Time-Lapse Trends: boats

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

Whether man-powered, propelled by sails or motors, boats can be fascinating vehicles to record with a camera. It is not surprising, then, that they are a popular subject for time-lapse photography.

In many communities located by the water, sailing is not only a hobby but a way of life for some. Recording important boating events can be important to the collective memory of such communities, as this first video illustrates.


Capturing the high school regatta at Community Boating in Boston, Massachusetts, this time-lapse acts as a kind of moving scrapbook of the day’s events. As a result of the accelerated frame rate of 24 frames per second, two hours of sailing can be viewed in under two minutes.

Appropriately named “Sailboat Ballet”, the motion of the boats as they make their way around the water course is fascinating; the smooth and steady movements of these boats on video is probably much different to the intense and competitive moves experienced when out on the water.

Smooth waters

In addition to boats as a trend in time-lapse videos, when rendered through this mode of photography boats are often associated with the act of “dancing”. Indeed, the way that the Boston boats move around in particular circuits does conjure up images of dancers moving around each other in a choreographed manner.

This sort of graceful movement probably inspired the title for this next time-lapse video, “The Dancing Boats”. Shot at the Old Port of Montreal, this panning time-lapse perfectly captures the continuous side-to-side motion of the jetty along with several moored sailboats.

The beauty of time-lapse, in part, comes from its versatility. A change of location and atmosphere can dramatically change the mood of the video but still give the same fascinating rendering of boats on the water.

This video from Liz Dellar takes us to the Murray River in the Port of Echuca, Australia. The river is clouded in low-hanging mist which adds an eery quality to the video, along with the quite unnerving sounds of birdlife which overhangs the time-lapse. Still capturing the boats’ seeming gliding motion over the water, but the mist adds an ominous effect to their approach.

Adding a tilt-shift technique to a time-lapse video can also transform a waterfront scene. Nathan Kaso’s work makes even the largest boats in Sydney look like toys. In contrast to the seamless motion of the dancing boats above, the tilt-shift in “Toy Boats” exaggerates every movement through a shallow depth of field.

From little boats to big ships

Time-lapse can be applied so as to exaggerate the subtlest of movements but also to capture the most arduous of manoeuvres. The bigger the boat, the bigger their manoeuvres.

Indeed, ships are often used for transporting goods between countries across vast oceans. This stunning 4K time-lapse by Toby Smith captures one such voyage from Ho-Chi Minh, Vietnam, to Ningbo, China.

Tracking a period of night to day, this impressive time-lapse also documents the impressive loading sequences at each port along the way. The complex machinery required to lift, load and unload the heavy freight carried by the Gunhilde Maersk makes for a fascinating subject for time-lapse capture; every phase of these complex manoeuvres stand out.

Here at Time-Lapse Systems, we have done our own fair share of capturing big ships. Not just any big ships, however, but those with an iconic history.

In collaboration with museum media specialists, Motivation 81, we documented sensitive improvement works at the iconic Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.


The Mary Rose – Henry VIII’s flagship – was raised from the Solent in 1982 and has since had to be monitored and carefully preserved in a climate-controlled ‘hotbox’. Our camera system helped to time-lapse the final conservation works before her reveal to the public last year.

In a similar way to the museum itself, our video (or any time-lapse featuring boats and ships) helps to preserve the memory, and continue the legacy of the Mary Rose long after its life at sea.

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