Aerial Long Term Time Lapse Photography

UAV aerial photography on it’s own offers a great new perspective of areas not easily seen before, but when combined with a series of photos taken over time the impact can be even greater.  The combination provides a means of showing the impact of various changes on a large area due to such things as environmental change, land development, building construction, public events, and even smaller changes that may go unnoticed when not compared directly over time.

We recently shot a local area here in Bedford Nova Scotia that was then impacted by serious flooding.  The comparison of the photos shows the scale of the impact over what any single photo could.

Bedford NS Oct 2014

Bedford NS Dec 2014

Bedford NS Oct 2014

Bedford NS Dec 2014

While such images of the same general area can go long way in expressing the sense of change, with some additional planning this can be taken to a further level in creating a more long period “time lapse” style of imagery.

Here are some tips on optimizing for this style of aerial shoot:

  • Pick a base spot within the area you want to shoot over time that you are confident you can get ongoing access to for takeoff and landing in order to position yourself for the series of shots.  As this may span a long timeframe it is important to have a location that can be used at each interval, or within close proximity.
  • Select and note the altitude of your shot so you can knowingly go to that same height each time.  This will require some sort of onboard altitude sensor and OSD to do reliably, such as the DJI iOSD Mini or similar.
  • Select one or more landmarks in the shot that are unlikely to change over time that can be used to reframe your shot each time.  Not the location and match it with each successive session.  Having a print on hand of the previous shots will help in matching the framing.
  • Note the camera and lens you use so that it can remain the same over each session to ensure the photo has the same perspective and FOV.
  • Trying and shoot at the same time of day, or with same relative sun position each time so the shots are lit similarly.
  • If possible wait for matching weather conditions across all shots for consistency.
  • The more outside elements that you can match (lighting, weather, etc) the more the photos will distract for the less critical elements and the viewer will be more drawn into the elements of change you are wanting to highlight.

The time lapse you choose to capture could be days, weeks, seasonal, or even years, all depending on what you’d like to document.

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