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Wilco, one of my favorite rock bands was coming to town, and out of the blue, I got a call from their management company to see if I could do a time-lapse of the crew setting up the stage.  I had been experimenting with time-lapse for about a year, and was comfortable accomplishing what they wanted, but I had nothing in my portfolio to back-up my words.  I never got called back, which motivated me to do one on my own.  (I did attend the concert, though, and it was amazing.)

Although I enjoy all the great time-lapse projects that involve landscapes, stars, streets scenes, and the like, I wanted to try something different.  Baseball seemed perfect.  As a photographer, baseball is my favorite sports, and I also enjoy it as a fan.  I approached a colleague with the Atlanta Braves with the idea, and was given the green light.

In my mind’s eye, baseball seemed like a good candidate.  In many ways, it is, but when it’s not, it can be frustrating to an inspiring time-lapser like myself.  Baseball doesn’t flow, like clouds or cars on the highway, instead it lurches along with moments of very little movement followed by very fast bursts of action.

Over the course of four games, along with my teenage daughter assisting, we lugged around Turner Field two cameras (a Nikon D3s and a D700), along with tripods, clamps, and lenses ranging from 14mm to 400mm.  We probably climbed as many stairs as frames shot.

Time-lapse is not for those suffering from attention deficit.  You spend a lot of time patiently listening to your camera clicking away, while hoping you got the timing right, in pursuit of a good sequence.  It can be a boring process, even when a baseball game is going on around you.  At the end of each game, our goal was to come away with about eight to ten good sequences that might fit into a story of sorts.  We were never sure what we got until putting all the images together at home.

Technically speaking (and in the interest brevity), we shot sequences ranging from one frame per second up to 15 seconds per frame, depending on the subject.  In post, I had to slow down many of the clips.  Shutter speeds ranged from 1/250 to 1/15.  File size was set to JPEG medium.  The exposure and focus were always set to manual.  (If you’re interested in doing this yourself, I give a brief workflow farther down this blog under “Time-Lapse Tests”.)

You may notice that several clips change speed.  After the first day, I noticed that pitching, batting, and running happened too fast, so I slowed them down by shooting more frames.  While my camera was clicking away, at say, one frame per second, if a pitch was thrown, a ball hit, or a player running, I would lay on the motor (9 frames per second) until the action slowed back down, taking my finger off the gas and letting the camera resume its normal time-lapse speed.

I learned a lot about time-lapse during this process, but probably the most important thing I learned is that time-lapse photography, although fun to look at, is not as communicative as good video or good still images, but it does have its place.

Special thanks goes to Beth Marshall, Director of Public Relations for the Atlanta Braves, and Pouya Dianat, Braves team photographer.


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