this isn’t turning out like I’d hoped

October 8th, 2007 | Uncategorized


Here’s another nature movie, but it’s not finished yet. I’ve been shooting footage every day of a certain patch of trees, to show how the colors are changing. But it’s not very dramatic. I think to do it properly, I’d have to keep the camera locked in position and shoot at the precise same time each day. Plus find a way to keep the exposure the same. As it is now, the camera automatically adjusts to the changing light.

Oh well. I’ll show it to you again in a couple weeks when all the leaves are down and maybe it’ll seem more impressive.

48 Responses to “this isn’t turning out like I’d hoped”

  1. riotllama says:

    I went down the shore today. The water was wonderful. I can’t remember ever going down the shore this late. Alison, have you noticed any difference in when the leaves start changing in VT? or anyone anyplace else where there are seasons? I’ve been trying to keep track for the past couple years since I’m convinced a global warming caused apocalypse is on it’s way, but i never write anything down so every year around this time I think “weren’t the leaves already changed this time last year?”

    global input?

  2. Ellen O. says:

    I was in Oberlin last week for a GLBT conference, hoping to catch the leaves turning. With this unusual heat, the leaves seem to be three weeks behind at least.

    Still, way too hot here in N.J., with too many green leaves. Maybe global warming is directly or indirectly responsible — in any case, it can’t hurt to curb your car once a week.

  3. Kassie S. says:

    The leaves are about half turned in the southern Berkshires, with the other half still green…sometimes on the same tree. In two or three weeks the other half will be in color, and the first half will have fallen. In my experience, there is never a fully orchestrated color change here–is there in VT?

  4. kate says:

    thanks alison for trying to share that. one of my favorite memories of vermont is driving from dartmouth to middlebury on halloween night. I clearly remember that the leaves had done their thing about two weeks before and dropped the week before. on that night i remember it was foggy and dark driving through the green mountains and the trees looked like skeletons. i sort of got lost and had to ask directions from a man who looked like someone out of tam o’shanter (i was studying robert burns at the time) and who lived in this huge victorian lit up with pumpkins. it was all so spooky!

    now i live in the southwest and it’s still hotter than hades which is ridiculous for this time of year. some of my roses are blooming again but not near the number that usually occur with slightly cooler weather. no changing leaves at all which almost always happens by now with my maple tree. it’s odd and disconcerting.

    alison, is there a way to make the transitions in your film less jarring? i agree about doing it the same time of day and in the same place. i do miss vermont!

  5. pd says:

    About 25 years ago I remember driving down a dirt road near Warren, VT (right by Sugarbush airport) when *every* tree was bright yellow. All the same kind of tree. The next day the leaves started falling, but for a brief time it was magnificent.

  6. DSW says:

    It’s still pretty green here in London, looking out the window I can see yellowing on some trees, but it’s barely autumn. But I have seen some conkers so autumn is on its way, though it has been strangely mild recently…

  7. Josiah says:

    In the old days, by this time of year we would have had several weeks of cool weather, which would be interrupted about now by “Indian summer”. This year September was so warm that “Indian summer” isn’t any different.

  8. meg says:

    I can’t even plant my bulbs yet, since there hasn’t been a frost yet here in Burlington!

  9. Ian says:

    Global warming is definitely here. The Independent recently reported a temperature of 22 Celsius in the Arctic and that for the first time in recent history, ships have been able to sail the Northwest Passage without icebreakers. The ice is vastly reduced, so those of you who live on the coast might want to think about moving a little inland in the next ten years or so!

    We’ve had some very weird weather – spring bulbs have appeared in September/October, birds laying 3 sets of eggs instead of 2 (successfully). Spring is definitely getting earlier and earlier – we’ve got gardening and weather reports going back 250 years to prove it. This year the jet stream went North and the gulf stream went South so instead of summer we had a monsoon where we didn’t have a day without rain for about 6 weeks.

    Apparently the prediction is that all the fresh water melting from the Arctic slows down the gulf stream, moving it South, so Britain (roughly) gets the same weather as Newfoundland or Moscow and Spain becomes even more of a desert. I’m buying shares in ski-making equipment companies myself …

  10. advorunnermom says:

    I call it “global weirding,” since I can’t predict the effect, I just know things are different.

