Chicago Blizzard 2011 – 20 Hour Timelapse – 2100 Photographs

I was home nursing a bad cold when the Chicago Blizzard of 2011 hit. It was one of those times when I knew there would be opportunities for incredible photography. But I also knew that heading out in the 50 mph frigid winds, even when healthy was asking for it, so I decided I would have to document the snOMG!, or Snowmageddon or whatever you wanted to call it from the warm indoors.

Chicago Blizzard 2011 – 20 Hour Timelapse from Billy Sheahan on Vimeo.

I picked a good wide lens and positioned my camera up against one of my West Loop studio windows facing northwest and covered it with black cloth to prevent any glass reflections. It was midnight by then and the snow had been falling for about nine hours already. I made a few test exposures to make sure I had enough shutter speed range for when the sun came up. I was shooting aperture priority and allowing the camera to figure out the shutter speed on its own.


I used OnOne Software’s DSLR Remote on my iPhone as an intervalometer to fire off an exposure every 30 seconds. My camera was also tethered to my MacBook Pro and fed the images directly into Adobe Lightroom where I could make any white balance and color correction tweaks as the changing color temperature from night to day and cloudy to sunny warranted.

All in all my camera made photographs for 20 hours, stopping only every five hours or so for a quick camera battery change. I very nearly shopped shooting after the snow stopped falling Wednesday afternoon, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Shortly after the storm passed through, the sky suddenly cleared up and turned into the mostly beautiful display of post-blizzard afterglow. It was gorgeous!

I exported the more than 2100 images into Final Cut Pro where I could take the giant nearly 6k pixel sized files and pan around the image area to make it more compelling than a locked off shot. I used some music loops to create a little score for the story, then let the computer render for a few hours… and there you have  it!

I hope you enjoy it!

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