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Time-lapse videos or time-lapse stills are endless fascinating

Time-lapse videos or time-lapse stills are endless fascinating

Time-lapse photography allows you to see the natural progression of time without living through that actual time. It is an artform.

It is a method of distorting the reality of time through recording still images at a very slow rate and playing them back at normal speed which gives the effect of rapid motion. It captures a series of moments. Buildings can be built and plants grow and die in minutes.


For those wanting an introduction to time lapse work, there is Time Lapse for Beginners and also Digital Photography School with comprehensive help and an example of a piece called The Roads Less Travelled by Ross Ching.

Incidentally an ad made by Ross Ching is also worth a look for his style, even though it’s not strictly time lapse.

Another good intro is from Photojojo: The Ultimate Guide to Time-Lapse Photography where they call the process, in effect, ‘time travel’, which it is really.

Now, there’re a few basic steps to take in creating a time-lapse film:

  1. Choose your subject.
  2. Figure everything out.
  3. Shoot your still photographs.
  4. Edit your photos in Photoshop (Optional).
  5. Assemble all your photos together into a video.
  6. Edit your video, add titles, music, and all that jazz.

They give an example of one done in Bryant Park which took 4385 frames, a shot every two hours, every day for a full year. Patience is the key as much as a skilful eye for images.

The history of time-lapse is covered at Creative Pro.

Some of the Best Around

Some of the most memorable sequences come from natural history and the world around us. The BBC Nature video collections offer some impressive sequences which are also educational about plant growth and animal behaviour.

Timothy Allen, photographer on Human Planet gives time lapse tutorials on BBC Earth and some helpful examples from his catalogue of work.

This next one is of a toddler in a push-chair time-lapse whizzing round a supermarket. It’s fun and reinforced how hard shopping can be with small children in tow.

Site-Eye are a UK company producing some amazing building images and specialise in long-term and short- term lapses and also 3D and HD.

Free Roaming Photography maintain a time-lapse video stock including weather, sunrise/sunset, mountains, the moon and are available for use for a fee. Many businesses now see the benefits of time-lapse in advertising and promotion.

There are also long-exposure still photos which merge moments of time into a single shot, and again have enormous potential as works of art or as visual advertising ingredients.

Wikimedia have pages of time-lapse clips.

One of the best from recent works is a creepy effects one by Jeff Frost. Other of his impressive work includes Modern Ruin: Black Hole based on idea that creation and destruction are the same thing.

On the Inside Looking Out (The Brain of Infinity) is Frost’s combination of time-lapse streetart and astrophotography.

War Paint for Trees is an experimental short film that ‘captures the transmutation of dead Joshua trees into works of art as a way to explore change and renewal.’ He did it for the Lincoln Motor Company and with its edge of surrealism is among my favourites.

If you can spare a few moments, time-lapse is worth having a look at.

Image: Chris Bartle