  11. Aunt Soozie says:

    DSW…”conkers”? What are they?
    Riotllama, yes, it’s some serious global warming weather we’re having here in south jersey…no doubt about it.
    The past few days have felt like summer. It’s bizarre.
    I believe my home will soon be beach front property…since I’m only about 50 miles from the current shoreline. When that happens you’re all welcome to come visit and go for a swim.
    Ellen O.,
    You’re here in Joizee, too? What exit? (I assume you’re up North?)

  12. judybusy says:

    Hey meg, I live in MN and have never waited til frost to plant my bulbs–I just planted mine this weekend, wearing a tank top and shorts because it was 80 degrees and muggy! So is there a reason to wait til the first frost? I would think it’s better to get them in by around October 10 so they have time to do some root-setting….

  13. Conkers???
    Are those chestnuts?

  14. Aunt Soozie says:

    I don’t want to encourage compulsive behaviors but maybe shooting at the same exact time of day would be good?
    Have you used a tripod and put some tape down so you remember where you were shooting from each time? It is weird how the color range, lighting and even focus seem to vary so much in the film you shot. Kind of the down side of our totally automatic point and shoot digital cameras. Sometimes they’re so good that they defeat what we’re going after.

    I still have my first camera, a fully manual Pentax K-1000. Nothing matches the quality of those photos. My digital camera pretty much sucks. Nothing is ever in sharp focus…like a vaseline lens effect. then again, I let my child use it so…that lens has been through some challenges. (picture me first calmly and then frantically saying…”Honey, move your hand over. See this? Don’t ever touch that part of the camera, right here, don’t touch that, there, no, move your fingers, look, right here, that little piece of glass, never touch that, okay, don’t touch it, don’t touch that, yeah, the piece that you’re touching, let me get a lens cloth, okay, there, that, never touch that again, okay?” …rinse and repeat)

  15. meg says:

    I think conkers are chestnuts or horse chestnuts, aren’t they?

    Waiting for after the first frost is better for spring flowering bulbs – otherwise they can start growing and then get blasted by winter, and not have enough energy left to put out a good spring flowering. “Once fall planted bulbs develop roots, they should not freeze.”

    700 bulbs sitting around my study, waiting….

  16. Silvio Soprani says:


    Things (i.e., the climate) are definitely different here in Baltimore. There are 5 maple trees where I work, and for the last 10 years or so I have watched them turn brilliant orange and red about this time, but this year, the leaves are turning brown and falling off the tree without even changing color, due to the terrible drought we have had in Maryland this year. There are cornfields all across Maryland with 5-ft high corn sitting brown and dead, unharvested, in the fields.

    We have had droughts other years, but I don’t ever remember these particular trees failing to turn brilliant colors before.
    Alison’s film made me feel nostalgic for my college days in Maine when we would go driving to Vermont to see the leaves.

    Regarding global warming, I went swimming in the Chesapeake Bay yesterday. The water was lovely.

    I went tubing in the Gunpowder River last weekend. The water was freezing!! Nonetheless, I can’t remember going swimming in October before.

  17. judybusy says:

    meg, thanks for the info. Wow, 700, huh? I am impressed! I bet it’s just beautiful!

  18. ksbel6 says:

    I can’t believe how quickly the climate has changed in Northeast Missouri! Just 17 years ago, when I started college, the local schools would miss at least one day for snow before Thanksgiving. Now I teach in those schools and we rarely miss a day at all, if we do, it is in Jan or Feb. Just crazy.

  19. Suz in HK says:

    If you want to know why the planet is doing wild things – come to China… where the pollution is so bad that a day like today (blue sky and visibility about a kilometre or two) is becoming an increasing rarity. All them cheap toys/goods with Made in China labels come at a high price… as for conkers – Wikipedia:

  20. *tania says:

    i read the subject line of the post as an existential statement… maybe it’s just the way i feel about autumn here in seattle. hey, email me if you want some shooting tips to make the video work better. i just did a similar project over the summer and learned a few things.

