Time-Lapse Architectural Photography

This morning was cold. And windy. A great day for setting up my time-lapse rig.  Beginning Monday morning the rig will capture the construction of a massive new home – 8,000 square feet. But first the rig needed to be put in place, and field tested for a couple days to make sure all is well.

The contractor was responsible for providing me with a stable platform on which I could attach the time-lapse unit. While not very pretty, the support structure appears to be sturdy.

Time-Lapse rig mounted on the support structure.

Time-Lapse rig close-up

The rig is made by Harbortronics in Gig Harbor, WA.  The box is a weather tight fiberglass enclosure. On top of the box is a 5 watt solar cell. Inside the box is where all the magic comes together. The camera is a small Pentax DSLR, mounted on a tripod head. The solar cell feeds a solar charger, which in turn keeps the 11.1v lithium-ion battery charged. The battery can run for 2-3 months on a full charge, so an extended period of cloudy weather will not derail the whole process. The battery feeds a power converter, with one lead going to the camera, and another lead supplying power to the computer. This is a small, programmable, single purpose computer. Its sole job is to send a signal at the programmed time to trigger the shutter. And it works flawlessly. It is impervious to extreme heat or cold, and has no noticeable time drift. I have programmed the computer to fire the shutter every 15 minutes, 12 hours a day. Realistically I will use one shot per hour, and may reprogram it to every 30 minutes, just to keep the data load manageable. But I would rather have too much until I get a feel for the project.

I will monitor the camera every day for a few days to ensure everything is working fine. Once I am confident that the rig is functioning properly I will check on it every two weeks, swapping out the flash card and cleaning the glass. Obviously, in case of heavy storms, or God forbid more snow and ice, I’ll check it more frequently.

Capturing the data is just the beginning. I’ll walk through the processing in another post.

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