Sequential Photography (Or, Let’s Take 42 Pictures Of The Same Scene)

As mentioned in the Rhode Island Photograph Tour, I took a RISD class called “Nature Lab”. One project was called Sequential Data Collection, where we would repeatedly visit a place throughout the semester to make an artistic recording. This could be a sketch or a painting or even a poem. I chose to photography, and the scene was on my townhouse balcony in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The balcony was about twelve feet in the air, overlooking the Pawtuxet River with tall trees on both banks. I thought it’d be nice watching the leaves slowly change color.

Forty-two pictures were taken, six days a week for seven weeks, one hour after sunrise. The first picture was September 21, the last was November 8. For each picture I would add a thick border with a time stamp showing when it was taken. Here are some highlights:

Another change was how quickly the leaves fell. On Halloween evening it was unseasonably warm, then around midnight a strong front moved through with gusty winds: (the jump in time is due to daylight saving time ending).

This is the scene on my balcony facing the other direction. This had nothing to do with the project but I thought the oak tree looked very colorful, especially from a recent rain:

After the final picture was taken on November 3 I wrote a program (in php) to crate a collage of all the images. The program sliced each image into forty-two narrow vertical strips, selected one strip from each image, and combined them all into one large image. So as you look from left to right in the image you are scanning both the scene and moving through time, from late September to early November. The result:

I was pretty happy with the results and so was the instructor. This was certainly a fun project, including writing the program. If this is something you’d like to try I have some tips:

  • You can take the pictures any time of day but I recommend a fix length from either sunrise or sunset, for consistent lighting. You can get the sunrise and sunset times for a year for any location from the U.S. Naval Observatory website.
  • A tripod is helpful for consistent location shooting. Cover with a tarp to keep the rain and snow off, and secure with duct tape to keep from being bumped.
  • Try to take daily pictures. The fits and starts of the changing seasons may surprise you as they did me, something that wouldn’t be noticeable with infrequent images.
  • The collage making program I used is here. It’s run from the command window with “php Collage-Forge.php (directory with your images)” and outputs “Final-Collage.jpeg”. You’ll want to use the syntax appropriate for your operating system and configuration of course. The program is in the public domain, feel free to modify and distribute as you see fit.

Happy photographing!