Testing the Syrp Genie for a Milky Way Timelapse

I got to test the Syrp Genie, Genie Mini, and my Carbon Fibre slider this week. Using the three, I was able to achieve a timelapse that had linear and panning motion.

I wanted the timelapse to show the transition from night to day. I had been researching on tools that would help me automate the exposure correction required for a timelapse that runs from dark to bright or vice versa. If you are wondering why – the settings for a timelapse when it is dark cannot be used when the light changes and becomes bright (or vice versa). Such a timelapse involving exposure changes is called the ‘Holy Grail’ timelapse. The right term for this kind of exposure change is ‘ramping’. You either ramp the ISO, Shutterspeed, Aperture or all three depending on the situation.

The best method to automate and achieve the holy grail technique is by using an app called qdslrdashboard. Unforunately, it is Android only, so I had to borrow a One Plus One phone to try it out.

So yes, I was able to make the Syrp Genie, Genie Mini and QDslrdashboard to work together. I almost did not get a chance to do the timelapse because of bad weather. Thankfully, the skies cleared up after 1 am and the stars showed up. It was not the darkest of nights and the skies were hazy after the rain.

I set up the genie, mini and the slider first. Once connected together, the Genie and Mini connect to the phone via bluetooth. The camera can connect to the phone via WiFi but I connected it via USB. I set the whole thing up for 4.5 hours. I realized later that this was a mistake. Why? Because:

  • Qdslrdashboard had a setting which determines the longest shutterspeed. It was set to 4 seconds. This prevented the app from increasing the shutter speed correctly once the night turned to day.
  • The slider and panning movement was controlled by the total duration of the timelapse. So by the end of 3.5 hours – when it had turned bright and I realised that the frames were overexposed, the slider had not reached the end of the track. So the end result does not show much of linear movement.
  • The interval between shots was set to 30 seconds. This interval was fine when the expsoure was 25 seconds at night. But as it got brighter and the exposure time decreased, the interval became a little too much. Not that it mattered – I was just getting impatient 🙂

Another challenge I faced for lens fog. I had to clean the front of the lens in between the timelapse which introduced some shake in the time lapse.

It took a bit of an effort to shoot mid-week at a remote location, staying up almost through the night. This is what it takes to learn something by doing. Here is the end result. The Milky Way is faint. But you can see it rise and disappear as the night turned into day. And a bunch of us running around with flashlights 🙂

Not many get to witness the movement of the Milky Way in the sky. Enjoy it here in the timelapse. More stuff to come when I get a chance to go out and shoot.

Dynamic Timelapses with a Syrp Genie

I like shooting timelapses. It compliments my love for landscape photography. Timelapses help me show how dynamic nature can be over a short period of time.

But shooting timelapses of nature is hard work. Adding motion – linear or panning – to a timelapses is not only more hard work, but even heavy on the pocket. I am learning the video side of things – which is what most timelapse equipment is based on – after I purchased the Syrp Genie.

Wait, who?

The Syrp Genie is a device that helps you pan your camera when mounted on a flat surface, or move your camera in a linear direction when mounted on a slider. It uses a rope and pulley system to move in a linear direction.  A slider is a track for the camera to move. The distance that the genie can travel is limited by the length of your slider or length of the rope that you have.

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I just got the Genie and tried out a panning timelapse. I don’t own a slider yet. Looking up sliders online is making me sweat – they are mighty expensive! Plus, sliders are not very portable. And in India, you need to travel long distances or hike for days, to shoot nature in its purest form.

Today, I tried out the Genie to capture a panning timelapse. It is easy to shoot a panning timelapse, because all you need is to mount the Genie on a tripod. The genie connects to the camera via a cable. It controls the panning movement, and triggers the camera as per your settings. Because the Genie is in control, the camera will not fire when the Genie is moving. You will not have blurry photos. This way, you can use the Genie to take timelapses of celestial objects at night. Something that I have been dying to do ever since I got into night scapes. I have tried static time lapses of the stars at night. Now, I want to take it one step further and add a panning or linear motion. For inspiration on the possibilities, check out this tutorial from Syrp.

Here is my first timelapse that I shot with the Syrp Genie, today:

Equipment used:

  • Syrp Genie with Photo Clam Gold ball head
  • Feisol 3441T Tripod
  • Canon 6D
  • Irix 15mm f2.4 lens

And oh! Found some interesting places to shoot the Milky Way today. Looking forward to next week.

A Group for Landscape Photographers

When I started photography, JJ Mehta Photograpy Forum (JJMPF) was a great place to hang out. Along with Bangalore Photography Forum (which is now extinct), JJMPF was where many of us used to post photos for critique.  After almost 10 years of interacting with members there, I finally met a few of them today. The meeting was planned on a Whatsapp group. We visited a beautiful lake off AH 48.  I had previously visited a hillock near the lake on Jan 31st for a super moon/lunar eclipse shoot (video here).

The idea of forming a Whatsapp group for nature and outdoor photographers occurred to me when a post of mine on JJMPF saw queries about locations to shoot around Bangalore. These days here in India, WhatsApp groups are where the action is, albeit mostly the spammy kind. Unfortunately many of the photography groups have too many members with various agendas. I wanted to create a group for only like minded photographers. Having visited numerous lakes and hillocks, I have a fair idea of places for landscape and nature photography within 100km from the city. So after the interactions on JJMPF, I created a WA group and added photographers with the intention of planning and going on shoots together.

Now, unlike regular photowalk groups, were a bunch of people get together and walk the lanes of Bangalore and shoot street photos, nature/landscape/outdoor photography is a different ballgame. For one, it involves heading out for shoots at unearthly hours (I was up by 3 am today). Since we go far away from the city, transport is something each person needs to have figured out. Lastly, it is difficult to shoot photos of nature when in a large group. Outings I have been on have always been in twos, threes or fours at the most.

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Today for the first time, I was part of a larger group. We first did some planning on Whatsapp using Google maps. After checking out the blue hour and golden hour timings, we met up on the highway after the Tumkur Road toll booth. We were 7 of us in two cars, coming from different parts of the city. After chai on the highway and quick introductions, we continued to our location, even overshooting a right turn and missing our intended route. After making a U turn, we were back on track and at our destination by 6 am.

It was a rather quiet and uneventful sunrise. I got to test the 6D which I have in mind as a second body (last week, I tested the 6D Mark II with my Irix 15mm f2.5 lens).  I used the A7rII for shooting a time lapse.

Here are two photos from today.

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Personally, I am quite pleased with the results from the 6D. I even got a chance to fly my Mavic. One of the photographers in the group was shooting with an IR modified camera.

Unfortunately, summer is almost here. The transition from night to day and vice versa will only get increasingly quicker. The skies will mostly be boring. The next three months are not going to be conducive for landscape photography. Our only option would be to shoot the night sky. Places such as the one we visited today are potential spots for future Milky Way shoots. Let’s see if forming a group is going to help in going on more such fruitful trips. Definitely safer to be at remote locations at odd hours when in a larger group!

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