Time-lapse movie setup

We’ve all seen time-lapse movies that seem to speed up the world around us. The effect is very compelling, making processes that normally occur at a rate too slow to perceive unfold before our eyes, such as the blooming of a flower.

I’m working on a time-lapse movie that captures the dynamics of weather and clouds, and the patterns of sunrise and sunset for an entire year. I need a setup to capture a large number of images. I need to collect these images without interrupting the image-capture process, and to access the system remotely. I want to do it on the cheap, without sacrificing quality.

Here’s the solution I came up with: I’m putting a dusty old PC back into service, installing Linux and gPhoto image capture software, and connecting it to my old 4-megapixel Canon A520 camera via USB. The camera will be mounted in an improvised (yet sturdy) outdoor enclosure. With this setup, the images can be continually captured directly to disk, around the clock, and I’m able to log in remotely to control the camera. I can also compile the images into movies on the same system.