDEFLICKER wich deflciks my footage.

    @Murray S

    About the saving space comment, I meant that shooting in RAW is for saving space because if you shoot in RAW+JPEG it wastes more space. I used to shoot in that way so maybe I missleaded there.

    RAW is way better than JPEG not only in white balance and picture style, in every way! (Except space of course) And I also use Custom white balance in RAW.

  • thanks @Alpha D… but how to set up the memory to last 3 seconds to record the photo? is there an option in 550d?
    so u used the 550d in-build self-timer settings instead of Magic Lantern?

    thanks for the GBDeflicker pluings gain.. this is the first time i heard about the plugins.. hehe..

  • The 3 second memory thing is aomething I can’t change. The memory that I use lasts 3 seconds to record the image, that’s how much it lasts to process the image, show it in the display and be ready to shot another one. There are faster memory cards that can save faster but I observe that the one I have lasts 3 seconds with those specific settings I used. So you need to be aware how long does your memory card will last to save the picture you are taking. Just test it out. It’s like not setting up less intervalometer time than the shutter speed time because it won’t work (This happens when shooting sunrises or sunsets in Aperture mode, there comes a time where the apperture value gets higher than the interval of time programed so there is where the shots will stop, be aware of that.

    There is no build in intervalometer in Canon 550d (As far as I know) I used the Magic Lantern one.

    There are other deflicker options but AE is my specialty so I use that plug in.

    I hope this helps! 🙂

  • @ALPHA D… i thought every time-lapsed will be shot with Full Manual mode only… now i gain more from u again.. i will try AV mode for sunset…
    I search deflicker plugins for AE but i find only standalone software… deflicker is make by which company?:-)
    i used 16gb Scandisk 45mb….

  • @Alpha D ..thanks for the utube link…

    will standalone GBflicker will do the same? any idea? where can i get the GBflicker for after efect…

  • Amazing stuff Dave, as per. @Alpha D – look after yourself over there in Mexico – pretty brave to venture out in places like that! Beautiful locations though, I wish Chester (UK) had views like that!! 😉

    Great thread, clips and advice.


  • Hi Dave,

    Awesome video, I love the time lapse!

    I was wondering how did you take the second picture, the one with the bridge? The sky looks fantastic. Did you use any filters?


  • I got a canon rebel t4i for Christmas!!I don’t know how to use it!!! im so sad. Im use to my canon G12 power shot. I wanted to take a picture of the big dipper just now but I cant 🙁 I read the manual sounds easy but for some reason I don’t know wat im doing!!

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