Flashback Friday: Zipping Through Time

Setting up timelapse cameraCalifornia’s wet winter has recently brought floodplains to the fore of many water discussions in the state. On today’s Flashback Friday, we wanted to share our post on camera hacks for filming a restored floodplain in action on the Stanislaus River’s Honolulu Bar:

In our typical fashion of experimentation, we often enjoy trying new techniques to capture photos and video in the field. Time-lapse photography is a fun method that takes a normally slow occurrence, which would be uninteresting to watch in real time, and turns it into a fast-paced video. An event lasting hours, days, or even months can be squeezed into mere seconds. Time-lapse uses a camera with an internal or external timer to trigger taking photos at regular intervals. The photos are then rendered into a video playing the images at 24 or 30 frames per second.

We recently visited one of our restoration sites at Honolulu Bar on the Stanislaus River to set up a time-lapse camera. In the photo above, one of our technicians is hanging a power inverter on the tripod. The inverter is hooked up to as 12-volt car battery, and we can use it to plug in a GoPro camera. Since GoPro batteries only last about two hours, this setup allows us to run the camera for over a week on a fully charged car battery. We also tried some other creative angles, like placing cameras to capture a plant’s “view” of the floodplain.

Plant's eye view

We set up the cameras to record water inundating the restored floodplain as the river flow increased over a period of a day. We then reduced the photos taken at 1-minute intervals over the course of 12 hours (from sunrise to sunset) into 30 seconds of video. In this way, water creeping across land at inches per hour could become a more interesting part of our video featuring the habitat restoration project. We also deployed couple of time-lapse cameras to collect footage of salmon spawning in a gravel bar, and of a salmon carcass slowly decaying, so watch for more time-lapse videos in the near future.

To see how the floodplain timeplapse turned out, zip to 10:52 of our Honolulu Bar video below (or just watch the whole video while you’re at it!).