Timelapse photography on a Raspberry Pi

Bought a ZeroView in order to make some time-lapse movies of my garden next year. I found the recommended client software was (inevitably) some Python thing, so I turned (inevitably) to Ruby

The default configuration assumes you're running it on a pair of Pis: a Zero with the camera attached, and an archive Pi elsewhere with a big external drive attached. But maybe your setup allows you to connect your external drive directly to the Zero. Or you might want to use your laptop for archiving. Whatever. You're a smart person, you can work it out

Installing it

First, you're going to want a recent Ruby on your Pi(s) (I'm currently on 2.4.2). I swear by rbenv these days, but I understand other methods are available. You'll also want a big SD card in the primary Pi, because you're going to be storing a lot of images

Oh, you'll also need to configure the camera (and actually have a camera attached, of course)


git clone
cd shedcam
bundle exec rake

Configuring it

You should fill in your latitude and longitude (you can get them from an Open Street Maps URL) for the Sunrise-Sunset API

The only other thing that's really worth tweaking is the time-lapse interval. The finest resolution available is 1 minute, because I'm using whenever for scheduling, which is just a fancy wrapper around cron


Once you've set that, on the primary Pi run

bundle exec rake schedule:shedcam

to update the crontab. It should now start taking photos (as long as you're within Astronomical Daylight at your location)...

And on the archive Pi

bundle exec rake schedule:archive

to activate the nightly rsync of the images

Running it (primary Pi only)

You'll want two terminals open, then

bundle exec rake run:sass
bundle exec rake run:app

and it should be running at http://address.of.your.pi:9292

Actually installing it (also primary Pi only)

To make it start at boot-time, run

bundle exec rake app:install

which will put the necessary systemd start-up scripts in place

Getting at the photos

It drops the photos into a directory called (by default) timelapse-images, with paths like


To pull them onto your archive server, you first need to share your ssh keys:

bundle exec rake ssh:send_keys

then pull the data across within

bundle exec rake data:sync

(this is what gets dropped into the crontab when you bundle exec rake schedule:archive )

Having run it for a few days in deepest December, it's been shooting for just about 12 hours, and laying down about 2 gigs of photos, per day. With my 64 gig SD card, I reckon I can hold about 3 weeks' worth of data at a time. A very back-of-a-fag-packet calculation tells me I'm going to capture about a Terabyte of data over a whole year though

Making a movie

Get the images somewhere you have ffmpeg installed (I can very much recommended not doing this on a Pi), then try some magic spells that I've found effective:

ffmpeg -pattern_type glob -i "*.jpg" -c:v libx264 -vf fps=25 -pix_fmt yuv420p movie.mp4

Next steps

  • raspistill (the camera-control program at the heart of this) seems to have a lot of options. Guess I should look into them
  • You could obviously reverse-proxy the webserver with nginx if you were so inclined
Shedcam on Github