Developing a Time Lapse Camera for Monitoring Sand Dunes

Student Author(s)

Kara Seymour

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Brian Bodenbender

Document Type


Event Date



The goal of this project is to develop a time lapse camera system to monitor short-term sand transportation in the sand dunes around Saugatuck, Michigan. A low-cost digital camera captures movement with time lapse still photographs which are then turned into a high speed movie. This lets us observe slow movement and gradual progressions and regressions. The ideal time frame is a single storm or wind event. Some past projects have used expensive equipment and have monitored short term as well as long term movement. Along with minimizing cost, we concentrated on decreasing the chances of theft by making the case as discreet as possible; decreasing site visits by using higher-capacity memory cards, and creating a battery that is compatible with the camera’s voltage yet still has a long lifespan. We use Canon powershot A495 digital cameras, 16GB memory cards, high capacity D-cell batteries, and waterproof camera/battery cases. We control the camera using a Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK) intervelometer script programmed into the camera. For the video software we use iMovie on Macs and Windows Live Essentials Movie Maker on a PC. In iMovie, we are able to zoom in on detailed portions of the video and in both programs we are able to cut short sections of detailed events out of the videos. The 16GB memory card gives us ample memory space for more than 1,000 pictures. The D-cell batteries we use can last as long as 19 hours when taking a picture every 16 seconds, which is the minimum time interval between images based on the camera’s speed at saving data to the memory card.

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