  21. aerAK says:

    I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the snow fell for the first time this weekend. I know I am in for it now – I won’t see the ground again till May – but the first snowfall is so gorgeous! We have tons of birch trees here, which I think are beautiful, even without their leaves. I find myself grateful to live in a place that still has a -real- winter.

    Oh, yeah, it’s supposed to be autumn. That comes in August.

  22. Ian says:

    OMG, conkers! A fab and butch memory from when I was a lad! There was always a race to get the best. The biggest never won. A shoelace was always better than string. I could never be the same as the other boys at football, rugby or cricket, but held my own (so to speak) at conkers. Happy memories indeed!

    There also used to be a Hallowe’en game to divine the future of your friendship. You’d put a chestnut for each person on a spade/shovel (metal of course) and put the shovel in the bonfire and whichever jumped/exploded first would be the person that broke up the friendship. If one burst into flame first then that’d be the person who started the argument.

    Advorunnermom, I really love the expression “global weirding” instead of warming. It just says it so much better!

  23. DSW says:

    Conkers are indeed chestnuts to Americans, but chestnuts in England refers to the ones you roast and eat. 🙂

  24. Ian says:

    That old chestnut, eh?

  25. Maia says:

    hey, aerAK: Very cool to see a Fbx voice on here! Is that “see” a voice, or see a “voice”? Hmm… anyway — Hello, there! Congratulations on the first snow of the season.

    I’m a Fairbanksan born and raised, now living in Chicago. I couldn’t believe it when my mom told me there was snow on the ground up there, because we were in the middle of an 88-degree heat wave this weekend! They had to cancel the marathon; people were dropping like flies.

    I remember autumn in interior AK… see the birch leaves turn yellow one day, and they start to fall the next. I do like having a slower slide into winter… although these recent dog days have left me panting! A little too much humidity for my arctic constitution.

    My partner’s family reports that Tulsa, OK is still green; the leaves should have turned already.

    I have a chestnut in the shape of a heart that I picked up a year ago. I keep it at my desk, because it fits perfectly in the cup of my palm. So smooth and solid. They really are beautiful objects…

  26. WordNerd says:

    Had to do a little research on the word “conkers” being a wordnerd and all. Love the etymology.

    And, as a former east coast gal, I really miss autumn. SoCA is great, but no conkers.

  27. Juliet says:

    The most magical conker experience is opening up the shell to find a perfect, silky, shining conker inside. The shine fades within an hour so you just have to find more…

    I saw a middle aged woman helping her son collect them on campus yesterday. They were marvelling at how many and beautiful they were and how clever they had been to go hunting on the exact right day. Then a squirrel shook the branches and sent a shower of them down on their heads.

    Gifts from the sky.

  28. Hayley says:

    I am not denying global warming at all…in fact it gives me nightmares to think about the forced evolution underway in polar areas; however, I find it fascinating to look at old almanacs or look at daily reports of all time highs and lows and think about what people were saying in 1957 or 1863 in the midst of some unusual or extreme weather. Not unlike history, in so many ways we humans haven’t changed a bit, propelled by some impending doom brought on by ourselves or blamed on the gods. Weird weather has been happening forever.

  29. Alex the Bold says:

    Ellen O., I don’t know what part of Jersey you’re in, but down here in Princeton, the leaves are turning.

    And Alison, yesterday I saw a turkey vulture across the street. I got about ten feet from it before it started to look vexed, so I didn’t go any closer. I didn’t have my camera with me, though.

    They’re so cute! You just want to pick on up and pet it. Except for the carrion eating and the cold, dead Cheneyesque look in its eyes.

  30. meg says:

    Judybusy, not to worry, your bulbs are most likely to be fine fine fine.

    And, Alex! “Except for the carrion eating and the cold, dead Cheneyesque look in its eyes.”

    beautifully put.

  31. g-lo says:

    Hi Alison and DTWOF readers,

    I don’t want to encourage OCD either but I have a bit of experience with animation and timelapse. The next time you take on this sort of project let me know in advance and I’ll give some personal tutorial.

