Time lapse photography project

The intent behind this project is to allow exploration of how to produce time lapse videos with added sound tracks, but also to produce a series of time lapse videos of a back garden to show how it changed through the seasons of the year. This project also illustrates how a self-made system can be further developed with changes to both software and hardware to create more options, i.e. unlike a proprietary/bought system the digital maker has complete control over all aspects of their creation and isn't 'stuck with' whatever the manufacturer thought was needed.


Mk1 system deployed October 2015


Picam01 Installation

The Mk1 project development used a standard Raspberry Pi camera (ie NOT a infra-red version) attached to a Raspberry Pi2, with everything housed in a weatherproof enclosure that is mounted on the back of the house, as shown in the image of the left. The consequence of this camera choice, and the initial camera settings being used, is good quality colour images during daylight hours but all images taken at night are almost completely 'black'.


Backgarden Image 2016 07 01 1300 Each still image, as it is taken, is then processed using a standard linux utility to add a title to the image with location text and a date/timestamp - an example image is shown on the right.



Each processed image is then written out to a file on the Raspberry Pi's USB stick drive with a filename that also has the date/timestamp incorporated, and to a folder that is year and month specific. On a regular basis these images are downloaded from the RPi so that there is always at least one archive copy.

Individual still images were chosen as the capture method, rather than timelapse video since this gives more flexibility in what videos are subsequently produced - although considerable more post-processing is required.


The images below show further details of the initial Mk1 build where the 5V DC power supply and ethernet connections are routed from inside the house - conveniently the outside wall location chosen corresponded to the inside of a cupboard inside the house, so all the various power/ethernet supplies could be neatly hidden away.

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close up of weatherproof enclosure
with basic Raspberry Pi camera installed
on the outside wall of the house
inside view of enclosure showing
ethernet and power cables going
through the wall into the house
Raspberry Pi2 and camera fitted to
the lid with the power supply and
ethernet cables connected
close up of the Raspberry Pi and camera 


Various versions of the software that captures the still images every 5 minutes were 'evolved' during 2016 to improve its feature/function, including:

  • capturing additional large pixel size images every hour
  • attempts to get some sort of image during the night time period by using extremely long exposure times (up to 2 seconds)
  • adding custom EXIF meta data to the .jpg files


Mk2 system deployed April 2017

During April 2017 a Mk2 rebuild was undertaken to replace the simple non-IR camera so that better night time images could be captured. An IR-cut camera was used that had IR LEDs fitted to provide additional infra red illumination, and an additional light sensor arrangement (a light dependent resistor (LDR) and capacitor) was used to automatically toggle between normal and night time camera modes depending upon light level.

The existing weatherproof enclosure was adapted and the same Raspberry Pi used with further software development - the images below illustrate some of the early prototyping as well as the re-installation:


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new IR-cut camera and light sensor
with the power supply & ethernet cables connected
close up of the new completed assembly
with an improvised 'cowl' for better
weather protection
new completed unit in place on the back wall of the house


For the Mk2 build additional software development was carried out to allow the following:

  • a separate software script was implemented to run every 2 minutes to obtain a reading from the light sensor arrangement and the reading used to automatically toggle the IR-cut into normal day time or IR night time modes
  • a web server was also implemented so that real time video from the camera could be viewed which was automatically interrupted whenever a set of time lapse images are to be captured (as the camera can only be operated from one process at a time!).



Individual photography projects:


Different types of 'making' projects: