Taking the leap with a Milky Way time-lapse

A video can tell a very different story than a still image. Stitching together a whole series of still images creates a time-lapse.


I aligned the camera vertically to capture more stars and a higher Milky Way. I originally planned to light the foreground with the ISO cranked up, as there was no moonlight and only a little light pollution hitting the rocky peaks.

Although the foreground was far from perfect, I decided to do a time lapse as I wanted to enjoy the stars and providential did the foreground for the still for me. That I would stay

With one of over 350 frames created, light magically filtered through my scene. I only needed this one frame. The light turned out to be coming in the form of car headlights a little over half a mile away with the high beams on. Light spilled over the scene and Viola, a beautiful foreground was born for the still! Camera settings were 10 seconds, ISO 6400 at f/1.8, focused on the stars with a fisheye lens.

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processing for the video

Working with Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) makes it easy to process many images with the same settings. I selected over 350 images after reviewing and removing a few in Bridge.

After loading images into ACR, I applied settings that opened up shadows and improved color. When noise reduction is applied, foreground images appear a bit soft. With a time-lapse video, you can forgive that because of the movement. When I was done in ACR, I pressed the Finished button vs. opening the files.

Adobe Bridge

My files were returned to Bridge with instructions on how to open them in the included sidecar files. You’ll notice that sidecar files appear in the upper-right corner of thumbnails in Bridge. Selected images are processed in one go and saved in a folder with TIFF images and a folder with JPEG images.

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The TIFF files were used for further processing for the still image with Starry Landscape Stacker; see processing article here. Creation of the JPEG files used in the time-lapse. There are dedicated programs for time-lapse creation, but in this case I used QuickTime Player, which comes standard with Mac computers.

In QuickTime, go to File > Open Image Sequence. Navigate to the folder containing JPEGs. Select processing parameters. I used 24 frames per second and H-264. QuickTime then makes the movie.

screen flow

I loaded the movie into Screenflow screen capture program for further improvement. This is a vertical image with a horizontal time lapse. I mixed the still image and used it as the background for the video.

Originally designed as a screen capture program, Screenflow now does a wonderful job in the video world. It does a great job at that. Many improvements to add transitions, motion and soundtracks have been added over the years. I do a lot of my video production in Screenflow as it simplifies the complex work of assembling videos.

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Time lapse video. 24 FPS created with Photoshop, QuickTime Player and Screenflow. Music from bensound.com.


Sound is very important for a video. try this Watch the video with the sound on. Then watch it again with the system muted. It’s a completely different experience! There are music providers, some free, some chargeable and some mixed. I used bensound. They have royalty free music, some free and some paid. Music is shared to all video platforms as long as you pay or give credit for your video. You will notice there is a 5 second credit with bensound.com in the video.

Best regards for creative photography and time-lapse, Bob

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