HOW TO TAKE SHARP TIMELAPSES DURING A WINDY DAY
By Emeric Le Bars – January 4th 2022
If there is something that I hate when capturing my timelapse videos, it is definitely the wind and wind gusts. Wind gusts come usually very unexpectedly and can shake your entire setup. But sometimes, even if you have a strong tripod and sturdy ball head, you still end up with blurry frames on your timelapse, which is really frustrating and can take a lot of time to clean in post-production.
Back in February 2020, I was shooting an amazing timelapse of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline, and even though I applied every single secret I know, I ended up with dozens of blurry photos that took me hours to clean on After Effects.
But no need to worry, today, I am going to share with you a few tips on how you can reduce the risk of having blurry images while shooting during a windy day.
You cannot control the weather (that would be amazing though), but you can control the way you setup your camera, lens and tripod.
Tip #1: Set up your tripod lower than usual
Having your entire setup lower than usual, will reduce the risk of having blurry images on your final timelapse. The higher your tripod is, the less sturdy it is. Shooting closer to the ground will help a lot since the legs of your tripods are thicker than when it’s fully open! The wind speed is also slightly slower near the ground. If you can, use a bush, a wall or a car to protect your tripod from the wind. I know it’s usually not an option, but if you can, utilize it.
Tip #2: Use a lens support
Lens supports are amazing! Originally created for telephoto lenses, lens support can be used for any types of cameras and lenses, even if you have a battery grip.
One day, while capturing timelapses during windy conditions, I was trying to understand the reason why I always end up with blurry images, even though my entire setup seems to be pretty sturdy.
The tripod was not moving, the camera was not moving, so what could it be?
After examining my setup while shooting the timelapse, I realized that the lens was actually slowly vibrating during strong wind gusts. All my blurry frames were coming from that tiny lens shake happening while my camera was taking the photo.
Using a lens support will remove this issue and helps a lot during a windy session since the far end of the lens is now stabilized. I now use them all the time, even when it’s not windy.
Tip #3: Shoot with a faster shutter speed
When capturing a day to night timelapse, I always start changing the shutter speed first, then the aperture and then the ISO last. But when there is a strong wind or shooting with a shaky ground, I will always start by changing the aperture and the ISO first in order to keep the fastest shutter speed possible
And I will not hesitate to use higher than usual ISO settings during the night, such as 1600 or 2000, in order to keep a fast shutter speed. Faster shutter means sharper images, even if the camera moves a little bit. It’s easier to stabilize the timelapse than removing a blurry frame.
Tip #4: Try blocking the wind with your body
Let me tell you a quick story. Once upon a time, I was shooting a timelapse in Downtown Los Angeles near the 110 Freeway, one of those classic spots. I was located in what we call an Urban Canyon, where there are buildings on both sides and create like a canyon for the wind.
The wind is always stronger in that area since it’s affected by the giant constructions on both sides. And obviously, I was right in the middle of it shooting my timelapse. The wind was so strong that I sometimes had trouble keeping my own balance.
But there was one good news, it was coming from behind me, which made it super easy to cover my camera using my own body. And for a good 2 hours, I stood there, while stepping in an old chewing-gum on the sidewalk, pushed by wind gusts every 2 minutes, trying to protect my camera as much as I could.
Well, it paid off! I kid you not, I ended up with not a single blurry frame, yet the wind was stronger than anything I experienced before. My body was a good protection against the wind. Here is the timelapse I shot that day. You can clearly see how strong the wind was with those palm trees.
Tip #5: Use weights on top of the camera
Once in while, using a weight on top of your camera and lens will be a great tool against the wind. This works very well with telephoto lenses.
The more you zoom in, the less movement you need before getting a blurry photo. Having a half-full sand bag on top of your setup is usually a great way to protect your timelapse against the elements. I see myself using this technique as soon as I shoot above 300mm. Even the smallest wind gust will be visible at 300+mm, so better be safe than sorry and use it all the time!
Timelapse Photography is probably the hardest form of photography possible out there. You are supposed to take hundreds or thousands of sharp images, while constantly adjusting your camera settings for the weather and conditions around you. You need to keep your entire setup steady for sometimes hours and hours at a time.
And whatever you like to capture, cityscapes or landscapes, you will always come across bad weather at some point, such as wind. So next time you are going out shooting, remember those few tips to avoid going home with too many blurry frames on your timelapse sequence.
If you want to learn how to clean blurry frames though, check out my favorite online class “Advanced Cleaning for Timelapse Photography” available here.
- Top 10 Best US Cities to timelapse, and the reason why
- RAW vs JPG: What is best for timelapse photography?
- How to create professional timelapse videos in 2022
Emeric Le Bars is a French, now Los Angeles based, motion timelapse and hyperlapse photographer working in the industry since 2011.