First 18 Hour, Almost Day-Length Time-Lapse Mission

Finally everything has come together, and what you can see below is the first footage of a day-length time lapse I shot a couple days ago, powered by a custom lead-acid battery setup that allowed me to shoot a gruelling 15 hours from pre-dawn to dusk! Here it is:

First (mostly) day-length HDRI sky dome

The weather took quite a while to come good enough for me to consider trying a day-length shoot, unfortunately this happened to be a Sunday (!), but its too rare an opportunity to pass up when it’s a) low wind, b) not too hot, c) somewhat cloudy and d) not going to rain!

The battery set-up that made this possible was put together with some help from a couple of on-line tutorials and some electronics know how from my dad – I suppose Hyperfocal is now a family business! The making-of for that battery set-up is coming soon.

The battery

In a nutshell, the battery is a deep cycle, lead acid battery, usually used in boats or RVs where a constant low current is drawn. This is perfect for long term camera usage, but it outputs 12V, so its hooked up to a DC to DC converter and transformed into what should be 7.5V, but actually measured 7.7V. The D800 battery reads only 7V, which is troubling because you don’t really want to feed in 10% over that voltage. However in testing we found that a fully charged D800 battery was actually outputting around 8.2V, so 7.7 should be quite safe. As the D800 battery lasted 4 hours at 1.8 amp hours, this 12 amp hour, 12V battery should last at least 10x that!

Day before, provisioning!

I’d be parked on the coast in a car park all day long, so there wouldn’t be any trips to the shops or going out for lunch. I’d be arriving before sunrise and leaving after sunset, so I packed food for an entire day + water + 2 laptops and an iPad to keep me amused. Most importantly, I brewed 4 coffees and poured them in a thermos.

Setting off

It takes about an hour to get to my shooting location, so I had to get up at 3:30am and head off at 4 to get there at 5. I’ve often been a late riser, so I’m more accustomed to going to bed at 3:30 than waking up at that time! I got another coffee from a service station on the way!

Rainy morning

It took quite a while for the sun to come out as it was fairly cloudy, so I started later than I’d planned, probably half an hour before sunrise. It rained on the way there too, so I had a rain cover/tarp ready… and it was needed… I had to cover and uncover the camera almost 10 times in a few hours which was infuriating.  So this certainly isn’t a full, complete morning to sunset time-lapse, as you can see in the video it skips where I have the camera covered.

Dry from mid-day

Finally the last shower passed and I probably got from around midday until 8pm. Wind was fairly low with a few gusts that scared me a little, and I’m now upgrading my tripod for sure – I couldn’t stand to lose 18 hours of work to some wind.

I was quickly bored and sore from using laptops and during the day I’d get out of the car and walk every hour or so. I think I got a short nap in at one point too!

Every hour or so I shot a manual white balance frame of the Spydercheckr and checked the lens to make sure no bugs were camping out on it.

8 hours later…

Somehow 17 hours had passed and I was almost done, the tripod and camera were still in the exact same position, I hadn’t kicked a tripod leg or bumped anything! Shame about the rain, but this should still be a very useful, almost day-length shoot. Most of the day featured really nice fluffy white clouds which should be useful in a lot of scenes.


I adjusted the ISO as the sun dipped down and that was it! Sitting in a car all day is pretty tiring and not heaps comfortable – luckily the location is quite nice, but I still hope to find something where I can leave the camera alone and go work while the camera shoots away.

Future day-lengthers

I’m thinking I’ll be purchasing another CF card and shooting at double speed, as I thought the cloud movement was incredibly fast. I’ve experimented with frame blending, but with fast moving clouds it can be problematic. I’ll continue to experiment with other plugins and so on, but shooting more frames will always look best. Also due to shooting at f11, I can’t quite get an hour before/after sunset/sunrise, so I’ll shoot at more like 1 HDR frame every minute, rather than every 90 seconds as I did this time.

Because these take such a massive effort to put together I think I’ll be only heading out on perfect days with low wind, zero rain chance, etc. I’m planning on releasing perhaps 1-3 full, day length skies to begin with then taking it from there. If demand for more is high then I’ll carry on!

Looking forward to bringing you the next (hopefully complete!) day-length time lapses.

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