Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Matt Molloy’s time stacking technique. He has taken an approach developed by starcircleacademy.com for long astro photography time lapses and reimagined it as an approach for clouds.
“my favorite is often what I call “time stacking”. This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create “stars trails” from timelapse sequences.”
Matt’s technique is described in a blog post published on 500px.com last year. Its a great read and provides some insight into this approach.
Tutorial: Time Stack:
Published by Alexandra Kim · March 7th 2014
Today I’d like to introduce the brilliant Matt Molloy, photography enthusiast and budding professional. He’s the author of those amazing impressionist inspired photos. So many people have asked how to do this technique, and he’s been gracious enough to share it here with us! Please enjoy this Time Stack Tutorial.
I’ve always been amazed by timelapse photography and the unique perspective of time it gives you. Once I got into photography, it was a natural direction for me to go. The more I explored timelapse photography, the more I realized how versatile it is. You can get so much out of a timelapse; an interesting video; the perfect shot (selected from several hundred photos of the same scene), enhanced details and distortion correction (often done in astrophotography); or removing elements from a scene (like cars or people). Last, but not least, my favorite is often what I call “time stacking”. This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create “stars trails” from timelapse sequences.
Here is an example of a “star trail” image I created from a series of 305 photos.
Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I’ve never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.
Here is my very first attempt at a daylight “timestack”.
Here’s what you need to make a “time stack” yourself:
A camera and an intervalometer (a device to make your camera take pictures repeatedly at a given interval). If you have a Canon camera, like I do, there’s a good chance that you can download free software called Magic Lantern that gives you lots of new features including an intervalometer built right into your camera. Perhaps there’s similar software for other brands of cameras, and if not, most cameras will be able to use a remote control that includes intervalometer function. Here’s a bunch of different remotes.
“My time stack photos are much like a modern version of impressionism. By combining multiple photos into one image, it shows how light and other elements change over time. This gives a unique sense of movement in an otherwise still image.”
According to Molloy’s biography his artistic pursuits are multidisciplinary; music, painting, drawing and experimental time-lapse photography. I think you can see the influence of the painter in his work .
I really his Power Plant (above). The blocks of colour remind me of the northern lights and that contrast against the silhouette of the power plant with a hint of snow and ice is striking. If you look at the cloud blocks close to the horizon the colour is rich with nice smooth shapes drawing your eye and as your eye travels up the staccato effect trails off to the edge.
This is my personal favourite in his current portfolio. In two dimensions Molloy has been able to capture a moment in time we have all experienced; boiling clouds before a summer storm.
There is real drama close to the horizon. Again this in this image our eye moves to the top edge where the clouds start to lose their form as they bleed off the page.
“The exposure I’ve received through 500px has been great. I didn’t expect the “time stacking” tutorial to get so much feedback, but I’m glad it did. It’s brought me lots of new followers and likely got me some sales, so the hard work payed off.”
What I find more interesting than the technique is its origins. Almost every photo impressionist I follow had a eureka moment; an idea spawned from something unrelated that compelled them to produce photo impressionistic images.
Molloy started his journey with time lapse time photography. The time tracking stacking technique has been used for years in astrophotography to produce star trails.
“Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I’ve never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.”
Its worth looking at the time lapse video Molloy produced to see the genius here. Time lapse compresses time into a few moments. Time stacking captures the moment by compressing time into a single frame. It’s an idea that I have struggled with for many years (see my artist’s statement for example).
I am always interested to know which images are an artist’s favourites. Molloy identified the following 3 and gave me his thoughts on why.
Its hard not to fall in love with Sunset Spectrum; big colour, big sky, classic pastoral scene. To me this one feels like a crossover between the best elements of an impressionist painting and a traditional one. The contrast in styles is great here as it is in his other examples. Molloy told me that “Sunset Spectrum” is one of his favorite time stacks because “it has so many different colours in the sky. I think the barn and the field are a nice anchor for the image.”
Icy Sunset has some of the elements I like in Power Plant but here the jagged ice is a rough reflection of the staccato clouds above. for that reason I think it is a powerful image.
According to Molloy “Icy Sunset is one of my favorite time stacks because it shows clouds that were moving in different directions, but the thing I like most is the crazy foreground. Every year the ice breaks up and it often gets piled up along the shore, it’s always an amazing sight to see.”
Crocheting Clouds (below) is an explosion of colour. In many ways it best captures my memories of late August twilight in Muskoka. For a real treat let your eye wander through the reflections in the water.
“Crocheting the Clouds ” was selected by Molloy as a favorites “because of the rich colours of the clouds. It’s nice that they were reflected in the water too. I think the texture of the clouds is interesting and their paths seem to radiate from the big tree, which leads the eye nicely.”