Newfound Lake

UPDATE: January 6, 2010 – Download 1080p version of “One Week at Newfound Lake” at bottom of this page.

The winters in New Hampshire are brutal and many people die each year from exposure. They get lost hiking or their car breaks down on a lonely mountain road. I have been experiencing the raw power of mother nature in this neck of the woods working on a time lapse project of epic proportions (for me anyway…).

I am amazed at how fast the weather changes in New England. The old saying goes, “If you don’t like it, just wait a minute.” I wanted to see just how much the weather would change over the period of one week. So I found a safe place on Newfound Lake to set up a fixed position time lapse.

Newfound Lake
Newfound Lake
Newfound Lake
Newfound Lake

I set up the Canon 5dmk2 in Bridgewater, New Hampshire on December 24th at 6:59pm. I set the DSLR to snap a 21.1 MP full resolution .jpg still image every two minutes using a Canon remote timer (intervalometer). I used a super sweet Canon 24mm f1.4 mk2 L series lens and a 32GB CF memory card. The camera would shoot night and day from a Vinten Vision 3 tripod out a second story window in an empty summer lake house. I was able to plug the camera into an electrical plug and the temperature inside the home was kept just above freezing.

Newfound Lake

I was shooting through a double paned picture window facing due north towards the lake. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the lens right up to the window, the result of this was ugly reflections. This was obvious at the time, but I thought that if I shut off all the lights in the house, I would not need to wrap black fabric around the lens. The guy behind me in the reflection photo below is my buddy Dave. His family owns this house and they gave me permission to shoot the time lapse over Christmas and New Years.

Newfound Lake

Dave and I set up the time lapse quickly, we had beers to drink. The above photo shows the time lapse room with the lights on. I was almost certain that there wouldn’t be any reflections when we turned out all the lights, but I was wrong.

So I made a few mistakes, and I was going to try to fix them in post, but I thought that this blog might help you if you try this stuff. I left the stills and resulting time lapse video untreated. The process has been a learning experience for sure.

Newfound Lake
Newfound Lake

Another mistake I made was not covering the infrared LED on the front of the Canon 5dmk2. It reflected in the double paned glass back into the camera lens. I noticed these two red eyes in my test photographs as I set up, but I could not figure out where they were coming from. I though it would “just go away” and I really wanted another cold beer in a warmer location.

A few days later, driving 120 miles back to my house south of Boston, I figured out what was causing the red reflections. But it was too late, I had to work in the city the entire week. I would not get back up to New Hampshire until after the first of the year.

In my experimenting for my astro-timelapse project, I learned how to expose for day and night in a 24 hour time lapse. The secret was simple, drop the little dial at the top of the camera into AUTO (as indicated by the green square). This DSLR was not like any video camera I have ever used. Who would think that a camera could be left in auto and be able to expose stars at night and bright sunny conditions during the day? I was amazed at the results, and I did not use any ND or color correction filters. If you don’t own a Canon 5dmk2, get one.

I learned that the camera will take long exposures at night and real quick ones during the day set in AUTO dial mode. The 5dmk2 also seems to open and close the aperture and bring up the ISO levels automatically depending on light.

Newfound Lake

Not everything was automatic on the camera. I manually set the focus, taking a few test pictures on the first night. I had to pull back just a bit from infinity for the sharpest image. My lens markings at infinity is not true, so I always must check this. In the photo above, you can see the reflection of the doorway in the back of the room as I tested focus. I really wish I had wrapped the front of the lens with black fabric and taped the fabric to the window. Next time.

Newfound Lake

I also set the camera’s white balance to manual at 5600K. This daylight setting turns the moon bright orange at night. I really like this and sometimes it is hard to figure out what is day and what is night, other than the stars sliding around a setting moon..or is that the setting sun?

I got a phone call from Dave and he told me the lake had frozen over. I headed North to go skiing. I picked up the Canon 5dmk2 on January 5th 2010 at 3pm and looked forward to seeing the results. But the memory card had filled up and the last picture in the image sequence was snapped on January 1st at 5:38am. I was not happy when I learned this! Total shutter clicks: 6106 (totally full 32GB San Disk Extreme III card at 21.1 .jpg only resolution). I think it is time for a 64GB CF card!

Fortunately, I JUST managed to catch the lake freezing over before the card reached its limit. There is no exact science to the freeze up process. Wind and temperature play a big role, but no one really knows for sure when the lake will ice-in. I got lucky.


I want to thank Nancy, Jim, Dave and Ellen for their help and hospitality while I set up this camera to capture one week at Newfound Lake. You can watch the entire 6,000 plus digital still images in the video below. UPDATE: January 6, 2010: I fixed the red dots and added new sound to the video below.

Download 1080p Version of Newfound Lake Time Lapse

  Newfound Lake Timelapse (535.8 MiB, 1,148 hits)

This video is also on Vimeo. You can find it here: http://www.vimeo.com/8575000