Shooting timelapse photography with the Panasonic GH4
As many of my clients know, I’ve been creating content for nearly thirty years, first as an advertising agency writer and later as a producer, director and editor. But I only recently began shooting my own video footage.
After years of working with production companies, commercial directors and DPs (directors of photography), I figured what’s the big deal—I had been observing this part of the job long enough. It was time to try doing it myself.
So I purchased a 4K video camera, some lenses and lens filters, and eagerly set out to begin learning a new skill.
Timelapse Photography Tutorials
There are a ton of tutorials online, so I started there. I found multiple examples of timelapse photography, and several how-to videos about shooting timelapse with the Panasonic GH4—my camera of choice.
The most informative tutorial I found was a YouTube video from Brad Scott Photography. He demonstrates step-by-step how he shot timelapse while visiting the Grand Canyon.
On the GH4, the timelapse photography functionality is built in—you can set the camera to shoot still photos every couple of seconds, then once that process is complete, turn those photos into a video file.
After watching this tutorial, I was ready to give it a try. Only one problem—Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating.
Great Timelapse Photography Requires a Good Subject
I have to admit, after getting that camera I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to start playing with my new toy and try my hand at shooting footage. Plus I needed footage for an upcoming project. Specifically, slo-mo footage of clouds and buildings. But for the first two or three weeks after getting my camera, I was out of luck.
Every single day, the weather in Atlanta was either overcast and rainy or clear and sunny—neither of which makes for great timelapse. The overcast days were gray, wet and miserable—not exactly what I was looking for. And surprisingly, the sunny days weren’t much better. The sky was clear blue in every direction. Not a single cloud in the sky.
I started checking the weather app on my phone, looking for transitions between sunny and cloudy days. And finally, my initiative paid off. A day that had started out with clear blue skies turned into a gorgeous afternoon with big, billowy clouds rolling across the horizon.
Around 3 p.m. I jumped in the car and started looking for the best vantage point.
At the end of the process, I turned around and saw the sun sinking lower on the horizon. I quickly swung the camera around and set up another timelapse, hoping for a good sunset. After a few minutes, I realized I should cut down the sun’s glare and added a polarizer filter.
By the end of the second timelapse shot, the sky had grown bright orange. The sun was starting to fade. So I crossed the street and set up yet another timelapse. This one had a faster interval—I wanted to get as much video as I could. The sky started turning pink, with purple clouds rolling by. It was a beautiful sight.
Low-light Shooting with the GH4
The light was fading fast, so I walked back to the bridge and set up one last shot—a timelapse of the traffic on I-75. No need to cut glare now, so I removed the polarizer. I also switched lenses to my Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95—its faster speed would perform better in low light. I also changed the camera settings to a much longer shutter speed—2 seconds.
That would give the moving traffic a blurred effect—the brake lights would form red streaks as they moved away from me, while the building lights would remain crisp and in-focus.
All in all, I was satisfied with the results—all of the timelapse shots turned out with the right exposure and ISO settings. I also learned from my mistakes—a few of the camera angles showed trucks and buses as they moved past. It was the best I could do from my sidewalk POV.
I got the shot I needed for my video project, and I’m looking forward to shooting more projects in the future. Hopefully I can incorporate timelapse shots into them as well.