By Gureni Lukwaro
Is it a video or not? Have you ever asked yourself that question when watching a time-lapse?
For some who are not familiar with time-lapse, it is a photographic technique of taking a sequence of frames at set intervals to record changes that take place slowly over time. For example a camera can be set to capture an image of a particular scene every five seconds. These still photos captured every five seconds can then be played, for example at 30 frames per second, which will make appear to be moving faster and hence the idea of lapsing.
If you have been following the American University of Sharjah (AUS) social media platforms, you may have seen few time-lapses, the most popular of them being the “AUS in Motion” time-lapse. These were done by Mostafa Ajjawi, a recent graduate of the university, while he was a student at AUS.
“I started photography in 2010 using my Nokia N95 camera. I started posting my photos on Facebook and other social media sites where people gave me a positive feedback. These feedbacks motivated me to buy a professional DSLR camera. I watched hundreds of tutorials on YouTube where I gained the technical expertise to use the camera properly and where I also learnt a lot of editing techniques using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. I specialize in landscapes, cityscapes, light painting, time-lapse and architecture specially the Islamic architecture. My main style in editing is the manual digital blending in Photoshop where I can end up with High Dynamic Range photos (HDR) that can show each and every single detail in the frame,” said Ajjawi, a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from American University of Sharjah in Fall 2014.
With his hard work and talent, it didn’t take long for Ajjawi to be noticed and rewarded according. In 2014 he won Sharjah Media Center’s ‘Sharjah Ramadan photo competition’; two of his photograph were selected by Emirates Photography Club EPyC to be part of their ‘The UAE Through EPyC Eyes’ exhibition; some of his works were selected by Sharjah Art Foundation to be part of ‘Vantage Point – 2’exhibition; he had two photos selected by Emirates Photography Society to be displayed in their ‘Sharjah … Identity and values’ exhibition; one of his AUS photos was selected to be displayed in a Union of Arab Photographers exhibition held in last month at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. His photos have also made it into the National Geographic Magazine twice in June and August 2014.
“Nowadays I am working extensively on producing time-lapse videos. I made two time-lapse projects before, each one took me three months shooting and editing. Producing a time-lapse video requires having patience and a really good experience in using a professional camera. The main thing that many people misunderstand is that time-lapse are videos. However, this is totally wrong because time-lapses mainly consist of still frames and not videos,” said Ajjawi.
Hajjawi, whose photos and time-lapses have graced AUS social media platforms on many occasions, insist that to make a good time-lapse, you have to have a good technique. For him, the process that he uses to produce a time-lapse is seven-steps process as follows:
1- Choosing a good composition for the time-lapse frame
2- Putting the camera on manual mode to have a constant exposure through the time-lapse
3- Choosing the correct interval between the frames which is different in each situation
4- Import the photos to Lightroom
5- Retouch the photos in Lightroom and synchronize the settings
6- Export the photos as a 25 frames per second slideshow
7- Retouch the final video using Adobe Premier Pro
“Some may be surprised as to what it takes to produce a short time-lapse. For example in the case of AUS in Motion time-lapse, each portion of the time-lapse consisted on average some 150 raw photos. So I captured more than 8300 raw photos for this project. The photos were retouched using Adobe Lightroom and exported as 25 frames-per-second 1080p video. I used Adobe Premier Pro later on to combine all of them together,” said Ajjawi. “It took me 15 minutes of shooting in each place except for three places where I stayed for one hour in each. The time interval between the shots differed slightly depending on the situation. And after I finished taking all the raw photos, it took me two weeks to edit them into a final format as can be seen.”
According to Ajjawi, time-lapses and good photography is not all about the kind of the camera you have. A good camera helps but he believes that there is more to photography than simply a good camera. “In my opinion, the main point that most photographers miss is that photography is not about owning a fancy camera which costs thousands of Dirhams. Yes, having a good camera helps you in taking better photos. However, I think that 70 per cent of having a really great photo depends on having a good frame composition, using the proper camera settings that are different in each situation, retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom and the idea or the message that the photo delivers.”
If you are an art enthusiast and want to horn your talent, please check the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah. The college offers a variety programs in architecture, interior design, visual communication, multimedia design and design management. These will prepare you in successful careers in architecture, interior design, town planning, graphic design, advertising, packaging design, illustration, animation, multimedia applications, computer simulations, video, heritage and culture management, exhibition design and publicity as well as general design consulting. The college also offers a minor in photography which gives student a broad knowledge of various areas of photography to make then world class photographers.