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Michael Ver Sprill (Milky Way Mike) Interview

Photo by Michael Ver Sprill

Today’s blog post is a bit different than usual – we’ve interviewed the truly outstanding timelapse photographer and Unleashed user, Michael Ver Sprill, also known as Milky Way Mike. In this blog post you’ll learn about his journey to becoming a photographer and his tips for the best timelapses, from planning to shooting.

Michael Ver Sprill Headhsot

Quickly introduce yourself: Name, where do you live, favorite photographer, what camera do you use, what kind of photography do you like?

First and foremost, I would like to say thank you for this opportunity and allowing me to test out this fantastic piece of gear that Foolography has developed. My name is Michael Ver Sprill and I currently reside in North Brunswick, New Jersey in the USA. I follow a lot of photographers and it’s extremely hard to pick a favorite. As a landscape photography lover, I guess I would have to say that Max Rive is up there on my list of favorites. A few months back I recently traded in my Nikon DSLRs for the Nikon mirrorless system. So my main camera for still photography is my Nikon Z7 and I like to use the Z6 for time lapse work. As I started my journey to grow as a photographer I had dabbled with photographing just about everything from weddings, real estate, products, baptisms, birthday parties, newborns and portraits. This was all great for learning and gaining experience, but I naturally gravitated towards landscape and nightscape photography, since I loved to travel to the great outdoors.

What got you into night photography, specifically shooting the milky way?

About 8 or 9 years ago, I remember seeing an article which featured a picture of a Milky Way that had been photographed from a beach in New Jersey. Growing up in this state we are surrounded by light pollution from New York City and Philadelphia so we’ve kind of forgotten how beautiful the night sky can get when it is really dark. I got inspired from that article to give Milky Way photography a shot and I got hooked ever since. This obsession led to me travelling cross-country for the first time in my life so I could get a glimpse of some truly amazing dark skies out west, as well as photographing the unique landscapes we have all across America.

<Milkyway Timelapse by Michael Ver Sprill

How do you go about planning your shoots? How long does it take? When do you make a decision to go out?

I like to use Instagram and Pinterest to get inspiration for new locations which I add to my bucket list of places to photograph. Then typically I’ll check google earth so I can examine that location and see if it will work well as a Milky Way location. I’ll also use the app Photopills which allows me to check dates and times for when the Milky Way will be visible in that location during a New Moon phase when the sky is the darkest. Planning this out can take a few minutes to a few hours depending how complex it is to get to the location. Making the decision to go out is the hardest because of the weather. When I go out west it typically has less humidity and is very dry, so clear skies are more frequent compared to where I live in a coastal state. So usually my eyes are glued to the weather channel waiting for clear or mostly clear nights to become available and that will dictate my decision to go out.

Photo by Michael Ver Sprill

What camera accessories are essential and what are nice add-ons (for every hobby photographer and night photographers)?

As a landscape and night photographer, a tripod and remote trigger is an essential part of gear that I need to make my photos possible. Typically I am taking photos during golden hour, blue hour and at night, so I need to keep the camera very still as I take long exposures with the help of a remote trigger like Unleashed. Great add-ons would be ND or Graduated filters which allow you to get creative with your long exposures especially during sunrises and sunsets. Another great add-on that comes in handy for me is a Nodal Slider which allows you to pivot from the camera’s lens instead of the camera’s base. This helps prevent parallax when doing panoramas both during the day and at night when doing Milky Way Panoramas.

How do you get the most out of your (night) long exposures? Any tips?

Since we often have to push our ISO when photographing at night, a process called stacking has become extremely helpful with long exposures and Milky Way photography. There are programs like Sequator (for PC) and Starry Landscape Stacker (for Apple) which help track the stars and stack your night photos which essentially reduces the noise by averaging the photos together. I have numerous tutorial videos on Youtube which explain this in more detail to help new night photographers. I also recommend a fast wide angle lens to allow you to gather in more light. One of my new favorite lenses is a 20mm 1.8 prime which is extremely sharp, gathers in a ton of light and perfectly wide for landscape or nightscape photography.

Photo by Michael Ver Sprill

What compositional tips do you have for making your timelapses more interesting?

