A Time Machine

25 June 2020 | Posted in Barry Yates , Rye Harbour
A Time Machine
Red Mason Bee at 1\2000th of a second

The natural rhythms of the seasons, of daylight and the tides have a big influence on us and wildlife.  Your perception of time can be strange - it goes slow if you are waiting for something, but passes so quickly if you are late!

(you can view these videos full screen if you click on the little [  ] symbol in bottom right corner of video)

What is time for wildlife? Some small animals live very short and frantic lives, but some plants grow slowly over many decades and habitats gradually change. It can be difficult to appreciate the fast and the slow worlds around us. If only we had a time machine…    But we do, it’s called a camera and it enables us to manipulate time in different ways:

Time Lapse – for speeding up time. 

Set up a camera in one place and, for example, take an images once every 3 minutes, then after 3 hours, join all those 60 images up and play at 15 frames per second (fps) for a 4 second video. Squashing time this way works well for flowers or changing views like an incoming tide or clouds or sunrises. Some cameras will do this within their menus, for others you may need a gadget called an intervalometer. Mobile phones can do it with an app, but you don’t really want to tie up your phone for hours.

Fixed Point Photography – for speeding up time a lot. 

Find a place you can return to monthly or annually, take a photo that you can repeat. After a few years you can put them side by side and compare. This can be done with any camera and is a useful tool to review habitat management.

New Saltmarsh habitat in 2012

Saltmarsh Fixed Point   2012 9485

New Saltmarsh habitat in 2017

Saltmarsh Fixed Point   2017 09742

New Saltmarsh habitat in 2020

Saltmarsh Fixed Point   2020 8822

High Frame Rate – for slowing time down.

Now this needs a special camera, one that will take 1,000 fps and play them back at 30 fps to slow time down 33 times. Some smartphones have a similar function. My camera also allows me to press the button and record the previous few seconds of frantic activity.

These techniques can reveal so much more about the world around us and help us to appreciate our perception of time a little bit more…

So you could use your Time Machine to experiment with time… but be warned, it can be addictive and take over your thoughts and office.

Lighting 133352

This is my set up for the opening flowers - it has to be controlled lighting and no wind. 

The Olympus TG5 is in time lapse mode and wakes up every 3 minutes for several hours.

Success is not guaranteed and it can be frustrating when a flower fails to open or a battery doesn't last!

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