Lapse of Time!

No.  I am not referring to the eternity between my updates here.  The title of this post refers to the photographic technique of taking a sequence of frames at set intervals to record changes that take place slowly over time. When the frames are shown at normal speed, or in quick succession, the action seems much faster.

It is a technique which has fascinated me and I have aspired to master it with the limited equipment available to me.  I have yet to attempt anything like this with the Nikon, usually because of weather or location issues.  A couple of GoPro3 cameras do the job fairly well in most environments.  Here I have laid out a few tips and tools for anyone else out there wanting to make some cool time-lapse shots with their GoPro.

GoPro Hero3 powered by a GoalZero Nomad 7 solar unit.
GoPro Hero3 powered by a GoalZero Nomad 7 solar unit.

If you’re out there making movies with a GoPro you know already the Achilles heel for these little cameras is the battery capacity.  As a matter of fact it is the single most lamented feature in nearly every review out there.  There is a battery pack option available from GoPro, but I was determined to find an even better solution.  I have long been a supporter of the Green movement and alternative energies, so solar power naturally caught my attention when I stumbled across a GoalZero demo booth last year.

Nomad 7 deployed in even partial sunlight can still be directly linked to power and charge a GoPro in the field.
The Nomad 7, deployed in even partial sunlight can still be directly linked to a GoPro in the field to power and/or recharge it.

The product I’ve used most extensively is the Nomad 7; pictured above. It seems to be the perfect size for providing charge to a single GoPro.  I occasionally insert a GoalZero Guide10 battery pack between the solar panel and the camera in the event I need a multi-day/week/month-long shot.   Yes that was Multi-Month-long shot.


Of course this is for those locations in the middle of nowhere. If there is a power outlet within reach, by all means take advantage.  Here is a teaser of an upcoming long-term time-lapse video featuring a pot of flowers growing in a sunny window ledge.

GoPro mounted to window, powered by USB via wall outlet.  Shot: flowers sprouting over several months in a windowsill flowerpot.
GoPro mounted to window, powered by USB via wall outlet. Shot: flowers sprouting over several months in a windowsill flowerpot.

Now this method allows for insanely long shots, but as you noticed- no weatherproofing, since the frame housing must be used.

Last ditch method in the event you need to shoot for long periods of time in wet conditions?  It’s actually fairly simple.  Two identical GoPros with identical settings, and you have to be around to switch them out every so often.  (hey GoPro; build us a weatherproof usb plug!  plz?)

Finally, get the official GoPro Studio app. I cannot stress this enough to you if you do any work at all with a GoPro.  I put off doing this; thinking that I would simply import frames into Adobe and it would work.  Big mistake that really cost me time, as I fumbled with Adobe searching for the right combination of codecs and project settings in order to use files raw from the GoPro in different capture settings and frame rates.  The GoPro Studio app does most of the technical composition work for you, producing a .mov file which is much easier to work with inside of Adobe.  But if you use a DSLR go right ahead, importing jpeg sequences into After Effects will work too.


2 Replies to “Lapse of Time!”

  1. Hi Seim,

    I work in construction and looking to setup a very long term time lapse with a GoPro. Altogether about a year long duration. I do not have a power source in the location I would like to setup the GoPro. I have been looking for a power solution and it looks like you have found one! With the nomad 7 and guid 10 battery back how long have you gone? You mentioned months but how many? did you run into problems I should look out for?



    1. It is entirely dependent on weatherproofing and the light conditions. I have heard many stories of memory card failures as well, although have yet to experience that. I have ruined one GoPro from water getting in through the power cable. Also lens fogging is the devil. Usually happens with temperature changes during time lapse. With your goal of a year, I would try and build a better enclosure for the GoPro + Solar setup. One that would enable you to do without the stock GoPro housing. I’ve had wonderful success (4months) testing the solar capabilities indoors without a camera housing, and using only solar power from the Nomad hung up in a window. You may run into storage problems depending on the number of shots in the period of time. Sorry for taking so long to get back, I hope this has helped a bit.


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