    But meanwhile, in case anyone wants to know how to do this sort of thing here’s a step-by-step for the “automated” method (though the hands-on method will yield greater results it requires you to be home at the right time twice a day and we’d rather you were making comics or traveling around the world):

    1) Find a digital camera that you are committed to not using for the duration of your project. This camera needs to meet a few requirements (drivers for video feeds, tripod mount, acceptable resolution, external power supply and so forth).

    2) Find a computer that you are willing to connect to the above camera for the entirety of your project (for our purposes this computer is a Mac OSX computer, Windows folks are on their on own in the software department but should be able to synthesize the required stuff).

    3) Find a tripod you are willing to commit to not using for the entirety of the project.

    4) Mount the camera on the tripod.

    5) Point the camera at the scene you wish to time-lapse (that’s the technical term and I’ll use it again if I have to). WARNING: DO NOT point your camera anywhere near where the sun will shine directly into it. This will destroy your camera and I will feel bad but do nothing compensatory for you.

  32. g-lo says:

    6) Put some heavy stuff at the base of the tripod, heavy meaning something like sandbags. You don’t want this thing to move at all, ever. Movement sources include trucks driving by your shoot location, people stumbling into your shoot location, nuclear warfare, etc.

    7) Connect the camera to your computer with whatever interface is required (firewire or USB). AND TAPE DOWN THE CABLES… tripping on the cables ranks just below nuclear warfare in the movement item mentioned above.

    8) Load up a great bit of “frame-grabbing” software onto your computer. In this case, if you have a PPC-based Mac I recommend Framethief, my personal favorite. Otherwise, iStopMotion, my second best favorite.

    At this point, the basic setup is complete. Take a look around, make sure you can throw as wild a party you might throw during in the vicinity of your camera/tripod and computer and taped down cables as you dare. If you are unsure, apply more tape. I recommend lots of gaff tape in your favorite color.

    Before we continue, a small bit of theory.

    There are two aspects of lighting we need to consider when using the sun as the light source: Angle and Brightness.

    The sun throws down equal brightness twice per day, except for the moment when it throws down its absolute brightest, the hypothetical “High Noon,” which only happens one moment per day. The equal brightness moments are going to fan out symmetrically on either side of the “High Noon” moment until you reach “Daybreak” on one side and “Nightfall” on the other, temporally speaking (this is where a chart would be hand). For example, 6am may have the same light-meter reading as 6pm if our “High Noon” moment was 12 noon (as it might be on the equator). You can take two pictures each day with same brightness. So think of this when I use the word “brightness.”

    Then there’s the complication of Angle. In our example above 6am is going to throw shadow to west. And at 6pm it’s going shadows will be thrown east. Depending on where the camera is pointed this may or may not be a problem. Usually it’s a problem though. So if it’s a problem, you can really only take one picture a day. If you are shooting due North then angle will be less of a problem though (the shadows will still create a flickering, but at least they will be symmetrical and human eyes will eventually get used to the effect or else cause the brain connected to said eyes to have an epileptic fit). A few days of test shooting will let you know if it works out.

    So with the above theories in mind, start testing.

    9) Locate the historical records of sunrise/sunset for the location you are shooting during the time in which you conduct your test. These will tell you when nightfall and daybreak occur.

    10) Conduct a test-shoot where you shoot twice a day at equal increments from daybreak (shot 1 and subsequent odd-numbered shots) and also equal increments from nightfall (shot 2 and subsequent even-numbered shots). Shoot for at least four days or so (shoot instructions follow below in the actual shoot instructions–sorry for the out-context instruction).

    11) Review your footage and decide whether your Angle is acceptable for a twice/day shoot.

    Now your testing is complete. You know whether you can shoot once/day or twice/day. Why does this matter? Well luckily there’s some more theory here for us.

    Time to introduce “Frame Rate.” The images in moving-pictures move at different rates depending on the device/media we use. Film at a movie theater runs at 24 frames per second (fps). Television runs at 30fps (yes yes I know some purist is going to bring up the upper/lower issue and claim 60, or bring up the fact that sound takes up bandwidth and thus it’s really 29.97 but y’know we gotta draw the line somewhere). 30fps for TV in the USA and other NTSC countries (25fps for PAL and most European sets). Interwebs move at all manner of speeds ranging from 12fps to 90fps depending on the computer, download speed, etc. For the remainder of this ridiculous post I will assume we are shooting for TV quality: 30fps.

