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Time-lapse photography captures art of preserving time

By Frank Tilley
Aug. 8, 2011 at 3:08 a.m.

At the halfway point, Ben Hasset and B.E. Hassett-Millrights, of Virginia, prepares to move another section of the gristmill.

Where is gristmill going?

After being restored, the Meiss Wind Gristmill move to South Texas Milling property in south Inez for tourism and education.

For more about the company, go to stxmilling.com.

We set out to document the dismantling and restoration of the historic gristmill in Memorial Park.

The work is about preserving time, so we decided to use time-lapse photography for the job.

I positioned a still camera in a fixed spot with a external timer programmed to fire the shutter every 15 seconds, for about one to two hours each day.

Although we anticipated the work might take several weeks, Ben Hassett and Al Anderson, of Virginia, managed to carefully document, dismantle and store the entire gristmill in just nine days.

I had my own challenge of learning how to quickly edit so many images, seeing how this was my first exposure to time-lapse photography. The trick was to estimate where to position the camera and how to frame the scene before the work even began.

Each day was a different experience with its own set of problems, but the greatest hurdle was the video timeline.

After spending hours painstakingly constructing several hundred frames, one at a time, I finally shed my pride and read the help files for shortcuts. It's amazing what you can learn by reading the instructions. Soon, I was onto a workflow that greatly enhanced my production time into manageable bits, editing up to 500 images at a time.

The last day of the project I slowly shot a series of images running the length of an 8- to 9-foot post.

Anderson asked if I found some termites because I was literally inches away from the wood, using a micro lens. It was a painful position to maintain, but after viewing that day's work, it was well worth the effort.

The project was so large that it crashed my computer three times during the final edit, but in the end it all worked out. Time-lapse photography is unique and satisfying. However, it will test your patience, so be ready to weather the storm.

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