James Paterson reveals how to shoot a series of images and combine
Overlay images for amazing skies
Imagine capturing a succession of passing moments within a single frame. Well, in this month’s Big Project we show you how to do just that, by creating an amazing ‘time stack’.
To do this we set up our camera just as we would for a time-lapse, so that it captured frames at regular intervals to record the movement of clouds. Typically a sequence like this would then be combined into a time-lapse video showing, say, the rising sun in a matter of seconds. But rather than do the usual thing, we’re going to try something a little bit different.
Taking inspiration from the great photography of time stack maestro Matt Molloy, we’re going to combine the lightest parts of our sequence of images into one incredible frame. It’s exactly the same method you would use to combine night-time star trail images, but when used on a sunset or sunrise instead it produces a painterly effect that, while unpredictable, can be very eye-catching.
We’ll start by showing you which camera settings and kit you need to shoot a time stack (or indeed a more conventional time-lapse). Once you’ve captured the sequence, we’ll then look at how to combine the lightest parts in Photoshop CS or CC using the Lighten Blend Mode.
With hundreds of shots to process, combining them manually would be a real chore, so to speed things up we’ll write an Action to automate the task. If you’d rather skip this, we’ve provided the finished Action among the project files, ready to try out on your own image sequence (it also works for blending star trail shots). But making Actions is a useful skill that comes in handy any time you want to speed up monotonous tasks. It’s easier than you might think and, once an action is set up, you can kick back while Photoshop does all the hard work for you.