Stretching the boundaries of time-lapse

The time-lapse process does not stop at the end of capture. Editing and sorting through the images before arranging them into a sequence is a hidden but integral part of time-lapse photography. 

Now an incredibly popular visual medium, time-lapse is constantly evolving as both amateurs & professionals look for new ways in which to take this practice forward, and create unique visions using this mode of image capture.

With a myriad of software available to assist and encourage budding time-lapsers, there seems to be no limits to what can be achieved in post-production.

Unique storytelling

When employed well, time-lapse renders progress from one point to another in an accelerated and aesthetically pleasing way.

For some photographers, switching up the trajectory of a story is a surefire way of injecting a project with something special. Rather than showing things in a linear fashion – from day to night, for example – playing around with the how the narrative unfolds can create bold ways of telling a story.

Rob Whitworth is famous for this approach to urban exploration time-lapse. ‘This is Shanghai’ is an incredibly impressive sequence which aims to go behind the scenes of city life and creatively show the rising power of this place.

In this time-lapse video, snippets of daytime in the city are intercut with those of nighttime creating a remarkable tour of Shanghai as in happening in a seamless single take.

There are some sweeping perspectives that required skilful zooms and camera movements as if transporting the viewer from location to location. Creative camera techniques and rigorous post-production are a winning combination and are becoming an industry standard.

Layer-lapse is another way of widening the scope of a time-lapse sequence. As we have noted elsewhere in our blog, this technique can be put to use to create some impressive work. The art of working with multiple layers that are threaded together and over the top of each other have revolutionised how we view everyday subjects.

This video incorporates layer-lapse in its depiction of the comings and goings at Haneda Airport.

New but already famous, another example is ‘NYC Layer-Lapse‘ by Julian Tryba which features up to a whopping 300 layers in some scenes. A follow-up from his viral ‘Boston Layer-Lapse‘, Tryba’s impressive body of work stems from the idea that “traditional time-lapses are constrained by the idea that there is a single universal clock.

“In the spirit of Einstein’s relativity theory, layer-lapses assign distinct clocks to any number of objects or regions in a scene. Each of these clocks may start at any point in time, and tick at any rate.”

The result is that you experience a cityscape at different parts of the day simultaneously as part of one sequence.

Abstract approaches

Similarly, Michael Shainblum’s work stretches the limits of time-lapse by incorporating more abstract compositions of city life.

Screen shot from 'Mirror City Timelapse' by Michael Shaimblum.
Above: Shainblum’s kaleidoscopic visuals.

His ‘Mirror City Timelapse’ was inspired by a desire to showcase iconic cities that are familiar to the eye in a completely different way: “I wanted to create a video that was completely out of the norm. I wanted to showcase something unique and artistic, which takes time-lapse photography into a more abstract direction.”

Processing all time-lapse clips from their original form into kaleidoscope visuals, Shainblum creates a truly stunning show that does not stick to traditional modes of presentation: “I wanted to put man-made geometric shapes, mixed with elements of color and movement to create less of a structured video, and more of a plethora of visual stimulation.”

As these examples illustrate, as time-lapse has become more popular and widely used, and as photographers expand their skills, more unique applications are to be guaranteed.

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