    So, and I bet you know where I’m going with this… if you can shoot twice/day then your movie can be twice as long. Shooting for a 30-day month, twice per day, you can generate two full seconds of glorious time-lapse photography. If your angle doesn’t permit that, then you only get a measly 1 second. Time for more work, we’re ready to shoot.

    Quick review: How many times per day are you shooting?

    12) Make sure you have a steady power supply to both your camera and computer.

    13) Calculate the moment that has the light you want to shoot in the morning. Prepare to be at your computer at that time on your first day of shooting.

    14) Enter 43,200 (12 hours) into Framethief’s Time Lapse panel “capture delay.” Also, make sure that the Max Frame number is set stupidly high so you don’t worry about missing a shot.

    16) When your morning moment arrives, click the start button in Framethief’s Time Lapse panel. Then go have fun all day.

    17) Let it run for a week or so.

    18) Eventually your “Shoot Moment” for brightness will shift due to the progression of the earth around the sun aka The Seasons, this will also change your angle and so on but don’t worry about the angle at this point unless you love math more than I do. Recalculate when your morning and shoot moments are and repeat steps 13-17.

    19) When you’ve captured all you need to see, heave a sigh of relief.

    20) Export from Framethief and treat the footage as you would any other movie.


    If your computer crashes or you lose power or something like that don’t worry. Framethief saves the pictures as they are taken. Just restart your computer, fire up Framethief, turn on your camera and continue from step 13.

    If your friends bump your camera in month 3 of a 6 month shoot don’t worry. Turn on Framethief’s Lightbox feature and realign your camera to the previous frame.

    That’s it for now. Sorry for the long post.

  33. g-lo says:

    man… triple post. Ah well.

    Cheater tips:

    You can apply some cross-fade between the images to help the drama. The slow cross-fade will make them more poignant.

    Add music that has a tempo aka BPM that is a multiple of the total time each image is on-screen. So if you hold a picture on-screen for 60 seconds, pick some music that is 60 or 120 BPM (also, 90 will work and 90 is fast enough to not be a dirge but also will avoid the classic march tempo of 120).

  34. Pam I says:

    That damn stand of birches again. I want a stand of birches, but my garden is about ten foot square and they would pull the house down. I just have to hang on for being dragged off by some bored millionairess and given a 100-acre weekend retreat to play in. She can stay here in sunny Tottenham during the week.

  35. g-lo says:

    A stand of birches doesn’t need much. They’re the bamboo of North America. I bet you could throw down at least one or two.

    Here’s something to get you started

  36. Aunt Soozie says:

    Are you going to post a link for us?? (to a time-lapse film that you have made)

  37. g-lo says:

    Sorry about that Sooz.

    And by the way, the K1000 is the tank of cameras. Your child can’t hurt it. I love mine and have stories to tell about it. Pulling it out around old-school shooters is like parking a Willy’s outside a WWII Naval convention.

    and for a fake timelapse here you go:

  38. Aunt Soozie says:

    Thanks g-lo. I enjoyed that film. Took me longer than I care to mention to realize how you did it..duh! I like the makeover too. You’re very handsome with your whole face showing!

  39. Birka says:

    Here in Norway it started to snow an hour ago. most of the leaves are on their way to the ground and it is cold.

    Way at the beginning of these commentaries someone mentioned to curb the car once a week… ONCE A WEEK??? I am sorry but that is not enough!!! And everyone knows it and no one takes it seriously.
    lets start at home: wash your clothes less, don`t use the dryer, shut the lights of, take the bike, walk, take linnen bags to the grocerystore, buy things that aren`t packed in plastik, use an extra shirt or sweater instead of turning the heat up, shower every other day (and wash at sink instead), and so on…and so on!

    It is not enough to just worry about global warming! I get so worked up just worrying, I have to do something so I can feel that hope is not totally gone.

  40. Ian says:

    It appears that global weirding affects global capitalism as well. My local Tesco (which we’re supposed to be boycotting and call the evil empire) had Christmas pudding and mince pies on sale before the end of August – that’s before the end of summer holidays! So weird.

