Running through life at a frantic pace, living in the ‘now’, we often remain ignorant of those natural phenomena that take place over longer time scales (especially with the majority of our lives now also spent indoors). “The wheels of the cosmos turn too slowly for humans to watch”, says José Francisco Salgado in the trailer to his upcoming feature Sidereal Motion. “Until now.” With the advent of digital cameras, the art of time-lapse photography has risen to new heights.
Through the lens of these artists we can see what the world might look like to a consciousness that perceives things over long time-scales: vehicles and people swarming like ants or insects (perhaps no better example than in the beautiful video “Hajj: A Journey of Purity“), clouds that move like oceans and rivers, and the billions of fixed stars in deep space that sweep into view as our planet revolves throughout the night, a real-life Total Perspective Vortex.
Here’s ten* exquisite time-lapse videos that have made my jaw drop to the floor, listed in no particular order. Make sure you select the HD and full-screen options if possible! For more information on the videos and artists who created them – including equipment used, locations, and licensing queries – visit the linked titles.
A stunning time-lapse video from Terje Sorgjerd, filmed around Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide – one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars, and the home of Teide Observatories. The shots of the Milky Way are breath-taking…indeed, if you break out of the ‘twinkling lights in the sky rotating over the Earth’ perspective, and instead grasp your viewing position as it really is – on a spinning globe, watching billions of fixed suns in the virtually unending depths of the cosmos sweep into view – the opening sequences to this video can pretty much bring a tear to your eye (well, at least they do for me).
The celestial viewing delights in this time-lapse are also at times framed by an Earthly phenomenon:
A large sandstorm hit the Sahara Desert on the 9th April and at approx 3am in the night the sandstorm hit me, making it nearly impossible to see the sky with my own eyes.
Interestingly enough my camera was set for a 5 hour sequence of the milky way during this time and I was sure my whole scene was ruined. To my surprise, my camera had managed to capture the sandstorm which was backlit by Grand Canary Island making it look like golden clouds. The Milky Way was shining through the clouds, making the stars sparkle in an interesting way. So if you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32.
Six months and 50,000 images in the making, Ole Christian Salomsen’s timelapse video of the Aurora Borealis (‘The Northern Lights’) is exquisitely beautiful. The time-scales aren’t as stretched as in many time-lapse videos, in order to preserve the real-time speed of the aurorae as much as possible, “instead of the northern lights just flashing over the sky in the blink of an eye”:
One can only wonder what ancient people made of this spectacular atmospheric phenomenon, in which spirits seem to rise from mountains and dance across the sky.
When Eyjafjallajökull erupted last year and threw European travel into chaos, Sean Stiegemeier thought the obvious thing to do was…travel. “I saw all of these mediocre pictures of that volcano in Iceland nobody can pronounce the name of, so I figured I should go and do better,” Stiegemeier said. Four days of travel chaos, followed by four days of bad weather, left him just a day and half of filming. I can’t imagine what he would have got with the full 10 days.
Make sure you also check out Stiegemeier’s initial ‘test’ reel, which is as good as any other timelapse you’re likely to see.
Philip Bloom’s time-lapse framing of Las Vegas brings out the two sides of Sin City, which are – quite literally – day and night. “I wanted to create a sense of colour and insanity that Las Vegas gives you”, says Bloom. And, amazingly, he did the entire thing all from one single viewpoint – his balcony. Watching people, cars and planes zipping about the Las Vegas ‘hive’, one can only imagine some greater, long-lived consciousness would see us only as ants or other bugs, flitting about with what seems – on this time-scale – little purpose or significance.
And if the video isn’t attractive enough already, it’s set to Clint Mansell’s wonderful Moon score. Ear and eye candy, all in the same take-home lolly bag:
Shot in Dakota at the tail-end of winter, “Sub Zero” is appropriately named – Randy Halverson spent most nights filming in sub zero temperatures, with around -25F wind chill. Being February, the constellation Orion makes numerous appearances in the sky – how many times do you see it? Update: See Randy’s latest videos, Plains Milky Way and Tempest Milky Way.
If you want to get a feel for the ‘fluid’ nature of clouds, make sure you check out this wonderful time-lapse presentation by Daniel López. Like tidal oceans, waves of clouds roll in and out, and pour downhill like a tipped bucket in one sequence (see 2:50 to 3:15 for the most spectacular. Add to that some stationary lenticular (“UFO”) clouds, a solar corona, and heck, even a “double-rainbow”, and you just know you have to check this one out.
When I traveled to the United Kingdom some 12 years ago, one of my favourite experiences was visiting megalithic sites – from Stonehenge through to small, barely-known arrangements in farmer’s fields. The atmosphere of these places is heavy with a sense of time. Here’s a wonderful time-lapse video that gives you the feel of these sacred sites; the realisation that the Earth has spun countless times, and all sorts of biological creatures have come and gone, while these stones have sat there as mute witnesses. “Lapse of Memory” assembles more than 70,000 panoramic high-dynamic range images into a one-of-a-kind viewing experience:
Tom Lowe won the Royal Observatory’s 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year award, and this clip will show you why. Filmed under August skies in California’s White Mountains and Yosemite, “Mountain Light” is just one part of a longer feature called Timescapes (see other spectacular films from the production timeline at the link).
Some of the wonderful moments from this video include a rain storm that hangs to the ground like tendrils from some cloud creature, and the inquisitive radio telescopes flitting about, contemplating the mysteries of the far-away universe. Brilliant.
While filming time-lapse indoors doesn’t give many of the same time effects as some of the outdoor videos featured above, in this particular case Patryk Kizny’s use of the technique – along with HDR photography – helps bring a timeless, otherworldy perspective. Which works very well when combined with the setting of an abandoned temple in Zeliszów, Poland, designed by Carl Langhans and built in the late 1700s:
Another stunning time-lapse video from Terje Sorgjerd, the man who gave us “The Mountain”. Shot in and around Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia over the space of a week, in temperatures well below freezing, Sorgjerd’s jaw-dropping sequences capture one of the most spectacular appearances of the Northern Lights in recent years:
Okay, so that makes eleven – I just couldn’t leave this one out. The shots of the NASA vehicle and the train with the cosmos rotating behind them are better than anything Hollywood could ever dream up – and there’s plenty more besides just those visual treats. Three and a half minutes of pure wow. Update: See also Landscapes Volume 2.
I keep coming across more and more great videos – I’ve added some links within the posts above to new videos from guys like Randy Halverson and Dustin Farrell. I’ll also post a few ‘latecomers’ beneath if they’re jaw-droppingly good.
A magical timelapse created from still-shots taken on-board the International Space Station, and available at The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of the Earth (ISS029, Roll E (Electronic Cameras) Frames 5865 to 6210, for those that don’t believe this could be real). As one commenter on YouTube says, you almost expect unicorns to start flying around in shot – truly otherworldly.
Another stunning timelapse film, created from still shots taken on-board the International Space Station, and made even the more brilliant by the accompaniment of John Murphy’s Adagio In D Minor from the wonderful soundtrack to the sci-fi film Sunshine (though strangely, it doesn’t seem to be Murphy’s original version of the song):