I’ve found that the most important thing with time lapse photography is not necessarily the composition, but actually having elements that show movement. Typically cloudy sunrises and sunsets make for great time lapses. If the sky is clear, then maybe you want to show the movement of shadows drifting across a landscape. It’s all about showing the viewer the movement that happens during a span of time. Now typically when I set up a composition during a timelapse I usually follow the rule of thirds. I tend to keep ⅔ of the composition on the most interesting part of the scene that shows movement with ⅓ on the less interesting part. So for example with a Milky Way time lapse I will tend to keep ⅔ of the sky with ⅓ foreground.

Sunrise Timelapse by Michael Ver Sprill

What photography projects do you have in mind to do next?

I’m about to head up to Acadia National Park in Maine to capture a Milky Way photo from a location that I believe has not been done before. I’m hoping to document that trip in an upcoming vlog for people to see the behind the scenes footage and my editing process.

We’d like to thank Mike for sharing his insights with us and being part of our Foolography Ambassadors team. Be sure to check out his instagram and website to see more of his amazing work!

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How to Make a Timelapse With The Unleashed

Niagara Falls Sunset

One of the Unleashed’s greatest features is timelapse. In this article we want to introduce the concept of timelapses and how to create a timelapse with the Unleashed. Let us try to define the word timelapse in a few sentences:

“A timelapse is a sequence of photos taken over time. The photos are mostly taken at a certain frequency with a set interval time in between each photo. In the final result, the photo sequence is shown at a normal video frame rate (24-30 fps: frames per second), so time seems to move faster than usual, thus the word time lapse.”


Of course, you can also film something and then speed up the scene in post to have a similar effect. However, when creating a timelapse by taking interval shots, you have the freedom to choose the final frames per second rate. Additionally, you have every frame as a high quality photo so you can even create 8k time-lapse videos. And probably one of the biggest advantages – you don’t have to shoot an actual multi-hour long video with your camera.

To shoot a timelapse you can either take a photo every couple of seconds by hand (which we don’t recommend ;) ) or use an intervalometer. An intervalometer is basically a programmable camera trigger that takes the photos for you. There are different solutions out there serving this purpose, starting at under 100 EUR up to a couple of hundred Euros/Dollars. In the end, it depends on what you want to achieve.

With the intervalometer you can set the interval (after how many seconds the next photo should be taken) and how long you want to be shooting. As an example:

You want to take a timelapse of clouds passing by a mountain top. So you set up your camera with the intervalometer on a tripod and take a photo every 10 seconds for the next 3 hours. At the end you will have around 1080 photos. Combined in a video with a frame rate of 30 frames per seconds, you will have a video clip length of 36 seconds (1080/30 = 36). As you can see, there’s a little bit of math involved if you have a certain idea of how long the clip should be at the end.

Creating time lapses with the Unleashed

We think timelapses are fantastic things to capture and can add great value to your b-roll and videos. So we’re especially proud of the well-designed timelapse feature in the Unleashed. Apart from automatically showing you the expected clip length and amount of photos you will take (especially useful to see if your SD card still has enough space), the Unleashed app also gives you the option to do auto-ramped timelapses to capture day-to-night or night-to-day transitions where the camera settings change over time. This means you don’t have to manually adjust the exposure to match the changing light conditions. Check out our support video on the Holy Grail timelapse feature.

If you want to start with a simple timelapse, you can also check our FAQ and video on that feature. Nevertheless, we’d like to give a brief overview here, as well.

How-to

  1. When you open the app it is set to Photo mode. Click the 3 yellow lines in the bottom left corner to get to the menu and select Timelapse.
  2. The top area of the screen shows a summary of the camera’s current settings. You can change those settings by tapping on that area to see the detailed camera settings.
  3. In the center area you can set the interval i.e. in what frequency a photo should be taken, and the duration i.e. for how long the camera should take photos.
  4. Below that, the app calculates how many photos will be taken and what the expected clip length will be at 30 frames per second.
  5. In the top right corner of the screen, the app shows tips, warnings and errors. While you’ll be able to start a timelapse with tips and warnings, errors will grey out the start button. For example, the app will warn you when your SD card doesn’t have enough space for all the photos to be taken during the timelapse.
  6. To start, just tap the button at the bottom center. Once it’s started, the smartphone does not need to remain connected or in range for the Unleashed to finish the timelapse.