  41. Pam I says:

    Thanks for the link g-lo. Saved for next year – first I have to persuade Them Upstairs that the increasingly- inappropriate Leylandii in the back yard has to go. There is one birch that grows to only about 20 feet and that’s the one/s to go in, one day. Joint garden owning can be a little tricky when one lot wants a playpark and the other a mini Sissinghurst.

    And yay for the K1000. Now my digital-fetish managers have ditched the darkrooms in the college where I teach, we’re reduced to sweet but useless digi compacts – try demonstrating depth of field on a machine with an effective angle of view of about ten degrees. I get out the K1000s to show them how a lens and shutter works and some of that does stick. But – grrrrrrr.

  42. Pam I says:

    I meant, ninety degrees angle, was thinking of focal lengths.

  43. Andrew B says:

    G-lo, you are truly a nerd. I am impressed. I’m confused about one thing, though. Your discussion of frame rate sounds like you’re trying to achieve the effect of full motion. (I don’t know what the correct term is, but you’re trying to create an impression of continuous movement, like animation.) Thus, two shots a day for thirty days gives two seconds of footage. But when you talk about including a slow cross fade between shots, it sounds like you’re talking about a montage or slide show. Did I miss something here? My impression was that Alison was trying to create a montage, not an effect of continuous motion. (So I would think she’d be better off using a still camera, but that’s another question.)

    Pam I, if you want birches you better enjoy picking up sticks. If there’s a breath of wind 50 miles away they drop a few twigs. And you’re being asked to teach photography on point-and-shoots? How about the computer science department? Do they have to teach programming using iPods? That’s just nuts.

    Now I’m going to get in my car and drive around looking at the beautiful fall foliage, which might not exist in 50 years due to global warming, due to greenhouse gases produced by people driving around in … oh, never mind.

  44. Ellen Orleans says:

    Hi Birka,

    Yup, once a week is not enough, but it’s a way to get people started without turning them off completely. Here in the states, many towns and suburbs are built around cars, public transportation is often weak, people are afraid to let their kids walk to school, and everyone seems cramped for time.

    Until companies and the goverment stop subsidizing gasoline and parking and until states stop focusing on highways instead of light rail and bus rapid transit, once a week is a good place for beginner to jump in. Once they get used to that, we will aim for more.

  45. Pam I says:

    AndrewB, it all went pearshaped when our top managers went on a jolly to China and saw rows of students happily (?) learning games design. Without consulting us the teachers, they decided that was just what was needed for our undereducated urban youth. Their vision is of just rooms full of computers, they glossed over the surprising fact that some means of input would be needed. Two years on we’re still trying to make it work. Compacts are fine for the first six weeks; we’re five weeks into this term now….

  46. Birka says:

    Ellen Orleans: you`re absolutely right. Still, parking your car is not the only possible thing to do. And I find that thinking about what “I” am able to do just right now, just me, without letting me be swamped by all the things I SHOULD do, I can achieve a lot. And it doesn`t leave me totally paralized.
    When I look outside right now while the sun peeks through the clouds on a cold clear day I get tears in my eyes, our home Earth is so beautifull.

  47. g-lo says:

    Yep. I’m a nrrd’s nrrd. Was describing a time-lapse animation process that would mimic film/broadcast framerates (ala pretty pictures of flowers blossoming).

    The crossfades are a way to jimmy a few more seconds out of it. And for a straight ahead montage using a still camera is really great, fade between the images and presto-chango: fun images. A person could even (I can’t believe I’m saying this) use the “Ken Burns” effect in iPhoto. Mostly, it’s best to just have fun.

    Thanks for the compliment. I’m always amazed when people don’t immediately realize how that clip was made, so don’t feel bad. People want to believe, after all.

  48. advorunnermom says:

    Ian: YES! global weirding and capitalism: was hearing on the radio yesterday that warmer temperatures here in the states have caused people to fail to spend as much money as last year on fall clothing, leaving retailers with no choice but to try to sell the fall merch at deep discounts in a hurry so that there’s room for winter merch at full price. there’s so much that’s wrong with that business model my head will explode if I think about it for one more second…