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Time-lapse in the Tropics

Eric Rubens (@erubes1) became a photographer because of his love of travel. As a professional tennis player he had the opportunity to see much of the world and he wanted to capture and share his experiences. After quickly outgrowing the capabilities of his smartphone’s camera, he moved to a DSLR. But the DSLR didn’t hold his attention. In addition to being a former professional tennis player, Rubens was an engineer and his appreciation of technology led him to turn away from his Canon DSLR and to the Sony mirrorless system.

As part of the Sony Alpha Imaging Collective, Rubens recently had the opportunity to travel to the British Virgin Islands with a small group of fellow Collective members. In the unique tropical location he had the opportunity to see and photograph the islands in as many ways as his imagination could come up with. For Rubens, that included adding the 4th dimension of time.

Using the Sony α7R II as his daily workhorse, he carries an RX100 V to complement the interchangeable lens camera and with the PlayMemories Time-lapse app installed, it’s his favorite tool for creating time-bending, time-lapse videos. In the BVIs, Alpha Universe spoke with him about how he does it

Alpha Universe: What camera or cameras are you using to shoot time-lapse?

Eric Rubens: My work-horse camera is my Sony α7R II. That’s what I shoot photos with 100% of the time. I have the RX 100 V that I oftentimes use a second body. I like to set that camera up for time-lapse and I'll go off and have my main α7R II body to shoot other things. That really helps me multi-task and get to shoot all the things I want.

I've been doing that a lot lately with the camera’s time-lapse app which I got from the PlayMemories Camera App store. The app makes it super easy. It creates the full video file. I usually don't even need to do much work outside of sometimes editing the colors a little bit.

Alpha Universe: On this trip you’ve been doing a lot of sunrise and sunset time-lapses. What’s your general process?

Eric Rubens: Yeah, I did quite a few. Like I said, I've been using the PlayMemories Time-lapse app. I like it because it's very flexible. I can set my intervals easily. I can set how long I want it to be shooting and how long I want the finished time-lapse to be.

The biggest thing is the exposure tracking. Being able to set how sensitive the camera is to the changing light is a great feature for shooting a time-lapse around sunrise and sunset. For instance, transitioning from 45 minutes before sunset when it’s still quite light out, to after sunset when it starts to get pretty dark is difficult for a lot of time-lapse shooters. They have trouble dialing in the settings to get a decent exposure throughout the shoot. If you’re not using a Sony camera and you try to just set auto exposure, you can end up with weird-looking changes during the shoot. Or you can send up with exposure blips because the camera might not smoothly adjust the exposure. The Sony time-lapse app takes those difficulties away. It handles the exposure transitions really smoothly.

Being able to do all that with an app and have it all set up, makes it very easy. So what I've been doing is getting to a scene 30 to 45 minutes before the sunset, starting the time-lapse, and paying attention to how fast the scene is moving around me. If there are a bunch of waves rolling in I might set a shorter interval, but if there are very slow-moving clouds or if I’m just in a nice mountainous area, I might set a very long interval.

Just being cognizant to how quickly the scene is changing around me and being able to dial that in makes it a great tool. I just set up a tripod and have it work the time-lapse for me almost effortlessly. On this trip, for example, I set up a time-lapse to run all night long while I slept. I hooked it up to an external battery, and I let it just run for 8 hours as the stars moved across the sky.

Alpha Universe: What’s your number one tip for people who want to do sunrise and sunset time-lapses?

Eric Rubens: Make sure that you get everything set up well before you think you need. There's nothing worse than going right at sunset and starting it, and then realizing that once you got it all going, the best part that that you captured was only the first second or so. Get yourself set up before you think you need to and let the camera run maybe a little longer than you think you need to. That gives you the flexibility to make some adjustments in post-production in case you want to do things like change the speed in the final video. You just don't want to get there and start right at the beginning of the sunset and then turn the camera off right when you think sunset’s done. Give yourself more freedom when you go into post-production.

Follow Eric Rubens on Instagram @erubes1 
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