With excitement and a sense of possibility I began my dawn hike. Step by squelchy step, across marshy moorland in Northumberland – England’s northernmost county. I was walking in a mythical land of giants. And yet, on this cold morning, their existence was not in doubt. Indeed, the giants warmly welcomed me in their BFG fashion of whooping and waving their arms around. Wind turbines tend to do that.
The challenge I had set myself was to make a wind turbine look like a dandelion seed head! An organic, fuzzy looking, ‘turbo dandelion’ set against a turbulent sky. (Should I drink less coffee?)
For this I needed a large set of digital images, which I would capture by interval shooting (time-lapse). In post, they would be stacked and blended into one image.
Scouting the location
While I had previously visited this location, I had not pinpointed the exact place from which I would shoot. So, with the sun rising in the southeast, I scouted the west side of the moor until I found a turbine set against moody clouds.
Gear and Camera Settings
To minimize weight and decisions, I took one compact system camera and a lens – a Fuji X-T1 & Fuji 16mm. My only other carry was a sturdy old Manfrotto tripod.
I chose to shoot JPEGs (Fine) to keep the image file size low – and thereby help my aging laptop to batch process 300 images relatively quickly. Three hundred RAW files would be too unwieldy.
I wanted to capture some motion blur in the turbine blades, to help achieve a soft dandelion head effect. With my camera set to ISO 200 (to minimize noise) and Aperture Priority, I selected an aperture of f/8. This resulted in a shutter speed of 1/160 – slow enough to allow motion blur and helpful in getting unshaken shots in the wind.
Switching to Manual, I locked in these settings, and manually focused on my main subject – vital steps to ensure the same exposure and focus across all images.
Interval Shooting (Time-Lapse) Settings
Within my camera’s menu I found Interval Shooting, then set the interval (i.e. the delay between each shot) to two seconds and number of times (i.e. the number of images required) to 300. Key considerations for these were avoiding camera shake and having enough images to help me achieve an organic, soft look to the rotation of the turbine blades.
To help ensure stability in the wind, I set my tripod low, legs splayed wide, I also used my body as a windshield, though with a cold easterly wind on my back, I quickly chilled. My feet were getting wet too – I had forgotten to bring my wellies! Thankfully, a warm beanie and fishing mittens preserved enough vital warmth to save the shoot.
From 300 to 1
Back at base camp (studio), I quaffed hot coffee and set my camera bag aside for an hour to acclimatize before removing the SD card, then loading and backing up my images.