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I'm heading to Darjeeling, West Bengal, India which is famous for Tiger Hill, known for the first sun rays falling directly on Kanchanjunga. The reflection creates a beautiful landscape. I'm looking forward to creating time-lapses of the same.

Currently, as it is the rainy season, I'm believing fog won't be much of an issue, through I am still confused over the correct camera settings for these shots.

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    Please list your camera model for an answer – A K Jun 17 '15 at 3:08
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First some notes about dynamic range.

Timelapses of sunrises or sunsets are tricky because of the huge dynamic range that you can capture. My (unscientific) tests showed me that capturing smooth gradients of the sky as well as details in the shadows would require a camera with 20 stops of dynamic range or more. This camera doesn't exist. But worse, your final video will have a displayed dynamic range of just 7 or 8 stops. You will like to compress as much input dynamic range as possible into the output, without having a flat or unnatural result. At some point you have to crush shadows for the sake of a good overall atmosphere.

These are my advises:

  • Do some tests beforehand, in shooting as well as color grading.
  • Try different gradings, like one prioritizing the sky, the other one the shadows. Which one looks best?
  • If you cannot do this on location (because it would require travel), capture some boring-looking landscape near your home. I know, it's a sacrifice. Every bystander will question your photographic abilities, because you chose that boring landscape.
  • Study the specifics of your final location. For example, the mountains might show some fog only with a specific weather condition. How will the shadows fall in the morning vs the evening?
  • Shoot raw or at least with a flat picture profile.
  • Do some math: How many frames would you like to capture? How many space is on your recording medium? How long does the battery last in potentially freezing cold conditions? Perhaps you have to skip the early or the late moments.
  • You may also find out that different timelapse speeds result in different moods. If your available recording/battery capacity makes it possible, shoot in a slightly higher frequency than intended. You can still speed up/slow down in post production. But having only 25 or 30 frames per second available is your hard limit of slowing down.

These all are complicated considerations, where one priority often compromises the other.

You know that setting the camera up with some parameters is easy. But a good timelapse depends on your experience with the limits that you will encounter.

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I live in a place where I get to see and film sunrises over the Cascade mountains, and I like to make timelapse movies of those sunrises. After a lot of experimentation I have found that setting the meter exposure down two notches really helps to capture the color. I set the aperture somewhere between F22 and F16 depending on the lense, the light and how wide of the shot. Then I set ISO and shutter speed on auto. This combination has given me some decent results. Of course you want the most sturdy tripod you can get.

At first I tried not using auto anything and just tried to keep up with the changing light. This did not work near as well as my current method and required a lot more attention. There was always a lot of shake in the shot sequences and the light adjustments were typically obvious (unlike with the auto settings). Light is changing so fast at sunrise that it really is hard to keep up with, the camera's computer does it much better and faster than I can -- but you have to be sure to set up the conditions so the computer is working to help you. That might take some trial and error before learning how your camera deals with this situation.

I am no pro, but I think the 'old keep it simple' axiom is always a good idea. My timelapse work has been looking a lot better since employing this method.

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Depending on your camera model, the actual steps to setting up time lapses will vary. But once you figure out how to do that from your camera manual, perhaps with a couple of practice sessions before you get to Tiger Hill would suffice. Most common requirements are of course a sturdy tripod and some protection from rain, if that's an issue. Fog is the real reason for shooting at Kanchanjunga, especially during sunrise. So rain or fog, you must do time lapse.

You will need to shoot 24 to 30 frames for each second of finished timelapse composite to be able to get a smooth movement of fog and clouds. Post back with your camera make, model, and lens you will use, then we can give more precise calculations.

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