Once all photos are captured, you can either directly import them into a video editing software to create the video, give them a quick brush in lightroom, or get the most out of the timelapse by using a software like LRTimelapse to smooth the pictures transitions perfectly.

Feel free to share this blog post or comment below if you’ve found it helpful. Stay tuned as we’re going to give you more professional insights on timelapses with the help of one of our brand ambassadors and expert timelapse photographer.

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Canon EOS R/RP and others: DIY compatibility with the Unleashed

Canon EOS R

In the last year we’ve shipped out many Unleasheds to customers all over the world and the feedback has been great. At the same time, after receiving bug reports and feature wishes, we’ve implemented improvements and new features and have published many app and firmware updates.

Of course, we’ve also received quite a few requests regarding the compatibility of certain Canon cameras that are not (yet) on the compatibility list, most of all the Canon EOS R and the EOS RP. Another favorite is the 70D, and to make the list complete, the same goes for the 250D, 70D, 90D, 7D Mark II and the 1DX. Unfortunately for us, and for you, Canon decided to mix things up a little. These cameras either have a new USB-C socket or the arrangement of the USB and HDMI socket is different from all their other cameras. As a result, the Unleashed is indeed (physically) not compatible. All of these cameras are more or less unique in their socket arrangement, so we would have to develop and produce a new Unleashed model, for each of these camera models, which is obviously not feasible – at least at this point.

Using the Unleashed with adapters

The good news is that just because they wouldn’t fit the camera body directly, doesn’t stop the Unleashed from being compatible. In fact, the Unleashed and its firmware (and therefore all of its functionality) is absolutely compatible with these cameras! The only thing necessary are two adapters or extensions depending on the camera. Of course you’ll lose the beautiful design of the Unleashed, which normally seamlessly blends into the camera’s design. But if you’re after the feature-set and don’t mind the cables, this allows you to use the Unleashed and all its features.

Want to shoot a day to night “Holy Grail” time lapses with your fancy new EOS R? Geotagging with the 7D Mark II, Long Exposures with the 70D? Wirelessly start video recording with multiple 90D’s on tripods? Well, now you can! And of course all of those things work with any of the Canon EOS R, RP, 1DX, 7D Mark II, 90D, 70D and 250D.

For each Canon camera that is not yet officially compatible, we recommend using the Unleashed C1, since it has more space between its HDMI and USB plug than the Unleashed C2 does.

On all cameras, you’ll need a Mini-HMDI (HDMI Type C) extension, and depending on your camera, you’ll need the following USB adapter cables:

  • Canon EOS R, RP, R5, R6: Micro USB socket to USB C plug
  • Canon 1DX: Micro USB socket to Mini USB plug
  • Canon 7D MkII: Micro USB socket to Micro USB plug ( ie Micro USB extension)
  • Canon 90D: Micro USB socket to Micro USB plug ( ie Micro USB extension)
  • Canon 70D: Micro USB socket to Mini USB plug
  • Canon 250D: Micro USB socket to Micro USB plug ( ie Micro USB extension)

(Just for clarification: Socket=Female, Plug=Male)

If you already have an Unleashed C2 from another camera, you’ll need a cable with Mini USB socket (and the above camera-dependent plugs instead.

A mini HDMI extension is actually quite hard to find, however, there is a 90 degree adapter available that we found, and can confirm that works. It’s called: “Manhattan 353458”. The only Alternative we have found so far are so called “FPV HDMI cables”, but even here HDMI C Socket to HDMI C Plug are not commonly found.

Here’s what the Manhattan Adapter and a USB extension cable look like:

Manhattan Adapter on Canon

We know it’s not ideal and we would love to have a perfect Unleashed model for each camera! However, for now, we believe it’s definitely a solution/hack/work-around worth looking at. Of course, for some of the newer cameras, we’re also working on dedicated Unleasheds, so stay tuned for those! Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date!

Let us know in the comments what you camera you have and what you think.