Time Lapse Photography Mountain Guide

How do I take great time lapse photography in the mountains?  If you read the article on mountain photography you will know that the outdoors are the perfect choice for capturing unique shots.  Some of my favourite memories have been time lapse video or camera footage that I enjoy looking back on from past adventures.  In this article I will discuss what key aspects will enhance your time lapse photography and help you achieve better results.  Remember if you are thinking of upgrading or looking for a new camera head over to Amazon here.

What makes a great time lapse image?

There are four factors that make up capturing a great time lapse image.  I will go into each of these in more detail later but for now lets introduce them one by one.

  • Location – without an interesting or special location to capture footage from your shot will look dull and uninteresting.  Hiking into the mountains is the perfect opportunity to find the best natural locations for some really dramatic backdrops.

 

  • Weather – key in any outdoor activity.  The weather can make your time lapse images really stand out but also prevent you from even taking them in the first place.  Learning to Access the weather properly is an important factor if you want to succeed.

 

  • Tripod – the basis for all great photography and video time lapse shots.  If you want a stable image you need a good quality tripod but it doesn’t always mean you have to carry a huge amount of weight.

 

  • Camera – the device you will use to shoot those great time lapse frames.  The best camera is the one you have with you but some are more suitable than others.

Finding a unique time lapse location?

If you want your time lapse shots to stand out finding a unique location is important.  To be happy with the final outcome you need to find an interesting scene or landscape to choose from.  Mountains or munros, if you are in Scotland, make a great choice for time lapse footage, as you will find some outstanding natural beauty and dramatic scenery to choose from.  If you are in the United Kingdom my articles here and here will give you a great starting point to finding a location.  For those across the Atlantic  in America my article on mountains in the east coast should help here.

Where ever you choose to go outdoors, you will find a greater sense of remoteness and isolation.  These types of places make for some of the best time lapse shots as the less people who make the effort to visit your location, the more special and valuable your time lapse shot becomes.  Try getting off the usual tracks where possible, experiment a little and hit those back roads.  You will soon be capturing great images that will provide memories to look back on for years to come.

Access the weather!

The weather is important for two reasons.  One you need good weather to be able to reach your chosen location and avoid feeling miserable while you spend time shooting time lapse photography or video.  Two it can add drama and excitement to an image but not so much that it overwhelms the shot.

There are a number of resources out there to keep track of the weather for time lapse photography.  Here are some I use frequently and would recommend;

  • MWIS – Mountain Weather Information Service is funded by the Scottish Government and provides a detailed forecast across 9 key regions in Scotland, including the Scottish Highlands.

 

  • Met Office – the Met Office app is available for both IOS and Android devices through the app or play store.  You can form a short list of areas or mountain summits you are interested in monitoring for time lapse photography and check weather updates quickly and easily.  The app covers the whole of the United Kingdom.

 

  • Mountain Forecast – covers mountains across the world and is a great resource for getting a second or third opinion on other forecast reports before heading outdoors.  I find it particularly useful for looking at freezing altitudes as the charts are clear and precise.

Any of the above resources will provide a clear indication on what the weather is likely to be on your chosen day for time lapse photography.  Important factors you want to check through these resources include;

  • Visibility – aim for very good or excellent if you want to see long distance but some clouds can add drama to the scene

 

  • Wind gusts – although overall wind speed is important, wind gusts can be dangerous and also throw off your tripod

 

  • Temperature – equipment will begin to be effected through extremes cold or hot and will result in shorter battery life

 

  • Rain / snow – avoid this unless your equipment is weather sealed

Invest in a tripod!

If you want to shoot time lapse of any description a tripod is an important piece of kit.  Don’t be too caught up in size but the overall quality of the tripod matters.  An investment from a reputable brand such as Manfrotto is an excellent choice and will avoid you coming home to blurry video or image quality.

I recommend the Pixi tripod from Manfrotto if you want to travel light and shoot time lapse from a mobile device.  On the other hand, if you want some extra height and strength to combat the wind, go for a larger tripod like these.I have used both combinations in and around the mountains of the Scottish Highlands for time lapse photography.  Both will be durable and long lasting compared to cheaper options so it is important to invest a little extra up front.  Whichever option you choose, it will offer a strong foundation to mount  your camera equipment onto and be ready to capture stable time lapse shots.

What camera should I choose?

The answer depends on what kind of time lapse you want to shoot, location and how committed you are.  It can be broken down into a few different types to help you decide;

  • Short distance time lapse photography – if the ground you are covering is only a short distance, weight is not a big concern.  You can load up with the heaviest full frame camera and a full size tripod.  You will be able to capture time lapse photography in all sorts of conditions and be able to use additional features, such as timers and remote shutter release.
  • Long distance time lapse photography – on long distance mountain hikes I would be reluctant to carry large amounts of size and weight.  Smaller cameras such as the new Go Pro or the Sony RX range are light weight options that still enable you to capture both time lapse photography or video.  Some of my favourite video time lapse is taken from a Go Pro.

  • Low budget – if you are on a low budget you can still enjoy time lapse photography.  Android devices or iphones when combined with a small tripod can still capture some very usable images and make a great learning tool to get you into experimenting with time lapse.

Whatever your budget the important thing is to get outdoors into the mountains and experiment with time lapse.  Edit those videos or pictures and most of all enjoy the journey.  Do you have any recommendations for shooting time lapse?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Below is video footage from one of my favourite over night adventures into the Scottish mountains, near the summit of Ben Lawers.