Scott Herder on Hyper lapse Photography
An interview with the self-taught photographer
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Scott Herder, a local photographer in Seoul, South Korea. We discuss his specialty, Hyper lapse photography. He discusses how he got started in doing Hyper-lapse, and gives us some valuable information based on his experiences. Including the process of setting up and planning the shoot to capturing the shots and finally post processing to arrive at a beautiful finished project.
Scott’s lapses have been of interest for a while now. Especially his new one which can be viewed below. He tracks his wife in a hyper-lapse through a traditional Korean village and even incorporates some drone shots. Check it out, you’ll love it as much as we do!
Interview with Scott
Hello Scott, Thanks for being with us here. First could you tell about how and why you got started in Hyper-Lapse photography?
“I got into this style of photography because I saw this awesome Hyper-Lapse video and thought it would be a unique and fun way to relive my journeys and to eventually propose to my now Fiancé.
I started gradually. First I just shot a time-lapse of some clouds. Eventually trying a sunset time-lapse referred to as a Holy-Grail shot. Once I felt comfortable with that it was time to make the camera move. My very first time ever doing this took 5 hours and a bottle of soju (Korean rice wine). It was a tough day for both Megan, and I.
I shot “A Day in Seoul”, a 3-minute hyper-lapse for my very first project and that is where I learned the beginning. It took me three months of shooting 4x a week of trial and error to figure out what I needed to be thinking of and what I could get away with. I shot that project with two goals in mind. One I wanted to remember my time in Korea, but I also wanted to get as good as I could as quickly as possible for my follow-up project where I would propose to Megan.
A turning point happened when I was shooting in Laos, my tripod broke in the middle of the shoot. So we shot it hand-held. Realizing I could do these shots without a tripod was a huge morality boost. It showed me I was finally figuring out what I needed to focus on to make sure they were silky smooth every time and knew exactly what I needed to do in the video editing to do them as quickly as possible.”
What work goes into planning and setting up for the Hyperlapse?
“The amount of work varies between each project I shoot and each type of technique I am trying to use. Some projects go a lot faster because they don’t need as much stabilization done to them.
For my mini instagram projects like the most recent project we typically come up with the game-plan right there on the spot. Time is a luxury and I don’t always get another chance to be in the same location. When we are in a spot we are thinking of three main things. The story I want to tell, the shots I need in order to do that, and then where the transitions will be and figuring out how to make them seem invisible.
Once that is thought through we begin to shoot.”
How long does the shooting usually take on location? And what effort goes into that?
“In regards to shooting the time it takes for each shot is different. For the mini-instagram version ones sometimes as quick as 30 as long as up to a few hours. If there are holy-grail sunrise or sunset shots they take at least two hours to shoot. If I could sit on a roof for an entire day I would have no problem trying to do some panoramic 24 hour shoots just for a shot. But I don’t always get access.
The biggest effort that goes into it is the scouting and planning. I probably spend just as much time planning it if not more to figure out where each shot is going, where I need to be and how to transition to the next shot.”
Featured in many of your lapses, you like to track a subject through a lot of your shoots! I never realized it was all in real time. That’s very impressive. Could you tell us a bit about your settings and how you’re able to capture that so smoothly?
“I love to track a moving person through the shoots. I like the idea of weaving through a city and the human element. Plus it also helps me transition from one shot to the next.
We figured we could do them in real time when someone told us that there were no tripods allowed.We tried it and it worked! Total win because I didn’t really like how the legs looked while moving before. This makes it seem a bit more natural.
For these shots normally like to have a wide lens. I either shoot with my tamron 16-300mm or 24-70mm lens on a cropped sensor and shoot as wide as possible and at the lowest possible f-stop. I shoot these shot in manual. The most important parts are making sure the auto white balance is turned to anything besides auto. I typically shoot them in cloudy. I’ll figure out where Megan will be and then focus on her back using autofocus and then switch it off before we begin the sequence. While shooting I’m trying to keep about an inch above her head and below her feet because I really like the effect of her legs moving like that.”
