James Pater­son re­veals how to shoot a se­ries of im­ages and com­bine

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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.

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