As a photographer, my world revolves around the capture of a moment. A sliver of time.
This quote, by the master Dorothea Lange sums it up for me “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” This is the magic that a photograph possesses and never loses. It is a time machine.
I have never been entranced by the creative process of making a video, although I respect and admire the creativity and talent that goes into the making of them. Having said that, I have been fascinated with time-lapse for as long as I can remember. It’s technically a movie, but it is quite different since it is a series of these frozen moments strung together, ultimately compressing time. What is marvelous about time-lapse is that it allows us to see what we are unable to see naturally. If you’ve ever seen any of the BBC’s documentaries, “Earth”, “Secret Life of Plants”, or the PBS programs “Nova” and “Nature”, you’ve experienced this altered reality and it is riveting. Digital cameras have made time-lapse accessible. In the past, film was used for time-lapse and it was not an easy endeavor as it is in the digital era.
When creating a time-lapse, the hardest challenge for a photographer is to think about time itself. We know how to compose and expose but it is applied in a singular mode. Shooting time-lapse forces you to think past that instant you are so focused on capturing. It’s no longer look and take a shot, now it is look and think about what else exists in that scene you are looking at but are incapable of seeing. What is there that is moving so slowly that we are unable to naturally see.
Our world is filled with movement. Some fast and for these, the speed is apparent to us. It’s the slow “stuff” we miss. Like a seedling growing. The Milky Way crossing the sky as our planet rotates. Clouds forming and dissolving. Seasons shifting and changing the landscape and us.
The following time-lapse was photographed during a quest for a full moon rise over Boston. The moon appeared in what felt like a blink of an eye. The time-lapse however revealed the movement of the thick clouds that obscured the moon as well as the cars on Storrow Drive, the boats on the Charles River and the planes departing from Logan Airport.
The next time-lapse was shot on one of the very rare clear nights this past summer.
I’ve been creating time-lapses for quite a while now and have tried many tools for the task. In my opinion, LRTimelapse is the gold standard for assembling them. You can try the tool out for free and it will handle up to 400 images in this version. If you want to learn the best practices for creating time-lapse this book, Time-lapse Photography from Photo to Film is terrific, also by the author of LRTimelapse, Gunther Wegner.
Photographers have the perfect tool already in hand to create a time-lapse. If you have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, you are good to go! Smartphones can do time-lapse as well and are great way to get your toes wet. I encourage folks to give time-lapse a try.
Photographer beware, it is an addicting endeavor.
Visit my website for more time-lapse, upcoming workshops and presentations.