When you do your walks how often will you take shots? Let’s say for a minute of real time walking.
“I typically take a photo about every second during the walk, so if it was a minute about 60. I kinda count one one thousand in my head and take the photo in order to get consistent spacing.”
Now it’s one thing to be out on location doing the shoot, but we realize there’s a lot more work that’s involved in creating a decent lapse. Could you tell us a bit about your workflow and post-processing?
“The post-production is where all the magic happens. There are three things that need to happen. The images all need to be processed and color corrected. Then they need to be stabilized.
For color correction I use Lightroom and LRTimelapse to batch edit all the photos in a few simple clicks.
This process now takes me just 15 minutes, to edit all the photos per shot, but it takes the computer an additional hour to render it out. When I first started it took me hours. If you are familiar with Lightroom or Camera raw the process is very similar. You edit just a few photos and than LRTimelapse does the magic for you.
Once the photos are rendered into a video and color corrected it is time to start stabilizing the video. I’ve discovered over time that for each of the five shots I shoot there is a specific recipe for stabilizing them. For the tracking person type of shot, it is one of the quicker methods, so on average it takes me a minute to stabilize one-to-two seconds of these types of tracking shots. In this video there was roughly 13 seconds of tracking Megan. So I would estimate it took about 15 minutes to stabilize on the conservative side. When I began, it could take me hours or even days to figure out how to stabilize one shot.
The rest of the video was shot using a drone. It was my first time ever incorporating a drone and my first time ever really flying it so that took me a few attempts. But luckily the shots on a drone are stable so that’s a big time saver.”
When planning and executing the projects we know that many challenges present themselves. Could you tell us some of the challenges you face on your projects? In the past and/or even now?
“In the past the biggest problem was not knowing how to take a photo out of auto or understanding how my camera worked. I’d panic and make a mistake because I didn’t know which way to turn adjust the shutter speed or accidentally change my focal length in the middle of the shoot. Sometimes I’d forget to switch out of auto, or even worse, to charge my batteries and clean my gear.
Now the biggest problems I deal with are the people around me and problem solving. Oh and choosing the music.
Most people when they see me walking around shooting photo after photo in a straight line for what seems forever just stare at me expressionless or bump into me while they are walking. Figuring out how to weave through them is sometimes an issue. Luckily when it happens we can just walk it again.
The other big challenge I have is figuring out how to make what I envision in my head a reality. I am still relatively new to photography and film-making so I don’t know what I don’t know, I think that really hurts when it comes to figuring out how to make it look and feel exactly how I would like.
A perfect example of that is this. The limitless intro inspired me. There is this infinite zoom that was so cool. So I read about how the shot was done. They used 8 sets of 3 red cameras all at different focal lengths. I don’t have a budget like that, and only have one camera to work with. So I wrote down three ways I thought I could mimic this effect and tried them all one day. It took me a couple days of fiddling around until I could replicate it, but after you troubleshoot your way through the process the second time around is much faster.
The next biggest hurdle I am facing right now is continuing to grow the skill and up the creativity. I got the drone to add some fun shots to them but underestimated how difficult it would be to control it perfectly. Especially since I don’t want to cut off Megan’s head.”
Thank you Scott for joining us and letting us pick your brain about hyper-lapse photography and the process that you go through from the preparation of the project through until the project is finalized.
If Hyper-lapses are something that you’re interested in learning more about, you can buy Scott’s book, and additional packages including 1 on 1 time with Scott to help you learn and improve in your Hyper-lapse projects.
You can also chat with us more on the subject and with Scott down in the comment sections. If photography is passion of yours we hope that you will join us by subscribing to our blog as well. If you have an interesting story from some of your photography and would like to share it with us, we’d love to hear it! Please tell us all about it through our contact page.
More about Scott (interviewee): Scott is passionate about two things, photography and travel. He’s dedicated to helping photographers in their efforts to learn Hyper-Lapse on his site. When he’s not teaching photographers how to make silky smooth hyper-lapses he makes and shares them over on his travel blog bobo and chichi.